I absolutely adore romance novels. In a world that is becoming increasingly unwelcoming, uncertain, and unsafe, it is comforting to read about two people finding each other, overcoming all the obstacles in their way, and living happily ever after.
Holding onto this comfort has become even more important during COVID-19, which has altered everything from grocery shopping to family celebrations and even movies. And given the lack of rom-coms this year, why not fall in love with these eight Asian romance novels this Valentine’s Day instead? Some of these books I have read and loved myself, while some are currently mocking me from their place in my to-be-read (TBR) pile after an attentive analysis of their summaries, reviews, and excerpts, but all of them are amazing and would look so good in your arms this February 14th (and beyond).
The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
If you have also been bitten by the Bridgerton bug alongside 82 million other viewers, I recommend travelling back to Regency England through Courtney Milan’s The Duke Who Didn’t while you wait for the second season.
Featured on The New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2020 list, The Duke Who Didn’t introduces the reader to the Jeremy Wentworth, who is half-Chinese, fully in love with his childhood friend Chloe Fong and more than ready to confess this to her except she doesn’t know that Jeremy is
- the Duke of Lansing, who
- owns the village she lives in, and
- doesn’t know how to tell her this.
Milan’s amiable hero, ambitious heroine, and the amusing dialogue between them (as well as incorporation of delicious Chinese food) will make you laugh and long for both food as well as more of Milan’s work; luckily Milan has an extensive body of work you can turn to after!
The Hidden Moon by Jeannie Lin
If you want to travel beyond Regency England, pick up The Hidden Moon where Jeannie Lin transports you to Tang dynasty China and introduces you to Lady Bai “Wei-wei” Wei-ling. The only daughter of the Bai family, the headstrong Wei-wei teams up with the hale and hunky street hustler Gao to investigate a murder as a favour to her older brother. The two opposites first wrestle with finding the murderer, then with their attraction to each other, and finally with the socioeconomic obstacles that lie the way of their happy ending.
Since most of us can’t physically travel right now, explore the streets of Chang’an city with We-wei and Gao instead as they alternate between silently pining for each other and solving a mystery.
Loathe at First Sight Suzanne Park
Melody Joo is a video-game producer suddenly tasked with heading a mobile game to combat her company’s anti-feminist reputation. The fact that she has to work with her least favourite co-worker, Nolan Mackenzie, only makes it worse. However, as Melody fights the bro-culture at her own company, internet trolls intent on doxxing her, and her own insecurities, she realizes that Nolan just might be the perfect co-player.
Not only does Park do the enemies-to-lovers trope justice but she also expertly illustrates the experience of being a woman in the gaming industry. So, while you play the waiting game and try to wait COVID-19 out, pick up Loathe at First Sight.
The Takeover Effect by Nisha Sharma
Yet another workplace romance (remember when we all went to work?) is Nisha Sharma’s The Takeover Effect.
Hemdeep Singh walked away from the empire his father created several years ago and he isn’t too keen to return now, except the company needs him. When he encounters the fierce and fascinating Mina Kohli, though, being back doesn’t seem too bad. Mina, on the other hand, doesn’t need any complications and her attraction to Hemdeep definitely counts as one.
Hemdeep and Mina’s attempts to outwit each other in the boardroom and keep their hands off each other outside of it are immensely entertaining. If you want witty banter, explosive chemistry, and charming side characters, then The Takeover Effect is a book for you.
A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee
When renowned food critic Landon Kim gives small-town baker Aubrey Choi (who also happens to be the woman he had a one-night-stand with) a bad review due to a mix-up, he tries to make it up to her by casting her on the baking reality show he is co-producing.
As the intensity of the competition increases, so does the sexual tension between Landon and Aubrey but they must unpack their previous baggage before embarking on this relationship.
Reading this book felt like eating one of the many confectionary delights featured inside it; it was sweet, easy to devour, and immensely satisfying. I highly recommend getting your KonMarie on this Valentine’s Day and tackling Lee’s A Sweet Mess, which, btw, will be turned into a movie starring Daniel Dae Kim as Landon (swoon).
Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Neurosurgeon Trisha Raje and chef DJ Caine dislike each other from the very first moment they meet. Unfortunately, they must keep encountering each other because DJ needs the job Trisha’s family is offering him to save his sister’s life, and Trisha is the only surgeon who can perform the life-saving operation. Though Pride and Prejudice has been retold several times, Dev’s flawed and filial main leads, funny supporting characters, and fierce bonds between them will be sure to make you fall in love with the story all over again.
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Ayesha Shamsi is struggling with what she wants versus what her family wants for her. She wants to be a poet, not a teacher and wants to fall in love, not get an arranged marriage, but she never imagined that she would be attracted to the smart yet stodgy Khalid, who dresses like he is from the seventh century, and sometimes acts like it, too. Khalid also did not imagine that he would fall in love with someone like Ayesha but he is reluctant to disobey his mother, who wants him to marry Ayesha’s wealthy cousin instead. To get their happy ending, Ayesha and Khalid must overcome a case of mistaken identity, familial pressures, and most of all, their own pride and prejudice. Ayesha and Khalid’s exquisite character development along with the mutual pining between them make Ayesha At Last hard to put down.
One Bed for Christmas by Jackie Lau
Lau’s hero, Wes Cheng has been friends with Caitlin Ng for a decade and in love with her for almost as long. However, Wes doesn’t feel confident enough to confess his love because Caitlin’s the CEO of a popular dating app and he, well, isn’t. But when a snowstorm and subsequent power outage on Christmas Eve leads to Caitlin and Wes sharing one bed, things get steamy even though it’s freezing outside.
While Christmas has passed, it’s still cold and Wes and Caitlin’s amazing chemistry will be sure to warm you up.