Love Stories: The 86 best romance novels of all time

Within the framework of our best list, we went to the realm of romance. We show you which 86 romance novels get your heart pumping. Have fun with our selection!

1st place: Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

“Pride and Prejudice” are not only by far the most famous novel by the British author Jane Austen, but at the same time one of the most significant literary excerpts of the 19th century. The book, published in 1813, tells its readers the love story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. In the process, the two main characters learn to break their morale bonds to live out their mutual love fully.

Apart from the romance between Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam, “Pride and Prejudice” is considered an essential testimony to the times of that era. Jane Austen managed to depict the everyday life of the authentic English nobility, and the writer does not spare ironic side blows. Although the book was published more than 200 years ago, it contains many elements that are still relevant today.

2nd place: Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre: novel
The role attributed to women in Victorian England is that Charlotte Brontë published her work “Jane Eyre” under the male pseudonym Currer Bell. Within the book, which is considered one of the most influential works of the era, we follow the titular protagonist Jane Eyre. The poor orphan girl must first overcome countless adversities in her expendable life before finding true love in the arms of her employer.

The novel, which tells the classic story of the rise of an impoverished girl, is especially captivating because of its strong female protagonist. “Jane Eyre” was already welcomed with open arms at its publication; nowadays, the book, published in 1847, is one of the absolute classics of world literature.

3rd place: Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina: Novel
“Anna Karenina” takes us directly into the Russian aristocracy of the late 19th century. The novel centers on the forbidden liaison between the title character Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky. The two are immediately attracted to each other by an invisible bond – but Anna is married. The protagonist fears that the discovery of their affair could lead to the loss of her beloved son.

This book by the renowned Russian writer Leo Tolstoy impressively demonstrates the moving facets that love stories can take on. Peppered with envy, doubt, and fear, “Anna Karenina” becomes a novel that remains in the reader’s memory for a long time due to its intense progression.

4th place: Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind: Novel | Unforgettable and Unreached - The Original (0)
Teenager Scarlett O’Hara wants for nothing. As the daughter of a rich cotton merchant, the well-off 16-year-old can hardly save herself from the advances of her fellow men. However, the teenager herself only wants to win the heart of her beloved Ashley.

However, to the dismay of the title character, the beloved announces that he wants to marry another woman. More out of defiance than love, Scarlett ends up marrying the brother of that lady to whom Ashley gave preference. When civil war finally breaks out in the United States, the glittering world of the main characters is shaken.

“Gone with the Wind” was published in 1936 and advanced within a short time to the absolute bestseller. This classic, which stands out above all for its gripping dramaturgy, has sold around 30 million copies to date.

5th place: Like a Single Day – Nicholas Sparks

Like a single day: novel
Youthful summer love is sometimes more than a little romance that fizzles out on its own as time goes on. Allie and Noah were just 17 years old when they spent the summer of their lives together. After the disparate teens have an unforgettable time together, they lose sight of each other for nearly 15 years.

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However, their memories of each other steadily live on in the protagonists during this time. Shortly before her wedding to a renowned lawyer, Allie decides to visit her great childhood sweetheart one last time. However, the meeting of the now-adult title characters is to bring unexpected consequences.

“Like a Single Day” strikes at the heart of the reader like Armor’s arrow of love. This stirring story, published in 1996, shows that true love can outlast all adversity.

6th place: The time traveler’s wife – Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveler's Wife: Novel
Where authentically presented science fiction meets a heartwarming love story is where “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger ends up. Published in 2003, the novel centers on Henry and his wife, Clare. Due to a rare disease, Henry is repeatedly forced to travel to different eras in time.

The sudden disappearance of his husband repeatedly puts the protagonists’ marriage to the test. Whether the love between the two main characters survives the recurring, heartbreaking longing of parting, you will find out in the bestseller of the American writer.

Combining the two genres works wonderfully, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is moreover suitable for readers who usually don’t like science fiction themes much.

7th place: P.S. I love you – Cecelia Ahern

P.S. I love you (Fischer Taschenbibliothek)
When we have to say goodbye to a loved one, a world collapses around us. Holly, too, is having a hard time coping with the death of her beloved Gerry. During her grief, the book’s title character eventually comes across some letters Gerry wrote just days before his passing. Within these letters, the deceased leaves his partner some instructions and life lessons, which are supposed to help the mourner find her way back to everyday life.

“P.S. I love you” gets under your skin because of its emotional narrative style. The 2004 book touches its readers in an inimitable way. Accordingly, it is not wrong to always keep a pack of tissues within reach while browsing.

8th place: Far as the Sea – Nicholas Sparks

Far as the Sea: Novel
Theresa earns her living as a journalist. When she comes across a mysterious message in a bottle on the beach one day, it changes the protagonist’s life forever. Inside the found bottle is a stirring love letter, the stirring content of which Theresa can’t get out of her head. The title character decides to publish the letter.

And Theresa succeeds in finding the author of the touching message. It is Garrett, a broken man who is suffering badly from the death of his wife, and the mourner seems to have lost all hope in his life.

“Far as the Sea” by Nicholas Sparks is a romance novel that inspires courage. This insightful book proves to us once again that in our darkest hours, sometimes a small spark is all it takes to dispel the impenetrable shadows from our lives.

9th place: Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough

Colleen McCullough: Thorn Birds
The life of a priest is dedicated solely to devotion to God. This includes the fact that clergy members are forbidden to have any form of a love relationship. Therefore, the farmer’s daughter Meggie despairs when the priest Ralph de Bricassart cannot return her love.

Finally, the young protagonist surrenders to her fate and marries another man. However, the unhappy marriage awakens in Meggie, again and again, the longing for “her” Ralph. And indeed, one day, out of nowhere, the priest appears on the doorstep of the title character.

“Thorn Birds” by Australian author Colleen McCullough was launched in 1977. The forbidden love story is one of the most widely read novels of the 20th century. It is one of the best-known novels of the twentieth century and is rightly mentioned in the same breath as classics such as “Gone with the Wind.”

10th place: Fire and Stone – Diana Gabaldon

Outlander - Fire and Stone: Novel (The Outlander Saga, Volume 1)
If you are captivated by “Fire and Stone,” we have good news for you: The novel from 1991 is the prelude to an eight-part saga – so there will be plenty of more to come! The plot centers on Claire, an English nurse. As a result of some mysterious events, the protagonist suddenly finds herself in 18th century Scotland.

There Claire falls in love with the Highlander Jamie and gets into a conflict of conscience. Can she admit her feelings for the attractive Scotsman, even though she is happily married in “her” time?

“Fire and Stone” deals with many other themes besides its romantic aspects. Claire must come to terms with a completely new world where countless dangers and conflicts lurk for her. The work of Diana Gabaldon has absolute addictive potential and mixes various genre elements into a coherent work.

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11th place: Love Story – Erich Segal

Love Story: Novel (Fischer Taschenbibliothek)

Love knows no social conventions – but parents do. Students Oliver and Jennifer fall madly in love. However, Oliver’s wealthy father disapproves of his son flirting with a simple baker’s daughter.

For this reason, the older man stops all financial support for his pupil. Jennifer and Oliver henceforth face expendable times. After everything seems to change for the better, the relationship of the two is hit by a hard blow of fate.

“Love Story” does not spare any tragic passages. However, the novel does not drift headlong into an emotional dilemma but tells credibly what pitfalls life can hold for lovers.

12th place: What was left of the day – Kazuo Ishiguro

What was left of the day: novel

“What’s Left of the Day” takes us directly into the everyday life of Steven, the butler. The dutiful subject puts his work above all other aspects of his life. Therefore, Steven forbids himself to give in to those feelings he develops for Miss Kenton’s housekeeper. It is not until many years later that Steven realizes what opportunities he has genuinely missed throughout his life.

“What Remains of the Day” awakens a feeling of sentimentality in us. The novel, which hit the stores in 1989, encourages its readers to stand by their own emotions and desires. A melancholic and beautiful novel that you will think about a lot.

13th place: Deep in the heart – Nora Roberts

Quinn Saga, Volumes 1,2,3,4 (Quinn Saga)

“Deep in the Heart” is the prelude to the Quinn saga, which comprises a total of four volumes. We follow the bon vivant Cameron, who returns to his old home after several years. However, the protagonist only does this because he once promised his dying father that he would take care of his younger brother Seth.

The relationship between the two brothers is not exactly supposed to turn out to be an uncomplicated undertaking. When an attractive woman suddenly appears in Cameron’s life, he begins to question his selfish, dissolute lifestyle.

“Deep in the Heart” gets right under your skin. The entertaining novel is characterized by its believable character drawing, thanks to which we can feel compassion and understanding for the actors involved.

14th place: Naoko’s Smile: Just a Love Story – Haruki Murakami

Naoko's Smile: Just a Love Story - Novel

We are in the 1960s when the student riots in Tokyo are reaching their peak. At the same time as the riots, Toru Watanabe’s emotional world is also shaken. The protagonist loses his best friend to a tragic suicide, but the title character’s love life also holds many emotional turmoils in store.

Haruki Murakami manages to combine romance and human suffering sensitively in “Naoko’s Smile: Just a Love Story.” A beautiful romance novel from the Far East that you should not miss.

15th place: Fate is a rotten traitor – John Green

Fate is a Lousy Traitor (Hanser series)

Although “Fate is a Lousy Traitor” by John Green is officially listed as a novel for young people, the work published in 2012 also strikes a chord with an adult readership. The plot centers on Hazel, who is terminally ill.

The sixteen-year-old girl has had thyroid cancer for some time. In a support group, the teenager finally meets Gus. The teenager fascinates Hazel with his carefree nature, who had to amputate one of his legs due to his cancer. The two begin to harbor romantic feelings, but her serious illnesses always overshadow their childhood love.

Empathetic, moving, close – “Fate is a Lousy Traitor” combines an oppressive setting with a touching love story.

16th place: Forever Maybe – Cecelia Ahern

Forever Maybe: Novel

Alex and Rosie are inseparable even as children. The two title characters quickly become best friends, bound by an intimate bond of familiarity. Finally, the day comes when Alex leaves his Irish home to move to faraway Boston.

Thousands of miles henceforth separate the protagonists but maintain contact in the form of letters, emails, and phone calls. Although the lives of the former best friends develop in entirely different directions, they never give up hope of one day being able to hold the other in their arms again.

While most of the novel, published in 2004, is convincing due to its relaxed style, the work nevertheless keeps open spaces for serious topics, which are treated with the necessary respect.

17th place: A whole six months – Jojo Moyes

A Whole Six Months (Lou, Vol. 1)

After Louisa loses her previous job in a café, the young woman takes a job in a nursing home. There she meets the grumpy Will Traynor. The old gentleman, who uses a wheelchair, has lost all courage to face life and wants to put an irrevocable end to his existence in six months. Louisa begins to develop a particular affection for Will. For this reason, she decides to show the depressed senior all the beautiful sides of life and thus dissuade him from his final plan.

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Since its publication in 2012, the novel by British author Jojo Moyes has been widely acclaimed. The moving work has been published in 32 different languages and sold around two million copies in Germany alone.

18th place: Shades of Grey – E.L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey - Secret Desires: Volume 1. book to the movie - novel

The “Shades of Grey” series comprises three volumes that depict the unequal relationship between student Anastasia Steele and billionaire bon vivant Christian Grey. It was not least the BDSM games described in detail that helped the novels become famous quickly.

Apart from whips and bondage, the books also touch on the emotional motivations of the protagonists. If the series has passed you by so far, you can safely take a look at the “Shades of Grey” books.

19th place: When you return – Nicholas Sparks

When You Return: Novel

When Trevor is critically wounded in a grenade explosion while on the job, the Navy doctor’s entire life turns upside down, the attack has not only left Trevor with external injuries. Still, it has also severely scarred the soul of the title character.

With the help of a therapist, the traumatized protagonist tries to find his way back to life. After the main character inherits his deceased grandfather’s house, he moves to North Carolina, where he meets the fascinating policewoman Natalie. Trevor falls head over heels in love with Natalie, but their relationship is ill-starred.

Nicholas Sparks takes his readers on an authentically crafted journey of emotions that leaves no eye dry in his usual style.

20th place: Stephenie Meyer – Until(s) Dawn

Bite at Dawn (Bella and Edward 1)
Opinions are divided a bit on “Until Dawn.” While one party dismisses the love story about 17-year-old Bella, who falls in love with the attractive vampire Edward, as shallow kitsch in a bloodsucker setting, the fan community of the “Bis(s)” series has always enjoyed the emotional roller coaster rides of the protagonist.

Over time, a real hype developed around Bella, Edward, and Co., reflected immensely high sales figures. Those who liked the prelude to the three-part main series will also love the sequels.

Places 21-86 of the best romance novels of all time:

Place:Novel:Author:Link to the book:
21.Call me by your nameAndré Aciman
22.Mind and emotionJane Austen
23.Kissing LessonsHelen Hoang
24.Like a glow in the deep nightJojo Moyes
25.Your smile on those damn daysKatie McGarry
26.Daughter of the WoodsJuliet Marillier
27.More than just dreamsJude Deveraux
28.ApologyIan McEwan
29.Like a light in the nightNicholas Sparks
30.One day in DecemberJosie Silver
31.This long wayIsabel Allende
32.Normal peopleSally Rooney
33.Romeo and JulietWilliam Shakespeare
34.Love is strongFrancine Rivers
35.Beautiful DisasterJamie McGuire
36.Storm of PassionJudith McNaught
37.The search for the rainbowJudith Merkle Riley
38.Wuthering HeightsEmily Brontë
39.The Princess BrideWilliam Goldman
40.The Healer’s OathPosie Graeme-Evans
41.Salt and its PricePatricia Highsmith
42.Star Wanderer (Stardust)Neil Gaiman
43.Marriage MarketGeorgette Heyer
44.Just one more timeColleen Hoover
45.Royal Blue: NovelCasey McQuiston
46.A tale of two citiesCharles Dickens
47.Tamed in the bed of the LadyLoretta Chase
48.The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald
49.Written on the bodyJeanette Winterson
50.Tender is the nightF. Scott Fitzgerald
51.The Rosie ProjectGraeme Simsion
52.You or the whole lifeSimone Elkeles
53.The secret language of loveMia Sheridan
54.By order of the kingJulie Garwood
55.Until the end of daysJodi Picoult
56.The Tributes of Panem – Deadly GamesSuzanne Collins
57.Leopard’s BloodNalini Singh
58.On the way to Cold MountainCharles Frazier
59.Kiss me, bastard!Sally Thorne
60.Tarzan with the monkeysEdgar Rice Burroughs
61.Phantom of the OperaGaston Leroux
62.Where the storm takes usKathleen E. Woodiwiss
63.Mister PerfectLinda Howard
64.Love is a Mix Tape: A HistoryRob Sheffield
65.Triumph of heartsLaura Kinsale
66.The unbearable lightness of beingMilan Kundera
67.All we had to giveKazuo Ishiguro
68.Foreign fishingEmily Giffin
69.A dangerous adversaryAgatha Christie
70.It began on a winter nightLisa Kleypas
71.The Delta of VenusAnaïs Nin
72.Snow falling on cedarsDavid Guterson
73.Don’t stay for breakfast!Susan Elizabeth Phillips
74.Love in the time of choleraGabriel García Márquez
75.RebeccaDaphne du Maurier
76.Green TomatoesFannie Flagg
77.How to conquer a Duke?Julia Quinn
78.Sophie in the castle of the wizardDiana Wynne Jones
79.Springtime dreamsNora Roberts
80.A soldier from the Great WarMark Helprin
81.TemptationSylvia Day
82.No lord like any otherJennifer Ashley
83.Before their eyes they saw GodZora Neale Hurston
84.Under the spell of the elf kingC. L. Wilson
85.A good matchVikram Seth
86.The end of an affairGraham Greene

We hope you enjoy reading the featured romance novels. Take care and see you next time!

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