Sin and Ink by Naima Simone
If forbidden love is your literary cup of tea, look no further. Naima Simone brings the heat in this story about friends, coworkers, and former in-laws Eden and Knox — both grappling with the death of Connor, Eden’s husband and Knox’s brother. That Connor and Knox were both MMA fighters and Connor died during a match weighs heavily on Knox, even as he thinks about giving up his tattoo shop to return to fighting. Eden’s finally ready to be more independent and move out of Connor’s parents’ house, even knowing it will hurt them. Both Eden and Knox have been burying their pain and trying to avoid each other within the confines of the shop, but their sexual tension is through the roof and unstoppable. When they give in to their passion — which they do, again and again, while knowing it will be misunderstood should their secret get out — the results are explosive.
Misadventures of a Curvy Girl by Sierra Simone
This cover may look cutesy, but inside it’s nonstop hotness. When photographer Ireland winds up stranded in small-town Kansas during a storm, she ends up staying with couple Caleb and Ben. She’s just getting used to being proud of her size — no thanks to the ex who dumped her a month ago for not trying to lose weight — and is open to whatever the sexy couple is willing to give her. When the three of them (or any pairing among them) start to get it on, sparks definitely fly. Think exhibitionism and voyeurism, threesomes, and lots of dirty talk, along with each of them grappling with their own demons, including Ben’s PTSD and the raging storm. Ireland’s curviness, and her appetite for all sorts of sex, is welcomed by both men, even as they grapple with what her arrival means to their relationship.
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S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline
For women who are down on their luck, the New Orleans group S.E.C.R.E.T. will fulfill their personal list of sexual fantasies. Yes, this erotic novel, the first in a trilogy, is wish fulfillment with a side of feminist mojo. When Cassie, whose spouse has died, stumbles across the group and takes them up on their offer, what she receives goes beyond her wildest — and some are indeed pretty wild — dreams. The is the go-to book I recommend to anyone new to reading sexy stories, an erotic powerhouse where women can get exactly what they want and never feel an ounce of guilt for saying yes to whatever their dirty minds can conjure up.
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Toxic Desire by Robin Lovett
When Nemona finds her ship invaded by Oten — a golden-skinned Ssedez alien who wears literal armor — he should be her enemy. His goal is to kill all humans, so of course she’s ready to hate him right back. But when they unexpectedly make a landing on the fire planet Fyrian, both of them notice that their hate has turned to instant, uncontrollable lust thanks to their new setting, which has that effect on people and aliens. Even though they know they shouldn’t want each other, they’re too overcome to resist the passion drawing them to succumb. Their alien/human pairing shouldn’t work, they’ve been taught, but what if they could join forces rather than be at odds? Whether you’re a science fiction fan looking to add some sexy action to your reading or a newcomer to the genre like me, Toxic Desire, the first in Lovett’s Planet of Desire series, has plenty of drama, (literally) hot sex scenes as well as a core of tenderness.
Grand Theft N.Y.E. by Katrina Jackson
While I wouldn’t want to encounter a con artist in real life, there’s a powerful charm to the heroine of Grand Theft N.Y.E., Cleo, who’s able to swindle rich and powerful men with her seductive smarts and take their lust and cluelessness right to the bank. Reading about her exploits is like watching a sexy heist movie, until she meets her match and cons the wrong guy — or maybe the right one, since he’s so damn sexy. Robert is no pushover of a mark. He has to balance the way Cleo has bewitched him against the stuff she's stolen from him, including the vintage gray Jaguar E-Type they’d recently defiled in one of the most arousing car sex scenes I’ve ever read. This erotic romance makes a life of crime seem, if not easy, a hell of a lot of fun.
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Femme Tales by Anne Shade
If you’re a sucker for fairy tales, this trio of racy lesbian retellings is for you. Bringing a modern sensibility to classics like Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, Shade puts a sapphic spin on them that manages to feel realistic. Whether she’s telling the story of former rapper Ebony (aka the Beast), who’s put up emotional walls she’s loath to let down, or Serena, who gets to know sexy chef Chayse through the powerful dreams she has about her while she’s in a coma, or an almost-meet-cute between a music mogul and shoe designer involving a pair of 6-inch red platform stiletto boots, Shade playfully pays homage to these classic stories while centering queer relationships.
Deep Inside: Extreme Erotic Fantasies by Polly Frost
If your reading habits are in a rut, break out with Deep Inside. Polly Frost writes about sex and desire in a way that’s anything but ordinary, serving up scenarios where few things are what they seem. These edgy, slyly humorous erotic sci-fi stories involve everything from a dominatrix who’s bored at her job but finds a way to get off thanks to a man from her past, to a celebrated author of a book about masturbation who can’t tell if her very vivid fantasies are real or imagined, to a woman peddling $10,000 magic dildos that even famous Hollywood heartthrobs are eager to procure. Celebrating the joy of the unexpected ways when it comes to sex, these stories are utterly playful, with endings that any O. Henry fan will appreciate.
Three Part Harmony by Holley Trent
If you’re looking for a love story with three main characters that’s anything but a typical menage romance, Three Part Harmony has you covered. It tells the story of Raleigh, a book publishing executive, and his infatuation with Bruce, a reclusive rock star who’s the complete opposite of the types who trash hotel rooms and cause mayhem. Meanwhile, Raleigh is battling at work with Everley, who he sees as a spoiled Daddy’s girl who only got her job through nepotism, while she’s trying to forge a professional life on a different path. Simmering beneath their workplace griping is a heat that neither can resist. Trent weaves their three interconnected stories perfectly and has written one of the most offbeat heroes in romance with Bruce — a man as far from the ripped-abs Adonis look and alpha persona as you can get.
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American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
Flirtation by food truck could easily be the tagline of this contemporary m/m romance, the first in Herrera’s Dreamers series. When Nesto brings his Afro-Caribbean cuisine to upstate New York, he has to learn the landscape and politics of small-town life after leaving the Big Apple. He also discovers his own tasty dish in the form of Jude, who’s been wary of giving his heart to anyone but makes an exception for Nesto. But when Nesto’s business starts to take over his life just as Jude truly needs him, they each have to figure out where their relationship really stands. Beware, this romance is very likely to make you wish Nesto’s food truck and its scrumptious-sounding offerings were real.
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Would I Lie to the Duke by Eva Leigh
In this sexy, feminist, and often humorous historical romance — book two in Leigh’s Union of the Rakes trilogy — down-on-her-luck Jessica poses as the wealthy and esteemed Lady Whitfield in a retro Shark Tank–esque business bazaar to try to gain investors in her family soap business. Her acting skills and quick thinking secure her the interest of the Duke of Rotherby, who hangs on her every word. Their whirlwind passion is interlaced with Jessica’s increasingly frenetic attempts to inhabit two worlds that, inevitably, collide. Leigh takes a familiar trope and infuses it with all of the humor and despair living a life in disguise can have. When they finally get their happy ending, it’s one they’ve more than earned.
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
The Worst Best Man is written rom-com at its finest, opening with wedding planner Lina getting left at the altar — a humiliation made worse when she finds herself having to work with her ex’s brother, Max, to win a coveted contract that could help catapult her struggling business to the next level. She’s prepared to resent Max, who played a role in her wedding blowing up in smoke, but finds herself seeing a whole new side of him. Their banter and ability to laugh both at and with one another make this a delightful page-turner. Sosa does an excellent job with familiar romance tropes, and their only-one-bed scenario leads to some hilarious hijinks when they pretend to be a couple, along with a very steamy outdoor sex scene. If you need a laugh along with your love story, this book’s for you.
Hot Rabbi by Aviva Blakeman
Lots of romance authors call their novels “kissing books,” and if any title deserves the moniker, it’s this one. The title Hot Rabbi (aka Rabbi Sexy Pants) is the kind of romance hero who takes locking lips very seriously. Blakeman plays out the drama and allure of kissing beautifully as Shoshanna and David flirt shamelessly, clearly interested in each other but also cautious about taking the next step in person. They do finally kiss a third of the way through the book — then do a lot more than that — in this thrillingly slow-burn love story between work-obsessed bisexual Shoshanna and single dad David, as they figure out just how deep they want their relationship to be.
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Hungry for It by Fiona Zedde
In Hungry for It, Zedde paints a vivid portrait of sultry nights and simmering passion between Rémi, a tough-on-the-outside butch Miami jazz club owner and occasional model, and Claudia, the mother of one of Rémi's closest friends, who she’s quietly lusted after for years. For Rémi, pursuing the woman who’s starred in her fantasies comes naturally, but Claudia, who’s never slept with a woman before, is more cautious about the gap between their ages and life circumstances, even though their chemistry is undeniable. Claudia is both a mother figure and the woman Rémi lusts after most passionately, and Rémi is used to getting exactly what she wants. Claudia proves more of a challenge than she’s used to — the kind that doesn’t require bravado, but a different kind of courage.
Off Limits Attraction by Jayci Lee
This category romance has it all — corporate espionage, the film industry, family drama, and yes, over-the-top sexual chemistry. Jihae Park has cultivated an image as an aloof ice goddess thanks to her powerful family’s insistence that she toe the line in every way. She’s so sheltered she’s never even been to a regular movie theater — until she joins handsome film producer Colin Song at a screening they try to convince themselves is all business. Yet even though the sparks are flying between them, Colin is still uncertain whether Jihae was responsible for a scheme that helped ruin his cousin’s life. The inner workings of family businesses and expectations come to life in this novel as each of them struggles to stay true to what’s expected of them, while starting to dream of the possibilities a more independent life with each other could hold.
Craving Flight by Tamsen Parker
If you’ve ever wondered if Orthodox Judaism and BDSM can go together, you’ll get your answer in Craving Flight. Tzipporah is a divorced professor who was raised Jewish, but is relatively new to being Orthodox, while butcher Elan, whose spouse has died, has lived in his Forest Park, Brooklyn, Orthodox community his whole life. They allow themselves to be set up by a woman from their shul and agree to marry after only a few dates, cautiously intrigued but still relative strangers. But within the confines of their marriage, Tzipporah opens up to Elan about her deep need to be physically hurt within the practice of BDSM, craving the pain of his spankings and rope. Even while Tzipporah struggles to adjust to Elan’s often taciturn ways, the intricacies of keeping kosher, and his mistrustful family, she seeks the comfort of their kinky, intimate rituals, which help set her free of so many of her daily struggles. This emotionally intense romance is a fascinating exploration of the power of dominance and submission to transform.
Lush Money by Angelina M. Lopez
If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at the seemingly umpteen fictional billionaires who’ve popped up in romance in the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey, know that when said billionaire is a woman written by debut novelist Lopez, the scenario gets a shakeup. Here, wealthy Roxanne convinces Mateo to sign a contract agreeing to impregnate her. He resents that he’s in such a precarious financial position that he must say yes to save his beloved family vineyard, but soon finds he can’t get enough of her take-charge attitude, even while he’s trying to take charge right back. These two deeply stubborn people are constantly at odds, which only makes their sex life that much hotter as they fight for what they believe in and, ultimately, each other.
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Stocking Stuffers by Erin McLellan
The lesson of this holiday romance might be that most wonderful time of the year involves lots and lots of sex toys. Stocking Stuffers finds Sasha hosting a sex toy party in a charming inn, which turns less charming when she gets stuck there during a storm. The biggest problem? She hates Christmas with a passion, while the whole appeal of the inn is its festive atmosphere, with holiday lights and décor and music and food in almost every room. It helps a little (okay, a lot) that sexy Perry, the brother of the inn’s owner, is staying there too. Sasha finds a way to get into the spirit of the season and teach Perry, a more than willing student, that toys aren’t just a woman’s domain. Rather than be intimidated by her bag full of erotic offerings, he’s intrigued — and impressed. Kudos to McLellan for making sex toys a natural part of the intimate scenes in this sweet and sizzling story.
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
Set within the world of telenovelas, including a fictional plot within the plot, You Had Me at Hola puts actors Ashton and Jasmine together on set in New York, with Ashton keeping his son back in Puerto Rico a secret. Jasmine is fresh off a breakup that’s been splashed across the tabloids and is intent on moving on, while Ashton hasn’t been intimate with anyone in eight years after a security scare. Daria weaves in their ongoing personal drama with the drama of their telenovela, Carmen in Charge, in a way that made me want both the book and the fictional show to keep going long after I closed the last page — because I didn’t want to say goodbye to either.
Cherishing the Goddess by Lucy Eden
If winter has got you down, take a virtual trip to Barbados, the setting of Cherishing the Goddess. Wolfe Industries CEO Alex heads there for a business trip, looking to finally close to the deal on a hotel his company has been eager to acquire. However, MBA student Calypso and her father have no intention of selling such a cherished property that has deep personal meaning. Their business stalemate doesn’t stop them from steamy rendezvous at the hotel and on a boat, or from having deliciously dirty phone sex. When they’re not together, Alex is trying to keep up with running his business even as his new love has him wondering if it’s even worth it, while Calypso is juggling the emotional upheaval of her mom’s dementia and the meaning of her own growing feelings for Alex. Eden infuses this story of business enemies who can’t get enough of each other with a mix of passion, angst, and intimacy.
Your Dad Will Do by Katee Robert
There’s a reason Your Dad Will Do is part of Katee Robert’s A Touch of Taboo series. This extremely filthy (in the best way) novel finds Lily knocking on the door of the man who would’ve been her father-in-law had she and her fiancé not just broken up when she caught him cheating. But her interest in silver fox Shane didn’t start after the breakup; she’d been harboring fantasies about him during her whole relationship. Now, she gets to fulfill them — and then some. From sex in a parking lot where anyone can see them to an exhibitionist ride around the neighborhood, they push their own boundaries as they take their pent-up fantasies to a whole new level. If the title and premise sound at all intriguing to you, you’ll likely devour this very explicit erotic romance, filled with lots of dirty talk, age play, and a Daddy fetish, all in one sitting.
Rachel Kramer Bussel is a freelance writer focusing on books, culture, relationships, and sexuality. She's edited over 70 anthologies, including the Best Women's Erotica of the Year series and The Big Book of Orgasms. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter.