I love a good redemption story. Give me a protagonist whose scandals and missteps just make them all the more relatable and I’ll be right on the sidelines with pom-poms in hand cheering them on. From tabloid drama to disastrous meet cutes, here are just a few of my favorite leading ladies and gents in romance whose *real* crime was stealing my heart.
Once Dishonored by Mary Jo Putney
Lies, scandal, a slow burn—the perfect recipe for a page-turning Regency romance!
After a scandalous divorce, Kendra Douglas is determined to clear her name and get back custody of her son. Lucas Mandeville is a Royal Navy officer whose honor is questioned after escaping his parole while a prisoner of war. After a chance meeting at a ball, Lucas offers to help Kendra get her son back and clear her tarnished name. Soon the two become friends, but as sparks begin to fly, their HEA is threatened since part of Kendra’s divorce means she can’t remarry while her ex is alive.
If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
When Cameron Bright is caught being cruel to a classmate by her crush, she’s determined to prove that she’s not the “total b*tch” he—and everyone else at her high school—believes her to be. Cameron whips up a plan to right her wrongs and first on her list is Brendan, the guy whose social life she single-handedly destroyed. Brendan may want nothing to do with Cameron at first, but the more time they spend together, the more Cameron starts to realize that maybe she doesn’t have to change who she is for the right guy.
If I’m Being Honest is filled with notes of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, family secrets, and a whole lot of swooning
You had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
Fresh off a messy breakup, soap opera star Jasmine Lin Rodriguez, hatches a “Leading Lady” plan to get her life back on track. Her plan seems to be working flawlessly when she books the lead in a new romantic drama series until she bumps (literally) into her new co-star Ashton Suárez. But Ashton wants to change his image too—after being killed off in a telenovela he’s hoping that landing the gig as Jasmine’s love interest will get him on Hollywood’s radar. The only thing standing in their way? They need to convince viewers of their chemistry on screen. To get some *ahem* extra practice, they agree to rehearse in private…what could go wrong, right?
I couldn’t get enough of Jasmine and Ashton! Their chemistry was fire and the conversations surrounding intimacy and emotional connection make this an absolute must read.
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
What’s worse than being left at the altar? Being left at the altar when you’re a wedding planner. When Carolina Santos gets an opportunity to jump start her wedding business, she thinks she can finally leave that scandal behind. But what’s worse than being a wedding planner whose own groom got cold feet? Having to work with said ex-groom and his brother Max Hartley, aka the one who encouraged the groom to jump ship, in order to score the business opportunity of a lifetime. But Lina isn’t letting Max get in her way this time even if it means having to spend time with him…or after a few shared intimate moments.
I love a good enemies-to-lovers and this Lina and Max hit all the trope notes: steamy chemistry and delicious banter.
The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel
I’m a sucker for fiercely independent heroines and stories with an emotional punch, so it’s no surprise I devoured this debut in one sitting.
After another dinner party set-up, Liya Thakkar is over her parents trying to find her a husband. With a successful biochemical engineer career and great friends, Liya is very content with where her life is at, so she does what any happily single woman would do in that moment—she sneaks out. But luck isn’t on her side when she has a disastrous bump in with her “date” on the way out, and even worse, when she bumps into Jay Shah again at work a week later and is introduced as one of her company’s new lawyers hired to save the struggling business. But after several late nights at the office, shared lunches, and plenty of office banter, Liya begins to think that Jay might be right for her after all.
Have you ever needed to clean up your reputation?