Romance Novels are designed to make you swoon, and dream about gorgeous people and wonderful lifestyles. They transport us into a world of romantic encounters and fairytale endings.
We all love romance, often wishing that we could be treated like the characters between the pages – indulging in a romantic meal, a bunch of flowers or a romantic moonlit night walk – which could account for the surge in romance-style novels that have appeared on bookshelves in recent years.
Romance novels, have always been popular; they are books that tend to traverse time, becoming firm favourites by bookworms time and time again.
In comparison however, to the timeless classics, modern romance novels vary massively. Whilst the underlining romantic notion of boy-meets-girl still remains we now find ourselves coming face to face with more elaborate plots, vampires, werewolves and time travel all sitting alongside the cozy romances that make us feel warm and fuzzy inside.
So which contemporary romance novels should we be reading?
Romance Novels We Recommend You Read
#1 Divergent (Veronica Roth)
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen.
Divergent, is the first in a Trilogy of dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.
#2 The Twilight Saga (Stephanie Meyer)
The first book of the Twilight Saga introduces Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, a pair of star-crossed lovers whose forbidden relationship ripens against the backdrop of small-town suspicion and a mysterious coven of vampires. This is a love story with bite.
For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella ever could have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning.
As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob–knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf.
To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to werewolf Jacob Black, she has endured a tumultuous year of temptation, loss, and strife to reach the ultimate turning point. Her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or to pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fates of two tribes hang.
#3 Possession (A.S. Byatt)
Possession is the tale of a pair of young scholars researching the lives of two Victorian poets. As they uncover their letters, journals, and poems, and track their movements from London to Yorkshire—from spiritualist séances to the fairy-haunted far west of Brittany—what emerges is an extraordinary counterpoint of passions and ideas.
#4 Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
#5 The Vampire Diaries Series (L.J. Smith)
A Love Triangle of Unspeakable Horror…
Elena: Searching for the ultimate thrill, she vowed to have Stefan.
Stefan: Haunted by his tragic past, he struggled to resist her passion.
Damon: Driven by revenge, he hunted the brother who betrayed him.
The terrifying story of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them.
#6 The Time Travelers Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
Clare, is a beautiful, strong-minded art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: his genetic clock randomly resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous and unpredictable, and lend a spectacular urgency to Clare and Henry’s unconventional love story.
#7 The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
Set amid the austere beauty of the North Carolina coast, The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner recently returned from the Second World War. Noah is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other. Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.
#8 Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction – at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful – and completely unforgettable.
#9 Flat-Out Love (Jessica Parks)
Julie Seagle, a college freshman and small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house. When Julie’s off-campus housing falls through, her mother’s old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side… and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cut out of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.
Finn, the oldest brother, is travelling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie’s suddenly lonesome soul.
#10 Dear John (Nicholas Sparks)
John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who has captured his heart.
But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else.
Dear John, the letter read… and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love—and face the hardest decision of his life.
#11 Mr Perfect (Linda Howard)
What would make the perfect man?
That’s the topic that Jaine Bright and her three girlfriends are pondering one night at their favourite after-hours hot spot: Mr. Perfect. Would he be tall, dark, and handsome? Caring and warm-hearted – or will just muscular do? As their conversation heats up, they concoct a tongue-in-cheek checklist that becomes an overnight sensation, spreading like wildfire at work and sizzling along e-mail lines. But what began as a joke among friends turns deadly serious when one of the four women is murdered.
Turning to her neighbour, an unpredictable police detective, for help, Jaine must unmask a killer to save her friends and herself. Now, knowing whom to trust and whom to love is a matter of survival as the dream of Mr. Perfect becomes a chilling nightmare.
#12 The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)
Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
#13 Me Before You (Jojo Moyes)
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.
#14 The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning.
#15 One Day (David Nicholls)
It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another.
Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.
#16 The Other Boleyn Girl (Philippa Gregory)
When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realises just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest when she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king and take fate into her own hands.
#17 Chesapeake Bay Saga (Nora Roberts)
When Cameron Quinn receives word that his father has been in a terrible car accident and is near death, Cam returns home. Along with his two adopted brothers, Ethan and Phillip, Cam promises his dying father to raise a boy Ray had taken in just prior to his accident. Assuming that Seth, like Cam, Ethan and Phillip before him, is simply a troubled boy off the streets, Cam is shocked and outraged by persistent rumours that Seth is Ray’s natural son, conceived in an affair with one of his college students.
Determined to fight the rumours and clear their father’s name, the Quinn’s commit themselves to making Seth a permanent part of the Quinn family. Before the adoption can proceed, however, the Quinn’s must prove themselves to be fit guardians, and convince Seth’s case worker, Anna Spinelli, that the Quinn brothers can form the proper environment to raise Seth.
Complications arise when Cam finds himself increasingly attracted to Anna, and a relationship develops between the two. Always the footloose adventurer, Cam must now decide if he has the ability to stay permanently in Maryland and help raise Seth, and commit himself to his family and to Anna, or if his old lifestyle would always call to him.
Ethan Quinn is a waterman. He wasn’t born to the tradition, but has embraced it. He’s a quiet man whose heart runs as deep as the waters he loves. But now he faces more than the challenge of making his living on the Bay or struggling to make the fledgling boat-building business he and his brothers began a success.
There’s a young boy who needs him, and a woman and child he loves but never believed he could have. To shape his life around them, Ethan must face his own dark past, and accept not only who he is, but what he hopes to become.
Phillip Quinn valued his fast-paced and successful life in Baltimore, but he knew that for Seth’s sake, he, like his brothers, would have to make compromises on his bachelor lifestyle.
Dr. Sybill Griffin was a renowned sociologist, in town to study small town life, but in reality she had a different agenda: to study the Quinn’s, and how they were treating little Seth. Attracted from the first to the reserved doctor, Phillip was determined to discover her secrets, but when the truth comes out, the power of their passion may not be enough to overcome the truth about her betrayal.
Seth Quinn is finally home.
It’s been a long journey. After a harrowing boyhood with his drug-addicted mother, he was taken in by the Quinn family, and grew up with three older brothers who watched over him with love.
Now, a grown man returning from Europe as a successful painter, Seth is settling down on Maryland’s Easter Shore, surrounded by Cam, Ethan, and Phillip once again, and their wives and kids. Finally, he’s back in the little blue-and-white house where there’s always a boat at the dock, a rocker on the porch, and a dog in the yard.
#18 Something Borrowed (Emily Giffin)
Rachel is a young attorney living and working in Manhattan. She has always been the consummate good girl; until her thirtieth birthday, when her best friend, Darcy, throws her a party. That night, after too many drinks, Rachel ends up in bed with Darcy’s fiancé. Although she wakes up determined to put the one-night fling behind her, Rachel is horrified to discover that she has genuine feelings for the one guy she should run from.
As the September wedding date nears, Rachel knows she has to make a choice. In doing so, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren’t always neat, and sometimes you have to risk all to win true happiness.
#19 P.S I Love You (Cecelia Ahern)
Holly couldn’t live without her husband Gerry, until the day she had to. They were the kind of young couple who could finish each other’s sentences. When Gerry succumbs to a terminal illness and dies, 30-year-old Holly is set adrift, unable to pick up the pieces. But with the help of a series of letters her husband left her before he died and a little nudging from an eccentric assortment of family and friends, she learns to laugh, overcome her fears, and discover a world she never knew existed.
#20 Bridget Jones’s Diary (Helen Fielding)
Bridget Jones’ Diary is the devastatingly self-aware, laugh-out-loud daily chronicle of Bridget’s permanent, doomed quest for self-improvement — a year in which she resolves to: reduce the circumference of each thigh by 1.5 inches, visit the gym three times a week not just to buy a sandwich, form a functional relationship with a responsible adult, and learn to program the VCR.
#21 Where Rainbows End (Cecelia Ahern)
From naughty children to rebellious teenagers, Rosie and Alex have stuck by each other through thick and thin, but just as they’re discovering the joys of teenage nights on the town and dating disasters, they separate.
Alex’s family move from Dublin to America – and Alex goes with them.
Rosie’s lost without him. But on the eve of her departure to join Alex in Boston, Rosie gets news that will change her life forever and keep her at home in Ireland.
Their magical connection sees them through the ups and downs but neither of them know whether their friendship can survive the years and miles – or new relationships. And at the back of Rosie’s mind is whether they were meant to be more than just good friends all along.
Misunderstandings, circumstances and sheer bad luck have kept them apart, but when presented with the ultimate opportunity, will they gamble everything for true love?
#22 The Best of Me (Nicholas Sparks)
This is a heart-rending story of two small-town former high school sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks. Now middle-aged, they’ve taken wildly divergent paths, but neither has lived the life they imagined . . . and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever altered their world.
When they are both called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter, they will be forced to confront the choices each has made, and ask whether love can truly rewrite the past.
Of course, this list is far from exhaustive, but with an annual spend of around $1.44 billion, romance (and erotica) novels knock all other genres out of the water.
You may question why I haven’t added books like Fifty Shades of Grey (E.L. James) and Bared To You (Sylvia Day) in this list but I felt that this should be a list for those books that sit comfortably within the romance bookshelves, however, who’s to say we won’t be compiling a new list in the future.
What is your favourite romance novel? Let’s see how many novels we can add below.
N.B. In compiling this list we have turned to both GoodReads and the Romantic Novelists Association to see what others have voted as the best modern romances of all time.