From today’s most trendy authors to timeless writers of the past, the thirty best-selling romance novelists of all time have one thing in common: quality, can’t-miss writing. The numbers speak for themselves with millions of copies sold, and passionate writing that practically dances off the pages.
Whether you’re new to romance or looking to expand into fresh and flirty subgenres, you can’t go wrong with the writing of these critically acclaimed novelists. Prepare to be delighted when you pick up your next romance read — and experience these massively popular love stories for yourself.
Best Selling Romance Novelists of All Time
Critically acclaimed romance novelist Danielle Steel has sold over 800 million copies worldwide, and she is still releasing new books to this day.
She is best known for writing moving love stories with a dramatic, twisting storyline — although she has also dabbled in other genres during her lengthy writing career. Some of her most popular books include The Gift, a small-town midwestern romance that tackles love after loss, and The Wedding Planner, a heartfelt story about the different paths we take to happily-ever-after.
Statistically one of the world’s most prolific novelists, Dame Barbara Cartland wrote a staggering 723 novels in her lifetime, 644 of which were romances. She even holds the Guinness World Record for the most books published within a single year.
Cartland remains an author beloved by many to this day, best known for her escapist romances that feature traditionally pure heroines and courageous heroes. For a delightful historical romance with suspense and intrigue, check out The Dangerous Marriage, the story of an arranged marriage amidst a Russian invasion of Britain. If you’re a fan of forbidden romance, Cartland’s Love By The Lake will check all your boxes — swoon-worthy infatuation, runaway royalty, and a well-earned happy ending.
Jane Austen was an eighteenth-century romance novelist who wrote middle-class love stories that remain known and loved to this day.
Her writing is known for its wit, intellect, and satire — although Austen’s works were based around romance, they retained a unique level of depth and social commentary. Pride and Prejudice is Austen’s most infamous book: it’s a classic enemies-to-lovers romance between the plucky Elizabeth Bennet and the arrogant Mr. Darcy. Another must-read is Sense and Sensibility, which follows the sisters Elinor and Marianne on their journey to find (and keep) true love.
Nora Roberts is a literary powerhouse, having written more than two hundred bestselling novels — and with more still on the way. She primarily writes romances, and she writes suspense thrillers under the pen name J. D. Robb.
Genre-bending readers will be excited to learn that Nora Roberts writes romances across a wide range of subgenres, from fantasy romance to romantic suspense. If you’re in the market for the inimitable charm of a good romantic fantasy, check out The Dragon Heart Legacy trilogy, a magical story that debuts with The Awakening. Looking for something more traditional? A Will and a Way is a slow-burn love story between two acquaintances who reluctantly move in together to collect on their inheritance money.
The unrivaled queen of the guilty pleasure romance read, Jackie Collins is a multi-nationally bestselling author with over half a billion copies of her writing sold.
Collins’s books are set amongst the glitz and glamor of wealthy and well-known individuals; she was known for writing scandalized and provocative romances. Where to start in her impressive backlist? The four-book Hollywood series is Collins at her finest, giving an insider’s look at Los Angeles’s gaudiest celebrities and socialites. The first in the series is Hollywood Wives, a soap opera-esque look at the intersecting love lives and dramas of the carefree California rich and famous.
No paranormal romance series has had such a worldwide impact as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, which has sold over 160 million copies since its publication in 2005.
Known best for the Twilight saga and its companion novels, Stephenie Meyer has also written two standalone novels, a sci-fi flick and a thriller, respectively. Twilight and its epic sequels are must-reads for fans of vampire romance, introducing readers to the infamous love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob. For something a little less supernatural, check out The Chemist, an espionage thriller that’s centered around a government agent on the run.
Contemporary romance novelist Colleen Hoover has reached a shocking level of fame in the last few years, having sold more than twenty million books. Her books have increased in popularity thanks to social media sites such as TikTok, introducing a whole new generation of readers to Hoover’s writing.
Colleen Hoover writes emotional, character-driven love stories written at a brisk, easy-to-read pace. Some of her most popular works include It Ends With Us, a gripping story of second-chance romance, and Verity, the haunting tale of a writer who stumbles upon a dark secret surrounding her client.
Nicholas Sparks has written twenty-three bestselling romances, which have gone on to sell more than 105 million copies worldwide.
He writes tearjerker love stories about life and loss and is best known for his intricate, skillful storytelling. You’ve likely heard of The Notebook, a heart-wrenching romance set in the aftermath of World War Two. Less popular but equally well-written is its sequel The Wedding, a beautiful story about rediscovering love in a marriage that’s grown cold.
Diana Gabaldon transformed the world of historical romance with her wildly popular Outlander series, which has sold more than fifty million copies to date. The ten-book series has become an international phenomenon and has even been adapted into a beloved television show.
There’s no better place to begin than with Outlander itself, a spell-binding time-travel romance set in the Scottish Highlands. Once you’ve worked your way through the rest of the Outlander series, check out Lord John and the Private Matter, a companion series that’s as enchanting and exhilarating as its predecessor.
With over 200 million copies of her books in print — and more on the way — Debbie Macomber has more than earned her spot as one of the world’s bestselling novelists.
Specializing in romance and women’s fiction, Debbie Macomber’s writing is wholesome, charming, and homey. She is best known for her Cedar Cove series, the first of which is 16 Lighthouse Road: a family-driven romance about court judge Olivia Lockhart and her controversial decision to deny a couple’s divorce. If you’re looking for a standalone read, give It’s Better This Way a try: the story of one woman’s rocky journey to finding love after a heartbreaking end to her first marriage.
Perhaps you haven’t heard the name Eleanor Hibbert, and for good reason: this prolific novelist wrote all her literature under seven separate pen names, the most well-known being Victoria Holt, Phillipa Carr, and Jean Plaidy.
This anonymous author is known for writing intricate historical romances set in a variety of different periods. As Jean Plaidy, she wowed readers with To Hold the Crown, a Victorian-era romance about the political union between Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Under Phillipa Carr she penned the twenty-book Daughters of England series, debuting with The Miracle at St. Bruno’s, a romantic mystery centered on Anne Boleyn.
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Certainly one of the buzziest names on this list, Taylor Jenkins Reid has all the hype in the literary community right now — and it’s well-deserved, too. With more than five million copies of her books in print, Reid has quickly become a household name, skyrocketing in popularity with each new release.
You won’t want to miss Reid’s most talked about books: Malibu Rising, a family-centered tale of an annual party that ends in flames, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, a famous actress’s scandalous tell-all, and Daisy Jones and The Six, a touching interview-style look at a fictional band’s rise to stardom.
Beloved romance novelist Penny Jordan left behind an astonishing legacy of 187 published books, coming out to over 100 million copies of her writing sold.
Known for writing both historical and contemporary romances, Jordan’s books are short, easy reads with well-written spicy scenes. If you’re looking for a unique historical romance with sizzling tension, check out Possessed by the Sheikh, the first in the Arabian Nights series. Looking for something more modern? The Boss’s Marriage Arrangement is a delightful billionaire romance read that you won’t want to put down.
With over 300 million copies of her books sold and a penchant for writing strong female characters, Janet Dailey kept romance relevant and never shied away from tackling big concepts in her writing.
She’s best known for her Western romances, the most popular of which is Big Sky Country, the 26th installation in her fifty-book Americana series. She also wrote several charming romantic standalone reads, including Mistletoe and Molly, a festive romance about former sweethearts who reunite during the holidays.
Judith Krantz turned to writing at the ripe age of fifty, and the literary community was blessed with her blockbuster romance novels, which have sold more than 85 million copies to date.
Her debut novel, Scruples, is a must-read romantic saga centered around a lux Beverly Hills boutique and its employees. You’ll also want to check out Princess Daisy, an escapist historical romance following Princess Daisy, the daughter of a Russian nobleman and American movie star, and what happens when her glitzy fairy tale life comes crashing to a halt.
If selling over twenty million copies of her books wasn’t impressive enough, Julia Quinn is also one out of a slim sixteen authors who hold a place in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame.
Best known for writing the Bridgertons series, which has recently been adapted into a hit Netflix series, Julia Quinn’s writing has long been recognized for her exquisite writing style and dreamy Regency-era settings. If you haven’t already read The Duke and I, the first in the Bridgertons series, consider this your sign to pick up a copy. You’re bound to be enchanted by the whirlwind romance and twisting plotline that awaits.
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Credited as the creator of the sports romance subgenre and with millions of copies sold, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a diverse romantic fiction author who continues churning out swoony romances to this day.
If you’re interested in seeing where the sports romance subgenre got its start, check out Fancy Pants, a unique rom-com that spans more than thirty years of the heroine’s life. For a more traditional romance read, give her nine-book Chicago Stars series a go, the most recent of which is the glamorous and laugh-out-loud funny When Stars Collide.
Lisa Kleypas writes historical and contemporary romances that are guaranteed to make your heart soar — from escapist Regency romps to trope-driven contemporary fiction. Having sold millions of copies to date, with that number steadily rising, her worldwide success undoubtedly speaks for itself.
Most well-known of her writing is the five-book Wallflowers series, the first of which is Secrets of a Summer Night — a Victorian-era romance that follows Anabelle Peyton and the desperate choice between love and financial success. If you’re in the mood for something more contemporary, Sugar Daddy kicks off her four-book Travis series with a spicy billionaire romance that twists and turns like no other.
If you love rom-coms, chances are you’ve read something by Emily Henry, a modern romance novelist with three bestsellers under her belt and more on the way. Since 2020 she has sold more than a million copies of her books, with sales growing higher every day.
Every place is a good place to start with Emily Henry’s writing: Book Lovers is a small-town romance between a rival editor and book agent, Beach Read is a moving romance between two novelists with a tumultuous past, and People We Meet on Vacation is the laugh-out-loud story of two travel buddies and best friends on the path to something more.
With more than 100 novels published and nearly all of them ranking on a bestsellers list, Carolyn Brown has been a notable romance novelist since she began writing in 1997.
Her writing is personable with a signature small-town charm that leaves readers coming back for more. If you’re looking to scratch that Hallmark-esque itch in your heart, pick up a copy of Brown’s The Sandcastle Hurricane: two cousins run a bed-and-breakfast in Texas, until a hurricane hits their town, leaving them at the mercy of the surprisingly handsome repairmen they hired. Also worth a read is Love Struck Cafe, a short and sweet novella that’s teeming with Southern spirit.
Charlotte Bronte was a romance novelist who wrote lengthy, thought-provoking romances in the eighteenth century, and her timeless stories remain relevant to this day. Although it’s harder to calculate sales for such classic authors, it’s estimated that her books have sold more than five million copies.
Her most well-known work is Jane Eyre, a must-read story about a governess making a name for herself (and finding love along the way). Also worth a read is Villette, which follows an all-girls school teacher and her dark and troubled experiences of life and love.
E. L. James
E. L. James made a name for herself as an internationally recognized author of erotic romance, writing the fastest-selling work of adult fiction in literary history.
Her infamous Fifty Shades trilogy has sold over 125 million copies — you can see for yourself what all the hype is about by starting with the series debut, Fifty Shades of Grey. Less well known is her standalone romance The Mister, a passionate Regency-era love story with as much action as there is steam.
D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence shocked his early twentieth-century audience with his modernist writing, which featured unabashed displays of sexuality and explicit language that were uncommon for the time. Despite the controversy his works were still heavily circulated, resulting in millions of copies sold — even outselling The Bible.
There’s no better place to start with Lawrence’s writing than with Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the book which prompted all the uproar and was even taken to trial. Equally provocative is Sons and Lovers, the story of a budding artist who is forced to choose between the future his mother chose for him or the life he dreamt up for himself.
Kristin Hannah is the author of numerous romance and women’s fiction novels — she has sold more than twenty million copies and reached worldwide acclaim.
Her writing is recognizable for its immersive, moving spirit and the realistic and raw characters that she writes with effortless ease. The Nightingale is a must-read historical fiction about humanity’s resilience and the power of love; The Great Alone is equally touching, but with a more modern setting in the remote wilderness of Alaska.
Modern author and internet phenomenon John Green is best known for his young-adult targeted romance fiction, which has sold more than fifty million copies worldwide and propelled him to universal fame (for more authors like John Green, find our favorites here).
His writing is dryly comedic and often takes on complex, emotional themes, such as his most popular novel The Fault in Our Stars, the love story between two teens who’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Also worth checking out is Looking for Alaska, a grief-centered coming-of-age story, and Turtles All the Way Down, an unflinching story about living with mental illness.
Internationally renowned novelist Julie Garwood has sold more than thirty-five million copies of her dreamy and lighthearted writing.
Historical romance and romantic suspense are the two genres for which Garwood is known best, but that hasn’t stopped her from dipping into other genres during her diverse writing career, too. Looking for historical romance? Start with The Secret, the love story between a defiant English lady and the Scottish highlander she meets during her travels. If you’d rather delve into a suspenseful FBI procedural then pick up a copy of Heartbreaker, the first in a fourteen-book collection of suspense romances.
Women’s fiction and romance author Robyn Carr has sold more than twenty-seven million copies of her writing, with more novels on the way.
Carr is best known for her twenty-two-book Virgin River series, which is also a wildly popular Netflix adaptation: Virgin River is the titular series introduction. If you’d prefer a standalone to a lengthy series commitment, give Sunrise on Half Moon Bay a try: the story of two sisters and the unexpected ways that their journeys begin intertwining.
Nobody writes moving and spicy romance reads quite like Lucy Score: she has written more than two dozen romances to date and sold nearly 50k print copies.
Her writing is fiercely funny and deeply memorable, winning her a dedicated legion of fans who will read anything she writes. If you’re ready to join her readership, you need to check out Things We Never Got Over, the romance between single mom Naomi and the “bad boy” Knox who helps her out when she’s stranded in an unknown town. Equally hyped is Things We Hide from the Light, the follow-up read centering on Knox’s brother Nash.
With forty million copies of her writing in print, Judith McNaught has solidified herself as an absolute romance powerhouse, writing primarily in the contemporary and Regency-era subgenres.
If you’re unsure where to start in McNaught’s expansive backlist, pick up a copy of Paradise: a riveting second-chance romance between two career-driven individuals with enough ambition to make or break each other permanently. If you prefer your romances with a side of ballroom dancing and sparkling sensuality, then pick up Whitney, My Love, a delightful Regency-era romp that you won’t be able to put down.
Margaret Mitchell’s explosive debut Gone With the Wind sold over one million copies within its first six months of being published. Since that date in 1936, the number of copies sold has risen to more than 25 million.
Gone With the Wind is Margaret Mitchell’s only novel, as she died an untimely death in a traffic collision at the age of forty-eight. Despite this being her only work, she is still recognized worldwide and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1937 for her writing. Considered by many to be the great American novel, you won’t want to overlook the moving masterpiece that is Gone With the Wind.
Who is the best selling romance novelist of all time?
Statistically speaking, Barbara Cartland is the best-selling romance novelist of all time.
Who is the most famous romance novelist?
There are many contenders for this position, but Nora Roberts, Jane Austen, and Colleen Hoover are the most common household names.
What is the best romance ever written?
Although many readers have different favorite romances, the above thirty romance novelists have all penned timeless tales of love that are worthy of this position.
What is the best romantic novel to read?
You can’t go wrong with the works produced by any of the above romance authors — start with your favorite romantic subgenre and you won’t be disappointed.
What is the most popular romance novel subgenre?
Contemporary romance and historical romance are two of the most popular subgenres in today’s romance writing.
What makes a good romance novel?
Solid chemistry between the main romantic pairing, emotional depth, and gripping writing are important elements of a satisfying romance novel.