Thanks to TikTok’s community of book lovers, a.k.a. BookTok, erotic novels have gone mainstream. Readers, especially fans of spicy stories, have taken to the platform to share their new favorite BDSM books and discuss fan theories (you may even run into smutty character fan art). If BookTok’s spicy obsession has proved anything, it's that flipping through several hundred pages of sexy prose is fun and nothing to be embarrassed about. So, please come (no pun intended) with us into a whole new world of erotic novels with stunning sex.
Erotica often gets labeled a "guilty pleasure," and while, I mean, yes—there are many campy books to read, some of which are on this list—there are plenty of erotic novels that overlap with genre and literary fiction. Some of these books have inspired Golden Globe-nominated shows, after all (hi, Outlander!). In other words, erotic novels are fun, they're sexy, and they can be prestigious. I mean, where else could you find hot billionaires, rugged war heroes, professors that don't mind giving you a "D" (jokes!), or actors who are just as hot on the screen as they are off? Nowhere but NSFW stories!
Whether you’re a newbie looking to dip your feet into one of the hottest genres on the planet, or a returning reader in search of a new title to pore over, this list has something hot for everyone. Because everyone has a different comfort level on the subject, we’ve arranged this list according to spice level: Mild, meaning plot-driven stories with a few sex scenes thrown in; Medium, a happy middle ground between plot and sex; and Hot, the steamiest of stories for when you couldn’t care less about what actually happens. So without further ado, here are some of the best erotic novels that will leave you seriously blushing and maybe, just maybe, needing a cold shower afterward.
Mild-Level Erotic Novels
These are the kind of books that make for the perfect introduction into erotica. These books either have plenty of PG-rated (compared to the rest of the stories on this list) smut, or have less than a handful of sexy scenes. The sex scenes may even be of the fade-to-black type, which leaves all the steaminess to your imagination. All in all, though, each erotic novel below is filled with thoughtful prose and a great love story that will make your heart flutter.
The year is 1497, and Scottish Jennifer Merrick finds herself agreeing to marry a much older man to please her father. But that never happens, because Jennifer and her step-sister Brenna are taken by Englishman Lord Royce Westmoreland (known as the Black Wolf) as a hostage. They should be enemies, but something keeps drawing them closer.
A hot professor by the name of Gabriel Emerson falls in love with his graduate student Julia Mitchell, even though it's forbidden. (Does this trope ever get old? The answer is no.) Hardcore fans deem it as the professor and student version of Fifty Shades of Grey, albeit with a lot less sex scenes, so you know we had to spread the word.
To quote Roxane Gay's blurb, "This book truly is as charming as it is sexy." And not just because of the bedroom scenes (of which there are many, but lean on the "fade to black" kind), but because of the nuance with which the love story—between a black woman and white man who meet in an elevator—is told.
Where would this list be without a historical romance book? Isolde Ophelia Goodnight (yes, that's her name) is a 26-year-old woman who has never been kissed. Deciding that there is no such thing as fairy tales, she decides to give up love, but life has a couple of surprises for her. Let's just say, it all starts with a Duke and an empty castle.
Call Me by Your Name is so much more than an "erotic novel" (though there's plenty of eroticism). It's a coming-of-age story filled with beautiful prose and, more than that, it's a reflection on the all-consuming power of love and attraction. The movie is great, but the book is a masterpiece.
Arguably the best thing about the Netflix series Bridgerton was how it started out like a lush, innocent romp through estates and high society and marriageable men and women and then, out of now, BAM! Some of the steamiest sex scenes we've ever seen on TV. So why not read the series of Bridgerton books that inspired those scenes, and start here: The Duke and I is about a naïve young woman who gets married off to a tempestuous Duke who loves her and, in return, teaches her the ways of love.
What is it about stories that revolve around sex and Paris? Two great tastes that go great together. Here, a moody Russian artist in 1920s Paris is in pursuit of inspiration and finds it in a gorgeous young American visiting the city. The two women have a hot and heavy romance, and the resulting art from her new muse pushes the artist to creative heights. But a looming world war and a stock market crash threaten to cut the party short.
Best-selling erotica novelist Eva meets reclusive literary author Shane meet at an event and sparks fly. Little does their literary circle know, though, that the two previously spent one sexy week together during their teenage years. Now as adults, their chemistry is hotter than ever but Eva isn’t sure she can trust Shane after her teen heartbreak.
This classic love story from Judy Blume (yes, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Superfudge Judy Blume) is a raw coming-of-age story about first love, complete with all of the awkward and beautiful sexual moments that come with it.
Medium-Level Erotic Novels
You can think of these medium-level spice stories as the bridge between sexy romance novels and full-on smut. In each of these erotic novels, there’s a healthy balance between plot and sex. Here, spicy scenes don’t carry the story, but they certainly don’t hurt it either. If you’re like me and love an amazing story and characters mixed with a generous amount of smut, these are the books for you.
Stella Lane, who's on the autism spectrum, wants to get better at all things physical so she can find the husband her parents expect her to have. Since it's the 21st century, she hires escort Michael Phan, a Vietnamese and Swedish sex god of sorts who agrees to help Stella out. We're not one for spoilers, but the steaminess of this book will definitely fog up some windows.
Actress Caidence Harris has just landed a role in a new police drama and to say she's thrilled is an understatement, especially when she gets to work with mega A-lister Robyn Ward. Caidence wants to be more than just friends with her co-star, but Robyn doesn't seem to want the same...or so Caidence thought.
If you thought Outlander the show was sexy, you have no idea what's coming. The Outlander novels are about a time-traveling nurse who finds herself in 18th-century Scotland, where she falls for a Highlander. The catch? She's definitely married and her husband is living in the future.
This book had me at "Schitt's Creek-inspired rom-com." It follows Hollywood socialite Piper whose out-of-control partying lands her in prison and subsequently cut off financially by her father. He ships her and her sister off to Washington, where she meets a sexy, surly fisherman named Brendan. He thinks she won't last in their small coastal town for more than a week, and she's determined to prove him wrong. If you're a fan of the "grumpy guy meets sunshine girl," you're going to want to pick this one up.
TikTok (and myself) are obsessed with the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, but to label it as pure smut would be a huge discredit to Maas's incredible storytelling, world-building, and character development. The fourth installment focuses on the eldest Acheron sister, Nesta, who, let's just say has turned cold since the events of the last few books, and Cassian, the Fae general who may be the only one who can thaw her icy attitude. This book is definitely the steamiest of the series so far with plenty of hot-as-hell sex scenes, but its story is so much more than that. Hence why we've given it a "Medium" rating.
Hot-Level Erotic Novels
Be prepared to get all hot and bothered while reading these books. These are the type of stories not for the faint of heart—books where any kind of plot takes the backseat to intense, spicy sex. They explore all kinds of fantasies and kinks with language that would make your grandma faint. We wouldn’t blame you if you were a bit too embarrassed to pull these out on your subway ride…or if you read them with one hand (wink, wink).
We're talking three wealthy brothers (Gabe, Jace, and Ash) who can get anything and anyone with the snap of their fingers—except Mia Crestwell, their best friend's little sister. But, when they run into Crestwell and discover she's not the girl they used to know, all bets are off and it's game on.
Get this: a psychologist goes on tour with one of the hottest bands in the world and has to keep it professional. As they travel across the country, she starts to fall for the lead singer, and one thing leads to another. Get ready to blush, like, a lot.
Sexual fantasies are unique and individual and this is a book that understands that. Per Night Shift's Amazon description: "Your mission: In a sketchy and sexy world filled with tissues, gallons of lube, sex toys, tiger print, and swinger parties, help Taryn choose her way as she learns what happens in this small, unexpectedly kinky town. From butt plugs to cross-dressing truckers to being held-up at gunpoint over dildos, experience this fun and sexy journey along with Taryn, as she goes from shy and sweet to skilled and empowered—but how she gets there is up to you!" So. In.
If you like your erotic fantasy with an extra dose of fantasy, the vampire-heavy Black Dagger Brotherhood series is can't-miss. The series is regularly name-dropped in lists of books with the hottest sex scenes and this New York Times best-selling series has 19 entries and counting to keep your blood flowing primarily below the waist.
Best-selling author Sylvia Day's series takes you through a complicated web of 20-something Eva Tramell and billionaire Gideon Cross' love lives. Their relationship begins as an "office" romance—they work in the same building—and develops into an emotional roller coaster as both characters deal with past sexual abuse and secrets they've buried.
Alayna Withers is recovering from a "love disorder" that involves stalking charges (so many questions). She's finally getting her life together when she meets her new boss—a dashing man who could cause Alayna to revert to her old habits. Next book club read?
You know how we said there are plenty of campy reads in the erotica genre? This one definitely falls into that category. In case you missed the premise during your TikTok scroll (BookTok is obsessed with this one!), it follows a group of women who have been abducted by big, blue, attractive (?) aliens who take them to their icy home planet. Am I embarrassed to have this on my to-read list? Yes, but I'm going to have a hell of time enjoying it.
If you were weirdly obsessed with Greek mythology growing up (I blame the Percy Jackson series), this is the much more adult way to get your fix. Katee Robert, who writes some of BookTok's favorite fantasy romances, tackles the myth of Hades and Persophone in Neon Gods. Basically, this story puts a modern spin on the love story of the God of the underworld and the Goddess of spring with the addition of lots of sex, which means we'll be adding this to our carts immediately.
Don't let the cutesy rom-com cover fool you. This book will introduce you to your new book boyfriend: Nate, captain of his town's hockey team who also happens to have an insanely dirty mouth. When Nate meets the hard-working figure skater Anastasia, sparks fly and the two find themselves stuck together in more ways than one. This one is an especially fun read when you're in need of a lighthearted, sexy romance.
You know when a book has a content warning in its description, it's going to be seriously hot. This story follows Alex, a.k.a. a super hot alphahole with a tragic past. The only thing that can thaw his icy heart, of course, is his best friend's sister, Ava. This one has the makings of a classic smutty romance: a morally-gray male main character, a bed-sharing scene, and the opposites-attract trope.
In my opinion, the enemies-to-lovers trope is the best trope in romances. There's something about a couple hating each other that turns into the fiercest chemistry. The characters of Restore Me definitely fall into that category. Sloane, a widow, suddenly starts to see her late husband's best friend in a new light after years of hating him. Meanwhile, Dominic has secretly been pining after Sloane the entire time. Eventually, these two collide in a hugely sexy way.
Brooke Knappenberger is the Editorial Fellow at Marie Claire, where she writes across the board from fashion and beauty to books and celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, Brooke obsessively consumes and writes about the latest movie releases, streaming TV shows, and celebrity scandals. She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.
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