Give Love a Chance: A Beginner’s Guide to Romance Novels

Romance novels encompass a vast and diverse world that caters to all sorts of tastes and preferences, but what makes a novel a romance? The central driver of the plot must be a love story, and there is almost always an optimistic and emotionally satisfying ending.

The other components of a romance novel can vary. Stories can be contemporary or historical, they can take place in a small cozy town or across the globe in the midst of an intense adventure. Sometimes the protagonists just hold hands and give each other loving looks, but in more steamy tales things can get very spicy and detailed (these are often called "closed door" and "open door" romances, respectively). 

If you’re interested in trying romance, take a look at some of these popular subgenres and see which authors may be right for you.

Historical Romance

By stepping back in time, historical romance novels whisk readers away to different eras, often featuring lush settings, intricate costumes and grand narratives. These novels often blend history with captivating love stories, whether it's the passionate encounters between a fierce Viking warrior and a noble lady, or the forbidden romance blossoming amidst the backdrop of a Regency ball. 

Cold-hearted Rake – Devon Ravenel, London's most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late Earl's three innocent sisters are still occupying the house along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon's own.

Frederica – Determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, Frederica seeks out their distant cousin the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression on him that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society.

Wild Rain – In the wake of the Civil War, Spring Lee, running her own ranch in Paradise, Wyoming, second-guesses her resolve to avoid men when a reporter arrives to interview her brother and becomes enamored with her instead.

Contemporary Romance

Set in the present day, contemporary romance novels mirror the complexities of modern relationships. These stories can range from heartwarming tales of small-town love to steamy encounters in bustling cities. Exploring themes of friendship, family and self-discovery, contemporary romance novels offer relatable and realistic portrayals of love in the digital age. 

Party of Two – After a chance meeting at a bar leads to a passionate encounter, Olivia Monroe discovers that the stranger is a junior senator, but when their whirlwind romance goes public, their feelings for each other are tested as the media starts digging into Olivia's rocky past and current job.

Second First Impressions – A spoiled, tattooed rich man reluctantly agrees to become an assistant to two casually exploitative nonagenarians before unexpectedly catching the eye of the property's serious-minded manager.

The Heart Principle – When she suddenly loses her ability to play the violin, Anna Sun must learn to listen to her heart and falls in love with a man her parents disapprove of, forcing her to choose between meeting expectations and finding happiness in who she really is.

Paranormal Romance

For those who seek a touch of magic and the allure of the supernatural, paranormal romance novels provide an enticing escape. These stories often feature vampires, werewolves, witches, or other mythical creatures entwined in passionate romances. From forbidden love between humans and immortals to epic battles between good and evil, paranormal romance novels offer a thrilling blend of fantasy, suspense, and, of course, love. 

Storm Echo – A healer who has lost everything, Soleil Bijoux Garcia exists in a world of loneliness—until she meets a man her animal half knows from her past, but her memories are tattered fragments, leading her on a mission of vengeance that could decide the fate of the entire Psy race.

Acheron – Determined to solve an ancient mystery, a woman undertakes a forbidden quest that pits her against the Dark-Hunter leader and proud god Acheron, with whom she joins forces when ancient guardians and old enemies threaten them both. 

Dark Skye – Though centuries have passed since Thronos, Lord of Skye Hall, lost the one woman meant for him, nothing can cool his never-ending need for Melanthe. She was the girl he loved and lost as a boy, the girl who nearly destroyed him. Lanthe, a once-powerful sorceress struggling to reclaim her gifts, searches for love and acceptance with all the wrong immortal suitors. But she's never forgotten Thronos, the fallen angel who protected her until she was ripped from the shelter of his arms. Friends to enemies to... lovers?

Romantic Suspense

If you enjoy a healthy dose of danger and intrigue with your romance, the subgenre of romantic suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat. Combining thrilling plotlines with intense romantic relationships, these novels often involve a mystery, crime, or espionage element. Readers get to experience the adrenaline rush of solving a puzzle while following the protagonists' journey towards love. Notable authors who excel in this genre include Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown and Karen Robards.

Secret Sisters – Reuniting at the hotel where one of them was brutally attacked as a child decades earlier, Madeline and Daphne are forced to confront painful memories and truths in order to solve the mysterious death of Madeline's father.

The Witness – Elizabeth, usually obedient and studious, relaxes her guard and goes out to a nightclub and as a result, finds her life forever changed. Mystery and security become fundamental to everything she does.

The Last Move – Catching monsters helps FBI agent Kate Hayden keep her nightmares at bay. Now, an urgent call brings her back to San Antonio, the scene of her violent past. A brutal new murder shows the hallmarks of a serial killer nicknamed the Samaritan. The tricky part is, Kate had already caught him.