There is something so alluring about the fake-dating trope. Two people, both with their own agendas, who agree to help each other out by coupling for what they think will be a short time… until they inevitably fall into long-term love. Reading about that process, the evolution from indifference to interest or hate to lust then love, has entranced romance lovers for decades and if you’re one of them, we recommend checking out the list below.
From a woman desperate to bring a date to her sister’s wedding to a Hollywood superstar who’s fallen out of grace and needs to revamp his public image, here are 10 contemporary fake-dating romances that we highly recommend!
Sandhya Menon’s 10 Things I Hate About Pinky is set in the same universe as her first two YA novels, When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie, so fans get the opportunity to see some of their faves in passing, which is always a treat.
The book is light-hearted and romantic, but also tackles the family issues of the characters with grace. And, like many other books on this list, Pinky also has strong enemies-to-lovers vibes, so it’s like a two-for-one special of some of our favorite tropes!
The Spanish Love Deception opens with a bang, as Lina laments her lack of date for her sister’s wedding in Spain to her best friend, Lisa. \
Why does she need a date so desperately? Well, her ex-boyfriend will be there, too. As the best man. And he’s engaged. When Lina’s co-worker, Aaron, overhears their conversation, he offers to go with her as her (fake) date. Except, Lina despises him.
Initially independently published in early 2021, Armas’s debut was picked up and re-released by Simon & Schuster later that year after it became a BookTok sensation.
Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billing, the co-writing duo who go by the pen name Christina Lauren, are fan favorites of the contemporary romance genre, and The Unhoneymooners is a great example of why.
In it, identical twin Olive is set to be maid of honor in her sister’s nuptials, opposite her nemesis and best man, Ethan. But after everyone in the wedding party comes down with food poisoning except for the two of them, the two of them head off on the all-expenses-paid (and non-refundable) honeymoon Olive’s sister and her new husband were supposed to take.
Hijinks ensue (but of course) when Olive runs into her future boss at the resort, and she and Ethan are forced to pretend to be newlyweds. A joyful, lighthearted read.
Do you prefer your fake dating set in high school? Then Tashie Bhuiyan’s YA debut is the book for you!
Counting Down with You features a responsible South Asian girl struggling under the weight of her parents’ expectations, who starts tutoring (and then, of course, fake-dating) the bad boy at her high school, who turns out not to be such a bad-boy after all (he offers to buy her a dozen books a weekif she goes along with his fake dating scheme… which, like, yes please, sign us up!!).
Warning: the book is hilarious. It features a main character, Luc, whose growth has been stunted by his very famous, very messy parents, who is thrust back into the media spotlight when his rockstar father (who, incidentally, he’s never met in person) starts to make a career comeback. Luc has a work event coming up with Very Important donors and needs a date who can help convince them he’s a stable, boring guy.
Cue barrister Oliver Blackwood.
Talia Hibbert called Boyfriend Material a “quintessentially British romcom about a certified chaos demon and a stern brunch daddy with a heart of gold faking a relationship,” and we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. (PS: a sequel, Husband Material, drops on August 2!)
Dani Brown is smart, sassy, and realistic—she loves sex, but after getting burned too many times, she no longer wants anything to do with relationships. Enter Zarif, a security guard at Dani’s work, who saves her life one day…an act which someone catches on film. And it goes viral. Like, very viral.
Zarif runs a sport charity for kids (he is literally the best human) and this is the publicity he needs to get the donations it needs, so he manages to convince a reluctant Dani to fake-date him for the internet. The second in her Brown sisters series, Hibbert’s Take a Hint is witty, swoony, and an all-around fantastic read.
Already considered a romance classic by some, Helen Hoang’s debut opens when Stella, an econometrician whose mother keeps threatening to set her up on blind dates, decides she needs more practice… at sex.
So, she does what anyone would do in that situation: she hires an escort as a teacher. And, as it happens, they turn out to have incredible chemistry.
The Kiss Quotient has been called a “reverse Pretty Woman,” and it’s equal parts steamy, funny and smart.
Okay if you haven’t read this one and you’re a fan of this trope… get thee to your local indie bookstore or library immediately! Now that you’re back, we will continue.
This charming debut tackles fake-dating in an academic setting, which makes sense given Hazelwood herself is a professor (of neuroscience, no less). The chemistry between our heroine Olive and her fake boyfriend Adam Carlsen sparkles off the page from the jump, when Olive plants an unexpected kiss on him to convince her best friend, Anh, that she’s over the last guy she dated (who Anh happens to have a giant crush on). A must-read.
Jenny Han’s YA classic To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is beloved for many reasons, a big one being the fake-dating-to-real-love relationship at its core, between Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky.
Over the course of her life, Lara Jean has written secret love letters to all the boys she’s ever liked… letters not intended for anyone’s eyes but hers. But, when they’re unexpectantly mailed out to those very boys, she finds herself in the midst of by a very awkward situation, particularly with one of the recipients, who just so happens to also be her older sister’s ex-boyfriend.
She has to convince him that she’s not actually interested in him… which she does by lying about the fact she’s dating someone. Enter Peter Kavinsky, who wants to make his ex-girlfriend jealous. Sparks fly, of course. If you haven’t read this one or caught the (incredible) Netflix version, please do yourself a favor and go check them out ASAP!
We had the pleasure of reading Wilder’s debut early—-it’s out June 14—and fans of the fake dating trope will definitely want to pick this book up when it releases in June.
In How to Fake It in Hollywood, prolific actor Ethan Atkins is struggling with the aftermath of his best friend’s death, and through his reckless behavior become quite the pariah in the film industry. Enter Grey Brooks, a TV actress whose long running teen show has come to an end and ever since her acting opportunities have all but dried up. They’re connected through their PR agent, and immediately… hate each other, but agree to fake-date for their careers.
If you’ve ever wondered whether certain celeb couples are actually dating (ahem we’re looking at you, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello), this is the book for you. Wilder deftly balances serious topics (Ethan’s alcoholism, for example) with the steamy hate-to-love romance at the book’s center
Honorable mentions: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon and upcoming releases The Bodyguard by Katherine Center (out July 19) and The Decoy Girlfriend by Lillie Vale (out September 6).
Liz Lawson is the author of “The Lucky Ones, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020, and the upcoming YA mystery The Agathas, which she co-wrote with NYT Bestselling author Kathleen Glasgow. She lives outside of Washington DC with her family and two bratty cats.