First thing I want to note is that this isn’t a list of top romantic books. This list is more for the reader who does not like romance to be the main focus of the book, but still wants to route for those characters who have a romantic connection.
For me, by having a romantic plot within the book, it helps guide the story and to connect with the characters better whilst they undertake their journey. You can really see the development of a character and how they react to others around them. I am not saying you need to have a romantic relationship in order to grow. There are many examples out there that romance is such a minor detail and also others that have friendship and family as important as the romantic relationship.
These five examples below are merely romances that I found myself routing for and invested even with the big threat for the characters was not due to the romantic relationship failing.
- Feyre and Rhysand — A Court of Thornes and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
By now, if you haven’t picked up a Sarah J. Maas book yet, I can grantee you will now. Whilst Maas is known as the Fae Queen with her detailed world building and magic systems, the key to Maas’ fantasy is the relationships for the main characters.
Romance is often heavy in her novels — and I will put the disclaimer here that you should be a bit older until you dive into these books. They might be classified as YA, but it is definitely a grown-up YA. Either way, you find yourself invested whole heartily into this romantic story, that you almost don’t care what is happening outside of Feyre and Rhysand’s epic dialogue and growth.
A Court of Thornes and Roses is known as a Beauty and the Beast re-telling, but this is very loosely said. It focuses on Feyre, a nineteen-year-old human who has been taken into the Faeire world due to her killing a Fae. But it isn’t until the story starts to get going do we meet Rhysand, and it isn’t until the second book that we start to really see their dynamic duo at its heart.
This has to be one of the best romantic relationships shown on paper, and if the rumours are true, it will soon be portrayed on screen.
Even though it is an enemy to lovers story, it spins it on its head to prove that they were never really enemies to begin with.
These two are perfect because you see the rawness of their characters and see how they grow. When they first met, they were not a perfect match. It wasn’t until they both began to develop into who they truly are did they start to come together.
This shows a young adult audience that your other half should be able to route for, whilst also having the desire to keep you safe. It is perfectly balanced with the previous relationships for Feyre, to really show how your partner should be treating you.
They prove that they can trust one another and allow them to build their own strength, whilst also being there to lend a helping hand.
They are constantly proud what the other achieves and never undermines them.
It is proof that this is a healthy relationship one should route for, and you should never try to settle for anything that does not keep you motivated and thriving as an individual.
- Lila and Kell — A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
Within a Darker Shade of Magic, you have a growing relationship between Delilah and Kell. Schwab does it in an opposite way to Mass with her story, as this example is more a friendship growing to a romantic connection.
A Darker Shade of Magic revolves around Kell, a magician who has the ability to travel between worlds. In a version of our own, he meets Delilah, known as Lila, a pick-pocketing thief, who wants adventure and lures Kell into taking her back to his version of London.
The main focus of this book is the story, but it does not undermine the romantic relationship that grows between Lila and Kell. Throughout the trilogy, we see the friendship between the two, and their curiosity, blossom into a romantic connection. It is a lovely example of friendship turning into romance as you see the trust that was already built there when they decide to move their relationship in a different way.
Neither of them try to change the other, they understand that they are who they are and that is how they fall for one another. Kell understands that Lila is and always will be a thief and wants to drive for adventure rather than staying in one place. On the other hand, Lila never questions Kell’s abilities, understanding that he is an extremely powerful magician, and always considers Kell’s relationship with his brother as one of his top priorities.
Whilst they might disagree with each other, they will never challenge the other and will still route for them even if they do not agree. Yes, there are times where they are on completely different spectrums of ideas, but neither walks away and would still help the other even if they are at a disagreement.
- Poppy and Hawk — From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
This is a very new series to the world of fantasy, and it does have a romance at it’s heart that is the key thing to drive the story. However, the main thing about Poppy and Hawk is in fact their strengths as individuals that have you routing for them.
From Blood and Ash follows Poppy, a young woman who is known as the Maiden, a very unique woman who is to never be looked upon or touched. But enter Hawk, and Poppy finds herself challenged on what she should be expected to do and what she craves.
The main focus of this relationship that makes it such a beautiful tale is the fact that Hawk never sees Poppy’s looks as her main focus. The good thing to reveal is that Poppy has scars down the side of her face and body that she prefers to cover, not only just because she is meant to with who she is, but because of her own self-esteem. She is constantly told by those who are meant to be protecting her that it is a shame her beauty has been marked, but when Hawk first looks upon her, he never even acknowledge it as a fault. He sees her, and does not care about the deformity she has been claimed to have her whole life.
It is wonderful for an audience to know that someone can desire you no matter what others claim and it helps boost Poppy’s worth for herself.
Whilst it is a lovers turn to enemies turn to lovers tale, it never fails to show the dynamic between the two and prove that they see both of each other’s strengths and not faults.
- Cleo and Magnus — Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Whilst Falling Kingdoms is richly surrounded in romance and desire throughout all the characters, it is Cleo and Magnus’ connection that has you gripped to see their development on the page.
The series is described as a YA version of Game of Thrones, and it does not disappoint. The characters are richly explored, and their relationships with one another is beautifully crafted. But it is the connections between Cleo and Magnus that has the reader double guessing. It is another classic enemy turn to lovers debacle, but with another twist as not only are they forced to marry when they despise one another, but Magnus was the one to murder Cleo’s first love interest.
You would think it doesn’t make sense for them to fall in each other’s arms, but across the six-book series, you really can see the change from both. You see the small development as they get to know the real side of each other and understand why they begin to desire one another. Cleo brings out the kindness in Magnus, and he brings out her strength in herself. Neither hold back on the other, even when they know they both desire each other, but it only enriches their relationship even more. You almost find yourself questioning why you never saw it to begin with, and are routing for them at the end even when others are questioning it.
- Sephy and Callum — Nought and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
I could not do a top romances in books list without including these two. It is another example of a friendship turned romantic, but there is a whole other element to this tale. You see the relationship between Sephy and Callum grow, despite them being seen as inappropriate due to them being different shades of skin tone.
The book sees how these two do not see the colour of their skin, but the person underneath, and prove that it is the personality that matters and not how someone looks.
The reader can see how they have grown up around one another and have chosen to stay friends even when Callum’s mum had been fired from her job in Sephy’s home and lost their easy way to see each other.
Even with issues due to uprising of racism, the two still trust one another and fight to try and keep at first their friendship alive, and later their desire for one another.
It’s a true act of showing that it does not matter on skin tone, or how someone looks, but more about the connection two people can have.