14 Romance Books For People Who Hate Romance Novels
Confession time: I hate love stories. OK, maybe "hate" is too harsh. I have a difficult time motivating myself to pick up books that don't include some sort of dark, twisty plot, preferably a murder mystery. That said, every once in a while a romance book will come along that I can't help but fall for. Maybe it's laugh-out-loud funny, smart and witty, touching and poignant, mysteriously magical, or some combination of the above. Whatever it is, it isn't a cliché, it isn't boring, and it isn't sweet without substance. Here are 14 love stories even the cynics will enjoy.
What Alice Forgot
With her blend of wit and intrigue and authentic, relatable characters, Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty knows how to craft an engrossing novel, and one of my absolute favorites of hers is What Alice Forgot. This page-turner is guaranteed to make you laugh and cry all the way through if you've ever been in a relationship or wondered "what if" about what led you where you are now and who you're with.
Love quote: "Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It's light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you've seen the worst and the best — well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word."
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Block out a full weekend for Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, because you won't be able to stop once you begin reading this enjoyable, juicy novel about a fictional old Hollywood starlet. This is a totally unexpected take on the historical fiction romance genre, so prepare to be delighted and surprised from start to finish. Read our interview with Taylor to learn more about her inspiration for the novel.
Love quote: "People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is 'you're safe with me' — that's intimacy."
Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell delights with her heartwrenching YA novel Eleanor & Park. It definitely takes you back to the awkwardness, magic, and innocence of your first love, in the best way possible. It's so sweet and honest and funny that you don't want it to end.
Love quote: "You saved my life, she tried to tell him. Not forever, not for good. Probably just temporarily. But you saved my life, and now I'm yours. The me that's me right now is yours. Always."
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls
Anton DiSclafani's coming-of-age tale The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls pulls you in with the mysterious past of a girl sent off to a riding camp for wealthy Southern girls during the Great Depression. Following this far-from-perfect heroine as she flashes back to the memories that haunt her and ends up tempting fate with a forbidden love affair made this a book I couldn't put down.
Love quote: "I knew what it was like to want, to desire so intensely you were willing to throw everything else into its fire."
Stephen King's Joyland is a carnival-set thriller about ghosts, growing up, friendship, falling in love, and nostalgia. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll reminisce. It's a thoroughly enjoyable mixed bag that's sure to surprise you.
Love quote: "People think first love is sweet, and never sweeter than when that first bond snaps. You've heard a thousand pop and country songs that prove the point; some fool got his heart broke. Yet that first broken heart is always the most painful, the slowest to mend, and leaves the most visible scar. What's so sweet about that?"
Me Before You
Jojo Moyes's Me Before You is a heartbreaking novel that is guaranteed to make you cry, but in a good way. With just a hint of Jane Eyre, the plot is about a 20-something woman — stuck in her small town and living at home — who takes a job caring for an adventurous, successful businessman who is now in a wheelchair after a tragic accident.
Love quote: "All I can say is that you make me . . . you make me into someone I couldn't even imagine. You make me happy, even when you're awful. I would rather be with you — even the you that you seem to think is diminished — than with anyone else in the world."
Yes, I had to include another Rainbow Rowell YA novel — they're just so good! Attachments will have you laughing and crying as it tells a very unique type of love story between people who haven't met. Don't worry, I won't spoil the ending and tell you if they do or not. The gist of the story is that an IT guy is hired to monitor the emails of a newspaper's staff and ends up falling for a woman based on the emails she sends back and forth with her best co-worker friend. It's surprisingly not creepy but incredibly endearing and sweet.
Love quote: "He knew why he wanted to kiss her. Because she was beautiful. And before that, because she was kind. And before that, because she was smart and funny. Because she was exactly the right kind of smart and funny. Because he could imagine taking a long trip with her without ever getting bored. Because whenever he saw something new and interesting, or new and ridiculous, he always wondered what she'd have to say about it — how many stars she'd give it and why."
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a well-loved classic, and for good reason. It's a tale of 1920s America, class conflicts, and the complicated, doomed relationship of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. It's dazzling and devastating all the same time.
Love quote: "They had never been closer in their month of love, nor communicated more profoundly one with another, than when she brushed silent lips against his coat's shoulder or when he touched the end of her fingers, gently, as though she were asleep."
Diana Gabaldon's Outlander is a historical romance with bite. You can't help but adore and relate to the heroine, swoon to pieces over her love interest, and be swept up into the mystery of how a former combat nurse living in the 1940s ends up in 1743 Scotland. Oh, and the sex is pretty great, too.
Love quote: "And I mean to hear ye groan like that again. And to moan and sob, even though you dinna wish to, for ye canna help it. I mean to make you sigh as though your heart would break, and scream with the wanting, and at last to cry out in my arms, and I shall know that I've served ye well."
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern's imaginative novel, The Night Circus, has been compared to Twilight and Harry Potter, but despite its fantastical nature, I'd say it stands on its own. Erin creates such a tangible, magical world that I didn't want it to end. And you can't help but be captivated by the star-crossed romance. (Get our interview with Erin here.)
"I remember the people who look at me the way you do."
"What way might that be?"
"As though they cannot decide if they are afraid of me or they want to kiss me."
"I am not afraid of you."
The Fault in Our Stars
Kids with cancer falling in love doesn't exactly sound like the plot of a feel-good novel, but author John Green manages to write a sharp, witty, and funny story about just that with The Fault in Our Stars. Don't worry, you'll still bawl your eyes out.
Love quote: "As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once."
Bridget Jones's Diary
Helen Fielding created a heroine we adore with her sharp and witty novel Bridget Jones's Diary. It's a funny, irreverent, and charming read that any woman who's felt like a complete disaster when it comes to relationships will relate to.
Love quote: "Can officially confirm that the way to a man's heart these days is not through beauty, food, sex, or alluringness of character, but merely the ability to seem not very interested in him."
The Rosie Project
Graeme Simsion's novel The Rosie Project had me laughing out loud and tearing up before I finished the first chapter, and it continued to have me grinning till the end. The story follows a socially awkward, highly intelligent genetics professor who attempts to use a scientific approach to find a mate — hilarious disasters ensue.
Love quote: "It would be unreasonable to give you credit for being incredibly beautiful."
At times you might mistake this epic (and I mean 900+ pages, epic) love story by Japanese author Haruki Murakami for a thriller, mystery, or sci-fi novel — and that's sort of the beauty of it. 1Q84 spans genres, time, and space, but at its heart is a powerful story of love.
Love quote: "If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there's salvation in life. Even if you can't get together with that person."