My love affair with romance novels began when I was a child and I would read the novels my grandmother got in the mail from Harlequin’s book service. Love stories have captivated me ever since! The romance genre is one that I often see being made light of, not taken seriously in the literary world, and lauded as ‘cheesy’. While there are undoubtedly some romance novels that do fall under the category of cheesy (let’s be honest, sometimes that’s part of the fun of reading this genre!), they have come a long way from those paperbacks featuring buff, shirtless male models on the cover that I saw in so many grocery checkout lines as a kid.
The romance novels of today, if you know what you’re looking for, are so incredibly diverse, smart, and as compulsively readable as thrillers. Most are way more than just two people falling in love. A varitey of real-life issues are depicted in many (The Flatshare, in particular, comes to mind), and there are often secondary plotlines with elements of suspense, personal growth, family issues, and more. When putting this list together I tried to cover a wide array of subgenres in the romance world: contemporary, historical, Own Voices, disability representation, young adult, and paranormal. I think there is a romance for everyone on this list. If you’re already a devotee to the genre you can discover a new favorite and if you’re not the biggest fan of romance, February is the perfect time to give it a try! –Amanda