55 Best Romance Novels of All Time
Here are the absolute best romance novels to get your heart racing. Warning: You won't be able to put them down.
Get ready to swoon
Great romance novels are comforting and captivating, with great plots, snappy dialogue and gorgeous details to keep you enthralled. You don’t even have to cozy up by the fireplace in your favorite chair. A romance novel is perfect for an airplane ride or any place where you’d like to be transported to another world.
The romance novels on our list represent voices deserving of recognition. They’re surefire page-turners: bestselling hits that have become blockbuster movies or hit TV series, classics that have withstood the test of time and stories that have garnered thousands of rave reviews from fans. Some of the books were selected by Reader’s Digest book editors. (These are noted by a Reader’s Digest Editor’s Choice seal.) If you love these romance novels, you’ll also want to check out the go-to book recommendations from our readers, the best fantasy books, must-read historical fiction, young adult novels even adults adore, beach reads and summer reads to pick up year-round, Christmas romance books and the best books of all time.
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1. Honey & Spice by Bolu Babalola (2022)
Fake relationship? Snarky heroine? University setting? Yes, please! Kiki Banjo is an independent Black British woman known for her quick wit, sharp tongue and the advice she gives her friends about avoiding relationships with men who don’t deserve them. She certainly wouldn’t fall in love with a player like Malakai Korede, no matter how much chemistry they have. But when the pair find themselves “dating” in order to maintain their reputations, Kiki’s ideas about love are tested. Bolu Babalola’s sexy, hilarious debut novel was an instant bestseller and a Reese’s Book Club pick.
2. Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood (2022)
Bee Königswasser is a purple-haired scientist and self-proclaimed STEMinist who’s just been offered her dream job at NASA. There’s just one problem: Her co-lead on the project is her grad school archnemesis, the unfairly attractive Levi Ward. What would Marie Curie do in this situation? What will Bee do? This hilarious yet brainy story will charm and entice anyone who loves romance novels, especially fans of the classic enemies-to-lovers plot line.
3. Full Exposure by Thien-Kim Lam (2023)
Dropping on Feb. 21, 2023, Full Exposure is Thien-Kim Lam’s sophomore romance novel. It follows photographer Josie Parks and ex-corporate drone Spencer Pham, who meet in New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras parade. Spencer has left his boring job to make a film about his family’s history as the first Vietnamese Mardi Gras krewe, and Josie is taking a rare vacation from her workaholic lifestyle. Sparks fly despite their opposing personality types, and soon the Big Easy fling is getting serious. But can they balance their artistic pursuits, different locations and love affair? This latest work from the author of the acclaimed Happy Endings is sure to make you laugh, sigh and crave some beignets. There’s nothing like a book that really conjures up a specific location, so for your next read, check out the most iconic books set in every state.
4. Before I Do by Sophie Cousens (2022)
It’s the night before her wedding, and Audrey is forced to confront the biggest “what if” in her life: Fred, the one who got away, has shown up as her fiancé’s sister’s plus-one at her rehearsal dinner. She hasn’t seen him for six years—could this be fate intervening? Audrey must come to terms with her past and decide between a loving, stable relationship with her fiancé, Josh, and the promise of unpredictability and fireworks that Fred offers. This heartwarming romance novel is a delightful twist on the classic love triangle (although that’s one of our favorite tropes in the romance book genre), exploring the idea that something you thought you had missed out on may have opened the door for something better.
5. A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera (2022)
Prolific romance novelist Adriana Herrera has crafted a lush historical romance in A Caribbean Heiress in Paris. It’s 1889, and Luz Alana is on her way to Paris with her two best friends, 300 casks of Santo Domingo rum and one goal in mind: to expand her family’s rum business at the Exposition Universelle. She’s also determined not to fall in love along the way.
Fortunately, that won’t happen with the Earl of Darnick, James Evanston Sinclair. Sure, he’s the only man who wants to help her build her business, despite her being a woman of color. And yes, Luz can’t access her inheritance unless she marries. But she’s certainly not going to fall for some entitled Scottish earl. Especially not one with a successful whisky business. Herrera’s steamy, feminist tale is a must-read. Even better? It’s just the first in a forthcoming book series.
6. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams (2021)
Eva Mercy writes bestselling vampire books, but she’s an exhausted single mom with no time to “romance a real-life penis.” She channels desire into her novels. But then she sees Shane at a conference. He stole her heart during a wild week 15 years ago, and now the two give it another round. Get ready for laugh-out-loud writing in one of the best new steamy romance novels, which also has an engrossing story with a true heart.
7. Love at First by Kate Clayborn (2021)
One of the best romance novels to make it to the top of several book lists is Love at First, in which beautiful writing meets an affecting story with endearing characters. Will’s a busy doctor who inherits an apartment he plans to sell. But that doesn’t work for the other tenants, especially Nora, who’s determined to keep things as they were when her grandmother owned her unit. She sets out to sabotage his plans, but love has a way of foiling them. You’ll dog-ear this one for its wonderful storytelling—it rivals the writing in any of these romantic movies.
8. A Spot of Trouble by Teri Wilson (2021)
Set in a charming beach town, this light and lovely romance novel follows two Dalmatian owners whose dogs look exactly the same. Violet is the police chief’s daughter and the proud owner of Sprinkles. After the arrival of a new fireman, a rival for her father and the owner of a dog that looks exactly like Sprinkles, shenanigans ensue. Violet finds herself falling in love in this humorous enemies-to-lovers romance. Sounds like a rom-com waiting to be made!
9. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (2018)
Jasmine Guillory’s debut contemporary romance novel, the first in the romance book series, 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 date to a wedding becomes way more. Here are more books by Black authors that you shouldn’t miss.
10. Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher (2021)
Marin’s still grieving her mother’s passing, so an island spa trip with her sister seems like the perfect remedy. When her sister misses the flight, she finds herself flying solo. Meet Me in Paradise sees Marin embarking on an adventure filled with unexpected love and self-discovery.
11. Virgin River by Robyn Carr (2007)
A widowed nurse leaves Los Angeles to start over in a charming mountain 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, and this is a romance novel, 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, and it’s the basis for the TV series of the same name, now one of the best shows on Netflix with its fifth season coming soon!
12. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (2016)
If you’re a sucker for romance books, you’ll love Jojo Moyes’s 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. Looking to read something that’s on the flip side of love? Check out these graphic novels for teens that you can pick up too.
13. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2016)
Becky Albertalli’s debut young adult novel was acclaimed, beloved and adapted into a hit film and Hulu series. In it, Simon writes anonymous emails to another gay teen at his high school—whose identity he doesn’t know. Neither is ready to come out, but when Simon is blackmailed by a classmate, his secret may be exposed. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.
14. Maggie Finds Her Muse by Dee Ernst (2021)
Travel to France in this funny page-turner about a romance novelist who’s suffering from writer’s block. Her fans eagerly await her next book, but Maggie can’t get started, and her quickly approaching deadline makes it worse. A stay in a Paris apartment seems like the perfect solution, but romantic entanglements ensue with a Frenchman and the arrival of her ex-husband. This compelling romance novel is a witty, heartfelt romp with moving moments and a relatable heroine.
15. Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake by Mazey Eddings (2022)
Lizzie Blake is no stranger to mistakes (hence the title of this romance novel). But after a two-night stand, she’s really messed up—and ends up pregnant. Rake is willing to do anything for his baby, but he’s been burned before and won’t get emotionally attached to a woman again. What could go wrong? A lot, it turns out. But even the greatest mistakes can have the best results.
16. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014)
Teenager Lara Jean 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 being sent and delivered. Of course, things get awkward, especially when one of the letters is addressed to her sister’s boyfriend. This YA romance novel was adapted into a hit movie on Netflix.
17. The Lost and Found Necklace by Louisa Leaman (2021)
Jess gets tasked with buying back a family heirloom—an exquisite art nouveau necklace that supposedly brings the wearer her soulmate—at an art auction. But a mysterious stranger outbids her and insists she join him for dinner. From there, Jess gets caught up in a quest to discover her family’s history in this engaging romance novel that takes her across the world and back. If you love suspense, try one of the best mysteries.
18. The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (2019)
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 and asks 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.
19. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (2019)
Casey McQuiston’s instant bestseller wows readers with its story about the president’s son, who’s caught in a scandal with his nemesis, the Prince of Wales. In a twist on the “fake dating” trope, the two fake a friendship. But this is a romance novel, so soon the two fall for each other. They’re not sure if they’re ready to take their relationship to the world stage, but they may be making history whether they like it or not.
20. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (2018)
The heroine of Helen Hoang’s popular romance is a math whiz with Asperger’s syndrome 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.
21. Heartbreaker by Julie Garwood (2001)
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. It’s a great pick for anyone who loves a good thriller but misses the heat.
22. Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle (2021)
Maybell indulges in lush, romantic daydreams, but only in her head. She hadn’t dreamed of this, though: inheriting her great-aunt’s sprawling Victorian-era estate. And she never would have imagined sharing the house with a co-inheritor, the grumpy groundskeeper, Wesley, who her aunt took a liking to in her final years. But what starts off as animosity beautifully blossoms into more in Sarah Hogle’s sophomore novel, Twice Shy. Check out more of the best books by female authors that will inspire you.
23. Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole (2019)
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.
24. Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber (1996)
Debbie Macomber’s novels focus on faith and happy endings. In Mrs. Miracle, a cozy Christmas novel that 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.
25. Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh (2019)
Bestselling 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.
26. The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons (2021)
Nobody at his new high school knows that Spencer is transgender, and no one will because he’s passing just fine. That is, until playing on the champion soccer team forces him to take a stand for who he is. This heartfelt, winning story is one of the best recent teen romance novels with a lead character who is LGBTQ+. It features a can’t-put-it-down love story between Spencer and his teammate Justice that fuels captivating social themes and complicated realism in this brilliant, funny debut.
27. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (2000)
This sensual, acclaimed erotic novel follows two music-hall performers, Nan and Kitty, in late-1800s England. Sarah Waters uses beautiful, evocative language and rich, historical detail to explore love and the lesbian experience in this must-read story.
28. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev (2016)
This is the first book in Sonali Dev’s acclaimed Bollywood series, and it offers a transcontinental romance caught between cultures. Mili’s arranged marriage, at age 4, needs to be annulled—she hasn’t even seen her husband for decades. She’s 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.
29. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (2013)
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.
30. Bared to You by Sylvia Day (2014)
If you’re still in the mood for shades of 50 Shades of Grey, you’ll love Sylvia Day’s bestselling Crossfire series, which starts with Bared to You. It’s about a young grad, Eva, and super-wealthy guy Gideon. Both are haunted by past trauma, but that doesn’t stop their attraction to kink and each other.
31. In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner (2002)
Jennifer Weiner’s moving novel follows sisters Maggie and Rose. One is a perfectionist, and the other is a mess. The novel was adapted into a movie starring Toni Collette as Rose and Cameron Diaz as Maggie. 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 and friendship for the women in your life—even if it’s messy.
32. I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (2013)
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 the funniest books of all time make you laugh.
33. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)
Pick up one of the best classic books (that’s also one of the best romance novels) with Emily Brontë’s sweeping Gothic tale, which she 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.
34. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (1996)
Helen Fielding’s hit novel, written in diary entries, spawned a hit film franchise starring Renée Zellweger. As good as the films are, the books are better; 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 draws out belly laughs and pulls your heartstrings. The men in her life barely matter, though she still gets a happy ending.
35. Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson (2018)
The heroine in Maddie Dawson’s bestselling novel loses her marriage just two weeks in. Then she inherits her ex’s great-aunt’s brownstone in Brooklyn. It’s the perfect place to start over. This novel shows how there’s always hope after a disaster and a new love (or two or three) right around the corner.
36. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig (2010)
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.
37. The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer (2013)
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 Los Angeles to help her keep it real. When Kendall realizes that Payton is in love with her, she comes to terms with her own attraction in this sweet, heartfelt debut.
38. Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (2016)
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. Here’s what we know about season three of Netflix’s Bridgerton series.
39. Adiós to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer (2006)
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.
40. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman (2007)
André Aciman’s bestselling novel (also made into a movie) is set in Italy during the 1980s and follows the story of Elio, a teenager who falls for the young professor who’s staying at Elio’s family’s house for the summer. One of the great novels about summer love, Call Me by Your Name focuses on a love affair destined to end too soon.
41. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1990)
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’s 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.
42. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1989)
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.
43. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (1985)
Gabriel García Márquez’s magical realistic 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.
44. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (2016)
Sally Thorne’s much-loved debut is set in the workplace, where two assistants to two co-CEOs are up for the same promotion. It might’ve made for a friendly competition if Lucy and Joshua didn’t absolutely hate each other. But as they’re forced to spend time together, their animosity transforms in this witty novel about love on the job. The film version has already been released (unsurprisingly, the book is much better), but here are more books to read before they become movies this year.
45. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012)
John Green’s bestseller (and the basis for the movie of the same name) 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. Come for the romance with heart—but bring plenty of tissues. This sad book will definitely make you cry.
46. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
“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—Emily Brontë’s classic, Wuthering Heights, is also on this list.
47. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (1996)
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, The Notebook 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 25 years ago.
48. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1992)
A powerhouse time-travel novel, this is the first in Diana Gabaldon’s hugely successful Outlander series. Strong, beautiful Claire Randall leads a double life, married to a man in one century, with a lover in another century. Filled with passion, humor, wit and a wonderful Scottish setting, this is one fast read for a 600-plus-page book. And the best part? Once you’re done with the books, you can watch the popular TV series.
49. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas (2009)
Sherry Thomas is considered one of the most innovative historical romance writers, as well as one of the best Asian American writers working today. In this second book in the Marsdens series, you’ll follow Bryony, a woman who dared to become a doctor in the late 1800s, 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.
50. A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux (1989)
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.
51. Until the End of Time by Danielle Steel (2014)
Danielle Steel has written, so far, 161 books, many of them bestselling 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. In one, a couple leaves the city for a life of rural ministry; the other timeline pairs an Amish novelist with a big-city publisher. Both relationships intertwine through the mysteries of fate and destiny.
52. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
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 the details of British courtship and society. Pride and Prejudice follows the five Bennet sisters and their romantic entanglements as they try to make a good match. The chemistry between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy makes epic hate-love sparks fly.
53. Vision in White by Nora Roberts (2012)
The first book in Nora Roberts’s Bride Quartet series, Vision in White 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.
54. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (2012)
With an edgy, modern twist on the good-girl-meets-bad-boy trope, Beautiful Disaster tops lists of must-read romance novels 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.
55. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2014)
Every love has its challenges. And while your husband being a time traveler may not be a romance-novel trope you’re personally familiar with, this four-hanky tale will still tug on your heartstrings.
Additional reporting by Chloë Nannestad.