Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

10 best romance books that celebrate the power of love

From modern-day Mr Darcy to ‘Will they? Won’t they?’, these love stories will sweep you off your feet

Emma Lee-Potter
Wednesday 20 July 2022 11:44 BST
Mills & Boon launches more than 700 new titles every year and says that one of its books is sold every 10 seconds in the UK
Mills & Boon launches more than 700 new titles every year and says that one of its books is sold every 10 seconds in the UK (The Independent)

Romantic fiction is one of the most popular book genres in the UK. From classics like Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind to more recent bestsellers like Jilly Cooper’s Riders and Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton tales (now a hit Netflix series), we can’t get enough of passionate love stories that make our hearts swoon.

Mills & Boon, which bills itself as the UK’s number-one publisher of romantic fiction, launches more than 700 new titles every year and says that a new Mills & Boon book is sold every 10 seconds in the UK.

Meanwhile, the Romantic Novelists’ Association, founded in 1960 to celebrate romantic fiction, has more than 1,000 members and is a firm advocate of the genre. “Romantic fiction is a publishing powerhouse that reaches millions of readers every year,” it says.

If you’re looking for a romantic read, we’ve rounded up 10 novels that celebrate the power of love. We’ve included classics from years gone by, such as the ground-breaking Bridget Jones’s Diary, but most were published in 2022. Some of the books are hilarious and will make you laugh out loud, while others will bring a tear to your eye (so don’t forget the waterproof mascara).

When compiling this round-up, we were spoiled for choice by the sheer quantity of romance tales on bookshop shelves – historical, contemporary, rom-coms, fantasy and much, much more – but the one thing all of these stories have in common is a romantic thread running right through the very heart of them.

Read more:

How we tested

We judged the novels on three main criteria – the quality of writing and characterisation, romantic storylines and sheer readability. Read on to find out which ones stole our hearts.

The best romance books for 2022 are:

  • Best overall Bridget Jones’s Diary(and Other Writing): 25th Anniversary Edition by Helen Fielding, published by Picador: £12.59,
  • Best for keeping you guessingThe Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh, published by Mantle: £12.99,
  • Best London romanceLondon, with Love by Sarra Manning, published by Hodder & Stoughton: £12.40,
  • Best island romanceOne Night on the Island by Josie Silver, published by Penguin: £7.43,
  • Best heart-wrenching twistThe No-Show by Beth O’Leary, published by Quercus: £9.99,
  • Best romantic sequelAgain, Rachel by Marian Keyes, published by Michael Joseph: £20,
  • Best LGBTQ+ romanceHeartstopper by Alice Oseman, published by Hodder Children’s Books: £10.22,
  • Best literary romanceNormal People by Sally Rooney, published by Faber: £7.49,
  • Best tearjerkerOne Day by David Nicholls, published by Hodder: £7.37,
  • Best historical romanceThe Last Summer by Karen Swan, published by Pan Macmillan: £14.99,

‘Bridget Jones’s Diary (and Other Writing): 25th Anniversary Edition' by Helen Fielding, published by Picador

1 Bridget Jones.jpg

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

This classic story started out as a column in The Independent itself. As Helen Fielding explained last year: “The Independent asked me if I’d write a column about single life in London as myself. I said no, because (ironically enough) I thought it would be embarrassing and exposing. Then Charlie Leadbeater, a senior editor, suggested I write as an imaginary character, and I thought ‘Yessss!’”

Fielding’s tale of the hapless Bridget, her best friends Jude and Shazzer, her boozy nights out, disastrous dalliances with modern-day Casanova Daniel Cleaver and her relationship with uptight Mark Darcy took the nation by storm, and was later made into three blockbuster movies starring Renee Zellweger. A quarter of a century on, it still makes us howl with laughter.

Look out for the 25th anniversary edition, which includes a host of extra treats, including an introduction by Helen Fielding, a selection of the original Independent columns, and hilarious restaurant reviews featuring the real-life inspirations for Jude, Shazzer, Auntie Una, Bridget’s mum and Daniel Cleaver.

  1. £12 from
Prices may vary
Back to top

‘The Love of My Life' by Rosie Walsh, published by Mantle

2 The Love of My Life.jpg

Best: For keeping you guessing

Rating: 9/10

Emma seems to have everything – a happy marriage, an adorable young daughter and a stellar career as a marine biologist. The problem is that her entire life is built on a big, fat lie. When she suffers a serious illness, her journalist husband Leo decides to research and write a tribute to her – only to find that the woman he loves doesn’t really exist.

This wonderfully written story is touching, tender and utterly compelling, with twists you won’t see coming. If you like this one, don’t miss Rosie Walsh’s romantic first book, The Man Who Didn’t Call. Published in the US as Ghosted, it was a New York Times bestseller.  

Back to top

‘London, with Love' by Sarra Manning, published by Hodder & Stoughton

3 London with Love.jpg

Best: London romance

Rating: 9/10

Sarra Manning’s novel reads like a love letter to London, the backdrop to most of the story.

Jen has secretly been in love with Nick since their college days. Drawn together by their love of Eighties indie bands, they quickly become inseparable but go their own ways after a spectacular row. Over the next two decades, however, their paths keep crossing. Sometimes they’re the best of friends; other times they irritate the hell out of each other.

With two compelling, well-drawn lead characters, it’s a poignant, moving and unputdownable tale – even if romantic fiction isn’t your thing.

  1. £12 from
Prices may vary
Back to top

‘One Night on the Island' by Josie Silver, published by Penguin

4 One Night on the Island.jpg

Best: Island romance

Rating: 8/10

Dating columnist Cleo Wilder is despatched to a remote island off the Irish coast to marry herself (the idea was inspired by film star Emma Watson, who once told an interviewer that she was happily “self-partnered”). The only hitch is that on her arrival, she discovers that the cottage where she’s staying is already occupied by a tetchy American photographer. With storm clouds gathering and no boat back to the mainland for a week, it looks like they’re both stuck.

Josie Silver’s story is wonderfully romantic, but the witty one-liners, idyllic setting and loveable characters make it even more entertaining.

Back to top

‘The No-Show' by Beth O’Leary, published by Quercus

5 The No-Show.jpg

Best: Heart-wrenching twist

Rating: 8/10

It’s Valentine’s Day and three women are planning to spend it with the man of their dreams. Siobhan has flown over from Dublin for a breakfast date in London, tree surgeon Miranda is looking forward to celebrating her new job over lunch, and charity shop volunteer Jane is over the moon that her best male pal has agreed to pose as her boyfriend at a party. None of them knows each other but they’re all destined to be disappointed – so why is the elusive Joseph a no-show?

As the three women’s stories emerge, it becomes increasingly clear that they’re connected in more ways than one. A clever story with a heart-wrenching twist.

  1. £9 from
Prices may vary
Back to top

‘Again, Rachel' by Marian Keyes, published by Michael Joseph

6 Rachel, Again.jpg

Best: Romantic sequel

Rating: 10/10

Marian Keyes’s ability to blend comedy, drama and emotional depth is second to none. With storylines raging from addiction to depression, her novels are truly genre-defying – but they’re often unashamedly romantic, too. Nearly 25 years after the publication of the bestselling Rachel’s Holiday and much to the delight of her fans, she’s written a sequel.

Again, Rachel continues Rachel Walsh’s story two decades after her spell in rehab. Now in her 40s, Rachel is working as an addiction counsellor, has met a new man and has even taken up gardening. But everything is thrown into turmoil when her ex-husband Luke, the love of her life, arrives back in Ireland for his mother’s funeral.

Empathetic, romantic and witty, Again, Rachel is an unmissable read.

  1. £20 from
Prices may vary
Back to top

‘Heartstopper' by Alice Oseman, published by Hodder Children’s Books

7 Heartstopper.jpg

Best: LGBTQ+ romance

Rating: 9/10

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. That’s the premise of Alice Oseman’s tender story about two schoolboys who fall for each other. The first of four volumes, this graphic novel is charmingly illustrated by Oseman, and relates the blossoming friendship between highly strung Charlie and soft-hearted rugby player Nick.

The boys start texting, then confide in each other about the pressures at school. Nick persuades Charlie to join the rugby team before they eventually admit how they feel about each other.

Now a hit Netflix series, this sweet story of young love is a celebration of friendship as well as romance.

Back to top

‘Normal People' by Sally Rooney, published by Faber

8 Normal People.jpg

Best: Literary romance

Rating: 10/10

Thanks to the brilliant BBC adaptation, Sally Rooney’s Normal People became one of the most talked-about novels during the pandemic. Her story of star-crossed lovers, Marianne and Connell – who grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland and try to stay apart but can’t – is a must-read as far as we’re concerned.

At school, Connell is popular with everyone, while Marianne is a loner with no friends. Everything changes at university in Dublin, where Marianne thrives but Connell finds it hard to fit in. Rooney is still only 31 but she’s a wonderful writer who deserves every single plaudit she’s received in recent years.

Back to top

‘One Day' by David Nicholls, published by Hodder

9 One Day.jpg

Best: Tearjerker

Rating: 10/10

If you’re after a brilliantly written love story that never slides into sentimentality, this is just the ticket. David Nicholls’s third novel is a funny, emotional “Will they? Won’t they?” romance that traces the relationship between university friends, Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew, on the same day every year for 20 years.

This wonderful book, which was made into a Hollywood movie starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, will make you laugh, make you cry and make you think.

  1. £7 from
Prices may vary
Back to top

‘The Last Summer' by Karen Swan, published by Pan Macmillan

10 The Last Summer.jpg

Best: Historical romance

Rating: 9/10

Karen Swan is known for the evocative settings of her novels, and her latest tale, out 27 July, is no exception. The first of a five-book series called The Wild Isles, The Last Summer moves between the wild beauty of St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides and 1930s high society.

At 18, brave, beautiful Effie Gillies has spent her whole life on St Kilda, so when she meets an aristocratic stranger from a very different world to her own, their relationship seems doomed from the start, especially after the islanders are evacuated to the Scottish mainland.

This sweeping love story gripped us from the start, so we can’t wait for the next in the series.

Back to top

The verdict: Best romance books

Choosing romantic fiction is incredibly personal, but for its irrepressible star character and comic storyline (with a few extras for this 25th Edition), our top choice is the iconic Bridget Jones’s Diary (and Other Writing) by Helen Fielding.

If you’re looking for romantic fiction published this summer, Sarra Manning’s London, with Love is a stand-out read – beautifully written and very moving.

Voucher codes

For discounts on other fiction and non-fiction books, try the links below:

If you enjoyed these romance novels, get stuck in to a book shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in