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Rating some of Booktok’s favorite “fake dating” rom-coms

My young adult fiction-loving self had written off adult romance a long time ago. They all seemed a little too formulaic, not super captivating. The featured relationships often toed the line of being downright toxic. And we’re not even going to talk about the cringey covers. I decided romance novels just weren’t my thing.

Enter Booktok (or in my case, Bookstagram because guess who refuses to get TikTok). Readers have formed spaces across both TikTok and Instagram to unapologetically share their thoughts and reviews, give book recommendations, show off their shelves, and have created a community united by their love for reading. Certain books often tend to dominate the discussion, quickly becoming crowd favorites and thereby, bestsellers. These books became my reintroduction to New Adult romance. They quickly proved that the Wattpad teenager in me had never gone away. She had just matured. I still loved tropes, especially the “fake dating” one, as long as they were done right.

Now having read quite a few of Booktok’s favorite rom-coms I think I’ve earned the right to offer my two cents on the topic. So, without further ado, let’s get into it:

The Kiss quotient by helen hoang (5/5)

This book was the first of these that I read. To say I fell in love is an understatement. I reread it as soon as I finished. The Kiss Quotient follows Stella, who hires an escort in order to explore intimacy with other people, and is honestly a captivating read that has you rooting for the characters from the start. The dual POVs give you a first-hand look at the mutual pining. It’s just a great feel-good read. Did I mention that the two main characters also give us representation of Asian Americans and people with Autism? The Kiss Quotient is Helen Hoang’s debut novel and yet, is an easy five stars!

the spanish love deception by elena armas (4/5)

The Spanish Love Deception makes an appearance in nearly every single rom-com recommendation list and it’s for good reason. The book follows Catalina Martin who decides to take her work enemy, Aaron Blackford, as her date to her sister’s wedding in Spain, while serving up an excellent dose of all of our favorite tropes including “grumpy/sunshine,” “enemies to lovers” and “there’s just one bed.” It does also address the gendered double standards present in the workplace and how those power dynamics hurt women, so there’s a healthy dose of realism in there. Elena Armas’s debut novel has everyone in love with Aaron Blackford and wishing they had a family wedding to take a fake date to.

the cheat sheet by sarah adams (3/5)

The Cheat Sheet serves up an objectively adorable friends to lovers story, and Sarah Adams writes so well that it’s an enjoyable read. The dual POVs also have you both swept up in the mutual pining and frustrated with the characters for being so damn blind. However, it did feel a little flat to me. The characters did have chemistry but their relationship also felt insubstantial. The story also features very real discussions of mental health and anxiety and the individual characters certainly provoke empathy from the reader. Nonetheless, this one is coming in at just three stars.

The unhoneymooners by christina lauren (4/5)

Another great example of enemies to lovers done right, The Unhoneymooners is the story of Olive and Ethan, who go on the honeymoon trip that their siblings were supposed to take but couldn’t due to getting food poisoning at the wedding. Christina Lauren (which is actually a pen name for writing duo, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings) serves up some great vacation romance and growth arcs for both characters who have to come to terms with some hard truths. The Unhoneymooners is a fun and engaging read and I definitely recommend picking it up the next time you’re in the mood for some fun banter and cute romance.

fix her up by tessa bailey (2.5/5)

Given that Tessa Bailey is a bit of a romance legend, I wanted to like this book so badly but I just … didn’t. Fix Her Up is the story of Georgie, the town clown (literally) and Travis, a pro baseball player who had to retire due to an injury. Georgie’s individual growth is great to read, but Travis as a character and the two’s relationship felt a little bland and shaky, and the ending of the story felt rushed. This might be a Booktok favorite, but sadly it isn’t one of mine.

The love hypothesis by ali hazelwood (4.5/5)

Ending this list on a high, The Love Hypothesis deserves the hype it gets. This book is about PhD candidate Olive who has to convince her best friend that she’s dating and ends up in a fake relationship with Adam Carlsen, the most hated professor in the Stanford Biology department. It is “grumpy/sunshine” perfection and features some of the most lovable best friend characters I have read so far. There are also some pointed examples of what it’s like to be a woman in STEM academia, inspired by Hazelwood’s own experiences. Trust me, this is a worthwhile purchase for any romance reader.

Feeling inspired to make a trip to Barnes & Noble yet?

Hi! I'm Dulani and I'm double majoring in International Studies & Sociology with a minor in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies at KU. I am an unapologetic introvert, pop culture nerd and the resident mom friend.
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