Light some candles, unwrap some chocolates, slip into something silky, and get ready to turn the heat up with some of the best romance novels on the shelves. With the two old classics on standby (If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice , what are you waiting for?) and brand new reads (don’t sleep on Isabel Allende’s latest), there’s something for everyone on our list (and don’t forget to browse our guide to the best books of 2020 too).
Whether you’re all excited and disturbed by a historic romance that takes you back to the pulsating hearts of yesteryear, a paranormal romance that proves you don’t need to have flesh and blood to heat things up, heartwarming stories that explore the tender side of love, and of course sexy stories you might not want to read on public transport, we have books to make you blush. And if you think romance isn’t your thing, take a look at this list anyway. The romance genre has a lot to offer beyond the bodices you might have seen lurking in your mom’s nightstand growing up. Along with the love stories you’d expect, many of our favorite romances also feature strong storylines, diverse characters, LGBTQ + love stories, and gorgeous language that keeps us hooked until the last page.
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It ends with us
New to Boston, Lily, a small town girl, manages to convince the magnificent neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid to break his “no date” rule. But his stubborn ways make her wonder where this aversion comes from. And when an old flame resurfaces, everything she has with Ryle is suddenly called into question.
You really can’t go wrong with Jasmine Guillory’s romantic and fun lovemaking, but this pick from Reese’s book club is especially great. Freelance writer Nik’s boyfriend comes up with a game of Dodger, and the dude can’t even spell his name correctly. She says no (duh), and the video goes viral. Handsome Doctor Carlos keeps him away from the frenzy, but he can’t be the real deal. Or can he?
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The hate game
If you’ve ever carried the torch of a colleague (scandal!), This 2016 novel will speak to you. Co-workers Lucy Hutton and her nemesis Joshua Templeman have as fierce a rivalry as they come, especially since they are vying for the same promotion. At least it starts like this.
Vision in white
Prolific Nora Roberts has written over 200 romance novels, but this one received top ratings from her fans as the debut installment of The bride’s quartet. Wedding photographer Mackensie “Mac” Elliot runs a wedding planning business with three friends. When a day at work introduces him to sweet and steady English teacher Carter Maguire, their laid-back adventure could lead to its own happy ending.
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Abby Abernathy swears that she will leave her dark past behind when she goes to college, becoming the consummate good girl. But all of her best intentions are challenged by tattooed campus bad boy Travis Maddox, who cheats on Abby in a month-long bet. The stakes turn out to be higher than they think.
Blown away by the wind
If you’ve never read this 900+ page Civil War saga (or watched the four hour film), it’s never too late. Scarlett O’Hara, her “perfect knight” Ashley Wilkes and outrageous but dashing Rhett Butler stand the test of time. Readers have devoured over 30 million copies of this Pulitzer Prize winner since 1936 and once you dive in, you’ll see why.
A long sea petal
This all-new read from romance titan Isabel Allende follows pregnant widow Roser and her late lover’s brother, Victor, as they flee fascist Spain aboard a ship chartered by poet Pablo Neruda. As they start again in Chile, the two face trials and tribulations, but hope (and the other) keeps them strong.
Pride and Prejudice
This 1813 book is so old, it’s free if you have a Kindle! And you should definitely enjoy it – it’s basically the OG romance novel. If you’re already a Jane Austen stan, check out Curtis Sittenfeld’s reinterpretation Eligible, which places Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in today’s Cincinnati.
This grand, multigenerational tale of life at an Outback sheep station is often described as “an Australian Blown away by the windSo if you like that classic try this one for size. The romance centers mostly on an illicit affair between Maggie, a remote ranch resident, and a handsome priest.
Before becoming an epic costume drama about Starz, this time-traveling romance novel introduced the world to Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, and her love interest in the Scottish warrior… who lives in 1743. The one- this has it all: time travels, danger, intrigue, and of course, a lot of passionate love.
Delta of Venus
If you’ve never read Anaïs Nin and consider yourself a fan of romance, fix that now. This short story collection was written in the 1940s and its romantic erotic themes still hold true. But don’t take our word for it.
Call me by your name
You might have seen the movie starring Timothée Chalamet before, but this steamy love story between two young men from the Italian Riviera is worth reading anyway. Pro tip: grab a juicy peach before you break your spine. Just trust us.
Laid bare to you
If you like your romance in installments, try the Crossfire series. Big-city newbie Eva Tramell literally falls at the feet of billionaire mogul Gideon Cross, launching a scorching romance that reveals the secrets of their two dark pasts. Seems familiar? There’s a reason one Amazon reviewer called it the “soap opera version of Fifty shades of Grey. “
The wife of the time traveler
What happens when you fall in love with someone who lives in a totally different timeline? It is the story of Henry DeTamble, a librarian who lifts off in time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life moves forward in conventional ways. This romantic tale is as unique as it is beautiful.
Aliénor & Parc
They say you never forget your first love. Test this theory by taking a trip down memory lane with Eleanor and Park, two misfit teenagers in love in 1986. They are smart enough to know that young love never lasts, but brave enough to give it a try.
This 1847 classic tells the story of the brave housekeeper and heroine Jane Eyre and her brooding employer with a terrible secret, Mr. Rochester. Innovative for the time, first-person storytelling set a new standard for what romance could be – no wonder readers still love it more than 170 years later.
Love first like: a novel
Eliza co-owns a jewelry store with her sister and accidentally took to Instagram wearing a diamond ring with you-know-which finger. The photo explodes and she realizes that even a false pledge is good for the end result. But then she meets Blake. He’s great, except for one thing: Blake doesn’t know about his ruse, and Eliza doesn’t know how long she can go on.
Let’s say it’s not, but we first watched * this * rain scene 15 years ago. Revisit Noah and Allie in the 1996 book about a South Carolina socialite separated from her summer sweetheart before their letters (and later their notebooks) brought them together.
When Katie met Cassidy
Katie, originally from Kentucky, has just been dumped by her fiancé when she finds herself in front of Cassidy, a New Yorker in a costume of power. At first, Katie doesn’t know how to read Cassidy, until a chance encounter finds them both at a local lesbian bar. It opens Katie’s heart and mind to new possibilities, ones that Cassidy just might play a starring role in.
The kiss quotient
No more cheesy stories for victory! In this Helen Hoang novel, Stella Lane is the genius mathematician who gets into a catch-up romance – hiring escort Michael Phan to teach her the ins and outs of sex. We consider this to be the perfect equation for a good read.
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