The beginning of the school year is rearing its head, and while that strikes fear in the hearts of many, there’s at least one great way to celebrate it: by reading college-set romances. Here are some major faves that’ll have you lining up for orientation weeks early. (And if you run out before school starts, I just happen to have a few of my own!)
Hold Me Down by Sara Taylor Woods
Woods sure debuted with a bang (see what I did there?) in this contemporary romance about an independent college girl named Talia who’s determined to confidently make her way despite her rocky relationship with her parents and their seeming lack of her faith in her ability to do so. But if she’s so strong, so powerful, and so feminist, then why, when she gets together with doctoral student Sean, does being submissive feel so right? If you’re tired of seeing books get BDSM wrong, make sure you hit this one up that does it very, very right, on campus, no less.
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
When Alice’s girlfriend dumps her over her lack of interest in sex, Alice is done. She may find lots of people cute, but if they’re gonna bail as soon as they find out she’s asexual, she might as well just cut it all off at the pass. And yes, her new friend Takumi may be a level of cute she’s never before experienced, and she may be totally into him, and he may be totally into her, but… what was the problem again? Oh right — the very real, legitimate fear that as soon as he finds out her secret, he’s going to break her heart.
Undecided by Julianna Keyes
After partying too hard got her off to rough freshman year, Nora is determined to come back to school a changed woman. Dating, partying, hooking up… they’re all off limits. Too bad her new roommate is best friends with Crosbie Lucas, and no matter how hard Nora tries to resist, she may not be able to stay away, even though she definitely should. But is he really that bad for her? Or is he exactly what she needs?
Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon
My love for Weatherspoon’s Treasure is very well documented, but I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that she has another series set in college, and it’s about a lesbian vampire sorority. It starts off with good girl Ginger, who isn’t normally the sorority type but can’t help being drawn into the world of Alpha Beta Omega… and its queen. What follows is steam steam steam all the way down, and also there’s classes and stuff, I guess.
One & Only by Viv Daniels
Brainy Tess’s life has been way too defined by its secrets, all of which stem from her mother’s illicit relationship with the father who doesn’t acknowledge her existence. Falling for Dylan at a scientific summer program is a nice break from it all, until summer ends and tears them apart. But when Tess gets a scholarship that allows her to transfer to the very school Dylan attends, it would seem a second chance could be on the horizon… if he weren’t now dating the half-sister she could never tell him she had.
The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen
Corey and Adam both live for sports, which is why they’re the only people who can truly understand how hard it is for the other that they’re both currently disabled. But for Adam, the injury sidelining him from the hockey team is temporary; for Corey, her hockey days are over, and her wheelchair is going to be a permanent fixture. Still, they find comfort in each other, and beyond that, something much deeper, too.
Deeper by Robin York
I know I’ve buried this book all the way down on the list, but to be honest, it’s probably my favorite new adult novel of all time. Caroline’s life is a mess after her ex-boyfriend shares pictures of her on the internet, and she has no idea what to make of the stranger who punches him for it. West is rough and troubled and the kind of guy Caroline knows she shouldn’t go near, but even keeping him at arm’s length yields a meaningful connection she can’t ignore — a connection that gives her the strength to fight back she so desperately needs. What I love most about this book is that while West has so many of the traits common in new adult novels with troubled boys, it works because Caroline fights back on them every step of the way, refusing to take his crap even when part of her is so emotionally fragile. Oh, and also, it’s extremely hot. Extremely.
Out in the Open by AJ Truman
The first in this gay romance series set at Browerton University stars straitlaced Sophomore Ethan Follett, who’s on track for a successful, if boring, college career when he meets frat boy Greg, who pushes him to his limits. All of Ethan’s careful boundaries begin to fall away as Greg shows him how much fun having an open mind — and giving other people an open view — can be, but when push comes to shove, Ethan has to face that the one boundary he thought was still in place — his heart — has actually been stolen by the kind of guy he never imagined.
Trade Me by Courtney Milan
Tina Chen’s had to worry about money her whole life, so nothing’s more important to her than earning her college degree and getting a job that ensures rent is off the table of her family’s worries for good. But when her obscenely privileged classmate makes a comment about poverty, Tina can’t stay under the radar. Her rant that he has no idea what it’d be like to live in his shoes yields a deal: they’ll trade places, giving her Blake’s money, house, and car while he works her job and sends the money back to her parents. He’s sure he can handle it, and she’s sure he’s going to quit in the first thirty seconds. But neither one is right about the path they go down together, especially when Tina learns all that Blake’s been hiding about his own life and emotional hardships.
Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins
Tom’s been working his butt off for months to pay his own way for college, now that all his family’s assets are being held thanks to his father’s Ponzi scheming, and with it comes a student housing experience he never expected. Reese is an out-and-proud loner, at least during the day; at night, he’s determined to bring as many guys into his bed as it takes to scare Tom off. But Reese’s antics have the opposite effect, and soon, Tom’s the one landing in his bed, and taking up space in his heart, too.