15 Best Romance Novels of 2023: 5 Star Books Not to Miss

Look no further for the best romance novels of 2023 – the absolute best romance books of the year that every romance reader should add to their must-read list! 

I read a LOT of romance books in 2023 and these 15 books are the novels that earned my elusive 5-star rating because they are the full package: amazing writing, unforgettable characters, and a happily-ever-after that you’ll remember long after finishing the book.

Some of these books were on my Most Anticipated New Romance Books of 2023 list but many also crept up and surprised me from traditionally published and indie-published authors alike!

Several that I consider the best romance books of 2023 also made the list of nominees for Best Romance in the 2023 Goodreads Choice Awards so you know there’s something special about them. Enjoy and happy reading!

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The Best Romance Novels of 2023:

Things We Hide From the Light is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Things We Hide From the Light
by Lucy Score

A Small Town Romance That Had Me Swooning for the Hero with a Wounded Heart
February 2023
5 stars

Nash Morgan was always known as the good Morgan brother, with a smile and a wink for everyone.

But now, this chief of police is recovering from being shot and his Southern charm has been overshadowed by panic attacks and nightmares.

He feels like a broody shell of the man he once was. Nash isn’t about to let anyone in his life know he’s struggling.

But his new next-door neighbor, smart and hot Lina, sees his shadows. As a rule, she’s not a fan of physical contact unless she initiates it, but for some reason Nash’s touch is different. He feels it too.

The physical connection between them is incendiary, grounding him and making her wonder if exploring it is worth the risk.

Too bad Lina’s got secrets of her own, and if Nash finds out the real reason she’s in town, he’ll never forgive her. Besides, she doesn’t do relationships. Ever.

A hot, short-term fling with a local cop? Absolutely. Sign her up. A relationship with a man who expects her to plant roots? No freaking way.

But once Nash decides to make Lina his, he’s not about to be dissuaded…even if it means facing the danger that nearly ended him.

Lucy Score, what are you doing to me with your Things We Never Got Over series?! I mean I loved Knox and Naomi but oh man did Nash and Lina steal my heart in this one which is truly one of the best romance novels of 2023.

This book is a long one but I honestly never wanted it to end. It keeps you on the edge of your seat not only with the mystery behind Nash’s memory loss but with the development of Nash and Lina’s feelings toward one another.

I admit that I’m a total sucker for romance heroes with wounded hearts and Nash fits this to a tee.

I totally felt for this man who is normally a picture of positivity but who was suffering in silence and you will too!

Check out my book review of Things We Hide From the Light.

Related: Best Found Family Romance Books

Fourth Wing is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Fourth Wing
by Rebecca Yarros

A Captivating Fantasy Romance That Lives Up to the Hype
May 2023
5 stars

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history.

Now, the commanding general―also known as her tough-as-talons mother―has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, the end of your life is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would take out Violet to better their own chances of success.

The rest would end her just for being her mother’s daughter―like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the battle outside grows more dangerous, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the ledger of those lost continues to rise.

Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Fourth Wing has everything I love about fantasy romance – great writing, amazing characters, intriguing world-building, and tension-filled chemistry that has all the spice. And did I mention that it has dragons?!

No wonder it’s been flying off the shelves!

It was on my list of most anticipated romance books of 2023 and boy does it live up to the hype and deserve it’s spot as one of the best romance novels of 2023.

If you love From Blood and Ash or The Hunger Games, you’ll love this book which has similar elements with a strong heroine you can’t help but root for. Or check out my list of books like Fourth Wing!

This is truly one of the best fantasy romance books you won’t be able to put down and then you’ll be counting down the days until the next book in the Fourth Wing series releases. I know I am!

Check out my book review of Fourth Wing.

Related: Best Young Adult Fantasy Romance Books

The True Love Experiment is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

The True Love Experiment
by Christina Lauren

A Reality TV Romance That’s a Love Letter to Romance Book Readers
May 2023
5 stars

Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is lost. Sure, she’s got an incredible career as a beloved romance novelist with a slew of bestsellers under her belt, but when she’s asked to give a commencement address, it hits her: she hasn’t been practicing what she’s preached.

Fizzy hasn’t ever really been in love. Lust? Definitely. But that swoon-worthy, can’t-stop-thinking-about-him, all-encompassing feeling? Nope. Nothing.

What happens when the optimism she’s spent her career encouraging in readers starts to feel like a lie?

Connor Prince, documentary filmmaker and single father, loves his work in large part because it allows him to live near his daughter.

But when his profit-minded boss orders him to create a reality TV show, putting his job on the line, Connor is out of his element.

Desperate to find his romantic lead, a chance run-in with an exasperated Fizzy offers Connor the perfect solution.

What if he could show the queen of romance herself falling head-over-heels for all the world to see? Fizzy gives him a hard pass—unless he agrees to cast the contestants according to a list of romance archetypes.

When he says yes, and production on The True Love Experiment begins, Connor wonders if that perfect match will ever be in the cue cards for him, too.

Christina Lauren has wowed me with so many of their romance novels but this is truly one of their best. A passionate love letter to romance and its readers and I’m so grateful!

I’m not a fan of reality TV, but if The True Love Experiment ever went live, I would be glued to the screen to see a romance author choose between men representing different romance book hero types.

I think Fizzy represents that struggle that a lot of women may understand in wondering if she will ever find that epic love that she used to so easily write about in her books.

Read this for the unique story, the hilarious banter, and the amazing chemistry between Fizzy and Connor that just jumps off the page.

Check out my book review of The True Love Experiment.

Yours Truly is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Yours Truly
by Abby Jimenez

A Fake Dating Romance That Will Tug on All the Heartstrings
April 2023
5 stars

Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants?

Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale.

But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game . . . by sending Briana a letter.

And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likeable guy who’s terrible at first impressions.

Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses.

But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly hot new doctor . . . especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse.

This book had me kicking myself that I haven’t read Abby Jimenez books sooner! I mean if this is what she brings to each of her books then I’m all for it because I adored these characters so, so much.

Both Briana and Jacob are at a tough crossroads in their relationship life, having been hurt from their previous partners and left with vulnerable hearts, and I felt it!

Romance books with the BEST meet-cutes always stand out to me and this one had the perfect hate-to-love-you vibe that totally starts their relationship off on the wrong foot but one that grows into understanding and then an adorable fake relationship.

I’m so glad that I read this book this year! Truly one of the best romance books of 2023 that everyone should add to their TBR list.

Check out my book review of Yours Truly.

Related: Best Fake Dating Books

Practice Makes Perfect is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Practice Makes Perfect
by Sarah Adams

A Relationship Coach Romance With the Best Couple
May 2023
5 stars

Annie Walker is on a quest to find her perfect match—someone who complements her happy, quiet life running the local flower shop in Rome, Kentucky.

But finding her dream man may be harder than Annie imagined. Everyone knows everyone in her hometown, and the dating prospects are getting fewer by the day.

After she overhears her latest date say she is “so unbelievably boring,” Annie starts to think the problem might be her.

Is it too late to become flirtatious and fun like the leading ladies in her favorite romance movies? Maybe she only needs a little practice . . . and Annie has the perfect person in mind to be her tutor: Will Griffin.

Will—the hot, tattooed, and absolutely gorgeous bodyguard—is temporarily back in Rome, providing security for Amelia Rose as excitement builds for her upcoming marriage to Noah Walker, Annie’s brother.

He has one personal objective while on the job: stay away from Annie Walker and any other possible attachments to this sleepy town.

But no sooner than he gets settled, Will finds himself tasked with helping Annie find the love of her life by becoming the next leading lady of Rome, Kentucky.

Will wants no part in changing the sweet and lovely Annie.

He knows for a fact that some stuffy, straitlaced guy won’t make her happy, but he doesn’t have the heart to say no.

Amid steamy practice dates and strictly “educational” tutoring lessons, Annie discovers there are more layers to Will’s usual stoic attitude.

As the lines of their friendship become dangerously blurred, Annie reconsiders her dream guy. Maybe her love life doesn’t need to be perfect—it just needs to be real.

I love it when a book totally takes me by surprise and ends up being the full package!

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was absolutely going to be a 5-star read. Adams dazzled in this relationship coach romance and proved that she definitely has the writing chops to keep cranking out phenomenal books.

Adams wrote the BEST dialogue in this one for the best characters who may be complete opposites but who display such honesty with each other. I only want more of these two!!

Check out my review of Practice Makes Perfect.

Related: Best Bodyguard Romance Books

Love Theoretically is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Love, Theoretically
by Ali Hazelwood

An Academic Rivals to Lovers Book That is Hazelwood’s Finest
June 2023
5 stars

The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her.

By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure.

By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people-pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.
Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and arrogant older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere.

And he’s the same Jack Smith who rules over the physics department at MIT, standing right between Elsie and her dream job.
Elsie is prepared for an all-out battle of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him?

Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?

Don’t get me wrong I loved The Love Hypothesis but I put my foot down and declared Love, Theoretically as my favorite Ali Hazelwood book because I’m so in love with Elsie and Jack!

Hazelwood is the go-to author for romance books featuring women in STEM who find their happily-ever-afters and Elsie was so deserving of her own.

In fact, I loved this book so much I had to create my own list of best academic rivals to lovers books because the chemistry and heat that develops between characters who compete in school or work, in this case different fields of physics, is so fun to read.

I have a feeling I’ll be re-reading this book again and again for its portrayal of what it means to really be your true self and believe that someone could fall in love with the real you.

I loved that underlying theme to this romance which made it one of the best romance novels of 2023.

Check out my book review of Love, Theoretically.

Related: Best Enemies to Lovers Books

Reckless is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

by Elsie Silver

A Cowboy Romance With the Absolute Best Banter
June 2023
5 stars

Theo Silva. Rowdy bull rider. Notorious ladies’ man. Scorching hot trouble wrapped up in a drool-worthy package.

And he’s looking at me like I might be his next meal.

But I’m almost free of my toxic marriage and have sworn off men entirely. So all I see when I look back is temptation served up with a heaping side of heartbreak.

The man is hard to trust—and even harder to resist.

Make that impossible. Because Theo is persistent. And no matter how hard I try to freeze him out, he melts my icy exterior and pulls apart all my defenses.

Over a drink in a small town bar, I blurt out my deepest, darkest secrets. Then I spend the singular hottest night of my life with him.

He worships my body. He makes me blush. I come alive beneath his hands.

Then I tell him to forget it ever happened. I want simple, and with him it all feels complicated.

It was supposed to be a one-time thing. A secret.

But that little plus sign is going to make this secret impossible to keep.

I think writing dialogue between characters has to be one of the hardest things as an author so when I read a book that makes me think, “this author has GOT IT,” then I am one happy camper.

The back and forth between Winter and Theo in Reckless was FIRE especially because they have such different temperaments.

Even before they shared their first word to one another, the chemistry between them was sizzling but when she started arguing with him and he just kept right on needling her, I knew this book was going to be magic and one of the best books of the year.

I loved this book so much that it’s made me an Elsie Silver fan for life. I totally dived into the Chestnut Springs series with this one so you don’t have to read them in order.

Check out my book review of Reckless.

How to Say I Do is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

How to Say I Do
by Tal Bauer

An Opposites Attract Romance From a Talented MM Writer
June 2023
5 stars

Manhattan is my heart and soul. In the cutthroat world of elite public relations, I’m one of the princes and social media is my specialty.

But then, my own wedding bells turn into alarm bells, and suddenly, I’m off to Cancun—alone. Alone with a first-class ticket to a honeymoon for one.

Cancun is supposed to be where I obliterate myself on margaritas and tropical waves. But beneath it all, I long for someone to see the real me, the Noël I’ve hidden away for years. I’m so damn lonely.

And then I meet Wyatt.

He’s nothing like me. He’s a rancher from Texas, he can’t tell me whether high waist jeans are in or out, and he’d rather work his fields than rub elbows with celebs.

He’s also kinder than me and altruistic. He’s the best man I’ve ever met.

And that’s a problem, because all of his big-hearted warmth and Texas gentleness is drawing me in. I’m desperate to surrender, but I can’t.

Good things aren’t meant for me. I’m no good for Wyatt. In fact, I’m his looming heartbreak.

So why am I kissing him?

Sometimes you just read a book and get completely swept away. Swept away with the characters, their growing love story, even the side characters and the setting.

How to Say I Do completely swept me away and stole an entire day where I was immersed in Wyatt and Noel’s love story until the very end.

Tal Bauer’s work has been on my TBR list for SO LONG and I’m kicking myself that I’ve only just dipped my foot in because I have a feeling I could go down the rabbit hole and completely binge-read his work and be very, very happy. 😊

This book was all about the characters for me which made it one of the best romance novels of 2023 in my book. A quiet cowboy who always puts others first and the city-loving hot mess who thinks he’s unlovable.

If you love MM romance then this is a must-read.

Check out my book review of How To Say I Do.

Related: Best Gay Romance Novels

Will They or Won't They is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Will They or Won’t They
by Ava Wilder

A Hollywood Romance With A Second Chance Love Story
June 2023
5 stars

Lilah Hunter and Shane McCarthy are madly in love—at least, their characters are.

As the stars of the hit paranormal TV show Intangible, Lilah and Shane spent years pining for each other onscreen until Lilah ditched the show at the end of season five in hopes of becoming a movie star.

With no such luck, she’s back to film the much-hyped ninth and final season, in which Lilah and Shane’s characters will get together at last.

But coming back means facing one of the biggest reasons she left: Shane. Ever since their secret behind-the-scenes fling imploded at the end of season one, the two of them have despised each other.

Now reunited on set for the first time in years—with the world’s eyes on them and their post-show careers on the line—they’ll have to grit their teeth and play nice.

But under pressure to give Intangible’s fans the happy ending they’ve been waiting for, Lilah and Shane are forced to get closer than ever.

And if they’re not careful, they might just get blindsided by one final twist: a real-life happy ending of their own.

I love authors who write the messy, vulnerable, and real characters and that’s exactly what Wilder did in her sophomore novel.

There were times I just wanted to knock some sense into Shane and Lilah and say stop being your own worst enemies and yet I LOVED that they weren’t two perfect, Hollywood people.

But it was in the moments when we finally did see them let down their walls and show who they truly were that I could see hope that they’d find their way back to one another.

If you love romance books with amazing writing and fantastic character development, you’ll love this book. Truly one of the best romance books of 2023.

Check out my book review of Will They or Won’t They.

Related: Best Second Chance Romance Books

Out on a Limb is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Out on a Limb
by Hannah Bonam-Young

A Beautiful #OwnVoices Romance
July 2023
5 stars

Winnifred “Win” McNulty has always been wildly independent. Not one to be coddled for her limb difference, Win has spent most of her life trying to prove that she can do it all on her own.

And, with some minor adjustments, she’s done just fine.

That is until she has a one-night stand with the incredibly charming Bo, a perfect stranger. And that one night changes everything.

While Bo is surprisingly elated to step up to the plate, Win finds herself unsure of whether she can handle this new challenge on her own or if she’ll need a helping hand.

Together, Win and Bo decide to get to know one another as friends and nothing more. But, as they both should know by now, life rarely goes according to plan.

I started my review of this book saying Hannah Bonam-Young keeps churning out amazing romance books, proving that she is a must-read author in the genre, and it’s true!

Her novel, Next to You, was one of my favorite books of 2022 so to have her hit AGAIN with one of the best romance novels of 2023 is just amazing.

I appreciated that she drew from her own experience in writing this novel, yet this book is so much more than just its look at limb difference.

What I loved most is that she brings to life two people who love each other so much that they are able to change the negative thought patterns that they’ve previously held onto and embrace their differences fully.

I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

Check out my book review of Out on a Limb.

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Forget Me Not is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Forget Me Not
by Julie Soto

A Beautiful Debut with the Best Grumpy Florist
July 2023
5 stars

Ama Torres is an optimistic wedding planner who doesn’t believe in marriage. But weddings? They’re amazing.

Elliot Bloom is a brooding florist who hates owning a flower shop…until a certain bright-eyed, donut-loving workaholic shows up at his door.

Once upon a time, they collaborated on events by day, and by night, Ama traced the intricate flower tattoos etched along his body.

Then Ama shattered his heart and never spoke to Elliot again.    

Now they’re working on an event that could make or break both of their careers—except neither of them has gotten over what happened two years ago.

Things are not helped by the two brides, who see the obvious chemistry between Ama and Elliot and are determined to set them up, not knowing their complicated history.

But as the wedding takes on a life of its own, Ama and Elliot are about to discover that some things can survive a complete catastrophe.

There’s something special about a book that hooks you right from the first chapter and never lets go.

That’s precisely what Soto did in her debut novel that I had to read in one sitting it was that good, making it one of the best romance books of 2023.

Grumpy characters are my catnip these days but I truly appreciated Elliot’s vulnerability and the hurt he was so obviously hiding.

I also really enjoyed the secondary story about the wedding they were working on together. I could envision it so fully and thought it was stunning!

Check out my book review of Forget Me Not.

Related: Best Grumpy Sunshine Romance Books

In the Likely Event is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

In the Likely Event
by Rebecca Yarros

A Military Romance With the Best Slow Burn
August 2023
5 Stars

When Izzy Astor gets on a plane to go home, she isn’t expecting much. It’s the usual holiday travel experience: busy, crowded, stressful.

Then she spots her seatmate, who is anything but ordinary. Nate Phelan sports dark hair, blue eyes, and a deliciously rugged charm that Izzy can’t resist.

Their connection is undeniable. Izzy never believed in destiny before, but she does now.

Just ninety seconds after takeoff, their plane goes down in the Missouri River.

Their lives change. They change. Nate goes on to a career in the military while Izzy finds her way into politics. Despite a few chance encounters over the years, the timing never feels right.

Then comes a high-stakes reunion in Afghanistan, where Nate is tasked with protecting Izzy’s life.

He’ll do anything to keep her safe. And everything to win her heart.

Let’s just call 2023 as the year of Rebecca Yarros because she is on fire with two books on my best romance books of 2023 list!

I adored Fourth Wing but man did I also love In the Likely Event which was a military, slow burn romance that I could not put down.

I totally fell for Izzy and Nate the moment they sat down next to each other on their fateful plane trip and then every instance thereafter.

Yarros told this story from dual POVs and alternating between the present day when they were stuck to each other in Kabul and moments from the past that only strengthened the relationship that you knew was growing and growing.

I’ll be remembering this story, these characters, and their love for a long time to come, well beyond 2023!

Read my book review of In the Likely Event.

Related: Best Slow Burn Romance Books

Not My Kind of Hero is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Not My Kind of Hero
by Pippa Grant

A Small Town Romance That Knocked My Socks Off!
August 2023
5 stars

I knew fixing up my life with a fresh start on the hobby ranch I inherited in Hell’s Bells, Wyoming, would come with challenges. Things like snow. Wildlife. Local gossip about why my daughter and I are here.

But the biggest challenge? My surly new tenant.

He’s like a bear. Fascinating from a distance, but don’t get too close, or he’ll bite.

His personality should be a good thing. I have no need of a new man in my life. But he’s not only my tenant; he’s also my daughter’s math teacher and soccer coach. I keep running into him. He keeps thinking I need to be saved.

Maybe I do, but here’s what I don’t expect: he’s a fixer-upper in need of saving too. And I might be the only woman for the job.

Hell’s Bells, help me.

Pippa Grant nailed small town romance with these amazing characters and the wonderful storyline but OMG the steaminess was WOW. 😊

Maisey is one of those female heroines who’s barely hanging on with her life in shambles and yet I was so enamored with this woman.

I love when heroines aren’t quite perfect and have struggles that a reader can identify with so it was so satisfying to see her get her happily ever after.

Definitely put this best romance novel of 2023 on your radar. You won’t regret it!

Check out my book review of Not My Kind of Hero.

Caught Up is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Caught Up
by Liz Tomforde

A Single Dad Romance That Packs a Punch
October 2023
5 Stars

Kai: I’m a single dad and starting pitcher for Chicago’s MLB team. I’m stretched too thin, but I don’t want help raising my son.

Each of his previous nannies only lasted a few weeks before I let them go. Now, my coach is putting his foot down by hiring the one person I can’t fire—his daughter.

Miller Montgomery is the last woman I should fall for. Too wild, too young, and too unattached. Chicago is just a quick stop for her. I thought I’d be counting down the days until she left, but summer feels too short when I start thinking about forever.

Miller: As a high-end pastry chef who recently won the most prestigious award in my industry, I’m desperate to prove I deserve it. But with a new title comes new pressure, and I can’t create a fresh and inspiring dessert to save my life.

With only two months to get back on track, I should be focusing in the kitchen, but instead, I let my dad talk me into using my time off to nanny for his star player’s kid.

Kai Rhodes forgot how to have fun, and I’m eager to jog his memory. But when he and his son start to feel like home, I have to remind us both that my time in Chicago ends with the summer. Besides, I’ve always been a runner, and the last thing I want is to get caught.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better in the Windy City series Tomforde gives us Kai and Miller’s story and it was everything! I loved how Miller made Kai feel more like himself and not just the single dad who wanted only the best for his kid.

Miller too was amazing as this go-getter and incredible chef, but I felt for the guilt she shouldered for so long and her relationship with her dad brought me to tears. Grab this one for a book that will tug on all your heart strings and give you such a fulfilling happily-ever-after. Definitely a must-read, 5 star book!

Related: Best Single Dad Romance Books

Check and Mate is one of the best romance novels of 2023. See the entire list of best romance books of 2023 on She Reads Romance Books.

Check & Mate
by Ali Hazelwood

A Young Adult Romance Where Hazelwood’s Talent Shines
November 2023
5 Stars

Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallory’s focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the job that keeps the lights on.

That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.

Nolan’s loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. What’s even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing?

The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallory’s victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she can’t help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist.

As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place.

And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games aren’t only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligent…and infuriating…)

It’s official. I’m obsessed with Ali Hazelwood’s books. It doesn’t matter if she writes contemporary adult romance, paranormal romance or now young adult romance, this woman can write and I LOVE her work.

What stands out to me about this romance after finishing it is how she really drew on what I enjoy about this romance category. It’s often more than just the central love story that makes these books so great and that’s exactly what this book includes- so much more.

Their romance is the kind of slow burn romance I adore that just burns and burns. I’m in awe of how Hazelwood slowly developed Mallory’s relationship with Nolan where he was just biding his time and slowing clawing his way into her heart until she realized he was there all along.

The chess aspect was also really unique and fascinating. It wouldn’t be a Hazelwood book if she didn’t also bring some real-world issue into it and her look at how women are treated in the world of chess was a great storyline to weave in. You should not pass up this book!

Check out my full review of Check & Mate.

Related: Best Academic Rivals to Lovers Books

Have you read a romance book this year that you claim is one of the best romance novels of 2023? Tell me what it is in the comments below!

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Don't miss the list of best romance novels of 2023 from the most popular romance book blog, She Reads Romance Books. Find all the titles worthy of best romance books of 2023 to add to your TBR list.

Leslie Murphy is the owner and writer of She Reads Romance Books.

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Leslie is the founder, writer, and producer of She Reads Romance Books (and the She Reads Romance Books Podcast), an online book community focused on romance books and the readers who love them because life is better with a love story.

Leslie reads 150 romance books a year and has been called a "book expert" by CNN. Reading romance is her passion and she cultivates her book lists with the best books worth reading in the genre. Leslie graduated magna cum laude from Davidson College where she honed her writing skills and also holds two Master's degrees. Join her community in the She Reads Romance Books Reader Lounge.

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5 thoughts on “15 Best Romance Novels of 2023: 5 Star Books Not to Miss”

  1. I have no idea how I happened upon your blog but yay, I’ve loved Tal Bauer for long time and his books are amazing. So glad you added him to you list. I have so many great ones to add to mine!

    • Yay! So glad you’re here Erin. If you haven’t yet read How To Say I Do, you’ll love it. Can’t wait to read more of his work!

  2. I love all of Tal Bauer’s books but can’t recommend “Hush” enough. It’s such a nice change from the average romance novel in that it takes its time developing the characters and solidifying the relationship between the two main characters. This work is incredibly well researched and detailed. The audible edition is great as well!

    • I actually meant “Whisper” but “Hush” (which introduces one of the characters in Whisper) is good as well. I would start with Whisper.

  3. “You, With a View” by Jessica Joyce.
    That book is all the beautiful, warm, fuzzy, mushy feelings. Best debut I have read in a while, and definitely an author to add to the favourites list.


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She Reads Romance Books helps romance book lovers find their next book boyfriend because life is better with a love story.