Everyone loves a good love story, and if you enjoy reading then curling up with a great romance novel is a wonderful way to pass the time. A good romance novel has compelling characters, drama and intrigue, and plenty of passion, and the best stories can have the power to change the way you think about love and relationships. Whether you’re into historical love stories or more contemporary romances, there’s a novel out there for everyone.
So, to get you inspired, here are 17 of the best romance novels – from timeless classics to sexy, contemporary reads.
1. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
Louisa Clark is living an ordinary life before she takes a job as a caregiver for Will Traynor. Wheelchair-bound after a motorcycle accident, Will is bitter, moody, and bossy, and resents headstrong Louisa’s optimism and zest for life.
Though the two might have nothing in common, they develop a bond and eventually end up falling in love. But Will has a secret that will shatter Louisa – and loving him may mean she loses everything. Can Louisa make Will happy? Will she be enough for his life to seem bearable?
A passionate novel that’s as heartbreaking as it is romantic.
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Regularly cited as the greatest romance novel of all time, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is just as powerful today as it was when it was first published in 1812. The novel tells the story of the vivacious and opinionated Elizabeth Bennet, the proud Mr Darcy, and how first impressions aren’t always right.
Austen called her most famous book her ‘ darling child’, and if you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, you’re in for a treat. Witty and smart, the story beautifully illustrates the chemistry between Lizzie and Mr Darcy, and their civilised sparring and flirtation as they clash is just as fun over 200 years on.
A timeless classic about courtship, pride, love, and hate.
3. Seven Days in June, by Tia Williams
Eva Mercy might be the best-selling author of vampire books, but she’s also a single mother who’s living with chronic pain. As she struggles to write the 15th book in her series, she bumps into the famous and reclusive author Shane Hall at a literary event.
Shane tells the audience he’s a fan of Eva’s books, but what people don’t know is that Eva and Shane have a history. Twenty years ago, they fell in love as teenagers – and as their passion is reignited, so are their buried traumas and painful pasts.
A beautifully written novel that’s sultry and steamy, yet also unexpectedly deep and dark.
4. Violeta, by Isabel Allende
New York Times bestselling author Isabel Allende is considered to be one of the best romance writers of modern times, and her latest novel doesn’t disappoint. Violeta is a sweeping love story that tells the tale of Violeta del Valle, a woman who lived through the greatest changes of the 20th century.
Born in 1920 in Chile, Violeta’s life is shaped by key moments in history: world wars, the fight for women’s rights, the rise and fall of dictators, and two global pandemics. Written in the form of a memoir, this is the passionate story of a woman with remarkable strength and determination.
Epic, romantic, and deeply emotional, Violeta is a love story focused on the human spirit.
5. Call Me by Your Name, by André Aciman
A hot summer in Italy provides the perfect backdrop to this sultry romance, which tells the tale of a teenage boy’s sudden and powerful romance with his family’s young lodger. Unprepared for their mutual attraction, Elio and Oliver try to ignore it, but their feelings for each other can’t be dismissed.
The psychological complexities that often come with attraction are expertly captured in this novel, and the depiction of sexual awakening and first love is beautifully realised. A six-week love affair changes these two young men permanently, and the intimacy they find will bond them forever.
A modern classic of LGBTQ literature, this frank and fiery novel is unforgettable.
6. Delta of Venus, by Anaïs Nin
If you’re a fan of modern erotic fiction, you might want to give retro erotica a go – particularly Delta of Venus, which is a collection of 15 short stories. Published posthumously in 1977, most of these stories were written by Anaïs Nin in the 1940s, and they’re just as sexy 80 years later.
This isn’t just vintage erotica though; it’s vintage erotica with a feminist twist, as each story is written about a sexual experience from the female point of view. Featuring stories about Parisian hatmakers, Peruvian opium dens, and a Hungarian seductress, these sexy bitesize stories are truly captivating.
A rich and compelling collection of erotica that was groundbreaking for its time.
7. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough
Often described as the ‘Australian Gone With the Wind’, The Thorn Birds is an epic multigenerational romantic saga that tells the story of the Cleary family. Set on a vast sheep station in the outback, the novel mainly focuses on an illicit affair between Meggie Cleary and a handsome, ambitious priest.
The novel follows the family over 50 years, and while the central romance is compelling due to its taboo nature, there are plenty of other stories to keep you occupied. With interesting characters and an intricate plot that spans generations, this is the best-selling book in Australian history!
A sweeping saga about life and love in the Australian Outback.
8. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
The author of Outlander, Diana Gabaldon, might not have liked her book being described as a romance novel. But its charming storyline meant Outlander not only won the RITA Award for best romance novel the year that it was published, it’s also since become a famously sexy TV series.
This time-travelling novel tells the story of Claire Randall, a married British combat nurse who finds herself mysteriously transported back to Scotland in the 1700s. While at first she longs to go back, she soon falls in love with Scottish warrior Jamie Fraser, and finds herself torn between two men.
Featuring time travel, heat, danger, mystery, and plenty of romance, Outlander has it all.
9. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
First published in 1847, Wuthering Heights was initially dismissed for its depiction of blind love, but since then it’s gone on to be one of the most popular and iconic love stories ever written. Today, Emily Brontë’s only novel is known for its wild passion and intense and dark love story.
This is the tale of Catherine and her foster brother Heathcliff, who falls in love with her. Wrongly believing she doesn’t feel the same way, Heathcliff leaves, only to return years later as a rich man. But Heathcliff is unable to move on, and his twisted desire for revenge takes the story to a violent and chaotic place.
Famous for its descriptions of wild, lonely moorland, Wuthering Heights is a deserved classic.
10. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
The Notebook is the beautiful love story of Noah and Allie that covers three periods in the couple’s lives: their teens, their 30s, and old age. Noah and Allie meet and fall in love in North Carolina as teens, but meddling families conspire to keep these childhood sweethearts apart.
Time passes, as does World War II, and while Allie marries another man, she never stops thinking of Noah. When Noah returns from the war, he’s haunted by memories of the girl he once loved – but will our protagonists ever find their way back to each other?
This unashamedly romantic novel unfolds like a puzzle, and it’s a dreamy yet heartbreaking story about life and the way that it changes us.
11. Ross Poldark, by Winston Graham
If you’re a fan of the TV series Poldark, you might want to give the books a go – and the good news is that there are 12 of them. This is the tale of Ross Poldark who, after returning to Cornwall from the war in America, finds that his beloved Elizabeth believed he was dead and is engaged to his cousin.
Heartbroken, Ross must start from scratch, and as his life takes him in new directions, he rescues a poor young woman from a fight and employs her as his maid – an act that will have a profound effect on the course of his life. Intricately plotted, this historic romance novel became an epic TV series.
Heartwarming, compelling, and entertaining, the Poldark series is romantic escapism.
12. The Time Traveller's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveller’s Wife is another romantic novel with a side of time travel. This is the story of Henry, a librarian with a rare genetic condition that causes him to travel uncontrollably through time, and Clare, an artist, whose life moves along in an expected way.
When Henry and Clare meet in a library, they realise they’ve met before; in fact, Clare is Henry’s future wife. Though they love each other, Henry and Clare struggle to keep their relationship going – because falling in love with someone who exists on a different timeline has obvious challenges.
A poignant and romantic tale that’s as unique as it is compelling.
13. When We Were Birds, by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo
When We Were Birds is a mythical love story set in Trinidad and Tobago, and if you’re looking for a romantic novel that’s unlike anything else you’ve ever read, this might be the book for you. The spellbinding story follows Darwin, a Rastafarian man, and Yejide, a woman with mysterious powers.
Darwin and Yejide are young people with old souls, and when the two cross paths, the outsiders realise they’re being pulled together by a powerful force. Their bond means they have the chance to rescue each other from a life of loneliness and hardship – but first, they must confront their fates.
Beautifully written, atmospheric and absorbing, this is a magical novel about love’s power to heal.
14. It Ends with Us, by Colleen Hoover
Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us is one of the best-selling modern romance novels, and for good reason. The story follows Lily, a small-town girl who’s worked hard to achieve her dreams – and when Lily meets a handsome neurosurgeon named Ryle, she falls head over heels for him.
But though their spark is powerful, Ryle has an aversion to relationships. Even as he breaks his own ‘no dating’ rule, Lily feels uneasy about why he’s like this. But then her first love, Atlas, comes back on the scene, and everything Lily has with Ryle threatens to fall apart. But all is not as it seems…
A brave, sexy and evocative novel that will stay with you long after you finish.
15. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez
Many years ago, when they were young, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fell deeply in love – but when Fermina marries a wealthy doctor, Florentino is heartbroken. Over the next 50 years, he passes the time by having plenty of love affairs (622 to be exact!), but his heart always lies with Fermina.
When Fermina’s husband dies, Florentino – now an old man – seizes the opportunity to finally win the woman he loves. This astonishing novel doesn’t focus on whether the hero will get the girl; it questions whether he should, and explores the unrealistic expectations we have about love.
A fascinating novel about time, love, devotion, and reunions.
16. Book Lovers, by Emily Henry
Nora Stephens is a successful literary agent, and when she leaves the city to head to North Carolina with her sister for the summer, she’s not expecting to become the heroine of her own love story. But she’s also not expecting to bump into Charlie, a brooding book editor she knows from the city.
In spite of the fact that Charlie is hardly the romantic hero Nora has always imagined, their random encounters happen so often that it feels like an unbelievable series of coincidences. But is Nora able to put aside her scepticism to see that sometimes the best love stories are the ones we don’t expect?
Fun, sexy, modern and fresh, as the title suggests, this is a novel that’s perfect for book lovers.
17. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
If you like the sound of a romance novel with plenty of mystery and dark thrills, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca might be the book for you. The tale begins in Monte Carlo, where our nameless protagonist is swept off her feet by a mysterious yet charming widower, Maxim de Winter.
Our heroine quickly falls for Maxim and they marry, but when they move to Maxim’s vast country estate, their marriage starts to unravel. The spectre of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca, begins to haunt our protagonist, and her legacy threatens to destroy their relationship from beyond the grave.
A dark and unsettling romance novel that’s packed with intrigue and suspense.
So whether you’re into steamy contemporary classics or prefer curling up with a historical regency romance, we hope this list has inspired you to read more romance novels.
Novels about love, sex, and romance sometimes get dismissed as being a bit trivial, but reading is supposed to make you feel something – and a good romance novel will do exactly that!
For more literary inspiration, why not check out the books, literature, and writing section of our website.