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Top 25 Best Harlequin Romance Books

Our Picks for the Best of the Harlequin Novels

Spicy and sultry, Harlequin are some of the most steamy, wildly romantic books. Some call them pulpy, but we say, hell yea -- tall dark, and most definitely handsome is the name of the game.

There's more Harlequin romance novels than you can shake a stick at and, as even the most rabid Harlequin fan will tell you, the quality of the novels varies wildly. With the great ones being truly great and the bad ones being nearly unreadable, well, you can save a lot of wasted time by skipping the bad and only reading the best by checking our our comprehensive list of the Top 25 Best of the Best Harlequin Romances below.

We are huge fans of Harlequins and these are our favorites -- the gems you absolutely NEED to read.

This is one of the highest rated marriage in name only Harlequins The love story between Alex and Sarah is a traditional marriage in name only Harlequin where the main characters, despite their prosaic reasons for entering into marriage, can't contain their feelings in such close proximity and find themselves falling hopelessly in love. This particular novel spices things up with an intense level of hatred and antagonism between both characters - the author seems hell-bent on proving the saying that hatred and lust are separated by only the thinnest of margins.

Bond of Hatred is best suited to the reader who gets her knickers all in a twist over domineering, arrogant alpha-males (lovers of a certain Mr Grey - I'm looking at you!). Alex certainly delivers on all of these points. Sarah, the heroine, is presented as a strong-willed, take charge person herself, and manages to resist Alex's self-assured attractions for most of the novel. This, of course, will only make her eventual, if inevitable, capitulation to all of that hotness even more satisfying. Alex does, of course, have various redeeming features - his love of family, his manly hotness, his eventual ability to grovel at Sarah's altar, his manly hotness... The many scenes where the two clash with each other are intense and produce impressive sparks, keeping the reader hooked until the very end. 

Read if you like: marriage in name only, Ha

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Slow Hands is one of the best-known books of the Harlequin Blaze range. It combines the best-loved parts of a Presents novel with the steaminess of a Blaze story.Most of the best-known and well-loved Harlequin novels come from the Presents imprint. Slow Hands breaks this mould as a Blaze novel that is just as popular. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that it is essentially a (much) racier version of the mistaken identity trope traditionally popular among Harlequin readers.

One of the neat things about this novel is that it upends its proponents' stereotypes. Whereas the male is usually excessively rich and the female is hard-working but poor, here we have a wealthy businesswoman and a blue-collar male paramedic. Refreshingly, neither of them is overbearing and domineering, but are both genuinely attractive people who you would actually want to be with if you knew them in real life. The heroine even thinks of her love life in Grey's Anatomy comparisons, making her the ultimate relatable character for any woman who's watched TV in the past ten years.

Of course, probably the most appealing part of this novel is its very scorching hot bedroom scenes. A word to the wise - don't read this one in public . Unless you're comfortable sitting next to a stranger on the train while panting and fanning your cheeks...

Read if you like: Harlequin Blaze, hot and steamy, mistaken identity, paramedic, contemporary romance, opposites attract, strong heroine

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Its a traditional at the top of every Harlequin readers list

The Spanish Groom has to be included in any list of top Harlequin romances. Its in good company among all the other Lynne Graham novels that romance readers love to love. Graham is one of the most prolific and best loved of all Harlequin authors, churning out romances at an astonishing rate.The Spanish Groom is the love story of Dixie and Cesar, and is the lightest and most amusing of all Grahams novels. 

The heroine is sweet, bumbling, adorably accident-prone, and beloved of everyone. Think a more old-fashioned Bridget Jones. Cesar has the requisite over-bearing, kind-of-a-prick moments, but has a more vulnerable side and adores old people, dogs, babies and, apparently, clumsy but very sweet women. And of course, no review of The Spanish Groom would be complete without a mention of everyones favourite supporting character Cesar the cannibalistic goldfish named after Cesar the ruthless businessman.

The Spanish Groom is a classic example of the marriage in name only trope so popular among Harlequin novels, but, unlike most, its less angst and more sweetness. Read this book for a fun, light-hearted romantic escape with characters you cant help but like. 

Read if you like: Harlequin Presents, marriage in name only, sweet, humour, bumbling heroine, tall dark and handsome, Mediterranean hero

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There has been serious word-of-mouth hype about this novel among Harlequin fans since it was published in 2011. It's fun and modern and has a strong heroine. Doukakis's Apprentice follows a typical Harlequin plot-line - misunderstood girl meets strong, rich, overbearing alpha-male who dislikes her immensely. Girl proves herself through pluck / loyalty / virginity. Girl is uninterested in alpha male so he falls madly in love with her against his will. Girl falls madly in love with him. Happily ever after ensues.

The secondary characters are one-dimensional to the point of being almost superfluous to the storyline and the male protagonist is flatter and more uninteresting than most. Where this book really rises to the point where it's included on this (and almost every other top Harlequin) list, is in its heroine. Polly Prince, despite her unfortunate name, is a modern and independent woman who brings a life, vibrancy and backbone to the genre that is so often missing. She is quirky, fun, talented, has a great sense of humour, and doesn't take herself too seriously.  Most importantly, she stands up for herself and her employees, and doesn't get all week-kneed and doormat-like at the smouldering first glance from a good looking man. She's a character that a modern reader could aspire to be like - confident and successful with a smoking-hot leading man in her life.

Romance readers and critics agree - Doukakis's Apprentice won a 2012 RWA Rita, is a Romantic Times Top Pick, and is one of Harlequin's bestsellers since it was published.


Read if you like: Harlequin Presents, alpha male, misunderstood, virgin heroine, strong heroine, Mediterranean hero, contemporary romance, hot and steamy, office romance

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It's emotional and passionate, and one of the most popular marriage of convenience Harlequins.Yet another marriage of convenience plot - have I mentioned how popular they are among the Harlequin authors and readers? Of course, this particular example spices things up by making it aroyal marriage of convenience because, what's hotter than being married to an insanely hot alpha male who makes you want to rip his clothes off than being married to a royal alpha male who makes you want to rip his clothes off!

What makes this story better than its well-used marriage of convenience plot line, is the author's ability to bring genuine emotion into the story in a way that tugs on the reader's heartstrings. By the time the hero realises what's going on and proves to the self-sacrificing heroine how much he loves her and will be there for her, the reader is crying buckets while standing up and cheering in her seat.

Sure, the heroine was a little whiny and a lot defeatist, and apparently incapable of meaningful communication with her husband, but if they'd just sat down and had a conversation the book would have been over before it started and the readers would have been cheated of their nail-biting and agonising before enjoying their happy ever after. As it is, the author takes this situation, and deal with weighty issues such as fertility problems and illness while still producing an emotional romantic story. 

Read if you like: Harlequin Presents, marriage of convenience, royalty, alpha male, submissive heroine, tear-jerker, emotional, baby drama,

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It's about as effective a sentimental tear-jerker as a Harlequin can possibly get. If you want a book that will make you sob buckets before reaching its inevitable feel-good happy ending, then this is the one for you. There is nothing better than wallowing in sadness while knowing it will all turn out in the end - and getting to fantasize about a swoon-worthy hero along the way.

The plot takes a marriage in trouble and forces the husband and wife to resolve their difficulties through a convenient case of selective amnesia. Once the husband, the delicious Aristide, gets to know his wife and their problems without all his macho baggage in the way, he realises what an idiot he is, and resolves everything in time for Christmas and a new baby. Eden, the main character is beautiful and strong, and the supporting cast includes a loving family, an adorable baby, and a suitably scheming assistant as the villain of the piece.

The Greek's Christmas Baby rises above the rest of the marriage in trouble Harlequins because its male protagonist is not a jerk and the heroine is not a spineless doormat, just waiting around and wringing her hands pointlessly while being taken advantage of. Its well-drawn characters and poignant scenes have made it a favourite of Harlequin readers in the ten years since it's been published.

Read if you like: Harlequin Presents, Mediterranean hero, alpha hero, hero is a jerk, tear-jerker, emotional, angsty, amnesia, marriage of convenience

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It's modern and fun with great dialogue and well-developed charactersThis is not your mama's Harlequin. It's modern, and unapologetically sexy - just like both its main characters. The heroine is a modern woman. She isn't a naive, innocent,  secretary/nurse, but has a healthy and active love life - and isn't judged for it. She has a seriously ballsy job as a life guard, rescues the hero when he acts like an idiot, and she doesn't just automatically assume that seriously good sex means she's found her ever-after love. (Even though she has because, Harlequin). The hero isn't god-like and omnipotent, but don't worry - he's still improbably gorgeous.

The hero and heroine don't take themselves too seriously, and the witty banter between the two is dry, and clever, and hot. Or at least it is if you like your men smart with a wicked sense of humour - and show me someone who doesn't! Also, did I mention that the hero is a rich, hot, motorcycling surfer? Consider this a weak-knees alert.

As a bonus point, all of this hot, hot action takes place on the dramatic and romantic Cornwall coast. It's basically the modern equivalent of Heathcliff's brooding and mysterious Yorkshire moors.  Surf, Sea, and a Sexy Stranger is the Harlequin novel all grown-up and embracing the twenty-first century with open arms, a cheeky sense of humour, and a serious case of joie-de-vivre.

Read if you like:  Harlequin  Modern, contemporary romance, light hearted, wounded hero, cheeky, funny, strong heroine,  fling, surfer

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It's an older, traditional Harlequin that's endured for forty years because of its emotional, evocative writing.This is your typical Harlequin left-at-the altar story. Girl is jilted at the altar and must find a new man STAT because obviously, she can't live without one. Plot twist! This time it's the groom's brother who not only convinces him to jilt the bride, but who ends up marrying her himself.

Plot twist aside, its Harlequin business as usual for the rest of the novel. The man is domineering and superior, the heroine is sweet and naive and a bit spineless.  There is the requisite amount of tension, overblown emotion, and miscommunication before the sickly-sweet happily ever after.

Speaking of miscommunication, it's all down to the characters being idiots. I mean, most of the time you want to just bash their heads together, sit them down in a room, and tell them to use their words damnit! Of course, that frustration and tension is what keeps you hooked through every passionate fight, fit of self-pity and sizzling love scene. And if they did just act like grown-ups and discuss their feelings honestly, there wouldn't be much of a story, would there?One of Reid's strengths as an author is her ability to infuse every scene with intense  emotion and make the reader helplessly invested in her characters and their story, regardless of how absurd the situation or how frustrating the characters are being. That is the reason why Marriage on the Rebound is still just as popular among Harlequin Presents readers as it was when it was first published more than forty years ago.

Read if you like:  Harlequin Presents, traditional Harlequin, emotional, rebound, left at the altar, keeping it in the family, arrogant hero, alpha hero, sexy, hot and steamy, submissive heroine

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It's a light-hearted take on the marriage in name only trope that isn't predictable and has really great, well-written dialogue.

Wife for a Week is a fun-filled and fast-paced romp through an improbable but highly entertaining fake marriage. The couple are set up by the hero's mother to avoid a handsy eighteen-year-old. From there it just gets more absurd and more hilarious as they bounce from disaster to disaster with oodles of flirty verbal sparring and miscommunications while ratcheting up the sexual tension.

Wife for a Week is a lot more playful, and a lot more unexpected than most Harlequins. Sure, it's firmly in the old marriage in name only camp, but it freshens that trope up with a smart, independent woman and a funny and laid-back hero. I mean, what other Harlequin have you read where the heroine accidentally takes out a hit on the hero? Even more surprising in its own way, is the scene where they have to platonically share a bed and deal with it with humour and common sense rather than agonising over the situation before jumping each other's bones. 

Refreshingly, there isn't a hint of angst in site, everyone has pretty great and functional relationships with their families, and the hero isn't a jerk. This is the perfect read for someone who wants a laugh out loud feel-good romance without all the angst and drama, but with all the passion. 

Read if you like: Harlequin Presents, marriage in name only, fun, light hearted, smart heroine, playful, slapstick, feel-good romance, virgin heroine,

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It contains lots of the angst and family drama which is the hallmark of a good Harlequin, and was so popular it was reprinted almost 20 years after it was first released.

Tempted was initially published under the title Tempted By Her Lost Love, before being shortened when it was reprinted - probably to tone down the more-than-slightly-ridiculous original title and to appeal to a more modern audience. As a nice change, it is written from both the hero and heroine's points of view.

The hero, Devon, in collusion with her manipulative father, tricks the air-headed Ashley into marrying him by pretending he's desperately in love with her in order to get his hands on her family's money. The heroine does, eventually, discover she has a spine and walks out on her husband, and that is where the book starts to rise above the pack. She stops mooching around with a martyred expression on her face, and gives Devon a swift kick in the backside to wake him up to reality. Before the inevitable happy ever after, we get to explore depth of feeling and chemistry between the two, and the author allows them to grow and develop into people who are strong, and genuine, and not nearly as annoying as they started out. 

Tempted is the perfect novel for those Harlequin readers who like stories fully of pain and unrequited love where the heroine is naive and air-headed, and the hero starts out arrogant, condescending, and deceptive, but is miraculously transformed by falling in love.

Read if you like:  Harlequin Desire, hot and steamy, sexy, submissive heroine, alpha male, second-chance romance, pregnancy, baby drama, angst

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It's a great take on the trapped by a snow storm story.

The story of Jolie and Cole manages to take not one, not two, but three favourite Harlequin tropes (trapped by a storm, haters to lovers, and the heroine as a beautiful but unfairly maligned woman), and while it is almost as formulaic as that would suggest, the book is elevated above its triteness by emotional writing and pretty great characters. Also, as a nice change, there is less angst, and more witty banter between the characters than one might expect.

Of course, there's also a hero with impossibly handsome looks who used to be a jerk but turns out to have a heart of gold, and more family drama than you can shake a stick at. Inevitably, much of the drama is a bit contrived - is it really likely that an entire town would hate someone because her mother had an affair when the heroine was a child, without anybody blaming the  cheating husband even a little bit? The author also manages to deal with some heavy themes such as adultery and childhood trauma while keeping the book warm and funny. The heroine is cheeky, smart, and surprisingly strong, while the hero is witty, loyal and - did I mention? - impossibly handsome. 

Altogether The Man She Loves to Hate is a feel-good novel that has a special place in the heart of a lot of Harlequin readers.  It was also a finalist for the Romance Writers of Australia's RUBY award for Short Sexy Romance

Read if you like:  Harlequin Presents, trapped by a snow storm, hate to love, misunderstood heroine, vengeance, arrogant hero, feuding families, angst

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It's a well-loved example of a classic forced marriage Harlequin

This book really delivers on the angst-factor that Harlequins are so famous for. From the beginning through to the conclusion the author throws every plot device possible at the reader to squeeze the most hand-wringing emotion possible from the reader. There is an evil father, a misunderstood heroine, a forced marriage, blackmail, a love child, devastating accusations, and an aggressive, borderline-abusive husband.  There are some good plot twists, the first revealing to the husband why his wife agreed to go along with the marriage in the first place - and making him appreciate the full extent of how much he misjudged her.  The second is when he tries to take revenge on his vile father-in-law, only to have his suspicious wife almost ruin his retribution. 

Naturally, the two characters grow to love one another, and of course the hero becomes less of an ass than he was originally. The plot barrels from one steamy, tempestuous scene to another with enough angsty emotion, passionate sex scenes, and dubious euphemisms for male and female anatomy to satisfy even the most avid of Harlequin readers. 

Read if you like:  traditional Harlequins, Harlequin Presents, alpha hero, family drama, submissive heroine, blackmail, baby drama, forced marriage, angst, misunderstood heroine, marriage of convenience

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It's Lynne Graham at her best delivering what Harlequin readers like best - angst, drama, miscommunication and a Mediterranean alpha male.

Yet another book by the ever popular Lynne Graham makes it onto the list. I don't think there's a single Lynne Graham book that Harlequin readers don't gush over, but this one manages to be more popular than most. Graham has stayed loyal to her tried-and-tested formula: arrogant, gorgeous, Mediterranean alpha male with absurd amounts of money meets sweet, deceptively plain secretary and they fall madly in love despite excessive and contrived drama.

Trophy Husband rises above the pack because, refreshingly, it's the man who chases after the woman, and not the emotional little woman panting helplessly after the man. There is the requisite amount of hand-wringing, passion, interfering family, and nefarious exes. There is also a very likeable hero who will do everything possible to get the girl, and, while the plot swings back and forwards erratically, giving it always manages to keep our interest right until the conclusion. 

The plot is a little far-fetched, but that's half the fun when you're looking for a passionate escape-read. The hero, Alex, falls in love from a distance with his mousey assistant, Sara, and sets it up so she finds out her fiance is cheating on her with her cousin.

He then swoops in and "comforts," seduces, and marries her. Once married, drama ensues with neither admitting their feelings until finally they grow up, confess their deep eternal love, and head off into the sunset and their happily ever after. This is a must read for Harlequin readers who like their finding-love-after-marriage stories with lots of chemistry and a likeable but still egotistical hero.

Read if you like:  traditional Harlequins, Harlequin Presents, angst, alpha male, Mediterranean hero, workplace romance, secretary, submissive heroine, millionaire hero, family drama, ugly duckling, marriage to love, rebound marriage

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It does the wrongly-accused heroine trope better than almost all other Harlequin reads by making the drama real and the bad guys thoroughly evil. Wanted is another much-beloved Harlequin novel whose over the top title was made shorter and much sweeter when it was time to reissue and rebrand it. (The original title was Wanted By Her Lost Love). It is part of the Harlequin Desire imprint, and lives up to expectations by being steamy, sexy, and smouldering hot. (The author also loves a lot of alliteration - see what I did there?)

The great part of this story is that the bad guys are written with real zest. No mediocre, misunderstood antagonists here - these villains are deliciously dastardly (sorry, can't stop). The hero's family are manipulative, twisted, even evil individuals who go to the extreme of attempted rape just because their golden boy's girlfriend doesn't have the breeding to meet their absurd standards. There are no half measures here for Maya Banks. She layers on the emotional pain and suffering with a heavy hand. The poor, misunderstood, and pregnant heroine is pummelled on all sides, while still clinging to her innocence and goodness, and not giving in to the completely understandable urge to cash in her payoff and tell the hero exactly where to shove it when he finally shows up. 

While we may wish the heroine made her lover suffer a lot longer, there is enough angst and passion and tear-jerking moments as even the most masochistic reader could desire.

Read if you like:  Harlequin  Desire, contemporary romance, pregnant, baby drama, alpha male, misunderstood heroine, tear-jerker, angst, family drama

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It's the first (and to date, best) instalment of Harlequin's new KISS imprint

With this novel, what's not to love? Megan and Connor, two emotionally inhibited, goal driven people meet in Vegas, spend a crazy night together, and wake up married the next morning. They decide to stay together, not because of any wild passion, but because their lives and goals are compatible and because, apparently, it makes sense. Predictably, she falls in love with him, leaves him because he doesn't feel the same and she just can't handle it any more. In the aftermath he realises that not only does he love her too, but has all along. So, like I said, predictable. But the path to the predictable ending is sweet and engaging, and the characters have believable depth and emotion. The focus isn't on how gorgeous their looks are, but on how attractive their characters are, and on how they make each other feel. 

The cast is rounded out by a giggling horde of shudder-worthy bridesmaids and a fabulous best friend - his, not hers. Hello Mira Lynn Kelly, I want a story with him as the hero. (Actually, readWaking Up Pregnant for Jeff's story!) Waking Up Married is like the movie "What Happens in Vegas" for people who want a cheesy story with the excitement of an impulsive Vegas wedding that is actually well-told with a fun plot, interesting characters, and some pretty great dialogue. 

Read if you like:  Harlequin Kiss, contemporary romance, Vegas wedding, light hearted, fun, accidentally married, sweet

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 It's the least cheesy, best written movie star meets girl next door Harlequin around.

A Night of Scandal has also been published under the wonderfully cringe worthy title Tortured Rake. I kid you not. Let's just take a minute to appreciate the true horror of that title. Honestly, it's so bad, that alone should make you want to read it. After a start like that, things can only go up from here.

The basic premise is we have the poor little rich boy movie star who nobody loves just for himself who falls in love with an ordinary down to earth girl who just has so much love to give. Stir in eight (yes, eight!) siblings, a tragic childhood, body issues, trust issues, confidence issues, a brooding movie star, a star stuck heroine, and an entitled sister, and you have the recipe for a tear-jerking, heart-wrenching angst fest.

While the plot-line is just a tad unrealistic, and the hero isn't exactly the boy next door, the heroine is someone that pretty much every woman should be able to relate to. She's smart, she's working in a normal job that she loves, she has some body hang-ups, and she's got a good heart. She grounds the story just enough that you can enjoy the fantasy romance without suspending belief completely - and the story is a perfect guilty-pleasure indulgence. Bonus: if you like this story, there's seven more to come - one for each of the equally tortured and damaged siblings. Time to break out the wine, ice-cream and tissues.

Read if you like:  Harlequin Presents, girl next door, famous hero, playboy hero, ugly duckling, big family, tear jerker, angst

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It's the least cheesy, best written movie star meets girl next door Harlequin around. A Night of Scandal has also been published under the wonderfully cringe worthy title Tortured Rake. I kid you not. Let's just take a minute to appreciate the true horror of that title. Honestly, it's so bad, that alone should make you want to read it. After a start like that, things can only go up from here.

The basic premise is we have the poor little rich boy movie star who nobody loves just for himself who falls in love with an ordinary down to earth girl who just has so much love to give. Stir in eight (yes, eight!) siblings, a tragic childhood, body issues, trust issues, confidence issues, a brooding movie star, a star stuck heroine, and an entitled sister, and you have the recipe for a tear-jerking, heart-wrenching angst fest.

While the plot-line is just a tad unrealistic, and the hero isn't exactly the boy next door, the heroine is someone that pretty much every woman should be able to relate to. She's smart, she's working in a normal job that she loves, she has some body hang-ups, and she's got a good heart. She grounds the story just enough that you can enjoy the fantasy romance without suspending belief completely - and the story is a perfect guilty-pleasure indulgence. Bonus: if you like this story, there's seven more to come - one for each of the equally tortured and damaged siblings. Time to break out the wine, ice-cream and tissues.

Read if you like:  Harlequin Presents, girl next door, famous hero, playboy hero, ugly duckling, big family, tear jerker, angst

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It's hot, dramatic, filled with angst, and one of the best of the ever-popular pack of pregnant mistress drama stories

The Billionaire's Pregnant Mistress tells you almost everything you need to know just by the awkward title. He-man billionaire gets his mistress pregnant by accident, and has to overcome obstacles created mainly by his own stupidity before they get their happily ever after as a traditional nuclear family. Really, the only question you have is whether the hero is Greek or Italian.

Every Harlequin romance has to work within a set formula. What defines it is how the author manages to get her characters from point A to point B, and how interested she manages to keep her readers along the way. Lucy Monroe manages it here by using boatloads of melodrama, deploying crazed family members, and turning up the chemistry so the main characters are shooting sparks off each other so hot they should come with their own fire protection warning. She also is the mistress of grovelling. Seriously, the hero grovels for whole chapters in a very satisfying manner.

The Billionaire's Pregnant Mistress is old school Harlequin done well with just under 200 pages packed to the gills with angst, emotion, baby drama, sexy Greeks and lots and lots of grovelling.  Read if you like:  Harlequin Presents, traditional Harlequin, angst, hot and steamy, alpha hero, Mediterranean hero, pregnant heroine, submissive heroine, baby drama, grovelling, angst, billionaire heroes

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It's one of the best written royal single mother and marriage of convenience Harlequins out there

If you can get past the title, this book is worth picking up if you love a good traditional Harlequin where the ubiquitous Mediterranean billionaire is replaced with an equally handsome, equally arrogant royal hero. It marries three very popular Harlequin tropes - single mother, ugly duckling and marriage of convenience, and places the story in an impossibly romantic setting.  

Have you ever noticed that it's the heroine who goes from being an ugly duckling to a beautiful, lust-inducing swan? For once I'd like to read a story where the hero is cast in that role, though I imagine it wouldn't be quite so satisfying for those of us who fancy undergoing that transformation ourselves and finding a handsome alpha-male conveniently waiting to fall in love with us on the other side.

On the plus side, who doesn't love a good Cinderella story where the poor girl by her virtue and pure heart is transformed into a princess? It's even better when it's coupled with a handsome prince who'll give up his kingdom to make steamy, passionate love with you. Nobody does this type of lush, descriptive, hopelessly romantic book better than Julia James.

Read if you like:  Harlequin Presents, traditional Harlequins, royal romance, single mother, marriage of convenience, ugly duckling, Cinderella, virgin heroine, hot and steamy, alpha male

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It's the best example of a Harlequin where the modern day heroine gets to embrace her sensual side - and not be judged for it.

Yes, I know, yet another pick with a horrific title. I'm not sure whether they're trying to appeal to a reader's hidden desire to be a bad girl or whether they genuinely don't care that it sounds like the world's most clich porn flick. The book is as completely fun and over the top as you might expect from the title.

The heroine is about as far removed from the typical harlequin heroine as it's possible to be. She isn't plain or shy, she isn't innocent and virginal, and she certainly isn't a doormat. On the other hand the author doesn't swing to the other extreme and portray her as a one-dimensional tramp. She's sexy, a stripper,  confident, comfortable in her own skin, a baker, and very close to her family.

Isabella the baker has an alter ego who strips at night, in disguise, conveniently, and her childhood crush is the new bouncer at the club. The ensuing passionate affair is as lavish, and ridiculous, and hot as your little heart could desire. It's an opportunity to put logic and reality behind you, relish the fantastic connection between the hero and heroine, and revel in a satisfying happily ever after.

Also, can I just say, cannoli. You'll have a whole new appreciation for it after you read this book.

Read if you like:  Harlequin Blaze, contemporary romance, small town, fun roman

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In a long list of fiery, vengeful, combustible Harlequins, this one is the most fiery, the most vengeful, and most definitely the most combustible.

As far as setting the scene for a tempestuous love affair filled with revenge, passion, anger and scorching passion, Susan Napier didn't hold back with this one. Ryan ruined Jane's family, so she decided she would ruin his - she stopped his wedding by claiming she was, in fact, having an affair with the groom. Now, any good romance reader will realise at this point that obviously this was her go-to ruse because deep (deep deep) down inside, she was secretly and quite desperately crazy about him. Crazy in the good way - and, honestly, kinda crazy in the bad way too. Equally obviously, the would-be groom thought the same thing we did, because he decided that they would how have an affair for real - while simultaneously causing her financial downfall. Let the fun and games ensue - if, that is, you like your fun with a decidedly masochistic edge. This is the book you want to read if you like your heroes angry and vengeful, your heroines a little on the deranged side, and your action scenes decidedly physical. (And I don't mean that in the way you think I do - the heroine occasionally likes to punch the hero.)

Read if you like:  Harlequin Presents, revenge, alpha male, hot and steamy, feuding families, enemies to lovers

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It's a sweet book with a surprising gender-role inversion.

A sweet romance where good friends grow slowly and naturally into great lovers with a minimum of drama and hand-wringing, this novel by Amanda Carpenter couldn't be further away from the usual steamy, turbulent Harlequin fare. Of course, it is still based on traditional Harlequin tropes - the  friends to lovers, and the innocent virgin themes being the main ones. In this case though, it's the heroine who is blindly (incomprehensibly) oblivious to the hero's sincere, but silent, love for her. Even more remarkable - the innocent virgin in this case is actually the hero. Yes, you read that right. He's not storming over in the middle of the night to ruthlessly seduce her. He's sitting patiently at home waiting for her to open her eyes and realise he's waiting for her. It's sweet, and slow-paced, and hopelessly romantic. For an author to write a book like that and for it to be have been a successful, wildly popular Harlequin novel for as long as I've been alive (that's almost thirty years!), she either has to be selling her soul to the devil for royalties, or she has to be a surprisingly talented writer with an impressive knack for selling subtlety to romance readers. I remain unconvinced as to which one it is. 

Read if you like:  Harlequin Presents, sweet romance, friends to lovers, virgin hero, small town, unrequited love

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It's a good showcase for the "other" type of Harlequin read - homespun and sweet.

His Secondhand Wife is another Harlequin that doesn't match up to the usual Harlequin "type". It's not predicated on hatred, and angst, and cheating. Instead it's heart-warming, and kind, and very very adorable. It takes place in a rural western setting in the late 1800's, and while there aren't nearly as many shirtless cowboys and scandalous goings-on in saloons as one might hope for, there's enough sweetness to hurt the teeth of even the most confirmed of romantics. 

Of course, the entire book is predicated on the inability of anybody to communicate what they truly feel. But at least, in this case, that doesn't mean that they become angry and abusive and downright awful human beings. No, our two martyrs here simply suffer in silence and sigh a lot until they finally get with the program. 

His Secondhand Wife also has a bit of a beauty and the beast vibe going on, and while there aren't any villagers with pitchforks or massive libraries, there is a philandering dead husband, vicious mothers and step-mothers, and enough clichs to fill any number of libraries.

Lovers of sweet, slightly self-absorbed historical romances will love this one.

Read if you like:  Historical romance, American western romance, sweet, marriage of convenience, beauty and the beast, pregnant heroine, virgin hero

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It's insanely hot, it features an army ranger without his shirt on, and it's fun and contemporary.

Rhonda Nelson, bless her soul, has gifted the romance-reading community (and their overactive hormones) with fourteen books in her Men Out of Uniform series. This one is the best of a great bunch. If you know a woman who doesn't fantasize about men in uniform, then she's probably lying. And, as Nelson knows so well, the only thing hotter than a man in uniform is when he takes that uniform off! 

If you're looking for a smart, sexy, modern romance then you really can't go wrong with this one. When it comes to the steamy factor, you can dial this one up to scorching. And in addition to this, you have fantastic secondary characters with fantastic banter, an adorable dog, an overprotective grandfather, and, best of all, the plot line isn't completely far-fetched and unbelievable. The heroine is intelligent and talented, and not at all spineless which is always a nice surprise for a Harlequin read. Of course, the reader does have to bear with the hero's secret pain and the heroine's ever-so-noble attempts to get him to just open up and heal. But those attempts at emotional depth aside, the book delivers a fun and sexy escape read.

Read if you like: Harlequin Blaze, men in uniform, steamy, army, contemporary romance, fun, flirty, tall dark and handsome,

Books in Men Out of Unifo... Series (14)

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This is an enduring favourite everywhere of the hordes of Harlequin readers who love their love stories to be Harlequin-traditional

Only read this book if you aren't offended by an aggressive to the point of abusive hero and a meek to the point of doormat heroine. The heroine was seduced by the hero as a part of an elaborate revenge plot. Now she's pregnant and being seduced by him again as part of an elaborate plot to show how tragically and completely (and inexplicably) he's fallen in love with her. 

Probably the reason for this book's enduring popularity has little to do with the absurdly derivative plotline. Instead I imagine it has everything to do with the fact that the entire read is an opportunity to shamelessly wallow in unending emotion and angst whilst simultaneously perving over an admittedly gorgeous hero. Abby Green does not do subtlety. She wallops the reader over the head with lavishly beautiful characters and settings, and loads emotion upon pain upon anguish without relenting until her readers are reduced to sobbing, quivering messes who will lap up gratefully whatever happy ending she deigns to allow them. Hey, if that's what you're into (and I think there's a tiny part of every Harlequin reader that is), then you will almost certainly adore this book, even if you hate yourself for it afterwards. 

Read if you like: Harlequin Presents, traditional Harlequin, forced marriage, alpha male, submissive heroine, revenge, angst, tear-jerker

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