Grab Your Tissues: 30 Must-Read Sad Romance Books

Before finding more sad stories, it might be interesting to find out how they came about. Romance novels first originated in the 18th and 19th centuries, when Jane Austin and Ann Radcliffe shaped the genre. Stories about romance were an almost completely new concept back then, and they were mainly written by women and about women. 

Grab Your Tissues: 30 Must-Read Sad Romance Books

Although most of the newer romance novels at this time had complete and satisfying endings, there were already some sad ones as well. One example is Pride and Prejudice, which was (and still is) a very popular Jane Austen novel that is quite sad.

As time went on, romance novels inevitably changed and evolved. In the current day, they focus on many different things, from werewolves to queer relationships to forbidden love. Romance is still a genre that is widely dominated by women, but now it is also written by many types of people for anyone to enjoy. 

There is a wide variety of romance novels, and not all of them are sad; they can actually be quite funny when they want to be. But since their beginning, sad romance novels have stayed very popular, and everyone just wants a good cry every once in a while.

If you’ve tired out from the other subgenres of romance and just want to be immersed in a sad story, we’ve got you covered. These books will make you feel all kinds of emotions, and we won’t blame you if you start to full-on ugly cry. 

Let’s get into it!

This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

This Close to Okay: A Novel

Tallie is a recently divorced therapist who is on her way home one night when she sees a man perched precariously on the edge of a bridge. She immediately pulls over and goes to him, convincing him to have a cup of coffee with her and talk.

The man ends up coming back to Tallie’s house and tells her that his name is Emmett. As they spend time together over the weekend, Tallie is determined to help Emmett have a safe space to talk, hesitant to tell him that it’s what she does for a living. 

But what they don’t realize is that both of them need to heal, and they each have their own secrets. It will only be a matter of time before these secrets come out.

You can find This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith here.

A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks

A Walk to Remember

Whenever spring arrives and the air smells of flowers, Landon Carter always, without fail, remembers his last year at Beaufort High in 1958. He remembers falling in love with Jamie, the daughter of their small town’s Baptist minister. She was shy and beautiful, and Landon never expected to love her yet he did, profusely.

This story tells us about what happened in Landon’s past, and how he experienced joy, love, and pain all the same.

You can read A Walk To Remember by Nicholas Sparks here.

Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day

A lives every day in a different person’s body. They’ve made peace with this fact, knowing that they should never get too attached to the people they meet. But when A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets his girlfriend, Rhiannon, everything changes.

Suddenly, A’s rules are different and he has found someone who he wants to be with every day. But Rhiannon and A have work to do: They have to figure out if they can really love each other when everything is always changing.

Every Day by David Levithan can be found here.

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

If He Had Been with Me

Finn is the popular boy at school who everyone wants to spend time with, and Autumn is content with her group of friends and boyfriend, Jamie.

 But Finn and Autumn share a past together, one where they were practically inseparable. And whenever Autumn passes Finn in the hall, there is a nagging feeling where she wonders if they should be with each other, and wonders if things should’ve turned out differently.

When the month of August arrives, things will change and Autumn will be forced to confront those thoughts head-on.

You can purchase If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin here.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Song of Achilles, The

Achilles is the son of the sea goddess Thetis and king Peleus, and one of the strongest and best of the Greeks. Achilles is legendary and irresistible.

Patroclus is a prince who has been exiled from his home, and he ends up staying where Achilles lives. The two form an inseparable and unexpected bond as they grow up together, despite the risk that it carries.

But this story isn’t just one of love, and there is war among them. Achilles joins the war in search of his glorious destiny, and Patroclus follows, determined to stay with the man that he has grown to love regardless of the danger around them. 

You can find The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller here.

What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

What's Mine and Yours

In North Carolina, students from a predominately black side of town are suddenly being brought to mostly white schools after a county initiative takes place. 

Jade is the mother of Gee, an anxious young Black man, and she’s determined to help him learn how to navigate life in America. Lacey is a white woman and the mother of Noelle, and Lacey only sees her half-Latina daughter as white. 

Gee and Noelle both join a school play, and once they meet, their families form a strange bond. Their relationship is messy, and their mothers both make choices that will last with them long after high school.

You can read What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster here.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

Hazel has known that she was terminal ever since her cancer diagnosis, but she was recently given a few more years to live after a medical miracle shrunk her tumor. When she meets Augustus Waters at a support group for kids with cancer, her life is changed forever.

This book is insightful and heartbreaking, funny and tragic, and shows us what it’s like to be young, alive, and in love. 

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green can be found here.

The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

The Sweet Gum Tree

Eight-year-old Alix is the daughter of a wealthy and respected southern family, but everything changes when she meets Nick, a ten-year-old boy who has just taken a beating. She helps take care of him, and this is the start of an amazing friendship that eventually, as they grow older, turns to love.

But when Nick’s abusive father is shot, Nick suddenly disappears, leaving Alix alone and betrayed for 15 years. When Alix is finally starting to get her life back together, Nick shows up in an attempt to win her love again, but she doesn’t know if she can stand it after what he did to her. 

But Nick tells Alix the truth about what happened, and nobody is prepared for the emotions that follow.

You can find The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred here.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Making Faces

Fern Taylor has been reading romance novels since she was 13, so when she sees Ambrose Young, she knows that he’s beautiful, perfectly fit for the cover of one of her beloved stories. Fern never thought that she could have him because of his sheer beauty, but that was before he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

This is a story of loss, identity, and finding love through pain. It’s heartbreaking and triumphant, and it’s sure to have you shedding a few tears throughout. 

You can read Making Faces by Amy Harmon here.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

Finch and Violet meet when they least expect it, yet they end up saving each other. Finch constantly thinks of death, dreaming of different ways he might die. Violet is experiencing harrowing grief after the death of her own sister, counting down the days until she can escape her small town.

As Finch and Violet spend more time together, they feel less alone and don’t notice their pain as much. They can be themselves around one another, and it’s a great feeling. But while Violet is starting to experience life in a new light, Finch is still feeling despair despite this new connection he’s formed.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven can be found here.

The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly

The Blue Mile

It’s 1929, and Eoghan O’Keenan has just left home with his 7-year-old sister Agnes after losing his factory job. 
Olivia Greene dreams of becoming the next Coco Chanel, and she’s working on a project for the governor’s wife herself.

When Eoghan and Olivia meet by chance, they form an unexpected romance that lasts until 1932, when the construction of the bridge Eoghan has been working on finishes. It’s then that Eoghan disappears.

The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly can be read here.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Infinite Country: A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

After doing something violent that she thinks was appropriate, Talia is being held in a correctional facility for young girls in Colombia. She needs to get back to her father in Bogotá, where a plane ticket to the USA and a chance to be reunited with her family are waiting for her.

To understand why they are in this situation, we hear the story of Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, who fell in love as teenagers. They pursued safety and went to the USA with their firstborn on a temporary visa. They had two more children, but eventually, Mauro ended up getting deported.

This story is full of hope, loss, and heartbreak. Not only is it a love story between a boy and a girl, but it’s a story about the family that they create and the pain and grief of being separated.

You can read Infinite Country by Patricia Engel here.

What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins

What Comes After: A Novel

After his teenage son unexpectedly dies, Isaac is experiencing deep grief. His neighbor, Lorrie, is a single mother who has also just experienced a great loss.

When Evangeline, a sixteen-year-old pregnant girl shows up, the two isolated parents both take an interest in her. Soon, they are brought together to form a strange but special family bond between all three of them, and it makes the parents’ grief just a little bit lighter. 

But before they can continue on to have a future, they first have to understand what happened in their somewhat shared pasts. 

What Comes After by JoAnne Tompkins can be found here.

Desperately Seeking Epic by B.N. Toler

Desperately Seeking Epic

Paul James used to be a thrill seeker who people called Epic, doing death-defying stunts without the blink of an eye. He also desperately loved Clara Bateman. Now all of that is in his past, and he’s determined to keep it there.

But when Paul stumbles upon a Craigslist posting, everything changes. The post is from Neena, Clara’s 12-year-old girl who is dying of Leukemia. Neena states that Paul is her father, and all she wants is to see him before she dies. She also tells him that Clara is still in love with him. 

One post is all it takes to change everything.

You can purchase Desperately Seeking Epic by B.N. Toler here.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel

Evelyn Hugo has been a Hollywood Icon ever since her 20s. She built herself from nothing, using her stunning looks and alluring personality to get exactly what she wanted. She is very well known for not wanting to settle down, having had seven husbands over her lifetime.

Now that she’s well into her 70s, Evelyn is ready to tell her life story to Monique, an aspiring writer who has no idea why Evelyn has chosen her. Nevertheless, Evelyn tells Monique about every part of her life, from good to bad, and about the one person who she really, truly, always loved. 

You can find The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid here.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End (They Both Die at the End Series, 1)

In a world where death-cast calls you when you’re going to die, teenagers Mateo and Rufus both get the call on September 5th that it’s their last day. At the beginning of the day they are two strangers, but when they meet on the Last Friend app, Rufus and Mateo form a bond very quickly.

This is the story of how they live their last day together. It’s full of adventure, excitement, violence, and romance, but we all know it is short-lived because they will both die at the end.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera can be found here.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante are two strangers who seem to only have one thing in common: They are loners. Other than that, there is not much the two share. Aristotle harbors a lot of anger and has a brother in prison. Dante is nerdy and seems to view the world differently from other people.

Despite their differences, the two teens start spending more time together after they meet at the swimming pool. Their friendship teaches them truths about themselves and who they want to be.

You can read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz here.

The Last Letter by Rebecca Yaros

The Last Letter

When Beckett’s friend Ryan dies in the army, Beckett knows Ryan has left him one last letter. In the letter, Ryan asks Beckett to leave the army and go help Ryan’s sister, Ella, who is raising two twins by herself.

Ella has lost many people in her life, and Ryan’s last wish is that she has someone to help her through yet another loss. So Beckett goes to Ella to help her, and as they spend more time together, they form a real connection.

You can find The Last Letter by Rebecca Yaros here.

This Life and All The Rest by Brit Benson

This Life and All the Rest (Next Life)

Macon and Lennon used to be together constantly and they really changed each other, but now they are alone. Still, after all this time, Macon can’t get Lennon out of his mind, knowing that her story made him a different person than he used to be.

When a tragedy brings them back together, Macon and Lennon try to deny what they once felt for each other. They know that they are older now and they’ve changed, and as old feelings inevitably seep back into their minds, they can’t help but wonder if they should try again.

You can read This Life and All The Rest by Brit Benson here.

Memorial by Bryan Washington

Memorial: A GMA Book Club Pick (A Novel)

Mike and Benson live together in Houston and they’ve been a couple for a few years now, but they honestly don’t know why they’re still together. When Mike finds out his dad is dying in Japan, he leaves everything to fly across the world.

But Mike’s mom, Mitsuko, has just arrived in Houston for a visit and now she and Benson are stuck living together without Mike. The situation is strange at first, but the unlikely dynamic starts to mean more to Benson and Mitsuko than they initially thought.

As Mike and Benson have time apart to learn more about themselves and grow, they change into different, stronger versions of themselves. When they meet again, this could make them better together, or it could make them realize that it’s time to go their separate ways.

You can find Memorial by Bryan Washington here.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You (Me Before You Trilogy)

Louisa Clark is a small-town girl who has just taken a job with Will Traynor, a man who is now wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will is destroyed, grieving his old life and wondering how he could possibly go on after what happened.

When Louisa learns that Will is going to do something drastic, she goes on a mission to show him that he can still find happiness even after what happened. Soon, the two form an unexpected romance that is sweet and heartbreaking all in one.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes can be found here.

The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen by Ray Smith

The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen

Molly Valle is a middle-aged woman from Mississippi who is used to receiving disrespect from men. But when she meets John Pressman, an activist who has just arrived in her small town, she finds that he is different. John takes away her self-doubt and makes her feel worthy. 

This is Molly’s story of finding love as well as finding herself and realizing that she is enough.

You can read The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen by Ray Smith here.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

You've Reached Sam: A Heartbreaking YA Romance with a Touch of Magic

Julie Clark is seventeen and knows exactly what she is going to do with her future: Graduate high school, go to college with her boyfriend Sam, and spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam suddenly dies.

Julie is heartbroken with grief and tries everything she can to forget him. But it’s impossible to forget, and desperate to hear his voice again, Julie calls Sam to listen to his voicemail. She doesn’t expect Sam to pick up the phone, but for a moment, he does. As Julie calls more and more, it becomes even harder to let go of Sam.

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Theo can be purchased here.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delilah Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing: Reese's Book Club (A Novel)

Kya has always been known as the “marsh girl”, and when Chase Andrews is found dead, she is the automatic suspect. Only Kya knows the truth, and she is not what people think.

This story is told in separate timelines, during the murder trial and during the time Kya is growing up. We learn about all the years she’s spent alone with only the gulls to comfort her, and we hear about her first love and her relationship with Chase Andrews before he dies. 

This is a beautiful and emotional coming-of-age story filled with love, self-expression, and heartbreak.

You can find Where the Crawdads Sing by Delilah Owens here.

Full Tilt by Emma Scott

Full Tilt (Full Tilt Duet)

Kacey Dawson is a reckless lead guitarist in a band that is about to become famous. When she wakes up hungover in Las Vegas on her limo driver’s couch, she has absolutely no memory of how she got there the night before.

Jonah Fletcher knows he only has a few months left, and he is trying to spend them doing what he wants. When he sees that Kacey is on a path of self-destruction, he wants to help her so he lets her stay at his house for a few days. But neither of them expects to form such a deep connection, and soon they are falling in love.

Full Tilt by Emma Scott can be read here.

Underneath the Sycamore Tree by B. Celeste

Underneath the Sycamore Tree

10 years ago, Em’s twin sister died of an incurable disease. Now, all this time later, Em has been diagnosed with the same thing. Her mother is overcome with grief, so Em moves in with her father and his new family.

That’s where she meets Kaiden, a boy who makes her feel cared for and normal. She finds comfort in him, happy to be around someone who seems to enjoy her company. But Em knows that everything is temporary, and nothing good ever seems to stay that way for long.

You can read Underneath the Sycamore Tree by B. Celeste here.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Eleanor and Park both know what it’s like to be outcasts. It’s 1986, and the two peers first meet on the school bus. They are unsure at first, but as the two spend more time together, they develop a friendship that slowly turns into more.

Eleanor and Park just understand each other, and they are happy to be together. But they also know that young love almost never lasts, and still they are desperate to try.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell can be found here.

Circle of Stones by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew

Circle of Stones

Nik and his girlfriend Jennifer are inseparable, sharing a deep connection. But when Jennifer suddenly goes missing, Nik knows he needs to find her. He starts a journey across the country to get to her, meeting people who all seem to be connected in certain ways.

As Nik goes on his quest, the story keeps circling back to the beginning and more and more questions are being asked. That’s when Nik starts to wonder, who is really searching for who?

You can find Circle of Stones by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew here.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

In Five Years: A Novel

Dannie is constantly planning things, picturing exactly how they will turn out. When she gets the job she’s been wanting and gets engaged to her boyfriend, Dannie knows her life is on the right track.

But then Dannie wakes up in a completely different apartment, 5 years in the future. She is in bed next to a completely different man than her newly acquired fiancé, and though she is only in the future for an hour, Dannie can’t stop thinking about it. Why wasn’t her life what she expected it to be? Is she really on the right track, or is the future just impossible to plan?

You can find In Five Years by Rebecca Serle here.

Like Water by Rebecca Podos

Like Water

Savannah Espinoza never expected to stay in her small hometown after she graduated high school, but that was before her father got Huntington’s Disease. Now she is living at home caring for her dad and distracting herself from reality with boys. 

But when Savannah meets a girl named Leigh, her life changes. Leigh is an amazing friend and isn’t like anyone Savannah has ever met. Soon, Leigh becomes more than a friend, and Savannah starts to break down the walls that she’s so carefully constructed around herself.

Like Water by Rebecca Podos can be read here.


What is the saddest romance book ever?

Romance books (and all books, for that matter) are completely subjective, so one book that someone is emotional over might have little to no effect on someone else. That means it’s basically impossible to say what the saddest romance book ever written is because it’s a very personal thing.

That being said, some of the most popular romance books are pretty sad. These books include Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, and Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. These romance books have had millions of copies sold, and it’s safe to say that they have definitely been loved by many. So though they might not be the saddest ever romance books to everyone, a lot of people find them tragic and emotional.

Who is the number one romance author?

There are many romance authors who have had great hits, but one who was consistently popular was Barbara Cartland (1901-2000). She wrote contemporary and historical romance novels, and over her life she sold more than 1 billion copies of her romance novels, making it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

What types of romance novels are popular?

There are many different kinds of romance genres, some being extremely popular and others being very niche. Contemporary is probably the most popular genre, meaning that the book is set in the modern day. Historical romance is also very popular, where the book is set in a historical time period. Lastly, we’re sure you’ve heard of romantic comedies, where there are jokes and wittiness tied into the romantic story, and those are very popular as well.

Can romance novels have sad endings?

Yes, romance novels can have sad endings. Although the genre is usually warm, fuzzy, and happy-go-lucky in the end, that doesn’t mean that every romance novel is like that. There are plenty that will leave you feeling conflicted or even upset, some of the ones on this list included.

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Freya Cook