8 of the Best Slow-Burn Romances

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Annika Barranti Klein

Staff Writer

Annika Barranti Klein likes books, obviously.   Twitter: @noirbettie

Because I enjoy torturing myself, I went looking for a list of the best slow-burn romances the other day. Literally I just googled the phrase “slow burn romance books” and started clicking on the various blog posts and Goodreads lists that came up. And the thing is, they all featured the same books. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (I’ve read it). Something by Emily Henry (it varied which book — usually Beach Read — but I’ve read all of them). A lot of other books (that I have already read and absolutely do not consider slow burn). Some books I haven’t read, almost every single one of them a sports romance (I love the idea of sports romance, but haven’t found an actual book I enjoy yet).

Whither the list of slow-burn romances that I will love? Well, I didn’t find one. So I took it upon myself to make this list of books I’ve already read, loved, and screamed “JUST KISS ALREADY” at. I’ve left out a few books that involve fake dating, although they all technically have a slow burn toward the couple realizing their feelings, because to me the kissing is the main thing (so if they’re kissing to sell the fake dating, it’s more of a medium burn for me).

If you’re looking for a good slow-burn romance novel, you might like one of these. Or you might hate it, because of the painful waiting for those idiots to just realize what’s in front of them. Caveat emptor. And if you have a favorite slow-burn romance that isn’t on here? Please tell me. I need it.

Fantasy Slow-Burn Romances

Cover of The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Mika and Jamie, the two ding-dongs at the center of this swoony and hilarious witchy romcom, do not kiss until the 75% mark. SEVENTY. FIVE. PERCENT.

Mika is a solitary witch who exercises her secret abilities on social media pretending to be a fake witch. But someone figured out her secret, and she is invited to Nowhere House, where three witch children are in desperate need of tutelage. The only problem? Jamie, the one member of the household who doesn’t want her there.

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy cover

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

Mercy and Hart finally smooch at 52% and while that is positively the beginning of the book compared to the previous title, believe me, it’s a long wait.

Mercy is an undertaker and Hart is a demigod marshal who hunts zombies (basically). They hate each other for…reasons, but unknowingly strike up a friendship through anonymous letters. Does that sound like You’ve Got Mail? It is! He does not put her out of business, though, so it’s better.

Contemporary Slow-Burn Romances

Something to Talk About Cover

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Y’all. Listen. Don’t read this book. Emma and Jo kind of kiss at 87% and don’t actually kiss until 92%. Save yourself.

Hollywood writer/producer Jo brings assistant Emma to a premiere, and a photograph of them on the red carpet stokes speculation that they’re dating. They aren’t, though Emma has a crush on Jo. But Jo doesn’t want to act on any feelings she might have while Emma works for her…

The Stand-In cover

The Stand-In by Lily Chu

I borrowed this book from the library and don’t have access to it, so I can’t give an exact number, but it definitely takes Gracie and Sam too long to kiss.

Gracie looks like a movie star, at least enough to be mistaken for her by the paparazzi. Still, she is surprised to be asked by Fangli and her costar — and presumed boyfriend — Sam to act as a stand-in at some appearances. Does this mean pretending to date handsome Sam, who doesn’t actually want her there?

Book cover of For Her Consideration by Amy Spalding

For Her Consideration by Amy Spalding (February 21)

This book gets to the action (and by action, I mean kissing) the fastest on this list: 46% through the damn book.

Nina’s job is sending emails as the celebrity clients of the agency she works for. Ari is a rising star who takes issue with an email Nina writes as her, so they meet to discuss it. And then Ari keeps asking Nina to meet with her, and Nina tries to keep her crush under control, not to mention continuing to avoid her Hollywood aspirations. (Yes, that’s three Hollywood-set romances!)

cover of The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest; Black man and woman standing on a fire escape, each holding one side of a book

The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest (February 28)

This book has a kiss fairly early on (31%) but it doesn’t really count, okay? They don’t kiss again until 62% and it’s agony getting there.

Determined not to let her sister set her up with another date, Lily insists she will find her own date to her wedding. She asks her hot new neighbor Nick for help, and he’s willing to try until he realizes she’s the woman he corresponded with months ago…and then ghosted.

Historical Slow-Burn Romances

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows cover

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

Penelope and Agatha don’t get their acts together (or, more to the point, their lips together) until the 72% marker.

Widowed printer Agatha finds bees in her warehouse, and hires Penelope to move the colony. They find themselves meeting again and again, and strike up a friendship, which is complicated when Penelope’s husband returns from sea…

cover of The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

As in The Neighbor Favor, there is an early kiss in this book (34% but see note to follow) and even a kiss in the past, but Chloe and Jeremy don’t properly start kissing each other until 68%. BUT WAIT, IT’S WORSE THAN THAT. The last 10% of the book are an author’s note (and a great one), so it’s more like 40% and 75% if I’ve mathed correctly.

Chloe told Jeremy to leave and not come back unless he could be serious. Now he’s back and she has to find out how serious he is…and what he’s serious about. (This book has the best “only one bed” scene in all of Romancelandia!)

And there you have it. Eight fairly recent slow-burn romances to torture yourself with. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.