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18 Romance Books By Asian Authors That You Should Pick Up This Month

These are 100% worth reading!

A couple of years ago, I read Christina Lauren’s Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating. A few chapters in, I was shocked to find that Josh’s last name was "Im." A Korean American hero in a popular, mainstream romance novel set in the contemporary US? Outside of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, I had never read about an East Asian main character in a fictional book that wasn’t focused on race or immigration or history. I set the book aside because the concept of someone like me as the romantic lead was too foreign and out of place. I was used to seeing Asians as the nerd, as the main character’s best friend, as the kung fu master — all of that seemed “normal." But not as a love interest.

Maybe that’s my fault for not actively seeking diverse books. Or maybe it is a sign that diversity in books isn’t prevalent enough for casual readers or even avid readers like me who hadn’t thought to search out diversity specifically.  

I eventually got over my surprise, loving how normal Lauren treated Josh, his family, and his relationship with Hazel. His race was simply part of the story — not performative, not ignored. It sounds ridiculous, but it gave me hope. It gave me hope when I wrote my debut book, Give Love a Chai, that my Chinese American female hero or my very Chinese-sounding name wouldn’t be a turnoff to readers. It gave me hope of seeing more characters like me at the center of stories, not as side characters; that people who looked like me or had experiences like mine could be worthy of stories.

In recent months, with the rise in hate crimes against Asians — whether driven by reactions to the coronavirus pandemic or by the normalization of open racism — it becomes extra important to be an ally. Being an ally can be as simple as checking on your Asian friends or reading a book written by an Asian author. 

Below, you'll find some books that you can try. 

1. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Berkley, Adam Amengual / Via helenhoang.com

In this reverse Pretty Woman story, brilliant, awkward, always honest Stella Lane hires gorgeous, charming escort Michael Phan to prepare her for a real relationship. In the lesson plan? Kissing, cuddling, more. Definitely not in the plan? Real feelings that make walking away afterward seem impossible.

Why read it? This is one of my favorite books. It is emotional, angsty, and steamy (whew!) and made me think. I also loved how the author depicted a character with autism spectrum disorder — not in a bells-blazing, “Hey, look at her!” way, but in a sensitive, revealing way told through Stella’s interactions with others and her struggles with herself. You’ll root for her from the beginning because, yes, she is enough, and she is absolutely worthy of an epic love story.

Get it from Bookshop.

2. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Berkley, uzmajalaluddin.com

In this modern-day, Muslim Pride and Prejudice, outspoken Ayesha Shamsi doesn’t have time for someone as judgmental and conservative as Khalid. Until he apologizes with food, until he stands up for her, until he turns out to be kind of funny…and maybe not so rigid as she thought. If only he weren’t engaged to her cousin Hafsa.

Why read it? What a compelling, intricate, beautifully told story that gives you all the feels! There are tender moments, like when Ayesha touches Khalid’s beard, and scenes that made me so angry on behalf of the characters, like the discrimination they face — this unique book is definitely worth reading!

Get it from Bookshop.

3. A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Berkley, sherrythomas.com

In a twist on the Sherlock Holmes stories, this book introduces us to Charlotte Holmes — a bit odd, perceptive, fiercely independent, and loves dessert. When her father and sister become suspects in a string of murders, Charlotte inserts herself into the investigation as the mysterious Sherlock Holmes.

Why read it? This is such a clever, riveting mystery, set in Victorian times, with a tantalizing "Will they, won’t they?"/what-happened-in-the-past romantic subplot. I adored seeing a female hero determined to forge her own path at a time when women had very few choices.

Get it from Bookshop.

4. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

William Morrow & Company, sonalidev.com

Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Trisha Raje comes from an acclaimed family with political ambitions. When she meets her patient’s brother DJ Caine, sparks fly. Can Trisha and DJ get over their pride and assumptions about each other to find happily-ever-after?

Why read it? Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books. This reverse-gender retelling is fresh, while also sprinkling in delicious references to the original. It grabbed me from the beginning with its emotionality and Sonali Dev’s lauded writing.

Get it from Bookshop.

5. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Via amazon.com, courtneymilan.com

Unfairly fired from her position as a governess, Serena Barton wants compensation from her previous employer, a selfish, asshole duke. The duke gives his right-hand man, Hugo Marshall, a seemingly easy offer: get rid of Serena in exchange for money. Simple, right? Or it would be, if Hugo didn’t find Serena too compelling and distracting to his goals.

Why read it? Courtney Milan writes with lovely gravitas. Her characters feel like real people you and I might know, people who have to make real decisions with real consequences. You root for Serena and Hugo even as you know their path is not roses and champagne.

Get it from Amazon.

6. From London With Love by Aviva Vaughn

Everingham Press, avivavaughn.com

From London With Love kicks off an epic love story. Introverted Soren Lund and spitfire Angela Holguin meet in business school in Barcelona. Although sparks fly immediately, their timing is off. Almost a year later, their paths cross in London with a second chance for love.

Why read it? As much as this is a love story between Soren and Angela, this is also a love letter to Barcelona and London. Aviva Vaughn writes vivid, lyrical scenes that pull you into her tale. If you’re into slow-burn stories that span multiple countries with lots of twists, angst, hope, and finding yourself, then check out this series!

Get it from Amazon.

7. The Dating Plan by Sara Desai

Berkley, Linda Mackie / Via saradesai.com

What could be worse than witnessing your ex and your ex-boss make out in the bathroom at a conference? How about bumping into your first crush after running away from the bathroom while holding tampons? And with that enviable (re)meet-cute, Daisy Patel and Liam Murphy embark on a fake relationship to appease her matchmaking family while helping him fulfill an inheritance contingency.

Why read it? The characters are relatable and have chemistry, and I’m a sucker for second-chance romance where the characters have history. Plus, this book is FUNNY, adorably outrageous, and just purely delightful.

Get it from Bookshop.

8. Level Up by Cathy Yardley

Cathy Yardley, harpercollins.ca

Introverted Tessa Rodriguez is determined to create a fandom-based video game in three weeks to help her friends save their bookstore, forcing her to work with Adam London. Forced proximity, including a snowy blackout and marathon coding weekends, might just be the thing to turn roommates into something more…

Why read it? I love that this book embraces video games, cosplay, and geeky TV references! I also adored seeing Tessa’s growing confidence in herself in a male-dominated field.

Get it from Amazon.

9. Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli

Berkley, sonyalalli.com

Career-driven Serena Singh has always prioritized her career over marriage and kids. But when her younger sister gets married and Serena befriends a new coworker, she starts to question what she truly desires in life.

Why read it? This story explores many aspects of love — romantic love, love between friends, familial love, love for a career. Unusual for a romance novel, it brings up the unfortunately sometimes still taboo decision for a woman to choose her career over other parts of her life, and I enjoyed seeing that treated with care. I also adored seeing scenes from Serena’s mom’s perspective, which is rare in books where there is a cultural gap between the main characters and their families.

Get it from Bookshop.

10. A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen

Razorbill, jenyenwrites.com

When Liza Yang decides to help her mother with a competition at their bakery, she realizes too late that it’s a matchmaking ploy! All of the contestants are hand-picked, Asian American men, including one who is very standoffish, very dreamy, but completely not her type — James Wong.

Why read it? It’s a funny, light YA story with mixes of Pride and Prejudice, baking shows (the food!), and The Bachelorette — what’s not to love? As an immigrant myself, I enjoyed the push and pull of Liza trying to figure out herself while appeasing her parents.

Get it from Bookshop.

11. The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

Avon Books, alisharai.com

Skeptical dating-app creator Rhiannon Hunter is too busy to entertain a relationship, especially not with Samson Lima, the guy who ghosted her a few months ago. The guy who is the spokesperson for her business rival and acquisition target. The guy who still gives her all the feels and who now seems determined to woo her…

Why read it? Maybe because my own relationship preceded dating apps, I’m fascinated by them. This is a great opposites-attract, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers, second-chance story with snappy dialogue, an exploration of relevant and modern issues, and steam.

Get it from Bookshop.

12. The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

jeannielin.com

In this novel set during the Tang dynasty, the Pingkang Li district, famous for courtesans and scholars, is rocked by the seemingly unconnected murders of a stranger and a famed courtesan. When her sister becomes a suspect, serious, always-in-the-background servant Yue-ying forms an unlikely partnership with the outrageous nobleman-scholar Bai Huang to solve the mystery.

Why read it? I love that this is set in a non-Regency, non–Victorian England historical setting. At the same time, it’s a reminder of how Western-centric my view of history is (before this book, I could tell you about how viscounts rank in comparison with dukes, but not what centuries the Tang dynasty covered). The world-building is done so well that ninth-century China really come to life. I loved this book so much, I’ve already finished the series!

Get it from Amazon.

13. American Panda by Gloria Chao

Simon & Schuster, gloriachao.wordpress.com

Mei’s life has been predetermined by her parents: Go to a prestigious university, become a doctor, marry a Taiwanese man, bring honor to her family. But what if she wants to dance more than she wants to attend biology class? What if she’s interested in the very forbidden, very Japanese Darren Takahashi?

Why read it? Inspired partly by her own experience, Gloria Chao writes a heartwarming story of a teenager trying to figure out who she is versus what her parents want her to be. I saw so much of my own experiences in this story. I also appreciated seeing the struggles that Mei had with dating a Japanese guy, because “Asian” isn’t a homogeneous group — there is so much diversity within “Asian,” and nuanced dynamics between various Asian groups.

Get it from Bookshop.

14. Lord Lucifer by Jade Lee

Dragonblade Publishing, Inc., kathylyons.com

Twelve years ago, Lucas failed to save Diana from an arranged marriage. Now he’s determined to protect her from assassination attempts and maybe, just maybe, show her that he’s worth a second chance.

Why read it? You can probably tell that I enjoy a good romance with mystery! This story has suspense, lots of angsty pining, a great love story, and likable side characters.

Get it from Bookshop.

15. The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

Harperavenue, farahheron.com

Amira Khan comes home to finish her grad school thesis in peace, only to find that her grandmother has leased out her apartment to a loud barbershop quartet practicing for a singing competition. It also doesn’t help her focus when that quartet includes an infuriatingly attractive baritone.

Why read it? This story doesn’t shy away from today’s hot topics — everything from workplace politics, sexism, racism, and interracial relationships to the generational divide, politics, coming out to family, even discrimination at airport security. Nor does this book present love as something that magically solves these issues. However, what I really like is that there’s hope that love can start those hard conversations and reconciliations.

Get it from Bookshop.

16. Boss I Love to Hate by Mia Kayla

Mam Books LLC, authormiakayla.com

Sonia badly needs a date to a wedding to show her ex-boyfriend that she’s over him. Who better than her hot, cocky, unavailable-for-relationships boss? Until pesky feelings start to develop and there's a chance that maybe, just maybe, he’s not as bad as she thought.

(Note: It’s technically Book 2 in the series, but it's written first. Reading order depends on your preferences, but each is meant to be a stand-alone. )

Why read it? This is a great enemies-to-lovers office romance with lots of laughs. I loved the feisty banter between Sonia and Brad and, equally, the softer side of each character. I’m also a sucker for sweet family dynamics, and this book has plenty of that goodness.

Get it from Bookshop.

17. Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Berkley, jesseqsutanto.com

What’s worse than accidentally killing your blind date? Accidentally shipping his dead body in a cake cooler to a wedding that Meddelin Chan and her family are working. Even worse? Seeing the guy who broke your heart at the wedding while you’re trying to avoid murder charges and pull off the wedding of a century.

Why read it? You might be able to tell by now that I’m a big fan of romance plus mystery plus comedy. Throw in one of my favorite tropes of second chances and some meddling relatives, and we have a book that's right up my alley. It is a delightful, delightful read!

Get it from Bookshop.

18. Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Berkley, Jamilla Yipp Photography / Via miapmanansala.com

Lila Macapagal returns home to help with her aunt’s restaurant after walking in on her supposedly Prince Charming in a threesome…only to have her first love plop dead in a bowl of dessert. Instead of being the female hero of a rom-com, Lila (along with her family) is now a murder suspect, and she’s on the hunt to save both the restaurant and her family.

Why read it? Mia P. Manansala’s writing is so approachable that you’ll want to be Lila’s friend and beg her to feed you. If you love cozy mysteries with a strong dash of large-family dynamics and self-journey, all set in the world of delicious food, then this is for you. You might also find yourself googling the closest Filipino restaurant.

Get it from Bookshop.

Bonus: Though these next two books don't fall into the romance category, they're certainly worth picking up.

19. Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan

junecltan.com

An orphan girl with magical abilities and a lost prince band together to reclaim his throne in this story inspired by Chinese mythology. There’s action, political shenanigans, fantasy, and romance with a 100% Asian cast of characters.

Why read it? This comes out later this year — Oct. 12 — and I’m super excited. It’s inspired by Chinese mythology and sounds a bit like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Color me intrigued!

Get it from Amazon.

20. Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, Illustrated by Dung Ho

HarperCollins, Katie Heiner Photography / Via joannahowrites.com

Sweet and melodic, this children’s story lifts up the beauty of East Asian eyes to help a young girl feel special about her own.

Why read it? This is one of the books that I’ve been reading with my kids. While they don’t fully understand it, it has helped to open a dialogue about seeing and appreciating differences.

Get it from Bookshop.

Check out how BuzzFeed is celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! And follow @buzzfeedapop on Instagram!

BuzzFeed / Kathy Hoang

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