The Beginner's Guide to Reading Romance

Posted by Marie on February 5, 2019
They say you always remember your first. But if you're a rookie when it comes to the romance genre, knowing where to start can be daunting. Not only does romance have a long and rich history, it's also extremely prolific. So before you dive into what's new and trending, this list can help you build a solid foundation.

To create this guide, we focused on the biggest subgenres. From there, we included these subgenres' most highly rated authors and featured their most popular books. Remember to add your own recommendations in the comments, and don't forget to add what's alluring to your Want to Read shelf!


Historical Romance


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Paranormal Romance


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Contemporary Romance


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Romantic Suspense


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Which books would you recommend to novice romance readers? Tell us in the comments!

Check out the complete coverage of Romance Week:
50 Romance Books to Read Based on Beloved Favorites
Legendary Literary Couples Live on in Countless Retellings
26 of the Hottest Romances of 2019

Comments Showing 1-50 of 147 (147 new)


message 1: by Kirsti (new)

Kirsti For an authentic and accurate historical romance with genuine, relatable and lovable characters, I highly recommend Mary Balogh.


Me Like Reading Shout outs to Tessa Dare, J.R. Ward, Nalini Singh, Karen Marie Moning, Emma Chase and Kristen Ashley (Jill Shalvis and Robyn Carr are also awesome)...but I would recommend Pamela Clare to a romance genre newbie, not only for romantic suspense but she has fantastic books in the historical and contemporary sub genres as well.


message 3: by Alda (new)

Alda  Delicado I would like to recommend Tracy Cooper-Posey's titles - she has a huge collection within different kinds of genres (historical, paranormal, thriller,...) very entertaining and original.


message 4: by Raymond (new)

Raymond Thompson For those who enjoy Regency romances, Mary Balogh should be at the top of the list, though I suppose it depends upon what you are looking for. Those seeking frequent scenes of graphic and steamy passion, or female heroes able to outfight and outshoot any man, might prefer different authors.


message 5: by MaryAnn (new)

MaryAnn LaVyrle Spencer, Johanna Lindsey, Kristen Hannah, Julie Garwood are my favourite authors.


message 6: by Deb (new)

Deb Raymond wrote: "For those who enjoy Regency romances, Mary Balogh should be at the top of the list, though I suppose it depends upon what you are looking for. Those seeking frequent scenes of graphic and steamy pa..."

Interesting, because I found Balogh included way too many scenes of graphic and steamy passion...


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan Kirsti wrote: "For an authentic and accurate historical romance with genuine, relatable and lovable characters, I highly recommend Mary Balogh."

totally agree!


message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan Raymond wrote: "For those who enjoy Regency romances, Mary Balogh should be at the top of the list, though I suppose it depends upon what you are looking for. Those seeking frequent scenes of graphic and steamy pa..."

I agree!


message 9: by Dana (new)

Dana Cristiana I recommend How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern. She is a genius!


message 10: by Raymond (new)

Raymond Thompson Deb wrote: "Raymond wrote: "For those who enjoy Regency romances, Mary Balogh should be at the top of the list, though I suppose it depends upon what you are looking for. Those seeking frequent scenes of graph..."

Too many? Depends on which book you are thinking about, but I agree that such scenes soon become repetitive. They can serve a useful function (to account for changes in attitude and behavior, for example), but restraint is more effective, paradoxically. In her better books, Balogh achieves a reasonable balance, in my opinion.
Actually, I strongly suspect that agents and editors are largely to blame for the proliferation of such scenes, at the insistence of marketing departments, needless to say. Another trend that will wear itself out eventually. I hope.


message 11: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Davis Level Up (Fandom Hearts, #1) by Cathy Yardley Hooked (Fandom Hearts, #1.5) by Cathy Yardley One True Pairing (Fandom Hearts, #2) by Cathy Yardley Game of Hearts (Fandom Hearts, #3) by Cathy Yardley What Happens at Con (Fandom Hearts, #4) by Cathy Yardley Ms. Behave (Fandom Hearts #4.5) by Cathy Yardley Playing Doctor (Fandom Hearts, #5) by Cathy Yardley

The Fandom Hearts Series by Cathy Yardley is freaking fantastic! Geek girl romances totally do it for me!

✓ Smart Women
✓ Feminism
✓ Diversity
✓ Positive Female Friendships
✓ Steamy Romance


message 12: by Dhfan4life (new)

Dhfan4life Kind of missed Sherrilyn Kenyon. I know not ALL of her books touch EVERYONE all of the time. But there are still plenty of great characters that people love and re-read their stories time and again.


message 13: by Marieke (new)

Marieke Burchett In the Romantic Suspense column: Tami Hoag. More specifically her novels from 1992 thru 1997 (Still Waters, Cry Wolf, Dark Paradise, Night Sins, Guilty as Sin, A Thin Dark Line). They blend a good romance with steamy tension, and expertly plotted thrillers (nowadays these are Ms Hoag’s main style of novels, and also well worth a read.)


message 14: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallery, Marie Force, Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre, Brenda Novak and Robyn Carr write great books.


message 15: by Lynn (new)

Lynn I agree about Mary Balogh and recommend Jo Beverly. Unfortunately, I found her books just when she died, so her back list is all that will ever be. In paranormal, nothing beats the vampires of Joey W. Hill!


message 16: by Seantheaussie (new)

Seantheaussie What about people who like laughter with their romance?

The hilarious books now on my romcom reread list are —
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5...
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6...
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...


message 17: by Jess (new)

Jess It's a crime that there is not a single Beverly Jenkins book in the Historical romance section.


message 18: by Marie (new)

Marie What about the subgenre "sweet/clean" romance? Or is that a sub-subgenre? Because each of these subcategories have romance that ranges from "squeaky clean" to "graphic smut". I really wish the was a way to know the difference, though half naked people on the cover usually indicates something graphic. 🤷‍♀️


message 19: by Joy (new)

Joy If your looking for humorous romance I love Carly Phillips, Janet Evanovich, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rachel Gibson, and Jennifer Crusie. Whenever I want to read a romantic comedy I reach for one of their books.


message 20: by J.T. (new)

J.T. Salen So many great Contemporary Romance authors in the list. Christina Lauren, Penelope Ward and Jojo Moyes each have their own voice. Other CR authors worth mentioning: Penelope Douglas, Jessica Sorensen, Jamie McGuire, Emily Snow.


message 21: by Joann (new)

Joann For historical romance start with Kathleen Woodiwiss' A Rose in Winter. Still one of my very favorites after all these years. Then move on to her other titles, including Ashes in the Wind, Shanna and The Flame and the Flower.


message 22: by Lois (new)

Lois Cliff Lucy Score is laugh-out-loud funny, but can also make you cry - heartwarming with hot heroes and feisty heroines in the contemporary romance zone.


message 23: by Mary (new)

Mary For Regency Romance I think everyone should start with Georgette Heyer (and Jane Austin if you haven't already read her) who I feel is modern mother of this genre. Heyer was writing primarily in the '30s and '40s I believe but tells a ripping good story. Her books enjoyed a comeback in the early '60s and most of them have been republished yet again in the 2000s. For those who feel there is too much graphic sex in Mary Balogh's books try finding her earliest books as they have less of that. I find her characters interesting and her historical detail and use of language is good.


message 24: by April (new)

April Joy For Melissa and others who like geek girl romances, check out Lexi Carmichael - mystery and romance. Absolutely a ton of fun.


message 25: by Ann (new)

Ann Higgins For Regency Romance I totally agree with Mary, that the start for new readers should be Georgette Heyer. And, of course, Jane Austin is a given. Mary Balogh's books stay quite true to the period and are well written.


message 26: by S (new)

S Gooding Marcia wrote: "Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallery, Marie Force, Barbara Freethy and Bella Andre, Brenda Novak and Robyn Carr write great books."

I agree and add Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Kristan Higgins.


message 27: by S (new)

S Gooding Joy wrote: "If your looking for humorous romance I love Carly Phillips, Janet Evanovich, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rachel Gibson, and Jennifer Crusie. Whenever I want to read a romantic comedy I reach for one of t..."

Yes, I really like Janet Evanovich and Rachel Gibson.


message 28: by S (new)

S Gooding Joann wrote: "For historical romance start with Kathleen Woodiwiss' A Rose in Winter. Still one of my very favorites after all these years. Then move on to her other titles, including Ashes in the Wind, Shanna a..."

Kathleen Woodiwiss is one of the first romance authors I ever read. I still think her books are great. The other author that was one of my firsts which I think would be romantic suspense was Victoria Holt.


message 29: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Davis April wrote: "For Melissa and others who like geek girl romances, check out Lexi Carmichael - mystery and romance. Absolutely a ton of fun."

Thank you for the rec! I just added the 1st book to my list!


message 30: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Historical I would add Elizabeth Lowell's Medieval Series (Untamed, Forbidden, Enchanted) and Jennifer Blake's Prisoner of Desire.


message 31: by Kathy (new)

Kathy Cohen Let's go back in time and add Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Kathleen Woodiwiss, the early Roberta Gellis


message 32: by Kayomie (new)

Kayomie I'd add Sherrilyn Kenyon for paranormal romance and she has a few series as an option, also Kelly Armstrong's paranormal romance series that starts with Bittwn


message 33: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca are there any queer romances on this list? I expected to have a sub genre dedicated to them, and I’m definitely disappointed.


message 34: by Jenny (new)

Jenny For contemporary romance, I would reccomend Louise Bay and for Romantic Suspense, Elizabeth Dyer. Love, Love, Love these two Authors!
And in Contemporary a shout out to Sylvia Day's Crossfire Series.


message 35: by Karina (new)

Karina Almeroth Two words....Judith McNaught!!!!


message 36: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca I really like Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson (great characters, fun plots, humor). For paranormal romance I like Ilona Andrews.


message 37: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Missed my #1 paranormal romance author: Kresley Cole.

And two other great historical romance authors: Elizabeth Hoyt and Sabrina Jeffries


message 38: by Shari (new)

Shari Suarez I would recommend Julie Garwood's contemporary novels, Samantha Young, Kristen Proby, Christina Lauren, Alice Clayton and Jill Shalvis.


message 39: by Dawn (new)

Dawn My all time favorite is Kristan Higgins, she has several stand alone's and her Blue Heron series is phenomenal! Her writing style is fun but the characters have a lot of depth.

I am a huge fan of Lavyrle Spencer, if you are just starting with romance she writes great stories with lots of emotion.

I agree with other posters on the historical side, Georgette Heyer, Mary Balogh, can't go wrong.


message 40: by Saikaah (new)

Saikaah NLN Anything by Colleen Hoover! I can’t believe she’s not in this selection 🥺


message 41: by Mary (new)

Mary Lynch Any Janye Krentz/Amanda Quick, I agree with message 36 for Susan Elizabeth Phillips


message 42: by Annette (new)

Annette C I wholeheartedly recommend Kristan Higgins for contemporary romance. Her entire back catalog and all the way to her latest book "Good Luck with That" are absolutely wonderful. All her characters are realistic and relatable, dialogue is witty and delightful and yet, there are scenes in each book that bring a few tears. She writes books you can share with your mom, daughter, aunt and best friends. I love her writing and I know you will too.


message 43: by Molly (new)

Molly I don't know if anyone could help with this, but I want romance & passion WITHIN a great story. I've read a few romance novels and they're all along the same vein (rich man makes woman's dreams come true in bedroom and financially - BLEH).
I recently read City of Brass (not a romance novel) & LOVED it, but I just wanted some crazy hot sex between Dara & Nahri. I want a good story, bonus if it's funny, and some great romance and erotica kind of sprinkled throughout. Probably not a book with a shirtless man on the front.
Any recommendations?


message 44: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Rebecca wrote: "are there any queer romances on this list? I expected to have a sub genre dedicated to them, and I’m definitely disappointed."

Sarina Bowen has a few m/m titles that I love! Written with Elle Kennedy, Him and Us are both good ones. The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward has an m/m that has such great buildup through the previous books in the series!


message 45: by Seantheaussie (new)

Seantheaussie Molly wrote: "I don't know if anyone could help with this, but I want romance & passion WITHIN a great story. I've read a few romance novels and they're all along the same vein (rich man makes woman's dreams com..."

For this I go to urban fantasy series like Mercy Thompson, Kate Daniels and The Tales of the Lupi.


message 46: by Sunny (new)

Sunny I think Hearts in Darkness (Hearts in Darkness, #1) by Laura Kaye is the perfect gateway book. A novella length story that has great characterization, drama and smoking hot connection between the hero and heroine. I recommend it to everyone.


message 47: by Sunshine (new)

Sunshine Lauren Dane, Carrie Ann Ryan, Maya Banks, Cherise Sinclair are all really good romance writers. Tending toward paranormal and suspense romances, but also contemporary romance and even sci-fi romance.


message 48: by Shawna (new)

Shawna Sears I read primarily in the paranormal romance genre. Here are my suggestions:
Alien romance: Susan Hayes, Tamsin Ley, Kiersten Fay, and Kate Rudolph.
Angel/Demon romance: Felecity Heaton, Larissa Ione, Adris Bear
Shifter romance: Carina Wilder, Zoe Chant (sweet), R.L. Kenderson, GA Aiken and Alisa Woods
Fairy tale romance: Vivienne Savage, Demelza Carlton, and Jennifer Blackstream
Vampire romance: Dianne Duvall, Felecity Heaton
High Fantasy (general): Thea Harrison, Lisa Blackwood, Danielle Monsch, Jacquelyn Frank
Erotic anything: Evangaline Anderson
And for general romance hi-jinks and fun without drama that are quick, you can't go wrong with Eve Langlais. Another couple of cute and not generally too dramatic authors would be Dakota Cassidy and Kristen Painter (her stuff is probably pretty close to clean).

As you can see, this sub-genre should have sub-genres. Hope this helps out any newbies wanting to fall into the glorious pit that is paranormal romance. WELCOME. We have cookies and fangs. ;)


message 49: by Gwen (new)

Gwen I enjoy Debbie Macomber books and series of books.


message 50: by Gwen (new)

Gwen Joann wrote: "For historical romance start with Kathleen Woodiwiss' A Rose in Winter. Still one of my very favorites after all these years. Then move on to her other titles, including Ashes in the Wind, Shanna a..."
I am going to look for her books here.


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