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!
Table of Contents (congratulations you can finally goodbye to second lead syndrome novels now)
FAE, MAGICAL, ROYALTY
A King So Cold (Royals #1) 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 (The Tainted Accords #1) 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 (The Plated Prisoner #1) 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 (Iron Crown Faerie Tales #1) 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.
VAMPIRES, PARANORMAL, DARKer-Tone Romance
The Summoning (Darkest Powers #1) 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 (Kiera Hudson Series One #1) 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 (Crave #1) 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.