I’ve loved the epistolary romance trope ever since I read Cinder and Ella by Kelly Oram and This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith as a freshman in high school… although I didn’t know what it was! I affectionately called it “electronic love” or “falling in love through words,” to describe the trope where characters fall in love via letters, email, texts, IMs, or any other method that involves them not actually seeing each other face-to-face.
Something about this trope just makes me warm all over when I read it. It’s friends-to-lovers, with that little bit extra that just makes it so much better and so much cuter. It’s all about the “comma flirtation,” and yes I’m singing Hamilton along to that line, too ?
This post focuses on my favorite epistolary romances I’ve read through the years, so you’ll get a great mix of YA, NA, and Adult books :)
Top Secret by Elle Kennedy
& Sarina Bowen
Top Secret was one of my favorite reads of 2019, and is available on Kindle Unlimited! This book… was so absolutely enthralling. Not only was the plot engaging, but there was an enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers bit thrown in! Luke and Keaton are enemies in real-life (as well as dorm-neighbors), but on the internet they’re friends who heavily flirt.
But this book was no fluff piece – it had a surprising amount of substance and depth for a new adult romance. This book just teems with life through the two characters: Luke, who is a bossy-ass in bed, but whom struggles through life by the tips of his fingers, and Keaton, who was so adorably nerdy, and wore his heart on his sleeve, even for a rich legacy kid. He had amazing animal facts, too! (My Review)
Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata
This one was such a surprise to me when I read it!! It kept me up until 4 a.m. before I finally had to give up and get some shut-eye, it was so immersive. The first half is all of their emailed and IM’d correspondence between Ruby, who signs up to write pen pal letters to a soldier abroad, and Aaron, the soldier who receives the letters. I LOVED reading these messages, they gave a clear idea of the characters before you even get to the second half, where there are actual dialogue and storytelling.
Ms. Zapata did an excellent job in this department because you could see the hesitation and the uncertainty and feelings that were caught even just in the messaging parts, even before we got to the friends-to-lovers meetup in the second half. They’re just so cute (My Review)
The Happy Ever After Playlist
by abby Jimenez
The Happy Ever After Playlist is written as a “standalone (lies)” sequel to one of my favorite books of 2020, The Friend Zone! I … really liked this book :) But you do need to read The Friend Zone first, or you will not get the full scope of the story. This one follows Sloan two years after her world completely fell apart in The Friend Zone, when a dog jumps through the sunroof of her car into the sunroof!
She desperately tries to find and call the owner, but none of her texts or voicemails get answered. After awhile, she’s secretly happy, because the little puppers is finally helping her out from under the shell of grief and depression she’d been lost in before. Turns out, the owner is on tour in Australia and had his American phone off. But when he finally calls Sloan back, she refuses to give the dog back. And thus starteth the text/phone call friendship of the century as Jason flirts – and tries to cajole his dog back. (Read my full review here).
Let’s Get Textual by Teagan Hunter
Let’s Get Textual is such an amazingly fun book!! It’s a wrong-number romantic comedy, where a wrong-number text turns into a fast friendship ? Neither one of them knows what the other person looks like, but it’s not like before they’re watching movies together (and chatting), texting randomly and … crushing hard <3 I loved how absolutely FUN this book was! It was so light-hearted, and Delia and Zach just gave each other so much shit and teasing that reading this one genuinely felt like texting your best friend, or flirting with a new crush.
I felt giddy and excited during a large portion of this book, because fully immersed and in the zone. It was flirty, it was fun and it was HILARIOUS! Even though I love myself a nerdy hero (like Zach), my favorite character wasn’t either the hero nor the heroine! But their pet goat, Marshmellow ? Honestly, I loved this so much. It’s fun, flirty, quick, breezy, and easy… and it’s on Kindle Unlimited :) (Read my full review here).
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
If you’ve heard anything about this book, you may be asking me why it’s on this list. “It’s a story about roommates, isn’t it?? How is that epistolary?” you may ask. And in most (sane) cases, you’d be right! But in this case… you’re dead wrong. Tiffy and Leon are roommates in a one-bedroom flat. But they’ve also never met. See, Tiffy has use of the apartment at night, and Leon, who works the night shift at a hospital, gets the apartment during the day while she’s at work to sleep. And yes… they share the same bed.
Eventually, they start leaving little sticky notes around the apartment. “There’s muffins in the fridge,” “This handle is sticking,” “Can you stop hanging your bra’s all over the doorknobs?” and eventually, their apartment is covered in sticky notes and papers as they have full conversations and tell each other about their day. They do occasionally text, but mostly, they stick paper on random items around the apartment. It’s beautiful, it’s so very odd, but quirky enough to be an absolute delight (Read my full review here).
Other Epistolary Romances to Check Out …
Stay by Sarina Bowen + Elle Kennedy is such a good book! It follows Hailey, the owner of Fetch, an app that connects you with “virtual assistants” to run errands for you, but most specifically, grab something and deliver it to you. Out of dog food, but the baby is asleep? Fetch will go to the store. Etc. Sniper87 is a very flirtatious client that Hailey suspects might be one of her all-time favorite hockey players, and let the flirtation begin! Over the app chat, of course ? ( My Review )
When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare is still one of the sweetest books I remember reading! Shy, awkward, and bookish Madeline, during her first London season, invented a sweetheart away at war to avoid being a dismal failure during the Season. She poured her heart out writing him letters… letters that she though just ran as undelivered, but turns out, a very real Captain MacKenzie was receiving them, and he’s knocking on her door now… ( My Review )
My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren definitely isn’t their best book (in my opinion – that would be The Unhoneymooners, although it has been a while since I’ve read this one.), but the sheer giddiness of it makes up for that. It follows Millie Morris as she is pulled into a dare with her best friends to create dating profiles to find dates to a work gala. She goes along with it but doesn’t get many suitors to her bland profile, so she creates a secret one under a fake name. It’s all well and good… until she matches with one her best friends… and let the flirtation/catfishing begin. ( Goodreads )
I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella was a fun book! Stereotypically rom-com in its narrative, it follows Poppy Wyatt, engaged to who she thinks is the love of her life. But she loses the extremely expensive family-heirloom ring and her phone in a fire drill. But she finds a phone in the trash while she’s searching – finders keepers! But businessman Sam, the owner of the phone, doesn’t agree. He especially doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his life. And thus begins the flurry of texts, calls, and emails as they attempt to upend each other’s lives. So fresh, and absolutely hilarious! ( Goodreads )
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell was a book that I tried to read for a while before I was finally sucked in during a readathon. It follows Lincoln (exclusively) who was hired as an “internet security officer,” where he stays up all night reading everyone’s emails to make sure no one is misusing company property. He flags emails that use flag-worthy words. But he’s drawn to the on-going conversations between best friends and co-workers Beth and Jennifer, who definitely aren’t using their email for solely professional reasons, and who are definitely breaking the rules. But he finds them funny, so he just keeps reading. And falling in love with Beth… and at what point does it become a violation of privacy? ( Goodreads )
Emergency Contact by H.K. Choi is one I’m actually rereading this month for the Gilmore Girl’s readathon, and for my book club book of the month! It follows Sam, who works and sleeps at a cafe, and college student Penny. They cross paths in more of a meet-cute that less cute and way awkward, and swap numbers. Then they text and become best friends and fall in love, of course ? ( Goodreads )
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer is a very emotional book about grief and is one that I read immediately following the death of my dog, Riley. So very emotional, yes ? It follows Juliet, who recently lost her mother, and who writers her mom letters to leave at her headstone twice a week. And twice a week, they are read by Declan, a fellow student and “bad boy” who visits the graveyard for his mandatory community service. He writes at the bottom of one, “Me too,” which sets Juliet off, and she finds him and verbally beats him soundly for it. But then they find themselves leaning on each other ( My Review )
P.S. I Like You by Kasie West follows two high school students who sit at the same desk in Chemistry class, just in different class periods. They doodle on the desk, write some song lyrics, and then one day, he comments on the music choice. She replies. The comments get longer to the point where they start taping notebook paper to the bottom of the desk so their notes have more space. But they don’t know who the other person is. It’s a super lighthearted but fun read, plus it has that cool juxtaposition of an epistolary romance… but in the form of your real-life enemy! ( Goodreads )
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith is a book that I read literally forever ago, but oh well ? It follow Graham, a teenage actor leading a movie, and Ellie, a high schooler who works at an ice cream stand in the summer. One stray email from Graham about his pet pig to the wrong email address (Ellie), and they start up a rapport that has Graham moving the set of his movie to her small town so they can spend the summer together – without her knowing, and without her knowing he’s famous. ( Goodreads )
Epistolary Romances on my TBR…
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What are some of your favorite epistolary/texting romances? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!