If I were to sum up the romantic comedy genre in one word, it would be “joy.” Few other genres bring the same level of unconditional delight and warmth. When things are going well, I love reading them to relax. And when life is difficult, I cling to them as a source of hope.
If you’re the same way, you’re in luck. Publishing in 2021 has truly delivered on the romantic comedy front — perhaps in part because of their escapist and uplifting nature. I’m excited to highlight just a portion of the best romcoms that have hit the shelves over the past year, along with a few books that will be released in the coming months for you to look forward to.
These nine romantic comedies released in 2021 all have plenty of laughs and swoony moments. There’s something here for everyone: enemies-to-lovers, behind-the-scenes reality show romances, and tons of books with covers as breathtaking as the love stories they tell.
Although there are plenty of bestselling romcoms that knocked it out of the park this year and I highly recommend — like Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop and Talia Hibbert’s Act Your Age, Eve Brown — I tried to focus on more under-the-radar picks.
The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee
Tara Park has absolutely zero interest in relationships, but when photographer Seth Kim walks into her life via her best friend’s wedding, she can’t resist. Plus, Seth seems like the perfect choice for a fling, as he’s weeks away from leaving for a new job in Paris.
Tara, however, finds herself surprised by how quickly she grows to love Seth. But is love worth the risks when it’s only ever led to heartbreak?
An Unexpected Kind of Love by Hayden Stone
Bookseller Audrey Barnes is a bit of a grouch, but that can be excused. He’s still reeling over a rough break-up and struggles to find his footing. But when he leases out his shop as a set for a romance film, he is surprisingly drawn to charming American actor Blake Sinclair. Queer Notting Hill, anyone?
Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfry
After Teddy Phillips finds herself dumped by her (very undeserving) boyfriend, few things bring her comfort. One is the vintage toy shop where she works, and the other is Everett St. James — the Mr. Rogers-esque host of a children’s advice show that she finds soothing. But when Teddy begins a written correspondence with Everett, her relationship with him develops into something much warmer than just admiration.
I Kissed a Girl by Jennet Alexander
Lilah Silver is an up-and-coming actress who has always dreamed of acting in more than just B-list horror films. Her next big project may be her chance to rise to stardom — if she can keep herself from getting flustered by the new stage make-up artist Noa Birnbaum.
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
Dev Deshpande is a TV producer who believes wholeheartedly in true love. That’s why he devotes so much time to crafting love stories on the reality dating show Ever After.
Following a break-up, he expects the upcoming season of Ever After to be a rough one for him personality. But when he bonds with the season’s nervous star Charlie Winshaw, their quick friendship takes a turn into a forbidden romance.
How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson (November 2, Forever)
When superfan Bethany Lu Carlisle learns that Keanu Reeves is engaged, she goes on a road trip with her best friend Truman Erikson to convince Keanu to call it off. But road trips are a place where unexpected feelings thrive, and Lu finds herself wondering if her soulmate is closer to her than she thought.
Sweethand by N.G. Peltier
Pastry chef Cherisse is determined to put her fledgling business over any potential romances. After her ex-boyfriend cheated on her, swearing off love seems to be the only way she can protect herself — even if her mother is determined to match her with guy after guy.
But what she didn’t count on was Kieran — a man she finds irritating and admittedly attractive — returning home for a mutual friend’s wedding. When Cherisse and Kieran find themselves in an unexpected fling, she struggles to keep her feelings under wraps as the wedding day approaches.
Border CTRL + ESC by Ivy L. James
When Mariana Mitogo learns that she’s received a significant inheritance, it’s a dream come true. Unfortunately, it comes with a catch — she must be married for at least six months to receive it.
Enter her close friend Santiago, who is desperate for extra income to help his mom afford a surgery she needs. A marriage of convenience seems like the answer to both of their problems, but when they take the leap, their feelings for each other feel increasingly less like a facade.
Battle Royal by Lucy Parker
After becoming a fan favorite on the reality TV baking competition Operation Cake, Sylvie Fairchild launched perhaps the glitteriest bakery in history. Now, four years later, she returns to Operation Cake as a judge. But when she and fellow judge Dominic De Vere — who was always dismissive of her work when she was a contestant — butt heads, an off-stage romance is the last thing on her mind. And yet…
Looking for more romance recs? Check out this list of the eight best LGBTQ romance novels.