Ready, Set, Go! Best Friends to Lovers Romance?

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookTime for the most evil recommendation feature we have: READY, SET, GO!

Here are the rules:

We pick a specific sub-genre, trope, or type of romance, and we have to make ONE recommendation for that type.



And no more than two sentences as to why.

Yes, just one.  Which one book do you pick to fill that rec?

What do you think is the best FRIENDS TO LOVERS ROMANCE you’d recommend?

Any genre, but just one rec.

Ready, set, GO!

EllenM: My rec is definitely A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian ( A | BN | K | G | AB )!

Mutual pining, found family, competence porn in hero and heroine, very queer social justice historical—what’s not to love?

Sarah: :evergreen_tree: :evergreen_tree:

(I love pining.)

Shana: Seconding that.

The Countess Conspiracy
A | BN | K | AB
But not really because I also want to recommend The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan. An unrecognized scientist and her bad-boy beta hero best friend!

Aarya: This feature is going to give me grey hairs as I attempt to narrow down to one book!

Okay, my rec is You, Me, U.S. by Brigitte Bautista ( A ) (I wrote a B+ lightning review last summer).

It’s a f/f #romanceclass title set in Manila and was one of my favorite titles of 2019. The sex worker rep is excellent and I ugly-sobbed through the immigration storyline.

Amanda: This is sooooo not my trope so please take my rec with a grain of salt since I don’t read many of these.

However, my favorite is Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren. Josh is THE SWEETEST and the way the two of them are there for one another in times of distress really cements the believability in their HEA.

Shana: Oh, that’s a good one. I have to admit this isn’t my favorite trope either.

Claudia: I’m going to go with Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas. Don’t let the title fool you: It’s a slow-burn romance where friendship and respect come first.

Sneezy: Ooo good one with The Countess Conspiracy!!!!

Beyond Control
A | BN | K | AB
Sneezy: I thiiiink mine is Beyond Control by Kit Rocha.

YEEEEAAAARS long will-they-won’t-they, holy-shit-what-is-this-sexual-tension between the king and queen of the sector/whiskey empire of a corner of dystopian US.

Tara: I have 5 that I really, really love, so I feel guilty choosing just one.

But, since that’s how this thing goes, I have to say Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton ( A | BN | K | AB ). It’s also sort of a second chance because the friends had fallen out of touch.

Carrie: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell ( A | BN | K | G | AB | Au )

Catherine: The Countess Conspiracy is just beautiful.

But since that’s taken, how about Last Night’s Scandal, by Loretta Chase? It’s three for the price of one on the trope front, as it also has a fake engagement and opposites attract, but Peregrine and Olivia are childhood friends who have corresponded for years and discover that they are inconveniently attracted to each other when they meet again.

And then Olivia decides to rescue Peregrine, in a way guaranteed to drive him mad, and it’s on….

OK, your turn!

Which one book do you think is the BEST FRIENDS TO LOVERS ROMANCE you’d recommend?

Ready, set, go!


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    LisaC says:

    Oh it’s got to be Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy, with lead characters Ryan Wesley (Wes) & his best friend Jamie Canning! It’s a new adult MM romance where the two were friends at hockey camp in their teens, then lose touch. (This is too simplistic, but that’s the only way I can describe the start of their relationship without spoilers). Wes is pining for Jamie for years, then their college teams play against each other & they meet again! It’s one of my favorite comfort reads & must always be followed up by reading the sequel Us, which follows them setting up a life together, then Good Boy, which is about Jamie’s sister, but begins with Wes & Jamie’s wedding. Then last year, the writing duo put out a novella called Epic that was another short follow up on them & I squeed out loud when I read it!

  2. 2
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    I’m with Amanda—f-t-l is not really my jam, primarily because I don’t think two people who have liked each other in a platonic way for years suddenly look at each other and go, “It’s you—it’s always been you!” I think one of them must have been harboring love/lust feelings for the other for a while. (Oddly, I have no problem believing in antagonists-to-lovers—it’s one of my favorite tropes.) So I’m gonna have to go really old school on this and choose Anne and Gilbert in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.

  3. 3
    Jenny says:

    I will go with “Not Another Family Weddng”, by Jackie Lau. Natalie and Connor have been friends for years, since their undergrad days, but never pursued a relationship with each other. Natalie asks Connor to be her date to her sister’s wedding, and a major family secret is revealed at said wedding that rocks Natalie’s world, and Connor becomes a steadfast source of support. I love Jackie Lau’s writing – she tackles difficult subjects with grace, and her leads are strong, respectful and know the meaning of consent.

  4. 4
    SusanH says:

    I don’t think I read this trope a lot, but I absolutely love Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked. The hero has always loved the heroine, but she was married to his cousin, who he was very close to. Darker than her usual books, it has lots of grief, guilt, repressed passion, and angst. It is probably my favorite of her books.

  5. 5
    Billa says:

    I don’t like this trope either. I choose David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. It is a classic. And I love Mr. Micawber.

  6. 6
    Georgina says:

    Do the characters have to be friends before the story starts for it to be F-T-L?

    If so, perhaps this doesn’t count, but I read Kate Clayborn’s Love Lettering recently and thought it was delightful. I don’t usually choose slow-burn romances but I think this one worked for me because the characters had several legitimate reasons not to rush into being together.

  7. 7
    KarenF says:

    Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean… lots of my catnip– fairy tale retelling, fantasy elements, interesting historical setting (1970s), and friends to lovers. The heroine and hero meet during her Freshman year in college, but they are dating other people at the time.

  8. 8
    mel burns says:

    I love Tam Lin with all my heart!

    Venetia by Georgette Heyer was what popped into my head when I read the question.

  9. 9
    PamG says:

    Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold was the first book that came to mind. This last book (though hope springs eternal) of the Vorkosigan Saga features mature protagonists with an age difference who shared the love of Aral Vorkosigan and rediscover each other years after his death. The first time I read it, it seemed kind of bland, but I kept rereading it and it’s became one of my favorite comfort reads. Friends to lovers=me and this book.

  10. 10
    HL says:

    I just happen to be reading one now. Spirit Caller by Krista D. Ball. A cool ghost, independent heroine, kooky community – all set in Newfoundland!!! It’s a fast paced 6 book series, enjoying it a lot.

  11. 11
    scifigirl1986 says:

    Infamous by Jenny Holiday. A bisexual rock star and a Baby Silver Fox pediatrician become friends (they meet on page 1) and fall in love. There’s a song written for the doctor and men in tuxes running and kissing in the rain (puts that Spiderman kiss to shame).

  12. 12
    Lisa F says:

    Another favorite trope of mine! *parks self in thread*

  13. 13
    Vasha says:

    Wanna Bet? by Talia Hibbert. How carefully the hero pays attention to understanding the heroine is amazing in this one. Great for characterization and depth.

  14. 14
    Kareni says:

    It’s a bit of a stretch as five years of friendship is not shown on page, but I’ll choose Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts by Lyn Gala. This is a favorite comfort read featuring a human and an alien (both male).

  15. 15
    Andrea D says:

    I like this trope combined with the unrequited love trope (the previously mentioned Ravishing the Heiress, by Sherry Thomas is a favorite). My addition to the recommendations is Cecilia Grant’s A Woman Entangled.

  16. 16
    Batman says:

    I don’t know if it counts as more FTL or slow burn, but the story arc between Veronica and Stoker in the Veronica Speedwell series is delicious.

  17. 17
    LB says:

    My pick is On Point by Annabeth Albert. M/M about best friends on the same navy SEAL team, one of whom is pining for the other. Also, he wants to retire from the navy and open a bakery. Then stuff happens and they get separated from their team while on a mission and one of them is injured. The feels are very strong.

  18. 18
    Molly says:

    It’s almost like there needs to be a subcategory of friends-with-one-pining to lovers!

    As for a recommendation, I love Amy Lane’s Keeping Promise Rock. M/M and so good. But Deacon and Crick almost kill me, so keep a box of tissues handy.

    If you want a really slow burn, I can’t recommend Simon and Meg (shifter and human–sort of) in Anne Bishop’s The Others series highly enough. The relationship grows over five books, and is delightful. The series is one of the best fantasy series I’ve ever read, with absolutely stellar world-building and wonderful characters. TW: Bishop can be quite dark, and there are references to sexual abuse.

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Rhonda says:

    My favorite trope!

    One that comes to mind quickly (and is a bit more novella length) is Bromantically Yours by KC Wells. It’s a spinoff of another romance (Out of the Shaddows) but I think it works as a standalone.

  21. 21
    Eliza says:

    Friends, this is tough. This is one of my favourite tropes and I’ve read a lot of it. I heartily second the recommendations for Him, Infamous, and the Claimings series. But if I have to pick just one, it’s Cara Dee’s If We Could Go Back. Ben and Kieran almost killed me. I’m a little bitter that I can’t go back and read that book for the first time again.

  22. 22
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Eliza: I also enjoyed IF WE COULD GO BACK, but I think of it more as a “gay for you/out for you” than f-t-l romance. Also, both men are married (unhappily) to women when their affair starts and I know cheating is a hard no for some readers (even when the marriages in question are unhappy).

  23. 23
    Eliza says:

    @DiscoDollyDeb: Yes, Deb, you’re right about all of this. But they are still friends for a period of time at the beginning of the story, and I try to plug this book every chance I get.

  24. 24
    Maureen says:

    @Diane Ruotsalainen-What Laurie Colwin novel are you talking about? I loved her novels and I am pretty sure I’ve read and own every one-but it has been years since I read them. She was such a beautiful writer, and it still breaks my heart we lost her when she was so young.

  25. 25
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Maureen: two of my favorite cookbooks are Colwin’s HOME COOKING and MORE HOME COOKING, where she intersperses stories of her life & food & learning to cook with recipes (her gingerbread cake recipe is the best one I’ve ever eaten). I didn’t realize until later that she had died so young…and my heart broke for her young daughter who was a recurring character (if that is the right word) in many of her recipe/stories.

  26. 26
    Maureen says:

    @DiscoDollyDeb-I LOVE those books! Seriously, cannot recommend them enough. Believe it or not, I haven’t made the gingerbread which sounds amazing. I remember thinking the same thing-how awful for her family to lose her so when she was so young.

    One of my goals for this year-make Laurie Colwin’s Gingerbread Cake!

  27. 27
    Shana says:

    This is one of my favorite tropes. My to-be-read list/pile hates all of you.

    I’d like to add Curious (MM) by R.G. Alexander. The first book that kicked off the whole Finn Factor series, and the Finn’s Pub spin off series. Also Fearless from Finn Factor (MMM, three best friends).

    And I absolutely second Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. Samantha Wayland’s Take a Shot is a sweet hockey f-t-l novella. A.E. Via has a couple of the friends/coworkers-to-lovers in her Nothing Special books. And Charlie Cochet has a few in the THIRDS series.

  28. 28
    Lucy says:

    I’m actually surprised by the number of people who don’t like this trope. It’s my favourite because the already existent friendship deepens the connection and adds a slight forbidden aspect to the physical attraction. The argument against the trope seems to be – as a few people have said here – that it doesn’t make sense that you’d be platonic for so long and then suddenly start getting the horn for each other, and that one must always have had feelings for the other. I get that point, but to me, that argument suggests that one or both having undeclared feelings for the other automatically devalues or nullifies the friendship, and I don’t see why that would be the case. The only way it would do so (imo) would be if the person with those feelings was only in the friendship with the goal of eventually reaching their romantic/sexual goals rather than being in the friendship because of simply wanting that person in their life.
    Love this topic – I’m reading the Cat Sebastian at the moment. I love the unconventional set up of their living situation. It adds an air of intrigue to it all somehow.

  29. 29
    PamG says:

    I don’t have a problem with the friends to lovers trope being believable, because there are so many ways we can become fixed in our thinking and need a major a-ha! moment to recognize our own feelings. I have a much bigger problem with the lust-led romances that don’t show any development of friendship, because, to me, no friendship=no ever after.

  30. 30
    KatiM says:

    This trope is just not my favorite but I did read one last year that sort of fits the parameters. The Trouble With True Love by Laura Lee Guhrke. I really enjoyed the friendship that developed first between the hero and the heroine even with the lust simmering in the background. The friendship was actually my favorite part of the book.

  31. 31
    Star says:

    …I started to write an explanation for @Lucy about why f-t-l sometimes works very well or me but usually doesn’t, but it turned into an essay. 🙁

    So instead: some of my favourites are already in this thread, but one I haven’t seen yet but really liked was I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill, a NA romance where two former housemates enter a marriage of convenience in order to qualify for married student housing in grad school (I swear this makes sense in context!). They’d been good friends all through college, but he was in a relationship the whole time, and I thought the author did a great job developing their relationship from definitely-just-platonic to oh-shit-we’re-in-love over a period of several months.

  32. 32
    Jeannette says:

    I’ve added quite a few to my TBR from this list. My suggestion is
    The Rebuilding Year series by Kaje Harper (MM). The two main characters, Ryan and John, share a house as friends long before they realize they are falling in love.

  33. 33
    Lucy says:

    Star – I frequently have the same problem, which is why I usually give up and leave no comment at all, lol. Thanks for the rec – weirdly, I wrote a Harry Potter fic years ago with a somewhat similar storyline…

    I Temporarily Do and KatiM’s rec are the kind of F-T-L I love where their friendship is front and centre but there’s some (usually unacknowleged) lust humming in the background and the two things end up meshing.

    And I totally agree with PamG – I hate when the feelings aren’t based in friendship, and that includes non-F-T-L books. IMO, romantic love IS a type of friendship.

  34. 34
    Lucy says:

    Ooh, Star’s rec I Temporarily Do is free on Kindle UK!

  35. 35
    Kareni says:

    I Temporarily Do is also free in the US.

  36. 36
    Kareni says:

    I’ll also second the recommendation for Anne Bishop’s The Others series that @Molly made; begin with Written in Red.

  37. 37
    Star says:

    @Lucy – I hope you like it! And oh man, yep, I definitely delete more comments than I post for exactly this reason.

    The short version of my essay was that most of the f-t-l romances I’ve read, the friendship feels like a shortcut so that the author doesn’t have to show them getting to know each other, especially since very often, the author also doesn’t show the friendship before the pivot point — it really seems like usually one or the other of them abruptly realises they have novel pants feelings within the first chapter. It’s a version of the telling-rather-than-showing issue, I guess; I don’t ever really understand why they didn’t get together previously or why they’re getting together now, so I come away feeling unsatisfied. It’s interesting that although the same problem appears in a lot of second-chance or enemies-to-lovers books, authors typically do a better job depicting the “before” stage of the relationship and selling the pivot. For some reason there seems to be a tendency to be a bit lazier with f-t-l.

  38. 38
    HollyWolly says:

    @DiscoDollyDeb – YES! Anne and Gilbert are forever favorites in my <3!

  39. 39
    Lucy says:

    Star – Yes, I TOTALLY agree. I hate when the author just says they’re close friends as an excuse not to do the legwork on what their connection is like and how it formed. Often, a book tricks you into thinking that will be examined as you go along and you’re halfway through before you realise that’s not going to happen. That’s when it becomes a hard DNF!

  40. 40
    L says:

    I loved You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane. It’s somewhere at the intersection of Romance and Women’s Fiction, and friends-to-lovers and second chance, but because you see the two getting to know each other in flash backs I found it lovely and believable. And also very funny. Basically all the good feels.

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