Kissing Books

What Are Your Five-Star Romances?

Can you believe it’s almost May? Prepare yourself for all those ramen-haired Justin Timberlake memes, and let’s talk romance!

News and Useful Links

Four Latina authors on representation. Absorb their words.

And look who they’re talking about in the Times of India.

Sponsored by Squared Away by Annabeth Albert

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

Y’all. Have you watched Siren yet? If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a show on Freeform about an adorable pair of marine biologists and the mermaid they help on a mission to find her sister. It’s not obviously a romance, but it’s definitely romance adjacent. Or at least, every romance author I follow on Twitter has been talking about it.

Lucy Parker is writing more books! Next up, London Celebrities number 4!

Naima Simone has been looking at the numbers, and folks, there are things that we need to do to help authors of color succeed.

So, this article was making a good effort. But Olivia Waite (and others) thought the journalist could have benefited from a history lesson or two, especially as far as consent in romance goes.    

I’ve seen writers in residences at libraries before, but never a library specifically looking for a romance one!


Carla de Guzman’s Chasing Mindy is 2.99! I loved If the Dress Fits.

Have you read anything by Chance Carter? I have very limited experience with men who write het romance, so I’m very interested in Royal Engagement, which is 99 cents.

Melissa Foster’s The Real Thing is 1.99. If you’re into fake relationships, here’s another one for you.

Make Me Stay by Amarie Avant is 2.99 right now. She’s also a new-to-me author, so I look forward to trying out her work.

HelenKay Dimon’s The Fixer is 99 cents right now.

Over on Book Riot

In what seems to be a trend (well, not really), Alison interviewed her mother about reading romance. Romance moms for the win!

Do you like Pride and Prejudice? Check out these sequels.

Trisha pulled together 8 great M/M romances as a good place to start (or continue).

And of course, Trisha and I got to gabbing in this week’s When In Romance. Get ready for white supremacy, Nicholas Sparks, me waxing poetic about Talia Hibbert…and more stuff.

And don’t forget to enter to win 15 of the year’s best mysteries so far!


Last week, I shared Laura’s excellent article about what inspires a five-star rating. For her, it’s a physical reaction. I would say something similar. So I thought, what are some of my five-star romances? I’ve left out a few that I might have gushed over on these pages, but some might seem familiar.

Jude Deveraux

This is the earliest five-star read in my list. It was the first book I remember having a visceral reaction to (though I did end up having a similar reaction to Velvet Song, but that was mostly for the heroine and the side characters; the hero was trash). Why did I have a visceral reaction to it? The heroine, Nellie, was quiet and overweight, and at that point in my life, I was too—the quiet part at least; I’m still fat. Not only was this book about a quiet, overweight woman (whose kindness was often taken advantage of by her family) finding love, but the man who was destined to fall in love with her liked her just as she was; four words that I wouldn’t hear again until Mark Darcy would say them when I was in high school. On top of it all, Nellie was able to discover herself, figure out how to be the woman she wanted to be, and eventually become an amazing matriarch (as seen in The Invitation).

Take the Lead
Alexis Daria

I was crying when I reached the end of this book. All of the pent-up emotions needed an outlet, and this time, it was tears. Somehow, even when I’m not hearing it, music and the things around it have an effect of me that nothing else really does. Would I have had the same kind of reaction to the story if dancing hadn’t been involved? I have no idea. The character development is amazing, the plot is enrapturing, and the musical numbers are invigorating. So yeah, no question of “if it wasn’t.” It was.

The Heiress Effect
Courtney Milan

I love every Courtney Milan novel I’ve ever read. Actually, Hold Me was going to be on this list, as was In Pursuit Of…, her contribution to Hamilton’s Battalion. But this one is definitely my favorite. If my iPad had been a physical book, I would have hugged it when I was done. Everything about it was perfect: the heroine; the hero; the setup for the romance; the reason they couldn’t be together; the secondary romance; seeing non-alphas in a historical setting; Mrs. Battacharya. And then of course there was the kicker: I read it when I was sick and felt better by the time I was done. Phyiscal, visceral, whatever. This book works miracles.

As Long as You Love Me
Ann Aguirre

This book broke my heart. I literally had to stop to cry towards the end, when Lauren explains why she can’t be with Ben, and then later when she works to overcome that problem. But before all that, there’s a straightforward, open, friends-to-lovers story that is endearing and refreshing. The second book in what is technically called the 2B series, but what I call the BSB series, this one sent me through the emotional wringer far more than the first one. Not even a single father got me as worked up as this one. So you know it was that good.

Wrong to Need You
Alisha Rai

Interestingly enough, I gave Hate to Want You five stars (all that personal self-discovery and “I’m going to try emotions” thing), but this was basically a six-star read. I didn’t talk about it when I read it because it was the second in a series, and I tend not to discuss those, but…it looks like I have a second-book-in-a-series thing, looking at some of my five star reads. Everything great about Hate to Want You—the melodrama, the relationships, the people, the heart—was exacerbated in the second installment. Secondary characters made me cry. Family meetings made my heart swell. Sadia and her open bisexuality gave me heart (especially after my post for coming out day two years ago).

I don’t have a lot of five-star romances, but these—and the ones I left out because I gushed about them in Kissing Books already—are books that I’d recommend to anyone looking for an essential representation of romance. Wishes might need a revisit, because a lot of Jude Deveraux’s books didn’t age well for me, but the elements that made it magical for me (besides the fairy godmother part) are still there.

What are your five-star romances? I apparently want to cry more.

New and Upcoming Releases

Wanna Bet by Talia Hibbert

Co-Ed by Rachel Van Dyken

After the Wedding by Courtney Milan

Cheeky King by Nana Malone (April 30)

Life of Bliss by Erin McLellan (April 30)

Bro Code by Kendall Ryan (May 1)

That’s plenty, right?

As usual, catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at if you’ve got feedback or just want to say hi!