60 Best Romance Novels of All Time
Here are the absolute best bodice-rippers and page-turners to get your heart racing. Warning: You won't be able to put them down.
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Get ready to swoon
There’s nothing quite like a good book, and great romance novels make reading even better. They’re comforting and captivating, and great plots, twisty mysteries, and gorgeous details keep you enthralled. You don’t even have to cozy up by the fireplace in your favorite chair. A great romance novel is perfect for an airplane ride or to ease you into your daily commute on the train. You can also “read” over headphones or through your car stereo. But wherever you choose to dip into these best romance novels of all time, make sure it’s a setting where you can swoon!
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Vision in White
Book 1 in Nora Roberts’ Bride Quartet overflows with wedding wonder. The series follows four friends with a wedding-planning business who take their own trips down the aisle. In the first novel, a wedding photographer meets a handsome BOB (brother of the bride) who captures her eye. Roberts is one of the most popular writers of romance novels with more than 200 published books, each immersing fans in detailed, dramatic worlds filled with romance. Are you in love with love? Check out 15 of the most romantic quotes from books.
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen arguably started it all with her classic romance novels set in the early 1800s. And her books are timeless, still attracting contemporary readers in love with details of British courtship, dancing, and ballgowns. Pride and Prejudice follows the five Bennet sisters and their romantic entanglements as they try to make a good match. The chemistry between bold Elizabeth and the egotistical Mr. Darcy makes epic love-hate sparks fly. If you like your female characters fierce and fearless, here are 10 fantastic books that’ll fit your girl-power mood.
The Wedding Date
Jasmine Guillory’s debut contemporary romance novel sizzles with flirty, funny pizzazz as it explores interracial love. The story begins in a stalled elevator when successful and stylish Alexa gets stuck with a handsome pediatric surgeon. Fireworks ensue when a wedding date becomes way more. When it comes to real life, here are the surprising secrets of the most happily married couples.
Until the End of Time
Danielle Steel has written, so far, 161 books, many of them best-selling romances that are known for their meticulous research, historical plot lines, and epic emotions. It’s a challenge to single out the best one of all, but Until the End of Time features two love stories in two different time periods. One couple leaves the city for a life of rural ministry, and the other timeline pairs an Amish novelist with a big-city publisher. Both relationships intertwine through the mysteries of fate and destiny. Read the story of this veteran who found his long-lost love after 75 years.
A Knight in Shining Armor
This quintessential romance novel by Jude Deveraux features time travel across centuries and plenty of passion. Readers should prepare for heart-swelling romance, tear-jerking turns, and a dashing 16th-century knight who rescues a contemporary damsel in distress. Romance is great every day, but here are 8 perfect books to prepare for Valentine’s Day.
A widowed nurse leaves Los Angeles to start over in a charming mountain cottage in a town with a population of 600. Once there, she finds a desolate hovel where nothing goes as expected. She’s about to leave when handsome hero Jack catches her eye. He’s a rugged, muscular bartender with a nice smile, so you can see where this is going. This is the first entry in Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series about the characters in this small mountain town. These 15 real stories prove it’s never too late to change your life.
Sweet Little Lies
This first book in Jill Shalvis’ addicting Heartbreaker Bay series starts in an Irish pub owned by Finn. Pru is the newcomer to his life, and she’s harboring a tragic secret from long ago that will either pull them apart or keep them together. Is it ever OK to lie to your partner? Maybe in these few instances.
Johanna Lindsey’s addictive romance novels are known for their irrepressible enticements. This one takes place on a ship bound for America, when a young castaway, disguised as a boy, captures the heart of the roguish captain. Get ready for love-drenched romance on the high seas.
Readers can’t put down Linda Howard’s steamy thriller about a staid librarian who gets a makeover as well as a new lease on life that sends her spinning into a dangerous world when she unwittingly witnesses a murder. Good thing a handsome city cop made his way to small-town Alabama just in time to intervene! If you love a great thriller, here are the best of the best to keep you on edge.
Me Before You
If you’re a sucker for romance books, even sad ones (sniff!), you’ll love Jojo Moyes’ tender Me Before You. It was made into a movie with Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke—and warning! It’s a total tear-jerker. The story follows a man who needs a caregiver after an accident has confined him to a wheelchair. He ends up with headstrong Lou, who needs a job…but gets much more when she finds herself falling in love. If you like your novels cinematic, don’t miss these 18 books that are also hit movies.
Emily Brontë’s sweeping Gothic romance was published in 1847 under a pen name. It’s set on the windy, blustering moors near the estate where Catherine falls for Heathcliff, a stable hand of low birth. When Catherine chooses another man, Heathcliff’s ire erupts in angered, vengeful passion. Wuthering Heights is a true classic, just like these 100 books everyone should read before they die.
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Becky Albertalli’s debut novel was acclaimed, beloved, and adapted into a hit film. It has an epistolary form, as Simon writes anonymous emails to another gay teen at his high school. Neither is ready to come out, but then Simon is blackmailed by a classmate and his secret may be exposed. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. Looking for a true tale that will melt your heart? Check out the story behind this 51-foot-long love letter.
Lord of Scoundrels
As the back cover puts it, “Damn the minx for tempting him!” Lord Dain, a blackguard and scoundrel, can’t resist the wiles of Jessica, a headstrong woman who believes the baddie might have a good side within. She’ll undercover it, along with his passionate desire—and her own. Here are more of the most sizzling hot romance reads.
Eleanor & Park
Set in 1980s Nebraska, this young adult novel by Rainbow Rowell follows two outsiders who fall for each other on the bus. It’s a book that’s surprisingly poignant and touching, as it captures how it feels to be out of place at school. It seems like Eleanor and Park come from different worlds, but they each have what it takes to help the other survive. Who says you’re not still a young adult at age 50? Here are the 50 best books to read before you hit that milestone.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Teenager Lara writes letters to all the boys she’s ever loved and hides them in a box. To her surprise and embarrassment, the letters end up sent and delivered. Of course, things get awkward, especially when one of the letters is addressed to her sister’s ex-boyfriend. This novel was adapted into a hit movie on Netflix. And these are 10 more romantic movies you haven’t seen yet—but really should.
The Right Swipe
Meet Rhiannon, the creator of a hot dating app who tries to follow her own rules for hooking up. She’s ghosted by a hottie, but when he reemerges asking for a second chance, she has to revise her own rules. Readers love Alisha Rai’s latest novel for its modern, multicultural romance filled with wit and fire. Looking for your own whirlwind romance? Try these 8 ways to meet and attract new people, according to a dating expert.
Red, White & Royal Blue
Casey McQuiston’s instant bestseller wows readers with its story about a young man whose mom becomes president, thrusting him into the national spotlight. Soon he’s caught in a scandal with the Prince of Wales. The two “royals” fall for each other but aren’t sure if they’re ready to take it to the world stage. Can long-distance relationships really work? Here’s what the surprising science says.
The Kiss Quotient
The heroine of Helen Hoang’s popular romance is a math whiz with Asperger’s who hires an escort to get her up to speed in the love department. The two try to keep it transactional, but that soon proves impossible in this witty, breezy read that’s filled with sizzle and heart. Speaking of smooching, don’t miss these hilarious first kiss stories that will make you so glad you’re not a teenager.
Tonight and Forever
A divorcée and a widower can’t seem to keep their hands off each other, despite the fact that each thought they were through with love. Tonight and Forever is one of best-selling romance author Brenda Jackson’s passion-filled love stories centered on finding the faith to love again after devastating loss.
Author Julie Garwood is known for her suspense-driven romances, and Heartbreaker doesn’t disappoint. Here, an FBI agent, Nick, tracks a psychotic killer. Nick discovers the name of the maniac’s next victim, and he soon realizes that he’s drawn to her as well in this suspenseful page-turner. If your eyes need a rest, check out these classic suspense movies with twists you won’t see coming.
Mine Till Midnight
Lisa Kleypas’ historical romances are known for their masterfully sexy sizzle. In Mine Till Midnight, the wealthy rogue Cam, who manages a gentlemen’s club in Victorian London, offers to help a woman searching for her brother. Amelia wants to keep it proper, but she can’t help her attraction to the dangerously handsome helper. You’ll swoon over these 49 quotes that perfectly capture what it’s like to fall in love.
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy
In this modern love story, Likotsi runs into the woman she met on a dating app who broke her heart. Once ghosted, how can she ever trust Fabiola again? But…how can she let her go? Author Alyssa Cole is known for her riveting, popular, and acclaimed romance novels across several genres. Here’s the true story of how one woman’s heartbreak allowed her to find the love of her life.
Debbie Macomber’s novels focus on faith and happy endings. In this Christmas novel, which was adapted into a popular Hallmark movie, a widower needs help with his twin sons, especially since it’s the holidays. When a magical housekeeper shows up, the single dad gets the encouragement he needs to find love with a travel agent who’s also been hurt. Speaking of Christmas romances, here’s what it’s really like to be a Hallmark holiday writer.
Best-selling author Nalini Singh’s Wolf Rain is part of her Psy-Changeling series, which focuses on paranormal, psychic romance. In this one, an empath gets saved by a wolf. The two don’t seem to have a future in their dark world, but each awakens something in the other that’s hard to resist. If your idea of the perfect book has its fair share of chills and thrills, check out the 20 scariest books of all time.
The Duchess War
Courtney Milan’s first book in The Brothers Sinister Series finds Miss Minerva pretending to be a shy wallflower in order to bury her scandalous past through an advantageous marriage. In this historical romance, she catches the eye of a handsome duke, who pulls her into another scandal that may force her to reveal his secrets and her own. For a real-life royal romance, this is the true story of how Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip fell in love.
Tipping the Velvet
This sensual, acclaimed erotic novel follows two music-hall performers, Nan and Kitty, in late-1800s England. Both women at times perform as men in this story filled with rich, historical detail, as it explores love and the lesbian experience in author Sarah Waters’ beautiful and evocative language.
A Bollywood Affair
This is the first book in Sonali Dev’s acclaimed Bollywood series, and it offers a transcontinental romance filled with details on Indian culture. Mili’s arranged marriage, at age 4, needs to be annulled. She hasn’t even seen her husband for decades. Mili has ended up in Michigan, but when her husband’s half-brother shows up to get her signature for a quick divorce, they find they are enraptured with each other. Love starts in all sorts of strange ways. For example, this couple’s 43-year-long love story all started in a pen pal club.
Crazy Rich Asians
Kevin Kwan’s hit novel was adapted into a hit movie. It’s a modern-day retelling of the classic romance story between a regular girl and the prince who loves her. Rachel’s boyfriend, Nicholas, isn’t actual royalty; he just comes from one of the wealthiest families in Singapore—something that he neglected to mention. Rachel’s not a gold digger, but everyone else thinks she is.
Bared to You
If you’re still in the mood for shades of 50 Shades of Grey, you’ll love Sylvia Day’s best-selling Crossfire series about a young grad, Eva, and a multi-gazillionaire named Gideon. Both are haunted by past trauma, but that doesn’t stop their attraction to kink and each other. Aside from reading steamy romances like this, here are 48 simple ways to improve your sex life.
A Night to Surrender
In book 1 of Tessa Dare’s historical series, a brash earl plans to station his army near Spindle Cove. That’s a problem because the location is a haven for women in need of solace and respite. Enter Susanna, who’s not about to let this militia break the peace. One problem: She’s passionately attracted to the dashing earl.
Burn for Me
This first novel in the Hidden Legacy romance series comes from a husband-and-wife writing team. The two met in college and have written several best-sellers under the shared pseudonym Ilona Andrews. In Burn for Me, a detective falls for her billionaire kidnapper. Here are the 10 most romantic books to read as a couple.
In Her Shoes
Jennifer Weiner’s moving novel follows sisters Maggie and Rose. One’s a perfectionist, and the other is a mess. The novel was adapted into a movie with Toni Collette as Rose and Cameron Diaz as Maggie. Shirley MacLaine plays their estranged grandmother who was forced out of their lives, but not by choice. In Her Shoes may seem like it’s all about finding the perfect husband. But it shows that you have to heal your own heart first and that healing starts with love for the women in your life—even if it’s messy. If you’ve got a lot of family drama (and who doesn’t?), check out these 10 cartoons about family life that might make yours seem less crazy.
I’ve Got Your Number
Sophie Kinsella is known for her Shopaholic series and for writing funny, breezy novels that touch your heart and keep the pages turning. In this delightful quick read, Poppy loses her phone and also her engagement ring while planning her wedding. Witty, wonderful high jinks ensue. When you’re in the mood for wit, see if these 25 funniest books of all time make you laugh.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Helen Fielding’s hit novel written in diary entries spawned a film franchise starring Renée Zellweger. But the books are probably better since they’re filled with witty asides, hilarious cynicism, and relatable charm. Bridget captures life as a “singleton” in your 30s with the kind of satire that pulls your heartstrings even after a few glasses of chardonnay. The men in her life barely matter, though she still gets a happy ending. Heartbreak is always a part of love, no matter how happy you eventually may be. This story will remind you exactly how your first crush felt, heartbreak and all.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
Jennifer Ashley’s breathtaking historical romances are known for their romantic suspense and enthralling details. This one is set in the Victorian Highlands and features a thrilling Scotsman who is rumored to have spent time in an asylum. So what? In the first in the Mackenzie series, the mysterious lord proposes to Beth impulsively, then sweeps her off her feet and into scandal. Don’t miss these 18 great books you can read in a day.
Wicked and the Wallflower
Who wouldn’t want to read romance novels from a series called Bareknuckle Bastards? Sarah MacLean’s historical romance features mystery, wicked humor, and plenty of passion. Felicity Faircloth must contend with a suitor who goes by the name Devil. She still finds him irresistible. For more PG-rated romance, check out the best Hallmark Christmas movies.
Matchmaking for Beginners
The heroine in Maddie Dawson’s best-selling novel loses her marriage just two weeks in. Then she inherits her ex-great-aunt’s brownstone in Brooklyn. It’s the perfect place to start over. This divorce novel shows how there’s always hope after a disaster and a new love (or two or three) right around the corner. Looking for a little matchmaking of your own? Here are 10 secrets matchmakers won’t tell you for free.
Whitney, My Love
Judith McNaught’s debut novel, the first of her many romance books, became a best seller. Readers fell in love with its epic, passionate story about headstrong Whitney, who has her own mind made up about who to marry. Unfortunately, her father basically sells her hand in marriage to a despicable but oh-so-handsome rogue of a duke. If you’re a little older than Whitney but still looking for love, check out these 29 tips for finding love in your 40s.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
Lauren Willig’s sweeping and detailed romance novel takes place during the Napoleonic Wars but is interspersed with present-day interludes. In the latter, a graduate student, Eloise, makes sense of documents and letters related to the Pink Carnation, a spy who helps the Purple Gentian and continuously foils Napoleon and saves nobles. Eloise also reads the diary of Amy, which is filled with details of intimate romance. Next, check out the story of one man who wrote letters to three beauty contest winners in the 1940s—and is still happily married to one of them.
The Gravity Between Us
Kristen Zimmer’s racy contemporary adult romance is about BFFs who dare to move out of the friend zone. Kendall is a Hollywood starlet on the road to major celebrity. She invites her best friend, Payton, to L.A. to help her keep it real. When Kendall realizes that Payton’s in love with her, she comes to terms with her own attraction in this sweet, heartfelt debut. Of course, not all friendships turn romantic.
Because of Miss Bridgerton
Julia Quinn’s Because of Miss Bridgerton centers on the Rokesby brothers and the woman who most likely will marry one of them. That’s fine since she played with the younger two as children and either will do. It’s the eldest brother, George, who Miss Bridgerton despises…and who suddenly catches her attention and attraction. Check out these good books you definitely should have read by now.
L.J. Shen’s popular contemporary romance novels enthrall readers. Vicious is the first book in the Sinners of Saint series, and it features the baddest of bad boys, who readers will absolutely love to hate. Starving artist Emilia hates him, too, and knows he’s a monster, but that doesn’t stop her from falling in love with the man who can’t and won’t leave her alone. Here’s how 28 real-life couples knew they’d found “the one.”
Adiós to My Old Life
Caridad Ferrer’s acclaimed young adult debut presents Ali, a young Cuban-American girl who makes it to the final round of an American Idol–style music competition. Along the way, she copes with sudden fame and a romance with the show’s intern. Bestsellers aren’t the only books worth reading. Don’t miss the hidden gems on this list of great, underrated books that deserve way more attention.
Call Me by Your Name
André Aciman’s best-selling novel (also made into a movie) is set in Italy during the 1980s and follows the story of the teenaged Elio and the young professor Oliver, who’s staying over for the summer to work on a manuscript. This is one of the great novels about summer love, as the two men fall into an affair that’s timed to end too soon—with the end of the season and Oliver’s return to the United States.
The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed and prizewinning novel tells an understated love story about the heartbreak of repressed passion. The manservant Stevens commits to being perfect in his service to an English lord who’s also a Nazi sympathizer. World War II serves as a backdrop for Stevens’ misperception of what really matters—especially his feelings for the housekeeper who works beside him. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson starred in the movie adaptation about restrained, unspoken love. And grab a tissue for this real-life story of a veteran who found his long-lost love after 75 years.
Get ready for the Beast of Blackthorne Hall, another raffish womanizer who will prove to be no match for Harriet Pomeroy, a fearless spitfire. Amanda Quick’s sweeping historical romance pairs the two together in this funny page-turner about the kind of woman who can tame a beast who may not be so bad after all. Looking for a shorter read? Find some of the best short books you’ll want to add to your nightstand.
Like Water for Chocolate
Laura Esquivel’s masterful and original novel uses magical realism to tell the story of Tita as she grows up on a ranch in turn-of-the-century Mexico. She becomes a chef, infusing her food with passion, tears, and love. This is the perfect novel for cookbook collectors, as it contains recipes and infuses cooking with rich magic. If you’re looking for the perfect gift, consider these 9 cookbooks for anyone who loves books.
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time. The story follows a man who waits 50 years to be with the woman he loves after she originally married another. The language is breathtakingly beautiful in this exploration of what it means to love. Don’t miss these 8 stories of first loves that will touch your heart.
The Hating Game
Sally Thorne’s much-loved debut is set in the workplace, where two assistants to two co-CEOs are up for the same promotion. That shouldn’t pose a problem since Lucy and Joshua absolutely hate each other. Except that may not actually be the case in this witty novel about love on the job. In real life, these are the 10 things you need to consider before you start dating a coworker.
Not Quite a Husband
Sherry Thomas is considered one of the most innovative and stunning new historical romance writers, and such praise is even more impressive because English is her second language. Her first is Chinese. In this second book in the Marsdens Series, you’ll follow Bryony, a woman who dared to become a doctor, as her ex-husband escorts her on a dangerous journey back home. Their marriage was quickly annulled due to Bryony’s rebellion, but now they’re thrown back into the path of passion.
The Fault in Our Stars
John Green’s best-seller about two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group may seem too sad for romance. But Hazel and Augustus don’t let diagnoses stop them from living and loving with a power that inspires. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort played the pair in the hit movie. It’s one of those great romantic movies even non-romantics will love.
“Reader, I married him.” Charlotte Brontë’s gothic masterpiece, with its unyielding heroine, dashing love interest Mr. Rochester, creepy manor house, and foggy English countryside, has become synonymous with 19th-century romance. And writing love stories ran in the Brontë family—Charlotte’s sister Emily’s classic, Wuthering Heights, is also on this list. For some real-life romance, check out the sweetest things partners have ever said to each other.
This Is How You Lose Her
Technically a collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her counts as a novel because the stories all somehow connect back to the same one character’s life. The impressive way the Pulitzer Prize–winning Díaz weaves together multiple love stories—happy and sad, fleeting and lasting—from all around the world makes this one of the best romance novels of the 21st century.
Nicholas Sparks has made a name for himself as the writer of some of the best romance novels in recent years. Though he’s written more than 20 books, his first has stood the test of time for a reason. Noah and Allie’s tear-jerking, decade-spanning story remains the wonderfully escapist romantic read it was 20 years ago. Don’t miss these other emotional books that will tug on your heartstrings even after you put them down.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman
A Victorian gentleman is engaged to a wealthy and suitable woman, but when he encounters a beautiful, mysterious woman rumored to be the forsaken lover of a French lieutenant, he becomes utterly smitten. Truly magnificent entertainment.
With an edgy, modern twist on the good-girl-meets-bad-boy theme, Beautiful Disaster has topped recent must-read romance lists for a reason. After reinventing herself just before college, Abby finds herself involved in a tantalizing bet with her school’s resident tattooed player. Neither of them is prepared for the results. Like this romance novel you won’t be able to put down, here are 18 classic books you can read in one day.
Trapped in a loveless marriage, Anna Karenina succumbs to temptation and embarks on a dangerous affair with the handsome Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds amid the canvas of 19th-century Russia, in the most famous of doomed love stories. A memorable and enduring classic.
A powerhouse time-travel romance, this is the first in Gabaldon’s hugely successful series. Strong, beautiful Claire Randall leads a double life, married to a man in one century, with a lover in another century. Filled with humor, passion, wit, and wonderful Scottish scenery, this is one fast read for a 600-plus page book. Enjoy the wallow! Next, check out 100 of America’s favorite novels.
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