When it comes to romance reads, I’m kind of an addict. They’re fun, sassy (hopefully!), and overflowing with swoony moments, but best of all, they leave me with a smile, which is the best kind of reader payoff. This is why, as we approach Valentine’s Day 2020, I wanted to create yet another themed list, only this time instead of TV shows or films, it’s all about Valentine romance novels!
Originally, my idea was to make this more of a collaborative event, but because I’m always running behind, I didn’t get organized enough to make this work in a broader sense. That said, I did have a couple fellow bloggers add their picks, and I’m grateful. You’ll find them below, otherwise, it’s just me putting together a collection of potential readers – and seven that I really do want to read.
With no further preamble, let’s take a look.
20+ of the Best Romance Novel Reads (+ 7 I Want to Read!): Valentine Romance Novels
This list of novels varies from clean romance to hard PG-13 secular romance; below I try to include a content mention for most of the novels, but if you have any questions, let me know. Plus, I may add a few updates to this list here and there.
List updated February 13, 2020
1: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
In terms of novel form, I don’t know which of Austen’s is most romantic (because I don’t read classic lit), but I couldn’t create a list like this without adding a novel by Austen. Goodreads
2: Between Stairs and Stardust by Pepper Basham
Submitted by author and blogger Caitlyn Santi, she says, “This is a Cinderella retelling of sorts that features a truly delightful romance between a spunky heroine and swoon-worthy hero! This story is such fun to read, and in my opinion fairytales and Valentine’s Day go together like roses and chocolates!” Goodreads
3: A Match for Emma by Pepper Basham
Contributor Courtney says – “A contemporary friends-to-lovers romance set in small-town Appalachia that’s perfectly based on and inspired by Jane Austen’s classic Emma. After reading, you might have a craving for your local diner or, perhaps, want to play Scrabble with your bestie.” Goodreads
Clean – inspirational romance
4: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Sadly, this is again, not a novel that I liked as well as I anticipated, but the concept is cute. So there is that. Goodreads
This one is a hard PG-13 with uses of the F-word, and other profanity. Spoilers. Birdie and Daniel are intimate (more implied than descriptive), and not long into the book, Birdie confesses to a kind of “one night” tryst in the backseat of a car. There’s references to a suicide attempt.
5: Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof
Joanne’s novels are so unique, impacting and powerful. They have a unique ability to move the reader in unusual (but good!) ways, and this novel is one of THE most unique historical novels I’ve read. Goodreads
There may be some innuendo, but nothing “graphic.”
6: The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne
Do I talk about this book too much? Probably. Am I going to stop? Probably not. It’s cute, and the heroine is so adorably awkward, and I can relate on one (or more) level. Goodreads
PG-13, while nothing is graphic, this one does have sexual content, profanity, and is secular fiction.
7: The Selection by Kiera Cass
Riddled with controversy (readers other like it or don’t), this is one of my “happy place” reads. It’s simple, but so much fun, and that’s what makes it the perfect decompress read. Or at least it does for me! It follows a young woman in a dystopian world as she competes with other girls to win the heart of a prince. Only trouble is, she’s not exactly of the same class as the most popular contestants. Think of this as a kind of The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games (less intense!) with a dash of the Cinderella fable.
PG-13, while nothing is graphic, this one does have some suggestive content and is secular YA.
MORE: There are four additional novels in ‘The Selection’ series, and Cass has The Betrothed due in stores May 2020.
8: Heart of a Royal by Hannah Currie
Similar to Cass’ royal romance, this one takes a different approach in its storytelling, most noticeably so in the way the characters search for meaning, and God’s love. Otherwise, its plot is similar.
9: A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese
This novel surprised me in the best sense, and I loved it. Plus the romance is swoony! Goodreads
10: A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
11: Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
“This retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is set during the Roaring Twenties. It features three young couples in various stages of romance, and I have a hard time picking which couple is my favorite. Wait, no, I don’t — it’s totally John and Maggie.” – Rachel | Goodreads
12: Somewhere Only we Know by Maurene Goo
Not all that far into this one (yet), but so far it’s cuute! Goodreads
Secular YA, this one would earn a PG-13 rating for some profanity, and innuendo.
MORE: Find I Believe in a Thing Called Love or The Way You Make Me Feel, also by Maurene.
13: A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund
There’s a decent number of novels by this talented historical novelist that I have as yet to read. BUT if my memory serves me, I feel as though this is one of her most romantic (at least of those I’ve read). Goodreads
Rating this one no more than a PG.
MORE: Jody also pens YA medieval romances available as a 4-book collection in her ‘Noble Knights’ set, and other adult fiction, including book one of the ‘Bride Ships’ series, Reluctant Bride
14: The Goodbye Bride by Denise Hunter
This one is no more than a PG-rating.
MORE: Make sure to look up Denise’s newest release, Lake Season or find the entire ‘Summer Harbor’ collection (including The Goodbye Bride), too!
15: The Morning Gift by Eva Ibotson
Added to our list courtesy of a blogging friend and fellow romance novel reader, here’s what Renee says about The Morning Gift: “I absolutely love The Morning Gift. I’m currently reading it as part of Rachel McMillan’s Readalong this month, but it has been one of my very favorite romances for quite a while. It is set just prior and into WW2 in Vienna and in England. It’s a marriage of convenience story, with a wonderful love story that develops between the two main characters and there are some sweet secondary romances too.” Goodreads
Rating: It’s probably PG-13 because sex is mentioned, but there are no explicit on page details. It’s marketed as a YA book. *Rachel McMillan adds: “also there is one on-page sex scene in Morning Gift; but it isn’t graphic”
16: A Glitter of Gold by Liz Johnson
Courtney shares – “This contemporary adventure has the perfect balance of fun antics and characters with vulnerabilities, complete with hidden treasure, pirates, and TWO romances! One between the contemporary couple and another told through a family heirloom diary featuring a young lady and the ship captain himself.” Goodreads
Clean – inspirational romance.
17: A Girl’s guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate
Whether its heroines with excess sass or heroes sure to make you melt, Jessica Kate may be a new kid on the block, but her sophomore novel shows no signs of this. ‘Girl’s Guide’ is sassy, fun and a whole heck of a lot of culture shock (and we love it!).
Rated PG, with nothing of note to mention.
MORE: Read Jessica’s debut novel, Love and Other Mistakes or discover her “sassy” shorts by signing up for her newsletter.
18: Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Cute, and fun, this one plays on the popular social media trends by striking up a “war” between two teens who run Twitter accounts for their respective (and competing!) family businesses. Goodreads
PG-13, while nothing is graphic, this one does have some suggestive content, profanity [including 2-3 F-words] and is secular YA.20+ of the Best Romance Novel Reads (+ 7 I Want to Read!). Sharing a list of Valentine (or ANYTIME!) romance reads; what's your favorite? #RomanceFiction #ValentinesDay #MustRead #CleanRomance Click To Tweet
19: The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews
Courtney of The Green Mockingbird contributes this title and says – “All of Mimi’s Regency and Victorian novels feature dynamic and swoony romances. I recommend starting with The Matrimonial Advertisement, the first in a series. Its setting of a remote abbey on the seaside cliffs of Devon is a dramatic backdrop to the marriage-of-convenience romance between a broody hero and a distressed lady who is trying to take charge of her own life.” Goodreads
Content: clean romance with mild innuendo, very little mild era-appropriate profanity (like d*** & h***).
20: The Blue Castle* by L.M Montgomery
Author and fellow blogger, Rachel says of this classic romance, “The unconventional romance in this book gives me all the fuzzy feelings. This is Montgomery’s only novel aimed at adults, and it shines with humor, warmth, and beauty.”
*After countless people hyped this book, I did start to read this one just last week, and am glad Rachel felt it
21: Love at First Like by Hannah Oresnstien
Didn’t personally love this one (not like I anticipated anyway), but it’s a fun concept. Goodreads
There’s multiple uses/forms of the F-word (first 10 pages before that drops to a mere few); and commonplace uses of profanity. There’s 2-4 sex scenes, and while some are a bit descriptive, none ever become graphic. The novel would certainly be a hard PG-13.
22: The Cupcake Dilemma by Jennifer Rodewald
“When I think Valentine’s Day reads I think short, quick reads that have a romance that will give me all the warm fuzzies! This novella features a lovely romance that is full of heart as well as witty moments, and I believe it is actually set right around Valentine’s Day! Plus, could that cover be any more perfect for a Valentine’s read?!” – Caitlyn, of Just Your Average Reviews | Goodreads
23: Risking Love by Toni Shiloh
Recommended by Caitlyn: “The heroine of this book has a very painful past that has left her distrustful of men,, and the way the hero gently pursues her and shows her she can trust him never fails to make me swoon! This is a truly epic love story that touches the heart and reminds the reader how much God loves them!” Goodreads
24: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Though I’m not an advocate for romances that separates the couples, this one is really quite good. Goodreads
Secular YA, but this one is a “clean romance.”
MORE: Enjoy more by Jennifer with Hello, Goodbye and Everything In-Between, and Windfall.
25: First Impressions by Debra White Smith
If you like Hallmark-esque stories and Jane Austen, you might enjoy this recently re-published novel that, you guessed it, re-tells a modern version of Pride and Prejudice. Goodreads
26: From the Start by Melissa Tagg
Melissa’s book sparkle, but one of the things I love best about them are her meet-cutes! Goodreads
27: The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner
It’s been far too long since I read this one, but golly, I remember loving it. Pretty sure I wore a ridiculous smile the entire reading experience, and I’m 100% okay with this; it’s an inspirational romance with plenty of SASS! I am here for this needless to say. Goodreads
While never inappropriate, this one does have some spunk and sass and as a result, there’s some minor innuendo.
MORE: Wooing Cadie McCaffrey is also by Turner.
28: My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade
This is perhaps the one novel by Becky I don’t talk about much, but it’s memorable and worth being on any romance readers TBR. Goodreads
MORE: You can also discover more of Becky’s novels in the Porter Family series or her upcoming novel, Stay with Me (May 2020).
29: When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren
I remember this one surprising me – in all the best ways. It’s a romance, yes, but it also breaks out hearts a little bit, and in this case, that’s not a bad thing. Goodreads
This one is a “clean romance.”
MORE: Read more from Susan with the Christiansen series collection, which includes When I Fall in Love.
30: Fame, Fate and the First Kiss by Kasie West
None of my book lists are complete without one (or two!) novels by this author. Her books are fun, light-hearted and best of all, adorably swoon-y. This one plays on the “teen heartthrob” culture complete with a movie set, and a sprinkling of mystery, too! Goodreads
PG, while nothing is graphic, this one may have some [minor] suggestive content and is secular YA.
MORE: West has an impressive backlist of titles including P.S. I Like You (darling!), By Your Side, Maybe this Time, and this spring, Moment of Truth.
7 MORE I WANT TO READ!
As I haven’t read these, I cannot comment on content; but many are secular, so I’m sure the usual would be expected
- 1: The Dating Charade by Melissa Ferguson | Don’t know much about this one beyond it sounds cute, and doesn’t this cover “scream” Valentine’s Day (or ideal-romance-read?).
- 2: Heart Strings and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
- 3: Austenland by Shannon Hale | Love the film, so someday reading this is a must.
- 4: Prince Charming by Rachel Hawkins
- 5: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary | I have no idea what this one will be like, but it sounds adorable.
- 6: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch.
- 7: Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters | Got this one after a preorder, and it sounds so fun.
With thanks to contributor’s Caitlyn (author and blogger at Just Your Average Reviews), Courtney (blogger at The Green Mockingbird), Rachel (blogger and author of Hamlette’s Soliloquy) and Renee (blogger, writer and reviewer of Black ‘n’ Gold Girl’s Bookspot); I appreciate your add ons and willingness to join the fun. Thank you.
Have you read any of these? Do you want to? Which books or types of fiction would you add on this list? Comment all of your thoughts in the comment section – I’ll see you there!