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The Sweetest Science: 10 Gems of STEM-themed Romance

Isabelle Popp

Senior Contributor

Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she's writing romance. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she's as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Penguin Random House Audio, A New Ali Hazelwood Audiobook

Torn between loyalty and an undeniable attraction, Rue and Eli throw caution out the lab and the boardroom windows. Their affair is secret, no-strings-attached, and has a built-in deadline: the day one of their companies will prevail. But the heart is risky business—one that plays for keeps. Read by Callie Dalton and Jason Clarke, NOT IN LOVE is now available everywhere audiobooks are sold.

The popularity of Ali Hazelwood’s romances has helped codify STEM romance as a subgenre unto itself. To varying degrees, STEM romances have been around as long as romances have had characters with jobs (as opposed to aristocratic characters). In particular, within the category romance — these are the shorter romance books released monthly in themed lines — medical romances have been a staple for decades.

I love a romance with a cool job. In fact, I did a roundup of the coolest romance jobs, many of which are in STEM fields. And because I love you, dear readers, this list has no overlap with that one. There’s a delicate balance to including someone’s work life in a romance. I want an interesting setting, and I want to learn a fun fact or two. People’s choice of careers can also be a way to develop character. At the same time, their job shouldn’t be their only characteristic. Moreover, I don’t want to get bogged down in the details. I want the core drama of the story to be the romance itself. If I wanted more work drama in my life, I wouldn’t have quit that one job (I’m sure you can relate).

Another trait common to STEM romances is addressing the exclusion and prejudice that are rampant in certain fields. I experienced this firsthand, as a woman with a science degree who has worked in several STEM-related fields. One classmate told me I got better grades than him because of my girly handwriting. One professor flat-out told my quantum mechanics class that women “couldn’t do physics.” And the less time I spend thinking about my time working in the video game industry, the better. Reflections on these harsh realities belong in romance simply because romance explores and comments on the breadth of the human experience.

So here’s a lovely curated collection of nerds falling in love for you.

Cover of The Kiss Countdown

The Kiss Countdown by Etta Easton

Amerie, on a relatably questionable impulse, has pretended she is with a rando hot guy nearby to save herself from an embarrassing situation. Vincent, the convenient dude, is an actual astronaut, and he plays along! Turns out, he could use a fake girlfriend to appease his overly involved family. Amerie could use a free place to stay so she can put money into her struggling business. Wins all around! They didn’t plan to fall in love, but this is, after all, a romance. Houston, we have a love connection.

Cover of Role Playing by Cathy Yardley

Role Playing by Cathy Yardley

More male nurses in romance, please! Also more romances with characters in their forties and up! This book ticks both of those boxes. Maggie and Aiden meet via an online gaming group, but each of them has the totally wrong idea about how old the other is. When they meet in person, it’s definitely weird for a second. But then they figure out how well they fit together, especially in the face of their respective family drama. Aiden specializes in end-of-life care, which makes him a really special human being.

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade book cover

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade 

A geologist falling in love with a hunky actor is the romance novel of my dreams, and yet it exists in real life. Geologist April, a cosplayer, goes viral for daring to be fat in costume, and actor Marcus asks her out to spite the haters. Turns out they already know each other from an online fanfic community, but they don’t figure that out immediately. People who want to read about women in STEM and the ups and downs of fandom get a double dose of nerdery with this delicious book.

cover of tempest by beverly jenkins

Tempest by Beverly Jenkins

If you live under a rock and haven’t yet read a Beverly Jenkins historical romance, here’s a great place to start. Regan Carmichael is a mail-order bride on her way to Old West Wyoming Territory to meet her groom, Dr. Colton Lee. When does meet him, she shoots him. How’s that for a meet-cute? Regan is feisty, Dr. Lee is soft, and their path to love is tender. Beverly Jenkins is the gold standard if you love to learn as you read romance. This book will shed some light on the history of Howard University’s medical school as well as the adoption of germ theory.

cover of the truth according to ember

The Truth According to Ember by Danica Nava (August 6, 2024)

Ember has stretched the truth on her resume — both about her credentials and her ethnic background. Now she’s in a corporate job she loves, but that web of lies is still woven. When she meets the IT guy Danuwoa, they catch each other’s eye. But there’s a strict policy forbidding dating at her office. So the two of them date on the sly. Naturally, things are going to get out of hand. I love stories where fundamentally good people have to get themselves out of the messes they make! Read this, and you’ll realize that you, too, would risk it all for Danuwoa.

Book cover of Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Courtney Milan is an author with STEM bona fides, given her graduate degree in chemistry. Obviously the best degree for a romance writer to have! In Hold Me, both characters have STEM-related pursuits. Jay is a physicist and Maria is a science blogger and statistics student. The two know each other via the comments section of Maria’s blog, but Maria is very protective of her identity as a trans woman. When they meet in person, not knowing their existing relationship, the dynamic is very different. If you like a romance that involves the breaking and remaking of a man with some toxic traits, you’ll enjoy this.

wild life book cover

Wild Life by Opal Wei

This book is simultaneously so fun and so thoughtful. Zoey is a researcher working on the cure for the cancer that claimed her sister. When a vital tissue sample goes missing, she has to track it down — all the way to the rugged island estate of Davy, a former boy band bad-boy (say that five times fast). While the two of them are temporarily stranded on this island, they really have to face down their pasts and think hard about their futures. All while not getting mauled by the semi-domesticated cougar named Baby. Seriously, this is a delight.

cover of The 7-10 Split

The 7-10 Split by Karmen Lee 

(Full disclosure: my forthcoming romance debut is also a Harlequin Afterglow title.) Sapphic! Bowling! Romance! Do I really need to say more? Oh right, I do because it’s also a STEM romance. Grace is a new science teacher at her own former high school. There, she reconnects with Ava, another teacher and her former bestie. The two shared a kiss back in the day, but things really didn’t work out. Ava wants to hate Grace, but now they’re co-coaching the bowling team. If you love a small-town rivals-to-lovers romance, pick this one up.

cover of a drop in the ocean

A Drop in the Ocean by Nikki Winter 

Kairo’s brother is getting married to her ex-girlfriend. Truly the only way to handle that situation is to bring a fake date to the wedding. And Kairo’s best friend, April, agrees to play along. The problem is, Kairo is already very much in love with April, and April’s fake affections are giving Kairo even more real feelings. Here’s the best part: Kairo and April are both marine biologists! Raise your hand if you, too, went through a marine biology phase! Raise your hand if you made it happen? High fives to those of you living the dream!

Cover for Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

Kareena Mann is a hopeless romantic; television doctor Prem Verma is allergic to love. An argument between the two of them about the nature of love goes viral. While they should perhaps go their separate ways, you know they won’t. Prem’s dream clinic will be funded by Kareena’s aunties if he can convince Kareena that she is his soulmate. And Kareena will get her mother’s home if she can get engaged. So they are motivated to get together for practical reasons — and they discover they’re not as mismatched as they initially seemed.

Once you’ve read through this pile, you can find some more books in this same vein. We’ve got workplace romances, romances starring doctors, and authors like Ali Hazelwood. Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine, and Romance. What could be better?