What’s better than a happily ever after? Whether you’re lounging on the beach or cozying up by the fireplace, there’s nothing like a romance novel to set the mood. From stories of dukes and duchesses to billionaires, rock stars, and cowboys, romance novels offer escape from life’s tedium, and whisk us away to a world of adventure and seduction. Nicholas Sparks lovers, Colleen Hoover fans, and Helen Hoang readers unite!
If you’re new to romance novels and don’t know where to start, here’s a list of rom-com, meet cute, and grown-up love stories that will melt even the hardest hearts. Bookmark them on your Goodreads TBR pile, and get ready to swoon.
For book lovers who favor international romances, young adult love stories with a high school backdrop, and beach reads to enjoy on vacation, these bestsellers are must-reads that consistently top reading lists in the favorite romance books category.
1. One Last Stop (Casey McQuiston)
One Last Stop is by Casey McQuiston, renowned author of Red, White, and Royal Blue. Set in New York City, it’s a time traveler romance that features themes of community, identity, family, and home. August and Jane may be from different times, but when one special subway line brings them together, they forge a friendship that evolves into something remarkable.
2. The People We Meet on Vacation (Emily Henry)
The People We Meet on Vacation is a story of friendship, true love, heartbreak, and healing. Fans of the best friends-to-lovers trope and the second chance romance trope are sure to enjoy this sweet romance that follows the lives of two unique protagonists, culminating in a last chance for happiness.
3. Drunk on Love (Jasmine Guillory)
Powerhouse heroine? Check! One night stand? Check! Oops, she’s my boss? Check, check, check! The latest romance from Jasmine Guillory offers us a whole lot of boss romance tension set against the lush, rolling hills of wine country. What’s better than a hero and heroine learning how to slow down and appreciate the best things life has to offer, like good wine — and maybe even love?
For those whose favorite books include anything by Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë, there’s no magic like Regency magic. Here’s a list of top historical romance novels for readers seeking their Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.
4. The Bridgerton Series (Julia Quinn)
Whether you’ve already fallen in love with Simon, the Duke of Hastings, or you’re picking up your first book in the Regency genre, the Bridgerton series is the way to go. It follows the lives of the eight Bridgerton children who have been named in alphabetical order, as they navigate the ins and outs of high London society. This romance series starts out with Daphne and Simon, a scandalous affair written about by society gossip Lady Whistledown, who lends commentary to each unfolding romance. This series is ideal for fans of Jane Eyre and similar classics.
5. The Outlander Series (Diana Gabaldon)
If you’re all about time travel — but you prefer the Scottish Highlands to the subways of New York City — then the Outlander Series is for you. It’s a rich historical story that follows the heroine Claire as she navigates truly remarkable and magical occurrences following the end of World War II. On a trip to Scotland with her husband, Claire is suddenly transported to the year 1745, where she finds herself falling in love with Jamie Fraser, a laird, revolutionary, and sometimes criminal, among other things. Together, Claire and Jamie navigate deep political unrest and personal tribulation. They engage in subterfuge, fight unjust systems, and eventually make it to the new world, where even more adventure ensues.
6. Mine Till Midnight (Lisa Kleypas)
Author Lisa Kleypas creates a universe of interwoven stories and settings like no other, and there’s no better book to begin reading these stories than Mine Till Midnight. Self-made Cam Rohan and new money Amelia Hathaway find each other at the edges of a society not quite made for them, and they take solace in the idea of escape as their lives grow more complicated. This book commences the Hathaway series, which connects with several of Lisa Kleypas’ other books, including the current Ravenels Series. Readers who appreciate a universe of characters and places with emotional development, romance, and a whole lot of adventure will fall for Lisa Kleypas and her dark heroes.
If you liked The Notebook but prefer your romance with a bit more spice, there’s an entire genre just for you. From the slightly steamy to the five-alarm fire, erotic romance novels are some of the world’s most popular books, and for good reason. Hide under your covers and lock your doors when you read the titles on this list.
7. Neon Gods (Katee Robert)
In a modern retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth from Greek mythology, Katee Robert takes us to the glittering world of Olympus, weaving a dark and magical tale dotted with familiar tropes and erotic scenes that will make you blush. Neon Gods is the first book in the Dark Olympus series, and in it, Persephone saves herself and works alongside Hades to fight for the good of their families and the city they share. Another option for readers whose first loves are familiar stories with a little something extra is Katee Robert’s Wicked Villains series, wherein new books propose alternative endings to the stories and characters from our favorite fairy tales. Because haven’t we all wondered, what if she ended up with the bad guy?
8. American Queen (Sierra Simone)
Nothing is steamier than American Queen, the first romance in the New Camelot Series by Sierra Simone. It’s an erotic, slow-burn love story within a modern political aristocracy set against the office of the President of the United States of America. This story kicks off the first in an overarching romance that spans time and continents, weathers scandal and expectation, and promises pleasures from the first page. For lovers of the salacious, Sierra Simone offers the Priest Series, which weaves the most forbidden love stories of them all.
9. Praise (Sarah Cate)
Sarah Cate gives us the erotic revenge love story we’ve been waiting for. In it, our protagonist’s heart is so badly broken by an ex that she sleeps with his father. (Yes, you read that right.) This book kicks off Sarah Cate’s Salacious Players’ Club series and features an age-gap romance that more than delivers on the promise of domination and submission. It’s a perfect late-night read.
A Whole New World
Romance novels come in every shape and subgenre, which makes reducing the best romance novels to a short list a bit of a trick. There is truly something for every type of reader. Whether you love slow-burn storylines or enemies-to-lovers, there’s a romance novel that’s sure to take you on a wonderful adventure. From the small towns of Scotland to the sin-laden streets of Brooklyn to the glittering towns of our favorite goddesses, you have anything you can dream of in the palm of your hand. Are you ready for your next happy ending?