I’m a sucker for a good rom-com. Flirty shenanigans, awkward hijinks and the enemies-to-lovers trope is my absolute jam.

There’s something so feel-good about contemporary love stories that remind me of the highs and lows of experiencing all the angst, attraction and complications that inevitably form part of the joy and heartache of love.

Most of all, and shh… don’t tell anyone, but I really, really like happily-ever-afters. 

Okay, I like bittersweet and sometimes tragic endings too, but when I am in the mood for a bit of escapism then a fluffy cloud of happiness is what I want to float on.

So in the spirit of celebrating all things romance, here are five reads you should try.

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The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

A perfect read (and also one of my favourites) for those days when you’re missing summer and are looking for a bit of a beachy coastal romance. This one seamlessly blends the vibrant culture and history of Trinidad and Tobago (our protagonist Elyse d'Abreau hails from the country) with life in small town America.

After a diving accident leaves Elyse voiceless and without her promising singing career, she moves to the Oregon coast in search of solitude.

However, seclusion is the last thing she finds when she encounters Christian Kane, the one guy who makes it his business to not only bring her out of her shell, but forces her to confront her past and find her voice in a different way. 

A book about lost dreams, new hopes and family, The Summer of Chasing Mermaids is a romance story with heart. Read it for the well-rounded characters, the marvellous descriptions of island life that will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to the Caribbean and for the fact that it tackles issues of race, gender identity and still wholeheartedly manages to be spicy, sexy and sweet. 

Buy a copy of The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Sapphire by Cheryl Ntumy, Tshego Monaisa, Mokopi Shale

For this one, not only do you get the joy of reading one book, but it’s a 3-in-1 collection that tells the story of three different women searching for love and happiness in different ways.

Can we give a whoop to local publishers who are the driving force behind creating black-focused romance novels?  The range of books they’re publishing is full of frothy fun, and you know, doesn’t always rely on the struggle hook.

In this collection, the stories focus on a beauty therapist who crosses paths with a wealthy insurance broker, a professional ball room dancer who is tired of being the dancing partner with benefits and a woman whose past hurts may end up interfering with new found love with a musician.

Their stories are complicated, messy and full of drama, but they’re also filled with heart-melting moments that will have you cheering for them and believing in the power of love.

Buy a copy of Sapphire here


The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

So you know how I mentioned that I adore the hate to love angle? Well, you’re in for a treat with The Hating Game because it has all this and so much more in spades.

Even better is that this is a romance that's set in the workplace. Cue all sorts of viciously competitive and messy one-upmanship shenanigans in which our protagonists Lucy and Joshua find themselves embroiled in.

Lucy, the quintessential nice girl is determined to battle it out with suave and intimidating Joshua in order to be in line for a promotion. If she wins, she gets to be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, well, Joshua gets to man the boss’s chair. 

Except what starts out as trading barbs and passive-aggressive pettiness slowly morphs into something neither of them expected.

Read it for the hilarious banter, the romantic build-up and the drama that shows that there’s more than a little substance to this novel.

Buy a copy of The Hating Game here

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Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Young Adult author Sarah Dessen has been a favourite of mine for many years. Her books, for me, are effortless in their relatability. Her work could easily be described as fluffy.

In fact, her book covers often lead people into thinking that you’ll be getting nothing but a dose of tooth-rotting sweetness, when it’s quite the opposite. Her books certainly do offer hints of the sweeter side, but never shies away from issues that any teen and adult alike can relate to.

In Once and For All, Dessen sets her book against the backdrop of the wedding planning industry and tackles issues of navigating the paths of grief, school shootings and learning to open yourself up to second chances at love and life again.

Will our lead girl, Louna – who helps her mom plan weddings - allow her cynical outlook to get in the way of seeing an opportunity to fall in love with the happy-go-lucky, if massively annoying Ambrose?  

The tough-cookie act can only go so far – and against the romantic atmosphere filled with flower arrangements and wedding décor, even those who’ve sworn off love for good, can be susceptible to the magic of romance.

Buy a copy of Once and for All here

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

The ultimate cute in rom-coms, When Dimple Met Rishi is hugely adorable. It’s been described as the “arranged marriage YA novel you didn’t know you wanted or needed” and has become a huge hit in the bibliosphere.

Dimple is just a girl who wants to focus on life beyond graduation – and for her, that means trying to get away from her mother’s obsession with finding an “ideal” Indian husband for her daughter.

Rishi, again, is a hopeless romantic who believes in the power of tradition. When he hears that his future wife (aka Dimple) will be attending the same Summer program, he sets into motion his plan to woo her.

The endearing story is full of heart and warmth, and if you’re wondering if the author manages to pull off the idea of how a 21st century modern day arranged married can work, well, reading it to find out is all part of the fun, isn’t it?

A wonderfully diverse novel that celebrates Indian culture and tradition, with a modern twist.

Buy a copy of When Dimple Met Rishi here

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