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17 Exciting Heroine Chooses The Second Guy Books and Series

Heroine Chooses the Second Guy books about angels

Welcome to the return of one of my most popular “Heroine Chooses the Second Guy” recommendation series, a series to help you say goodbye to other second-lead syndrome novels. Who doesn’t love a good twist to the love interest? This is one of my favourite tropes of all time because when you have read as many romance books as I have, things get stale easily and you crave anything that throws you into an unexpected loop.

Second Male Lead Syndrome is a phenomenon where readers develop a strong attachment and preference for the secondary male character in a romantic storyline. It can also be regarded as a book trope. This syndrome occurs when readers find themselves rooting for the second male lead, often more than the primary love interest or “main” male lead.

I also find that it’s hard to find recommendations for more specific and non-conventional tropes such as this one, so I always do my part and share those that I do find and enjoy. And please do check out my book recommendation series if you are interested in checking out more recommendations like this one!

If you have already read some of the books on this list (like Throne of Glass) and want to know what to read based on those books, you might want to check out my book recommendation list “What Should I Read Next? If You Like This Book, Then You Might Like…”.

If you need enemies to lovers like you need air to breathe, check out my Specified Enemies to Lovers Trope – Fantasy Edition list, where I gave book recommendations to more specific enemies to lovers tropes, such as “I’m supposed to kill you”, “I’m supposed to hate your kind”, “Forced Marriage”, “friends to enemies to lovers”, and more.

I don’t know about you, but I love the scenes when the guy finally saw the scars of the protagonist for the first time and realized the hardships she went through, finally signifying a turning point in the enemies-to-lovers relationship. If you love scenes like those too, I gave a full list of book recommendations based on this trope in my Books With the “Who Did This To You” Trope list.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

If there’s one author that is NAILING this trope, it’s SJM. She is amazing at launching armadas with her series, but somehow still manages to successfully avoid making triangle relationships between her characters. If you want a book that the end-guy doesn’t even appear until several books into the series, ToG is the one for you.

If you like ToG, I highly recommend you to read Falling Kingdoms as well, something I mentioned on my “What Should I What Should I Read Next? If You Like This Book, Then You Might Like…” book recommendation list since there’s a lot of similarities between them (e.g multiple POV, high fantasy, and characters ending up with different love interests from the initial one, etc).

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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Unlike, ToG, Shatter Me is for those who don’t mind that the guy appearing in the first book (as a villain, and not as a romantic interest), and having the ship starts to form only around book two (although it is hinted subtlety in book one). This book also has a villain-gets-the-girl trope. Aside from this, if you REALLY enjoy scenes where the romantic interest is deemed as a villain and unapproachable, and shows PDA in front of everyone, making everyone gape, this is also the book for you.

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Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

 Heroine Chooses The Second Guy

JLA is one of my go-to guilty pleasure authors. Her books got the perfect indie vibe that I like. Not too serious but also not too cheesy. Although they are not masterpieces, they are still seriously addicting. If you read any of JLA’s series, you should know what I’m talking about. If not, just…trust her. She knows what she’s doing…

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White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Basically the same as the last one. Trust JLA to give an indie-vibe book that is an addictingly fun read with ships that you enjoy.

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Inception by Bianca Scardoni

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This series is super underrated. I came across this book during my indie phase (I was literally reading indie books that nobody knows about exclusively). This was one of my favourites. Expect the second guy was the expected villain (not the leader or the most powerful one though). I’m really sad the fourth book hasn’t been released yet because apparently, the author put it on hold for personal reasons. I REALLY can’t wait for book four though.

A King So Cold by Ella Fields

Arguably the darkest book on this entire list, so it’s perfect for dark romance fans. It’s also one of the few books that genuinely caught me off guard with the true love interest. If what I said sounds like something you may be interested in, I recommend giving it a shot! It’s free on Kindle Unlimited (KU) too.


The Fantasy of Frost by Kelly St. Clare

This one is more fantasy adventure, the plot focusing more on exploring the great high fantasy settings. The real love interest doesn’t even physically appear until later in the first book, although I feel like the first love interest isn’t as developed as I would’ve liked and was cut off too soon for my taste. Other than that this series still fits the trope perfectly and overall it’s an amazing series I recommend! Also on KU.


Gild by Raven Kennedy

This one is one of the more unique retellings I’ve read (King Midas and his golden touch). It caught me off guard with its plot twist even though it’s based on a story we all know already. It also has a very unique writing style to portray feminism and misogyny, especially internalized misogyny with women.

I would make an explicit warning though – the first book is extremely hard to sit through especially if you don’t know what you are expecting. I dropped this book 3 different times because I couldn’t deal with the protagonist’s ignorance and internalized misogyny.

However, she will grow. She will develop, and I promise you that it does get better and it IS a book about feminism, despite what it may initially seem. I highly recommend you give this book a chance at least up to the end of the second book/third book, and at that point, if you still don’t enjoy it then you can drop it if you want. Available on KU.


The Thorn Princess by Bekah Harris

A Fae-world-focused book that involves switching between worlds and changeling. It is multi-pov and tells the story of different romances between different characters simultaneously especially starting from book two. I kind of didn’t like that, I strongly prefer focusing on only one couple because I am so emotionally invested. But if that’s not a deal-breaker for you, this book has a beautiful atmosphere that is so enjoyable to visualize and I do think you may enjoy it. Available on KU.


The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Darker, a bit gothic with necromancy vibes that takes place in a mental asylum. Darker in atmosphere not in content though (sorry dark romance fans). It is very YA and the content is very PG-friendly. There’s barely any romantic action between the love interests and the FMC. If I remember correctly there’s also not a lot of true smut in the entire series.

However, I can see this being enjoyable to people because all this does not mean the FMC doesn’t interact with the love interests at all in book one, and the lack of romantic interactions in book one makes the relationships quite slow-burn. It’s not on KU unfortunately, but is available in many different libraries.


Vampire Shift by Tim O’Rourke

Adult, dark, horror, and mystery. Follows our FMC who is a new police recruit and now would investigate the missing people related to vampires and the paranormal. I don’t read a lot of mystery, definitely not a lot of anything related to the police but I thought this series was pretty cool. Also did a great job of hiding the true love interest, doesn’t have any action going on between the two until book two. Available on KU.


Crave by Tracy Wolff

One of the BEST portrays of this trope I’ve read in a long time. All the other books I’ve recommended are great but this is the one that got me obsessed and is extremely unforgettable in how well it did it. Yes, this series has a lot of flaws, yes it’s a Twilight rip-off (especially book one), and there’s a huge fluctuation in quality between the different books in the series. But overall I just love it was done and the romance was so slow-burn and satisfying. Highly recommend giving it a chance.


Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking

One of the first series of this kind I’ve ever read. I think Amanda Hocking should receive more recognition for her writings and books. I unexpectedly was very happy with Wendy ending up with Loki instead of Finn, since Wendy and Finn had a hate/love relationship. If you are looking for a series where the girl first falls for the second guy who appeared later on in the series, this is perfect for you.

And for those who really enjoyed Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses, you’ll find yourself loving Loki, because Loki is really similar to Rhysand. Both are a big arrogant with their ‘charms’ and are always teasing and flirting with the heroine. However, both heroes truly and deeply love the Protagonist and have a ‘deep side’ that they tend to hide.

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Unearthly Series by Cynthia Hand

The second guy appeared sooner than the first series I suggested. However, I really liked how Tucker and Clara had a hate-love relationship that started first. And for those who greatly enjoy forbidden love, this is the series for you. Another thing that made this series unique is that for the first time, it’s the guy who realized that he had fallen for an angel, instead of the other way around.

However, this series would not be my first choice if I have to choose, because I think it’s a little bit too fast for me. I like it when they don’t end up for at least two books, like the Trylle Trilogy and Young Elites series. The reason though that this series even made it to this list is that although brief, there really was a pretty good hate/love unexpected relationship going on in the first book. If only it lasted longer.

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Young Elites Series by Marie Lu

If you would die without an HEA then you will hate this series. Because this book had a severe case of bittersweet ending syndrome that made me just want to go ahead and strangle Marie Lu to death. And it’s not even the first time she did this – she pulled the same little stunt with the Legend series, and I really, really, really hated her for it. I have to say though, loved Magiano and Adelina here.

The thing I loved most about the heroine falling for the second guy is that the author somehow always has this amazing ability to make you wish that the guy ends up with the girl, and when they finally kiss, you’re just like – YES. This series is more similar to the Trylle trilogy, because Magiano like Loki, did not appear until the second book of the series (which, I emphasize, I love). One thing that I liked about Magiano is that he was reluctant to help Adelina at first, but then later grew to fall in love with her.

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The Court of Throne and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas

Although Rhysand appeared in the first book as well, why I really liked it because Feyre didn’t officially ‘become a couple’ with him until the middle/end of the second book. And if you still haven’t realized yet, I really don’t like it when the relationship escalates too fast. For those who love books where the guy (is a king/prince or in this case, high lord) has to keep up a ‘cool, cruel and collected’ mask, it’s the series for you. And then there’s the hate/love relationship.

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Dragonian Series by Adrienne Woods

This series does not have the exact scenario for when-the-girl-falls-for-the-second-guy and can be listed because if we’re going to go, strictly speaking, this series counts. But the main reason that I suggest this series is because I really, really liked it. And it’s one of the series I am shocked by how much I love it. So basically we already meet the second guy (Blake) in the first book, but our protagonist, Elena, decided to date Lucien instead. But then he died in the second book, and we have a severe hate/love relationship in the third and fourth books, Frostbite and Moonbreeze. Either way, you have to give this series some time, because it really is good.

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