Isn’t it the best when those mischievous feelings sneak up and, WHAM, catch our protagonist upside the head? It’s the literary equivalent to the ‘suddenly; squirrel!’ humor trick and I can’t get enough of watching it play out. Our characters are happily spatting [this is a theme I really like so I read a lot of enemies to lovers, get used to that trope showing up everywhere in my rec posts ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ] all while one of them is insistent that no feelings will take place here. This is a NO FEELING ZONE. Ignore that pesky attraction. Ignore it, I say! I’m not seducing you or being seduced so put away that smoldery eyebrow, dammit! I mean it!
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For a change we’ll start out with the contemporary romance.
Like: Captivated, by Tessa Bailey and Eve Dangerfield. Blake is in denial that he’s feeling anything more for Autumn than sexy things until the Very. Last. Moment. Ahhh, feel that angst. Or try Getaway Girl, by Tessa Bailey, with Elijah pretending so hard that he and the unsuitable Addison are just besties. Nobody does an obsessive, dirty talking hero like Tessa Bailey, so you’re in for a good time no matter what.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown, by Talia Hibbert. Danika isn’t going to trust in love so when Zafir sneaks up on her with his heroism, sweet talking, wit, and unironic romance book reading? Her only defense is to fall hard for him.
The Deal, by Elle Kennedy, contains the unusual set-up of the Campus Playboy™ falling first, and then having to convince the girl he really means it. No, really. Excellent twist on the trope.
The Dating Plan, by Sara Desai. Containing: best friend’s little sister, second chance romance, fake dating, fake feelings becoming all too real, what else could you ask for in a book?
Red, White, and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston. The fate of two nations literally rests on Alex diplomatically not being in love with Henry. So what do they do but fall in love, of course?
Moving on to historical romance, let’s go with This Scot of Mine, by Sophie Jordan. Not only is there much denial and sexual tension, there’s a touch of magic with a death curse. What are you waiting for? Shove this one on your shelf immediately.
Or the classic Devil in Winter, by Lisa Kleypas. Yes, I’ve used Sebastian in multiple other lists but he’s just that great of a tortured hero who truly believes he can’t have feelings. Ohhh does Evie get him good.
A Week to Be Wicked, by Tessa Dare, keeps up the glorious tradition of an established bachelor playboy going, ‘what ARE these soft things in my chest? Are my eyes turning heart-shaped? No. I will NOT have this.’
A Summer to Remember, by Mary Balogh. Lauren agrees to be Kit’s fake fiancée to keep the matchmaking away. It’s all going great . . . until he wants it to be real and she’s determined to keep to their agreement. Oops.
The Duke Who Knew Too Much, by Grace Callaway. Alaric is so busy keeping up his scary reputation as the infamous, heartless Devil Duke that Emma slips right inside his defenses before he even knows she’s there. OMG the deliciously naughty trysts. The rapier-sharp comebacks. The pining. Grace Callaway is our Queen of Hot Historicals for good reason. The Return of the Duke is also fabulous if you want a marriage of convenience inconveniencing everyone left and right with pesky, angsty feelings.
And we’ll finish up with confused, brooding SciFi/Alien Romance heroes falling headfirst into the River of De’Nial and having to paddle their way out again. Such as Healing Her Patient, by Evangeline Anderson. Another pretend relationship becoming very real, but throw in some space diplomatic missions and literal sexual healing for good measure. Evangeline writes amazingly angsty relationships, you’re guaranteed a good tense time in almost any of her books. You could also try Planet X, with a heroine who made me want to smack her upside the head a few times until she realized what an amazing thing she had. Sure, he’s a ruthless killer and convicted felon, but seriously. Krisa. Wake up and smell the feels.
Choosing Theo, by Victoria Aveline contains Theo, a hero who is so convinced Jade can’t actually feel any soft feelings for him that obviously, she’s really a spy. Sent there to learn his secrety-secrets through sexy means. It’s pretty hilarious.
When She Belongs, by Ruby Dixon. Is Ruby going to be on every rec list I create, ever? Um, yeah. In this one you get forced proximity, antagonists to friends to lovers, grump with a marshmallow interior, misfits finding their niche together, a dash of hurt/comfort from both sides, and an eight-legged attack cat.
The Alien’s Sacrifice, by Ella Maven. Beginning a new series about outcasts finding love, there is a huge dash of forbidden to spice up the fated mates trope. It’s cultural and the alien groups are moving past that taboo as a group, but it’s still enough of a factor to make my heart bleed for Lukent the whole time he’s convincing himself he can’t have Tasha.
Wicked Captor, by Zoey Draven. Look, Zoey can do no wrong. She writes a tortured hero like nobody’s business and when I tell you that Devix is facing so many obstacles to loving Cara . . . I mean OBSTACLES. These two earn their moment of realization, okay.
Caveman Alien’s Rage, by Calista Skye. The Caveman Alien series is pretty unique, with a premise that will either interest you immensely, or annoy the hell out of you. I fall in the ‘love the whole kookoobananas set up’ camp, so Calista is always going to be a recommended author from me. Probably try the first book in the series, Caveman Alien’s Ransom, first. If you like it, Dar’ax and Heidi will be one you like too. The whole series is free to borrow on Kindle Unlimited, if that helps.
Beth and the Barbarian, by Honey Phillips. Honey writes on the more fluffy end of the angst spectrum, which is a nice break from the heavier, more emotional books. In this case, Beth knows from the first moment what she wants and she goes after it, no matter how hard Dragar tries to resist.
Containing Malice, by Cynthia Sax. First; ALL the content warnings. This is a dark universe. Torture and murder are only the first few things you’ll run into. But if you’re in the mood for literal enemies falling reluctantly in love and threatening to kill each other because of it, this is the book for you.