Wed
Jul 3 2013 3:30pm

The Ten Romance Novels You Should Read (An Opinionated Opinion)

Black Ice by Anne StuartRomance readers agree on only one thing: Each romance novel should have a Happily Ever After. For more of what is required, take a look at What Rules are in the Romance Novel Covenant?

We've all weighed in on the Best This and the Crucial That, but we haven't yet attempted—not here, at least—to come up with a comprehensive list of what the Romance Novels You Should Have Read by Now are.

Let's rectify that, shall we? Keep in mind this list is not a subjective Best Ever list*, but a list that gathers up the crucial books in the genre. And—of course—feel free to add your thoughts in comments! What did we miss? What book isn't worth being included? We want to know!

10. Anne Stuart, Black Ice

Why? There is no one better than Anne Stuart at the “Kiss or kill” book, and Black Ice is the epitome of this delicate balance.

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn9. Julia Quinn, The Viscount Who Loved Me

Why? Julia Quinn's books appear deceptively light, but always carry darker depths underneath the sparkle. And there is loads of sparkle—Quinn excels at dialogue, and at making a historical setting seem approachable, peopled with characters you could imagine knowing at any period in time.

8. J.D. Robb, Naked in Death

Why? Before long-running series were the norm, J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) began her In Death series, still going strong 30+ books later. The book is set in the near future, is a police procedural, and is also strongly romantic. The series' couple, Eve and Roarke, are the paradigm of a strongly-matched pair.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James7. E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey

Why? This book by E.L. James converted millions of people into readers. For that alone it should be part of the romance canon. It is also one of the most striking direct examples of the obsessive, controlling hero who finds something unique—something addictive—in an otherwise normal woman.

6. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Ain't She Sweet

Why? The heroine is that completely unlikeable, manipulative, gorgeous, most popular girl in high school—laid completely low nearly a decade later, returning to her hometown and having to eat a lot of crow. She hasn't had a change of character, but her character changes through the course of the book, and the reader ends up rooting for her. A remarkable witty and gritty contemporary romance from Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale5. Laura Kinsale, Flowers from the Storm

Why? This historical by Laura Kinsale tackles some very intricate and delicate subject matter, and ends up a tour de force, a book that includes a devout Quaker, a brain-damaged Duke, mathematical genius, and the vast and incredible power of love.

4. J.R. Ward, Lover Awakened

Why? J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood paranormal romance series is chock-full of over-the-top tortured vampire heroes, and the women who love them. Zsadist is the most (literally!) tortured hero of the BDB, and his journey to love is compelling, angsty, and utterly poignant.

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie3. Jennifer Crusie, Bet Me

Why? Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me has an overweight heroine, a hero who is befuddled and entranced by her, loads of snarky wit, and a critically sexy donut scene.

2. Lisa Kleypas, Dreaming of You

Why? In Dreaming of You, Lisa Kleypas crafted one of the most memorable heroes ever, Derek Craven.

Derek's rough upbringing, his ruthlessness, his need for his heroine, and his resultant emotional fragility is the epitome of the tough on the outside/gooey on the inside alpha male.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase1. Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels

Why? Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels frequently tops Best Romance Novels Ever lists, and so it needs no further justification for being tops here. But since we're here...its lummoxy hero, Sebastian Dain, gets felled handily by his heroine, Jessica, and she seems to recognize, almost immediately, what Dain is like on the inside (see that tough/gooey analogy above). Their courtship is sensual, witty, and delicious throughout, and doesn't shy away from difficult moments.

*We might do a subjective Best Ever list, once we don our armor!

+Check out more reading recommendation lists:

***

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Megan Frampton is the Community Manager for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son.

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38 comments
Nikki Hilton
1. nikkiphilton
I've read and loved all of these, except Flowers From the Storm, and it's packed away ready for our move. I agree with all the rest. There's not one that I didn't really, really enjoy. This is a great list.
Donna Bailey
2. donnarb60
Of course we can't leave OUTLANDER from this list, although it's technically "historical fiction"! Who can ever forget Jamie Fraser? I still haven't found a hero more romantic than him. If I ever get to meet Diana Gabaldon in the flesh, I'm afraid I'll make a fool of myself and swoon :)
Murphy78
3. Murphy78
Devil's Bride by Stephanie Laurens
Kate Rothwell
4. KateRothwell
I feel smug like a bug -- I've read all but the James book.
Murphy78
5. HJ
I've read 4.5 of these. Some of the - e.g. the Laura Kinsale and Fifty Shades - just don't appeal to me, and I don't like paranormal so won't ever read J.R.Ward. That leaves 3 I'll consider more carefully.

On E.L James - do we know if the people who bought it were actually "converted into readers"? Firstly, did they read it (I couldn't blame them if they didn't, having loooked at the quality of some of the writing) and secondly did they buy other books subsequently? I'm genuinely interested in knowing whether we know (and if they did), not just notpicking!
nicole
7. eugenie1000
Like this list, especially with the mix of contemporary (so many lists are almost all historicals). I have read all except the kinsale which i think i tried but could not get into. My favorite chase is Mr. IMPOSSIBLE but agree LOS is probably the most important. Bet me was a late read for me but so much fun!
Janis Clark
8. maliamartin
Mr. Perfect/Open Season/Dying to Please by Linda Howard
The Bachelor/The Playboy/The Heartbreaker by Carly Phillips
The Donovan Brothers series by Victoria Dahl
The Lucky Harbor Series by Jill Shalvis

Everyone's taste is different. As a rule I enjoy books in series so you really feel connected to the characters. Nothing beats contemporary romance.
Murphy78
9. pamelia
Ha! I've read all but "Ain't She Sweet" -- I'm waiting (in vain?) for it to go on sale.

@ HJ: I personally know 2 people (women I've worked with for about a decade) who always stated they didn't read books, but both of them read FSOG last year and since then have been reading loads of books (I feel a bit like a romance novel pimp in the office making my recommendations!)
Jennifer Green
10. jngreenbean
I've read all but Lord of Scoundrels, mostly because I've been saving it for "that perfect day" since I've heard so much about it. I really should stop saving it.
Jennifer Proffitt
11. JenniferProffitt
@Tanyak, I AGREE... I think she might be a good example of world-building and how a heroine changes throughout the book. She might have started as a weakling or as damaged as her hero but in the end, the two become a good balance.

Great list altogether though! You've included some of my favorite books and some that I have recommended to other people who are new to romance. I think 50 Shades is good just as much as a case study of the genre as anything else, even though I personally did not like it. The Viscount Who Loved Me is one of my all time favorite books. I borrowed it from the Library and it was one of my very first romances. Of course I then bought it in "e" and I think I might be adding the Bridgertons as books I buy all in paperback.

Love Love Love this post!
Murphy78
12. ronni61
"Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong
"Never Seduce A Scoundrel" by Sabrina Jeffries
"The Chief" by Monica Mccarty
"Wicked Lovely" by Melissa Marr
"A Little Bit Wicked" by Victoria Alexander
Murphy78
13. ronni61
Almost forgot Zoe Archer's Hellraisers. Start with "Devil's Kiss."
Murphy78
14. HJ
pamelia - thanks! First hand info is valuable. Keep on pimpin!
Pamela Marsh
15. pwminmi
I've read 7 /10 of the books. I enjoyed 6 out of those 7 (not sure if all would make my top 10. I know I would trade Dreaming of You for Devil in Winter) Fifty Shades was just ehhh for me.
I read it because my sister, who had not read romance, told me her reading club was reading it. But in terms of it's conversion factor, I can think of at least 5 people who began reading in the romance genre as a direct result of FSoG. My sister included. For that I am thankful, because now we share recommendations and text each other hot passages:)
My personal list would definitely include Outlander, a Kresly Cole, and Rachel Gibson. Possibly Meljean Brook's The Iron Duke, as the world building was brilliant.
Okay now I'm going to have to make my personal to 10:)
Murphy78
16. CMA2013
FSoG was the series that got me started on reading romance novels. I went on to read various recommended Contemporary, Erotica and NA works but found my favourite - Historical Romances after a few months. So far this year, I have read over 6o books almost all in ebook format. Prior to Fifty Shades, I pegged myself as an occasional reader of non fiction, now I take my ipad with me whenever I leave the house.
Murphy78
17. Mary Beth Lee
Agree with all except the SEP choice. The hero in that book aggravated me so much I almost threw the book against the wall, and I LOVE SEP. His grudge seemed completely out of character. I didn't throw the book, trusted SEP as an author and ended up liking the book , but as a top 10? No way.
Heaven, Texas is the SEP I loan out all the time. I've bought no telling how mnay copies of that book because it never comes home. My friend's husband had a stroke then major brain surgery and when he woke up from the anesthesia, he looked at her and asked if there was any neopolitan ice cream around. :) That's power. Bobby Tom Denton and Gracie Snow are so real. I LOVE that book...in case you couldn't tell.
While I wasn't a huge fan of FSoG, I totally get why it's on the list. I read it, and I'm not an erotic romance reader. But everyone I knew was talking about it, so I had to check it out.
Murphy78
18. Sandy M
Flowers from the Storm would be my number one choice. So beautifully done.

Others to think about:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Laird and The Rogue by Sandy Blair
Animal Magnitism series by Jill Shalvis
Murphy78
20. Luvs2Dance
"Whitney, My Love" by Judith McNaught :-)
Jennifer Proffitt
21. JenniferProffitt
On the recommendation of this post, I bought Flowers from the Storm and OH. MY. GOD. It is a masterpiece. So well done. Beautifully written, deeply researched. So impressive. I'm going to send this to my friends who laugh at me for reading romance!
Romy Sommer
22. RomySommer
There's just one change I'd make to your list - I'd remove EL James (no offence intended!) and replace her with a Georgette Heyer. Any Heyer, though my personal fave would be 'The Grand Sophy'.

For many of us our romance in romance began with Georgette, and I believe no must read list would be complete without her.

Otherwise YES, YES, YES to all those other books! Great post.
Jennifer O'Brien
23. JenOBrien
I've read 6 out of 10 of these specific books but I've also read something from all the authors. It's a good list but you're right about it being subjective. I agree with your comments about 50 Shades but it's still not on my must reads list where Outlander would be a top contender. Jamie was truly my first bookboyfriend. Truly.

A few more would be...

Whisper of Roses by Teresa Medeiros shows how much actions speak louder than words because, by the end, love truly wins and the couple never say I love you.
The Duke by Gaelen Foley has an alpha male humbling himself before his love in an over the top romantic gesture. It still works for me.
Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh sucked me in so much that I cried before I remembered that "Oh yeah, this is a romance and I'm guaranteed a happy ending." Then when she delivered it was so sweet.
Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt had me falling for a big, mean, disfigured (small pox) man and rooting for the quiet, prim widow. By the way, you may not guess by the description but the sex was smokin.
Out of time...
Murphy78
24. Aryn
I've read them all. My favorite of them is Lord of Scoundrels. Didn't care for the Kinsale, really didn't care for the Ward and I am not fond of Anne Stuart. Liked Bet Me, although I really enjoyed the audio version of Welcome to Temptation by the same author. I read FSoG because it is such a cultural icon. Having read Twilight (and truly despising it) for the same reason, I was pleasantly surprised with FSoG; more by the surprise than the book. I thought it was worth reading but haven't gone beyond that one; nor have any intention to. SEP books always start out with angst and upset, as though the main character has to 'pay in advance for' her HEA (or suffer to deserve it)--I really do not like that in a book. I read for escape, and having a character trapped by circumstances or bad people isn't escape for me. I've started paying attention to the plot lines of books I like; and yep, being trapped (with no way to dig oneself out) is an automatic DNF. Weak women who cannot pull their own weight is another one. Anyone know what I mean? I think that is why I like the Mercy Thompson series...the protagonist can take care of herself and those around her; maybe not all the time, but at least sometimes.
Murphy78
25. CeciliaHaun
One of my favorites is a Silhoutte SpecialEdition.Sara's Child by Linda Howard.I've read and reread it over the years.
Patricia Paton
26. holbrookreader
@RomyS, I agree with you about Georgette Heyer. I did begin reading romance with her, and read every book she wrote. The Grand Sophy is certainly one of her best, but I would recommend any of the others too! As for the rest of the list above, I have read many of them, and am putting the others on my TBR list right now.
Deanna Romayene
27. Deeroma
"Kiss of the Highlander" by KMM

Oh, By far, my favorite!!

Karen's Highlanders are Hot!
Heather Waters (redline_)
28. redline_
@CeciliaHaun -- I've reread that one a lot too. Has to be one of my favorites of hers.
Murphy78
29. Bookaddict
I am always trolling for a good read. I have read and loved all of Anne Stuart and Laura Kinsale. Wish both ladies would put out a new one! I love Jennifer Crusie' old book called Hot Pants. I think that is the title. I must be older than some of the people making the comments. I loved Kathleen Woodwiss's ( ms) The Flame and the Flower and The Wolf and the Dove. Also, Laura London's Windflower. Rosemary Rogers had her day also with Sweet Savage Love. I must admit to loving FSoG. Yep, I have read it a couple of times. I also enjoy Annabel Joseph's books which are another genre altogether but HEA none the less.
Murphy78
30. miller
Kathleen Woodwiss's The Flame and the Flower was my first historical romance novel and I devoured all of her works as well as those by Rosemary Rogers. Have gone on to enjoy Christine Feehan's , J.R. Ward and Kresley Cole's paranormal novels. FSoG opened up a whole new genre of reading material for me.
Murphy78
31. Deborah S.
This is a great list of romance novels and I am also a firm believer in the "happily ever after" requirement of romance books :) I think the book "Come Fly With Me" by author Judith Whitmore (http://www.judithwhitmore.com/books/come-fly-with-me/) needs to be added to this list as a must read. The book is packed full of romance, action, suspense, and some plot twists that I was not expecting! The great thing about this book is that it doesn't focus on the main character, Kate, being "rescued by a knight in shining armor" it focuses on the power and strength that she finds within herself after being stuck in a loveless marriage and having to deal with death and adultery. Kate meets Rick (who just happens to be a handsome, intelligent pilot) and this is just the icing on the cake :) I feel the book really promotes the idea of a female hero and it was quite inspiring to read! I highly recommend it!
Murphy78
32. Linda S. Prather
I've only read one of these, but added several to my TBR. I would also high recommend Reclaim My Heart by Donna Fasano, USA Today bestselling author.
Murphy78
33. Katjasomov
The GLASS TOWERS TRILOGY was amazing! Great romance, mystery, suspense and hot sizzling scenes!!! http://www.amazon.com/Glass-Towers-Trilogy-Complete-Romance-ebook/dp/B00D98WN96/ref=pd_sim_kstore_3
Murphy78
34. Linda S. Prather
Love Julia Quinn. I've just recently started reading romance again thanks to Donna Fasano. Her books are sweet, romantic and wonderful reads.
Murphy78
35. Kyong
I think Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas should be in the list. And Paradise by Judith McNaught.
Murphy78
37. FOB_mongrel
Hello, My name is Long Wong Charlie, and I've just uploaded a novel on Amazon called "All Good Dragons Have Wonton for Breakfast". I know that spending money on books is the worst investment one can think of nowadays, but I figured I'd try selling my first boat-shattering love-fest, as what is done is done. Can you dig it. Back to my hole,LWCharlie http://www.amazon.com/Good-Dragons-Have-Wonton-Breakfast-ebook/dp/B00K0QIIUS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1398934359&sr=8-2&keywords=long+wong+charlie
Murphy78
38. c@÷0l¥n
I would have more respect if you didn't post 50 shades on this list.
Murphy78
39. aneesa
I would just like to thank the writer of this article for pointing me in the direction of the viscount who loved me. To this day it holds a special place in my heart that no other book has been able to steal.
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