The best romance novels transport you to a whole new world, even if that world is modern day and not very different from your own. Whether it’s set in 1980s Nebraska or 18th century Scotland, you can get wrapped up in the love story and completely escape from reality. These books are often billed as beach reads, but we think that’s an unfair assessment. Romance books can and should be enjoyed year-round, whether it’s in front of a cozy fireplace or in your sunny backyard. Filled with compelling and lovable characters, you’ll want to root for them, even when it seems like all of the odds are stacked against them. They’ll help you believe in love—no matter how complicated love gets.
Sometimes, the lovers in these novels are separated by high school clique, centuries or even death. Some of these books feature star-crossed lovers, while others start off hating each other. Then there are those couples whose love blooms naturally and it’s set off course unexpectedly. Not all of these books have happy endings, but they do speak to how loving another person effects their lives.
These books have stolen, broken, mended and melted our hearts throughout the decades. Whether you’re searching for first love or self-discovery after love ends, these books have you covered. Many of our picks have been on the best-sellers list and made into beloved film or TV adaptations, so you can watch the adaptation after you finish the book and experience the story in a new medium.
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A version of this article was originally published in February 2016.