Yep, it’s a post full of romance novels about the geeky and nerdy among us. Video games, programming, hacking, collectible card games, epidemiology, climate change science, neurosurgery, archaeology, the college newspaper, comics, fandom, Victorian fashion, theater… it’s all here. “Geek” pretty much describes everyone who lives in my house, so this roundup is close to my heart. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)
I originally posted this list in 2017, but it’s been refreshed and expanded in 2023 after I re-read many of the books here to make sure I was still enthusiastic about recommending them. However, please let me know via my contact form if you find something yikes in a book I recommend.
If you haven’t read any ‘Nathan Burgoine yet, this M/M contemporary novella would be a great place to start.
IT pro and role-playing game aficionado Owen has a wicked crush on his former physical therapist, Toma, but won’t do anything about it. One of Owen’s friends takes matters into his own hands for April Fool’s and reroutes Owen’s thirsty text messages about Toma to the man himself…
I don’t know how Burgoine pulled it off, but I simultaneously found the prank hilarious (since it was fiction; in real life I am not a prank fan) and totally felt Owen’s anguish when he realized what had happened. I also really liked the past/present structure that let us see how Owen and Toma met, while keeping us grounded in the present storyline that we know is going to end with something sweet. Which it did.
“Clint Devaros is knocking on my door. I’ve got a choice to make. Play it safe or risk my badly burned heart again?”
Adorable little romance short story about two seriously nerdy people who are soooo into each other. Our heroine Puneet did a ton of internet flirting with Clint while thinking he was just some guy at the tech company she’s contracting for. Oops, he turned out to be the rich CEO! Once they get that sorted out, Puneet also has to decide whether she’s open to love. (Spoiler alert: yes.) Thoroughly enjoyable.
“When Paxton agreed to fake date Remi, he didn’t realize they might be his perfect match. A heartwarming asexual romance.
Paxton McKee, Clover Hill’s rideshare driver and handyman, is known by his customers as responsible, dependable, and loyal. On first dates, though, he’s known by another word: boring. His dates never seem to appreciate his in-depth knowledge of famous aviation disasters or his LEGO expertise. His book club buddy, Mrs. Sawyer, keeps trying to set him up. But after so many failed dates, Paxton’s given up on finding someone who can accept him, special interests, stims, and all.
Hand-crafter Remi Sawyer put Clover Hill in their rear-view mirror to sell at craft fairs across the country. But being a traveling artisan is harder than Remi thought. With mounting bills, they’ve ended up back home. Being in their old teenage bedroom is weird. Weirder, their mother keeps trying to set them up on dates, even after they’ve made it clear the homecoming is temporary.
To get Mrs. Sawyer off their backs, Paxton and Remi agree on a scheme: they’ll go on three dates. When it’s over, Paxton can pretend to be heartbroken, and Remi can get back on the road. They even shake on it. But awkward dates lead to the realization the two have a lot in common. Kissing is gross? Check. Spending quiet time doing projects together is enjoyable? Double check.
But Remi is still hell-bent on leaving Clover Hill again, and Paxton is dead-set on staying. Can they find a new vision that doesn’t involve Remi leaving their kindred spirit behind, or are they both destined to lose the person who might be their perfect companion?”
NOTE: This is in “erotica jail” on Amazon, meaning that if you search for it, no results will come up. Follow the link to find it!
Adorable (non-queer) f/m romance novella about an older pop culture professor gal and the hot young man she picks up at the movies. Just for sex, mind you! Not gonna be any feelings here, no way, nope! (And everyone in Romancelandia knows how well THAT always works out.)
It’s an age-difference romance with a nerdy female main character, and I think this should be more well known.
Content Warning on 2023 re-read: Weight talk early in the story.
Charming M/M short story about an afternoon in the life of Allan del Mar, a museum expert, who arrives at the private home of Russell Evers to evaluate a collection of historical photographs for possible donation. The initial attraction between the two becomes slightly more awkward when Allan finds some… very interesting subject matter, as the author puts it, within the collection.
Arbon has such a lovely writing style, and all of the short stories I’ve read by them so far have been a delight, though they were very different from each other. This is a perfect little meet-cute/meet-sexy, very distinctive.
Sexy, nerdy, kind, and hopeful, this m/m short story about the late-night meet-cute of a disheartened Oxford professor and an adorable bartender has become a comfort re-read for me. It’s the kind of encounter which in real life probably wouldn’t lead to anything, but in fiction I can 100% believe in an eventual HEA for these guys.
“Stephen Hunt’s having a terrible holiday season. It’s mid-December, and he’s about as far from the familiar scholarly walls of his Oxford professor’s office as he can get. Back home, his ex-boyfriend’s moved out, and Stephen’s alone and miserable in the hotel bar with his research on obscure ancient Roman holiday traditions. The bartender’s adorable, though. Brian Dwyer’s a very good bartender. Good at making drinks and having holiday spirit, good at talking to customers, good at making people smile. He’s decided that the gorgeous but unhappy professor at the end of the bar needs to smile.”
I’ve read this trans romance twice and liked it even better the second time.
Jonas, our MC, describes himself as “caught between adolescence and responsibility” at thirty-two, because after getting his GED he’s worked low-wage jobs, has very little stability, and is basically drifting through life. (He clearly has some kind of learning disability, though it appears he was never diagnosed.) The guy who seems to be his one good friend, Nicky, introduces him to Harper, a trans man who owns a board game & comic shop, and the two are drawn to each other.
What I like about it: The author taking such care of both MCs, who are both in difficult circumstances. The fact that they get close relatively fast, but it feels real. The sheer number of distinct stages of that getting close that the author manages to pull off in a novella-length story. Jonas making his character for the RPG they play, and really getting into it, so adorable!
I’m normally very skeptical of romances where a boss-employee relationship exists, and Harper does end up hiring Jonas fairly early in the story, but to be honest Jonas’s employment & financial situation is so precarious that I can’t fault having him get that job (due to Harper trusting Nicky’s judgment) as a solution. In my brain, Jonas and Harper end up running the shop together as partners down the road and I love that for them.
CW: past emotionally abusive relationship bleeding over into the present, an incident of totally inadvertent deadnaming.
If I could have held my hand over my heart the entire time I was reading this, I would have done it. I loved it that much.
It’s an age gap romance between grumpy bisexual 40 year old white dude Drey Harper, an art director for the collectible card game Legendary Pairs (think Magic: The Gathering), and gay 24 year old Korean-American Legendary Pairs champion… possibly soon to be ex-champion, if his bad boy party throw-caution-to-the-wind lifestyle doesn’t knock him out of the running or even get him killed. Drey understands messes, having lost his best friend, his wife, and his last job due to his own self-destructive vengefulness, but that doesn’t mean he wants to get involved with Lucas’s, especially because the kid is a cocky little jerk. Cue forced proximity due to Drey’s manager assigning him to babysit Lucas for the good of the company’s PR.
I’d read the first book in Cameron’s Legendary Pairs series and thought it had promise, but wasn’t properly fleshed out. This second book is a HUGE level up by comparison. Drey and Lucas are both capable of kindness and abrasiveness by turns and struggle to connect honestly with each other, so the halting progress of their connection and eventual relationship feels very genuine. Falling in love doesn’t make Drey less of a grump or exorcise Lucas’s demons, but it helps, and they both end up feeling (for the first time in forever) like they can make new starts in their lives together and build something.
Bonus points for Drey working so hard to be a good dad, his real apology to his former best friend, Lucas being all sweet while he’s teaching kids Legendary Pairs, and the nerdiness of card game tournaments.
This quasi-road trip F/F romance is extremely slow burn, but for good reasons, and well worth it. Indian-American behavioral scientist Nicole Hathaway wrote a book that was supposed to be an academic work on her research into biological markers for successful romantic relationships. It accidentally became a bestseller, and her publisher demands she go on an international publicity tour, which is the very definition of hell for introverted Nicole. Extroverted Lily Linden-Smith needs a job after spending the last couple of years hiding from the fallout of her parents’ well-publicized financial crimes, and when her uncle offers her a gig as Nicole’s assistant, she doesn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
It’s unclear to me whether the author intended Nicole to be on the autism spectrum, though many readers have interpreted her that way. She’s clearly much more comfortable with logic and data than she is with feelings, but IMHO a huge part of that is her assessment, early in her adulthood, that she wouldn’t ever be in a position to come out and have a romantic relationship – and the emotional closing-off she did as a result. Her assessment turns out to be wrong, but her reasoning wasn’t invalid at the time, and a big part of her journey is learning to reintegrate her deeply closeted “Cole” side she uses to pick up women for one-night stands with the rest of herself, the sister, daughter, and researcher.
Lily’s journey from fear to confidence is equally compelling, the international travel is interesting (Russian cowboys!), and while I felt like the end was a little rushed and the last line way too cheesy, the emotional journey and development of their relationship was well developed and satisfying.
Emotionally delicate in the best way, powerful storytelling, nerdy secret agents with hearts of gold, both main characters are on the asexual spectrum, more than one round of hurt-comfort, and I have no idea why I waited so long to read this M/M romance! Instant all-time favorite. Agent Arthur Drams, an office-based analyst, needs to socialize in order to advance in his career. Because reasons, he ends up focused on the only analyst more socially un-engaged than he is: Agent Martin Grove, who literally does not speak to anyone else. Arthur coaxes Martin out of his shell by talking about obscure books and semi-surreptitiously feeding him home-cooked meals. Martin responds by kinda messing with Arthur (the library thing, hahaha!), but there’s also growing trust between them. The story took me by surprise, though. Just when I thought everything was settling down nicely, something very bad happens! And voicemails are left, which are so painful, I literally teared up. Don’t worry, though, reader, it’s okay.
I loved how Soto gave us only the barest brushstrokes for some parts of Martin’s life and past, but they’re the brushstrokes that really matter. I loved how Arthur and Martin’s relationship was so uniquely theirs. I love how Arthur was able to meet Martin exactly where he was, and how Martin jumped in to support Arthur when he really needed it. Gorgeous book. I read the library’s e-copy and then bought myself one to keep. The follow-up short story, available separately, is also perfect.
Super cute, warm novella about two queer Jewish women, Clara Ziegler (bi) and Danielle Solomon (lesbian), that begins when Clara is inspired to small-batch dye yarn for a knitting club based on Danielle’s paintings. It turns out that both are fans of a show called Captain Werewolf, so a large part of their initial flirting is exchanging links to good fanfic and Danielle creating fan art for Clara.
It’s nerdy and totally sweet. There isn’t a lot of angst here, just two gals with similar passions getting to know each other, trying to manage the overwhelming demand for the knitting club, and getting closer and closer to that first kiss. Danielle is described as zaftig, and in one scene she confidently refuses to interact with a scale.
“He’s the bad-boy biker. She’s the good girl working in her family’s Indian restaurant.”
Trucker Carrigan and Pinky Grover should NOT even be attracted to each other, let alone get involved. But who can resist Marvel Cinematic Universe related banter? Or a blond, bearded dude in a Captain America t-shirt? Not these two. Now if only they could sort out the whole “life of crime” thing Trucker’s got going on.
Lovely little novella with SO much packed into it – sparks, real affection, serious and believable pain when it looks like all is lost, and a perfect HEA. It was a little strange to me that Pinky’s POV was first person and Trucker’s was third person. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read that POV combo again, but I did get used to it here, and it was well worth it.
If you’ve ever worked in a startup, in tech, or in a corporation that went through acquisition/merger, and you’re comfortable with BDSM, this may be the romance series for you.
Takeover begins in a hotel bar where Michael, an out gay software engineer, picks up Sam, a closeted gay management consultant. The first 13 percent of the book is just their meeting and having sex – but Zabo’s writing here is AMAZING. Sam’s entire emotional world is laid out for the reader during this encounter. I have rarely seen a sex scene so effectively used to reveal a character’s story and personality. Unfortunately for our heroes, they both turn up at work to find that Sam’s new interim CEO position is at Michael’s soon-to-be-acquired company.
Despite both their shock, they forge a working friendship… which is undercut by their mutually anguished desire to connect, Michael’s buttons getting pushed by Sam being closeted, and nasty corporate politics. (Do they end up sleeping together despite knowing it’s not “proper or ethical”? Yes. Do they take the consequences gracefully? Yes.) I loved the growing respect in their working relationship, that they both find the courage to save their personal relationship, and that they’re both such smarty smart-pants.
My other fave from this series is Due Diligence , the third book, which gave me the two programmers second chance romance I’ve apparently always wanted. Fazil (bi), one of Sam’s technical staff, goes with Eli (MC of book 2) to fix a company in Seattle. His high-school lover, Todd (gay), is (surprise!) working there as a programmer. Todd wants to reconnect, but first they have to deal with a TON of misconceptions and misunderstandings that broke them up in the first place. Most of that turns out to be Fazil’s fault, and he has to work through his guilt while updating his view of his past relationship with Todd.
I love how just because these two guys are older and have straightened out what happened, their issues don’t just magically disappear. Fazil is still insecure, Todd is once again willing to just make a plan for their lives together, and somehow neither one of these very bright men consider (until way late in the game) Todd moving to Fazil’s city instead of the other way around, even though Fazil’s the one with the job he loves and Todd’s company has -CONTENT WARNING- an extreme problem with homophobia and racism! But eventually Todd gets a clue and asks for help so they can straighten it out. Yay happy endings.
What I super-adore about the first three books in the series is the presence of gentle, understanding supervisors and mentors. Sam and Michael are given consequences for their inappropriate relationship by folks in the acquiring company, but they are appropriate, not punitive. Sam extends that same type of grace and humanity to Eli and Justin in the second book, and Sam and Eli do the same for Fazil in the third book.
Painful but ultimately sweet story about Noah, a closeted geoarchaeology professor who teaches at an extremely conservative Christian Texas college, falling in love with Adrian, a vibrant and very out video game developer. Annabeth Albert bites off a LOT of story here by having Noah and Adrian fall hard for each other during a brief road trip, but she succeeds because each character’s internal voice and struggle are so distinctive and well developed. Her writing isn’t always the shiniest, but there are lovely passages, and overall she has a great knack for writing warm, kind stories even when both characters are wrestling with their own issues and the relationship.
I love how open Adrian is, and especially how delighted he is while discovering all these little specific things about Noah. He’s not just falling for some guy, he’s falling for Noah. Noah is so new to being cared for, and so scared to leave the closet, but he’s so amazed at how Adrian’s bravery and gentleness opens his heart – even in the face of Noah’s very real fears. I grew up in a conservative Christian Texas family and culture, so Noah’s struggle is totally understandable to me. The phone call with his sister late in the book, where they discuss his sexual orientation, just about brought tears to my eyes.
Because I grew up in conservative Texas Christianity, this book will always have a special place in my heart.
“Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other ‘girlfriends,’ London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men, no dating, and no worrying about their relationship status . . .
For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy, honey-eyed Daniel Collins at work. What are the chances? When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?”
Romance by a Black author, between a Black woman and a Black/Korean-American man, and the main characters are both PROGRAMMERS. Be still my geeky heart! Instant attraction but not instalove, two people doing their utmost to make good decisions about their lives and what they contribute to the world, and I especially love the friends Samiah makes at the beginning of the book. Plus, reading a book set in my town of Austin by someone who actually knows Austin geography was amazing. My heart is so happy.
[2023 update: There is a significant police officer character in this book portrayed sympathetically. At this point I typically shy away from that, but this is a book I enjoyed by a Black author, so I’m leaving my review here.]
Naledi Smith is an epidemiology grad student who’s being targeted by email scammers trying to convince her she’s a long-lost princess betrothed to an African prince. Thabiso is that African prince, who’s unaware that his assistant has located his long-lost betrothed and has been emailing her and getting nothing but rudeness back. When he finds out Ledi is alive, he heads to America to get her back… and does a terrible job of it. Seriously, this dude is great at prince-ing but not so great at anything else. Sparks very much exist between them, though, and lo, there’s also an unexplainable illness in Thabiso’s country which an epidemiologist might be able to help with…
All of which sounds fluffy and tropetastic and hilarious, which is sometimes is, but there’s also so much complexity and emotion here. Ledi is a black woman in STEM and the book doesn’t shy away from showing exactly how that can play out with racist and sexist colleagues. Her life as a former foster kid is not easy even though she works her ass off, and being babysitter / emotional anchor for her best friend Portia doesn’t help. Thabiso’s screwups in getting to know her cause real pain, and forgiveness isn’t quick or easy. At least once during the book, when Ledi finds the family she’d thought lost (vague to avoid spoilers), I literally cried for her.
I was so pleased with this STEM gal and her HEA, and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
ALSO, I’d like to highlight my favorite passage in the book, because it’s one of the most queer-friendly bits of a non-queer romance that I’ve ever read:
“That beard made her fingers itch to stroke it, or to grab her smartphone and photograph it for posterity… she’d rack up a million liked within the day, for sure, if not some kind of award for heroism on behalf of male-attracted humanity.”
“Male-attracted humanity.” YES! In a typical non-queer romance, this would say “women.” I’ve seen that kind of thing a bazillion times. The problem being that “women” ignores – and this is just my starting list – lesbians, ace women, and non-binary folks and men who are attracted to men. “Male-attracted humanity” is a phrase that recognizes those people exist, describing the world as it is. It’s a jolt of inclusion instead of exclusion. Thanks Ms. Cole!
“One month. No feelings. They’ve totally got this fake dating thing under control.
Bisexual ex-barista Oliver is finally a high school math teacher, and it’s everything he ever wanted. Until he stumbles across the mysterious customer he crushed on back when he worked at Knockdown Coffee… and kinda sorta accidentally tells his Vice Principal that he’s dating her. Oops?
Octavia, a bi programmer, didn’t expect to run into the cute blue-haired barista again. Certainly not while volunteering at a local arts high school. He’s much too young and much too nice for her—but when she discovers he’s told people they’re dating, it’s a stroke of luck. She needs a fake relationship to stick it to her nemesis, and Oliver’s the perfect fit.
Their assignment is simple: one month of a convincing charade, and after the company gala, everything between them is absolutely and completely over.
Sometimes, though, the homework is harder than you expect.”
And that’s the list of my favorite nerdy and geeky romance novels! If you have any reading suggestions, let me know, and as always, if you found this post helpful, please share it!