Romance books and novels that feature K-pop and (fictional) Korean idols? Um. Yes please!
I’ve been sitting on this blog post idea for months. (Yes, even before my blog relaunch.) But I didn’t have the right motivation to actually start writing it. Thankfully, my latest obsession with Dynamite — the latest song from BTS — gave me the final push I needed to put this list of recommendations together. Huge, huge thanks to Jungkook and Taehyung for being absolute cuties in their latest music video! Without whom, this blog post would still be a draft collecting dust.
What are K-pop romance novels?
This bookish list is dedicated to K-pop romance. More specifically, ‘K-pop romance’ is a budding romance microgenre that ranges from stories wherein either the main character or love interest is a K-pop idol to stories set within the K-pop music industry. In other words, romances and love stories that are sure to make your little fandom heart flutter!
All books in this post are either traditionally or independently published titles. Moreover, they’re either already released in the world or upcoming releases. I’m sure that K-pop romance fanfiction exists. But as someone who doesn’t read fanfiction at all, I’m not the right reader to seek fanfic recommendations from.
In this list, you’ll find eight (8) K-pop romance novels that just might tickle your fancy. (And I mean that in a totally innocent sense, by the way.) Much like my book recommendations based on Mulan, I’ve marked the books that I’ve personally read with a cute yellow heart emoji (?). And yes, this post does contain affiliate links for Amazon.
Heart and Seoul by Erin Kinsella ?
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Best-selling author Tessa Hale flies to Seoul for the filming of a k-drama adaptation of her book. Her excitement turns to star-struck panic when she discovers that the leading actor is Baek Eun Gi, the K-pop idol she’s been high-key crushing on for years.
WHY READ IT: This book was my first foray into the delightful microgenre of K-pop romance! And I loved it. A wonderful, vibrant mishmash of well-loved tropes (such as found family and marriage of convenience) with a great cast of queer characters.
I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee ?
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Skye Shin has always been discouraged from dancing because of her weight. Still, she auditions for a televised competition in search of K-pop talent. When she nails her audition, she’s determined to become the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star.
WHY READ IT: A fun and thought-provoking romantic comedy that celebrates body positivity and self-love. Plus, bisexual representation for days!
Scandalized by Tara Frejas ?
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: As the road manager for one of South Korea’s hottest bands, Fi Legaspi is living the dream. Until she’s caught in the middle of a scandal and a hostile fangirl witch hunt.
WHY READ IT: Definitely one of the quieter, subtler K-pop romance novels in this list. If you’re in the mood for something less flashy and more heartwarming, then this might be just perfect for you.
Play It By Ear by Tara Frejas ?
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: When Jo Yihwan reluctantly stands in for his injured bandmate in a reality TV-esque talent competition, he’s determined to win. But he didn’t expect to meet a gutsy, driven teammate like Ha Yoojung.
WHY READ IT: Idols falling for fellow idols? We love to see it. A good balance of fun and somberness, romantic development and personal growth.
K-pop Confidential by Stephan Lee
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Set within the K-pop industry, Candace is a newly accepted trainee who must navigate its complex hierarchies and rules. But in the all-out battle to debut, Candace is in danger of planting herself in the middle of a scandal lighting up the K-pop fandom around the world.
WHY READ IT: A coming-of-age novel about big dreams, rivalry, and survival. A commentary on the price of fame and stardom. A Korean girl trying to make sense of her identity. What’s not to like?
Shine by Jessica Jung
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The rules are simple for Rachel Kim: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. But as the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner… or if she’ll end up crushed.
WHY READ IT: This is a K-pop romance novel written by an actual K-pop legend? I don’t know about you, but I’m already sold.
Idol Thoughts by J.S. Lee
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Holly was supposed to manage a failing boy band back to stardom. She wasn’t supposed to fall in love with them.
WHY READ IT: This book is pitched as a “K-pop reverse harem” that’s deliciously slow-burn. And you know what? It sounds like an absolute must-read.
Start Here edited by Ronald Lim & Brigitte Bautista ?
WHAT IT’S ABOUT: There’s a first time for everything. An unapologetically queer anthology of meet-cute stories and first chance encounters.
WHY READ IT: Aside from the fact that this is my all-time favorite anthology, one of these meet-cute stories is set in a K-pop concert! If you want to fully understand the Tagalog word “kilig”, then you ought to pick this up.
Upcoming book lists:
- Social Media & Dating App Romance Novels For Your Vicarious Living
- TV, Film, and Telenovela Romance Novels For Your Dose of Drama
- Bookish Romance Novels For Hopelessly Romantic Readers
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I’d love to hear from you!
? Have you ever read a K-pop romance novel? Are any of these listed titles familiar to you? Did you find new books to add to your TBR?
? What are your thoughts on the K-pop romance microgenre?
? Which of the upcoming book lists would you like to see next?