I don't need to be the one to tell you that romance is totally underrated. If you read romance novels, you already know that; and if you don't, it's time to step outside of your literary comfort zone. And one of the ways we’re going to do that is by sharing the best that romance novels have to offer; including these romances every 20-something can relate to. Even (or especially) if you’ve never read a romance novel before.
I’ll be the first to admit that the romance section isn’t necessarily my first stop in the bookstore. But I’ll also be the first to admit that as I steadily approach the end of what I sometimes refer to as my “jaded twenties” — you know, that decade when all the boys are clueless, and the girls aren’t much better, and romance seems like something that exists on a planet very far away from the one you’re living on — I could have used a literary escape into someone else’s love story. Maybe one that would restore my faith in the fact that a love story of my own wasn’t entirely inconceivable.
Because here’s the thing about romance novels: even if you’re totally convinced you’ll only ever read them undetected on your Kindle, or under the covers with a flashlight behind your locked bedroom door, they’re still pretty fun to read — covertly or not. And, I’m not going to lie, more than a few of them offer up some killer tricks for what to try in your own bedroom. Which I’m guessing all of us could use, especially in our twenties.
Here are 10 romance novels every 20-something needs to read. And hey: let me know how they work out for ya.
1. The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
If you’re looking for growing pains, life lessons, and relatable love stories, your bookshelf definitely needs some Jennifer Weiner on it. There’s a reason Weiner’s novels always make the New York Times bestseller list. The Next Best Thing will introduce you to 23-year-old Ruth Saunders, an aspiring sitcom writer headed to Hollywood to make all her dreams come true. But as it turns out, those dreams come with some hefty struggles as well — love, loss, insane work stress, and family. If you’ve ever let your personal drama get in the way of your professional success (haven’t we all?) you’ll definitely relate to Ruthie.
2. Wanderlost by Jen Malone
This YA romance makes for a perfect summer read, no matter what age you are — and if you’ve ever fallen head-over-heels in love with your vacation fling, you’ll totally relate. In Wanderlost , Aubree takes a last-minute summer job leading a group of senior citizens on a bus tour through Europe. Unfortunately, the job requires that she pretend to be her sister, Elizabeth — a tricky endeavor made near-impossible when Aubree starts to fall for the tour company owner’s son, Sam. Would Aubree ever be able to pull this off in real life? Absolutely not. But isn’t that kind of the point of diving into a romantic fantasy in the first place?
3. Perfect Kind of Trouble by Chelsea Fine
One of the most important (and most delicious) elements of a romance novel is the idea that people aren’t ever exactly what they seem. Kinda like Shrek, and his whole “onions have layers” bit. That idea is central to Chelsea Fine’s novel Perfect Kind of Trouble , a story about 21-year-old Kayla Turner, who is trying to make peace with the death of her already-absent father. One who has left her a For Love or Money-style inheritance, and a troublesome cutie named Daren Ackwood, who’s responsible for helping her find it.
4. Letting Go by Molly McAdams
Forget high school sweethearts — Ben and Grey were middle school sweethearts , with the wedding of their dreams just around the corner. But when Ben dies of an undiagnosed heart condition, leaving Grey reeling, their best friend Jagger is the only person understands how Grey feels. You definitely know what’s going to happen next, amirite? Your twenties are definitely that time when you start to let the pangs of your first love go — even if they haven’t died tragically — and Grey’s character knows exactly how you feel.
5. Easy by Tammara Webber
Word to the wise 20-something: never, ever go to a university just because that’s where your boyfriend is going. Just don’t do it. (And hey, if it’s too late, don’t be too hard on yourself — we all thought about it.) But breaking up with the boy who she turned down her dream school for isn’t even the beginning of Jacqueline’s struggles. Jacqueline’s story will teach you that there’s not necessarily one “correct” way to deal with campus sexual assault — and that it’s difficult for victims to be certain of what choice to make — and that there are healthy relationships to be had beyond assault for survivors. Even if it takes some work to get there.
6. Out On Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler
Frankie Bellisario does not consider herself girlfriend material. But when she totally falls for Samara Kazarian — a girl looking for a serious relationship — Frankie will have to decide between her noncommittal tendencies and her passion for Samara. Throw in the fact that Samara is the daughter of a southern Republican mayor—and hasn’t come out to her parents, let alone her parent’s constituents yet, and a casual fling could totally put her in the spotlight — and you’ve got one drama-filled romance.
7. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
Falling for a musician is kind of a rite of passage — right? So it’s no surprise when the jilted Sydney begins to form a deeper connection with the music she’s gotten used to hearing her neighbor Ridge play. But when the two start making music together (pun intended) Sydney realizes it’s hard to move on than she might have expected. There’s a bit of a love triangle in this one… and who doesn’t love a good love triangle? At least in fiction.
8. Luck On The Line by Zoraida Córdova
Lucky Pierce is not particularly lucky. Nor is she especially adept at finishing things she starts — jobs, relationships. So when her celebrity chef mother challenges her to launch what she hopes will be Boston’s next go-to restaurant, Lucky uses the opportunity to change some of her flighty ways. Enter James: the bad boy integral to The Star’s success, and somebody Lucky definitely cannot afford to get involved with. So naturally, she does.
9. Then Came You by Jill Shalvis
Sunshine, Idaho is the last place veterinary intern Emily expected to end up. What she expected even less was that her one-night-stand from a vet conference (conferences really are the worst) would suddenly appear as her boss. Wyatt may seem irresistible, but Emily has plans — and staying in Sunshine, Idaho for a boy isn’t one of them. But you know what they say: the best laid plans…
10. Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
Brooklyn is looking for a way to escape her family legacy and stand on her own, so a summer theater apprenticeship far away from her hometown seems like exactly what she needs. Plus, her roommate Zoe seems perfect — so perfect that their fast friendship begins to evolve into something deeper. But Brooklyn is torn: is now really the time to jump into a serious relationship, just as she’s becoming her own person? It’s a question I think all 20-somethings can relate to.
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