Love is in the air, and a dose of it could cure boredom during these pandemic times. Love is also far from a fairy tale and these novels recognize it. There is the awkwardness of dating. There is intervention from maternal figures. There is also the sweetness of finding love in the same zip code. From Jane Austen retellings to subversive matchmaking tropes, these novels will renew your interest in romance.
For fans of Gossip Girl and academic drama: Not THAT Rich by Belinda Lei (available now)
High school can be complicated. When you add dating to the mix of AP classes, college applications and extracurriculars, things get dramatic fast. Lei draws upon her experience growing up in an affluent Asian American community and the range of emotions and drama that happens during the adolescent years. Set in the San Gabriel Valley, the book will be relatable to people who went to high school in predominantly Asian American suburbs. But even readers who didn’t grow up in that setting will appreciate the drama and relationships that can feel high-stakes when you’re in high school. Check out Not THAT Rich for a look behind the veneer of privilege and perfection.
For fans of Jane Austen and Jenny Han: A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen (available now)
Yen’s debut is a treat for fans of Pride and Prejudice. In this retelling of the Austen classic, Liza Yang dodges her mom’s attempts to set her up on dates with high-achieving and well-behaved Asian boys. Yen references her Taiwanese background in the most appealing way to foodies: Yin & Yang, the combination restaurant and bakery that Liza’s parents run in Houston. The description of Taiwanese pastries takes the cake. The Darcy to our protagonist is James Wong, the aloof newcomer who Liza is slow to warm up to. These are the ingredients in the baking competition that is at the heart of A Taste for Love.
For fans of Kevin Kwan and thrillers: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto (available April 27, 2021)
Could the stakes be any higher when a murder and a wedding happen at the same time? Sutanto’s novel is a fast-paced ride along the California coastline and a dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture. When Meddelin, a wedding photographer, accidentally kills her blind date, her mother gathers the aunties to help get rid of the body. The aunties are surprisingly successful accomplices, spinning tall tales about Meddelin’s innocence and hiding evidence while pulling off a spectacular wedding. This rom-com/thriller has already been optioned for a Netflix film. For extravagant weddings and lots of action, pick up Dial A for Aunties.
For fans of Maurene Goo and Always Be My Maybe: From Little Tokyo, with Love by Sarah Kuhn (available May 11, 2021)
Kuhn’s book is a love letter to Los Angeles and fairy tales. At the same time, it explores more serious topics like being mixed-race and struggling with mental health issues in a traditional Asian community. Our protagonist, Rika, is an orphan who works at her aunts’ business. Rika’s adventure starts when she meets Grace Kimura during Nikkei Week Festival. Grace is a rom-com queen — and possibly Rika’s long-lost mother. But life is not kind and definitely no fairy tale, so Rika anticipates disappointment rather than happy endings. True to the trope of found family, Rika finds a sense of belonging and the beginning of romance right in her neighborhood.
These novels will give you some much-needed escape into romances, both fluffy and thrilling. If love is your thing, don’t miss these novels, already in bookstores or available this spring.
Cover photo credit: Ylanite Koppens//Pexels
Last modified: March 3, 2021