10+ New Zealand romance books to heat up your winter

Romance author and Sir Julius Vogel Award-winner Marie Cardno shares her favourite New Zealand romance writers whose books are bound to warm the cockles this winter.

10 NZ Romance

Aotearoa's romance authors have topped bestseller lists and won the hearts of loyal readers worldwide. For those new to the world of loved-up fiction, there's a lot to discover beneath the covers. The romance book landscape has a craggy range of subgenres such as romantasy, cosy, paranormal, historical and Regency. There are also popular tropes that help fans identify their favourite stories such as 'only one bed', 'hating to dating', 'grumpy sunshine' and 'fake dating'.

While some romance writers publish through traditional publishers, others have made their careers by self-publishing, making their books available to a global audience in print, ebook and audiobook.

Here are some of my top romantic picks from several subgenres to warm up your winter. They represent only a fraction of the locally written romance waiting for you to pick it up.


Nicky Pellegrino

In the dark depths of winter, it's easy to see the appeal of spring and summer in Italy and the allure of many of Nicky Pellegrino's books. The next best thing (and a far less expensive option) to packing yourself away on an international getaway is picking up one of Pellegrino's Italian-set romances. The Tāmaki Makaurau-based author's most recent, PS Come to Italy, is hot-man-in-a-hot-location wish fulfilment with a pen pal love story. When protagonist Belle's life in New Zealand is turned upside down, her strongest supporter is a handsome stranger on the other side of the world who invites her to join him in Puglia. Will the reality live up to the dream promised by a distant stranger's letters? This is romance, not a thriller, so of course it will, and we'll enjoy every minute of it.

PS Come to Italy is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook nationwide.

Catherine Robertson

After a career penning books in the much-contested women's fiction genre (also known as general fiction and commercial fiction), Catherine Robertson is diving into romance proper with her latest series — and romance readers can't wait. The Flora Valley series brings more heat and more puns with a promise of sun, fun, and enough descriptions of wine that you'll want a glass to accompany your reading…

Book one in the Flora Valley series, Corkscrew You, is an enemies-to-lovers, grumpy-sunshine romcom where she's the freewheeling recent inheritor of a failing winery, and he's the hardline businessman brought in to make the money work. Lots of spice (newbies, that's the term for sexy content) and, and a fun cast of secondary characters that will make you want to revisit Flora Valley.

Corkscrew, you will be available in paperback and ebook nationwide starting July 2024.

Erin Palmisano

A little bit Chocolat, a little bit Mamma Mia, The Secrets of the Little Greek Taverna, the debut by Nelson author Erin Palmisano, is another taste of escape-to-somewhere-warm-with-delicious-food. This time, it's to a Greek island and a taverna with a tragic history. This story has romance, a strong female friendship, a gorgeous setting, and a hint of magic. Best friends, sassy or otherwise, are a stalwart of the genre still, it's refreshing to read a romance in which the protagonist's new friendship with another woman is given space to build on the page, and the cast of secondary characters all have their own stories to tell.

Pair this book with something sparkling and as many savoury delights as your fridge provides. Palmisano's partner is a chef, and they both run a bevy of restaurants in Nelson; The Secrets of the Little Greek Taverna will leave you as hungry for a day exploring the Greek islands.

The Secrets of the Little Greek Taverna is available in paperback, ebook and audio.

Ali K Mulford

A bestseller both as a self-published and traditionally published author for The Five Crowns of Okrith series (under the name A.K. Mulford), the author switched up genres and pen names for the Prickle Island Zoo series, which is as adorable as it sounds. Beginning with She's a Keeper and Easy. Tiger and inspired by Mulford's experiences as a wildlife biologist, the Prickle Island Zoo series follows the (mis)adventures of a family who, you guessed it, run a zoo on an island.

There are mischievous monkeys, pernickety penguins and even snuggly snakes. And the human characters aren't bad either. Each book follows one sibling and the love interest that seems the least likely person in the world to be perfect for them— and yet…

The series so far features M/F and F/F pairings and neurodiverse characters.

She's a Keeper, and Easy, Tiger are available in paperback and ebook from Amazon.

10+ NZ Romance Novels

Lucy Parker

Anyone who has ever binged far too much of the Great British Bakeoff will immediately recognise the inspiration for Battle Royal, book one in Lucy Parker's Palace Insiders series. Four years ago, pastry chef Sylvie Fairchild was voted off a show that is definitely-not-Bakeoff by starchy and definitely-not-inspired-by-exactly-who-you're-thinking judge, Dominic De Vere. Now, they're competing on opposite sides of the event of the century for who gets to design the royal wedding cake. This is delicious sunshine vs. grumpy, princess vs. palace fiction and book two, Codename Charming, is just as moreish.

Battle Royal and Codename Charming are available in paperback and ebook.

(Bridgerton fans, mark your calendars: Parker's upcoming audio-first release, Misdirected, follows two actors on a hot-in-all-meanings-of-the-word period drama. They hate each other on-screen and off; or do they?)

Jay Hogan

Romances can feel like they exist in a slightly different world than the one we live in, even if the setting doesn't include literal magic. Jay Hogan's gay romances set in Aotearoa, by contrast, combine wish fulfilment with grounded and realistic settings, characters and experiences. Refreshingly, although Logan writes for an international audience, she doesn't exoticise her New Zealand settings and characters; this is New Zealand as New Zealand readers will recognise it, not filtered through a tourism lens.

Hogan's latest release, The Science of Attraction, is available in ebook and paperback from Amazon.


Emily Larkin

Larkin writes historical romance with a twist of fairytale magic. Her Baleful Godmother series follows a family blessed (or cursed?) with a fairy godmother whose magic sometimes gets in the way. The fairy godmother helps the characters find true love and enables the author and characters to play with concepts of gender and class in the pseudo-historical setting. There are eleven books in total, covering all the various siblings, cousins and parents' attempts to outwit, outrun or exploit their magic in search of their own happily-ever-after.

All titles, including Unmasking Miss Appleby are available widely in ebook format and from Amazon in paperback.


Nalini Singh

Start reading now and by Christmas you still won't have finished the backlist of books by Nalini Singh, the NZ queen of paranormal romance. And by then she will have written even more new books to catch up on. Singh's two long-running paranormal series, the Guild Hunter books and Psy/Changeling series (and spin-off) are both set in contemporary worlds similar to our own, but in which the alternative Earths have been shaped, and are ruled, by supernatural creatures. Magic empowers and endangers in equal parts.

The latest book in the Guild Hunter series, Archangel's Lineage, is available in paperback and ebook.

Steffanie Holmes

Think The Addams Family but with more sex and murder; Steffanie Holmes specialises in spooky, kooky paranormal romance. New readers should start immediately with her long-running Nevermore Bookshop series, in which Mina, having been excluded from her future career by her disability, finds herself working at a bookshop. The store is staffed by what is revealed to be a collection of (extremely hot) fictional characters who have stepped (hotly) from the page into real life. Mina also appears in the companion series Grimdale Graveyard Mysteries.

Steffanie Holmes is legally blind, and both the Nevermore Bookshop and Grimdale Graveyard Mysteries series feature characters with vision impairment.

The Grimdale Graveyard Mysteries and the Nevermore Bookshop series including A Dead and Stormy Night are available in ebook from Amazon and in paperback.

AJ Lancaster

Downton Abbey meets Howl's Moving Castle in AJ Lancaster's charming Stariel series, beginning with Lord of Stariel. The story follows Hetta, the black sheep of her family who ran off to the capital to work in a magical theatre instead of behaving like an upstanding young noblewoman should. When Hetta returns home, she becomes embroiled in a mystery that combines family and local politics with an unexpected friends-to-lovers romance. The fifth book in the series, A Rake of His Own, is a standalone gay romance between Hetta's brother and an unsuitable fae prince.

The series including A Rake of His Own is available in ebook from Amazon, audio from Audible, and in paperback.

And a few words to close: if you opened this article armed with a pre-emptive defense of the genre, as though there's something inherently shameful about books written to entertain. Stand down. What is the point of books if not to make you feel? Well beyond these ten titles, there's so much to enjoy and to celebrate in the local branch of the world's bestselling, best-loved, though oft-maligned genre—romance.

Marie Cardno is a New Zealand author of fantasy and paranormal romance. Her debut, How to Get a Girlfriend (When You're a Terrifying Monster), won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novella. Find her online at Instagram.com/mariecardno or www.mariecardno.com

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  • 10+ New Zealand romance books to heat up your winter