I don’t know about you, but I’ve been having trouble hunkering down with a nice, lengthy read this year. Out of the twenty or so romances I’ve read in 2019, nearly half have been romance novellas.
I love novellas. They’re quick and easy to commit to, and while many novellas are part of series, most can be read on their own. There are even series comprising completely of novellas, so you can have little bursts of joy in several increments. (P.S. I’m classifying novellas as anything under 200 pages or anything the author has classified as a novella…sometimes they’re a touch longer.)
Here are some of my favorite romance novellas, both recent and a touch older.
Okay, this is now probably my favorite novella of all time. I don’t know how that happened, but it did and I love it and will fight for it to the death. It’s set in the middle of the Reluctant Royals series, and discusses events that happen in A Duke By Default, but doesn’t lose anything if you haven’t read those. It features Reggie, nerd lady extraordinaire, and Gus, a friend she makes in a rather unorthodox way. Alyssa Cole can touch on physical disability, neurodiversity, nerddom as a POC, general racism, and about 50 other keywords while also making you grin like an idiot the whole time. The other novella in the Reluctant Royals series, Once Ghosted, Twice Shy, is similarly able to stand alone, and is just as good.
This Victorian romance, set in the same universe as Milan’s Brothers Sinister series, tells the adorable story of a writer and a mathematician. Under the guise of doing research for his next novel, Stephen finds a way to spend time with his enchanting neighbor, Miss Rose Sweetly, and his courtship may begin in earnest. Stephen’s a bit of a rake, and Rose would rather not be popular, but she can’t help but be drawn to him as well.
Look, nobody said I could only talk about one book by each author. If you like books and reading about people, you have to read this novella. Absolutely have to. The titular Mrs. Martin often talks about finding a nice young thing of 40 for companionship, but instead finds herself caught up with Miss Violetta Beauchamps, who isn’t much younger than her own 73. Violetta has come to her seeking help with who Mrs. Martin only calls her Terrible Nephew, and it all goes swimmingly from there. If you’ve made the realization that Happy Elderly Victorian Lesbians is a thing you need more of in your life, well. Here you go.
This is another Victorian romance, though it takes place in New York and is much more low-key. The protagonists are both craftspeople by trade—our trans hero a silversmith, and the woman he admires a quiltmaker. Their quiet courtship is sweet and charming, and we get to see a side of 19th-century New York that isn’t often portrayed in romance.
On the other end of the spectrum is a very sexy, very steamy romance that—you guessed it—features a couple whose plans limit them to one night of hot lovin’. Harper goes to Rion looking for sex. He owns a sex club, after all, and was the one who dumped her way back when. They should both be over the intensity of their youthful relationship so she can figure out what she wants and needs after a few bad experiences, and, well. She trusts him. But what happens when those feelings come back? Or worse, never left? Talk about packing a hell of a punch into a few pages; Naima Simone is a master of ripping your heart out and stomping on it before smoothing it out and putting it back together again. Fair warning: tears may be involved.
A famous romance author called this book a masterclass in the crafting of a novella, and I’ll tell you, it’s all true. Pinky and Trucker are hella attracted to each other, but she’s Indian American and he’s…well, he’s in a biker gang. That shouldn’t work, but it does. You have to read it to find out why. This one is also super sexy and includes banging in lots of different kinds of places.
When a young black woman gets the hots for the stripper who gave her a lap dance, the last thing she expects is to be in class with her a short time later. The two women develop a friendship, and then something else, as they get to know each other. This was the first time I’d ever read a story of two black women—one of whom is a sex worker—finding love, support, and companionship in each other, and I take the chance to scream about it from the rooftops every chance I get. (Also, if you’re looking for Rebekah Weatherspoon books, you might as well pick up Rafe while you’re at it. It’s a little longer than novella length at 257 pages, but it’s still a quick read and hell-ah hella hawt.) (Also also try Wrapped as well because there are gingers and cupcakes involved.)
What happens when two friends who have known each other forever online finally meet for a con? They have to figure each other out in person, but adaption is basically the easiest thing ever. And they can support each other through their own dealings with crowds, anxiety, gender dysmorphia, and other things. (P.S. if you’re interested in more stories like this, you can also check out Geek Out: A Collection of Trans and Genderqueer Romance, which is a nice compilation of novellas.)
Natalie has to go to another family wedding (ha) but she doesn’t want to go alone. She knows there’s going to be some kind of embarrassing incident that she’s going to need to escape from. But the only person she can even think to ask is her best friend, Connor. The interesting dynamic between the pair is that they’ve been friends for years, but neither has considered pursuing a romantic relationship with the other since their early friendship, in part because of their standing on children. So there’s that.
Chastity is part of a family of monster hunters. And Luke is a werewolf. After catching the scent of his mate, he’s been hanging out where Chastity works, getting to know more about her and letting her see him as well. But eventually, the huntress has to discover that the hot guy who comes into the bakery all the time is a monster—and her mate. How does it go? Well, there’s some attempted murder involved. Really lovely stabbing. This was written as a Halloween novel, but it can definitely be read anytime. It’s one of many Talia Hibbert books I would shove into your face, but is also probably her shortest.
Sarah MacLean recommended this book to me, and I will be forever grateful. It’s a World War II–era novel set in the English countryside, and there’s a parson who finds himself in an enchanted castle after stopping for a rose in the rain. The servants are invisible, and there’s a very grumpy dragon who doesn’t know what year it is. But eventually, they become friends.
Soledad tries to talk to Cinnamon Blade every time she rescues her, only to see her back as she walks away. But they’re finally face to face, and can go on a date…except Cinnamon Blade is a superhero and therefore can’t just have a normal date like a normal person. Every character in this novella is an effing delight and I wish there were more so I could follow Cin’s whole crew around all the time.
Ahaha you thought you weren’t going to get any more Alyssa Cole but you were wrong! Let It Shine and her sister story set during the Suffragist movement, Let Us Dream, are two of the best historical fiction novellas set in the twentieth century I’ve experienced. They take issues of social justice—respectively, the Freedom Riders and the American Suffrage Movement (and a side of xenophobia)—and build love stories within them. Because during times of struggle, love is even more imperative.
Queer, polyamorous, kinky baseball romance with a secret baby, you say? I mean, does it need any more description? I don’t think so.
If you haven’t read any Alisha Rai, this is a great place to start. It’s the first in a trilogy of novellas (Bedroom Games) and it stands alone. We’re introduced to both parts of a couple who are no longer together. But one of them needs something, and the other is more than willing to help…for a price.
This story starts with a small lie, which explodes into something much bigger when said liar is severely injured on the war front. What follows involves a woman suddenly being “engaged” to a man she hardly knew in high school, and the fallout. Strangely, it allows the pair to become friends in a different way, and there might be a road trip.
TV heartthrob + townie fake relationship during a con? That’s more than enough little check marks for me. If you like fandom and cackling, this is definitely a great book to check out. It’s not the first in the Fandom Hearts series, but they all stand alone in a collective universe, so this is as good a place to start as any. But believe me, you’ll want to check out the others, starting with Level Up—which is about video game designers!
If you’re looking for romance with a social justice and activism bent, the Rogue series is a magical world. Each anthology includes 8–10 novellas, featuring people doing what’s right for the cause. That cause could be political activism, local government, national government, or other things related to activism. There are six anthologies out now, and more are planned for the future.
This collection of three novellas are all somehow related to Alexander Hamilton (thanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda!) and are all pretty great. The first, Promised Land, is about two Jewish soldiers. Corporal Ezra Jacobs left home in disguise to fight in the war; she was no longer happy in her life as Rachel. But her husband shows up as a Loyalist spy, and the pair have a lot to discuss. The second is The Pursuit Of… which is actually set in the Worth universe, same as Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure. A black Revolutionary soldier and a white Redcoat find themselves on a long journey together. Finally, That Could Be Enough takes place later, and features the secretary of Eliza Hamilton and a young woman who has come to New York to tell her grandfather’s story (also harkening back to another Alyssa Cole novella, Be Not Afraid). All three are magnificent, and also the author’s notes. They’re so great.
This is just a starter list; there are so many novellas in romance, in part because they’re so easy to consume and leave us time to get through more stories. If you like any of the authors mentioned here, they’ve all got longer offerings as well, and you can really dig down into their repertoires.
What are your favorite romance novellas?