A while back, I asked for rec list suggestions, and lo and behold I got some. Among which was recs for college slowburn romances.
Up until I made this list, I didn’t realise how few romances set at university I’d actually read. When it comes to it, I mostly read historical romances rather than contemporary, and when I do get to contemporary, it’s mostly adults (i.e. 26+ and out of college). So this was a little tricky (also there are about zero I know where I might relate to the uni experience because they’re all set in the U. S. of goddamn A., but that’s another story).
But anyway. I found five that I would (to varying extents) rec. So onwards.
Right of First Refusal
On the lacrosse field, Cait Johannssen gets what she wants. Off the field is another story. Because what she wants is the school’s hot new basketball student-coach, Lawrence Mason, who also happens to be the guy who broke her heart in sports camp two years earlier.
But it’s Cait’s new roommate who’s got him.
Cait and Mase agree it’s best to keep their past a secret, but she doesn’t expect him to completely ignore their history…or how much it’ll hurt when he does. So when a friend on the basketball team asks her to pose as his girlfriend for a night, Cait can’t turn down the opportunity for distraction. (Okay, and a little spite.) But what starts as an evening of fun turns into a fake relationship with more lies than the usually drama-free Cait can handle, and it’s only keeping her from the one truth that’s nagged at her for years: Why did Mase cut her out of his life to begin with?
And is it really too late to get him back?
I read this book a while back, and yet it’s still one of the best uni romances I’ve ever read (though that probably says more about the genre as a whole than this one book). But not only is it an excrutiatingly tense slowburn, it’s also a second chance romance. And it’s great.
Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.
But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…
If I ever complete a romance rec list without including at least one Courtney Milan book, please check to see if I’m alright, because she is, hands down, my favourite romance author. Hold Me is definitely my favourite of her contemporary ones so far (though the first book in this series is also excellent). And it features a trans woman mc and a bi mc. Neither of them white.
A Princess in Theory
Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.
Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.
The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?
So it’s a little bit of a cheat in that the main story isn’t set at a uni. But the main character is at uni and, it being my rec list, I’m going to say that counts enough. Also, I just love this whole series a lot and need an excuse to rec it all over the place, thank you.
It’s sophomore year, and Claire Stone has sworn off romance. She’s just gone through a breakup and she wants some time to find out who she is on her own. The only flaw in her plan is her friend (and hot quarterback) Will McKenna, who’s a walking temptation to forget all about her singlehood pledge.
Will has had a thing for Claire since freshman year. Now that they’re both single, he wants more from her than friendship. But Claire doesn’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend right now, and with football season underway, Will’s got issues of his own to deal with.
When an injury on the field changes everything, Will and Claire are driven apart. But when the two of them end up trapped together in a snowstorm, they’re forced to deal with each other again. Can they confront their feelings without ruining their friendship? Or will their friendship turn into something more?
I will confess I do not remember a lot about this book. In fact, about the only thing I remember is that I loved the dynamic of the two leads, and that it used the “trapped in a snowstorm” trope. Make of that what you will.
Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions
Six de los Reyes
Falling in love is a chemical reaction.
Just ask Kaya Rubio, twenty-five year-old Molecular Genetics graduate student and research assistant. Fed up with her spinster aunts’ relentless reminders and unsolicited advice regarding her Single Since Birth status, she designs a scientific, evidence-based methodology to find her a suitable partner in time for her cousin’s wedding. As any good scientist knows, any valid experimental design requires a negative control. Enter the most unsuitable candidate for a potential boyfriend: the messy, easygoing, café owner Nero Sison. Her null hypothesis? Going out with Nero would establish her baseline data without catalyzing the chemical reaction she seeks.
But when Kaya’s recorded results refuse to make sense, she is forced to come to the conclusion that there are some things in life that are simply, by nature, irrational and illogical. And that sometimes, chemistry doesn’t always happen inside a lab.
Moving away from US-based romances (like I wish I could do more often, not gonna lie), this one is instead set in the Philippines. I’ll admit to being slightly on the wrong side of Goodreads opinion on this one, sure, but I still enjoyed it. And it’s definitely something refreshingly different in terms of both the heroine (a scientist!) and the romance itself.
So. What college slowburns would you recommend?