By no means is the idea of fake dating a new concept in the literary world. It’s been a staple of fan fiction since the beginning, and books like To All the Boys I’ve loved Before and The Kiss Quotient have tread this ground before. Even The Hunger Games has its share of fake dating. (And you know you love it.) But one thing is clear: 2021 is going to be the year of fake dating in romance. From Daphne and the Duke of Hastings fooling Lady Whistledown in Bridgerton on Netflix to a slew of fake dating books dominating the 2021 publishing lineup, this year fake dating reigns supreme.
Don’t believe me? Just check out 15 of the best fake dating romance books you can look forward to this year. Below is a mix of adult and YA titles, something for everyone!
The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Fake dating? How about fake exes? Colleagues Shay and Dominic despise each other — which makes them the perfect hosts for the radio station’s new relationship advice show where exes dish out dating advice. But Shay and Dominic were never together. Lying to listeners isn’t great, but it’s that or lose their jobs. Soon, it’s the must-listen show in Seattle. The more the show grows, the more Shay and Dominic realize they might get along better than they thought. But when they’re stuck pretending to be exes, how can they possibly make a real relationship work?
First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (Avon, February 16)
The author of The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral is back with another adorable addition to her Modern Love series. Jia Ahmed is a beauty influencer with little time for all the men trying to slide into her DMs. Until the soap opera star from a powerful Bollywood family sends her a message. And, well, a little flirty banter couldn’t hurt. But when the paparazzi gets a hold of their private messages, Dev agrees faking a relationship could help calm the whole thing down. Now if only they can figure out how online flirtation turned fake dating could become the real thing.
Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron (Forever, March 2)
Reena’s new neighbor Nadim is everything she could want in a partner: handsome, charming, enthusiastic about the bread she bakes. But despite his Captain America good looks and British accent, Reena is determined not to fall for someone her father is trying to set her up with. Especially not someone who works for him. Then her career takes a nose-dive, and the ever-charming Nadim agrees to fake an engagement to help her land a spot in a couples cooking competition. Baking together brings a whole new level of proximity, but Reena’s determined not to fall for him. Or at the very least not to marry him. Easier said than done.
The Dating Plan by Sara Desai (Berkley Books, March 16)
Fake fiancés Daisy and Liam are planning a very real marriage of convenience. For Daisy, it means giving her family the one thing she’s never been able to: marriage. For Liam, it means access to the inheritance his grandfather left him. But a series of dates to legitimize their fake relationship reveals feelings that could make this marriage of convenience something so much more.
She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen (Roaring Brook Press, April 20)
A fake dating scheme to get back at her toxic ex has Scottie Zajac pretending to like her nemesis: Irene Abraham. After all, they’re stuck carpooling together every day ever since Scottie got into a fender bender with Irene, whose car is still in the shop. But between all the laugh-out-loud hijinks, is it possible these two teens might just be living the enemies-to-lovers fanfic trope of our dreams? (Spoiler: yes.)
Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan (Inkyard Press, May 4)
When Karina Ahmed agrees to spend the next 28 days fake dating the school’s resident bad boy, she doesn’t expect her pretend boyfriend to be quite so, well, sweet. Her friends love him, he brings her coffee every morning, and he promises to buy her all the books she could ever want. The only catch: no way are her parents ever going to go along with this. And in 28 days they’ll be back from their trip to Bangladesh, and everything will have to go back to the way it was. But does Karina really want it to?
Meet Cute Diary by Emory Lee (Quill Tree Books, May 4)
Debut author Emory Lee is breaking onto the scene with a fake dating romance too sweet for words. Noah Ramirez collects stories of trans happily ever afters on his blog. Just one problem: they’re all made up. He never expected them to become a beacon of hope for trans readers all around the world; he was just a trans boy fantasizing about a world of possible happily ever afters. Too bad the troll that uncovers his secret doesn’t care. Now everyone knows the blog is fiction, and the only way to prove them wrong is to create a love story of his own. Enter Drew: totally cute, totally willing to fake-date Noah. But real-life romance is so much complicated than the stuff of fiction. How will Noah cope when this perfectly crafted love story starts to go off-script?
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Book Riot Contributor Adiba Jaigirdar (Page Street Kids, May 25)
This follow-up to Rioter Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut book, The Henna Wars, sounds too cute for words. Popular girl Hani says she’s dating Ishu when her friends invalidate her sexuality — saying she can’t be bi if she’s never dated a girl. Ishu agrees to go along with the charade as long as Hani will help her become more popular, the first step in her plan to become head girl. But when this fake relationship becomes tangled up with real feelings, they have to fight to stay together in spite of all the people who don’t want two Bengali girls to get their happily ever after.
How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole (Avon, May 25)
After reading the first book in Cole’s new Runaway Royals series, How to Catch a Queen, I am even more eager to get my hands on this stunning sequel. I mean, did someone say grown-up Princess Diaries but make it gay? Because Alyssa Cole really did that. The investigator from World Federation of Monarchies we briefly met in the first book, Beznaria, comes center stage in How to Find a Princess as she tracks down the heir to the Ibarania throne…and falls for her in the process. Just go ahead and sign me the heck up.
Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura (HarperTeen, June 8)
Nozomi wasn’t expecting her perfect summer plans to include a fake girlfriend, but then she meets Willow: the perfect girl who just happens to need some help making her ex jealous. But Nozomi has a plan of her own. A plan that involves turning this fauxmance into something real. Now if only she can convince Willow their fake relationship could be something more.
Too Good to be Real by Melonie Johnson (St. Martin’s Griffin, July 6)
In search of the ultimate pitch to save herself and her job from impending layoffs, Julia discovers a resort offering the perfect meet-cute moment for guests to live out their romantic fantasies. Julia may have given up on love, but now she’s going to have to pretend she wants nothing more. Then she stumbles into Luke, another romcom hopeful. But neither of them has been exactly up front about their real identities or motives for being here. Is real love possible amidst all those lies? Or is this carefully orchestrated romantic weekend nothing more than it promises: just a chance to live out your romcom dreams?
While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory (Berkley Books, July 13)
Actress Anna Gardiner is on a mission to book a new movie and make herself a household name, but a fling with ad manager Ben Stephens couldn’t hurt, right? Except their casual relationship takes a turn for the serious under the Hollywood spotlight. No big deal. The real question is: will either of them be willing to let things go back to the way they were when the cameras stop rolling?
More of a supposedly casual relationship pretending to be more for the publicity and then actually turning into more than, say, a totally fake relationship. But still counts in my book! Besides, you really think I was going to pass up a chance to include a new Jasmine Guillory book on this list? Please.
Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams (Berkley Books, July 20)
How do you turn a marriage of convenience into the real thing? By joining The Bromance Book Club, of course! With some help from romance novels and his book-loving friends, Vlad is determined to show his wife, Elena, their marriage is more than just a façade. But dangers from Elena’s past — the very reason they married in the first place — pose a threat just when it seems Vlad might be able to get through to her.
Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins (Underlined/Delacorte, August 3)
Brazilian pop star Natalie is living the dream: topping the charts and selling records. Until she’s dumped on live television, that is. Her PR team comes up with the brilliant plan of faking a relationship with a movie star. But instead of the bad boy Nati was hoping for, she gets a soft-hearted Brit. William isn’t at all who she expected, but as the ploy unfolds, she begins to realize he might be exactly who she wants.
I’m incredibly excited for this book, and not just because it’s written by one of my Twitter friends. A swoon-worthy fake dating book for the ages. And just tell me you don’t want that cover on your shelves? I mean.
The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon (Forever, August 17)
This follow-up to The Boyfriend Project finds a personal trainer agreeing to fake-date her client. What could go wrong? For former NFL football player Jamar Dixon, the answer is a whole lot. Which is why, when he asks Taylor Powell to help him get back into tip-top shape so he can go pro again, he makes sure no one will know what they’re really up to together. Being outed as a “couple” wasn’t part of the plan. But maybe there’s more to this relationship than meets the eye. And if Jamar is playing for keeps, well, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.