The Rec League: Sex Positive Romances

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookAsk and ye shall receive!

Earlier, we posted a Guest Rant on slut shaming and we’re loving all the comments we’ve received so far. If you haven’t read them yet, I definitely recommend it! Because of all the awesome books mentioned, Reader Jazzlet suggested a post to compile suggested sex positive romances, and we’ll look for any excuse to connect readers with more books!

Below is a list of specific books mentioned that have aspects of sex positivity:

Wild Child by Molly O’Keefe
Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan
Extreme Exposure by Pamela Clare
Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren
A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai
Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Built by Jay Crownover
The Ivy Years series by Sarina Bowen
Act Like It by Lucy Parker
Twice Tempted by a Rogue by Tessa Dare
Neighborly Affection series by M.Q. Barber
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction

What other books would you recommend? The more the merrier!


By request, since we can’t link to every book you mention in the comments, here are bookstore links that help support the site with your purchases. Most of them are affiliate linked with the exception of Google:Play. If you use them, thank you so much, and if you’d prefer not to, no worries! We are always glad you’re here hanging out with us and giving us more reasons to add to our TBR pile.

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  1. 1
    Erica H says:

    I know in the rant, the book The Mistake by Elle Kennedy, but actually in the next one in that series The Score, the opposite happens and the hero calls out the heroine for thinking it and tells her to take the word slut out of her vocabulary. It was very refreshing.

  2. 2
    Hannah says:

    I thought the YA fantasy series Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce was very sex-positive. It was more like a normal rite of passage when the heroine started having sex rather than O HAI HERE IS YR SLUT BADGE

  3. 3
    Ashen says:

    To counter Pierce’s SotL: I found the treatment of the female antagonists’ sexuality to be very slut-shaming, even before (in the case of Delia) it was narratively “justified” by the revelation of her main lover.

  4. 4
    Ashen says:

    Ahhhh, so, second comment as I can’t edit:

    I’d adore recs where the hero’s previous mistress isn’t slut shammed. Where the female antagonists aren’t slut shammed. Where in historicals, the actresses and opera singers and ballerinas and courtesans aren’t slut shammed for taking the options open to them/forced upon them (seriously, ballerinas were not paid much).

    One of my recent DNF’s, the slut shamming of the hero’s opera singer ex-mistress (and, of course, her big bust was a sign of sluttishness) was the final straw. If I could have, I’d have thrown the book. As it was, it was deleted with extreme prejudice.

  5. 5
    Mel says:

    The Beyond Series by Kit Rocha
    The Pleasure Series by Alisha Rai

  6. 6
    Tiffany says:

    The later books by Tamora Pierce do a much better job, and include fantastic discussions of consent and contraception. In general I find the Song of the Lioness to be terrible in comparison to all the other series and when I re-read her work I always skip those. My opinion may be tainted with my hatred of love triangles.

  7. 7
    Mary Star says:

    Colette Gale’s erotic retellings of classic stories has really varied sex that’s rooted in who the characters are as human beings. Different characters have sex differently and women explore their emotional and physical lives fully, individualistically, and often in a sort of raw (meaning authentic) way.

  8. 8
    Crystal says:

    There were no sex scenes, since Deanna Raybourn admits to preferring a nice “fade to black” approach, but in A Curious Beginning, Veronica Speedwell freely admits that she has gotten down, on more than one occasion, and has enjoyed her fair share of partners. She’s open as hell about it, even clapping back at a judgmental old society matron that is trying mightily to shame her into a marriage after her aunt’s death. She enjoys sex and doesn’t see why that’s a problem, and politely tells anyone that attempts to make her feel like it’s not her due to figuratively eff right off. Since the book is told from her perspective, she does spend some of it speculating about making her relationship with Stoker a bit more personal, since he’s mightily cute and she likes him and they work well together. I imagine that will get horizontal in later books. We won’t see the deed up close and personal, but we’ll KNOW.

  9. 9
    Rachel says:

    Courtney Milan’s ‘Unclaimed’ is one that I just adore. Based on the blurb, it looks like it could be retrogressive nightmare: hard-luck courtesan heroine with a painful sexual and romantic history plus a hero who is a prominent abstinence advocate. But the smart, sophisticated, lovely way that Milan tackles slut-shaming is so, so good. I love that the hero (who is a total dream, in my opinion) is so adamant from page one that choosing abstinence doesn’t give anyone a license to judge others and– even better–that women aren’t to blame when men ‘go astray.’ It could seriously be part of a women’s studies class. Plus it absolutely dispels the myth that being ‘politically correct’ (i.e., speaking about others with respect) can’t also be hot.

  10. 10
    MissyLaLa says:

    Courtney Milan’s “A Kiss for Midwinter” is very sex positive. Even if a bit on the nose, it is a sweet novella that uplifts sex education and telling young women the truth about their bodies. Sweet doctor hero too. =)

  11. 11
    MissyLaLa says:

    Oh and let me second the motion on Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander”–the whole series. I love how it embraces sex as it really is and should be: messy, hot, honest, sometimes funny, and connected. There’s a scene in Voyager where they’re trying to get it on in a tiny cabin on a ship and somebody keeps knocking at the door. Trying to stay focused and NOT kill the interrupter proves to be very funny and yet the scene is still touching and HOT!.

  12. 12
    Mara B. says:

    I agree with the previous commenters about Tamora Pierce. While the SotL is great in terms of Alanna’s sexuality (the heroine), I do find the treatment of Delia and Josiane to be slut shaming. I also agree that Pierce does much better in later series and where there is hesitancy over sex it is very much in keeping with the culture she’s established.

    I also second the rec for Kit Rocha. And I’d like to add in Nalini Singh and Lauren Dane. I find that a number of paranormal series are a lot better at allowing the women to be easy with their sexuality and sexual experience and there are a couple of Singh books with heroines who have experience and heroes who are virgins. I enjoyed these women telling their alpha men, with teasing solemnity, that they’d be gentle since the guys were virgins. I also like the fact that the inexperienced H/h’s frequently did research finding book sand movies about sex so they could learn and they were never shamed for this by their partners.

  13. 13
    LK says:

    I just read Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner, and I thought it was sex positive. The heroine is a widow and she starts an affair with the hero just because she wants to, and she uses her hand during sex. She also tells her younger sister that sex can be enjoyable.

  14. 14
    Lara says:

    Both Victoria Dahl and Eva Leigh (aka Zoe Archer) already have titles on the list, but seriously, pretty much ANYTHING by either author is fairly sex positive.

    Also, as long as comic books are fair game? Saga, by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Holy cow, Saga Saga SAGA.

  15. 15
    Jen says:

    Yes yes yes, most anything by Victoria Dahl. I really love the one listed and it’s def sex positive, but the previous book (flirting with disaster I think?) was also especially sex positive, with an older heroine who really owns her sexuality and a hero who completely respects and appreciates that.

    And while I haven’t yet read Eva Leigh’s historicals yet, her Zoe Archer books are also extremely sex positive, with women who aren’t afraid of their sexuality and men who are into consent and strong women.

    I wouldn’t characterize the whole of Brook’s Iron Seas books as sex positive because there are some problematic books in there (ahem, book 1), but Riveted is super sex positive, which is why it’s my favorite of the bunch. The heroine is so frank and practical about sex, and the way they explore sex is really respectful and sweet. Love that book.

  16. 16
    AliceB says:

    I find Kennedy’s NA books to have misogynist undertones. I DNF’d The Score because it had the same issues for me. Just a differing opinion.

  17. 17
    Maite says:

    “Hot Under the Collar” by Jackie Barbosa. A former courtesan starts up a “no strings affair” with the vicar, because they both miss sex. She had been a fallen woman after the son of the local lord got her pregnant, and there’s this big scene at the end where the entire town that had shamed her are made to see that the jerk was the one to reject.

    There’s Betina Krahn’s “Make Me Yours”, where the heroine enjoyed sex with her late husband, and proceeds to fight for her right to choose her own partner.

    Emma Bull’s “War for the Oaks”, where the heroine has enjoyable sex with someone who’s not the hero.

    And oh yes, “A Kiss for Midwinter”. “Besides, the hymen is just a membrano-carneous structure situated at the entrance of the vagina” is a truth that needs to be universally acknowledged.

  18. 18
    fay says:

    Victoria Dahl wrote a great historical called A Little Bit Wild that really deals with the slut-shaming thing in context. Anything she’s written counts as sex-positive, IMO.

  19. 19
    jw says:

    Rachel Batch’s Paradox series starts with the heroine speaking to her friend with benefits and she has a lot more sexual experience than the hero. She’s also a badass space mercenary who puts someone in place for calling her a “crazy slut.” Alyssa Cole should get all the accolades for her progressive romances, but I think she does everything right in her Off the Grid series.

    On the historical end, Rose Lerner’s Lively St. Lemeston novels for sure and all of Sherry Thomas’s novels generally are sex positive, even the not so great ones. I especially love The One In My Heart, The Luckiest Lady in London and Beguiling the Beauty.

    Uprooted by Naomi Norvik is truly wonderful for many reasons, but I love that it has a really strong female friendship that’s equal to the romance and a heroine who goes for what she wants.

    Not really a romance, but I want to give it a mention: in Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword, the heroine comes of age and explores her sexuality.

    Also, it’s an epic fantasy, but Robin Hobb’s Liveship traders is really wonderful. Not only is it populated with a lot of women who have different perspectives and go through unique character arcs, it is also anchored around a central romance where both the hero and heroine grow. (I sometimes jokingly say that Althea’s later character arc is about fantasy novel work/life balance.) It also touches upon the issue of rape and rape culture so trigger warning, but it’s one of the most nuanced handlings of the subject I’ve seen.

  20. 20
    kkw says:

    I’m really terrible with details (and names), so I may not be 100% on this. Nicola Cornick, Cecilia Grant, Loretta Chase, Tessa Dare, Joanna Bourne and Courteney Milan all come to mind as having written historicals that include more experienced women, and I have found them to be trustworthy when it comes to sexual agency in general.
    I know I’m forgetting others, historicals have gotten so much better in this regard.
    Also, I love Victoria Dahl, absolutely love her, and have found her to be wholly sex positive as mentioned. Just a heads up for those who care, iirc there are a fair few where it turns out our sex expert heroine is a virgin.

  21. 21
    jw says:

    Oh! And I haven’t read them all, but Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long is for the most part. The heroine of A Notorious Countess Confesses is a courtesan who married an old earl who died before the book began and instead of making her late husband out to be a joke, she was actually quite fond of him. In What I Did For the Duke, the heroine hooks up with the hero because she wants to and there’s no handwringing over her virtue or “I must do the right thing by proposing marriage right now.”

  22. 22
    Kate says:

    I read “His Wicked Reputation” by Madeline Hunter last year and it was very sex positive. The heroine knows what she wants and goes for it, and I remember a lot of the dialogue between the hero and heroine being funny and natural as they get down to business.

  23. 23
    Cathy says:

    Suzanne Brockmann has a great scene with the hero (Dan)and heroine (starts with a T I think) discussing her UTI. Funny awkward and romantic. I think the first thread mentioned no one ever mentions UTIs and I thought of this. also 2 of her secondary characters have sex and then end up with others in later books, which is different from the usual multi character series where you immediately know who later couples will be.

  24. 24
    JaniceG says:

    In Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas, the heroine’s grandmother and aunt are prostitutes and tried to turn her into one, telling her that it’s her nature. She escapes but later, when she has sex with the hero and enjoys it, she’s convinced her relatives are right. The hero does a very nice job reassuring her that there’s nothing wrong or inappropriate about enjoying sex.

  25. 25
    Vicki says:

    They are not romances but the Phryne Fisher series are good – she openly enjoys sex and does it frequently with various partners.

  26. 26
    kitkat9000 says:

    I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned Shelly Laurenston/G.A. Aiken. Granted she writes paranormals (weres, dragons, warriors for Norse gods) but ALL of her books feature female characters with sexual agency. And they’re proud of it. The men readily accept this without question as well. The fact that they’re funny as all get out just makes them that much better.

  27. 27
    Squimbelina says:

    @Ashen – but of course, those of us larger chested ladies are completely unable to restrain ourselves and just rut around everywhere! It is known 😉

    That’s another thing – I would like to see more female (and male!) body-types in these things. I get that there’s a certain amount of wish fulfilment, and while there’s nothing wrong with being tall and slim with small perky boobs, I don’t actually want to be. I’m five foot tall and round and quite happy about it. Heroines are so often willowy or tall, or if they’re short then they’re tiny and fragile with bird-like bones. Robust short girls don’t exist, apparently. And, I love a tall hairy-chested muscular guy as much as the next girl (catnip!) but other men are attractive too, sometimes I’d like to read about them.

    The Billionaire series by Jessica Clare is good for heroines with a range of female body types, but I find the billionaire aspect a bit tiresome.

  28. 28
    Katharina says:

    @Squimbelina Celia Kyle’s heroines are definitely not tall and slim and small-breasted, if you are looking for another bodytype… (To my mind, her books consist of too much sex and to little other stuff and especially in the ridgeville series there is too much self-depreciation for said sex)

    @topic: Rose Lerner was already mentioned for her Lively St. Lemeston Books, but I would also like to mention her ‘Lily among thorns’
    The other books that come to mind are already listed (Loretta Chase, Nalini Singh, Courney Milan aso.)

  29. 29
    Theresa says:

    I want to recommend Anne Calhoun’s Unforgiven on this topic. The heroine’s husband died very early in an accident and now, years later, she has a healthy sex life. The book deals with people trying to slut shame her and she (and the hero) is not putting up with it. Also the hero and heroine are not new adult oder college age anymore. I can kind of forgive those types of books for it, because they often confront it in the course of the book or the series and then the characters learn from it and move on. Unforgiven is more of a real world, small town thing in contrast to the college universe where everything is pretty contained. I can also whole-heartedly recommend the book, everything else about it is pretty great (and smexy), too!

  30. 30
    Lara says:

    Just about anything by Emma Holly has A) a LOT of sex, and B) little to no slut-shaming, because literally everybody’s doing it. I am very, very fond of Strange Attractions, in which the heroine has the body of a sex kitten and the two heroes appreciate the hell out of it (in-between appreciating each other’s bodies), and she’s never once called a slut or easy or anything else for enjoying herself with them–in fact, she’s encouraged to take charge of her life and stop trying to live up (or down) to her own internalized expectations of herself.

    For those who like fantasy elements, both Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series and Megan Hart’s Order of Solace series have societies where sex is considered a sacred act, and no one is shamed for their desires or their partners.

  31. 31
    Amanda6 says:

    I’ve found Christina Lauren’s Wild Seasons series to be pretty sex-positive. Possibly a few jokes among the female friends about how one is more likely to be the Samantha than the others, but it’s all very lovingly played. (And the book with the “Samantha” as the MC is especially great.)

    Bettie Sharpe’s Ember and A Cat’s Tale are fairy-tale reimaginings where the heroines have lovers other than the hero and DGAF about being slut-shamed, and they also have strong female allies.

    Cara McKenna in general is pretty sex positive as well.

  32. 32
    Rose says:

    I’ll follow up on what Theresa wrote and recommend Anne Calhoun in general. She writes characters with a broad range of sexual experience, and her writing makes it very clear that whether they’re virgins, have had multiple partners (sometimes in the same book) or anything in between, it’s perfectly fine for them to want whatever works for them.

    In addition to some of the historical writers already mentioned (e.g. Rose Lerner) I find Miranda Neville’s books sex positive, and I appreciate that quite a few of the “other women” in her books are written sympathetically.

    @Ashen asked for recs in which the mistresses aren’t slut-shamed – in addition to Neville’s books, another one that comes to mind is Lisa Kleypas’s Worth Any Price, in which the hero had a long-term arrangement with his mistress, and obviously likes and appreciates her (even after she ends their relationship). I also don’t recall any slut-shaming of the prostitutes in Dreaming of You, though it’s been years since I read it.

  33. 33
    Brigid says:

    Echo Victoria Dahl and Courtney Milan.
    Ilona Andrews
    Julie James
    Jill Shalvis: Cedar Ridge and Lucky Harbor series (tho not Animal Magnetism)
    Lauren Layne: NY Finest, Stiletto #1, 2, 4. (open to debate on #3)
    Penny Reid: Capture and Knitting’s 2, 3, 4 (skip 1)
    Ruthie Knox (tho haven’t read Camelot and can’t speak to that series)
    Nicole Helm
    Bria Quinlan for “clean” romance

    Besides Milan, have not other historical romances. I can’t get past those unnamed past whores who’ve relieved the heroes of their virginity. Who are they and how did they get to be there? Desperately want to know their stories.

    Thank you so much for this. I echo Victoria Dahl and Courtney Milan for sex parity. Also recommend Ilona Andrews. When the woman hasn’t had as much sex as a man, there’s usually a good explanation.

  34. 34
    Brigid says:

    Sorry, didn’t see I hadn’t deleted that last para, talk about shame.

  35. 35
    Griffin says:

    I don’t think anyone mentioned Jo Beverley yet – in her Rogue series, one of the main characters, Blanche, is a celebrated actress as well as mistress to various gentlemen of the ton. She’s the mistress of the hero of the second book, and he comes to her for counsel even after he’s ended things, and they remain good friends through the entire series. His wife, being quite liberal, not only wants to meet her, but becomes buddies with her as well. Later on when another woman attempts to slut-shame her, everyone else immediately shuts that down. She remains a total badass and recurs through the series as well.

  36. 36
    ReneeG says:

    I would strongly recommend the Sarah Tolerance mysteries (by Madelaine E. Robins, have a growing romance through the books) which feature a woman in an alternate Regency who refuses to accept Society’s belief that she is ruined after running away with her brother’s fencing master. She lives by her aunt (also ruined, who runs a high-class brothel of ruined society ex-maidens) and steadfastly battles both villains and misperceptions. Sarah even has to confront her own misperceptions when dealing with the brothel residents. Cracking good mystery, and I’m very keen on the developing romance.

  37. 37
    Anonymous says:

    Mary Balogh is not my favourite author, and it’s been years since I read any of her books, but I will love her forever for how the hero of Slightly Wicked responds when the heroine tells him, when they are about to consummate their marriage, that she is not a virgin:

    “Ah,” he said then, very softly. “Fair enough. Neither am I.”

    @Brigid, I want the stories of all those hero-deflowring prostitutes and ex-mistresses too. That includes all those poor bored lonely depressed wives trapped in bad marriages. Just because they were unlucky in the marriage lottery doesn’t mean they don’t deserve love!

    (Like seriously, do we refuse to humanise those women because it’s easier and safer than accepting that anyone could have been trapped like that back then, and that it’s really luck rather than inherent personal virtue that sets our favourite historical heroines apart?)

  38. 38
    Jillian says:

    I’m listening to Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh right now. It is pretty sex positive. The hero and heroine discuss their physical relationship very openly and the fact that sexual desire is natural for both men and women. The hero is extremely respectful of her wishes. The love scenes are like water colors…not very explicit, but I’m enjoying the book so far.

  39. 39
    Victoriana says:

    I don’t think Jess Michaels has been mentioned yet. She’s a remarkably sex positive erotic historical romance author who’s written many books featuring courtesans and extremely heroines. She has an entire series (called Mistress Matchmaker) about women who were mistresses and courtesans but with zero slut-shaming or judgement either in the narrative or by the heroes. Plus her heroines don’t just have positive, sexually fulfilling experiences with their patrons (none of that abusive sex-worker-as-victim narrative), but they have a lot of agency over their encounters as well, often initiating them both inside and outside of their work.

    For instance in Her Perfect Match (Mistress Matchmaker Book 3) by Jess Michaels, the heroine is a famous retired courtesan who matches the heroines of the previous books with their patrons (and heroes). She loves sex and has a threesome on her birthday every year to celebrate it. The opening scene of the book is her birthday threesome (to balance out all the other opening sex scenes of the H with his mistress(es) I’m sure 😉

    Beauty and the Earl (The Pleasure Wars Book 3) by Jess Michaels also has an experienced courtesan heroine who initiates a sexual relationship with the hero. It’s also a great Beauty and the Beast trope romance with a scarred, emotionally wounded hero. I’m a sucker for that trope. 🙂

    Natasha Blackthorne is another historical erotic romance author who also writes sex positive romance of experienced women. Grey’s Lady has a heroine who secretly seduces men after after hours working at her family’s shop, and she initiates the first encounter with the hero. She’s portrayed as having an unusually strong sex drive, but in a positive, non-slut shamed way.

    I second all the recommendations of Courtney Milan, Kit Rocha, and Victoria Dahl.

  40. 40
    Victoriana says:

    In fact, I’d really love to see SBTB review one of Jess Michaels’ or Natasha Blackthorne’s books sometime. I feel like they don’t get enough attention despite having lots of sexually empowered, sex positive heroines and stories.

    Taboo is another one I loved by Jess Michaels. It has a heroine who runs a lingerie business and who has been with several lovers. The great thing is she remains friends with many of those lovers, even the ones she slept with casually, and they treat her with respect and affection – and this in a historical! At first the hero is angry that she slept with so many others during their separation (even though he was the one who abandoned her and had plenty of his own lovers during their separation too), but the heroine soon sets him straight in a really dignified way.

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