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13 Must-Read Books & Collections by Indigenous Writers
November is Native American Heritage Month and numerous states are participating in this observance. The National Congress of American Indians describes Heritage Month as “an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes” as well as an occasion to acknowledge past and present challenges that Indigenous people face. Moreover, Heritage Month highlights how “tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges” over the years.
President Joe Biden previously issued a proclamation ahead of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and he did the same at the cusp of Native American Heritage Month. President Biden officially declared “November 2021 as National Native American Heritage Month.” Federal support for America’s Indigenous population is certainly appreciated, but there are also numerous other ways to show support.
Attending rallies for Indigenous-led climate justice efforts, supporting the Land Back movement, and providing mutual aid funds to Indigenous-led organizations are also great ways to honor Heritage Month. You can also educate yourself by reading the works of Indigenous authors and poets. Here, we’ve compiled a list of must-read works by incredible writers. Of course, self-education isn’t all about learning history; while understanding history from other perspectives is essential, these works, which range from coming-of-age memoirs to renowned poetry collections, capture the varied, nuanced experiences of Indigenous folks living in the present-day United States.
“Crazy Brave,” “How We Became Human” & More by Joy Harjo
Most likely, you’re familiar with Joy Harjo because of her award-winning poetry. In fact, Harjo is serving her second term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States — and for good reason. From her acclaimed collection An American Sunrise to How We Became Human , Harjo’s poetry is essential reading.
But the talented artist and performer has also penned two incredible memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior. “I think the story is the story of a lot of Native people and the story of a lot of women, she says, noting that Crazy Brave, in all its raw, dauntless beauty, was difficult to write. Informed by tribal myth and ancestry, Harjo’s memoir illustrates her journey of becoming a young artist, of reclaiming a lost spirituality and the “intricate and metaphorical language of my ancestors.”
“Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s” by Tiffany Midge
You may recall Tiffany Midge’s “ An Open Letter to White Girls Regarding Pumpkin Spice and Cultural Appropriation ,” a passage from her memoir, Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s . As the title of this excerpted work suggests, Midge is an incredible humorist — but she doesn’t shy away from critique or commentary, either.
Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s is composed of standalone musings, but all of the passages add up to a unified whole, all while “driv[ing] a spear into the stereotype of Native American stoicism,” as David Treuer, author of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, puts it . Honest, moving, and rife with satire, this book gives David Sedaris’ best a run for its money.
“There There” by Tommy Orange
Heralded as one of the best novels of 2018 by The New York Times Book Review , NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle and others, Tommy Orange’s There There is a “brilliant, propulsive” ( People Magazine ) bestseller. The book centers on 12 characters, all of whom Orange calls “Urban Indians,” living in Oakland, California.
These characters’ distinct stories (and lives) end up colliding on one fateful day. Despite grappling with several centuries’ worth of pain, Orange also infuses the text with humor and beauty. Without a doubt, There There is a modern classic — and near-impossible to put down once you start reading it.
“Abandon Me” by Melissa Febos
Winner of the Lambda Literary Jeanne Cordova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction, Abandon Me centers on author’s need for connection. This incredibly vulnerable collection of memoirs sees Melissa Febos examining her own journey of self-discovery, which is marked by both passion and obsession.
In reference to the titular story, The Chicago Review of Books notes that the “memoir is the map” — one that helps us understand Febos, even if the on-page version of her is lost. In fact, Febos is particularly deft at exploring the simultaneous thrill and fear that come along with losing yourself in another person — or people.
“Black Indian” by Shonda Buchanan
For as long as Shonda Buchanan can remember, she has cherished her multi-racial heritage. At the same time, Buchanan and her family suffered — not just because of America’s ongoing racism and ostracizing attitudes, but because there was so much they didn’t know about their past.
In this searing memoir, Buchanan digs into her family’s past, exploring what it means to be an African American person, an Indigenous person — and a Black Indigenous person. While her search for truth may not encapsulate the experiences of all biracial folks, Buchanan’s story deeply resonates due, in part, to its specificity and the way the author openly shares her lived experiences.
“We Are Water Protectors” by Carole Lindstrom
“Water is the first medicine,” reads We Are Water Protectors . “It affects and connects us all.” Inspired by the myriad Indigenous-led movements happening across North America, this breathtaking picture book is a sort of call to action, wrapped in lyrical prose and watercolor illustrations crafted by #OwnVoices writer Carole Lindstrom and artist Michaela Goade.
Booklist notes that the book was “written in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline [and] famously protested by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe” and that “these pages carry grief, but it is overshadowed by hope in what is an unapologetic call to action.” No matter one’s age, We Are Water Protectors is a must-read, one that gets to the heart of the things that matter and puts Indigenous ideas, groups, creators and leaders rightfully at the center of the movement to safeguard our planet from human-caused climate change and destruction.
“As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock” by Dina Gilio-Whitaker
While Indigenous activists have always led the fight for climate and environmental justice, their efforts have become more widely acknowledged by media, the federal government and allies. From the Standing Rock protest to #StopLine3, these fights are far from over — and they’re happening all across the country.
Inspired by these fights, Indigenous researcher and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker authored As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice in 2019. In the text, Gilio-Whitaker explores the ways the federal government has violated tribal treaties, destroyed the land it stole, and made food and water inaccessible to many native peoples. Additionally, the book highlights the leadership of Indigenous women in these fights for environmental justice.
“Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers” by Jake Skeets
Selected as the Best Poetry Book of 2019 by the likes of Electric Literature , Entropy Mag , Auburn Avenue and others, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is a masterful collection. The publisher calls Jake Skeets a “dazzling geologist of queer eros” — and that certainly feels like an apt description.
In the book, “Drunktown, New Mexico” has been shaped by violence — not just the violence that occurs there, but the violence done to it. Skeet writes that “the closest men become is when they are covered in blood / or nothing at all” in this town. This committed portrait of a place that’s been ravaged and forgotten also highlights the resilience of the people who live there — and the desire to reclaim what’s been taken.
“The Beadworkers: Stories” by Beth Piatote
Called a “poignant and challenging look at the way the past and present collide” by Kirkus Reviews , Beth Piatote’s debut story collection, The Beadworkers , is set in the Native Northwest. From the Battle of Wounded Knee to the Fish Wars of the 1960s, many of the stories in the collection stem from, or meditate on, events from the past.
One of Piatote’s narrators notes that, “it’s surprising how much material can be mined from making Indian versions of things” and, in other stories, Piatote does just that, retelling classical stories, like Sophocles’ Antigone, from an Indigenous perspective. With vibrant characters and a beautiful mix of both verse and prose, Piatote’s debut is a must-read collection — and we can’t wait to read more of her stories in the future.
“The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones
Stephen Graham Jones ( Ledfeather ) wrote one of the 2020’s most highly anticipated horror novels — and all that anticipation certainly paid off. The Only Good Indians centers on the tale of four childhood friends who grow up, move away from home and then, a decade later, discover that a vengeful entity is hunting them for an act of violence they committed long ago.
The novel combines horror, drama and social commentary quite flawlessly, proving NPR’s statement that “Jones is one of the best writers working today regardless of genre.” Rebecca Roanhorse, the bestselling author of Trail of Lightning, wrote that “Jones boldly and bravely incorporates both the difficult and the beautiful parts of contemporary Indian life into his story, never once falling into stereotypes or easy answers but also not shying away from the horrors caused by cycles of violence.”
“An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Undoubtedly, understanding our collective history is essential to understanding our present. For example, the movements to abolish Columbus Day or stop Line 3 stem from how the first colonizers treated Native people and the land we all live on today. Today, there are more than 500 federally recognized Indigenous nations; roughly 3 million people comprise these nations, but, before the centuries-long genocide by white colonizers, 15 million Indigenous people lived on land that’s the present-day U.S.
In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, historian and Indigenous rights activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz tells the story of the U.S. empire’s rise from an Indigenous perspective — a landmark first. Dunbar-Ortiz’s 2015 bestseller was later adapted, with the help of Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese, into a book aimed at middle-grade and young-adult readers.
Whether you’re reading one of these books yourself or looking to start a discussion with younger students, these texts allow readers to think critically and examine the way we learn about our history. Filled with archival images and maps, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People does an exceptionally good job of highlighting 400 years of Indigenous peoples’ resistance and resilience in the fight against colonialism.
“Streaming” by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke
Award-winning poet Allison Adelle Hedge Coke explores loss, memory and the future of our planet in this multi-award-winning collection. Joy Harjo, the U.S. National Poet Laureate, noted that the poems in Streaming are “the songs of righteous anger and utter beauty.”
Lauded for her musicality, Hedge Coke uses structure and imagery to great effect, crafting poems that are singular. “Hedge Coke uproots the order of poetry and song,” Jennifer Martelli writes in Green Mountain Review “— or, she finds its massive roots deep beneath the soil of America.”
“Feed” by Tommy Pico
Tommy Pico has won the Whiting Award, an American Book Award, and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Now, Feed completes his Teebs Cycle, a series of four books. This riveting collection is ambitious, to say the least, and tackles everything from pop culture to food to being friends with your ex.
Shelf Awareness called it “a dazzling fusion of culture,” noting that “Feed is as much about what we consume as how we consume. Pico’s lines are ever-growing, ever-expanding. And while we might seem lost in the abundance, the sheer variety, Pico is a skilled enough poet to ground us.”
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12 Famous Romance Authors and Their Swoon-Worthy Books
From the famous Bronte sisters to modern-day authors like Nora Roberts, there is no shortage of talented writers who create amazing romance novels about love, passion, and adventure. Here is a list of famous romance authors and some of their must-read romance books.
Table of Contents
Nora Roberts is one of the most famous romance authors in the world. She has written over 200 novels, including paranormal and romantic suspense series like “The Key Trilogy” and “The Bride Quartet.” She has won numerous awards, including the Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award .
Must-Read Nora Robert’s Book: The Witness
“The Witness” is the story of Abigail Lowery, a young girl who witnessed a terrible crime. She has been hiding for years but must find the strength to survive when her life is threatened. With the help of an FBI agent, she finds the courage to fight back against those who have wronged her and reclaim her freedom.
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Jane Austen is easily one of the most famous romance authors of all time. Her novels focus on love, marriage, and emotion in the early 1800s. She has been credited with creating the modern romantic comedy genre , and her work has been adapted into numerous plays and films over the years.
Must-Read Jane Austen’s Book: Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen’s classic tale of Pride and Prejudice features one of literature’s beloved heroines, Elizabeth Bennet. Through her struggles to navigate the rigid societal confines imposed on her as an unmarried woman and her prideful nature clouding matters of the heart, we see Elizabeth on a journey of self-discovery that is both heartwarming and refreshingly honest.
Despite its heavy themes, the novel shines with Austen’s characteristic wit and charm. She learns lessons about life as well as herself along the way. As Elizabeth navigates many expectations levied on women in this era, we experience her joys, triumphs, and heartbreaks right alongside her.
Danielle Steel is another household name in the romance genre. Her specialty is contemporary romances set in modern-day settings with complex relationships at their heart. Some of her famous works include “Safe Harbor,” “Miracle,” and “Happy Birthday.” She has been given various literary honors for her work, including being named an Officer of Arts and Letters by the French government.
Must-Read Danielle Steel Book: Zoya
“Zoya” is a compelling novel about a young Russian woman who escapes the Bolshevik Revolution and travels to France for a new life. Despite her hardships, she finds strength and courage in her newfound freedom and embarks on an epic journey of self-discovery. Along the way, she meets people of different classes, cultures, and backgrounds who help her find love, security, and, ultimately herself. “Zoya” is an inspiring tale of resilience that will touch readers’ hearts.
Also included in the best romance authors list is Colleen Hoover. She is a famous New York Times bestselling author of romance novels. Her books focus on contemporary and young adult romances and inspirational fiction. She has won several awards, including the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance Novel Choice for her book Confess.
Must-Read Colleen Hoover’s Book: It Ends With Us
Lily, a young woman from an abusive childhood, falls in love with two men. Through the story, Lily learns about the power of self-love and how to make her own decisions. It’s a stunningly honest read that will make you laugh, cry and contemplate the reality of love.
As they struggle to survive this tumultuous relationship, Lily must confront her memories of a traumatic childhood experience. Despite its heavy topic, “It Ends With Us” also emphasizes the strength of hope and offers us a glimpse at the astounding power of forgiveness.
Helen Hoang is an award-winning romance author famous for her contemporary romance novels. She has written several popular series, including “The Kiss Quotient” and “The Bride Test.” In 2020, her book, “The Wedding Party,” won RITA Award for Best Romance Novel.
Must-Read Helen Hoang’s Book: The Kiss Quotient
“The Kiss Quotient” is an enchanting, swoon-worthy romance novel that tells the story of Stella Lane, a talented young economist who struggles with social anxiety. To learn how to date and connect with someone, she hires an escort named Michael Phan.
As their relationship grows, they discover unexpected feelings for one another and must decide if they will risk everything for love. With witty dialogue, heartfelt emotion, and steamy scenes, “The Kiss Quotient” will surely be a hit with romance readers everywhere.
Nicholas Sparks is a famous author of romantic fiction novels. He is best known for his bestselling novel, “The Notebook,” which was adapted into a popular 2004 film.
His other famous works include “A Walk to Remember,” “Safe Haven,” and “The Choice.” Sparks has received multiple awards throughout his career, including being named the Romance Writers of America’s Author of the Year in 2017.
Must Read Nicholas Sparks Book: The Notebook
“The Notebook” is an epic love story about two young lovers, Noah and Allie, who meet one summer in North Carolina. Despite their different backgrounds, the pair falls deeply in love. As time passes, they are forced to confront harsh realities and make difficult choices that test their commitment to each other. This heart-wrenching novel will leave readers teary-eyed when they reach the end.
Julie Garwood is a famous author of romance novels and romantic suspense. She wrote numerous bestselling books, including “Sizzle,” “Shadow Music,” “Ransom,” and “Loaded.”
Her novel “Honor’s Splendour” won the 1995 Romance Writers of America RITA Award for Best Historical Romance Novel.
Must Read Julie Garwood’s Book: Heartbreaker
If you’re looking for a lighthearted and romantic reading, you should check out Julie Garwood’s Heartbreaker. Her book series follows the story of young women who find their paths to true love amidst a string of exciting and often dangerous adventures.
Each book is full of heartwarming romance, unexpected twists, and a healthy dose of humor – all set against a backdrop of historical events. Whether you’re looking for an evening’s light read or an ongoing saga, Julie Garwood has plenty to offer!
Jude Deveraux is a famous romance author famous for her historical romance novels. She has written numerous bestselling books, including “At Winter’s End,” “The Summerhouse Series,” and “A Knight in Shining Armor.”
Her novel, “A Knight in Shining Armor,” won the RITA Award for Best Historical Romance Novel of the Year in 1992 .
Must Read Jude Deveraux’s Book: A Knight in Shining Armor
“A Knight in Shining Armor” is an enchanting historical romance novel about Jamie, a modern-day woman who finds herself transported back through time to 1537. While there, she meets Dougall Campbell, a handsome Scottish laird who must protect her from danger. As they grow closer together and fall in love, Jamie must decide if she’ll stay in the past or return to the life she left behind. With its captivating characters and stirring plot, A Knight in Shining Armor will leave readers swooning.
Diana Gabaldon is famous for her “Outlander” series of romance novels, which focus on time travel and the love between a WWII nurse and an 18th-century Scot. Her works have won her several awards, including being named the Romance Writers of America’s Author of the Year in 1992.
Must Read Diana Gabaldon’s Book: Outlander
“Outlander “is an epic romantic saga about Claire Randall, a World War II nurse who travels back through time to 1743 Scotland. There she meets Jamie Fraser, a Highland warrior who becomes her protector as they journey together through treacherous lands filled with danger and secrets. Hauntingly beautiful with plenty of steamy scenes and thrilling action, “Outlander” will surely captivate readers with its unique blend of romance and adventure.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a famous novelist for her humorous contemporary romance novels. She has written many bestselling books, including “Dream a Little Dream,” “Heaven,” “Texas,” and “Call Me Irresistible.”
Her novel, “This Heart of Mine,” won the RITA Award for Best Contemporary Romance Novel in 2001.
Must Read Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Book: It Had to Be You
“It Had to Be You” is a delightful romantic comedy that follows the story of Phoebe Somerville and famous Chicago Stars quarterback Bobby Tom Denton. As they reluctantly join a business venture, an intense attraction develops between them. With its captivating characters and witty banter, “It Had to Be You” will leave readers laughing out loud and sighing with contentment.
Tessa Dare is famous for her lighthearted historical romances. She has written numerous bestselling books, including “A Night to Surrender,” “The Duchess Deal,” and “When a Scot Tries His Luck.” In 2011, she received the RITA Award for Best Regency Historical Romance for her novel “One Dance with a Duke.”
Must Read Tessa Dare Book: Do You Want to Start a Scandal
Dare brings you a wild ride of wit, romance, and unexpected twists. Charlotte Highwood has spent her entire life trying to avoid scandal, but when a passionate secret is revealed, she finds herself the talk of the ton.
With her reputation in tatters and a marriage she doesn’t want looming over her head, Charlotte must make a daring move to save herself from becoming a societal pariah. Fortunately, Dare is an expert at writing about strong heroines and deliciously complicated romances.
“Do You Want to Start a Scandal” is filled with all the charm, humor, and heartwarming moments that fans of her work have come to expect. It may be a scandalous story, but it is ultimately one of hope, redemption, and courage to stand up for what you believe in.
Emma Chase is a famous novelist for her steamy contemporary romances, with several of her books making the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Her novel Overruled won the 2015 National Readers Choice Award for Contemporary Romance.
Must Read Emma Chase Book: Tangled
Emma Chase’s Tangled is an explosive romantic comedy that combines steamy romance and plenty of LOL moments and follows Drew Evans, a successful lawyer who isn’t looking for love until he meets feisty hairstylist Kate Randall. From the moment they meet, it’s electric sparks and opposing personalities between Drew Evans and Kate Randall.
What follows this unexpected encounter is an unpredictable journey that will leave fans laughing and rooting for them to make it through to the end. With its sizzling chemistry and laugh-out-loud moments, Tangled will have readers rooting for this unlikely couple as they navigate their turbulent relationship.
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Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Mar 19
The 25 best romance authors (and their most swoonworthy reads).
Romance is one of the most popular genres in literature today, both for readers and writers of romance novels . And it’s no wonder why: romance is exciting, sexy, and compulsively readable. Luckily, there are tons more books coming out all the time! So to help you get a handle on the genre, we’ve compiled this guide to the 25 best romance authors, along with the love stories they’ve written that are sure to make you swoon. 😍 (By the way, the list is in alphabetical order, so if you’re searching for your own favorite author, you’ll know exactly where to look.)
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of great romance authors out there, you can also take our 30-second quiz below to narrow it down quickly and get a personalized romance book recommendation 😉
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Brown has been writing romance for twenty years now — her debut novel Love Is came out in 1999. Since then, she’s produced a great deal of both contemporary and historical romance. However, Brown’s real niche is cowboy romance: stories that are typically set in the southern United States and feature a tall, dark, troubled rancher. Meanwhile, the strong-minded heroine isn’t looking for love — she’s too focused on her child, and/or trying to shake the memories of a good-for-nothing ex — but damn if she doesn’t find it under the boiling hot Texas (or Tennessee or Oklahoma) sun after all.
Must-read: Long, Hot Texas Summer
When Loretta Bailey caught her husband Jackson kissing another woman, she turned her back on Lonesome Canyon Ranch forever. That was seventeen years ago… and now Loretta and Jackson’s daughter wants to drop out of college to marry a rancher. Naturally, Loretta is dead-set against the idea. But in order to combat it, she’ll have to return to the ranch and work together with Jackson, who’s just as wily (and devilishly handsome) as ever.
Bybee is the queen of Amazon’s contemporary romance charts, with her bestselling Weekday Brides and Not Quite series (and their spinoffs). She also dabbles in historical and paranormal romance , and is especially skilled at synthesizing her own traumatic experiences into her work: not only is she a survivor of child abuse, she also endured a terrible accident when she was working as an ER nurse. Bybee began to write during her recovery, remembering the solace that romance books and love stories brought her when she was young — and eventually turned out some of best titles on the market today.
Must-read: Wife by Wednesday ( Weekday Brides #1)
Wife By Wednesday introduces us to Samantha Elliot, the head of a matchmaking firm consulted by millionaire Blake Harrison… who’s intent on having Sam pose as his wife. And though Sam never meant to matchmake herself , how can she resist his $10 million offer? But while their deal is supposed to be all appearances, Sam finds herself confusingly attracted to Blake, which spells double trouble when his ex gets involved.
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Since 1980, Carr has made quite a name for herself in romance — particularly with her Virgin River series, which follows various love affairs unfolding at a forest outpost in California. From the gruff marine who gets in touch with his softer side to the burned-out sous chef who has to contend with a pretty steamy dish (if you know what we mean), Virgin River supplies a stream of near-endless romantic possibilities. Not to mention it’s slated for a Netflix series starring Alexandra Breckenridge !
Must-read: Virgin River ( Virgin River #1)
After unexpectedly becoming a widower in her thirties, nurse practitioner Melinda Monroe jumps at the chance to move to woodsy, secluded Virgin River, only to realize it’s not what she expected. Between her shabby accommodations and the local doctor’s icy attitude, Mel’s just about ready to pick up and leave — until she meets a retired marine who convinces her to stay.
Alyssa Cole is a uniquely impressive contributor to the historical romance subgenre. She specializes in American Revolution and Civil War-era stories, and has done wonders for diversity in romance: many of her characters are women of color, and much of the drama in her narratives stems from the challenges of interracial love and marriage in the past.
Must-read: An Extraordinary Union
This award-winning novel takes place during the Civil War and follows Elle Burns, a former slave who goes undercover to spy for the Union. She soon meets Malcolm McCall, a Pinkerton detective who shares her motives to bring down the Confederacy… but their political inclinations aren’t the only mutual feeling between them. When things start to become truly dangerous, Elle and Malcolm must decide what’s most important: their country or their love.
Lauren Dane is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, known for her Brown Family and Chase Brothers series. Dane began writing in 2005 and has since turned out over 60 books. (Yes, you read that correctly!) Besides being one of the most prolific authors on this list, she’s also one of the most risqué — so if you like your romance on the steamier side, consider adding her to your list.
Must-read: Laid Bare ( Brown Family #1)
Seriously, hold onto your hats because this one is shamelessly immodest. Laid Bare begins with police officer Todd Keenan and rock musician Erin Brown, whose old flame is rekindled when they meet again in Seattle… but which threatens to burn them up after a ménage à trois with one of Todd’s best friends. There’s no telling where this relationship of sorts will lead, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be one wild hell of a ride.
Tessa Dare is another NYT bestseller, but in a very different category: classic “bodice rippers” that focus more on smoldering sexual tension itself than the resolution of said tension. Indeed, Dare’s titles clearly indicate her propensity for Regency romance — from Romancing the Duke to Say Yes to the Marquess , her books are the perfect form of escapism into another time and place.
Must-read: Do You Want to Start a Scandal ( Castles Ever After #4)
This one is part history, part mystery, part love story! At the Parkhurst ball, young Charlotte Highwood is implicated in a scandal that makes it look as though she’s involved with Piers Brandon, Lord Granville — and now she’ll have to marry him if she can’t prove her innocence. Which would be inconvenient indeed, since she doesn’t even like the guy. But as the two of them set out to uncover the true scandal-makers, Piers proves himself a surprisingly useful accomplice. Soon Charlotte’s growing attraction to him makes her wonder if she even wants to complete their mission…
For a quick rebound to the erotic, Madison Faye’s books are even more salacious than Lauren Dane’s. If you were a fan of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Quartet , you’ll love Faye’s similarly sexy fairytales: a series of five works fittingly titled Possessing Beauty . Or if fairytale retellings aren’t your thing, you can always turn to Dirty Bad Things or Her Daddies (again, you read that correctly), two other mega-popular works by Faye. Hailed as “quick and filthy,” these white-hot erotic romances will just about melt your Kindle clean away.
Must-read: Beasting Beauty ( Possessing Beauty #1)
Logan is the callous, cursed Prince of Torsund. Isla is the sweet youngest princess of Avlion. When they meet at a ball held by her father, sparks fly — and clothing flies off. Logan certainly is a beast in the bedroom, but that doesn’t mean Isla can’t find a way to tame him. Sweet, sexy, and savage all at once, this just-under-100-page novella is the perfect remedy to spice up a regular night in.
Pippa Grant is another reigning ruler of the Amazon charts whose specialty is, for lack of a better term, total jerks. The heroes in her stories are anything but heroic: we’re talking possessive exes, egocentric hockey players, and horrible bosses. Or at least they start off that way. With the help of their leading ladies — who are sometimes sweet, sometimes saucy, but always totally irresistible to the main guy — they turn over a new leaf and become much better humans . How’s that for an HEA? (Romance slang for “happily ever after.”)
Must-read: The Pilot and the Puck-Up
NHL player Zeus Berger is as cocky as his Greek god namesake, and he’s never failed to satisfy a woman… until he meets Joey Diamonte, former military special ops pilot and self-made businesswoman, who matches him in confidence and thoroughly surpasses him in smoothness. Unfortunately, their first encounter doesn’t quite go as Zeus planned. Now determined to prove to Joey that he’s more than one-night-stand material, Zeus will try anything to show her what he’s made of (besides muscle, that is).
Lorraine Heath is an absolute staple of the romance genre. Since 2001, she’s turned out over a dozen different series in every subgenre from historical to paranormal. However, despite their quantity, her works never sacrifice quality — Heath has been especially praised for the genuine emotional depth and strong characterization in her writing. So if you’re looking for story-based drama rather than its cousin smut, you can’t go wrong with Heath's love stories.
Must-read: In Bed with the Devil ( Scoundrels of St, James #1)
Lucian Langdon, aka Luke, is scorned in London as the “devil earl” for his atrocious reputation. Lady Catherine Mabry needs help so desperately that she’s willing to strike a deal with him. Thus begins their relationship as co-conspirators… which of course, soon turns into something more. The delicious slow burn between the scoundrel and the lady also includes a pretty meaty social plot, peppered with plenty of tongue-in-cheek Dickens references .
Jenkins is a true trailblazer of diverse romance — she’s been writing since the nineties, and her books almost always feature African-American main couples, often set in times when that experience was overlooked. However, Jenkins makes a point of not writing exclusively about slavery. In order to represent a genuinely wide range of black history, most of her books take place between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement.
Must-read: Bring on the Blessings ( Blessings #1)
Though Jenkins is known for (and very talented at spinning!) her historical romances, this contemporary work is a great intro for first-time readers. In Bring on the Blessings , 52-year-old Bernadine Brown takes her wealthy, adulterous husband to court — and wins. A $275 million settlement, to be exact.
Adamant to “pay forward” her good fortune, Bernadine decides that her next project of choice won’t just be one man, but an entire town: Henry Adams, Kansas, which was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. After purchasing Henry Adams on the Internet, Bernadine must work together with its stubborn mayor Trent July to bring the town back to its former glory… and perhaps find some glory in each other as well.
When it comes to historical romance, no one quite compares to Kleypas: she started writing in 1985, when she was only 21 years old, and hasn’t looked back since. Beginning with a few quick duologies, Kleypas eventually escalated to elaborate multi-book series, her most famous being The Wallflowers and The Hathaways . These books follow the members of various families in mid-19th century London as they attempt to find love in one way or another. Each story is also wrapped in a well-woven tapestry of historical context; indeed, one of Kleypas’ greatest strengths is her intimate knowledge of the era.
Must-read: Mine Till Midnight ( The Hathaways #1)
Amelia Hathaway has an awful lot on her plate. She’s figuring out her place in aristocratic society (which she’s just joined after a surprise inheritance), taming her wild younger siblings, and most recently dealing with her feelings for upper-class bad boy Cam Rohan. Cam, like Amelia, comes from not-so-noble stock — unlike her, however, he longs to return to it. This plan is complicated by only one thing: his desire for Amelia. And when she asks him for help in a sticky situation, he can’t say no to her…
Landish specializes in “sexy-as-hell book boyfriends,” as she says on her Goodreads page — one look at her rippling-muscle covers and you know you’re in for a good time. Her works can get pretty explicit, but she’s also got plenty of fun romantic devices to keep readers happy: meet-cutes, fake relationships, and reunited high school sweethearts abound, especially in the stunningly sexy Irresistible Bachelors series.
Must-read: Mr. Fixit ( Irresistible Bachelors #5)
Expert handyman Caleb Strong ( get it? because he’s strong? ) and Cassie White have been friends for over a year now, ever since they met in Hawaii. So when Cassie needs help renovating her childhood home, it’s only natural that she turn to Caleb. But actually having to watch him work proves a challenge in the self-control department… especially when she starts fantasizing about him working on something else. In other words, this book is pretty much the written equivalent of that Fifth Harmony song — if you liked that video, you’ll love Mr. Fixit .
On the other hand, if you prefer flawed, vulnerable heroes to totally confident ones, Adriana Locke might be more your speed. Locke has been in the romance business for just a few years, but she’s already turned out numerous series full of bad-boys-with-serious-damage (though of course, none of that stops them from eventually finding love).
Must-read: Crank ( Laundry Family #7, Gibson Boys #1)
Sienna Landry gets off to a bit of a rocky start with small-town mechanic Walker Gibson — namely, she busts up the front of his truck. For a guy like Walker, there’s nothing worse… except maybe the attraction he feels to this girl who’s just destroyed his most prized possession. Conflicted over Sienna in more ways than one, Walker still can’t seem to avoid her, and the shimmering tension between them mounts until it’s practically leaping off the page. But there’s something he’s not telling her — not least because he doesn’t want to think about it himself.
Julianne MacLean (not to be confused with the next entry on our list) writes primarily historical romance, though she’s also branched out into contemporary on occasion. She’s best known for her American Heiress and Pembroke Palace series, which are sure to please fans of Downton Abbey and other early 20th century tales. Or if you’re a fan of Outlander , check out her excellent Highlander trilogy: a slow, sexy burn that includes Captured by the Highlander, Claimed by the Highlander, and Seduced by the Highlander .
Must-read: The Color of Heaven ( Color of Heaven #1)
Like Jenkins’ Bring on the Blessings , MacLean’s Color of Heaven series doesn’t exactly represent her larger body of work. However, it’s a good entry point for new readers — if also quite an emotional one. The Color of Heaven follows Sophie Duncan, a woman whose life goes off the rails when her daughter is diagnosed with leukemia and her husband cheats on her. But after a terrible accident, Sophie’s eyes open to everything she does still have, and she embarks on a newly buoyant journey of life, love, and revelation.
Sarah MacLean has also found her niche in historical romance, but of a more traditional sort: she tends to stick to the Regency/Victorian periods, and she’s absolutely mastered the niche. As the author of over a dozen high-profile historical romances, and winner of several awards given by the Romance Writers of America, she’s one of the leading voices in the romance genre. Along with Lisa Kleypas (and Julia Quinn and Nora Roberts, both of whom we’ll get to soon), Sarah MacLean is essentially a founding mother of the historical subgenre as we know it today.
Must-read: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake ( Love by the Numbers #1)
Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is sick and tired of her title, especially since she’s never been able to live up to it. She’s more than ready to break the rules of ladyhood… but she can’t do it alone. And who better to recruit as her “accomplice” (the Regency equivalent of friends-with-benefits) than Gabriel St. John, a marquess and fellow eschewer of society? Of course, as Callie and Gabe grow closer, she realizes that she might not be such a nontraditional girl after all. The only question now is: can she tell him?
Milan is another prominent writer of WOC characters in romance, particularly characters of Asian descent. Though she’s also got quite a few “classic” historical romances in her repertoire, her most interesting and dynamic works to date include the Cyclone series, with an upcoming work entitled Show Me that will be an LGBT romance between two women of color. In the meantime, though, she has plenty of other captivating titles for readers to explore.
Must-read: Hold Me ( Cyclone #2)
This pitch-perfect amalgam of classic romantic setups involves both a) an enemies-to-lovers transformation, and b) a case of secret identities, as our main couple (unbeknownst to them) chats anonymously online!
Jay na Thalang and Maria Lopez have been running in the same Bay Area circles for ages, but that doesn’t mean they actually like each other. On the contrary, Jay’s misogynistic attitude gets Maria all riled up, and Maria’s apparent ditziness causes Jay to dismiss her. But as with just about every romance, things are not as they seem… as secrets are unveiled and revelations occur, Maria and Jay get thrown into a completely unexpected romantic odyssey.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Susan Elizabeth Phillips has been hot on the romance scene since the early eighties, and is credited with creating “sports romance,” in which the characters and plot revolve around some sort of athletics. She’s also been called the “Queen of Romantic Comedy” within the genre — at a time when most romance writers took the historical route, Phillips wasn’t afraid to get a little goofy. As the Nora Ephron of romance novels, Phillips is an essential addition to any self-proclaimed romance lover’s reading list.
Must read: It Had to Be You ( Chicago Stars #1)
New York girl Phoebe Somerville has just inherited the Chicago Stars — an entire football team of sexy-but-also-sex ist men, the worst of whom is head coach Dan Calebow. Dan isn’t exactly happy with Phoebe’s takeover, nor does Phoebe appreciate Dan’s constant snide remarks… yet neither of them can stay away from each other long enough to stop bickering. With warmth, humor, and irresistible chemistry, It Had to Be You is a veritable Super Bowl of a novel.
Like so many of the authors on this list, Julia Quinn has a fascinating origin story. In the early nineties, she decided to attend medical school; as she studied for the necessary prerequisites, she started writing romance novels on the side. She was then admitted to Yale Medical School, but realized she had already found her true calling. So she dropped out to become one of the most eminent historical romance writers of her generation — and is still writing today!
Must-read: The Duke and I ( Bridgertons #1)
It’s the ultimate high-society scheme: Lady Daphne Bridgerton and Duke Simon Basset are only pretending to court, so that Simon can avoid the clutches of actual marriage and Daphne can attract jealous men. (Exactly what you want in a partner, right?) Except now, Daphne is starting to have second thoughts about Simon — especially when they’re pressed together on the ballroom floor, and she can hardly keep dancing for desire. This Regency twist on the “fake relationship” trope will definitely make classic romance fans swoon.
“All the heat, all the heart,” is Rai’s signature slogan, and her brilliant, steamy, and wonderfully diverse books certainly live up to it. Though Rai is a relative newcomer, she already has five series under her belt and a reputation in the contemporary romance world for her innovative premises and vivid characters. (It hasn’t been released yet, but look out for her upcoming novel The Right Swipe , about two rival dating app creators who fall in love!)
That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts—and the last names that made them enemies.
Until the night she didn’t show up.
Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want . . . so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?
Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence—and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.
Being together might be against all the rules . . . but being apart is impossible.
Must-read: Hate to Want You ( Forbidden Hearts #1)
Just like so many of our couples, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler have a deal. Except theirs is limited to just one night of guilty pleasure a year — guilty because of the animosity between their families. They’ve been secretly hooking up for ten years, and each looks forward to that night of mind-blowing passion… until Nicholas gets too busy running his own family’s empire. Of course, Livvy’s not going to let him slip away that easily. Laden with passion but also profound emotion, Hate to Want You is Rai’s superb answer to sexy yet realistic romance.
Riley is another big Amazon chart-topper — unusual for a romance author with mostly standalone and short-series books. However, Riley’s edge over other authors might come from the fact that “she” is actually two writers, a duo of anonymous friends who have put out over 100 titles (!) since 2015. Also, similar to Madison Faye, Alexa Riley’s books are best described as quickies: many are 100 pages or less, but what they lack in length, they make up for in heat.
Must-read: PS... You're Mine by Alexa Riley
This Valentine’s special features a schoolteacher named Katie Lovely and a marine named Mark Gunner (did we mention that almost all Riley characters have hilariously tongue-in-cheek names?). In any case, Katie’s class is doing a pen pal project with overseas Marines, and she accidentally signs herself up, too… only to find her correspondence with Mark is, well, different than she anticipated. So don’t worry just because they don’t see each other in person (at least not at first) — those letters get hot and heavy pretty quickly.
If there’s one author on this list who’s a recognized household name, it’s Nora Roberts. Since 1980, Roberts has written and published an astounding number of romances — her website claims the number stands at over 215!
But this incredibly prolific production has not come at the cost of quality. Over the years, Roberts has been praises for her creative storylines, her wry sense of humor, and for pioneering the “dual shifting perspectives” style (i.e. two different narrators who switch back and forth) that has come to define the genre. She’s also been the recipient of countless Golden Medallion and RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America, and she’s had several of her books adapted into movies, including Montana Sky and High Noon .
Must-read: Born in Fire ( Born in Fire Trilogy #1)
It’s impossible to say that Born in Fire is the only Nora Roberts must-read, but it’s certainly one of her best. It centers on Maggie Concannon, a fierce-minded, free-spirited woman living in Ireland. And while she may work with glass for a living, Maggie is not easily shattered — until she meets money-minded gallery owner Rogan Sweeney, who wants to manage her career. The two butt heads as their working relationship progresses, but can’t deny their attraction — which grows even hotter than blown glass over the course of this story.
Singh is another very exciting new voice in the romance genre. She mostly writes paranormal romance, but of a particularly debauched variety; she’s especially known for her Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series, both of which are rife with racy scenes.
Nalini Singh dives into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind-and none of the heart.
In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of \'rehabilitation\' - the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was...
Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion - and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities - or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.
Must-read: Slave to Sensation ( Psy-Changeling #1)
This remarkable hybrid of paranormal romance and science fiction establishes the world of the “Psy”: a ruling race that prohibits emotions (sort of like in The Giver , but much worse). Sascha is one of the few Psy who still feels pain and desire — but she can’t reveal this to anyone, lest she be forced into “rehabilitation.” Meanwhile Lucas Hunter is a part-human, part-animal changeling who needs Sascha’s help. Their connection grows and they soon find themselves struggling to resist the sensation between them… though they know it could be deadly.
Susan Stoker’s series are famous for adapting the classic damsel-in-distress scenario to the modern day. Her heroines are victims of spousal violence, sex trafficking, terrorism, you name it — but there’s always a valiant hero there to save the day. And while it might seem to contradict the rules of feminism for the men to be constantly rescuing the women, we’re actually grateful for a series that promotes men protecting their partners, when so many romances blur the line between abuse and love.
Must-read: Rescuing Rayne ( Delta Force Heroes #1)
As a flight attendant, Rayne Jackson’s whole life is up in the air — with the exception of the occasional down-to-earth tryst. One particularly memorable night was with Keane “Ghost” Bryson, a rugged, reticent Delta Force member. Of course, Rayne doesn’t know that, since Ghost kept his true identity hidden from her. But when their paths cross again under the most dire of circumstances, Ghost must put everything on the line to protect Rayne: not just his secrets, but his life.
The final historical romancer on our list, Lauren Willig has been writing since 2005. Her speciality is the Napoleonic era, and her works take particular inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel — another historical novel written by a woman almost exactly a century before Willig herself started writing. However, don’t worry about her work being derivative. Willig is most definitely one of a kind, and the rich history and complex characters in her books make for top-notch romance.
Must-read: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
With a frame narrative reminiscent of Susanna Kearsley, Willig tells this story through Eloise Kelly: a 21st-century American college student who goes to England to finish her dissertation. There she finds much more than academic motivation in the form of the “Secret History of the Pink Carnation” — a book about England’s most cunning spy during the Napoleonic Wars, and the thrilling romance that involved them.
We’ll round off this list with some good old-fashioned… erotica! Zane has been a prominent author in the erotic romance subgenre since 1997, when she started writing steamy stories for her own entertainment. Over two decades later, she’s now the publisher of Strebor Books with Simon & Schuster, and her works have been turned into a TV series and even a feature film.
Zoe Reynard is a successful businesswoman, a loving wife, a devoted mother… and a sex addict. No matter how she’s tried, she’s never been able to shake her “fatal attraction.” Now, as Zoe confesses to her therapist, she delves into her sizzling sexual history and dark childhood. But her romance with her husband is still front and center — hence what makes this a genuinely gorgeous work and not just a salacious romp (though it has that going for it, too).
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100 Favorite Books
Happy ever after: 100 swoon-worthy romances.
Any time is a good time for a hot read — and just in time, our annual reader poll is here! We're celebrating the NPR Books Summer of Love , and we have 100 great romance novels for you, from historical to paranormal to LGBTQ to the subgenre that started it all, category romance (the slim-spined Harlequins of your childhood).
Heartbreakers: Why Some Books Didn't Make The List
Back in June we asked you to tell us about your favorite romantic reads , and you responded in droves. (We had to shut the poll down early after more than 18,000 nominations flooded in!) Once the votes were tallied, we turned to our expert panel, reviewers Bobbi Dumas and Sarah Wendell, and authors Sherry Thomas and Michelle Monkou , to help us break down the categories and shape the final list into a love story for the ages.
"It is my sincere hope and belief that readers new to the romance genre can pick up any recommended title on the list and find an interesting, affecting and satisfying read," says Thomas. We hope new readers and longtime fans alike will find a happily ever after here — but if we've left out one of your favorites, please tell us about it in the comments!
Here's a printable list to take to your local library, and here are some quick links to make it easier for you to navigate: Historical , Classics , YA , Suspense , Science Fiction and Fantasy , Paranormal , LGBTQ , Erotic Romance , Inspirational, Contemporary , Category Romance .
Lord of Scoundrels (Scoundrels series)
by Loretta Lynda Chase
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We recommend the entire Scoundrels series in any order, but Lord of Scoundrels stands out for the matchless banter between gruff, unruly Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, and his lovely nemesis Jessica Trent — an unrepentant bluestocking who's determined to wrest her dimwitted brother Bertie away from Ballister's crowd of rowdies.
by Beverly Jenkins
Like so many of the authors whose names came up in this poll, it was hard to pick just one Beverly Jenkins book, but both our readers and our panelists agree, this story of love on the Underground Railroad is a standout favorite. Coming in a close second was another historical romance, Topaz, about a feisty newspaperwoman who ends up married, only slightly against her will, to a handsome deputy marshal.
by Diana Gabaldon
One of the most popular picks in our poll, Diana Gabaldon's swashbuckling, century-spanning tale of a World War II nurse who tumbles backward in time to the Scottish Highlands in 1743 — and falls in love with a roguish young soldier — is now a hit television series.
by Lorraine Heath
Houston Leigh survived the Civil War, though badly scarred both inside and out. But will he survive a dangerous journey along the wild trails of Texas with Miss Amelia Carson, his handsome brother's mail-order bride?
The Serpent Garden
by Judith Merkle Riley
Left in debt when her philandering artist husband is murdered by his mistress's own jealous husband, Susanna Dallet must rely on her skills as a painter of miniatures to survive her new position at the court of the devious Cardinal Wolsey. Luckily, there's a wayward angel and a handsome but easily ruffled court secretary looking out for her.
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (MacKenzies series)
by Jennifer Ashley
As with so many entries in this list, you really should read the whole series. But if we had to pick just one, it'd be this one. Brilliant and yes, troubled, Ian MacKenzie has been banished to an asylum by his cruel, powerful father. Freed upon his father's death, Ian makes an impulsive marriage proposal to Beth Ackerly, a wealthy widow who decidedly wants no more drama in her life.
The Bedwyn Saga
by Mary Balogh
Mary Balogh is a prolific historical romance author, and readers gave the most votes to her books about the spectacular, seductive Bedwyn brothers and sisters. But we'd be remiss if we didn't also mention her excellent Survivor's Club series, about seven survivors of the Napoleonic wars who find themselves convalescing together at a stately home in England.
by Amanda Quick
Fossil-hunting rector's daughter Harriet Pomeroy summons the notorious Viscount St. Justin to sleepy Upper Biddleton to hunt the thieves who've been hiding loot in the caves where she works. Love, intrigue and a lot of old bones can't be far behind. Amanda Quick is a pseudonym for the prolific contemporary romance author Jayne Ann Krentz (who also writes futuristic romance under the name Jayne Castle).
The Wallflowers (series)
by Lisa Kleypas
Lisa Kleypas writes solid contemporary romances too, but this series about a quartet of 19th-century young women who band together to conquer the London marriage market was a favorite with our voters and our panelists.
The Bridgertons (series)
by Julia Quinn
You can start pretty much anywhere in this beloved series about an alphabetically named family (Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne ... all the way to Hyacinth). The Bridgertons are some of the most famous siblings in romance — and the books are also a lovely example of familial love surrounding the individual love stories.
The Brothers Sinister (series)
by Courtney Milan
There's nothing actually sinister in this interconnected series of stories about very smart women (a chess prodigy, a newspaper publisher, a scientist and an astronomer, among others) and the left-handed men they fall for. Courtney Milan is a master of the intelligent relationship discussion — which, trust us, is incredibly romantic.
The Rules of Scoundrels (series)
by Sarah MacLean
Four notorious aristocrats — Bourne, Cross, Temple and the mysterious Chase — have built their lives around London's most notorious gambling hell, The Fallen Angel. But love has a way of offering absolution (without making you give up the baccarat table).
Flowers from the Storm
by Laura Kinsale
The dissolute Duke of Jervaulx is brilliant at both seduction and writing scientific papers — which he does with a blind Quaker mathematician. But when he's left speechless and straitjacketed by a stroke, it's up to the mathematician's daughter, Maddy Timms, to see that there's still a man inside the restraints — and to reconcile her Quaker faith with her growing love.
Spindle Cove (series)
by Tessa Dare
The seaside town of Spindle Cove is often known as "Spinster Cove" because of its lively population of unmarried women. But even in this haven for disaffected or delicate ladies, love finds a way in.
Maiden Lane (series)
by Elizabeth Hoyt
Regency England is one of the most popular settings for historical romance, but Elizabeth Hoyt steps back a century for the Maiden Lane books, set in a bustling, grimy 1730s London that teems with gin sellers and foundlings, noblemen and small, irritating dogs. And in the background is the mysterious Ghost of St. Giles, a sword-wielding vigilante who may be a guardian of the city's poor — or something more sinister.
Pennyroyal Green (series)
by Julie Anne Long
The Everseas and the Redmonds rule the lovely Sussex, England, town of Pennyroyal Green — and the two powerful families can't stand each other. Naturally, that leads to secrets, grudges and all kinds of attraction, for the Everseas and the Redmonds, and anyone else who comes to town.
by Julie Garwood
When the king orders Scottish laird Alec Kincaid to take an English bride, he sets his sights on Jamie, the youngest daughter of Baron Jamison. But Jamie has sworn she'll never love such an arrogant, brooding Highland barbarian — and that's even before murderous rumors begin to circulate about Alec.
The Pink Carnation (series)
by Lauren Willig
Lauren Willig takes the plot of The Scarlet Pimpernel and runs wild with it in this swoon-worthy series about florally named spies battling it out against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Bracketing the historical romance is modern-day historian Eloise Kelly, who unmasks the titular Pink Carnation (and finds a love of her own) while researching her dissertation.
A Knight in Shining Armor
by Jude Deveraux
We couldn't quite decide where to file this time-traveling romance, but eventually we went with the setting for the start of Nicholas Stafford's story. He's a 16th-century knight reincarnated in the 20th to clear his unjustly tarnished name, with the help — and soon the love — of Dougless Montgomery, an American abandoned in England by her faithless fiance.
Not Quite a Husband
by Sherry Thomas
Our expert panelist Sherry Thomas landed on the list with this emotionally intense story of a young Victorian nobleman who travels the world to find his estranged wife — a rare-for-her-time surgeon who has made a new life for herself in a far corner of India.
Desperate Duchesses (series)
by Eloisa James
Eloisa James is a professor of Shakespeare when she's not writing romance, and it shows in these sparkling stories, laced not just with Shakespeare, but also with Marlowe and Christopher Smart. It's almost as fun to play spot-the-literary-reference as it is to follow the adventures of James' exquisite duchesses.
by Judith McNaught
One of Judith McNaught's most beloved books, Something Wonderful is the story of innocent country girl Alexandra, who saves cynical nobleman Jordan from a highway robbery — and winds up married to him after a misunderstanding. But Jordan doesn't quite know what to do with his young and very unexpected bride.
by Laura London
At over 500 pages, The Windflower may be a little dense for some readers, but this tale of a gently reared young American miss swept away by a dashing English pirate captain is a classic of old-school romance — and it's finally been reissued after years out of print.
The Spymasters (series)
by Joanna Bourne
The lure of the Napoleonic Wars proves strong again in Joanna Bourne's Spymasters books, featuring a cast of dashing French and British spies finding love amid the danger. Bourne's ability to write convincingly French dialogue — in English — makes this series a standout.
The Duke of Shadows
by Meredith Duran
Emmaline Martin, betrayed by her caddish fiance, meets soon-to-be-duke Julian Sinclair in India just before the sepoy uprising of 1857. They fall hard for each other, but a deception keeps them apart until a cold London spring, years later.
by Judith Ivory
Louise Vandermeer is 18, beautiful, rich, bored and very aware that her life is limited by those factors. To escape, she agrees to marry aristocratic rake Charles d'Harcourt sight unseen, unaware that a scar and a limp mar his looks. For a lark, Charles decides to travel on his fiancee's ocean liner and seduce her secretly in her darkened stateroom — but the prank backfires when he falls madly in love with his own wife to be.
To Have and to Hold
by Patricia Gaffney
Rachel Wade is finally free after years in prison for the death of her husband, a crime she did not commit. But as a thoroughly fallen woman, the only work she can find is as housekeeper to the cynical, jaded Viscount D'Aubrey.
by Grace Burrowes
Gillian, the Countess of Greendale, has survived a brutal first marriage. Christian, Duke of Mercia, has survived capture and torture by the French. When she takes over the management of his household upon his return to England, these two terribly damaged people begin to build a new life together. (This, too, is part of a series that's worth checking out in any order you want to read them.)
The Lotus Palace (series)
by Jeannie Lin
Set in colorful Tang Dynasty China, these richly detailed romantic mysteries center on the celebrated courtesans of the Lotus Palace, who seem to attract as much trouble as admiration.
All Through the Night
by Connie Brockway
Anne Wilder leads a double life: respectable war hero's widow by day, roof-crawling jewel thief by night — a dangerous pursuit that leads her straight into the arms of Colonel Jack Seward. But Jack doesn't know that the seductive thief who charmed him, and the honorable widow he loves, are one and the same.
by Susan Johnson
Portrayals of Native Americans in romance can be problematic, but our judges loved this story of a spoiled Boston heiress who heads west with her father to inspect some gold mines, and the Harvard-educated Absarokee leader who challenges their claims.
by LaVyrle Spencer
Widowed Elly Dinsmore has been treated cruelly in her small Georgia town. She's got two young boys and a third on the way, and she needs a man to help out. So she places a classified ad for a husband — and gets Will Parker, a lonely drifter condemned to live on the fringes of society after serving time for murder. Morning Glory takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster of love, betrayal, war and trials, but Will and Elly finally get their happy ever after.
by Pamela Morsi
In the aptly named town of Marrying Stone, Ark., widow Althea Winsloe has been given an ultimatum by the townsfolk: Find a husband by Christmas, or they'll find one for her. The last thing she expects is to fall for farmhand Jess Best, a good man who's been written off by the town because he doesn't think quite as fast as they do.
The Morning Gift
by Eva Ibbotson
Ruth Berger, daughter of a Jewish professor, was meant to escape Vienna, but her plans went awry. As the Nazis march on the city, her father's colleague Quinton Somerville decides to rescue her with a quick marriage of convenience — he'll sweep her away to England, and they'll get a quick annulment. But neither Quin nor Ruth counted on falling in love.
A Lady Awakened
by Cecilia Grant
Buttoned-up widow Martha Russell is desperate. If she doesn't produce evidence of an heir soon, her late husband's cruel family will seize the estate she loves. There's only one solution, obviously: She offers to pay her rakish neighbor Theophilus Mirkwood for a month of assignations. And Mirkwood is determined that Martha will get her money's worth.
The Summer of You
by Kate Noble
Lady Jane Cummings is finally out of mourning for her mother, but her father is showing signs of dementia, and her brother has only just returned from the Continent, where he escaped the responsibilities Jane has had to shoulder. Jane needs a distraction, and it arrives in the form of reclusive neighbor Byrne Worth — who has mysterious ties to a highwayman who's been plaguing the area.
by Mary Jo Putney
Notorious wastrel Reggie Davenport is only good for gambling and drinking — until a relative offers him a second chance in the form of a manor house, complete with secretive estate manager Alys Weston. Romance ensues, but Alys' past and Reggie's alcoholism prove to be formidable obstacles to overcome.
The India Fan
by Victoria Holt
Rector's daughter Drusilla Delaney becomes a companion to the spoiled, arrogant Lavinia Framling. But which will prove more dangerous to her — a supposedly cursed peacock feather fan, or Lavinia's brooding brother Fabian?
North and South
by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell and Patricia Ingham
Blurbed by Charles Dickens himself, North and South features one of the most memorable heroines in Victorian literature: Margaret Hale, who conducts a stormy romance with industrialist John Thornton while clashing with him over her quest to improve the lives of the workers in their gritty Northern mill town. A resonant mix of romance and social concern.
The Far Pavilions
by M. M. Kaye
An epic tale of forbidden love during the British Raj. British botanist's son Ashton Pelham-Martyn is orphaned in India and raised to believe he's an Indian boy named Ashok. Anjuli is a neglected princess, condemned first to an unwanted marriage and then to suttee when her husband dies — but happiness beckons for Ash and Anjuli in the "far pavilions" of the Himalayas, away from the prejudices that have kept them apart.
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Jane Austen's most famous work was one of your favorite picks (second only to the Outlander series). So much has been said about Elizabeth and Darcy that now their place in the romance canon goes without saying — we'll just leave you with the mental image of Colin Firth diving into that lake.
by Charlotte Bronte
A poor, mistreated heroine, a dour, misunderstood hero, and a mad wife locked in the attic — if that's not romance, we don't know what is! Reader, she did indeed marry him, and they lived happily ever after.
by Georgette Heyer
We couldn't have a romance list without Georgette Heyer, the venerable grandmother of the genre. And readers agreed, giving the nod to Venetia, her charming 1958 novel about a sheltered Regency beauty who sees the best in a notorious society rake and then convinces her family to approve the match.
Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell's story of two misfit kids who fall in love over mixtapes and comic books in 1980s Omaha, Neb., was one of our favorite books of 2013 — and a favorite with our voters, too. While the ending is slightly ambiguous, we choose to believe Eleanor and Park got their happily ever after. We love them too much not to!
Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, Ga., hanging around with her best friend and flirting with a hot co-worker at the local multiplex. But then her father decides to send her off to boarding school in Paris. Anna's misery begins to lift only when she meets the gorgeous (and, sadly, taken) Étienne St. Clair.
The Queen's Thief (series)
by Megan Whalen Turner
A slight exception to our happily-ever-after rule, the romance in the Queen's Thief series gets off to a rocky start in the first book. But stick around for the next few volumes in this story of a master thief who steals the heart of a queen, and then must face the reality of being king.
by Simone Elkeles
High school golden girl Brittany Ellis finds her life turned upside down when she walks into her senior chemistry class and ends up partnered with tough guy Alex Fuentes, a gang member who longs to leave the life and go to college. Things start to spark when Alex impulsively takes a bet that he can get Brittany into bed.
Adios to My Old Life
by Caridad Ferrer
Singer and guitarist Alegria Montero wants to make it big, and she's hoping that a shot on a reality show will help her leave behind her boring life of playing family parties. But when she makes it to the finals of a competition for the "next Latin superstar," she has to deal with the whirlwind of publicity, professional jealousy and a budding romance with NYU production major Jaime Lozano.
by Pamela Clare
If you ever got annoyed that Lois Lane couldn't figure out Superman's secret identity, try Pamela Clare's I-Team books, featuring tough-minded investigative reporters who find love while digging up dirt on everything from environmental hazards to al-Qaida kidnappings.
In Death (series)
by J. D. Robb
Nora Roberts makes her second appearance on the list (writing as J.D. Robb) with the long-running romantic suspense series, In Death. After a long debate, we named the Nora Roberts Rule after her: While many great writers were nominated, only Roberts is legendary enough to show up twice!
Nine Coaches Waiting
by Mary Stewart
In this classic gothic suspense story, governess Linda Martin arrives at a mysterious French chateau to take care of the 9-year-old master of the house and discovers a sinister uncle, a dashing, sardonic cousin, and a possible plot against the life of her young charge.
Science Fiction and Fantasy
by Nalini Singh
Nalini Singh's extensive Psy/Changeling series is set in a world torn between two races: The ruling Psy have awesome mental powers, but no ability to feel emotions. They punish any sign of desire, and they're on the brink of war with the shape-shifting Changelings.The action begins with one Psy desperately trying to conceal evidence of her feelings and the Changeling who sees her as the key to solving a murderous mystery.
The Iron Seas (series)
by Meljean Brook
Steampunk is more than just a fashion statement in Meljean Brook's Iron Seas books, set in an alternate world where the Mongols conquered Europe with the aid of fantastical machinery. Dive in with the first book, The Iron Duke, about a military hero who falls for a police inspector when she comes to investigate a dead body dropped — via dirigible — at his doorstep.
Kate Daniels (series)
by Ilona Andrews
Human technological progress has triggered a magical apocalypse, and mercenary Kate Daniels lives in the wreckage. She relies on her skills with a sword to protect her from enemies who want the magic in her blood — enemies who kill her guardian and throw her into the path of shape-shifter Curran, Lord of the Free Beasts.
by Bettie Sharpe
Poor Prince Charming is cursed: Every woman who looks at him is instantly enslaved by love. And poor Ember turns to the dark arts in order to resist the prince's pull — but can he resist her? Bettie Sharpe reworks the story of Cinderella with, as she puts it, "sex, violence and naughty words."
The Inheritance Trilogy
by N. K. Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin's tale of human women caught up in divine disputes is one of the best fantasy series of recent years, and also one of the most stirring romances: It's packed with gods and lovers whose bonds shape their world — and the worlds to come.
A Civil Campaign
A comedy of biology and manners.
by Lois McMaster Bujold
Often described as "a Regency romance in space," A Civil Campaign stars Lois McMaster Bujold's memorable hero Miles Vorkosigan (and his clone brother Mark) as they scheme for the hearts of the women they love (and try to keep Mark's nonromantic scheme to engineer food-producing bugs from getting out of control).
by Sharon Shinn
In the fallen utopia of Samaria, an angel and a slave girl are thrown together in a divinely arranged marriage that proves anything but divine. Can Gabriel and Rachel overcome their differences in time to perform the holy rite that might save their planet?
by Johanna Lindsey
There are probably more sensible books by the great Johanna Lindsey — she's better known for the pirate yarn Gentle Rogue — but none so outlandishly fun as this tale of a space-faring security officer who lands on a planet of giant leather-trousered barbarian warriors and winds up claimed by the biggest brute of them all.
Charley Davidson (series)
by Darynda Jones
Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and a full-time Grim Reaper, meaning she sees dead people and tries to guide them into the afterlife (and occasionally hunt down the people who left them dead). As if that weren't complicated enough, she gets caught up in a devilishly hot romance with the actual son of Satan — a relationship that only gets more intense as the series progresses.
The Black Dagger Brotherhood (series)
by J. R. Ward
The Black Dagger Brotherhood is a band of entertainingly named (Rhage, Phury, Tohrment) and highly trained vampire warriors, brothers who protect their kind from vampire slayers when they're not falling for very special women. Ward has extended the series to include relatives and friends of the original brothers, but we recommend starting at the beginning with Dark Lover, the tale of vampire king Wrath.
Immortals After Dark (series)
by Kresley Cole
In Kresley Cole's world, there are hundreds of paranormal races living secretly alongside humans. But every 500 years, war breaks out — and that time is now. Vampires and Valkyries, demons and sorceresses spark and court against a backdrop of supernatural battle in these award-winning paranormal romances.
by Karen Marie Moning
When MacKayla Lane's sister is murdered, a single clue leads her into the dangerous world of the Fae and an equally dangerous attraction to two men: the ruthlessly sexy alpha Fae V'lane, and the powerful, secretive Jericho Barron.
The Winter Sea
by Susanna Kearsley
Novelist Carrie McClelland hopes to turn an obscure historical battle into a best-seller. But when Carrie discovers a strange connection to the events she's writing about, her novel — about a young Scotswoman battling English spies while falling for a dashing soldier with a price on his head — turns out to be more truth than fiction.
by Patricia Briggs
Anna never knew werewolves existed until she became one herself, and not just any old werewolf. Anna is neither an Alpha nor a submissive but an Omega wolf, the rarest of weres, destined to bring peace to warring wolves and love to one of the country's most powerful packs.
Vampire Huntress (series)
A vampire huntress legend.
by L. A. Banks
Damali Richards is a popular spoken-word artist and producer. She's also the Neteru, a special human born once every thousand years to fight the dark threat of vampires with a jewel-encrusted sword that's 7,000 years old. Can she keep the world — and her vampire lover, Carlos — safe?
Dark Hunter (series)
by Sherrilyn Kenyon
We are Darkness. We are Shadow. We are the Rulers of the Night. And this is a very entertaining, long-running (and hot) series about immortal warriors dedicated to defending humanity. Immortality, it turns out, isn't so great without love.
The Magpie Lord
by K.J. Charles
Set in a version of Victorian England where magic is commonplace, this is the story of Lucien Vaudrey, who returns home to take up his title after the deaths of his father and brother. But he needs to fight the magic that's killing off his line, and for that he needs the help of quiet young magician Stephen Day — who bears no love for the Vaudreys.
Four out of four panelists agree: You should read all of Radclyffe's books. Start with Fated Love, the story of trauma surgeon Quinn Maguire and the unexpected mutual attraction she feels with her boss, Honor Blake. The story really gets going when Honor begins to suspect Quinn is hiding something.
by Damon Suede
Ever since the Sept. 11 attacks, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has been stifling his feelings for his co-worker and best friend, Dante Anastagio. But then Dante runs into money troubles and proposes that the two friends put on a show for a website that specializes in hunks in uniform.
by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux
A killer is on the loose, and FBI Special Agent Ty Grady has been partnered with another agent, Zane Garrett, to crack the case — but it's hate at first sight between cocky, confident Grady and serious Garrett. They'll have to figure out how to stop bickering before the killer makes them his next victims.
Keeping Promise Rock
by Amy Lane
Crick Francis found his true love at the age of 8: Deacon Winters. But Crick is sure he'll never be good enough for Deacon, and Deacon is too painfully shy to admit his own attraction. When they finally come together as adults, a misunderstanding leads Crick to make an impulsive decision that could tear them apart forever.
by Deidre Knight
Michael Warner has been dead inside ever since he lost his lover in a car crash. Their young daughter, too, is mourning her other father. But Michael begins to wake up when he meets Rebecca O'Neill, a former actress who's dealing with her own devastating losses.
Maid to match.
by Deeanne Gist
Bright-but-poor Tillie Reese lands a job as a housemaid on the Vanderbilt family's Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. But her dream job is jeopardized when she falls for rugged footman Mack Danvers — after all, the help mustn't get involved with each other. Our readers also recommended Tiffany Girl, Deeane Gist's story of love at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
by Francine Rivers
Francine Rivers retells the Biblical story of Hosea, setting it in Gold Rush California and turning the Old Testament prophet into a sympathetic rancher who heeds a divine calling to marry an abused prostitute.
by Joey W. Hill
Alpha male homicide detective Mackenzie Nighthorse goes undercover in a bondage club in search of a murderess — and finds he's increasingly unable to keep his desires separate from his investigation. Especially when he meets Violet Siemanski, a young dominatrix who seems to know just how to unlock his hidden self.
by Anne Calhoun
Lacey Meyers is divorced after 15 years of boredom and bad sex. She just wants to have a little fun with studly young cop Hunter Anderson. Neither of them sees a future together ... but they just can't seem to stay away from each other.
The Lady's Tutor
by Robin Schone
Elizabeth Petre, the daughter of a prime minister, is a perfect Victorian wife, but her charms are lost on her cold, indifferent husband. Determined to win him over, she asks for lessons in seduction from the notorious Ramiel, who calls himself the Bastard Sheikh. At first enraged by her request, Ramiel eventually takes on the task, with the aid of The Perfumed Garden , a classic collection of Arabic erotica.
by Jennifer Crusie
Minerva Dobbs is an actuary whose wild side only peeps out in her choice of shoes (plastic, kitten heels, cherries and goldfish). Cal Morrissey is a serial dater who takes Min out to dinner on a bet — which, no spoilers here, she already knows about. It's a tasty tale of love, Elvis records and really good Italian food, and as a bonus, it comes packaged with another Crusie favorite, Welcome to Temptation.
Heart of the Falcon
by Francis Ray
Oil company engineer Madelyn Taggart has broken a lot of boundaries as a young black woman in a very white, very male field. She hasn't yet found a love to match her career success, but her brother's buddy Daniel Falcon — rich, suave and oh-so-handsome — might just fit the bill.
Something About You
by Julie James
Both our judges and our readers love Julie James' FBI/U.S. attorney series. We recommend you start at the beginning, with the story of Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde. Unwitting witness to a murder, she's thrown together with FBI agent Jack Pallas — who just happens to blame Lynde for a botched case three years ago.
The Chocolate Kiss
by Laura Florand
Paris chocolatier Magalie Chaudron and her aunts are sorceresses of the sweet, stirring wishes into their cauldron of chocolate. Magalie's cozy world is threatened when the famous pastry chef Philippe Lyonais decides to open a shop nearby, but eventually she can't resist the temptation to venture out for a taste.
A Bollywood Affair
by Sonali Dev
Mili Rathod was promised to her husband at the age of 4 and hasn't seen him since. But as a married woman, she has the freedom to leave India for America and education. Hotshot Bollywood director Samir Rathod just wants to find the woman his brother was shackled to and get her consent for a quickie divorce — but Mili is far more than he expected.
Dream Man (series)
by Kristen Ashley
Kristen Ashley's word-of-mouth sensation series was a big favorite with our voters, and we recommend you start with Motorcycle Man. Tack and Tyra meet and hook up at a tequila-soaked barbecue, but sparks fly when Tyra realizes her big new job is managing the office at Tack's custom car garage.
Chesapeake Bay Saga
by Nora Roberts
Nora Roberts is a legend in the genre — so legendary, in fact, that she's the only author we let on this list twice. Many, many of her books were nominated, but our favorites are the Chesapeake Bay books, about the four adopted Quinn brothers — boat racer Cameron, boat builder Ethan, high-powered advertising executive Philip and artist Seth — and, of course, the women they love.
Lucky Harbor (series)
by Jill Shalvis
Lucky Harbor is one of those delightful towns you find so often in romance — chock-full of lonely men and women starting over, and centered around a ramshackle inn run by sisters Maddie, Tara and Chloe. There are more than a dozen Lucky Harbor books so far, so pick one and dive in.
Chicago Stars (series)
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Forget Da Bears — the Chicago Stars are the Windy City's hometown team in this series, and the focus of all kinds of romantic shenanigans from the moment New York hotshot (and, unfortunately, sports ignoramus) Phoebe Somerville inherits the team after her father's death.
by Suzanne Brockmann
If you like your heroes (and heroines) superheroic, the Troubleshooters are for you. Navy SEALs, FBI counterterrorism operatives and professional security guys tackle danger and desire in this long-running series. The most recent volume, Do or Die, was an NPR Books Concierge pick last year .
Virgin River (series)
by Robyn Carr
The California town of Virgin River sounds like a great place to start over (or even just to take a vacation): towering redwoods, clear streams and, everywhere you look, hunky cops, former Marines, Navy officers and fighter pilots waiting for love to bowl them over.
The Mackenzie Family (series)
by Linda Howard
A multigenerational family saga featuring Wolf and Mary Mackenzie and their adventurous children: Navy SEAL Zane, test pilot Joe, anti-terrorism operative Chance and their sister, horse trainer Maris.
Blue Heron (series)
by Kristan Higgins
Dating is tough in tiny Manningsport, N.Y. (population 715), but the town is nevertheless home to all sorts of romantic adventures for the Holland family — sisters Faith and Honor, who run the Blue Heron vineyard, and their heartthrob brother, Jack. Brother and sister restaurateurs Connor and Colleen O'Rourke add to the complications.
The Madaris Family (series)
by Brenda Jackson
Brenda Jackson has written over a hundred books, so we're kind of spoiled for choice, but we recommend you start with her first series, about the soapily sensational Madaris family and their romantic adventures. There are more than 20 books in just this series, so dive in anywhere!
Wild Seasons (series)
by Christina Lauren
Christina Lauren's Wild Seasons series was a favorite with voters; the debut volume, Sweet Filthy Boy, about an American woman who has a wild Vegas weekend with a sexy Frenchman and decides on impulse to follow him to France, was named a Romantic Times Book of the Year in 2014 .
by Donna Hill
There's one story investigative reporter Reese Delaware can't get to the bottom of: the tragic accident that killed her family. But when she takes an assignment to profile Maxwell Knight, a secretive tech magnate, she begins to uncover some dangerous secrets. This was made into a movie for the BET network, but trust us — the book is better.
Crazy Thing Called Love
by Molly O'Keefe
Unflappably professional morning show host Madelyn Cornish (any relation to our Audie? We wonder) is hiding a broken heart. And then the man who broke it, bad-boy hockey star Billy Wilkins, comes crashing back into her life when her producers decide he needs an on-air makeover.
Black Knights Inc. (series)
by Julie Ann Walker
Biker boys and ex-Navy SEALs are two great tastes that taste great together in Julie Ann Walker's Black Knights Inc. books., about a bunch of Harley-riding toughs who are really a covert special operations team.
The Girl You Left Behind
by Jojo Moyes
A 100-year-old painting is at the center of this emotionally gripping story, set partially in France during World War I and partially in the present day. Widowed Liv Halston treasures the portrait of an unknown young woman, a gift from her husband before his sudden death. And then she falls for Paul McCafferty, who just happens to be tracking down a painting that meets that description, appropriated by the Germans during the war.
A note about the often-overlooked and misunderstood subgenre of category romances: These quick reads are most closely associated with pioneering romance publisher Harlequin, and come in dozens of subgenres from historical to inspirational. For many years, categories made up most of the romance market. And while the publisher-generated titles can seem a little ... erm, silly ( The Playboy Sheikh's Virgin Stable Girl , we're looking at you), if you like romance pared down to just the essential love story, category romances may be the thing for you.
by Sarah Morgan
When Polly Prince's family business is taken over by the arrogant (but sexy) tycoon Damon Doukakis, she becomes his apprentice — and she's determined to be successful in her new job. Before long, she finds herself at Damon's side as he negotiates an important deal in a dangerously romantic city — Paris.
Sex, Straight Up
by Kathleen O'Reilly
Part of Harlequin's steamy Blaze line, this is the story of a Sept. 11 widower whose beach romp with the daughter of a famous auction-house family turns serious when a scandal threatens to bring down her family business.
Her Hesitant Heart
by Carla Kelly
Set in 1875, Her Hesitant Heart follows Susanna Hopkins, who has escaped an abusive husband for a new life on the frontier. When she hits Cheyenne, she runs out of money — and into the arms of military surgeon Major Joseph Randolph.
11 Best Romance Authors to Add to Your Bookshelf Today
If you want to read a best-selling novel, you may reach for a romance novel, and these are the best romance authors out there.
In the United States, romance novels are some of the top-selling books of all time. Readers include both men and women, and the majority of the mass-market paperback fiction sales come from romance novels.
With so many authors publishing romance works, finding the right one to start reading feels challenging. This list will help narrow down your options to some of the best.
Best Romance Authors Ranked
1. jane austen, 2. nora roberts, 3. beverly jenkins, 4. diana gabaldon, 5. danielle steel, 6. judith mcnaught, 7. julia quinn, 8. julie garwood, 9. lisa kleypas, 10. nicholas sparks, 11. sarah maclean, a final word on the best romance authors, who are the best romance authors, what is the best romance book, best authors reading list.
Whether you are looking for ideas for your own fiction writing or simply want to read a good romance novel, the authors on this list are a great place to start. These are the best romance authors to add to your bookshelf today.
Not all the best romance authors and books fall into steamy erotica. Jane Austen is a classic writer with six major novels. Her works have also been made into major motion pictures.
Austen’s books capture life in the British landed gentry in the late 18th century. She explored the role of women in this society and wove quite a bit of romance, without sensuality, into her plots. Austen was born in 1775 to a prominent family and received her education at Oxford. She never married nor had any children but spent her life writing.
Though most of Jane Austen’s books are well-known in literature, Pride and Prejudice is perhaps the most famous. The story follows the smart Elizabeth Bennet as she falls in love with the charming Mr. Darcy. It has been the subject of many major motion pictures and a television mini-series.
Get the book on Amazon.
- Austen, Jane (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 306 Pages - 05/10/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
Other well-known Jane Austen books include Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Mansfield Park .
Nora Roberts was the first writer to enter the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. The New York Times bestselling author hails from Maryland. She tried her hand at writing for the first time while snowed in at home with her children. She married her current husband, Bruce Wilder, in 1985 and has traveled extensively.
Roberts is a prolific writer with over 220 novels to her name as of 2020. She publishes around five novels a year, and she also has several novellas to her name. Though technically romance books, they are also often placed under the suspense sub-genre. She also writes In Death books under the pseudonym J.D. Robb .
Because she has so many books to her name, determining the best one is not easy, but many suggest starting with Black Hills . The book follows Cooper Sullivan; a rancher turned NYC investigator who finds love with his childhood friend while tracking down a violent killer.
- Roberts, Nora (Author)
- 464 Pages - 05/25/2010 (Publication Date) - Berkley (Publisher)
Other popular titles include Birthright and Tribute , and for those who don’t like suspense, Vision in White and The Next Always are both strictly romance.
Beverly Jenkins also merges romance with suspense in many of her novels. Jenkins was born in 1951 in Detroit and learned to love reading and writing from an early age. As an adult, she became a librarian, writing romance novels in her breaks. In 1994, she published her first work, Night Song.
Jenkins’ work is unique because she focuses on romances set in the 20th century but surrounding African-American culture. Her historical romance novels, thus, touch on a time period of African-American history that is often not written about. She has received many awards, including a Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award and a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for historical romance.
Jenkins has 65 books to her name. However, her first book, Night Song , remains one of the most widely read. Readers appreciate the realistic love story between Cara and Chase as they navigate this book.
- Jenkins, Beverly (Author)
- 384 Pages - 04/28/2009 (Publication Date) - Avon (Publisher)
Other popular books include Jewel, Deadly Sexy, and Winds of Storm .
Famous for the Outlander novels, which are now a popular television series, Diana Gabaldon is a best-selling author who merges historical fiction with sci-fi adventure and quite a bit of swoon-worthy romance. Born on January 11, 1952, Gabaldon holds a doctoral degree in ecology but makes her money as an author.
Before publishing Outlander , Gabaldon worked as a comic book writer for Disney Comics. She also publishes technical articles and popular science articles, tapping into her extensive education.
Outlander looks at what happens when 20th-century nurse, Claire Randall, gets stuck in a time travel loop, ending up in the 18th-century Scottish Highlands. Once there, she falls into a daring romance with James Fraser, despite having a husband in her own timeline.
- Gabaldon, Diana (Author)
- 850 Pages - 11/29/1992 (Publication Date) - Dell (Publisher)
Outlander is the first book in a romance series that Gabaldon is still writing. She also has the Lord John trilogy, which follows a secondary Outlander character, and several novellas set in the same world.
A list of contemporary romance writers would not be complete without discussing Danielle Steel , perhaps one of the top-selling authors of all time. With over 900 million books in publication, including over 200 books published in 43 languages. She has earned multiple awards and accolades, including the Order of Arts and Letters from the French government and Order of the Legion d’Honneur in Paris in 2014.
When she is not writing, Steel is active in charitable work, with two foundations she founded and runs to address mental illness and help the homeless.
Choosing the best one is not easy with so many books to her name, but Fine Things remains one of her most popular. It follows the senior VP of a department store as he travels west to start a new store and, ultimately, find love. However, when the love story takes a tragic turn due to cancer, the main character must make some poignant decisions.
- Steel, Danielle (Author)
- 432 Pages - 02/01/1988 (Publication Date) - Dell (Publisher)
Other popular titles include Palomino, Summer’s End, and The Gift .
Judith McNaught has 14 novels and two short stories to her name, with over 30 million in print. She has won the Romantic Times Award for Best New Historical Novel, and several of her books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Before starting her career as a writer, she worked in radio, movies, and finance.
McNaught writes both contemporary romance and historical romance books. In the 1990s, she entered the romantic suspense category with her book Night Whispers.
Whitney, My Love , which was McNaught’s first novel, regularly ranks as one of her best. It takes place in England, where the title character tries to win back her childhood crush, only to find herself bartered to a Duke she barely knows.
- romance, love, desire
- Whitney, Judith McNaught
- McNaught, Judith (Author)
- 736 Pages - 06/01/2000 (Publication Date) - Pocket Books (Publisher)
Other popular titles include A Kingdom of Dreams, Once and Always, and Perfect .
Julia Quinn is the pen name of Julie Pottinger, a writer of historical romance novels. Raised in New England, Quinn fell in love with books in middle school, even writing her first novel at that age, though that work never made it to publication. After finishing college without much direction, she started working toward med school and writing light-hearted Regency novels in her spare time. Suddenly, she found her first two novels were the subject of a bidding war, which led her to a career in writing.
Quinn is best known for her Bridgerton series, which has become a Netflix series by the same name. Her early success as a writer caused her to drop out of medical school to write full-time. Her books are full of strong heroines, and she has a few awards from the Romance Writers of America.
Because of the television series, The Duke and I , one of the Bridgerton novels, is her most popular work.
- Quinn, Julia (Author)
- 464 Pages - 12/01/2020 (Publication Date) - Avon (Publisher)
Other popular books that hit the bestsellers list include First Comes Scandal , The Other Miss Bridgerton, and The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband.
Called the Rembrandt of Romance Novels, Julie Garwood grew up in an Irish family living in Kansas City, Missouri, where storytelling was a way of life.
After becoming a mother, Garwood focused on raising her kids, then decided to publish her first historical romance after her children were in school. Today, she has over 40 million copies of her books in print.
Her most popular book, For the Roses , is now a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. It follows a band of brothers raised as street urchins and their abandoned baby sister, who was raised to be a lady.
- Garwood, Julie (Author)
- 576 Pages - 02/01/1996 (Publication Date) - Pocket Books (Publisher)
Garwood’s other popular titles include Come the Spring, The Clayborne Brides Trilogy, and The Bride .
If historical fiction is your preferred reading choice, why not give some of these recommendations a try .
Lisa Kleypas has an interesting history, including a stint as Miss Massachusetts In 1985. She attended Wellesley College and graduated with a degree in political science, then quickly transitioned to writing with her first novel at the age of 21. In 1998, she married and soon started a family, but she continued writing.
Kleypas has several awards to her name, including the Waldenbooks Award for sales growth, several RITA awards, and an Amazon Editor’s Top Ten Picks award. She writes both historical and contemporary romance novels.
Worth Any Price is considered one of her top works. In this book, the main character, Nick Gentry, sets out to find a runaway bride, only to find romance for himself.
- Kleypas, Lisa (Author)
- 416 Pages - 12/27/2022 (Publication Date) - Avon (Publisher)
Other popular books include L ady Sophia’s Lover, Where Dreams Begin, and Dreaming of You .
Nicholas Sparks is one of the rare men on this list. He has over 105 million copies of his works sold around the world. He was born in 1965 in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended Notre Dame, graduating manga cum laude. It was during his college years that he started writing.
Sparks wrote his first novel, The Passing, between his freshman and sophomore years of college. Before writing full-time, he worked in pharmaceutical sales.
Sparks is best known for The Notebook , a book he wrote at the young age of 28. It was picked out of a slush pile and became an instant hit. The story of a life-long love between a couple who now reside in a nursing home was made into a major motion picture in 1995.
- This Certified Refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new. The refurbishing process includes functionality testing, basic cleaning, inspection, and repackaging. The product ships with all relevant accessories, a minimum 90-day warranty, and may arrive in a generic box.
- Sparks, Nicholas (Author)
- 272 Pages - 06/24/2014 (Publication Date) - Grand Central Publishing (Publisher)
Other titles from Sparks include Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, and Safe Haven , all of which are also motion pictures.
Sarah MacLean is a romance novelist who has a bold take on her books. She grew up knowing she wanted to be a romance novel writer after falling in love with the genre because of reading her older sister’s collection. She started working as a literary publicist before publishing a young adult novel, her first work.
MacLean’s books are known to be quite steamy, and they also have a strong feminist take. She also writes and speaks extensively on the merits of the genre. Her books have been translated into 25 languages, and she also writes for the Washington Post and New York Times.
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake was her first adult romance novel, and it won USA Today Bestseller List status and the Romantic Times Magazine Seal of Excellence.
- MacLean, Sarah (Author)
- 422 Pages - 03/30/2010 (Publication Date) - Avon (Publisher)
Other books by MacLean include Wicked and the Wallflower, Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, and The Season .
The world’s favorite romance authors can create a compelling story and weave in plenty of steamy love connections. The genre remains a popular one, as more and more people are learning to enjoy the escape that comes from a good love story.
Whether you are in the mood for a classic, historical novel or a steamy contemporary romance, you will find something to fit your needs with one of these authors.
If you have a favorite author, it’s always good to follow them on social media to stay up to date with the new releases. Alongside the above authors, we’ve created a great list of the best authors to follow on Twitter.
FAQs on the Best Romance Authors
Based on the number of books sold, the best romance authors are: Jane Austen Danielle Steel Nora Roberts
According to GoodReads , the best love story is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks also lands on the list.
Best Historical Fiction Authors
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Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.
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26 Best Romance Authors That Will Capture Your Heart
Discover the best romance authors from a variety of genres!
It’s the most wonderful feeling when you find a new to you author and end up adding their entire backlist to your To Be Read list!
As an avid romance reader, I want to ensure that you’re not missing any of the incredible romance authors out there. I’ve included both mainstream and lesser known options on this list of the best romance authors. I’m hoping to ensure that you’ll find at least one or two that are new to you!
Since our reading tastes may vary, I’m covering a few different types of romance novels. Thus, on this best romance authors post you’ll find contemporary / rom com authors, historical romance authors, and authors of extra steamy books!
I also wanted to share my favorite books by each of these best romance authors, so you have an idea where to start.
Below you’ll find a list of my picks in each category followed by details about my favorite book of theirs!
If I’ve missed any of your favorites, share them in the comments for other readers to find.
*Disclosure – I earn a small commission for any books purchased through the links below. Thank you for supporting this book blog!
Best Romance Authors: Contemporary Romance
Starting off this list of best romance authors is Denise Williams. With all the characteristic depth of her novels, How To Fail At Flirting is an incredible love story with a powerful message about how to recover from an abusive relationship.
When Naya decides it’s finally time to step out of her shell, the charming man she meets at the bar is a perfect candidate to help her check a few items off her to-do list. However, a disastrous attempt at a one-night stand instead turns into a budding, real relationship. But, she eventually discovers his career and hers may be at odds.
Naya and Jake are the epitome of a cute couple and I adored all the flirtatious texting and chatting. This is a step above the usual contemporary romance book as it dealt with standing up to an aggressor and learning to heal.
Amazon | Buy At Target for $10
Sarah Adams writes the most charming and delightful rom-coms I’ve ever read. She has a significant backlist and they’re ALL good! Bree and Nathan live insanely different lives – he’s an NFL quarterback, she’s barely making ends meet as a dance studio owner. But their friendship is rock solid. At least, except for the fact that they’re hiding how head over heels in love they are with each other.
Neither is willing to admit it and risk their friendship. However, when a publicity opportunity to fake date arises, they both want to take the chance to see if this could let them admit their true feelings.
Amazon | Buy At Target
A renaissance faire, a bookstore, a slow burn romance! What more could you want?? This book easily jumped to the top of my list of the best contemporary romance novels. It was one of the best novels of 2020 and also of all-time!
Emily reluctantly agrees to volunteer at a local renaissance faire and has no idea why one of the organizers, Simon, seems to hate her. The two constantly clash during prep for the event. However when the Faire starts, their new identities indulge in an unexpected flirtation. If you like this one, there are 3 more in the series that are just as wonderful!
Amazon | Buy At Target for $11
Emily Henry popped on to the scene with her hugely popular Beach Read, but People We Meet On Vacation is my favorite. It is a fascinating love story about two friends learning to find what matters most in their lives. Best friends Poppy and Alex were polar opposites when they first met in college. However, a forced road trip to their shared hometown led them into a decades long friendship. Every year since college, they took one summer trip together. Until it all came crashing down two years ago.
The story of Alex and Poppy’s friendship is told both through their current summer trip and all their previous vacations. I adored the tension of current day and discovering their history at the same time. Although these friends had little in common, they truly brought out the best in each other and as a reader I could easily feel their connection.
The friends to lovers trope is easily one of my favorites and this whole relationship did not disappoint. They truly learned from each other and grew together as they realized what they wanted. I appreciated how real the ending felt, rather than a rushed, lucky happenstance or sudden burst of intense communication that fixes everything!
If you’re looking for strong, STEM main characters, Ali Hazelwood is your go-to author. Her novels feature women battling to hold their own in the world of science, while also showing that no one is perfect.
The Love Hypothesis is perfect for fans of enemies to lovers and fake relationship tropes! You’ll get a bit of both when Olive ends up kissing the first man she sees to appease her best friend and it turns out to be a well-known jerk. A sexy, scientific romp ensues which plays out oh so well on the pages.
It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that really plays up the enemies to lovers trope and I ate it all up! You’ve also got a celebrity / normal person matchup to really make it exciting.
Jasmine has a huge backlist of romance novels to her name. I’ve found her recent ones are more engaging, so I’d suggest starting with her latest and working your way back! But make sure you add this one to the mix!
Part of Your World is a classic trope of characters from two different social classes, trying to make their connection work. Alexis only knows the high pressure, high status life her family has dictated for her. So she’s completely taken off guard by how much she’s into Daniel and the tiny town she stumbled upon one evening.
What starts off as merely a fling quickly turns into a far deeper connection. But there’s no way their worlds can combine…
I completely fell in love with these characters and the insane electricity between them! The progression of their relationship felt so natural. Plus, Abby transforms a simple love story into this novel that touches on harder topics, like emotional and physical abuse, what chances are worth taking, and discovering the value of a simpler life.
It’s extremely hard to pick a favorite book from this writing duo. They have dozens of romance books to their name and I’ve read and loved many of them. The Soulmate Equation is a recent example of their best work. I simply adored this nerdy take on matchmaking and couldn’t get enough of the love story between the two characters.
DNADuo is a groundbreaking service that matches individuals based on their DNA. At the helm is brooding, devastatingly handsome River Pena who’s commitment to this project spans decades. On a whim, single mom Jess submits her data as part of their pre-launch testing. Neither of them expects an off-the-charts result to pop up…
Amazon | Buy At Target
This is one of those slow burn romance books where you’re not even entirely sure who you’re rooting for the entire time! This is the epitome of a book about books! Claire works at a stodgy publishing house where nonfiction and literary fiction are considered the only books worth reading. 🙄 Buttttt she’s working on writing a romance manuscript 😍
After a mishap forces her to hide her pages in a secret room, she comes back and finds a mysterious editor has written critical notes all through the margins! The gall of this person!! So begins a back and forth exchange that becomes more and more personal, but full of mystery! Who is this talented, funny, and charming editor??
I read this book so fast! It kept me engaged and delighted from the first page to the last.
Amazon | Buy At Target for $9
Jenny may have more books to her name than any other contemporary romance author on this list! She is a very low spice romance author, so perfect if you’re looking for all the love without any steam. I’ve pretty much loved everything I’ve read, so you really can’t go wrong with anything in her backlist. You can also find all of Jenny Colgan’s books in order here !
I picked The Christmas Bookshop since it’s one of her rare standalone books. Plus, I couldn’t not include a holiday book! Carmen is NOT looking forward to spending the holidays with her ever so perfect sister and perfect little family. Unfortunately, she’s out of a job and has no other options. To bring in some much needed cash, Carmen also agrees to take on one of her sister’s clients.
So, she’ll be attempting to revamp a dusty, disorganized bookshop. After a famous author takes a special interest in the bookshop as well, Carmen starts to realize there may be hope for her to get her life back in order.
I’ll admit that friends to lovers is my favorite romance trope, so maybe it’s no surprise that this was a hit! Avery devotes all of her time to the event hotel she runs with her sisters, leaving no time to worry about a man. She’d rather hang out with her guy friends, including her roommate Declan, anyway.
After an accident occurs, Avery is forced to rely on Declan in ways she never has before. And taking care of Avery brings forth feelings Declan has pushed down for ages. If they give in to their spark, it may ruin everything they’ve built up over the years.
This was a fresh and realistic take on making the jump from friends to something more! I identified with their reluctance and the fragility of their new relationship. I also appreciated the time devoted to improving themselves and resolving their issues individually! Highly recommend for all romance lovers!
It’d be impossible to mention a best romance authors list these days without including Colleen Hoover. She sold the most books of any author in 2022, even beating out the Bible!! It Ends With Us was her most sold novel, but I haven’t read it yet so I’m picking an older favorite.
Regretting You starts off as a teen love story, but quickly morphs into something much more mature. As the adults try to handle unbelievable circumstances, the teens tackle their own issues. I don’t want to give much away, so it’s better going into this one blind.
Amazon | Buy At Target for $8
Best Romance Authors: Historical Romance
- Julia Quinn
First on my list of best romance authors in the historical genre is of course, Julia Quinn. Anthony is seeking out a wife who will serve as a viscountess and mother to his children, but nothing more. He knows he’s destined to follow in his deceased father’s footsteps, so he wants nothing to do with an actual love match.
His sights are set on the diamond of the season, Edwina, but in order to win her hand he must first get past her older sister Kate. Since Kate’s opinion of him is atrociously low, they butt heads constantly. But both can’t deny there is a fiery spark beneath their arguments…
Amazon | Buy At Target for $8
The Wallflowers series consistently ranks as of one Kleypas’ best series, so I’m including Book 1 here in this post of the best romance authors. Four young women (The Wallflowers) make a pact to find themselves husbands…no matter what. First up in the series is Annabelle, who must marry a wealthy man to save her family.
Instead of an upstanding gentlemen though, she’s most heavily pursued by a brash entrepreneur who just wants her as his mistress. They dance around each other, but the passion and maybe love between them is undeniable.
Amazon | Bookshop.org
I adore these historical romances that feature the currently popular cartoon covers. It’s been four years since THE BIG FIGHT and married couple, Lady Violet and Lord James haven’t spoken since. When a mistake leads Violet to worry for her husband’s safety accidentally, she’s determined to get him back. Thus begins a war of one upmanship between the two
As they start to flirt among all the theatrics, they have no choice but to acknowledge what’s between them. Or face going back to a life they lived apart.
A relationship of convenience, similar to the beginnings of Daphne and Simon, will draw you into The Duchess Deal! The Duke of Ashbury has returned from war and finds he has a new assignment – making an heir. When a seamstress literally appears in his library in a wedding gown, his problem is solved.
They agree to a facade of a marriage, in which her sole role is provide an heir. But Emma has terms of her own, that involve actually getting to know each other…
Amazon | Bookshop.org
Annabelle has joined the suffragette cause and is tasked with convincing influential men to help secure their right to vote. Her assignment is the very traditional Duke of Montgomery. As sparks fly between them though, they both detest the idea of a relationship but just can’t help themselves.
A goodie two shoes girl starts breaking all the rules she’s lived by her whole life. Calpurnia starts to take her life into her own hands when she realizes she’s never going to get noticed by following society’s rules for young ladies. To guide her in this new venture, she teams up with renowned rake, Gabriel St John.
Is she brave enough to break free for good or will just a taste of freedom and pleasure be enough?
With a few historical romance series under her belt, Courtney Milan is one of the classic historical romance authors. The Duchess War kicks off the Brothers Sinister series, a group known for being left handed. Minerva is a self-appointed wallflower, purposely keeping quiet to ensure her past stays behind her.
Much to her chagrin, she catches the attention of a handsome Duke, who also happens to be hiding secrets of his own. He’s determined to uncover what this beguiling woman is hiding, but she’s more of a match than he expected.
Best Romance Authors: Spicy Reads
Sarah J Maas
I’m kicking off the best romance authors: spicy edition with a Booktok hit! This retelling that had me hooked from the first chapter! The legend of Persephone and Hades is set in a modern Olympus. I listened to this on audio, which was incredible due to the two narrators. The man in particular nailed the gravelly, rough voice of Hades.
Persephone hates her life among the Gods of Olympus, but things turn dire when her engagement to the notoriously brutal Zeus is announced without her knowledge. She flees to the only place where Zeus can’t touch her, the lower city where Hades reigns.
Hades and Persephone agree to a mutually beneficial relationship, where he very publicly seduces her and pulls her into the dark fantasies expected of his character. Their attraction is undeniable though and both realize their play-acting isn’t just for show.
This wouldn’t be a spicy best romance authors list without a billionaire popping up. Or a book showcasing the power of a man saying “Good Girl,” which I think we’re all obsessed with!
Charlie’s new boss is all sorts of wrong for her…twice her age…owner of the Salacious Players Club…and her ex’s father. She knows all this, but he wants her like she’s never been wanted before. He makes her feel treasured, valued, and worthy. Is that enough to overcome the significant obstacles facing them?
Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited)
A billionaire looking for a fiance and a woman trolling a rich neighborhood for a man to make her ex jealous. What a meet cute, right? There was nothing typical about their first date since they struck up a very business-like bargain to help each other out. But Lottie is quickly discovering Huxley is unlike any other man she’s met, in all the right ways.
This was actually included with my Prime subscription!! So you can read it for free simply for having a membership, no Kindle Unlimited needed. Meghan Quinn is known for writing tropes we all love in stories that have depth, character development and of course a lot of steam!
Amazon (Free On Kindle Unlimited)
Schitt’s Creek fans – this book is for you! Tessa Bailey’s steamy novel is loosely based on the popular TV series. A Hollywood darling is cut off from her family’s wealth and essentially banished to a small beach town. She’s forced to run her late father’s dive bar in the hopes she’ll learn some responsibility, but immediately gets into a spat with a local sea captain.
This opposites attract romance promises all the sexual tension and steamy scenes that Tessa Bailey is amazing at writing! A slow burn romance book at it’s absolute finest!
Amazon | Buy At Target
If you want your steam with a side of fantasy, I guarantee you’ll love Maas’ novels. I’ve only read the Court of Thorns and Roses series but it captivated me like nothing else I’ve read. I kept reading right through my work day to find out what happened…and then reread them all when the 4th novel came out!
The first book begins when a human girl makes a bargain with a Fae lord to become his prisoner in exchange for saving her family’s life. She is brought into their world and becomes entangled in the politics, wars, and passions within.
This is one of the most widely recommended spicy Booktok books, so I had to include Ana on my best romance authors list! It opened my eyes to the “morally grey” man and wow did I fall in love!
Ava – the best friend’s little sister. Alex – the older brother’s best friend. A classic forbidden romance with an extra dose of grumpy/sunshine! Alex is a beautiful face haunted by tragedy in his past, so he never lets anything but his gruff, ruthless side show. When he is tasked with caring for Ava, something about her slowly gets under his skin in a remarkable way.
Get ready for a steamy, mutually beneficial arrangement that will leave you breathless! When Hannah finally finds someone in college who turns her on, she’s willing to try everything to get his attention. Even if it means tutoring the cocky, annoying captain of the hockey team in exchange for a fake date.
Garrett is also willing to do anything necessary to keep his dreams of playing professional hockey alive, so he accepts the arrangement. However, a kiss that leads to wildly satisfying…so much more has him rethinking how much he wants to help Hannah seek out some other guy.
Amazon | Bookshop.org
Which of these best romance authors will you try out first?
Great collection, seeing some of my fav reads am glad to have so many good recommendations added to my list <3
This is such a great list ❤️ I’d have to add Penny Reid (all-time favorite) and Chloe Liese!
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15 Bookish Romance Novels Featuring Writers, Editors, Librarians, and More!
Alison Doherty is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on the subway, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.
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Bookish romance novels are having a major moment in the publishing world right now. It makes sense to me. And not just because I personally am a huge fan. Almost all devoted readers and writers have one thing in common: we love books. And since we all love books, it’s perfectly logical that we love reading about characters who love books too. With the success of Beach Read and her subsequent romance novels, Emily Henry deserves some of the credit for bringing this trend back with a mighty force, especially in contemporary romance. But bookish romance novels have been around for a long time and appear in almost every sub-genre of romance.
There are seriously so many bookish romance novels to available to read right now, ranging from contemporary romances between authors, editors, and agents to historical romances featuring bookish barmaids and women writing under secret pen names. It was no easy feat to whittle down the many possibilities for this article, but I narrowed down the many options into this list of 15 romance novels about books and the written word. Enjoy swooning over them my fellow bookish romance readers!
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
Florence is a ghostwriter for one of the most successful romance novelists. She’s about to meet her new editor, but there’s a problem. After a horrible break up, Florence doesn’t believe in love anymore and can’t find the words to finish the last book in her contract. She’s instantly attracted to her new editor, Ben. But when she goes home for her father’s funeral and sees Ben as a ghost, a strange romance unfolds between them. Florence has seen ghosts and helped them find peace all her life. She assumes to help her editor move on to the next realm, she needs to finish her past due romance novel. But then she and Ben start having feelings for each other. Florence knows falling in love with a ghost can’t restore her belief in romance, but she isn’t sure she can help herself.
The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest (February 28)
Lily is an overworked editorial assistant who wants to edit children’s books, not work on boring nonfiction. In a moment of desperation, she emails her heart out to her favorite, little-known fantasy author. They begin a correspondence that gets surprisingly deep and, perhaps, even romantic. But then the author ghosts Lily just when something more seems possible. A few months later, she’s still hurting from the whole interaction. But she needs to find a date to her sister’s wedding. She asks her playboy neighbor Nick for help snagging a date. When he agrees, she doesn’t know he’s her favorite fantasy author who used a pen name. And Nick doesn’t know who Lily is at first either. Once they find out, their relationship is going to get complicated. You’ll have to wait until the end of the month for this bookish romance novel. But believe me, it’s worth the wait!
Read Between the Lines by Rachel Lacey
Online, Rosie has a flirtatious email romance brewing with her favorite romance novelist, Brie. But in-person, Brie is really Jane, who spends her days working for her family’s property company and her nights writing romance under a pen name. Online, Rosie and Brie are falling in love. In-person, Rosie and Jane are enemies, due to Jane terminating the lease on Rosie’s independent bookstore. If you are thinking this sounds like a sapphic You’ve Got Mail , then you are one hundred percent correct!
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
Could I write about bookish romance novels and not include Book Lovers ? Obviously, I didn’t think so. This book takes a meta approach to the small town romance trope, with literary agent Nora going on vacation to the tiny town that inspired her top client’s most recent hit. There she finds Charlie, the grumpy editor she knows back from New York City. Nora’s sister keeps trying to push her into a romantic situations with local men, but for some reason Nora can’t keep away from Charlie, the one other New Yorker in town. This book is huge for a reason. And, in my opinion, it lives up to the hype. Another great choice for a literary love story would be Emily Henry’s earlier novel Beach Read .
A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres
This historical romance takes readers to the Caribbean in 1911 for an epic love story between secret writer Emilia and snobby book critic Ruben. When Ruben loudly tears the book Emilia wrote under a pen name to shreds, only she and her sister understand the significance of the moment. She has to keep her writing a secret or it would create a scandal she and her family would never recover from. But Ruben is determined to find out the identity of the romance writer he loves to hate. As the two keep bumping into each other, Ruben and Emilia will discover surprise after surprise. This novel is low angst with strong banter and a perfect manifesto standing up for romance against high brow literary haters.
By the Book by Jasmine Guillory
Isabelle is an editorial assistant who is burned out at work and being gaslit by a coworker. In a moment of desperation to prove herself, she agrees to drive to the home of a celebrity who is past due with the tell-all book he promised Isabelle’s boss. Beau wants to turn Isabelle away at first. But he agrees to let her stay in his gorgeous Santa Barbara home to help him begin writing his book. And over time, the two fall in love and Isabelle rediscovers her love of books and writing. But will their relationship last once the book is finished and Isabelle has to return to the real world? This bookish “Beauty and the Beast” retelling answers this question of an epic happily ever after that’s worthy of a fairytale.
The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Katrina and Nathan cowrote a huge, bestselling book together and were best friends. But after their book came out, a rift between them occurred that was so huge they haven’t spoken since, and Katrina has lost her ability to write. But Nathan’s first solo book is a commercial flop. And Katrina’s fiancé (who is also her literary agent) gets into financial trouble and asks her to help bail him out. Which means, Nathan and Katrina are going to write another book together. They go back to the Florida house where they wrote their hit. It’s the place where the most magic and the worst moments of their relationship occurred. Told in dual timelines, Katrina and Nathan’s future and past unravel page by page for the reader. There aren’t just big will-they-won’t-they vibes in this novel, but also the overarching question of what the heck happened between them?
Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson
Phoebe is a PhD student trying to finish her dissertation on true crime and living in her childhood home in Florida. When she meets her new neighbor Sam, she isn’t sure if he’s the man of her dreams or a serial killer. Something seriously weird is up with him, but all the murder books she’s reading also could be influencing her judgement. There’s also a strong family and grief subplot that makes this book somewhat straddle the line of women’s fiction and romance. But since I’m including it on this list, I think you probably have good enough instincts to anticipate which side of the line the book falls on by the end.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Mika is a lonely, isolated witch who keeps her magic a secret at all costs. But when a letter comes asking her to help three young witches at Nowhere House, Mika answers the call and travels to the mysterious house to help. Besides her new pupils, when she arrives she finds Jamie, the overly-protective librarian of Nowhere House. Mika begins to find a magical family for the first time since her parents died. And when a threat jeopardizes her future with this new magical community, Mika and Jamie will both do anything they can to protect their family and their future.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Eva writes bestselling vampire erotica but has writer’s block trying to meet her deadline for her next book. The Black Brooklyn literary scene goes bananas when reclusive, literary darling Shane shows up at one of Eva’s panels and admits that he’s read (and loved) all of her books. The sparks between them fly. But they don’t come out of nowhere. The two shared an intense seven day romance as teenagers that influenced the rest of their lives and literary careers. This book is emotionally intense touching on issues with chronic pain, child abuse, self harm, and addiction. But the love story and connection between these two characters is both deep and vivid. And their love of writing and literature shines through on every page.
The Make-Up Test by Jenny L. Howe
Allison has been accepted into her dream PhD program to study Medieval Literature and hopefully become a professor someday. She’s thrilled when she is assigned to teaching assistant for her dream mentor. But then she finds out Colin, her snobby college ex-boyfriend, is in her program as well. And even worse, he is chosen as the other TA for the same professor. Let the competition begin! The two know they are direct rivals for recommendations, top grades, and prestigious research assistant position. It doesn’t matter if they both still have feelings for each other. Everyone knows all’s fair in love, war, and academia.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
In this beautiful historical romance, Lucy Muchenly and Catherine the Countess of Moth are brought together through the project of translating a complex French astronomy book. Catherine is a recent widow who hires Lucy for the job, hoping to complete the scientific work of her dead husband and solidify his legacy. Lucy is an aspiring astronomer who finds gender discrimination is holding her back from achieving her dreams. Both think the book translation will be a fairly easy job, but they develop an attraction for each other through the project. And when that attraction deepens into strong feelings of love, their relationship will change the course of both Lucy and Catherine’s lives.
Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
Griffin the Duke of Halford is in a power struggle with his mother over his matrimonial future. His mother insists he choose a bride from the infamous Spindle Cove (nicknamed Spinster Cove) and to teach her a lesson, Griffin chooses Pauline, the local barmaid. Pauline isn’t particularly interested in Griffin, but she agrees to the fake engagement if he will give her the money to open up her dream bookstore and lending library. Both are convinced that within a week, society will declare Pauline a failure and his mother will insist on them breaking the engagement. The only problem is Pauline wins over the hearts of the aristocratic town, Griffin’s mother, and Griffin himself. But can Griffin convince Pauline to go down a dramatically different life path than the one she planned?
Glitterland by Alexis Hall
Ash was once considered a promising young literary writer. But now, he’s a pulp crime writer who deals with clinical depression and social anxiety. Ash has completely given up on ever falling in love. But a chance meeting with Darian, a cheerful model with an amazing sense of humor, challenges Ash’s belief in his own future. It’s hard for him to believe that anyone could truly love him. But if anyone can restore his faith in love and in himself, it’s going to be Darian.
Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
Rosa is a responsible school librarian who writes romantic poems in her spare time. Most of her poems are inspired by her crush on Jeremy, the son of a wealthy lawyer she danced with once at a wedding. They both aren’t looking for a serious relationship. But Jeremy and Rosa have an undeniable chemistry that makes it impossible for them to keep away from each other. They aren’t sure if their steamy affair can turn into a forever romance, especially when Rosa’s job at a conservative Catholic school is threatened by gossip about her relationship with Jeremy.
For more romance reading ideas check out the 20 best romance novels of 2022 or this list of the best romance novels you’ve never heard of !
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The 27 Greatest Romance Novels to Read in Your Lifetime
Infinite happily-ever-afters await you.
We pulled together a list of the best romance novels anyone should read in their lifetime to narrow in on the greats of the genre. The task is clearly a tall order, but we've done our best to compile the books and authors most often selected as favorites by our fellow readers in "Romancelandia." From forever classics like Jane Eyre to the queen of historical fiction, Beverly Jenkins , 21st-century darlings like The Kiss Quotient , and bestselling series-turned Netflix breakout hit Bridgerton , we know there are options here to fit all tastes. And if by book 28 you still haven't found your pick, check out the authors' Goodreads profiles—because they each have plenty more in their repertoire to explore.
Pride and Prejudice , by Jane Austen (1813)
Arguably the greatest romance novel of all time, Austen's Pride and Prejudice follows the opinionated heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, as she frequently finds herself at odds with her beau, the uptight Mr. Darcy. In 2006, Keira Knightley earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Bennet on the big screen.
Jane Eyre , by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
By exploring themes such as religion, sexuality, and classism, Jane Eyre was a groundbreaking novel during its 19th-century release. Still revered as one of the genre's first novels, Brontë's story of the titular character, Jane, and her maturing emotions and love for her broody boss, Mr. Rochester, is one that readers still have a hard time putting down.
Shanna , by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss (1977)
A disclaimer—an OG bodice ripper, The Wolf and the Dove was written in the 1970s, and it shows. Readers today may find it a little too long at over 600 pages—and back then, the foundations of consent that are now commonplace in the 21st century were not at the forefront. But with that said, Woodiwiss's work is one of the original historical romance classics, providing a pathway for many of today's favorite reads. Shanna follows its heiress namesake as she escapes to a Caribbean island after being promised in marriage to the lustful criminal, Ruark Beauchamp.
Morning Glory , by Lavyrle Spencer (1993)
This classic tearjerker by Spencer takes place in small town Whitney, Georgia on the eve of World War II. Will Parker is trying to evade the bad luck that comes with his damning reputation. So when he sees a "Wanted" ad in the paper written by a young widowed mother of two (who's also pregnant with her third child) looking for a husband, it seems that Will finally has an answer to his troubles.
Lord of Scoundrels , by Loretta Chase (1995)
Notorious sinner Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, revels in his reputation as an unapologetic scoundrel. And he's perfectly content to live as such—until he comes across Jessica Trent. She's smart and headstrong, determined to save her troubled brother from ruin, but she has to cross Sebastian to do so.
Indigo . by Beverly Jenkins (1996)
Years after escaping slavery as a child, Hester is a free woman living in Michigan as an essential worker on the Underground Railroad. One night she's charged with taking in an injured Galen Vachon, also known as "Black Daniel," one of the railroad's most valued conductors. As Hester nurses the handsome and arrogant man back to health, their time together proves to be the beginning of an epic romance. Indigo is one of Jenkins's earliest novels that kicked off a slew of rich historical romances that have elevated her to icon status.
The Viscount Who Loved Me , by Julia Quinn (2000)
While we have Daphne and Simon from The Duke and I to thank for starting off this bestselling eight-book series (and eventually, the Bridgerton Netflix craze) , it's The Viscount Who Loved Me that never fails to make us swoon. In the novel, shameless rake Anthony Bridgerton has finally decided it's time to find a wife. He has the perfect prospect in the beautiful Edwina, but it's her older half-sister Kate who proves to be too tempting.
Delaney’s Desert Sheikh , by Brenda Jackson (2002)
After graduating medical school, Delaney sets off for an escape at her cousin's luxurious secluded cabin. But it turns out she's not staying there alone, as it's occupied by a gorgeous stranger named Jamal—who also happens to be a sheikh determined to seduce Delaney. Delaney’s Desert Sheikh is the first of Jackson's 30 "The Westmorelands" novels.
Dark Lover , by J.R. Ward (2005)
The first of J.R. Ward's ongoing 19 novel series, Black Dagger Brotherhood follows purebred vampire leader Wrath as he unexpectedly falls in love with half-breed Beth, who's quickly introduced to an intriguing paranormal world.
Bet Me , by Jennifer Crusie (2005)
Winner of a 2005 RITA Award, the bestselling Bet Me follows Minerva and Calvin. She's jaded and completely convinced that true love is a fairy tale, and he asked her out to win a bet with her ex. Unbeknownst to Cal, Min is fully aware of his wager—and she uses it to her advantage.
A Hunger Like No Other , by Kresley Cole (2006)
Despite being tortured for years by vampires, werewolf Lachlain MacRieve discovers that his fated soul mate, Emmaline Troy, is a half-vampire. He whisks her away to his Scottish castle, seducing the innocent Emmaline and awakening her desires.
Slave to Sensation , by Nalini Singh (2006)
The first in an extensive repertoire of Singh's bestselling paranormal romance series, stand-alones, and short stories, Slave to Sensation is the introduction to her 15-book "Psy-Changeling" series. It follows Sascha and Lucas, who are on opposite sides of a looming war between their races. Sascha is a member of the Psy, a society that sees desire as a flaw, while Lucas is a Changeling, who proves to bring out the very emotion in Sascha that she's been forced to deny.
Devil In Winter , by Lisa Kleypas (2006)
In order to distance herself from her problematic family, the shy Evie is able to get London's most notorious playboy and viscount to agree to a marriage of convenience. And since their union wasn't exactly a love match, Evie is determined to win over Sebastian by agreeing to sleep with him, if he can just remain celibate for three months. What develops is a consuming connection that proves to be a worthy opponent when an enemy from Evie's past reappears. Though this is Kleypas's third book in her "The Wallflowers" series, it's the favorite among many of her fans.
Vision in White , by Nora Roberts (2009)
Written by popular novelist Nora Roberts, Vision in White is a highlight in her 200-plus story repertoire. In the first of the Bride Quartet novels, wedding photographer Mac Elliot finds herself falling for a bride-to-be's brother, English teacher Carter Maguire. What's supposed to be a "casual fling" turns into much more.
Avon Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake , by Sarah Maclean (2010)
Get a lesson in Regency-era rake-dom via Sarah Maclean's debut and her first book in the "Love By Numbers" series. We're introduced to Lady Calpurnia Hartwell, who after years of doing exactly as she's supposed to is finally ready to break the rules and indulge her whims. This is where Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston comes in. She enlists the famous playboy's help to assist her on her quest, but if she's not careful, she may fall in love.
The Duchess War , by Courtney Milan (2012)
In the first novel of Milan's popular historical series "The Brothers Sinister," Minnie is determined to maintain her wallflower status after events from her past led her to change her name. But then Robert, the Duke of Clermont, enters Minnie's life, and both of their secrets are at risk of being revealed.
The Magpie Lord , by KJ Charles (2013)
After being exiled out of the country for 20 years, Lucien returns to England once again upon the deaths of his father and brother. He's now an earl and must deal with the supernatural enemies and evil that threatened his family. He enlists the help of magician Stephen Day, who Lucien can't help but seduce as Stephen fights to save both of their lives.
Tangled , by Emma Chase (2013)
Goodreads' Choice Winner for romance in 2013, Tangled is a classic enemies-to-lovers tale in which rich, dashing businessman Drew finds his weakness in his new co-worker, the ambitious and beautiful Katherine.
Glitterland , by Alexis Hall (2013)
Ash Winters was once an acclaimed writer, but his clinical depression altered his life forever, ruining his self-esteem and taking away his belief in happiness. In comes the aspiring model Darian, whom Ash meets during a night out. It's Darian who may allow him to believe in love again—but trusting in himself is another story.
Ante Up , by Christina C. Jones (2017)
Growing up in a dysfunctional household, Asha is used to relying on herself in order to survive. Her past is exactly what primed her to become a poker player in Vegas, and it's also how she meets the privileged King. But a one-night stand turns into something more—and complicated. Because despite their vastly different backgrounds, their shared passion and sense of struggle is what connects them.
McKenzie Jean-Philippe is the editorial assistant at OprahMag.com covering pop culture, TV, movies, celebrity, and lifestyle. She loves a great Oprah viral moment and all things Netflix—but come summertime, Big Brother has her heart. On a day off you'll find her curled up with a new juicy romance novel.
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