The 10 Best Romance Books

Updated June 01, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

10 Best Romance Books
Fifty Shades Trilogy
The Shoemaker's Wife
If I Stay
We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Get ready to curl up in your favorite armchair in front of the fire or stretch out on your trusty beach blanket under the sun. These romance books contain tales of love, honor, heroism, and betrayal, and are set throughout history, including modern times. We've included books suitable for young readers and adults, most of which will require a box of tissues, a pint of ice cream, or some wine. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best romance book on Amazon.

10. The Shoemaker's Wife

Adriana Trigiani's novel The Shoemaker's Wife takes the reader along for a ride with its bold, big-hearted heroine, who travels from the Old World to the Americas, using her brain and will to get by, and finding the love she thought she lost.
  • very well-reviewed by critics
  • author worked on it for 20 years
  • hefty 495-page volume
Publisher Harper Paperbacks
Model n/a
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. The Fault in Our Stars

If you saw the film version of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and you didn't cry, then you should get your tear ducts checked by a doctor. It may have been written as a young adult novel, but its themes of love and loss are universal.
  • runaway best seller
  • exposes youngsters to harsh reality
  • may seem sappy to the tough crowd
Publisher Speak
Model n/a
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Feverborn: A Fever Novel

Be warned: the pages of Karen Marie Moning's Feverborn: A Fever Novel are filled with ancient evil, lust, betrayal, forgiveness, and the redemptive power of love. This fantastical romance novel is not for everyone, but if you like darker tales, it might be a good match.
  • part of a top-selling series
  • ends with an exciting cliffhanger
  • some readers feel it was phoned-in
Publisher Feverborn: A Fever Nove
Model n/a
Weight pending
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. The Scarlet Letter

If you lied about reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel The Scarlet Letter back in high school, you might want to reconsider your youthful decision and check it out now. It's a classic tale for a reason: great writing and a passionate love story.
  • paints portrait of early america
  • focused and swift narrative
  • may seem old-fashioned to some
Publisher The Scarlet Letter
Model n/a
Weight 9.9 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. Fifty Shades Trilogy

It's hard to deny the cultural impact that the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James has had. If you choose to succumb to the pressures of society or your own dark, secret desires, you'll get the whole story from multiple perspectives, albeit told with simplistic prose.
  • great value for a set
  • more than 70 million copies sold
  • great gag gift for a literary snob
Publisher Vintage
Model RH4044
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

5. If I Stay

If I Stay by Gayle Forman uses the arguably craven device of a novel layering romance with the tragedy of a near-death accident, this time with the twist of a near-afterlife experience. But if you can suspend your disbelief, it works.
  • primarily for younger readers
  • developed into a hit movie
  • serious readers may dismiss it
Publisher Viking Juvenile
Model n/a
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

4. The Rosie Project

According to Entertainment Weekly, Graeme Simon's novel The Rosie Project is “bursting with warmth, emotional depth, and humor,” all of which are attributes any avid reader should love. The book is, by turns, playful and wrenching.
  • incorporates science into plot
  • new york times best seller
  • relatively quick read at 295 pages
Publisher Simon Schuster
Model n/a
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. The Japanese Lover

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende starts off with a tale of forbidden love set in World War II era San Francisco, and it evolves into a sweeping epic spanning generations of life and crossing boundaries of class and culture.
  • prose is often akin to poetry
  • highlights the folly of prejudice
  • excellent historical details
Publisher The Japanese Lover
Model n/a
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Love In The Time Of Cholera

Love In The Time Of Cholera is, above all else, a story about longing. It beautifully examines one man's waiting, across distance and circumstance, to tell the woman that he loves how he feels. The story spans more than 50 years of the characters' lives.
  • exquisitely translated
  • complex and engrossing narrative
  • long enough to last all summer
Publisher Love In The Time Of Cho
Model n/a
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. For Whom the Bell Tolls

Ernest Hemingway's monumental classic novel For Whom the Bell Tolls not only tells of the last throes of Republican Spain's struggle against Fascism, but also shares the timeless, tragic love story of Robert Jordan and Maria.
  • humanizes the face of suffering
  • breathtaking depictions of war
  • helped the author win a nobel prize
Publisher Scribner
Model n/a
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

In Favor Of Formula

How many plots are there? Really. Some folks say three, some say seven, or six, or thirteen. However many there are, the number seems rather small, which leads me to believe that there are formulas at work from the outset.

Boy meets girl is the simplest of formulas, into which you can insert any number of variables to spin your tale. It's also the one that concerns us most directly in looking at the romance novel.

Some authors work toward their romances with another formulaic consideration in mind, and in doing so, they often get to deeper themes, more evocative scenarios, and a true and potent romance. In short, they get to better writing.

That other formulaic consideration is a desire in the protagonist that is not the love story. For example, our number one book is one of the finest works of fiction in the world. It's often thought of more as a war novel than a love story, even though the love story is the heart that pumps the blood through its pages.

That's because Robert Jordan, the book's protagonist, doesn't desire love at the outset. He has an entirely different objective that not only carries him into his love affair, it eventually threatens it.

He wants to survive the war and defeat the Fascists. Plain and simple, until she arrives in the picture. Then, he still wants to survive the war and defeat the Fascists, but now he wants to do so to be with her and to keep her safe.

Weaker novels tend to introduce the love story and to live in it as the only source of desire and conflict for the characters. Other considerations are tertiary and exist to flesh out a world and a tone without deepening its characters the way a true conflict does.

Good romance novels are at their best when the characters are already pursuing deep desires in their lives by the time they meet and begin to fall in love. The love becomes the complication in their search for something else, and that make for interesting, layered fiction.

A Whole Stack Of Options

I love a good love story. I do. I'm a sucker, a sap, a hopeless romantic. But I disdain bad writing.

One of the things a good love story will do well is lead you to believe, to worry and fret over the possibility, that the lovers might not make it. Shakespeare went and got all of us primed for tragic endings when he wrote Romeo & Juliet.

Since then, even the most stable of love stories seems like it could end horribly at any minute, and the more anxiety a writer can elicit, the more we find ourselves longing the way the lovers do for a happy ending.

All of the books in our top five have that element about them, that fear that external circumstances are going to destroy the chance for this love to endure. But that doesn't mean they're each created equal, and each of these tomes falls pretty heavily into one of five unique subcategories.

In selecting which of these books to crack open and commit several days and hours of your life to, you'll want to ask yourself a few simple questions to see which subcategory will please you the most.

How are you with violence? Do you hate it in all of its forms? You want to go for number five, as all the other books deal, in one way or another, with explicitly violent acts.

Do you know what BDSM stands for? Do you enjoy light amounts of physical pain? If it's no on both fronts, you might skip over number two, at least for now.

How about history? If you like a good historical setting, or a story that can span time through a number of historical events, then numbers one, three, and four will surely please.

Notice how these questions have little to do with the romance itself? That's good writing: there's this whole other story going on–oh, and by the way, these people are desperately trying to be in love in the middle of it all.

The First Novel Was An Epic Romance

It's widely believed that the first novel, or at least the first modern novel, in human history was The Tale Of Genji, or Genji Monogatari, written by Murasaki Shikibu in early 11th century Japan.

It's a sprawling, magnificent work of fiction that is as fascinating for its breadth as is it for its consistency in handling over 400 characters spanning several generations.

It also happens to be a great work of epic romance. The story follows Genji, the son of the emperor and a favored concubine. After his mother, the concubine, dies, the emperor takes a new lover who greatly resembles Genji's mother, and with whom Genji falls in love.

Of course, such a love is taboo on several counts, and their inability to be with one another fuels a tumultuous life of desperate love affairs, political misconduct, banishment, and redemption for the protagonist.

Frankly, it sounds like something that could be written today and do very, very well.

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Last updated on June 01, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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