Romance is a perennial favorite for readers everywhere, and it isn’t hard to see why. A good love story has drama, intrigue, laughs, and, if you’re lucky, a little heat; while the very best romance novels can feel just like falling in love — intimate and personal, yet huge and life-changing all at once.
Great romance novels are comforting and captivating, with great plots, snappy dialogue, and gorgeous details to keep you enthralled. You don’t even have to cozy up by the fireplace in your favorite chair. A romance novel is perfect for an airplane ride or any place where you’d like to be transported to another world.
We’ve compiled a list of our all-time favorite romance novels, so whether you’re hungry to read the next rom-com blockbuster before it hits Netflix, or you just want to lose yourself in timeless romance tropes, we’ve got you covered!
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Selling over 120 million copies and having numerous adaptations and imitations, it is needless to state that Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice has stood the test of time.
Pride and Prejudice follows the five Bennet sisters and their romantic entanglements as they try to make a good match. The chemistry between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy makes epic love-hate sparks fly. This is one of the oldest and greatest examples of the thin line between love and hate.
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The first and only novel by an elusive icon, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights plunges headfirst into an exploration of the violence of doomed romance. Amid the bleak and feral atmosphere of the Yorkshire moors, the novel revolves obsessively around the tempestuous course of Cathy and Heathcliff’s self-destructive love affair.
A gothic novel of intense passion, betrayal, and bitter vengeance — underpinned by the quiet beauty of Brontë’s lyricism — Wuthering Heights is a masterpiece that has inspired film-makers, novelists, poets, and song-writers for generations.
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
A sprawling epic that takes readers across continents in the name of love, Anna Karenina is one of the longest books on this list, coming to an intimidating 800+ pages. In what is considered by many to be the best romance novel of all time (and, we think, one of the best books to read in a lifetime), Tolstoy tells the story of an extramarital affair and its fallout in Imperial Russian society.
When Anna runs away with the handsome Count Vronsky, excitement gives way to paranoia, isolation, and regret, as we witness the unravelling of their relationship, and of Anna herself. As much a cautionary tale as it is a romance novel, Anna Karenina is a richly imagined portrait of both the agonies and ecstasies of love.
- The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Nicholas Sparks has been renowned as the most popular romantic author of his time. Based on a true story, The Notebook is a legendary novel that has been adapted by Hollywood and Bollywood.
The story of Noah and Allie is captured in three intertwined snap-shots: their teens, their early thirties, and old age. The universe appears to have conspired to keep these childhood sweethearts apart: with meddling families, possessive fiancés, and World War II thrown into the mix, will they ever find their way back together? Some might dismiss it as chick-lit, but The Notebook is a guaranteed tear-jerker — every time.
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility is a novel of lies, secrets, and seduction. Following two sisters — one wild and impulsive, the other quiet and sensible — it brilliantly portrays a world of money and status, gossip and innuendo, where rigid social convention governs the impulses of the heart.
Through their parallel experiences of love and heartbreak, will these two young women learn to strike a balance between wearing your heart on your sleeve and concealing your true feelings?
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Though Jane Eyre might be ‘poor, obscure, plain and little’, her love story is anything but. Jane, a destitute young orphan, arrives at the home of the mysterious Mr. Rochester in search of employment, but finds far more than she bargained for. The naïve and uncertain Jane is magnetically drawn to her brooding employer, but will the twisted secrets lying at the heart of Thornfield Hall undermine their budding relationship?
Written at a time when most romantic heroines were preternaturally pretty, the headstrong, willful, yet utterly average Jane is a subversive breath of fresh air — or should we say Eyre?
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
For three years, Hazel’s life has been nothing but terminal. Diagnosed with incurable cancer at the age of thirteen, she’s never had the chance to experience the thrilling awkwardness of being a teenager. Enter: Augustus Waters. A charming, and unremarkably handsome amputee with an alarming optimism for life, Gus is a much-needed plot twist in the story of Hazel Grace.
Bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is a witty tour de force about the thrilling and tragic business of being alive, and a heartbreaking (but never depressing) story about a love that lasts ‘forever, within the numbered days.’