14 emotionally gripping romance books like ‘Ugly Love’

14 emotionally gripping romance books like ‘Ugly Love’

In Reading Lists by Lanie Pemberton

14 emotionally gripping romance books like ‘Ugly Love’

There’s nothing like a Colleen Hoover novel when it comes to pulling those heartstrings. A BookTok favorite, CoHo has a singular talent for writing emotionally compelling journeys, just like the one that plays out in Ugly Love

If you’re reading this post, you know the story: Nursing student Tate and airline pilot Miles start a no-strings-attached situationship, until feelings develop. But if Tate and Miles are ever going to take the next step, Miles will have to confront a traumatic past and let Tate in.

This book has it all, including character growth, emotional depth, shocking reveals, and enough steam to power an engine. “Unputdownable” is an understatement, so it’s no wonder readers look for books similar to Ugly Love. (I sure did, but only after relishing Tate and Mile’s happily ever after.)

When you’re ready to embark on another emotional rollercoaster ride, here is your go-to list of books to read if you like Ugly Love. My personal favorite? One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid — an author like Colleen Hoover who can simultaneously break my heart and heal my soul.

1. Confess by Colleen Hoover

Naturally, the best place to search for books like Ugly Love is in Hoover’s own catalog. Confess lives up to the author’s reputation for books filled with passionate love, weighty secrets, and tough choices. This novel’s MMC (male main character) even shares a similar backstory with Ugly Love’s Miles.

Auburn is still grieving a loss from years ago when she steps into an art gallery looking for a job. There, she meets Owen, and their instant attraction sends Auburn reeling. But Owen’s dark past — and a jealous friend of Auburn’s — may keep the two from a happy ending. 


2. Twisted Love by Ana Huang

Looking for spicy books like Ugly Love? Huang’s slow-burn tale features several of our favorite romance tropes plus lots of steam. 

Despite being wealthy, handsome, and intelligent, Alex Volkov shuts people out due to a dark past. Only his best friend’s sister, Ava, a kindhearted woman with demons of her own, can break through Alex’s formidable facade. Their growing relationship is passionate and, as the title suggests, somewhat twisted.

This Bookstagram favorite is the first entry in Huang’s Twisted series.

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3. Blurred Lines by Lauren Layne

Ever since they met in college, Parker and Ben have been inseparable — proving that men and women can be just friends. But when Parker’s long-term boyfriend dumps her, she and Ben finally cross the line from friends-and-roommates to friends-with-benefits. 

No feelings, no romance, just hot sex with the person they feel most comfortable with. At least, that was the plan. But when Parker’s ex comes crawling back, Ben realizes he’s not ready to let go. 

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4. My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Millie and Reid, both college professors, need dates for an upcoming work gala, so they hit the apps. But first, they share a steamy half-night together. When Millie stumbles upon Reid’s profile, she swipes right and — hiding her true identity — opens up to her friend and colleague like never before.

When their online relationship starts to interfere with real-life feelings, Millie must be honest or risk losing Reid forever. 

Written by our favorite author duo, BFFs Lauren Billings and Christina Hobbs, My Favorite Half-Night Stand is more lighthearted than Ugly Love yet still manages to deliver emotional breakthroughs and a love worth rooting for.


5. Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Hibbert makes fake-dating one’s way to real love feel so good in this installment of The Brown Sisters series

Danika Brown is a career-driven bisexual woman who’s so over romance. Still, she agrees to fake-date security guard Zafir after a video of him “rescuing” her from a botched office fire drill pops off on social media — a scheme that helps him gain good publicity for his nonprofit.

Danika may prefer no strings, but Zafir’s a classic romantic, and the pair soon finds themselves supporting each other despite mental health challenges, painful pasts, and more.

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6. The Summer Girl by Elle Kennedy

Spending the summer in Avalon Bay means sunshine, relaxation, and hopefully a spicy fling for 21-year-old Cassie. She sets her sights on Tate, who’s equal parts attractive, sweet, and fun-loving. It doesn’t take long for Tate to realize Cassie means more to him than a casual good time — but a well-kept town secret could destroy any hope for their future.

Will their hookup lead to heartbreak or a happy ending? As in Ugly Love, the couple in this standalone entry in Kennedy’s Avalon Bay series has a lot to overcome, but each sweet, sexy moment makes the journey worthwhile. 

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7. The Pact by Karina Halle

Linden and Stephanie are long-time platonic friends who make a pact: If they’re both still single when they hit 30, they’ll get together. As their 30th birthdays approach, both feel ready to commit, but Linden’s jealous best friend threatens to snuff out any spark of romance. 

Friends-to-lovers with a side of emotional turmoil — Halle’s novel will remind you of Ugly Love in all the best ways.

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8. One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Like CoHo, Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) writes romance with poignancy, unafraid to take her readers on often-painful journeys. Of course, this only makes the resolutions more impactful and memorable. 

One True Loves, which inspired a 2023 film adaptation, is a story of divided love, impossible choices, and following one’s heart. After her first husband, Jesse, disappears over the Pacific Ocean, Emma Blair spends years trying to move on. When she’s finally engaged to another man, Jesse is miraculously found — alive. 

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9. The Simple Wild by K. A. Tucker

The wilderness of Alaska is the last place you’d expect to find a city girl like Calla. However, a plea from her estranged father brings her back to the remote town she was born in. As she attempts to connect with a man she hardly knows yet can’t help but care for, she also collides with Jonah, a pilot who makes it clear as day that Calla doesn’t belong. 

Despite how different they are, Calla and Jonah can’t help but slowly fall for each other. Tucker’s story about unlikely romance, reconnecting with one’s roots, and the complexities of family will satisfy fans of Ugly Love, or any other Hoover novel. 


10. Luck of the Draw by Kate Clayborn

When a guilt-ridden lawyer wins the lottery, she tries to make amends to a grieving family her firm wronged and winds up in a fake engagement scheme. Forced proximity leads to complicated feelings, but real love doesn’t stand a chance if both parties can’t let go of the past.

Clayborn’s novel about forgiving others — and yourself — rings authentic because of its layered characters and their rocky road to redemption. 

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11. November 9 by Colleen Hoover

Here’s another Hoover novel to sink your teeth into.

In a twist of fate, Fallon and Ben meet the day before Fallon moves across the country. Their connection is undeniable, so they agree to meet every year on the same date. The bond between them grows stronger year after year until a terrible discovery threatens to tear them apart forever. 

In classic Hoover style, November 9 engages readers with slow-building intimacy and shocking revelations you won’t soon forget. Like Miles and Tate, the couple in this story must work through secrets, painful emotions, and doubts before they can succumb to love.

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12. After the Rain by Renée Carlino

Carlino’s second-chance romance sparks a full spectrum of emotions, from angst and sadness to hope and joy. Of course, that’s why we love books like this and Ugly Love — because they give us permission to feel our feelings and see ourselves in the characters.

Ava and Nate are both grieving — she for a lost love, and he for a carefully planned future that may never come to pass. Everything changes when their paths cross on a Montana ranch, but broken hearts are slow to trust, let alone fall in love.

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The last thing Feyi expected after losing the love of her life five years ago was a flirtatious encounter with a stranger who understands her grief. And then falling in love with the stranger’s father? Definitely not in her plans, either. 

Emezi’s literary fiction exploration of love, loss, and moving on is as beautifully written as it is divisive, and that’s why we adore it — because real love is rarely straightforward, and we want to see these complexities in the stories we read.


14. Terms and Conditions by Lauren Asher

Before Declan can claim his ample inheritance, he has to fulfill one small obligation laid out by his grandfather: Get married and have a child. 

Okay, maybe not so small after all. 

Declan’s assistant, Iris, agrees to marry him and play the part of smitten wife. When the line between acting and feeling starts to blur, Declan must overcome his fear of intimacy for a chance at something real.

Just like in Ugly Love, Asher’s billionaire romance novel shows how the best-laid plans to stay unattached are no match for true connection and desire.

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About the Author: Lanie Pemberton

Lanie is a San Diego-based freelance writer who loves reading crime thrillers and nonfiction about animals and the natural world. When not writing and reading (or writing about what to read), Lanie spends as much time as possible at the beach with her husband and pampered pittie, Peach.