As someone whose path to reading romance included a lengthy period reading X-Files fanfiction (oh, man, who else remembers The Gossamer Project???), I am clearly a huge fan of UST – Unresolved Sexual Tension. In romance, this is the slow burn phase, where the energy of characters’ attraction builds up and up before being released. That’s why I love and developed our Slow burn tag, which I used to make this list of top slow burn romance novels. How “slow” is slow enough and how much you want your “burn” to burn is a matter of taste, so not all of the books listed here will culminate at the same heat level. The blurbs here come from our very own reviews (and every book I featured here is a DIK!)
A lot of well-known favorites fall into this category, such as:
The works of Mariana Zapata: Sometimes called “the queen of the slow burn,” because nearly all of her books use this trope, Zapata came to our attention when you voted the slow-burn The Wall of Winnipeg and Me into our most recent Top 100 Romance Novels.
The works of Talia Hibbert: Her books often star characters with past relationship issue which make them move tantalizingly slowly towards their HEAs. Of her Work For It, our reviewer says, “Ms. Hibbert lovingly crafts these wonderful, small, intimate moments between the leads, and when they finally get around to taking off their clothes, well, it’s a wonderfully satisfying relief.” That’s the perfect definition of a slow burn!
The works of Gregory Ashe: It’s pretty much a given in all his books that there will be lots of UST and angst before the MCs get together. We didn’t review all the books in his Hazard and Somerset series (although Em blogged about the series HERE, and Caz reviewed book three, Paternity Case) but the romance is a very slow burn. If Mariana Zapata is the Queen of the Slow Burn, Gregory Ashe is the King of it.
Hook Shot by Kennedy Ryan
The last novel in the Hoops series stars Kenan Ross and Lotus DuPree. Kenan, a veteran basketball player traded to August West’s losing NBA franchise team, meets Lotus DuPree, cousin and best friend to August’s wife, Iris. Lotus is fierce, beautiful, and she isn’t looking for love – with Kenan, or any other man – and she’s spent the last two books dodging Kenan despite the spark of attraction between them. Hook Shot details their delicious slow burn love affair, and the relationship is sexy, sweet and lushly romantic.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Lucy Hutton sits across the office from Joshua Templeton, and it’s hate at first sight between them. At least Lucy hates Joshua – and she’s pretty sure he hates her too. In spite of that, Lucy finds herself preoccupied trying to figure him out and aware of everything he does. She knows the day of the week by the color of his shirt (Navy leads to Gorgeous Payday Black), and his husky, soft laugh raises the tiny hairs on her arms. The tension and their mutual dislike only escalates after their bosses announce the creation of a third executive position, chief operating officer. Lucy and Joshua are expected to apply and compete for it.
(A very similar, and for some, even better, book is Sarah Mayberry’s Her Favourite Rival)
Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
Quaker Maddy Timms is the only person who realizes that Christian, Duke of Jervaulx, has not gone mad, but rather has suffered what modern medicine would recognize as a stroke. His family is trying to have him declared legally insane, but Christian enlists Maddy’s aid. Maddy finds herself drawn into a world she was raised to reject, going against many of her basic principles; yet she can’t abandon Christian, for that would mean turning away from the Inner Light. This is much more than a simple story of opposites attracting. It has to do with looking beyond what others see and discovering the real person behind the public façade. Christian uncovers the repressed sensuality hidden in Maddy’s nature, and she learns that in spite of the brave front he puts on, he’s vulnerable, petrified at the prospect of being returned to the asylum.
But if you’re well-versed in recent and canonic romance, and you are hankering for more slow burns, what are some other reads you might like?
It Takes Two to Tangle by Theresa Romain
Napoleonic War veteran Henry Middleton has lost the use of his right arm and his ability to paint. He must marry to support himself. To gain an edge courting a popular widow, he approaches the widow’s companion, Mrs Frances Whittier. Frances and Henry hit it off immediately – she’s clever and witty, and very attuned to him, sensing that he’s having trouble adjusting to civilian life. It’s clear, too, that Frances is very attracted to Henry, but while he enjoys her conversation (the air between them fairly crackles during their exchanges) he is distracted by his plan to court her cousin. The romance is a slow burn but is beautifully developed. The love scenes are sensual, while maintaining a sense of realism by not completely ignoring the problems arising from the fact that Henry has only one working arm.
A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand
The poignant, somewhat bittersweet yet heartwarming friends to lovers romance of Tristan Rosier and Malorie Monsard. Tristan and Malorie are descendants of two great perfume houses, the Rosiers and the Monsards. The Rosier family is still a powerhouse in the fragrance industry, whereas the Monsards have just Malori’s late grandmother’s shop, which Malorie is debating restoring. Tristan courts Malorie by offering to help restore the shop and to make perfumes for her, and eventually Malorie is unable to resist his charms. He comes across as a sweet, fun loving and adventurous man with a zest for life. Theirs is a slow burn romance but heats up over time with some sensual love scenes.
Take Me Home Tonight by Erika Kelly
The third in Erika Kelly’s Rock Star Romance series, this is the story of Mimi and Calix, an aspiring chef and a session musician for the band Blue Fire, respectively. Calix is the band’s temporary keyboardist and Mimi works as their personal cook while she sorts out the rest of her life. The chemistry between the two is immediate, but their intimacy builds with a worth-the-wait sensuous slow burn. Take Me Home Tonight is mysterious without being frustrating, sweet without being saccharine, family-oriented without being schmaltzy. The heroine is self-assured and in need of her own journey. The hero is a quiet Alpha with Beta tendencies. Also, it’s sexy as all get out. Kindle-meltingly sexy.
Again by Kathleen Gilles Seidel
Seidel transports you into the meticulously researched world of a historical soap opera called My Lady’s Chamber (think Downton Abbey, but set in the Regency era), written by Jenny Cotton and starring Alec Cameron as, yes, a lofty, frosty Duke. Alec is immediately captured by Jenny’s creative intelligence and her gift for her job – but Jenny still lives with her long-time boyfriend. It is fascinating to watch Jenny’s real-life relationships play out in her characters. When one of her soap characters does something wonderful, and you realize that it means that Jenny is subconsciously falling for Alec… it’s just magic.
This Is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland
In this medieval, Christopher (a blind warrior) married Gillian (a survivor of abuse) to protect her from her father. Sounds like another “tormented hero/heroine” story? What Kurland does is focus on the changes they both make instead of dwelling on their tragedies. She imagines perfectly how a medieval warrior would handle blindness, and how a gentle soul such as Gillian would act after being abused. Through the story they learn to love and trust each other and themselves, eventually becoming a passionate, teasing, and joyful couple. And although the sensuality rating is PG, there is quite a bit of sexual tension between them.
Wolfsong by TJ Klune
Shifter Joe meets his neighbor Ox in this book our reviewer called “wonderfully nuanced… there are so many layers to the tale, it’s difficult to convey them in a review without spoiling this beautiful – and epic – romance” which “in places reads like poetry. The patient reader is amply rewarded. The book only has a few steamy scenes, but Klune makes the most of them; hot, passionate and delightfully dirty – I loved every moment.”
Still need more? Well, that’s what our Slow Burn tag is for – and also, the comments! Please recommend some of your favorites here!
~ Caroline Russomanno
Interested in finding more books AAR Loves..?
Check out these posts:
AAR Loves… Partners to Lovers romances – Part One (Military, law enforcement etc.)
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.