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Romance Bestsellers

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Smolder (Signed Book) (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series #29)

Smolder (Signed Book) (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series #29) (03/21/2023)

Fall of Ruin and Wrath (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Fall of Ruin and Wrath (B&N Exclusive Edition) (09/12/2023)

Home to Wind River

Home to Wind River (12/18/2018)

The Girl in the Woods

The Girl in the Woods (03/21/2023)

Assistant to the Villain

Assistant to the Villain (09/05/2023)

It Ends with Us

It Ends with Us (08/02/2016)

Beach View Lane

Available Immediately After Purchase

Beach View Lane (03/21/2023)

It Starts with Us: A Novel

It Starts with Us: A Novel (10/18/2022)

Rescued: Protector Romance

Rescued: Protector Romance (11/22/2022)


UTAH (03/21/2023)

In Isabeau's Eyes

In Isabeau's Eyes (03/21/2023)

Just a Little Hookup (A Dare Crossover Series, #1)

Just a Little Hookup (A Dare Crossover Series, #1) (03/21/2023)

The Serpent and the Wings of Night

The Serpent and the Wings of Night (08/30/2022)

Dante's Decision

Dante's Decision (03/21/2023)

Twisted Love (Twisted Series #1)

Twisted Love (Twisted Series #1) (09/27/2022)

Maybe: The Complete Series

Maybe: The Complete Series (08/30/2019)

A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel (B&N Exclusive Edition)

A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel (B&N Exclusive Edition) (07/18/2023)

Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions (02/24/2022)

Things We Hide from the Light

Things We Hide from the Light (02/21/2023)

The Fine Print

The Fine Print (07/04/2021)

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The 25 Best Romance Authors (And Their Most Swoonworthy Reads)

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Blog – Posted on Tuesday, Mar 19

The 25 best romance authors (and their most swoonworthy reads).

The 25 Best Romance Authors (And Their Most Swoonworthy Reads)

Romance is one of the most popular genres in literature today, both for readers and writers of romance novels . And it’s no wonder why: romance is exciting, sexy, and compulsively readable. Luckily, there are tons more books coming out all the time! So to help you get a handle on the genre, we’ve compiled this guide to the 25 best romance authors, along with the love stories they’ve written that are sure to make you swoon. 😍 (By the way, the list is in alphabetical order, so if you’re searching for your own favorite author, you’ll know exactly where to look.)

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the number of great romance authors out there, you can also take our 30-second quiz below to narrow it down quickly and get a personalized romance book recommendation  😉

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Carolyn Brown

Brown has been writing romance for twenty years now — her debut novel Love Is came out in 1999. Since then, she’s produced a great deal of both contemporary and historical romance. However, Brown’s real niche is cowboy romance: stories that are typically set in the southern United States and feature a tall, dark, troubled rancher. Meanwhile, the strong-minded heroine isn’t looking for love — she’s too focused on her child, and/or trying to shake the memories of a good-for-nothing ex — but damn if she doesn’t find it under the boiling hot Texas (or Tennessee or Oklahoma) sun after all.

Must-read: Long, Hot Texas Summer

When Loretta Bailey caught her husband Jackson kissing another woman, she turned her back on Lonesome Canyon Ranch forever. That was seventeen years ago… and now Loretta and Jackson’s daughter wants to drop out of college to marry a rancher. Naturally, Loretta is dead-set against the idea. But in order to combat it, she’ll have to return to the ranch and work together with Jackson, who’s just as wily (and devilishly handsome) as ever.

Catherine Bybee

Bybee is the queen of Amazon’s contemporary romance charts, with her bestselling Weekday Brides and Not Quite series (and their spinoffs). She also dabbles in historical and paranormal romance , and is especially skilled at synthesizing her own traumatic experiences into her work: not only is she a survivor of child abuse, she also endured a terrible accident when she was working as an ER nurse. Bybee began to write during her recovery, remembering the solace that romance books and love stories brought her when she was young — and eventually turned out some of best titles on the market today.

Must-read: Wife by Wednesday ( Weekday Brides #1)

Wife By Wednesday introduces us to Samantha Elliot, the head of a matchmaking firm consulted by millionaire Blake Harrison… who’s intent on having Sam pose as his wife. And though Sam never meant to matchmake herself , how can she resist his $10 million offer? But while their deal is supposed to be all appearances, Sam finds herself confusingly attracted to Blake, which spells double trouble when his ex gets involved.

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Since 1980, Carr has made quite a name for herself in romance — particularly with her Virgin River series, which follows various love affairs unfolding at a forest outpost in California. From the gruff marine who gets in touch with his softer side to the burned-out sous chef who has to contend with a pretty steamy dish (if you know what we mean), Virgin River supplies a stream of near-endless romantic possibilities. Not to mention it’s slated for a Netflix series starring Alexandra Breckenridge !

Must-read: Virgin River ( Virgin River #1)

After unexpectedly becoming a widower in her thirties, nurse practitioner Melinda Monroe jumps at the chance to move to woodsy, secluded Virgin River, only to realize it’s not what she expected. Between her shabby accommodations and the local doctor’s icy attitude, Mel’s just about ready to pick up and leave — until she meets a retired marine who convinces her to stay.

Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole is a uniquely impressive contributor to the historical romance subgenre. She specializes in American Revolution and Civil War-era stories, and has done wonders for diversity in romance: many of her characters are women of color, and much of the drama in her narratives stems from the challenges of interracial love and marriage in the past.

Must-read: An Extraordinary Union

This award-winning novel takes place during the Civil War and follows Elle Burns, a former slave who goes undercover to spy for the Union. She soon meets Malcolm McCall, a Pinkerton detective who shares her motives to bring down the Confederacy… but their political inclinations aren’t the only mutual feeling between them. When things start to become truly dangerous, Elle and Malcolm must decide what’s most important: their country or their love.

Lauren Dane

Lauren Dane is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, known for her Brown Family and Chase Brothers series. Dane began writing in 2005 and has since turned out over 60 books. (Yes, you read that correctly!) Besides being one of the most prolific authors on this list, she’s also one of the most risqué — so if you like your romance on the steamier side, consider adding her to your list.

Must-read: Laid Bare ( Brown Family #1)

Seriously, hold onto your hats because this one is shamelessly immodest. Laid Bare begins with police officer Todd Keenan and rock musician Erin Brown, whose old flame is rekindled when they meet again in Seattle… but which threatens to burn them up after a ménage à trois with one of Todd’s best friends. There’s no telling where this relationship of sorts will lead, but one thing is for sure: it’s going to be one wild hell of a ride.

Tessa Dare is another NYT bestseller, but in a very different category: classic “bodice rippers” that focus more on smoldering sexual tension itself than the resolution of said tension. Indeed, Dare’s titles clearly indicate her propensity for Regency romance — from Romancing the Duke to Say Yes to the Marquess , her books are the perfect form of escapism into another time and place.

Must-read: Do You Want to Start a Scandal ( Castles Ever After #4)

This one is part history, part mystery, part love story! At the Parkhurst ball, young Charlotte Highwood is implicated in a scandal that makes it look as though she’s involved with Piers Brandon, Lord Granville — and now she’ll have to marry him if she can’t prove her innocence. Which would be inconvenient indeed, since she doesn’t even like the guy. But as the two of them set out to uncover the true scandal-makers, Piers proves himself a surprisingly useful accomplice. Soon Charlotte’s growing attraction to him makes her wonder if she even wants to complete their mission…

Madison Faye

For a quick rebound to the erotic, Madison Faye’s books are even more salacious than Lauren Dane’s. If you were a fan of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty Quartet , you’ll love Faye’s similarly sexy fairytales: a series of five works fittingly titled Possessing Beauty . Or if fairytale retellings aren’t your thing, you can always turn to Dirty Bad Things or Her Daddies (again, you read that correctly), two other mega-popular works by Faye. Hailed as “quick and filthy,” these white-hot erotic romances will just about melt your Kindle clean away.

Must-read: Beasting Beauty ( Possessing Beauty #1)

Logan is the callous, cursed Prince of Torsund. Isla is the sweet youngest princess of Avlion. When they meet at a ball held by her father, sparks fly — and clothing flies off. Logan certainly is a beast in the bedroom, but that doesn’t mean Isla can’t find a way to tame him. Sweet, sexy, and savage all at once, this just-under-100-page novella is the perfect remedy to spice up a regular night in.

Pippa Grant

Pippa Grant is another reigning ruler of the Amazon charts whose specialty is, for lack of a better term, total jerks. The heroes in her stories are anything but heroic: we’re talking possessive exes, egocentric hockey players, and horrible bosses. Or at least they start off that way. With the help of their leading ladies — who are sometimes sweet, sometimes saucy, but always totally irresistible to the main guy — they turn over a new leaf and become much better humans . How’s that for an HEA? (Romance slang for “happily ever after.”)

Must-read: The Pilot and the Puck-Up

NHL player Zeus Berger is as cocky as his Greek god namesake, and he’s never failed to satisfy a woman… until he meets Joey Diamonte, former military special ops pilot and self-made businesswoman, who matches him in confidence and thoroughly surpasses him in smoothness. Unfortunately, their first encounter doesn’t quite go as Zeus planned. Now determined to prove to Joey that he’s more than one-night-stand material, Zeus will try anything to show her what he’s made of (besides muscle, that is).

Lorraine Heath

Lorraine Heath is an absolute staple of the romance genre. Since 2001, she’s turned out over a dozen different series in every subgenre from historical to paranormal. However, despite their quantity, her works never sacrifice quality — Heath has been especially praised for the genuine emotional depth and strong characterization in her writing. So if you’re looking for story-based drama rather than its cousin smut, you can’t go wrong with Heath's love stories.

Must-read: In Bed with the Devil ( Scoundrels of St, James #1)

Lucian Langdon, aka Luke, is scorned in London as the “devil earl” for his atrocious reputation. Lady Catherine Mabry needs help so desperately that she’s willing to strike a deal with him. Thus begins their relationship as co-conspirators… which of course, soon turns into something more. The delicious slow burn between the scoundrel and the lady also includes a pretty meaty social plot, peppered with plenty of tongue-in-cheek Dickens references .

Beverly Jenkins

Jenkins is a true trailblazer of diverse romance — she’s been writing since the nineties, and her books almost always feature African-American main couples, often set in times when that experience was overlooked. However, Jenkins makes a point of not writing exclusively about slavery. In order to represent a genuinely wide range of black history, most of her books take place between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement.

Must-read: Bring on the Blessings ( Blessings #1)

Though Jenkins is known for (and very talented at spinning!) her historical romances, this contemporary work is a great intro for first-time readers. In Bring on the Blessings , 52-year-old Bernadine Brown takes her wealthy, adulterous husband to court — and wins. A $275 million settlement, to be exact.

Adamant to “pay forward” her good fortune, Bernadine decides that her next project of choice won’t just be one man, but an entire town: Henry Adams, Kansas, which was founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. After purchasing Henry Adams on the Internet, Bernadine must work together with its stubborn mayor Trent July to bring the town back to its former glory… and perhaps find some glory in each other as well.

Lisa Kleypas

When it comes to historical romance, no one quite compares to Kleypas: she started writing in 1985, when she was only 21 years old, and hasn’t looked back since. Beginning with a few quick duologies, Kleypas eventually escalated to elaborate multi-book series, her most famous being The Wallflowers and The Hathaways . These books follow the members of various families in mid-19th century London as they attempt to find love in one way or another. Each story is also wrapped in a well-woven tapestry of historical context; indeed, one of Kleypas’ greatest strengths is her intimate knowledge of the era.

Must-read: Mine Till Midnight ( The Hathaways #1)

Amelia Hathaway has an awful lot on her plate. She’s figuring out her place in aristocratic society (which she’s just joined after a surprise inheritance), taming her wild younger siblings, and most recently dealing with her feelings for upper-class bad boy Cam Rohan. Cam, like Amelia, comes from not-so-noble stock — unlike her, however, he longs to return to it. This plan is complicated by only one thing: his desire for Amelia. And when she asks him for help in a sticky situation, he can’t say no to her…

Lauren Landish

Landish specializes in “sexy-as-hell book boyfriends,” as she says on her Goodreads page — one look at her rippling-muscle covers and you know you’re in for a good time. Her works can get pretty explicit, but she’s also got plenty of fun romantic devices to keep readers happy: meet-cutes, fake relationships, and reunited high school sweethearts abound, especially in the stunningly sexy Irresistible Bachelors series.

Must-read: Mr. Fixit ( Irresistible Bachelors #5)

Expert handyman Caleb Strong ( get it? because he’s strong? ) and Cassie White have been friends for over a year now, ever since they met in Hawaii. So when Cassie needs help renovating her childhood home, it’s only natural that she turn to Caleb. But actually having to watch him work proves a challenge in the self-control department… especially when she starts fantasizing about him working on something else. In other words, this book is pretty much the written equivalent of that Fifth Harmony song — if you liked that video, you’ll love Mr. Fixit .

Adriana Locke

On the other hand, if you prefer flawed, vulnerable heroes to totally confident ones, Adriana Locke might be more your speed. Locke has been in the romance business for just a few years, but she’s already turned out numerous series full of bad-boys-with-serious-damage (though of course, none of that stops them from eventually finding love).

Must-read: Crank ( Laundry Family #7, Gibson Boys #1)

Sienna Landry gets off to a bit of a rocky start with small-town mechanic Walker Gibson — namely, she busts up the front of his truck. For a guy like Walker, there’s nothing worse… except maybe the attraction he feels to this girl who’s just destroyed his most prized possession. Conflicted over Sienna in more ways than one, Walker still can’t seem to avoid her, and the shimmering tension between them mounts until it’s practically leaping off the page. But there’s something he’s not telling her — not least because he doesn’t want to think about it himself.

Julianne MacLean

Julianne MacLean (not to be confused with the next entry on our list) writes primarily historical romance, though she’s also branched out into contemporary on occasion. She’s best known for her American Heiress and Pembroke Palace series, which are sure to please fans of Downton Abbey and other early 20th century tales. Or if you’re a fan of Outlander , check out her excellent Highlander trilogy: a slow, sexy burn that includes Captured by the Highlander, Claimed by the Highlander, and Seduced by the Highlander .

Must-read: The Color of Heaven ( Color of Heaven #1)

Like Jenkins’ Bring on the Blessings , MacLean’s Color of Heaven series doesn’t exactly represent her larger body of work. However, it’s a good entry point for new readers — if also quite an emotional one. The Color of Heaven follows Sophie Duncan, a woman whose life goes off the rails when her daughter is diagnosed with leukemia and her husband cheats on her. But after a terrible accident, Sophie’s eyes open to everything she does still have, and she embarks on a newly buoyant journey of life, love, and revelation.

Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean has also found her niche in historical romance, but of a more traditional sort: she tends to stick to the Regency/Victorian periods, and she’s absolutely mastered the niche. As the author of over a dozen high-profile historical romances, and winner of several awards given by the Romance Writers of America, she’s one of the leading voices in the romance genre. Along with Lisa Kleypas (and Julia Quinn and Nora Roberts, both of whom we’ll get to soon), Sarah MacLean is essentially a founding mother of the historical subgenre as we know it today.

Must-read: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake ( Love by the Numbers #1)

Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is sick and tired of her title, especially since she’s never been able to live up to it. She’s more than ready to break the rules of ladyhood… but she can’t do it alone. And who better to recruit as her “accomplice” (the Regency equivalent of friends-with-benefits) than Gabriel St. John, a marquess and fellow eschewer of society? Of course, as Callie and Gabe grow closer, she realizes that she might not be such a nontraditional girl after all. The only question now is: can she tell him?

Courtney Milan

Milan is another prominent writer of WOC characters in romance, particularly characters of Asian descent. Though she’s also got quite a few “classic” historical romances in her repertoire, her most interesting and dynamic works to date include the Cyclone series, with an upcoming work entitled Show Me that will be an LGBT romance between two women of color. In the meantime, though, she has plenty of other captivating titles for readers to explore.

Must-read: Hold Me ( Cyclone #2)

This pitch-perfect amalgam of classic romantic setups involves both a) an enemies-to-lovers transformation, and b) a case of secret identities, as our main couple (unbeknownst to them) chats anonymously online!

Jay na Thalang and Maria Lopez have been running in the same Bay Area circles for ages, but that doesn’t mean they actually like each other. On the contrary, Jay’s misogynistic attitude gets Maria all riled up, and Maria’s apparent ditziness causes Jay to dismiss her. But as with just about every romance, things are not as they seem… as secrets are unveiled and revelations occur, Maria and Jay get thrown into a completely unexpected romantic odyssey.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Susan Elizabeth Phillips has been hot on the romance scene since the early eighties, and is credited with creating “sports romance,” in which the characters and plot revolve around some sort of athletics. She’s also been called the “Queen of Romantic Comedy” within the genre — at a time when most romance writers took the historical route, Phillips wasn’t afraid to get a little goofy. As the Nora Ephron of romance novels, Phillips is an essential addition to any self-proclaimed romance lover’s reading list.

Must read: It Had to Be You ( Chicago Stars #1)

New York girl Phoebe Somerville has just inherited the Chicago Stars — an entire football team of sexy-but-also-sex ist men, the worst of whom is head coach Dan Calebow. Dan isn’t exactly happy with Phoebe’s takeover, nor does Phoebe appreciate Dan’s constant snide remarks… yet neither of them can stay away from each other long enough to stop bickering. With warmth, humor, and irresistible chemistry, It Had to Be You is a veritable Super Bowl of a novel.

Julia Quinn

Like so many of the authors on this list, Julia Quinn has a fascinating origin story. In the early nineties, she decided to attend medical school; as she studied for the necessary prerequisites, she started writing romance novels on the side. She was then admitted to Yale Medical School, but realized she had already found her true calling. So she dropped out to become one of the most eminent historical romance writers of her generation — and is still writing today!

Must-read: The Duke and I ( Bridgertons #1)

It’s the ultimate high-society scheme: Lady Daphne Bridgerton and Duke Simon Basset are only pretending to court, so that Simon can avoid the clutches of actual marriage and Daphne can attract jealous men. (Exactly what you want in a partner, right?) Except now, Daphne is starting to have second thoughts about Simon — especially when they’re pressed together on the ballroom floor, and she can hardly keep dancing for desire. This Regency twist on the “fake relationship” trope will definitely make classic romance fans swoon.

“All the heat, all the heart,” is Rai’s signature slogan, and her brilliant, steamy, and wonderfully diverse books certainly live up to it. Though Rai is a relative newcomer, she already has five series under her belt and a reputation in the contemporary romance world for her innovative premises and vivid characters. (It hasn’t been released yet, but look out for her upcoming novel The Right Swipe , about two rival dating app creators who fall in love!)

That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts—and the last names that made them enemies.

Until the night she didn’t show up.

Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want . . . so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?

Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence—and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.

Being together might be against all the rules . . . but being apart is impossible.

Must-read: Hate to Want You ( Forbidden Hearts #1)

Just like so many of our couples, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler have a deal. Except theirs is limited to just one night of guilty pleasure a year — guilty because of the animosity between their families. They’ve been secretly hooking up for ten years, and each looks forward to that night of mind-blowing passion… until Nicholas gets too busy running his own family’s empire. Of course, Livvy’s not going to let him slip away that easily. Laden with passion but also profound emotion, Hate to Want You is Rai’s superb answer to sexy yet realistic romance.

Alexa Riley

Riley is another big Amazon chart-topper — unusual for a romance author with mostly standalone and short-series books. However, Riley’s edge over other authors might come from the fact that “she” is actually two writers, a duo of anonymous friends who have put out over 100 titles (!) since 2015. Also, similar to Madison Faye, Alexa Riley’s books are best described as quickies: many are 100 pages or less, but what they lack in length, they make up for in heat.

Must-read: PS... You're Mine by Alexa Riley

This Valentine’s special features a schoolteacher named Katie Lovely and a marine named Mark Gunner (did we mention that almost all Riley characters have hilariously tongue-in-cheek names?). In any case, Katie’s class is doing a pen pal project with overseas Marines, and she accidentally signs herself up, too… only to find her correspondence with Mark is, well, different than she anticipated. So don’t worry just because they don’t see each other in person (at least not at first) — those letters get hot and heavy pretty quickly.

Nora Roberts

If there’s one author on this list who’s a recognized household name, it’s Nora Roberts. Since 1980, Roberts has written and published an astounding number of romances — her website claims the number stands at over 215!

But this incredibly prolific production has not come at the cost of quality. Over the years, Roberts has been praises for her creative storylines, her wry sense of humor, and for pioneering the “dual shifting perspectives” style (i.e. two different narrators who switch back and forth) that has come to define the genre. She’s also been the recipient of countless Golden Medallion and RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America, and she’s had several of her books adapted into movies, including Montana Sky and High Noon .

Must-read: Born in Fire ( Born in Fire Trilogy #1)

It’s impossible to say that Born in Fire is the only Nora Roberts must-read, but it’s certainly one of her best. It centers on Maggie Concannon, a fierce-minded, free-spirited woman living in Ireland. And while she may work with glass for a living, Maggie is not easily shattered — until she meets money-minded gallery owner Rogan Sweeney, who wants to manage her career. The two butt heads as their working relationship progresses, but can’t deny their attraction — which grows even hotter than blown glass over the course of this story.

Nalini Singh

Singh is another very exciting new voice in the romance genre. She mostly writes paranormal romance, but of a particularly debauched variety; she’s especially known for her Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series, both of which are rife with racy scenes.

Nalini Singh dives into a world torn apart by a powerful race with phenomenal powers of the mind-and none of the heart.

In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of \'rehabilitation\' - the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was...

Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion - and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities - or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation.

Must-read: Slave to Sensation ( Psy-Changeling #1)

This remarkable hybrid of paranormal romance and science fiction establishes the world of the “Psy”: a ruling race that prohibits emotions (sort of like in The Giver , but much worse). Sascha is one of the few Psy who still feels pain and desire — but she can’t reveal this to anyone, lest she be forced into “rehabilitation.” Meanwhile Lucas Hunter is a part-human, part-animal changeling who needs Sascha’s help. Their connection grows and they soon find themselves struggling to resist the sensation between them… though they know it could be deadly.

Susan Stoker

Susan Stoker’s series are famous for adapting the classic damsel-in-distress scenario to the modern day. Her heroines are victims of spousal violence, sex trafficking, terrorism, you name it — but there’s always a valiant hero there to save the day. And while it might seem to contradict the rules of feminism for the men to be constantly rescuing the women, we’re actually grateful for a series that promotes men protecting their partners, when so many romances blur the line between abuse and love.

Must-read: Rescuing Rayne ( Delta Force Heroes #1)

As a flight attendant, Rayne Jackson’s whole life is up in the air — with the exception of the occasional down-to-earth tryst. One particularly memorable night was with Keane “Ghost” Bryson, a rugged, reticent Delta Force member. Of course, Rayne doesn’t know that, since Ghost kept his true identity hidden from her. But when their paths cross again under the most dire of circumstances, Ghost must put everything on the line to protect Rayne: not just his secrets, but his life.

Lauren Willig

The final historical romancer on our list, Lauren Willig has been writing since 2005. Her speciality is the Napoleonic era, and her works take particular inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel — another historical novel written by a woman almost exactly a century before Willig herself started writing. However, don’t worry about her work being derivative. Willig is most definitely one of a kind, and the rich history and complex characters in her books make for top-notch romance.

Must-read: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

With a frame narrative reminiscent of Susanna Kearsley, Willig tells this story through Eloise Kelly: a 21st-century American college student who goes to England to finish her dissertation. There she finds much more than academic motivation in the form of the “Secret History of the Pink Carnation” — a book about England’s most cunning spy during the Napoleonic Wars, and the thrilling romance that involved them.

We’ll round off this list with some good old-fashioned… erotica! Zane has been a prominent author in the erotic romance subgenre since 1997, when she started writing steamy stories for her own entertainment. Over two decades later, she’s now the publisher of Strebor Books with Simon & Schuster, and her works have been turned into a TV series and even a feature film.

Must-read: Addicted

Zoe Reynard is a successful businesswoman, a loving wife, a devoted mother… and a sex addict. No matter how she’s tried, she’s never been able to shake her “fatal attraction.” Now, as Zoe confesses to her therapist, she delves into her sizzling sexual history and dark childhood.  But her romance with her husband is still front and center — hence what makes this a genuinely gorgeous work and not just a salacious romp (though it has that going for it, too).

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Romance is one of the bestselling genres in the US. In fact, according to the Romance Writers of America (RWA), statistics show that romance novels make up more than 50% of all sales of mass-market paperback fiction in America. 

Romance is a popular genre because nearly everyone can relate to the thrills and challenges of love and its complications. Research shows that readers of romance include both men and women, with male readers making up about 9% of the audience (although the men tend to be less vocal about their interests).

The Best Romance Authors

If you want to be a fiction writer, one important piece of advice is to read extensively in your chosen genre. To write romance, immerse yourself in the writings of the bestselling romance authors. 

Or, if you simply want to sit down with a good, sizzling read, here are some of the best romance authors to choose from: 

1. Danielle Steel 

The bestselling author alive today, Danielle Steel has sold more than 800 million copies of her books. She is also the fourth bestselling fiction writer of all time, with more than 179 books, 146 of them fiction, to her name. 

Must Read: Zoya  

Steel shows her storytelling prowess in this romance novel featuring Zoya, a Russian countess who flees the Russian Revolution with her grandmother. When they arrive in Paris without a cent to their name, Zoya has to form a new life by joining a ballet company. 

2. Nora Roberts

The first writer in the Romance Writer of America Hall of Fame, Nora Roberts is known as the queen of romance fiction. Roberts is the pseudonym of Eleanor Marie Robertson, who also writes under other pen names, such as J.D. Robb. 

Must Read: Naked in Death by J.D. Robb 

This romantic suspense follows New York police lieutenant Eve Dallas on the trail of a heartless killer. What happens when she gets involved with one of her suspects in her investigation?

3. Nicholas Sparks 

Romance legend Nicholas Sparks’s books have spurred nearly a dozen big-screen adaptations, including A Walk to Remember , The Notebook , Dear John , The Longest Ride , and Message in a Bottle . 

Must Read: The Last Song

Three years after 17-year-old Veronica Miller’s parents divorced, “Ronnie” stays angry and estranged from them, especially her father. Then her mother makes the call of sending Ronnie to spend the summer with her father in Wilmington. 

Her father is a former concert pianist who is now living quietly in the beach town, preoccupied with creating his life’s masterpiece. The Last Song explores not just first love among young people but also the affection shared between parents and children, showing us how these valued relationships can both break and heal our hearts. 

4. Robyn Carr 

One of the most well-known names in romance novels since 1980, Robyn Carr fascinates readers especially with her Virgin River series, detailing different love stories set in a California forest outpost. 

Her stories in the series include unique characters, like a disgruntled sous chef or a tough marine who finds his soft side. Plus, it now comes with a Netflix adaptation starring Alexandra Breckenridge. 

Must-Read: Virgin River (Book 1 of the Virgin River series)  

After her husband dies, 30-something nurse Melinda Monroe moves to the secluded Virgin River—and finds it falling short of her expectations. In fact, the shabby conditions and the curt manner of the local doctor convinces her to leave, but the retired marine she meets changes her plans. 

5. Carolyn Brown 

Brown’s debut novel Love Is was published in 1999, and for the last 20 years she has written both historical and contemporary romance, specializing in cowboy romances. 

Her stories tend to be set in the South and feature a rancher with tall, dark, and handsome looks, and a heroine that has no radar for love: she’s likely too preoccupied with her child, or perhaps she’s struggling to let go of memories of her last relationship—but they end up falling in love anyway. 

Must-read: Long, Hot Texas Summer

Seventeen years ago, after having found her husband Jackson making out with another woman, Loretta Bailey walked out of Lonesome Canyon Ranch, supposedly forever. Now that Loretta and Jackson’s daughter drops her college plans to get married to a rancher, Loretta bristles and decides to go back to the ranch to work with Jackson—and finds him still as handsome and wily as ever. 

6. Lisa Kleypas

Expert storyteller Lisa Kleypas shines in historical romance. Having started writing at 21 years old, Klaypas began with duologies and moved on to multi-book series, with The Hathaways and The Wallflowers among the most popular. 

The author’s intimate knowledge of the time periods she sets her stories in gives her books a very solid historical background.

Must Read: Mine Till Midnight (Book 1 of The Hathaways Series) 

A surprise inheritance throws Amelia Hathaway right smack in the middle of an aristocratic society. Between that and needing to keep her younger siblings in check, Amelia finds her life crammed full—but not too full to notice Cam Rohan, a bad boy character who also came from less well-off roots. 

7. Sarah MacLean 

Specializing in historical romance, MacLean often explores the intersection of the romance genre with gender studies. 

Must Read: A Rogue by Any Other Name 

This first book in MacLean’s Rule of Scoundrels series perfectly carries out the fiction trope of the lady who turns out to be a bit naughty herself. 

8. Alyssa Cole 

Cole doesn’t stick to just one genre: most of her writing revolves around historical romance, but she also has a few contemporary novels in her collection. 

Must Read: Radio Silence 

This first book in the Off the Grid series combines a dystopian thriller story with romance. 

9. Susan Elizabeth Phillips 

A mainstay in romance fiction since the 1980s, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is known for her novels revolving around sports and athletes. She’s also known for playing with humor, earning her the title “Queen of Romantic Comedy.” 

Must Read: It Had to Be You 

Phoebe Somerville is a New York girl who has just inherited a football team, made of sexy and sexist athletes, led by the worst sexist of the group, head coach Dan Calebow. Phoebe and Dan clash from the get-go, but Phillips effectively weaves a tale of humor, warmth, and chemistry. 

10. Jane Austen 

Classic writer Jane Austen is best known for her 6 major novels, and the film adaptations of her books have added to her popularity in recent generations. 

Must Read: Pride and Prejudice 

This romantic novel follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, whose prejudices keeps her from realizing her developing friendship and attraction to the proud Mr. Darcy. Through her family’s experience with potential husbands, she also learns important lessons about appearances and genuine goodness. 

11. Julie Garwood 

Julie Garwood has 26 New York Times bestsellers in her collection and more than 35 million books in print. She points to her Irish heritage as a key to her success, a culture that has continued to have a strong emphasis on dramatic and detailed storytelling. 

Having started in young adult (YA) fiction, Garwood has since focused on historical romance, one of the most popular of which is her Highlands’ Lairds series. 

Must Read: The Secret (Book 1 of Highlands’ Lairds) 

Judith Hampton journeys from her comfortable home in England to the Highlands to be by the side of her childhood friend as she gives birth. She clashes with a Scottish barbarian named Iain Maitland, all while struggling to resist his passionate kisses and caresses. But what happens when she discovers a life-changing secret about her father? 

12. Debbie Macomber 

This New York Times bestselling romance author has sold over 200 million copies of her novels, and a few of her books have also been made into film adaptations. She is known for tackling complex relationships that include loyal friendships and family dynamics, giving her readers stories of hope and connection. 

Must Read: The Shop on Blossom Street 

Debbie Macomber shares her love of knitting in this romance novel set around a newly-opened yarn shop in Seattle, where four women come together in a knitting class to make baby blankets. They form a special friendship which takes readers on a heartwarming journey of hope, love, and renewal. 

13. Johanna Lindsey

Another expert in the historical romance genre, the late Johanna Lindsey has sold over 60 million copies of her more than 50 bestselling novels. Her first novel, Captive Bride , was published back in 1977. 

Must Read: Warrior’s Woman 

This science fiction take on the romance novel centers around Tedra De Arr, the fearless heroine who works to save her home planet from the evil Crad Ce Moerr. Challen Ly-San-Ter stands in her way and wants to take her back to his lair. 

14. Jude Deveraux 

Jude Deveraux is the New York Times bestselling author of over 40 books, having sold more than 50 million copies as of 2016. Her specialty is historical romance, but she also dabbles in paranormal and mystery subgenres. 

Must Read: A Knight in Shining Armor

Jude Deveraux weaves an excellent time-travel tale in A Knight in Shining Armor, with a present-day lady mourning over a tombstone in an English church, and a 16th-century earl who suddenly shows up, despite having supposedly died in 1564. 

15. Jayne Ann Krentz

Bestseller Jayne Ann Krentz writes under seven pen names, including Amanda Quick, Amanda Glass, and Jayne Taylor. She is best known for writing contemporary romantic-suspense and historical romantic-suspense. She has more than 35 million copies of her novels in print. 

Must Read: Smoke in Mirrors 

This romantic-suspense novel starts off with seductress and con artist Meredith Spooner stealing more than a million dollars and leaving the money in an offshore account for Leonora Hutton. 

15. Judith McNaught

Bestselling author Judith McNaught has 30 million copies of her more than a dozen contemporary and historical romance novels in print. 

Must Read: Almost Heaven  

This romance novel follows Countess Elizabeth Cameron, whose perfect reputation is torn to shreds when she is found in the arms of the social outcast, notorious gambler Ian Thornton. 

Favorite Romance Authors 

The best romance authors found success by crafting unforgettable stories, but it also took lots of practice.

If you have dreams of becoming a successful author , start by developing a regular writing routine, reading some of the best authors, and asking for feedback. Who knows? You just might become the next Danielle Steel!

Who is your favorite romance author? Share your top pick in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:

Yen Cabag

Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.



Try Field of poppies and also the Georgia Blessings series by Sharon Sala.

Daria Chykurova

Hey, what about Jennifer A. Nielsen, ally Carter, and Kiera Cass? They’re such good authors!


What about Colleen Hoover???

Cynthia Nesiba

Ellen Tanner Marsh? She had huge best sellers.


I must say Colleen Hoover SHOULD be on this list .OMG SHE IS A FIRE-CRACKER

Jackie Garcia

Isn’t JD Robb, Nora Robert’s? She was on the list!!


Where is Fern Michaels?! How is she not on this list?!


why is Alex Flinn not on this list!!!!!!??? That is ridiculous!!


How is Colleen Hoover , Jamie McGuire , Emily Giffin not on this list!!!!! I could name several others. All are worthy – Let’s update the list!!

Marcia Newton

My favorites are Colleen Hoover, Abby Jimenez, and Leigh Ann Duncan

Kaelyn Barron

Great choices, Marcia! Colleen Hoover has definitely become one of the most popular romance writers in recent years :)


How is Sandra Brown not on here? She is the best!


To me these are all great authors, but the only one that I read now is J. D. Robb. I think that you should up-date your listings. Toni Aleo, Sarina Bowen, Kris Michaels, Alex Kava, Jami Davenport, Alison Brennan, Suzanne Brockman, Catherine Coulter, just to name a few. Many of the ones you list are listed because of years ago, not because of what they have done recently.

Hi Pauline, thanks for your comment! We’ll work on updating this post :)

Abigail Mynx

Who cares whether these great writers have done anything recently! They are still great and deserve to be on the list, for those people who haven’t read them yet. List should be updated to add other people, not to remove.

lee v loyd

How can Linda Howard NOT be on this list???

Hi Lee, thanks for the suggestion! We’ll work on updating this post.


I think Judith mcnaught is the best…johanna lindsey and nora robert are also queens.

Thanks for sharing, Itunu! We think they’re pretty great too :)

Ali Eva

An author my mom got me started on was Janet Daily. I read all of her books that were written for each state in the US. I have many others by her or those her family has continued to write. She was actually from Storm Lake, Iowa. A mere hour north of my hometown of Carroll, Iowa. I know she passed in 2013 which was sad. I’ve not had a lot of time over the last umpteen years to do a lot of reading which I miss and especially now taking care of an elderly parent. I miss especially good romance stories. In my opinion, romance books shouldn’t be vulgar and explicit and have bad language. They are not enjoyable to read.

I am also a romance writer working on my sequel.

Hi Patricia, thank you for your comment and foe sharing about Janet Daily! I hope you’re able to find some time for yourself to enjoy more books, and best of luck on your sequel :)

Judith Burney

Betty Neals was one of the most prolific authors ever of clean romance novels. She wrote over 130 books before she passed away. Her books are available to purchase as e-books on Amazon. You can find her paperback books on e-bay and in second hand book stores.

Thank you for sharing, Judith! :) We’ll have to add her to the list!


I LOVE Betty Neels! When I was a teenager, I was reading her novels as fast as she was putting them out. Yes, that’s how old I am! :)


I love Judith McNaught she’s a very talented author


Where can I find romance novels of the 1980s? Such as Robyn Donald,s eg Captives of the Past?

Hi Kogi! There are some on Amazon , but there are also many on ThriftBooks available as inexpensive paperbacks. I hope this helps!

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11 Best Romance Authors to Add to Your Bookshelf Today

If you want to read a best-selling novel, you may reach for a romance novel, and these are the best romance authors out there.

In the United States, romance novels are some of the top-selling books of all time. Readers include both men and women, and the majority of the mass-market paperback fiction sales come from romance novels.

With so many authors publishing romance works, finding the right one to start reading feels challenging. This list will help narrow down your options to some of the best. 

11 Best Romance Authors

1. jane austen, 2. nora roberts, 3. beverly jenkins, 4. diana gabaldon, 5. danielle steel, 6. judith mcnaught, 7. julia quinn, 8. julie garwood, 9. lisa kleypas, 10. nicholas sparks, 11. sarah maclean, a final word on the best romance authors, faqs on the best romance authors, best authors reading list.

Best romance authors

Whether you are looking for ideas for your own fiction writing or simply want to read a good romance novel, the authors on this list are a great place to start. These are the best romance authors to add to your bookshelf today. 

Not all the best romance authors and books fall into steamy erotica. Jane Austen is a classic writer with six major novels. Her works have also been made into major motion pictures. 

Austen’s books capture life in the British landed gentry in the late 18th century. She explored the role of women in this society and wove quite a bit of romance, without sensuality, into her plots. Austen was born in 1775 to a prominent family and received her education at Oxford. She never married nor had any children but spent her life writing.

Though most of Jane Austen’s books are well-known in literature, Pride and Prejudice is perhaps the most famous. The story follows the smart Elizabeth Bennet as she falls in love with the charming Mr. Darcy. It has been the subject of many major motion pictures and a television mini-series.

Get the book on Amazon.

Pride and Prejudice: Deluxe Edition (Illustrated) - Golden Classics

Other well-known Jane Austen books include Sense and Sensibility, Emma,  and Mansfield Park .

Nora Roberts  was the first writer to enter the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. The New York Times bestselling author hails from Maryland. She tried her hand at writing for the first time while snowed in at home with her children. She married her current husband, Bruce Wilder, in 1985 and has traveled extensively.

Roberts is a prolific writer with over 220 novels to her name as of 2020. She publishes around five novels a year, and she also has several novellas to her name. Though technically romance books, they are also often placed under the suspense sub-genre. She also writes In Death books under the pseudonym  J.D. Robb .

Because she has so many books to her name, determining the best one is not easy, but many suggest starting with Black Hills . The book follows Cooper Sullivan; a rancher turned NYC investigator who finds love with his childhood friend while tracking down a violent killer. 

Black Hills

Other popular titles include Birthright and Tribute , and for those who don’t like suspense, Vision in White and The Next Always are both strictly romance.

Beverly Jenkins  also merges romance with suspense in many of her novels. Jenkins was born in 1951 in Detroit and learned to love reading and writing from an early age. As an adult, she became a librarian, writing romance novels in her breaks. In 1994, she published her first work, Night Song.

Jenkins’ work is unique because she focuses on romances set in the 20th century but surrounding African-American culture. Her historical romance novels, thus, touch on a time period of African-American history that is often not written about. She has received many awards, including a Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award and a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for historical romance. 

Jenkins has 65 books to her name. However, her first book, Night Song , remains one of the most widely read. Readers appreciate the realistic love story between Cara and Chase as they navigate this book.

Night Song

Other popular books include Jewel, Deadly Sexy, and Winds of Storm .

Famous for the  Outlander  novels, which are now a popular television series,  Diana Gabaldon  is a best-selling author who merges historical fiction with sci-fi adventure and quite a bit of swoon-worthy romance. Born on January 11, 1952, Gabaldon holds a doctoral degree in ecology but makes her money as an author.

Before publishing  Outlander , Gabaldon worked as a comic book writer for Disney comics. She also publishes technical articles and popular science articles, tapping into her extensive education.

Outlander  looks at what happens when 20th-century nurse, Claire Randall, gets stuck in a time travel loop, ending up in the 18th-century Scottish Highlands. Once there, she falls into a daring romance with James Fraser, despite having a husband in her own timeline. 


Outlander is the first book in a romance series that Gabaldon is still writing. She also has the Lord John trilogy, which follows a secondary Outlander character, and several novellas set in the same world.

A list of contemporary romance writers would not be complete without discussing  Danielle Steel , perhaps one of the top-selling authors of all time. With over 900 million books in publication, including over 200 books published in 43 languages. She has earned multiple awards and accolades, including the Order of Arts and Letters from the French government and Order of the Legion d’Honneur in Paris in 2014. 

When she is not writing, Steel is active in charitable work, with two foundations she founded and runs to address mental illness and help the homeless.

Choosing the best one is not easy with so many books to her name, but Fine Things remains one of her most popular. It follows the senior VP of a department store as he travels west to start a new store and, ultimately, find love. However, when the love story takes a tragic turn due to cancer, the main character must make some poignant decisions.

Fine Things: A Novel

Other popular titles include Palomino, Summer’s End, and The Gift .

Judith McNaught  has 14 novels and two short stories to her name, with over 30 million in print. She has won the Romantic Times Award for Best New Historical Novel, and several of her books have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Before starting her career as a writer, she worked in radio, movies, and finance. 

McNaught writes both contemporary romance and historical romance books. In the 1990s, she entered the romantic suspense category with her book Night Whispers. 

Whitney, My Love , which was McNaught’s first novel, regularly ranks as one of her best. It takes place in England, where the title character tries to win back her childhood crush, only to find herself bartered to a Duke she barely knows.

Whitney, My Love (1) (The Westmoreland Dynasty Saga)

Other popular titles include A Kingdom of Dreams, Once and Always, and Perfect .

Julia Quinn  is the pen name of Julie Pottinger, a writer of historical romance novels. Raised in New England, Quinn fell in love with books in middle school, even writing her first novel at that age, though that work never made it to publication. After finishing college without much direction, she started working toward med school and writing light-hearted Regency novels in her spare time. Suddenly, she found her first two novels were the subject of a bidding war, which led her to a career in writing. 

Quinn is best known for her Bridgerton series, which has become a Netflix series by the same name. Her early success as a writer caused her to drop out of medical school to write full-time. Her books are full of strong heroines, and she has a few awards from the Romance Writers of America. 

Because of the television series, The Duke and I , one of the Bridgerton novels, is her most popular work.

Bridgerton [TV Tie-in] (Bridgertons Book 1)

Other popular books that hit the bestsellers list include First Comes Scandal , The Other Miss Bridgerton,  and The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband.

Called the Rembrandt of Romance Novels,  Julie Garwood  grew up in an Irish family living in Kansas City, Missouri, where storytelling was a way of life. 

After becoming a mother, Garwood focused on raising her kids, then decided to publish her first historical romance after her children were in school. Today, she has over 40 million copies of her books in print.

Her most popular book, For the Roses , is now a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. It follows a band of brothers raised as street urchins and their abandoned baby sister, who was raised to be a lady.

For the Roses

Garwood’s other popular titles include Come the Spring, The Clayborne Brides Trilogy, and The Bride .

If historical fiction is your preferred reading choice, why not give some of these recommendations a try .

Lisa Kleypas  has an interesting history, including a stint as Miss Massachusetts In 1985. She attended Wellesley College and graduated with a degree in political science, then quickly transitioned to writing with her first novel at the age of 21. In 1998, she married and soon started a family, but she continued writing.

Kleypas has several awards to her name, including the Waldenbooks Award for sales growth, several RITA awards, and an Amazon Editor’s Top Ten Picks award. She writes both historical and contemporary romance novels.

Worth Any Price is considered one of her top works. In this book, the main character, Nick Gentry, sets out to find a runaway bride, only to find romance for himself.

Worth Any Price (Bow Street, Book 3)

Other popular books include L ady Sophia’s Lover, Where Dreams Begin,  and Dreaming of You .

Nicholas Sparks  is one of the rare men on this list. He has over 105 million copies of his works sold around the world. He was born in 1965 in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended Notre Dame, graduating manga cum laude. It was during his college years that he started writing.

Sparks wrote his first novel, The Passing, between his freshman and sophomore years of college. Before writing full-time, he worked in pharmaceutical sales.

Sparks is best known for  The Notebook , a book he wrote at the young age of 28. It was picked out of a slush pile and became an instant hit. The story of a life-long love between a couple who now reside in a nursing home was made into a major motion picture in 1995. 

The Notebook

Other titles from Sparks include Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember,  and Safe Haven , all of which are also motion pictures.

Sarah MacLean  is a romance novelist who has a bold take on her books. She grew up knowing she wanted to be a romance novel writer after falling in love with the genre because of reading her older sister’s collection. She started working as a literary publicist before publishing a young adult novel, her first work. 

MacLean’s books are known to be quite steamy, and they also have a strong feminist take. She also writes and speaks extensively on the merits of the genre. Her books have been translated into 25 languages, and she also writes for the Washington Post and New York Times. 

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake was her first adult romance novel, and it won USA Today Bestseller List status and the Romantic Times Magazine Seal of Excellence. 

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, 1)

Other books by MacLean include Wicked and the Wallflower, Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord,  and The Season .

The world’s favorite romance authors can create a compelling story and weave in plenty of steamy love connections. The genre remains a popular one, as more and more people are learning to enjoy the escape that comes from a good love story. 

Whether you are in the mood for a classic, historical novel or a steamy contemporary romance, you will find something to fit your needs with one of these authors.

If you have a favorite author, it’s always good to follow them on social media to stay up to date with the new releases. Alongside the above authors, we’ve created a great list of the best authors to follow on Twitter.  

Who are the best romance authors?

Based on the number of books sold, the best romance authors are: Jane Austen Danielle Steel Nora Roberts

What is the best romance book?

According to  GoodReads , the best love story is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks also lands on the list.

Best Historical Fiction Authors

Best Science Fiction Authors

Best American Authors

Best Self-Help Authors

Best Crime Thriller Authors

Best English Authors

Best Fantasy Authors

Best Children’s Books Authors

Best Horror Authors

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Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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The Best Romance Novels of 2022

The genre has had an exceptional year — one of its best of all time.

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By Olivia Waite

In this illustration, rendered delicately in shades of gray and buff, two billing birds perch on a pale green book lying on its side on a bookshelf. There’s a potted plant in the background.

Welcome to the first New York Times list of the year’s best romance novels! My teenage self would not have believed this list possible, much less that I’d be writing it.

The genre has had an exceptional year. (Other top candidates for Best Romance Year are 1992, which brought us Julie Garwood’s “The Secret,” Laura Kinsale’s “Flowers From the Storm,” and Amanda Quick’s “Ravished” and “Reckless”; and 1995, which had Beverly Jenkins’s “Vivid,” J.D. Robb’s “Naked in Death” and Loretta Chase’s “Lord of Scoundrels.”)

Many of the books below have been featured in this column before; a few are new, discovered as I circled back to titles I’d missed.

Best Contemporaries

For too long, I’d been craving a baseball romance book by an author who loves baseball and romance equally, and along came KD Casey’s FIRE SEASON (Carina Press, ebook, $4.99) , the story of two major-league pitchers who become roommates and then considerably more. Casey’s work feels as supple and lived-in as a fielder’s favorite glove, resilient but never rough, and the difficulties of queer identity in an entrenchedly heterosexual industry are handled with care but never allowed to steal the limelight from her heroes.

I initially skipped Akwaeke Emezi’s YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY (Atria, 278 pp., $27) because I thought it was more women’s fiction than romance — a mistake I regret, and which I’m thrilled to correct now. Widows are a stock character in romance, but rarely is the experience treated with such brutal depth as in this tale of Feyi, a young, haunted Black widow who falls for her new boyfriend’s famous father. The book is gloriously messy at the start, but like Feyi, it lights up when Alim enters: a queer and wildly charismatic Black chef who also knows about loss, and who is as foolishly, impossibly attracted to Feyi as she is to him. A modern masterpiece, and a perfect romance to start with if you come from the more literary side of the book world

Chencia C. Higgins’s D’VAUGHN AND KRIS PLAN A WEDDING (Carina Adores, 336 pp., paperback, $14.99) is a warmly funny love letter to queer Black women and the queer Black women who love them, disguised as a high-concept rom-com about a reality wedding show. Romances that decenter both whiteness and the gender binary are still dismayingly rare in traditional publishing, so to see a Black lesbian stud as a central character is like water on a parched bit of ground.

Higgins has a knack for writing scenes that are hilarious and natural, as opposed to the capital-H high jinks that often pass for the com part of a rom-com and that tend to stress me out. It is impossible to feel stressed while reading this book, even as you hold your breath to see whether D’Vaughn and Kris will make it to their televised wedding day.

As I read Mia Hopkins’s TANKED (Little Stone, ebook, $4.99) , I thought, Finally, an author brave enough to put the painful pandemic reality on the page of a romance — and then to insist a happy ending is possible in spite of all of that. Gorgeous and emotionally bruising, this story of a former underground fighter and a social worker out of work will wring you out in the best way, cementing this trilogy as one of my top contemporary series of all time.

Best Historicals

A romance lover’s romance, Alexis Hall’s SOMETHING FABULOUS (Montlake, 363 pp., paperback, $9.99) riffs ruthlessly on Georgette Heyer and other classic historical romance archetypes in a way that verges on surreal and anarchic, even as the emotional through-line (a domineering duke unlearning power while relearning himself and his desires) stays engagingly tender and sincere. Part of that is because our domineering duke is paired with bubbly, beautiful Bonny, about whom I cannot say enough good things. It was hard to pick just one of the four books Hall published this year; please admire my restraint.

When I think of Jeannie Lin’s Tang Dynasty-set RED BLOSSOM IN SNOW (Independently published, 300 pp., paperback, $14.99) , I think of scenes with a boat gliding up a river through a dense fog, and characters wrapped in silk, and a pervasive sense of yearning. Sadness is a necessary balancing flavor in romance, and Lin makes it shine like the moon in this tale of cross-class lovers, family secrets and murder. One of those breathtaking romances where the obstacles to true love feel staggering and insurmountable, even for the reader who knows very well how it’s going to end.

Best Paranormals

It’s been a very good year for paranormal romance, and one reason is Sangu Mandanna’s THE VERY SECRET SOCIETY OF IRREGULAR WITCHES (Berkley, 336 pp., paperback, $17) , an effervescent stunner about a lonely modern witch hired to teach three troublesome younger witches at an idyllic country house with gardens full of secrets. My favorite bits all come at the end, and I refuse to spoil them, but the joyous shock of this book’s finale has lingered since summer.

At the busiest time of the year, I found time to not only read Everina Maxwell’s queer sci-fi romance OCEAN’S ECHO (Tor, 460 pp., $27.99) but also reread it, and I found it even more delicious the second time around. Somehow, Maxwell has combined fake dating with a far-future military adventure, set it against a backdrop of vicious civil war and psychic powers, and made it lush and poetic. There are moments that gesture toward the crystalline beauty of “This Is How You Lose the Time War,” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, or the character-forward complexity of Lois McMaster Bujold’s beloved Vorkosigan series. One of the rare books that deliver at every level on every page.

Fantasy romances are on the upswing, with plenty of L.G.B.T.Q. love stories to boot. C.L. Polk’s second-world romance “Witchmark” brought home a World Fantasy Award in 2019, and this year they’ve graced us with EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END (Tordotcom, 144 pp. $19.99) , a queer women’s magical noir where every femme’s fatale. Helen Brandt, a private detective with only days left to live, is on the trail of a supernatural killer, and desperate to protect her beloved Edith from both those facts. Eerie, sharp and fiercely bittersweet.

My Favorite

My unabashed most-loved book of 2022? That would be THE DEAD ROMANTICS (Berkley, 345 pp., paperback, $17) , by Ashley Poston. The plot: A romance ghostwriter on deadline loses her father, and then encounters the ghost of her hot new editor, who cannot pass over until she finishes her latest manuscript. The feelings: swoony. The sentences: truly breathtaking.

This romance has haunted me since I finished it, and it has become the standard by which I’ve judged everything else from this year.

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24 Best Romance Novels of All Time to Get You in the Mood

Historical, contemporary and plenty of new steamy books.

romance writers best sellers

Whether you salivate over historical romance that takes you back to fluttering hearts of yesteryear, paranormal romance that proves you don't need flesh and blood to get frisky, rom-coms that pair hilarious misadventure with the steamy stuff or sexy stories that are too spicy for public transit, we've got a romance book to fit the bill.

Many of these great reads are romance-plus-other, so they're perfect for people who think they aren't into the genre. The romance realm has a lot to offer beyond the bodice-rippers you may have seen hiding in your mom's bedside table or waiting for impulse buyers at the grocery store checkout counter. Alongside the love stories that categorize the form, many of our favorite romances also feature exciting plot lines, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ love stories and lyrical language that keep us breathless right through the final page. Add these to your TBR pile, and don't forget to check out the Good Housekeeping book club once you're done, for even more fantastic stories.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (2018)

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory (2018)

You really can't go wrong with any of Jasmine Guillory's fun, romantic romps, but this sporty love story is especially great. Freelance writer Nik's boyfriend proposes at a Dodger's game, and the dude can't even spell her name right. She says no (obviously), and the video goes viral. Handsome doctor Carlos sweeps her away from the frenzy, but he can't possibly be the real deal. Or can he?

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (2016)

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (2016)

If you've ever carried a torch for a colleague (the scandal!) this novel will feel familiar. Coworkers Lucy Hutton and her sworn nemesis Joshua Templeman have a rivalry as bitter as they come, especially as they compete for the same promotion. At least, it starts out that way.

Vision In White by Nora Roberts (2012)

Vision In White by Nora Roberts (2012)

The prolific Nora Roberts has penned more than 200 romance novels, but this one earned top marks from her fans as the first installment in The Bride Quartet . Wedding photographer Mackensie "Mac" Elliot operates a wedding planning company with three friends. When a day on the job introduces her to sweet and stable English teacher Carter Maguire, their casual fling might lead to her own happy ending.

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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (2018)

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (2018)

More nerdy storylines, please! In this novel from Helen Hoang, Stella Lane is the genius mathematician who puts herself in remedial romance — by hiring escort Michael Phan to teach her the ins and outs of sex. We consider it the perfect equation for a great read.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (2022)

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (2022)

Chloe Green has spent her whole tenure at Willowgrove Christian Academy competing for valedictorian with the principal’s perfect daughter, Shara Wheeler. But when Shara kisses Chloe and then disappears on prom night, she leaves only a string of cryptic clues. Chloe forms an unlikely alliance with Rory, Shara’s misfit neighbor, and Smith, her quarterback boyfriend, to suss out where Shara has gone, ending with a dramatic finish no one will see coming.

Bared to You by Sylvia Day (2014)

Bared to You by Sylvia Day (2014)

If you like your romance in multiple installments, try the Crossfire series. Big city newbie Eva Tramell literally falls at the feet of billionaire tycoon Gideon Cross, kickstarting a steamy affair that reveals secrets from both their dark pasts. Sound familiar? There's a reason one Amazon reviewer called it the "soap opera version of Fifty Shades of Grey ."

Delta of Venus by Anais Nin (1977)

Delta of Venus by Anais Nin (1977)

If you've never read Anaïs Nin and call yourself a romance fan , fix that right now. This vintage short story collection's erotic vibes still hold up. But don't take our word for it — turn off the lights, slip into something slinky and try it for yourself.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

This classic is so old, it's free if you have a Kindle! And you should definitely take advantage of that – it's basically the O.G. romance novel. If you're already a Jane Austen fan, check out Curtis Sittenfeld's reinterpretation Eligible , which sets Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in modern-day Cincinnati.

Love at First Like: A Novel by Hannah Orenstein (2019)

Love at First Like: A Novel by Hannah Orenstein (2019)

Eliza co-owns a jewelry shop with her sister, and accidentally posts an Instagram of herself wearing a diamond ring on you-know-which finger. The photo blows up, and she realizes even a fake engagement is good for the ol' bottom line. But then she meets Blake. He's great, except for one thing: Blake doesn't know about her ruse, and Eliza doesn't know how much longer she can keep it all up.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)

They say you never forget your first love. Test that theory by taking a trip down memory lane with Eleanor and Park, two lovestruck misfit teens in 1986. They're smart enough to know young love never lasts, but brave enough to try.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1992)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (1992)

Before it became an epic costume drama on Starz, this time-traveling romance novel introduced the world to Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, and her Scottish warrior love interest ... who's living in 1743. This one's got it all: time travel, danger, intrigue and of course, plenty of love.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1979)

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1979)

This sweeping multigenerational tale of life on a sheep station in the Outback often gets described as "an Australian Gone With the Wind ," so if you love the Civil War version, try this one on for size. The romance primarily focuses on an illicit affair between Maggie, a resident on the remote ranch, and a handsome priest.

Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman (2017)

Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman (2017)

You may have already seen the film starring Timothee Chalamet, but this steamy love story between two young men in the Italian Riviera is worth a read either way. Pro tip: Grab a juicy peach before you crack the spine. Just trust us.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (2021)

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney (2021)

This quiet love story centers around Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon — four people trying to find their way in the world. Romantic entanglement ensues (this is a Rooney novel, after all) and you'll find your own allegiances shifting and changing as you read.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2014)

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (2014)

What happens when you fall in love with someone who lives on a totally different timeline? That's the story for Henry DeTamble, a librarian who gets unstuck in time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life progresses the conventional way. This romantic tale is as unique as it is beautiful.

RELATED: 102 Best Love Quotes That Will Make Anyone Believe in True Love

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (1996)

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (1996)

Say it ain't so, but we first watched *that* rain scene 15 years ago. Revisit Noah and Allie in the book about a South Carolina socialite separated from her summer love before their letters (and later notebooks) bring them back together.

A Lot Like Adiós: A Novel by Alexis Daria (2021)

A Lot Like Adiós: A Novel by Alexis Daria (2021)

From the superstar author of You Had Me at Hola comes another luxurious romance about a Puerto Rican career-focused woman with a nonexistent love life who gets a second chance with Gabrielle, the only man who ever made her heart race. Will they? Won't they? We'll never tell.

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams (2021)

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams (2021)

Twenty years ago, Eva and Shane fell in love over a whirlwind of a week. When they happen to reconnect in Brooklyn, Eva (now an erotica writer) and Shane (now a bestselling author) have a chance at closure, or rekindling the spark that brought them together in the first place. It's sexy, sultry and deliciously steamy.

Violeta by Isabel Allende (2022)

Violeta by Isabel Allende (2022)

Allende is one of the best romance writers of our time, and her latest doesn't disappoint. This epic story of a woman who perseveres two pandemics, war, the Great Depression and the battle for equal rights is not only a passionate love story but a testament to the strength of the human spirit.

Dead Collections: A Novel by Isaac Fellman (2022)

Dead Collections: A Novel by Isaac Fellman (2022)

In this wildly original LBGTQ+ romance, an archivist named Sol falls for a widow when she comes to donate her late wife's work. Sol suffers from vampirism, and has been sleeping in his office to avoid the punishing sun, and his nocturnal lifestyle makes dating a real challenge. As they fall for each other, they have to navigate grief, transphobia and the struggles that come with living two very different lives.

Headshot of Lizz Schumer

Lizz (she/her) is a senior editor at Good Housekeeping , where she runs the GH Book Club, edits essays and long-form features and writes about pets, books and lifestyle topics. A journalist for almost two decades, she is the author of Biography of a Body and Buffalo Steel. She also teaches journalism as an adjunct professor at New York University's School of Professional Studies and creative nonfiction at the Muse Writing Center, and coaches with the New York Writing Room. 

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Follow therichest.com, something new, these are the 10 best-selling romance novels of all-time.

'Romance' is one of the best-selling genres not only in movies, but in books as well.

If one would ask a devoted reader of romance novels what their favorite book of all time is, probably they won't get a straight response. Thousands of unique books in many subgenres are published every year, including well-known genres like historical fiction, the paranormal, erotica, and contemporary fiction. There are countless escapist love stories—and gratifying happily-ever-afters—to select from, and more reads are now easily accessible via e-readers and apps. It is clear why it would be impossible to pick just one. To focus on the genre's greats, here is a list of the top romance books everyone should read in their lifetime.

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10 Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan (2018)

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Iris, a senior in college, meets August, an NBA star, at a crossroads and instantly clicks with him. She is prepared to start her job in sports marketing, but her basketball-playing college boyfriend and an unanticipated life event prevent her from doing so. Years later, the two lovers cross paths, but Iris is inaccessible since she is involved in a toxic, abusive relationship, making their future seem improbable. With an estimated 200,000 copies sold, it is hardly surprising that the book won a RITA Award in 2019 for the best lengthy contemporary romance.

9 Anna Karenina By Leo Tolstoy (1877)

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With an estimated 300,000 copies sold, this best-selling straggling epic romantic tale transports you across continents for the sake of love. With more than 800 pages, Anna Karenina is one of the longer books, but those who persevere are richly rewarded. Leo Tolstoy takes us through a fascinating adulterous escapade and its consequences within Imperial Russian culture in what is generally regarded as the most fantastic romantic novel of all time. After Anna flees with Count Vronsky, the thrill of seeing their relationship fall apart is replaced with regret, loneliness, and paranoia. This love story paints a vivid picture of the joys and sufferings of romantic love.

8 Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1564)

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With an estimated 500 thousand copies published, this is one of the most well-known archetypal love stories, inspiring endless retellings and many authors. According to Loyal Books, Romeo and Juliet is a story about the mismatched lovers from rival families who created the majority of the rules of catastrophic love. Any aspiring love fan should read this book since it has moving passages and a climax that invented the romantic catastrophe genre.

7 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)

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Jane Eyre was a revolutionary book at the time, deftly tackling subjects like sexuality, religion, and classism. According to Britannica, Jane Eyre is an underprivileged young orphan seeking work and finding much more than she bargained for when visiting the mysterious Mr. Rochester's house. Jane, who is unsure and innocent, is drawn to her menacing employer like a magnet. The resolute, headstrong, yet utterly ordinary Jane is a rebellious breath of fresh air, especially considering that she was written when most romantic protagonists were mystically lovely. This book redefines what romance should be, with an estimated 2 million copies sold. Because of this, readers continue to like it now, more than a century later.

6 The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003) by Audrey Niffenegger

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Niffenegger's debut book, widely praised for its original blending of science fiction and romance, chronicles the lives of Henry and Clare. Due to a sickness, Henry travels through time in his personal life and his relationship with Clare. The unpredictable nature of Henry DeTamble's time-traveling talents controls this dashing and daring librarian. Artist Clare Abshire has an energy that unfolds naturally in sequence. The passionate yet complicated relationship between Henry and Clare develops over time, survives, and traps them in an improbable romantic trap that tests the power of fate and luxuriates in the bonds of love. The book won the British Book Award, Exclusive Books Boeke Prize, and sold over 2.5 million copies.

5 Love Story (1970) by Erich Segal

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Love Story , frequently referred to as the Romeo and Juliet of the 20th century, was the top-selling love novel when it was first published, was translated into more than 20 languages, and underwent numerous adaptations. In it, Segal narrates the tale of two lovers, Oliver and Jenifer, who come from different backgrounds but whose love grows until it forces them to deal with unexpected events. Worldwide, more than 20 million books were sold and Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw starred in the hit movie adaptation.

4 Outlander (1991) by Diana Gabaldon

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Although Gabaldon did not favor romance as a motif in her books, Outlander , published in 1991, received the RITA Award for outstanding romance the same year it was released. The series, which incorporates aspects of historical fiction with a beautiful romance , adventure, and conventional fantasy, has sold over 25 million copies and is a blend of numerous genres. A nurse from the 20th century named Chair Randall unexplainably finds herself transferred to the 18th century. She is currently in love with two men from a completely different era. Recently, a television series based on Outlander was created.

3 Gone With the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell

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The second most popular book in the country, this bildungsroman, is focused on the life of a rich plantation owner's spoiled daughter named Scarlett O'Hara and chronicles her journey through marriage, love, and the South during the Civil War. The only book Mitchell ever published, Gone With the Wind , sold over thirty million copies, earned Mitchell the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and was eventually turned into a movie.

2 The Notebook (1996) by Nicholas Sparks

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A popular creator of love stories and romantic books is American novelist Nicholas Spark . The Notebook , which is based on a true story that sold over 105 million copies, is one of his best books and tackles modern and historical romance. According to the plot, a man reads from a worn-out notebook to a woman who has deteriorating memory every morning. The journal contains Allie Nelson and Noah Calhoun's love story. After being ripped apart by World War II, Noah and Allie spend a single summer together; fourteen years later, they meet, but circumstances have changed, and Allie is now engaged to be married to another man.You'll be intrigued by the details of Allie's choice between marrying her fiancé and sacrificing everything for Noah.

1 Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen

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It goes without saying that Pride and Prejudice , a classic novel by Jane Austen, has endured the test of time after selling over 120 million copies and receiving countless adaptations and imitative works. When Elizabeth Bennet reaches the appropriate age, she has standards for relationships, marriage, manners, and love that are at odds with those of late-18th-century England. She has several uncomfortable interactions due to her independent nature, including one with Mr. Darcy, a proud and class-conscious bachelor, with whom she eventually forms unusual chemistry.

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