We all know that romance novels are fun, sexy and incredibly popular, but it can be hard to know where to begin with this genre. After all, romance is the second most popular category of fiction in the United States and there were more than 9,000 titles published in 2013 alone. Yes, you read that right.
And, even I can admit as a romance novelist myself that the titles and covers are often pretty similar. But daunting as it may be to dive in, there are plenty of excellent reasons to make the effort. Romance novels can rev up your sex drive, provide some real life love advice or just be a fun beach read — and there’s nothing wrong with that!
So, how do you know which paperback with a hot cover and feminist friendly love story is right for you — or better yet, a novel so great your life will be incomplete without it? You come right here. Start with these 13 romance novels that are all great reads and deserving of a spot on every woman’s bucket list of books. If you love these, don’t worry — there’s plenty more to love.
Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase
Loretta Chase is one of the best romance novelists — and this book is one of her best. Benedict Carsington, Viscount Rathbourne is aloof, reserved, perfectly controlled until it comes to Bathsheba Wingate, a smart, sharp and stubbornly independent woman. They both know nothing can come of their insane attraction. But when her daughter and his nephew go missing, their obvious course of action is to chase after them, and surrender to lust and love along the way.
Hot Head by Damon Suede
A sweet and raunchy male-male romance about two best buds and Brooklyn firefighters who are surprised and confused to find themselves falling in love. This is true bromance.
Again, My Lord by Katharine Ashe
Calista Holland and the Marquess of Dare almost wed years ago but a series of misunderstandings kept them apart. Trapped at an inn together and destined to make the same mistakes again, Calista now has a second chance... and third and fourth to make things right in this novel that is best described as Jane Austen meets Groundhog Day.
R is for Rebel by Megan Mulry
Rebel heiress Abigail Heyworth has spent the past ten years in a relationship (with a woman!) and traveling the world doing good. Eliot Cranbrooke is a warm, funny and sophisticated American businessman. As they keep meeting through family and friends from Paris to middle America, their relationship gets oh-so intimate and oh-so complicated. This is a sexy, flirty, humorous, emotional and epic contemporary romance.
Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Shanna needs a husband in name only,
so she weds Ruark
Beauchamp, a prisoner in Newgate. As one does. What follows is a sweeping and epic
romance that takes place in England, the Caribbean and America. This is a true classic, by the author that
launched the romance novel as we know it.
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
contemporary romance features mistaken identities, a twist on the classic
arranged marriage plot, and mouthwatering descriptions of Indian food. Mili
Rathod is waiting for the man she believes to be her husband. His brother,
Samir Rathod, hopes to get her signature on divorce papers. Of course, it’s not
that simple — love and lust never is — but they all live happily ever after in this wonderful romance.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
This romance — often described as “historical chick lit” — features a story within a story. Modern day grad student Eloise Kelly is researching spies of the Napoleonic era and stumbles upon a great mystery and even greater love story. This novel is smart, romantic and laugh out loud funny.
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward
This novel kicks off the dark and powerful black dagger brotherhood series about a family of vampires battling the evil “lessers.” In upstate New York. Naturally. In Dark Lover, Wrath must chose between the woman he loves and the woman he’s ordered to be with.
Captured by Beverly Jenkins
Hunky pirate rescues captive damsel on the high seas. But of course, a love story ensues — though not without complications. Clare Sullivan may have escaped slavery but her children haven’t, and it’s no happy ever after without them. Dominic and Clare risk their freedom to rescue her children in this sweeping love story.
At Any Price by Brenna Aubrey
Mia Strong is a young med student with a passion for gaming, loads of debt and a determination to remain single. The obvious solution is to auction off her virginity (she’s 22. It’s time.) Enter Adam Drake, the hot young CEO and founder of a gaming company. Their relationship should be quick and love shouldn’t be a factor — ha! This is an angsty, absorbing geek-romance set in stunning locales around the world.
Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey
Old School romance! Domineering ship captain? Check. Heroine disguised as boy?
Check. Insane sexual tension between two people trapped in a confined space?
Hell yes. Add boisterous and meddling families and two impossibly stubborn lovers
and you have the makings of a very fine romance.
Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas
The hero of this historical romance is a total rake (and villain in a previous book!). Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent, embarks on a
marriage of convenience with a wallflower of the first order. Evangeline Jenner
is shy, has a terrible stutter, and stands to inherit a fortune if she can
escape her unscrupulous relatives. Like the very best wallflower stories,
this one is about one who finds strength and confidence from love — and who
manages to reform an unrepentant rogue.
Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen
hate at first sight for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett but the story of how
they fall in love is widely regarded as the first romance novel — and the best.