Sometimes a gal just has to light a few candles, run a bath, and drown out the daily noise with a good ol' book, but not just any kind oh no, the only kind worth fully escaping into; the romance novel. With both old classics [hello, Pride and Prejudice] and brand new page turners [we're talking to you Sally Rooney] there is a little something for everyone.
Whether you warm up over period piece romance, the melancholy theatrics of war time love, the feel good tales that explore the sweeter side of courting, or even the salacious rom-comesque story that get a little steamy, consider this your list of all lists for romance for any occasion.
The romance genre these days has a lot to offer beyond the cliche books you have seen getting dusty in second hand bookshops. Alongside the classic plots, many of our new favourites also feature interesting plot lines, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ love stories and poetic language that keeps us hooked in right until the last page. Consider this your essential guide to romantic reading.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Admittedly quite a slow burn, This quiet love story centres around Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon — four people trying to find their way in the world. Romantic entanglement ensues and like real life you'll find it hard to choose a side.
Dead Collections: A Novel by Isaac Fellman
A truly unique LBGTQ+ romance, the story follows an archivist named Sol falls for a widow when she comes to donate her late wife's work. Sol suffers from vampirism and has been sleeping in his office to avoid the punishing sun, and his nocturnal lifestyle makes dating a real challenge. As they fall for each other, they have to navigate grief, transphobia and the struggles that come with living two very different lives.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
One of the best of the poignant comedic variety, Heartburn is an autobiographical novel based on Nora Ephron's marriage to and divorce from Carl Bernstein, her second husband. Originally published in 1983, the novel draws inspiration from events arising from Bernstein's affair with Margaret Jay, the daughter of former British prime minister James Callaghan.
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
We all know the name, and of course it wouldn't be a best romance list without the mention of the novel that made him a household name. Noah and Allie’s tear-jerking, decade-spanning love story remains one of our favourite escapist novels.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
What can be considered the OG of all romance novels, at its core, Pride and Prejudice tells the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, both of whom have to overcome their biases in order to end up together. Throughout the novel, both characters learn to unlearn their pride and prejudice so that they can come to accept the other's good nature.
Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
André Aciman’s best-selling novel (also made into a movie) is set in Italy during the 1980s and follows the story of Elio, a teenager who falls for the young professor who’s staying at Elio’s family’s house for the summer. Equally beautiful and heartbreaking, a must if you're ready for a cry.
One Day by David Nicholls
It couldn't be a best romantic novel list without some Irish whimsy. Written by David Nicholls that spans the breadth of twenty years of the lives of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew. Meeting in college, Dexter and Emma have a one-night stand in Edinburgh and spend the day after together. The best lazy holiday read there ever was.
Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave
A heart wrenching but important read, Holding the Man is a memoir written by Timothy Conigrave about growing up and living as a gay man in the 1970s and 1980s in Australia. Tim realises he is gay at a young age and the novel begins with his self discovery and experimentation with a few different boys, until he meets John Caleo.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
We're calling it, Jane Eyre is the superior of the Brontë romance variety. While we still hold a special spot for Wuthering Heights produced by Charlotte's sister Emily, it's this gothic masterpiece, with its relentless heroine, dashing love interest Mr. Rochester and creepy manor house in the English country side that goes straight to the top of our list.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
A new-y but a goody, when Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, dredging up not only past traumas but the talk from the New York literary crowd. Be prepared for some truly funny writing in one of the best new steamy romance novels, which also has an engrossing story and tugs at the heart strings.
Still more you're looking to add to your cart? Consider looking at our list of book to television adaptions before your next Netflix binge.
Images via Booktopia