Slow Burn Romance Books That Are Worth the Wait

Ever since my first Mariana Zapata book, All Rhodes Lead Here, I have LOVED a good slow burn romance. I’ve yet to find an author who consistently crushes this trope better than Zapata, but there are so many good ones out there. Here are some of our favorite slow burns! Hope you find one you like. 

All Rhodes Lead Here was my introduction to Mariana Zapata and slow burns, and now I’ve read almost all of her books! At first, I was thinking, how is this even a romance? But the hints were so subtle from the beginning and just build from there.

Aurora is a lost soul after her celebrity musician slimeball ex, who was really just using her for her songwriting skills, dumps her without warning. Now she’s free to explore her hometown in Colorado and try to come to terms with a haunted past–her mother disappeared into thin air after going for a hike one day, and Aurora still doesn’t know what happened to her.

So Aurora rents a garage apartment, unbeknownst to the grouchy owner, Rhodes, whose teenage son set it all up to make some extra money. And Rhodes is NOT happy–he’s downright hostile but relents and allows Aurora to stay.

The slow buildup of the relationship is lovely; we slowly see some cracks in Rhodes’ gruff exterior, how they all come together to support and care for each other, how Aurora grows and finds herself and her independence now that her controlling ex and his even more controlling mother are out of the picture. There were times it got slow, but I was so invested in the characters and the story that I was still riveted.

Rating: 4.8
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Self-Discovery, Fresh Start, Slow Burn, Small Town, Enemies to Lovers
Pair With: Colorado wines

Book Two of the Bellinger Sisters, Hook, Line and Sinker, features Hannah, a production assistant who’s in a small Washington fishing town to film a movie. And Fox, a king crab fisherman and the town player. Against all odds, they become friends, and Fox is shocked Hannah seems to like him for himself and not just his hotness. 

With her sister’s in-laws in town, Hannah needs a place to stay and Fox offers up his guest bedroom. How long will it take before they get together? Surprisingly long, but it allows the buildup of their relationship and the growth Fox needs to get into a real relationship–belief in himself and trusting that people might see more in him than he sees in himself. 

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Slow Burn, Friends to Lovers, Roommates to Lovers, Reformed Player, Small Town
Pair With: Washington wines

My first and favorite Beth O’Leary book, The Flat Share features two roommates, Tiffy and Leon, who’ve never met. Leon needs the income from a roommate but lives in a tiny one-bedroom flat. He works nights, so advertises for someone to use the apartment during non-business hours and he would sleep there in the daytime. Tiffy just got out of a toxic relationship and needs a cheap place to stay. She’s wary, but it’s either Leon’s place or a rat-infested horror show…

They start leaving innocuous notes for each other that slowly get more personal, then their lives start integrating more even though they still haven’t met. I am a complete sucker for notes or anything written, so of course this was up my alley! But there’s so much sweetness and depth of the characters, and they are both truly lovely people, so this book was so enjoyable to read (even if we occasionally have to deal with Tiffy’s gaslighting ex), and the ending is perfection!

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Notes/Letters, Roommates to Lovers, Opposites Attract, Toxic Ex
Pair With: English wines

This book had a little bit of everything in the thriller/serial killer/romance department–murder, gore, spice, devotion, obsession, love, spice, a crazy climax. The serial killer angle was unique and fun; interesting to imagine two murderers could fall in love, trust each other, and be completely devoted to one another. And function in society too.

Two serial killers (fighting the good fight a la Dexter and murdering bad guys) meet by chance when both target the same man. Instant attraction and friendship ensues, as the see each other for an annual “contest” that turns into so much more. 

Come for the intrigue of murderers and lovers, stay for the deep bonds and true devotion. 

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Slow Burn, Friends to Lovers, Murder, He Falls First, Only One Bed
Pair With: 19 Crimes wine

Jana is a brilliant and caring introvert and single mom who’s never quite fit in and always feels self-conscious in groups. Now she’s heading to the Serengeti for three weeks with her daughter, her mom, her potential boss, lots of other people, and SURPRISE, Anil, her ex and father of her daughter. Their coparenting is cooperative and conflict-free, mostly because she makes sure she never has to see him. But their four-year-old daughter is beyond thrilled to have them in the same place, so Jana braces herself for three long weeks of togetherness.

Really liked it! Maybe because the introvert in me relates so well to Jana, who’s always seen as aloof and uncaring when the opposite is true. The feminist themes are woven in nicely without being too much—how Jana was vilified for dating Anil and getting pregnant while he was married (which she didn’t even know) and how she even lost jobs and funding because of it, while Anil got off scot-free and continued to enjoy accolades and success in the same field.

But even with all that, it was still a mostly light and fun book. The secondary characters are interesting, the setting is spectacular, and the slow burn of Jana and Anil getting to know each other and where it goes captured my interest.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Second chance, forced proximity, only one bed, travel, slow burn, single parent
Pair with: African wines. Of the African countries, South Africa is the most well-known for its wines, but wine is also produced in Tanzania where a lot of this book takes place. However, it’s really hard to find Tanzanian wines in the US, so South Africa is as close as you’re going to get.

Superhot and famous Scottish rugby player and heartthrob Cameron decides to do a solid for his awkward neighbor, Joellen. He’ll help her flirt with the boss she’s had a longtime crush on and teach her how to win him over. 

But Cam doesn’t see her as awkward, and as her confidence grows, he falls harder. But he should let her have her man, right? Wrong! It’s so much fun to see these characters develop and their relationship slowly come into place. 

Rating: 3.8

Steam: Low

Themes and Tropes: Slow Burn, Love Triangle, Lessons, Opposites Attract

Rose walks in for a business-ish meeting with a lawyer and walks out with . . . a fiancé? A husband? She’d been dumped by another fiancé only a few weeks ago, but Jack knows her nasty family is trying to screw her out of her inheritance and sees no other way for her to be able to open her dream coffee shop and circumvent their schemes.  Plus maybe he likes her. And maybe there’s a little more to it than that?

I do love the marriage of convenience trope, especially when an author finds a creative way to place it in a modern setting, and what’s more modern than present-day Manhattan? Rose is fiercely independent and hard-working, and she’ll push back on Jack like no one else will.

He’s a very successful partner in a fancy law firm and isn’t used to being challenged. And he’s used to being a workaholic but suddenly, he becomes a regular at the coffee shop to help Rose out and just see her. Jack’s more of a show you care through actions not words kind of guy, for a while anyway. Slowly they let each other in—some parts are really too slow burn and circular—but some twists and worth it for me in the end.  

Rating: 4
Steam: Average
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Slow Burn, Grumpy Sunshine, New York City
Pair With: Coffee from your favorite independent coffee shop

Romantic soul and wedding dress designer Emma crushes her Vegas fashion show on her birthday. She’s flying high until she sees her ex’s Instagram post that he’s engaged. So, logical next step? Drink too much champagne and head to a male revue, of course, and then down a few shots for good measure!

Griffin’s been his little sister’s guardian for twelve years and put her through college—and himself through law school—by performing in a male revue. Responsible and grumpy, Griffin never hooks up with anyone from his shows, but Emma instantly changes all that.

Not only do they wake up married, but drunk Emma’s wedding video post goes viral and the happy couple is booked for an interview in New York by the “Anna Wintour of wedding fashion.” Can they fake it? Is it even fake anymore?

LOVED this book. The feelings are so real, and they both try so hard to protect their hearts. Are they willing to take a chance? Emma and Griffin actually seem like real people, which is sometimes hard to find in romance books; they have flaws but genuinely care about each other and their families, and find a way to work things out. Enjoy the slow burn too!

Rating: 4.8
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Vegas Wedding, Fake Marriage, Family/Sacrifice, Slow Burn, Only One Bed
Pair with: Champagne or sparkling wine (and maybe a lemon drop shot?). For Emma’s fancy family, there’s always the classic Dom Perignon. For more realistic, consider Kirkland Signature Brut Champagne ($20) or Richebel Brut Sparkling Champagne ($10 at Total Wine).

I’ve loved The Simple Wild for so long, read it more than any other book, but didn’t think I could do it justice with a review. I still can’t, but I’m going to try. The Simple Wild was my first love in the romance genre, and the romance that sticks with me, though there’s so much more to it that the romantic story. Is it really a romance? Not in the rom-com sense, but in the heartfelt story between Calla and Jonah. Their relationship, plus the other beautiful storylines, people, setting—everything—get me every time.

Twenty-four years ago, at age two, Calla left rural Alaska with her mom, fleeing the harsh and unforgiving life. Calla’s dad, Wren, stayed in Alaska and never visited her or tried to be part of her life. But a stranger calls Calla, tells her Wren has cancer, and asks her to come to Alaska. This could be her last chance to get to know him—does she want to? She’s happy and comfortable in Toronto; why go to the middle of nowhere chasing the father who abandoned her?

But off she goes, completely ill-equipped for the Alaskan wilderness and way of life. Rugged and hot as hell pilot Jonah sees only a spoiled princess who never cared about her dad, and is determined to knock her down a peg or three. As Calla and Jonah spend more time together and figure out what they have in common rather than what divides them, a strong bond forms and even stronger feelings develop in a slow burn. But Calla knows she’ll never stay in rural Alaska and Jonah knows he’ll never leave, so whatever is between them has an expiration date, right? Guess you’ll have to find out.

And there’s the relationship between Calla and Wren—a heart-wrenching story of a father and daughter finding their way, listening to each other, truly seeing into each other’s thoughts and feelings, learning what happened over the years. Add in the other relationships and people: the complex love between Calla’s parents, her relationship with her adorable stepdad, what family means to different people.

One snowy December evening, Laurie looks out the window of a crowded London bus and sees the One, the most riveting main she’s ever seen. Jack looks up from the bus stop and locks eyes with a beautiful girl and freezes. Their eyes lock and they have the most intense moment of connection. And then the bus pulls away.

Laurie spends the next year looking for him, then, surprise, she’s introduced to him as her best friend, Sarah’s, new boyfriend. Then it’s years of life apart, Jack with Sarah and a string of girlfriends, Laurie with a sexy and mostly good guy, Oscar.

Laurie and Jack get there HEA in epic, true romance style! I don’t want to give away even a little clue, as the ending is unexpected and so worth just letting it hit you. I listened to the ending five times on audiobook and read it another three times to see if it was equally riveting. I know, a bit sad, but I couldn’t get enough of the complete joy Josie Silver infused in this slow burn story and these characters.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Tropes: Love at First Sight, Forbidden Love, Love Triangle-ish, Slow Burn
Pair With: Champagne

Accidental Attachment is hilarious from the start! Has anyone else accidentally sent the wrong attachment to an email? I know I have, though luckily it wasn’t a sexy romance book about my boss…

Brooke’s successful book trilogy is turning into a Netflix series, and she has to keep the momentum going with her next book. But, she refers to her draft—due now—as a heaping pile of garbage. So she gets a little drunk working up the courage to send this pile of garbage to Chase, her dreamy editor. She quickly hits send before she can rethink it (again), and two weeks later, she finds out she sent him the steamy fantasy she wrote about him.

And he loves it. And he’s betting his job that it’ll be a best-seller. And it needs to get edited in a few short weeks. So Chase joins her on the Netflix tour as her RV driver and off they go…

The banter between Brooke and Chase make the book so much fun, and the buildup of the slow burn to when they finally give in really works. Chase was the absolute best—he might have actually needed a few more flaws to make him a real person. There was some hate about this book taking too long to get going, but that didn’t really bother me (and I’m good with a slow burn when done well), but there is some repetition and it could have been shorter. Maybe I just liked Chase so much that I didn’t care!

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Tropes: Road Trip, Colleagues, Writer/Editor, Proximity, Slow Burn
Pair With: RoadTrip Wines