As long as there have been books, there have been love stories, and most of us start reading them as children. No matter the time period or genre, romantic stories have captivated readers of all ages. For many adults, finding a great romance novel is the perfect way to escape from the stresses of everyday life and enter the sweeping world of a love story. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the 20 best love story books for adults, all of which are sure to warm your heart and leave you swooning.
The 20 Best Love Story Novels for Adults
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
If you’re a romance fan and haven’t read some of the classics, Jane Austen is as classic as the genre gets. The 1813 novel follows Elizabeth Bennet, the second of five daughters living in England, as she meets a wealthy bachelor named Mr. Bingley. Bingley also introduces the Bennets to Mr. Darcy, a proud and arrogant man who slowly wins Elizabeth’s heart. As the two overcome their misunderstandings, Pride and Prejudice explores the role of women in society and spins a swoon-worthy tale for the ages.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Another classic romance, Jane Eyre is an 1847 novel that follows the life of the titular orphan, raised by a cruel aunt and sent to a harsh boarding school. As an adult, Jane becomes a governess to Mr. Rochester, and quickly falls in love with him. But like most of Jane’s life, her romance is not simple.
Jane learns that she is not the first person Mr. Rochester has loved, and his secrets send her on a journey of her own. As their fortunes become intertwined and ultimately reversed, Jane and Mr. Rochester will need to determine if their love will persevere.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
As one of the most popular modern novelists, Colleen Hoover has no shortage of romance novels to choose from. It Ends With Us is the story of Lily Bloom, a young woman who falls in love with a successful neurosurgeon named Ryle. What seems like a perfect match soon turns sour as she uncovers his dark past and violent nature.
In the midst of this turmoil, Lily encounters her teenage crush, Atlas, who has recently moved back to town. The meeting sparks feelings in Lily, who must navigate her complex relationships and decide what kind of future she wants for herself. Despite its dark themes, It Ends With Us is ultimately a story about love, forgiveness, and our own power.
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Though it is one of the most-loved romance films of all time, not everyone knows that The Notebook is also a novel. Narrated by an elderly man who is reading to a woman with Alzheimer’s disease, it tells the love story of a young couple in the 1940s, Noah and Allie.
After a summer romance, Noah and Allie are torn apart by their different social backgrounds, as Allie’s parents force them apart. The two reunite years later, but Allie is engaged to another man. The story then follows the couple’s fight to be together and their enduring love story.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
When two novelists find themselves neighbors in a Michigan beach town, they think they may have something in common. But the two are opposites – January Andrews wants to write romantic tales, and Augustus Everett is a literary author who thinks cynicism is the way to go. The two strike up a deal to write each other’s genres to break their own writers’ block.
Over the course of the bet, they begin to learn more about one another and find that they do have things in common after all. Beach Read is a steamy romance with a character-driven arc that focuses on self-discovery with a dash of humor thrown in.
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Hannah Martin has moved back to her hometown and, during a night out, runs into her old flame Ethan. In alternating chapters, Maybe in Another Life follows Hannah’s path as it could have been based on the choice she makes about whether to stay with Ethan that night. In each version of the story, she must deal with the consequences of the choice and reckon with the impact of fate and chance in her life. The unique premise of this novel has earned it high praise and popularity in the romance world.
After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
For those who prefer a more established relationship at the start of a book, After I Do is the story of Lauren and Ryan, a married couple going through a rough patch. The two take a year to separate before deciding if they will stay married, and the book follows them through this period. As Lauren and Ryan date other people and learn about themselves, they come to realizations about how to make a relationship work well. This look at the complexities of marriage and personal growth is a wonderful character study with a romantic edge.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
The quintessential enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy, The Hating Game introduces readers to Lucy and Josh, who are each the executive assistant to one of the co-CEOs of their company. The two have a longstanding rivalry based on their opposite personalities and love of pranking one another. But when the two are up for the same promotion, the rivalry becomes more serious.
At the same time, the two begin to develop feelings for one another. Readers follow them through a series of sometimes hilarious and sometimes steamy encounters as they try to determine how to move forward, both personally and professionally.
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
If you’re a romance lover who also loves reality TV, The Charm Offensive is the perfect book for you. Charlie is the star of a Bachelor-esque show, and while his charming personality and amazing looks make him seem perfect for the role, he begins to doubt its authenticity. When he runs away from the whole ordeal, he is met by Dev, a producer of the show who is now doubting his motives.
While the two try to come to a compromise about the future of the show, Charlie and Dev also develop feelings for one another in this funny, heartwarming novel about finding love in the least expected people.
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
In The Love Hypothesis, PhD student Olive Smith is focused on proving her hypothesis about love and winning a prestigious award in the process. But to make her proposal more convincing, she needs a fake boyfriend, which is where her classmate comes in. Adam is charming and attractive, but known for being a player.
Throughout their fake relationship, Olive and Adam begin to develop real feelings for one another, but their own circumstances make a relationship difficult. A devastating secret forces them to confront these circumstances and their own fear to make difficult choices about what comes next.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffienegger
This sweeping tale follows Henry, a man born with a genetic condition that causes him to involuntarily travel through time and Claire, a girl whose fate has been tied to his since she was a child. Told through both perspectives and out of chronological order, The Time Traveler’s Wife chronicles their romance, even before it has happened, and explores the complexities of their relationship. Full of both joy and heartbreak, the novel is an instant classic and has been made into both a film and a miniseries due to its nuanced and passionate story.
All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover
While Quinn and Graham had a passionate and whirlwind romance, leading them to marry quickly, their relationship has hit a breaking point. Infertility and other personal issues have led them to the beginning of All Your Perfects, which finds them struggling to stay together. The novel alternates between their past and present, laying out their secrets and communication issues. In the end, the pair must decide if their love is as strong as it once seemed.
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
It doesn’t get much more salacious than this romantic comedy, which finds the son of the first female POTUS and the Prince of England in an enemies-to-lovers situation. But once Henry and Alex realize that their feelings have changed, the story isn’t over: Red, White, and Royal Blue takes readers through the fallout in both countries, and all the tabloids, that a gay Prince and First Son can bring. Funny, heartwarming, and steamy, it’s no wonder this novel is so beloved.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Chloe Brown is stuck. A combination of chronic pain and traumatic experiences have left her feeling limited, but a near-death experience pushes her to move on. She makes a list of things she needs to do to “get a life,” including getting her own apartment. There she meets the building superintendent, who she begrudgingly befriends.
As their friendship grows to a romantic connection, Chloe and Red must learn to trust one another and accept life’s challenges. Get a Life, Chloe Brown tackles serious topics with humor and grace.
Ayesha, At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
In this modern take on Pride and Prejudice, Ayesha is a young Muslim woman who aspires to be a poet and teacher. When she meets Khalid, a conservative Muslim man with traditional views of gender roles, the two often clash but develop a friendship. When this relationship deepens, they must confront their own misconceptions about the other’s culture and beliefs, as well as their families’ pressures. Ayesha, At Last is a story about identity, heritage, and overcoming differences in the name of love.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
Vivian Forest is a social worker in California, until she takes off to England to serve as the Queen’s stylist. There she meets Malcolm Hudson, the Queen’s private secretary, and the two develop a fast relationship despite their age difference. Throughout Royal Holiday, the pair must deal with cultural clashes, their own fears, and no shortage of royal crises.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
When August moves to New York, she is expecting a new start, not to meet a woman from the 1970s. Jane is a time traveler and has been stuck on the Q train for decades, and August finds herself helping her. The more time they spend together, they develop a romantic relationship, complicated by their situation. One Last Stop is a time travel romance, but ultimately is about confronting your own fears and taking a chance on love.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Olive has always been overshadowed by her twin sister, Ami. When Ami’s wedding day arrives, the feeling persists, and Olive is relegated to spending time with the best man. The problem is that she knows Ethan, and she hates him. But when everyone but them is hit with food poisoning, they agree to take the bride and groom’s place on their honeymoon. During the trip, Olive and Ethan begin to see each other in a different light, and must see if that translates to their home life. The Unhoneymooners is a classic enemies-to-lovers by one of the most popular romance authors today.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Normal People follows Connell and Marianne as they move from adolescence to young adulthood. While Connell is a popular athlete from a working-class family, Marianne is a social outcast who comes from wealth. The two find a deep connection despite their differences, and find themselves at university together, where their roles begin to reverse. Ultimately, they must decide if they will make sacrifices for love and to be together.
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle
Sabrina is living the age-old scenario: what 5 people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner? On her 30th birthday, Sabrina sits down to dinner with Audrey Hepburn, her father who long abandoned her, her college best friend, the philosopher Conrad, and a former boyfriend. Over the course of dinner, Sabrina must unpack choices she’s made and the possibility of second chances. The unique premise of The Dinner List is the perfect backdrop for this story about complex relationships and the future.
What are the best love stories of all time?
Different people will think different love stories are the best. Some people may say it’s Romeo and Juliet, while others will say it’s a Jane Austen novel. Ultimately, there are endless love stories you can choose to read, and each person may like something different.
Is all adult romance explicit?
No! While some people use “adult” to mean explicit, many romance novels do not feature any explicit scenes. You can look for ratings on books or avoid covers that appear racy to stick to more modest content.
Classic authors like Jane Austen are often considered some of the best romance authors, but there are many modern authors as well. Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, Christina Lauren, and Jasmine Guillory are all prolific authors in the romance genre.