BlogThe Writing ProcessThe Best Romance Novels Ever Written

The Best Romance Novels Ever Written

Kathy Edens

Kathy Edens

Copywriter, ghostwriter, and content strategy specialist

Published Jul 21, 2021

the essential reading list: romance

Readers love to read about love. If you look at the bestsellers lists at any time of the year, you'll usually find one or two romance novels climbing their way up the charts. The recent adaptation of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series was a runaway success, and steamy newcomers like The Hating Game by Sally Thorne are taking the genre by storm.

Romance novels often get dismissed as trivial, but we know that couldn't be further from the truth. Writing is all about drawing your reader in and making them feel something; and what genre does that better than romance?

But with so many incredible titles out there—and we haven't even mentioned the classics like Pride and Prejudice or Gone With The Wind yet—choosing your next romantic read is tough.

Don't despair, dear reader—we've got the ultimate list of romance novels to keep your heart racing.

You can start swooning now.


Note: Where possible, all the links below go to bookshop.org. Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on the map and they’ll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don’t use Bookshop).


Contents:
  1. Classic Contemporary Romance
  2. New Contemporary Romance
  3. Best Historical Romance Novels
  4. What Is Regency Romance?
  5. Top Romantic Suspense Books
  6. Top Paranormal Romance Novels and Series
  7. Must-Read Young Adult Romance Novels

Classic Contemporary Romance

Contemporary is the largest sub-genre in romance. It's an umbrella term for romance novels set at the time the author was writing—from about the 1970s onwards.

You'll find stories about modern themes, challenges, and society, with most contemporary stories rooted in the real world. We've split this list into modern classics and rising stars. Let's start with the classics.

Vision in White by Nora Roberts

vision in white cover

Always the wedding planner, never the bride. Emmaline, Mackensie, Laurel, and Parker are surrounded by love seven days a week at their successful wedding planning business. But just because romance abounds at work doesn't mean they've been lucky in love themselves. Follow Mackensie as she navigates her way through a romance of her own that turns out to be a little more treacherous than she first expected.

The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks

This man can write a love story. The Notebook toes the line between contemporary and historical romance. An older gentleman visits a woman with a fading memory every morning to read to her from a well-worn notebook. The notebook he reads contains the love story of Noah Calhoun and Allie Nelson and details Allie’s quandary: to marry her fiancé or give it all up for Noah.

Tonight and Forever by Brenda Jackson

tonight and forever

Lorren just wants to leave California behind after a bitter divorce turns her life on its head. She decides to move home to Texas and never give her heart to another man. But widower Justin Madrais isn't like any other man she's ever met. Justin has scars of his own and had resigned himself to being alone. But, together, Lorren and Justin might just discover that love doesn't have to be a write-off after all.

After Forever Ends by Melodie Ramone

Orphaned by her mother and brushed off by her dad, fifteen-year-old Silvia Cotton had lived a lonely life. That is until 1985, when her father moves the family from the Highlands of Scotland to the Midlands of Wales. It is there that she is enrolled at Bennington, a private boarding school, meets the charming and rebellious Dickinson twins, Oliver and Alexander, and her regrettable life changes forever.

Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos

Cornelia Brown's life changed forever when Martin Grace walked into her coffee shop. Meanwhile, abandoned eleven-year-old Clare Hobbs is searching for her father. She and Cornelia cross paths when she meets him at the coffee shop, and they form an unlikely bond that helps them both navigate the waters of family, life, and love.

Nine Lives by Danielle Steel

nine lives cover

Danielle Steel is almost synonymous with the romance genre. But beyond the romance lie stories of women finding who they are amidst life-altering family and personal dramas. Nine Lives follows Maggie Kelly, a woman who has done everything she can to keep tragedy from her door. But when tragedy strikes and Maggie loses the safe suburban life she's built with a safe, dependable man, the lure of her reckless high-school love rears its head and takes her in new directions.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Becky has it all. A swanky apartment, a glamorous social life, designer clothes... and an enormous credit card bill. Her job as a writers doesn't pay much and bores her to tears—until she finds a story that finally captures her attention and changes her life forever.

Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Genius physics professor Dr. Jane Darlington desperately wants a baby. But finding a father won’t be easy. Jane’s super-intelligence made her feel like a freak, and she’s determined to spare her own child that suffering. Cal Bonner, the Chicago Stars’ legendary quarterback, seems like the perfect choice. Dr. Jane is about to learn a little too late that this good ole’ boy is a lot smarter than he lets on—and he’s not about to be used and abandoned by a brainy, baby-mad schemer.

Virgin River by Robyn Carr

When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe responds to an ad for a midwife position in the remote, sleepy town of Virgin River, a sour boss and run-down cabin isn't what she'd dreamed of. But her plans to leave are dashed by the arrival of a baby on her doorstep—and former marine Jack Sheridan.

The Ladies' Room by Carolyn Brown

Secrets told in the church ladies room are supposed to stay there. But the shocking revelation Trudy hears during her great-grandmother's funeral keeps on sneaking into her life outside. A beautiful home and budding relationship rise up from the crumbling house she inherited in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, but can Trudy stay with Billy-Lee, knowing what she now knows?

Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber

16 lighthouse road

Welcome to Cedar Grove, Washington. You don't know them yet, but soon you'll know all about its inhabitants—and their secrets. Olivia Lockhart is a family lawyer with an interfering mother, an ex-husband, and a strained relationship with her daughter. And now that a local reporter has written about her decision to deny a local couple a divorce, she's got media attention to deal with, too. But the attention she really wants is from the reporter who started it all.

New Contemporary Romance

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

get a life, chloe brown cover

Chloe Brown decides to "get a life" after her chronic illness nearly takes hers. She's got a six-step plan and a can-do attitude, but she needs a little help along the way. Especially for number six: "Do something bad." The man for the job? Local handyman by day and artist by night, Redford "Red" Morgan. Can Chloe work her way under his rough exterior?

Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Once a year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler share one night of forbidden pleasure that helps them forget the tragedy that haunts their pasts—and the family ties that make them enemies. Once a year, that's the deal. Until Livvy fails to show up. When she returns to town, Nicholas can't help but be distracted by the woman he isn't meant to want. Livvy didn't come back for him, but she can't seem to stop thinking about how right they feel together. Their desire can't fix the rift between their families, but being apart is impossible.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

the wedding date cover

Does anything intrigue a romance reader more than the classic "will you be my date to this wedding" set up? It's a tale as old as time, but this is a great version. Alexa Monroe wouldn't usually agree to go to a wedding with a guy she gets trapped in an elevator with. But there's something about Drew Nichols that she just can't resist. If you're looking for a fun new series to dive into, Jasmine Guillory's Wedding Date trilogy is a blast.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

If you haven't heard of this book, where have you been? Let us introduce you. Stella Lane's life has always revolved around maths. It's brought her incredible career success but left her lacking in the dating-experience department. Always a problem solver, Stella hires escort Michael Phan to help her navigate a world of firsts. But what will she do when their partnership starts making too much sense?

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

seven days in june cover

When reclusive author, Shane, and bestselling erotica author, Eva, meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York's Black literati. What they don't know is that twenty years ago, teenage-Eva and Shane spent one crazy week head-over-heels in love. Sure, they pretend that everything is fine in the here-and-now, but they can't deny their chemistry—or the fact that they've been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

the ex talk cover

Shay Goldstein needs to come up with a plan fast to save the local radio station where she works. Her winning idea? A show hosted by exes who used to date. The only problem? She and her assigned co-host (insufferable know-it-all Dominic) have never dated and have to fake the whole thing. But as they start to unravel their "relationship," could they actually be building something real?


Best Historical Romance Novels

Historical romance is just what you'd expect: romance set in the past. This usually includes anything set pre-World War II, so you'll find everything from medieval knights and damsels to American civil war spies. Here are some classics and lesser-known titles that prove that love really is timeless. Writing historical romance is a great opportunity to explore a wider variety of romantic conflicts and obstacles.

Love historical reads? Check out our list of the best historical fiction of all time.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander

Claire is thrust back in time to Scotland in the 1700s, where she meets Jamie Fraser, a Scotts warrior who teaches Claire love that she’s never known. But she still has a husband back in her own time, one patently different from the wild and wonderful Scotsman. Who will she choose?

Watch Diana Gabaldon talk about her writing below:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Spoiled, headstrong Scarlett O’Hara finds herself in dire straits during the Civil War. Her family’s fortune and plantation are in tatters, and Scarlett uses every wile in her toolkit to keep her family and land out of poverty. The infamous Rhett Butler offers her a way out, but will she lose her heart in the process?

Indigo by Beverly Jenkins

Indigo

As a child, Hester Wyatt escaped slavery. Now the dark-skinned beauty is a member of Michigan's Underground Railroad, offering other runaways a chance at the freedom she has learned to love. When one of her fellow conductors brings her an injured man to hide, Hester doesn't hesitate...even after she is told about the price on his head. The man in question is known as the "Black Daniel," a vital member of the North's Underground Railroad network. But Hester finds him so rude and arrogant, she questions her vow to hide him.

Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

Heartsick and desperate to return home to America, Georgina Anderson boards the Maiden Anne disguised as a cabin boy, never dreaming she'll be forced into intimate servitude at the whim of the ship's irrepressible captain, James Mallory.

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

During the summer of 1941, the Metanov family are living a hard life in Leningrad. As the German armies advance, their future looks bleak. For Tatiana, love arrives in the guise of Alexander, who harbours a deadly and extraordinary secret.

Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath

Texas Destiny

Houston Leigh survived the Civil War though badly scarred—both inside and out. But will he survive a dangerous journey along the wild trails of Texas with Miss Amelia Carson, his handsome brother's mail-order bride?

The Serpent Garden by Judith Merkle Riley

The Serpent Garden

Left in debt when her philandering artist husband is murdered by his mistress's own jealous husband, Susanna Dallet must rely on her skills as a painter of miniatures to survive her new position at the court of the devious Cardinal Wolsey. Luckily, there's a wayward angel and a handsome but easily ruffled court secretary looking out for her.

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Tipping the Velvet

Set in Victorian London, Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards. This is a story of their love and Nan's journey of self-discovery.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Former slave turned spy Elle Burns returns to the South to gather information for the Union Army. When she meets fellow undercover agent Malcolm McCall, they unite in a plot to preserve the union.

The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

The Flame and the Flower

A lusty adventurer married to the sea, Captain Brandon Birmingham courts scorn and peril when he abducts the beautiful fugitive Heather Simmons from the tumultuous London dockside. But no power on Earth can compel him to relinquish his exquisite prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed lovely his woman... and to carry her off to far, uncharted realms of sensuous, passionate love.

The Black Lyon by Jude Deveraux

The English conqueror was called Lyon for his ferociousness. He's never met his match—until the feisty Lyonene. Their whirlwind romance and turbulent marriage eventually drive her across the Irish sea and into a grave danger that only Lyon can save her from. Will their love emerge triumphant?

An Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles

an unseen attraction

Victorian lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers the quiet life. Lodger Rowley Green, quiet, unassuming (and irresistible), suits him perfectly. Rowley wasn't interested in friends—until he meets Clem. But what if they're both hoping for something more? The set-up seems perfect, but the corpse of a former lodger being dumped on the doorstep quickly puts a stop to that. Now Clem and Rowley face violent men and an impending deadly fog as they try to solve the mystery—together.

Something Like Love by Beverly Jenkins

Fleeing an unsavoury match made for her by her father, Olivia Sterling seeks out the all-black town of Henry Adams, Kansas. Before she can get there, her train is halted by Neil July and his band of outlaws. Olivia quickly finds herself wanting a wanted man.

Hear more about Beverly Jenkins' writing process:

The Bride by Julie Garwood

The Bride

By the king's edict, Alec Kincaid, mightiest of the Scottish lairds, must take an English bride. And Jamie, the youngest daughter of Baron Jamison, is his choice. From his first glimpse of the proud and beautiful English lady, Alec felt a burning hunger stir within him. But with the wedding vows, Jamie pledges her own secret oath: she will never surrender her love to this Highland barbarian.

What Is Regency Romance?

Regency romance is a sub-sub-genre that falls under historical romance, but it's so popular that we think it deserves its very own section. These novels are set in the British Regency era and include the works of Jane Austen. Expect elegance, opulence, and a foray into high society.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Fresh from her travels around Europe, Sophy is sent to live with her aunt in London while her father is away on business. When she arrives, she finds her cousins trapped in a variety of sticky situations and gets to work fixing their woes of the heart—and purse. But her eldest cousin Charles is keen to rid his family of her interfering ways. Has Sophy finally met her match?

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Another amazing story from the master Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility shows us two women in love. Marianne Dashwood is impulsive in her love for the charming Willoughby, and Elinor Dashwood is sensible but struggles to conceal her angst with her love for Edward Ferras.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

The Duke and I

By all accounts, Simon Basset is on the verge of proposing to his best friend’s sister, the lovely—and almost-on-the-shelf—Daphne Bridgerton. But it’s all an elaborate plan to keep Simon free from marriage-minded society mothers. And, as for Daphne, surely she will attract some worthy suitors now that it seems a duke has declared her desirable. But as Daphne waltzes across ballroom after ballroom with Simon, it’s hard to remember that their courtship is a complete sham.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

By far the most beloved love story of all time, Pride and Prejudice is a great place to start. Elizabeth Bennett. Mr. Darcy. The situation is set up in the first line: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." The thrust? Shall you marry for love or money?

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

Flowers from the Storm

The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant—and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the "D of J" in scandal sheets. But sometimes the most womanizing rake-hell can be irresistible, and even his most causal attentions fascinated the sheltered Maddy Timms. Maddy knows it is her destiny to help him and her only chance to find the true man behind the wicked facade.

A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.
Try it for free!
ProWritingAid

Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught

Fresh from her triumphs in Paris society, Whitney Stone returned to England to win the heart of Paul, her childhood love...only to be bargained away by her bankrupt father to the handsome, arrogant Duke of Claymore. Even as his smoldering passion seduces her into a gathering storm of desire, Whitney cannot—will not—relinquish her dream of perfect love.

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas

Devil in Winter

Evangeline Jenner stands to become wealthy once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage! But Evie's proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions... or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Tough-minded Jessica Trent's sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain's reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising—and public—position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction.

Top Romantic Suspense Books

For those who like their romance with a side of thrills—romantic suspense novels combine the romantic plot with mystery and thriller elements. Definitions vary, but in most romantic suspense novels the romantic tension is equal to the tension surrounding the central mystery. Here are some of the best romantic suspense stories to investigate.

{Always looking for your next thriller read? Here are our must-read thriller novels.](https://prowritingaid.com/art/730/the-best-thrillers-ever-written.aspx)

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

rebecca cover

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where the heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives—presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

Deadly Silence by Rebecca Zanetti

Paralegal Zara Remington only wanted to help a friend. But now her career and her life are in danger. She has nowhere to turn—or so she thinks. Ryker Jones, PI, is running from his own past. Despite the danger he is in, he can't leave Zara stranded. He could be the only one who can save her—if his own deadly past doesn't destroy them both.

Zero at the Bone by Jane Seville

Zero at the Bone

After witnessing a mob hit, surgeon Jack Francisco is put into protective custody to keep him safe until he can testify. A hitman known only as D is blackmailed into killing Jack, but when he tracks him down, his conscience won't allow him to murder an innocent. The pair find in each other an unlikely ally.

Don't Tell by Karen Rose

Karen Rose's immensely popular romantic suspense series spans 25 titles. If you're looking to get into the genre, Rose has you covered. Don't Tell is the first in the series, though all of the books follow their own contained storylines within their respective universe. In Don't Tell, Mary Grace Waters is rebuilding her life and learning how to love again after faking her own death to escape her abusive cop husband. But when he discovers the lie and starts following her trail, Mary faces losing the peace she has so sorely won. What will she and her new love interest, Max Hunter, do to protect their new-found happiness?

If you've already read it, watch Karen Rose walk you through how she plotted Don't Tell in this episode of her insightful Story Behind a Story series:

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

madness of sunshine

Twenty-one years ago, Anahera Rawiri left New Zealand to escape the monotony of small-town life. But after her new life falls apart, she returns, seeking familiarity in her childhood town. It's just as sleepy as it's always been; except, that is, for the new police presence. DI Will Gallagher was also running when he moved to town, leaving behind a promising career in Christchurch for petty theft cases. But when three women go missing while out hiking, he finds himself heading up a missing persons case. And only Anahera has the information he needs to solve it.

The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks

Another wildly popular series, Maya Banks' KGI novels always leave readers desperate for more. The first in the series, The Darkest Hour, introduces us to the world of the Kelly Group International, an elite, family-run business that takes care of the jobs the US government can't handle. Ex-Navy SEAL Ethan Kelly last saw his wife Rachel alive a year ago. Overcome by grief and regret, he refuses his brothers' invitations to join the family business—until he hears that Rachel may still be alive. Will he save her? And will she still be the same woman he fell in love with if he does?

Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

naked in death

This series is iconic. Writing under a pseudonym, Nora Roberts gives us another lesson in writing romance here (though this time with added murder). It's 2058 and detective Eva Dallas is investigating the death of a senator's daughter. Thrown into the upper echelons of society by the case, Eva finds herself navigating delicate issues of national security... and a crush on dashingly handsome and staggeringly rich Roarke. The problem? He's also her main suspect.

Top Paranormal Romance Novels and Series

Like other romance sub-genres, paranormal romance focusses on the romantic relationship between its protagonists. The twist is that those protagonists are gods, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters—think species you'd normally find in a fantasy novel cast. These stories are fantastically fun reads. Dive into some of our favorites below.

Are you a fantasy fan? See how many of our top fantasy novels of all time you've read, and tell us what we've missed.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Macy Thompson was raised by werewolves, but she could never be one of them. She's a shapeshifter, taken in as a child and later run off for having a forbidden love affair. After rebuilding her life as a successful mechanic, Macy's new and old lives collide as a starving young werewolf shows up at her door. Will she and her neighbor, Adam Hauptman, alpha of the local werewolf pack, be able to help? And what else will they find along the way?

Awaken the Dragon by A.C. Arthur

awaken the dragon

Half-human, half-dragon Theo Masters has evaded his destiny as heir to the Drakon throne to run his security company in the human world. But then his latest client, Shola N’Gara, arrives and changes everything.

The Black Lily by Juliette Cross

Cinderella... but with vampires. Arabelle is the fearless leader of the underground resistance. The vampire monarchy is getting stronger by the day and must be stopped. Her plan? Attend the vampire prince's blood ball and kill him while he's distracted by the festivities. Everything is going perfectly—until she kisses him instead of killing him. Prince Marius is willing to let the whole assassination thing slide. He just wants to find the woman who stole his heart with a kiss and left only a dagger behind.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

darkfever cover

MacKayla Lane is happy with her life. A good job, good friends—everything is as it should be. Until her sister is murdered, leaving only a cryptic text message to work with. Her investigation takes her to Ireland, where she discovered the world of the fae—as well as powers she never knew she had. As she begins to discover the truth, the ruthless Vlane—an alpha fae who makes sex an addiction for human women—closes in on her. Will she escape? Will she want to?

Conversion by S.C. Stephens

Emma is confident that she can make her relationship with her half-human, half-vampire boyfriend, Terren, work. After all, he enjoys dog walking as well as drinking blood. But she quickly realizes that staying with Terran means making more sacrifices than accepting that her boyfriend is half dead. How far will Emma go for love?

Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward

Lover Awakened

A former blood slave, the vampire Zsadist still bears the scars from a past filled with suffering and humiliation. Anger is his only companion, and terror is his only passion—until he rescues a beautiful aristocrat from the evil Lessening Society. Bella is instantly entranced by the seething power Zsadist possesses. Bella must help her lover overcome the wounds of his tortured past and find a future with her.

The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter

Ashlyn would do anything to stop the voices tormenting her in her head, even seek help from the dark lords of the underworld. Maddox, the most powerful of the coven, shouldn't be getting involved with anyone, especially not a vulnerable help-seeker like Ashlyn. How long will they be able to deny the passion burning between them?

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

slave to sensation

Nalini Singh is best known for her paranormal romance novels. In Slave to Sensation, you'll enter the world of Psy, a place where emotion and passion are forbidden. Lucas Hunter is a changeling, seeking revenge against the Psy, who murdered his packmate. Sacha, a Psy struggling against her own desires, may just be his only hope of infiltrating the society and claiming his revenge.

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Anita Blake makes her living reanimating the dead-too-soon and controlling the unruly undead. She's an expert in her field, but she may have met her match in vampire Jean-Claude. After all, it's much easier to get rid of someone when you're not head over heels attracted to them.

Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson

lord of the fading lands

Driven mad by grief after the death of the woman he loved, king of the Fey Rain Tairen destroys the Fey world and retreats to the Fading Lands. One thousand years later, the world he left behind is in danger of being overtaken by dark powers. Rain can't let them win, but will he be able to save the Fey world—and his heart—in time?

Prisoner of Night by J.R. Ward

Ahmare's brother has been abducted. Duran has been a prisoner wasting away in a dungeon for decades as the result of a betrayal. The fate of Ahmare’s brother and Duran’s quest for freedom become intertwined as the two lovers-to-be journey into a magical world where danger lurks around every corner.

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

dragon bound

Pia Giovanni stole from a dragon, and she didn't get away with it. She can't—won't—accept her fate as Dragos' captive. But she also can't deny the burning passion he ignites within her.

Must-Read Young Adult Romance Novels

Young Adult Romance is written for and about young adults. They often contain dramatic romantic themes and complex emotional hurdles—the best young adult romances don't oversimplify the feelings and trials that come along with falling in love for the first time. Here are some of the best.

Love YA? Here's our essential reading list.

Fire by Kristen Cashore

fire kristen cashore

In a world of devastatingly beautiful "monsters," Fire is one of the most dangerous: a human monster. With great beauty comes great responsibility. Fire knows that people will turn away from their lives, friends, and family for her—as well as crush nations, start wars, and abuse power. Burdened with this knowledge, she has lived a life of solitude, sequestered in a corner of the kingdom. But when the king and crown prince fall into trouble, she may be the only one who can help.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow doesn't go looking for trouble, but it always finds him in the end. He's the Chosen One—but he isn't sure how he was chosen, or by whom. He's clumsy, he sets things on fire, and is at his most powerful when his magic is completely out of control. Already contending with an insidious mortal enemy and threats to the magical world, the last thing he needs is trouble from his vampire roomate, Baz. But maybe that trouble is just the kind he needs.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

pride ibi zoboi

Zuri Benitez cannot stand the new guy who just moved in across the street. He's arrogant, self-obsessed, and looks down his nose at her and her family. Sound familiar? Pride is the modern-day Pride and Prejudice remix you need to read. Set in Brooklyn with a colorful cast of characters, this is a twist on a classic you won't want to miss.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Twins Jude and Noah are inseparable. They balance each other; Jude is the thrill-seeker and Noah is the artist who may be in love with the boy next door. But when tragedy strikes, their closeness dissolves. A few years later and they barely speak. The universe knows they're not meant to be apart. Something has to give to bring them back together.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

heartstopper alice oseman

Charlie has done it again. He's fallen for a straight boy. Nick is Truham Grammar's star rugby player. After they're assigned seats next to each other in class, the two become close friends. But could there be something more....? Heartstopper is a much-loved graphic novel series that explores family drama, identity, friendship, and first loves.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

This is the essential romance reading list, so this one had to be on here. If you haven't heard of this bestselling hit series, you're in for a treat. Lara Jean dealt with her crushes by writing love letters to them. And then putting those love letters in a box and never sending them. But one day, the letters get out and Lara Jean finds herself confronted with the crushes of her past. But might one of them re-emerge in the present?

Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest

now that I've found you

Evie Jones is the next big thing in Hollywood. Until a friend's betrayal gets her blacklisted. There's only one person who can help her reclaim her spot in the limelight: her ultra-famous grandma, Gigi. The problem, Gigi is a recluse, and she's just gone missing. The fate of Evie's career lies in the hands of musician Milo Williams, the last person to see Gigi. But can Evie trust him?

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

It's 1987 and Aristotle and Dante, two Mexican-American 15-year-olds, have just met. This tender, slow-moving but rich novel follows them and their relationship as they grow up together in the space that is not quite boyhood, but not yet manhood, either. This book has won a ton of awards, and it deserved every single one. A must read.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

saint anything

Sydney has always lived on the sidelines. Charismatic and handsome, her brother Peyton has always been the center of attention. After he is arrested and sentenced for drink-driving, Sydney is more alone than ever. Then come the Chatham family, and Sydney finally feels seen and accepted, especially when she's alone with the oldest brother, Mac. Follow Sydney as she discovers family, love, and herself.

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

What would you do if your mostly-absent father showed up to tell you that he's the crown prince of a far off country, making you a princess? This is the unlikely but entertaining situation teenager Mia Thermopolis finds herself in in The Princess Diaries. Forced to undertake princess lessons with her grandmother, the Queen of Genovia, Mia comes to terms with who she is and who she wants to be in this immensely popular 11-part series.

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

happily ever afters

Tessa rarely sees herself represented in the romance novels she loves. The only place she gets to be the heroine is in her own stories. Until she gets accepted onto a creative writing course, she's only ever shared her stories with her best friend Caroline. But when she finally gets the chance to share them, the words won't come. Caroline is certain that Tessa just needs some real-life inspiration, and so the plot to cast the attention of her chosen prince charming, Nico, begins. But as Tessa starts to lose herself and her newfound friendship with her sweet neighbor, Sam, she's left to question whether this is the romance she always wanted, or if her true love might be a little closer to home.


What have we missed?

Is your favorite romance novel missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below!

PS: Want to write your own romance novel? Check out our complete guide here


Could you be the next bestselling romance author? Download this free book now:

The Novel-Writing Training Plan

The Novel-Writing Training Plan

So you are ready to write your novel. Excellent. But are you prepared? The last thing you want when you sit down to write your first draft is to lose momentum.

This guide helps you work out your narrative arc, plan out your key plot points, flesh out your characters, and begin to build your world.

Subscribe for writing hacks, special offers and free stuff
We will not share your details
Have you tried  ProWritingAid  yet? What are you waiting for? It's the best tool for making sure your copy is strong, clear, and error-free!
Kathy Edens

Kathy Edens

Copywriter, ghostwriter, and content strategy specialist

Kathy Edens is a blogger, a ghost writer, and content master who loves writing about anything and everything. Check out her books: The Novel-Writing Training Plan: 17 Steps to Get Your Ideas in Shape for the Marathon of Writing and Creating Legends: How to Craft Characters Readers Adore... or Despise.

Log in to your account to leave a comment or fill in your details below to comment as a guest.
i am sorry but "The Scarlett Letter"blows all these titles out of the water,i'm not what you would call a romantic and i seldom reread a novel,but i did with Nathaniel Hawthorne's book...
Are the "Editors pick" some kind of compensation to a particular group?. It's kind of weird that all the Editors picks have one thing in common....
Hi there, these are some personal picks from the staff in no particular order. We hope readers enjoy them!
No, as a romance reader, I don't agree with the "Editors pick". I don't read this type of subgenre in specific and I also don't know the authors except for Sarah waters, and if I am honest, I do not like her work either. It's a closed selection that does not represent the romantic reader in its entirety. I undestand the need for diversity but the pick isn't objective.
Disappointed in the comments left by others here so far disparaging the editors pick. I came here directly to express my adoration for several of those books included and my enthusiastic intent to read the ones here that I haven’t. In light of the rest of the feedback I’d like to also personally thank the editors for making the choices they did, as an lgbt reader and writer myself. Keep doing what you’re doing!
Any time the classification of "The Best" is used, it's subjective. I respect the choices, but don't necessarily agree. My favorite Jane Austen is Persuasion (and I've read them all as part of a Jane Austen and Film course). There's just something about second chances--not to mention love that lasts over the course of time--that warms my heart. Also, for recent novels that tug at my heartstrings, I highly recommend Nichole Van. Everything she has published is a winner in my book. And, not that I mind a steamy story, it has no gratuitous sex but lots and lots of feels.
I'm sorry but Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre, The Notebook, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe, Outlander, Rebecca, and The Princess Bride are not romance novels. A romance, as defined by the Romance Writers of America must include a focus on the romantic relationship and must include an optimistic ending. In other words, if you remove the romance from the story and the story doesn't fall apart, it's not a romance novel. If the story ends unhappily, it's not a romance novel. Most of the books on this list are gothic tales or sweeping epics. And just because a book is a love story does not mean it's a romance novel. They are two different things, and I'm getting really tired of wanting to look for "Best Romance Novel" lists, and finding books that aren't romance novels on those lists. And it's not to say any of those books are bad. Gone with the Wind and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe are two of my favorite books. But they aren't romance novels.
Wuthering Heights!?!?
My favourite romances are Call Me By Your Name and The Night Circus. I couldn't get away with Pride and Prejudice.
As Maryam's Tree Stood Witness is a Romantic Novel written by Author Ali Kasem.
Just because Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor has been long out of print it is still my favorite. I liked it better than Gone With the Wind.
We love book suggestions! Thanks for your input. :)
How can you leave Wuthering Heights off this list???
I agree with some of the classics such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. A more recent favorite of mine was the The Tea Rose. Great story and excellent narrator!
Love the suggestion! Can't wait to check it out. :)
How could you leave Victoria Holt off of your list? Her gothic romance novels were bestsellers during the '60s and '70s. The king of the castle and especially Bride of pendorric were on everyone's reading lists.
Great additions! So many romance novels.... so little time! <3
No mention of Mary Stewart, the best writer of romance novels in modern times. Her successors are in fact poor substitutes. She was literate, intelligent, and exciting. "Madam Will You Talk" and "Nine Coaches Waiting" are classics.
Love the suggestions! Thanks!
Bridges of Madison County! Also, those suggesting Wuthering Heights should re-read...Heathcliff is nasty.
Mmm... good advice!
The Tattooist of Auschwitz. I could not put it down.. A young Jewish man has to tattoo a young girl and as they lock eyes he vows to marry her one day. The suspense and highs and lows as they survive the Holocaust.. Their clandestine romance hidden from the Nazi guards read like a romantic thriller. The best book I ever read and a true love story in the most horrific circumstances is the New York Times best seller.
Thanks for sharing your experience with the book! :)
Oh, and The Bridges of Madison County should definitely be included. Fabulous book and movie. Also The Horse Whisperer.
Yes and double yes! Thanks for the contributions! :)
My 2 favourite romance novels are "Walking After Midnight" by Karen Robards, and "Agnes and the Hitman" by Jennifer Cruisie. Robards writes about strong women facing tough odds, and Cruisie's novels have quirky, lovable main characters trying to figure out how love fits into there lives.
Thanks for these suggestions! Love them!
In my humble opinion I think it's a bit of a stretch calling these choices "the BEST romance novels ever written". For one, "the best" is very subjective, and, as one reviewer has mentioned, not all can be classified as "romance novels" as Diana Gabaldon herself said of her excellent "Outlander" series. Secondly, the novels listed are readers' choice reviews, and popularity is, literally, in the eye of the beholder. In a 2017 article in Medium.com in a study of the remarkable popularity of Fifty Shades, the author notes that "Some consumers buy products not because they are “better” in any way, but simply because they are popular. What they’re buying is not just a product, but also a piece of popularity itself." So I would suggest that the list be called "most popular" or "most highly rated". Best sellers is another category altogether!
Thank you for contributing your opinion! A most valid one, at that!
The Rosalind Chronicles are the most exciting and romantic historical novels ever. My Mom loved these books and I first read them as a teenager. I'm past retirement age now and last year I read them all again for probably the 5th time. Set in the middle ages, the saga begins in the time of the Lionhearted's crusade when a wealthy young woman falls in love with a middle aged knight in Queen Alinor's guard. Subsequent volumes follow their lives and those of their children. The books are swoon worthy, exciting and historically accurate. You'll love them.
Gotta check 'em out!
y’all clearly don’t know what genre romance is, as half these books are NOT romance. they’re love stories or fiction with romantic elements or tragedies. I’d expect editors making lists like these to know the genre.
Thank you for sharing your views. I think we can all agree that most books fit into multiple genres, so it is all a matter of opinion and persepctive.
Fantastic books here and I don't want to seem like a stickler or like I'm the authority but traditionally a romance is defined as a book that ends in a happy ever after (although this is pushed a bit at times), and has the main plot as the romance. By these definitions there are a few on this list that aren't really a romance—The Notebook, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Gone with the Wind. Great books! But I wouldn't define them as romance, just with strong romance elements or subplots but with the story being driven by something else. (The Notebook has romance as the main plot, but a bittersweet ending). There may be others but those jumped out at me. I also have to give my strong personal dislike of Whitney, My Love. It's a romance, but was written in the 70s and the interactions between the hero and heroine in my opinion haven't aged well.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Sometimes a bitter sweet ending is just as good as a happily ever after but that is just my personal preference :)

Great Writing, Made Easier.

A grammar checker, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.

Try it for free today.

Sign up