Although the genre is very old, the romance novel or romantic novel discussed in this article is the mass-market version. Novels of this type of genre fiction place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”
There are many subgenres of the romance novel, including fantasy, historical romance, paranormal fiction, and science fiction. Romance novels are read primarily by women.
The term romance is also applied to a type of novel defined by Walter Scott as “a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvelous and uncommon incidents.”
A thriving genre of works conventionally referred to as “romance novels” existed in ancient Greece. Other precursors can be found in the literary fiction of the 18th and 19th centuries, including Samuel Richardson’s sentimental novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740) and the novels of Jane Austen. Austen inspired Georgette Heyer, the British author of historical romance set around the time Austen lived, as well as detective fiction. Heyer’s first romance novel, The Black Moth (1921), was set in 1751.
The British company Mills & Boon began releasing escapist fiction for women in the 1930s. Their books were sold in North America by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd, which began direct marketing to readers and allowing mass-market merchandisers to carry the books.
Light some candles, unwrap a couple chocolates, slip into something silky, and get ready to turn up the heat with some of the best romance novels on shelves. With both old-standby classics (If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice , what are you waiting for?) and brand-new reads (don’t sleep on Isabel Allende’s latest), there’s a little something for everyone on our list (and don’t forget to browse our guide to the best books of 2020 too).
Whether you get all hot and bothered over historical romance that takes you back to fluttering hearts of yore, paranormal romance that proves you don’t need to have flesh and blood to heat things up, heartwarming tales that explore the tender side of love, and of course sexy stories you might not want to read on public transit, we’ve got books to make you blush. And if you don’t think you’re interested in romance, give this list a look anyway. The romance genre has a lot to offer beyond the bodice-rippers you may have seen hiding in your mom’s bedside table growing up. Alongside the love stories you’ve come to expect, many of our favorite romances also feature strong plotlines, diverse characters, LGBTQ+ love stories, and beautiful language that keeps us hooked in right through the final page.