Everyone loves a good love story. A couple overcoming the odds and reaching their happily ever after is always an enjoyable read. The best romance novels of all time have it all: love; intrigue; passion; conflict. They come in a variety of subgenres too, from rom-com to historical to erotica. But, with so many titles to choose from, it’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed when trying to pick out the best romantic novels to read.
To help get you started, we’ve put together an extensive list of some of the best romance novels of all time for every type of reader. So, whether you’re a millennial dater looking for inspiration for your love life or a long-distance dater in need of a terrific escapist novel for your upcoming trip, we’ve got you covered!
31 of the Best Love Story Books We All Should Read
What is the best romance novel of all time? Answering this question isn’t straightforward. Choosing a favorite depends on what type of reader you are, the subgenres that you enjoy the most, and even the era you grew up in. But, some popular picks consistently come up in the discussion around the best love story books ever written. Check out our 31 top choices below!
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Always a popular contender for the best romance novel of all time, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice continues to inspire authors of contemporary novels. The story follows Elizabeth Bennet, a strong-headed heroine who finds herself frequently at odds with the uptight Mr. Darcy. But, opposites attract and it doesn’t take long for the sparks to begin to fly.
This famous romance novel was later adapted for the big screen, with Keira Knightley portraying Elizabeth Bennet and earning herself an Oscar nomination in the process.
2. Outlander (series) by Diana Gabaldon
If you haven’t heard of Outlander by now, where have you been? Before its arrival as a TV series starring Sam Heughan and Caitríona Balfe, the popular historical romance was a series of books written by Diana Gabaldon. The story revolves around time travel and follows combat nurse Claire Beauchamp. During a post-WWII holiday to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Claire finds herself transported back to 1743 Scotland.
Inevitably, she ends up meeting and falling in love with a young, handsome Scottish soldier, Jamie Fraser. Together they must navigate a tumultuous period of Scottish history, amid the Jacobite uprising and revolution, while Claire finds herself trapped between centuries and caught between two men she loves.
3. Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
Another famous romance novel that made it onto our TV screens, The Duke and I is part of a popular eight-book series. The first novel follows Simon Basset and Daphne Bridgerton as they make their way through the ups and downs of the Regency era. As Daphne begins to fall for the Duke, the two must navigate the gossipy world of London’s elite to find a way to be together.
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A list of some of the best romance novels of all time wouldn’t be complete without including Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. This groundbreaking novel explores sexuality, religion, and sexism through its titular character and Jane’s strong yet confusing feelings for her moody boss, Mr. Rochester.
5. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The Age of Innocence made Edith Wharton the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize back in 1921. Her classic novel follows a tormented romance between protagonist Newland Archer and Countess Ellen Olenska against the backdrop of the complex setting of the Golden Age in New York City.
6. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Love in the Time of Cholera is a widely acclaimed romance novel that follows Florentino and Fermina as they come to terms with the promises of love they made in their youth. The book explores incredible levels of devotion and touches on the often unrealistic expectations we place on those we love.
7. The Bride by Julie Garwood
From the New York Times best-selling author comes a historical romance set in medieval Scotland. Julie Garwood’s The Bride follows the romance of a Scottish Highlander who’s ordered to marry an English woman by the King of England. This love story is full of conflict and takes on historical issues such as women not having to consent to marriage.
8. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Like Water for Chocolate follows young lovers Tita and Pedro. Forbidden to marry, this moody, dramatic story infuses some magical realism into its romantic plot.
9. Possession by A.S. Byatt
Winner of England’s Booker Prize, A.S. Byatt’s Possession is an exhilarating novel brimming with wit and romance. Intellectuals and poet lovers will surely be fascinated by the story of young scholars researching Victorian poets who fall in love while making shattering discoveries.
10. Tangled by Emma Chase
A GoodReads Choice winner in 2013, Tangled is a steamy novel that follows the life of businessman Drew. After Katherine Brooks gets a job as an associate at his father’s investment banking firm, Drew’s world is turned upside down as he begins to fall madly in love with his new co-worker, despite their seeming hatred for each other.
11. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
For fans of the erotic subgenre of romance novels, The Kiss Quotient is a top pick. It follows math whiz, Stella Lane, as she tests herself to learn more about romance and sex by hiring a male escort.
After hiring escort Michael Phan, it doesn’t take long before Stella begins to appreciate his kisses and all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their unlikely partnership soon begins to develop into something more and Stella becomes convinced that it’s love, not math, that’s the best kind of logic she needs in her life.
12. Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
In this debut novel, Red White and Royal Blue follows America’s First Son and the Prince of Wales as they’re united for a publicity stunt. However, it doesn’t take long before they find themselves truly falling for each other…
13. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
The Notebook was Sparks’ first novel about the enduring romance between teenagers Allie and Noah and it still lives on in the hearts years since its debut. Okay, a lot of this probably has to do with that famous kiss between Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in the movie adaptation. Find us someone who didn’t tear up at that moment. We’ll wait.
14. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
When it comes to the best love story books, The Fault in Our Stars is a must-read. This Y.A. story follows the love journey between two teenagers — a young girl named Hazel who has thyroid cancer and Augustus, a basketball player and cancer survivor.
15. One Day by David Nicholls
The 2009 novel, One Day, follows the lives of Dexter and Emma and their relationship trajectory on the same day of every year. Slowly but surely, the real meaning of this one day is revealed and Dexter and Emma must come to terms with love and life themselves.
16. Vision in White by Nora Roberts
Prolific storyteller Nora Roberts tackles contemporary romance with her novel Vision in White. The story follows a wedding photographer, Mac, who falls for her client’s brother, Carter. Their casual fling slowly begins to become something more.
17. It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
It Ends With Us is an emotional romance novel that follows Lily, a college graduate as she meets the aloof Ryle. However, she can’t forget her first love, Atlas. Then, when Atlas unexpectedly reappears, Lily’s relationship with Ryle is put to the test as she starts to rethink what it is she really wants.
18. Normal People by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s Normal People is often hailed as one of the best contemporary romance novels of all time. The renowned book explores the ins and outs of intimacy, love, class, and regret as the story follows two young Irish students, Marianne and Connell, and details their lives from teenagers to adults.
Despite drifting apart and moving toward other people during their university years, Marianne and Connell always seem to be drawn back together like magnets. It’s a story of fascination, friendship, and love and one that’s sure to keep you hooked throughout.
19. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Ayesha at Last is a contemporary novel that follows the love story of two young Muslims, Ayesha and Khalid. It explores the intimate and complex themes of identity, religion, and gender equality as Ayesha tries to navigate her feelings for Khalid that constantly conflict with how she feels about the rest of his family.
20. The Marriage Game by Sara Desai
For fans of rom-com, The Marriage Game focuses on the romance of two young Indian-Americans, Layla and Sam. After their chance encounter, their lives are changed forever as the sparks begin to ignite. But, things aren’t always straightforward and Sam and Layla need to work out what’s really love and what’s not.
21. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
The Wedding Date is a fun rom-com that follows attorney Alexa as she accepts to be the wedding date for a stranger named Drew. What starts out as a bit of fun soon becomes so much more as Alexa and Drew connect more deeply than they could have ever imagined.
As they go their separate ways after the wedding, their thoughts about each other remain. How can they move on with their lives when they just can’t stop thinking about each other?
22. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Becky has it all – a great social life and a closet filled with designer clothes. But, her writing career bores her until she finds a story that changes her life forever. Confessions of a Shopaholic tells Becky’s story and, page by page, readers uncover how a front-page article kickstarts a series of events that changes Becky’s life — and the lives of those around her — forever.
23. Virgin River by Robyn Carr
Fans of the Netflix show will love this famous romance novel on which it’s based. Robyn Carr’s Virgin River follows recently widowed Melinda. When she accepts a job as a midwife in Virgin River, Melinda’s life is changed forever. Why? It may have something to do with her falling for handsome former Marine, Jack.
24. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
When it comes to the best romantic novels to read, it’s hard to look part Talia Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown. After an illness nearly kills her, Chloe decides to get a life, which accidentally includes local handyman, Redford “Red” Morgan, who helps her “do something bad.”
25. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
In Hate to Want You, protagonists Livvy and Nicholas meet for a night of pleasure once a year to help them forget their haunted pasts. That is, until one year when Livvy fails to show up. As a scandal divides their families, Livvy and Nicholas are forced to figure out their feelings for each other and discover how love can bring them together in seemingly impossible circumstances.
26. The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Shay comes up with a plan to save the local radio station – a show hosted by exes who used to date each other. However, she’s never dated her co-host, Dominic. But maybe that will change? The Ex Talk is a contemporary romance novel that revolves around navigating mixed signals and the importance of truth.
27. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Gone with the Wind is an American epic and a classic story about headstrong Scarlett O’Hara. As Scarlett tries to keep her family from falling into poverty against the backdrop of the American Civil War, she enlists the help of the handsome, Rhett Butler. It doesn’t take long for the sparks to ignite.
28. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Another must-have on a list of some of the best romance novels of all time, Sense and Sensibility is an Austen classic. It explores the lives of the Dashwood sisters, Marianne and Elinor, who couldn’t be more different when it comes to love and romance.
But, over time, Marianne and Elinor begin to realize that their approaches to love and romance need to be combined with a sensibility to find happiness within a challenging society that places status and money as the rulers of romance.
29. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The Rosie Project follows genetics professor Don Tillman. Having never had a serious relationship, Don comes up with a questionnaire to find the perfect partner. But his plans change when he meets Rosie who doesn’t fit any of his criteria and Don quickly learns that love is no perfect science.
30. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
We’ll be amazed if you hadn’t heard of this one. Fifty Shades of Grey burst onto the scene back in 2011 as part of three-part series of books. The erotic romance novel follows innocent college grad, Anastasia “Ana” Steele, who winds up in a kinky entanglement with billionaire businessman, Christian Grey.
For those looking to spice up their own sex life, this one might be a good source of inspiration. For a romantic night in, check out the movie version. All three books in the series were later adapted for the big screen with Dakota Johnson starring as Ana and Jamie Dornan as Christian.
31. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Arguably one of the best romance books of all time, North and South tells the story of nineteen-year-old Margaret as her life is changed forever when her family relocates to an industrial town in the north of England.
As Margaret tries to make the best of her new life by campaigning for the underprivileged and poor, she clashes with the local mill owner, John Thornton. They battle to find a middle ground and soon, romance sparks. This renowned novel also tackles plenty of important issues such as politics, gender, and religion.
Enjoy Unlimited Happily Ever Afters With the Best Romance Novels of All Time!
So there you have it, our selection of some of the best romance novels of all time. As you can see from our list above, there are plenty of titles to choose from when it comes to the best love story books. Try not to read them all in one sitting!
Whether you’re single and in need of a bit of romance or are looking for some inspiration for your romantic exclusive relationship, enjoy working your way through these top picks!