At the heart of almost every good story is romance (and if you are reading this, you probably agree). Being one of the oldest and most popular genres, a lot of work has gone into the literary universe to convey its true essence and beauty. One of the most notable additions to the genre's archives is Julia Quinn's glamorous Bridgerton, the regal tale that shook Netflix walls and pierced through the iron-hearted.
Of the multitudes that have read (and probably re-read) it, some consider it one of the best romance novel series ever written—a verity which may be an exaggeration or not. That dearest gentle reader is up for you to decide. Besides, can you conclude what's best if you haven't read these novels yet?
So yes, we have compiled a list of romance novels we think are good—even better than Bridgerton.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Those who read Jane Austen know the magic she's capable of with words. In Pride and Prejudice, she reprimands the prejudiced social construct of England in the 18th century through diverse characters ultimately driven by pride and an unseemly romance.
The story revolves around the Bennett daughters, Elizabeth and Jane, courted by privileged men whose marriage would sprout a generation in wealth and affluence. However, status and values do not move the protagonist, quick-witted Elizabeth Bennett. Then comes along the standoffish Mr. Darcy, who she considers full of pride, but his insecurity causes him to behave the way he does.
The novel, set in a time of societal upheaval, displays the intense attraction between Elizabeth and Darcy, which gains her family's and the meddlesome public's interest. Pride and Prejudice is full of radiant humor, immersive storytelling, and riveting characters.
A Duke, The Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley
Vanessa Riley's A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby will sweep you off your feet with every bit of emotion and elegance. Even Julia Quinn, who authored Bridgerton, acknowledged the novel as a “perfect historical read.” In A Duke, the Lady and a Baby, Patience Jordan, a West Indian heiress, loses her husband to the cruel hands of death.
Then, in another streak of misfortune, she loses her freedom and Lionel, her newborn son, when she goes to prison.
As stubborn as always, Patience would do anything within her power to get back to her son. She takes the risk of being near him, even at the expense of her own life. Eventually, Patience gets her deepest desire granted when she gets employed by The Widow's Grace. Working for The Widow's Grace brings her closer to Busick, her late husband's military cousin.
Together, they begin a journey fueled by passion and courage. But how far could fate push Busick and Patience's little romance, and how far could she go to fulfil her purpose?
Vanessa describes through this novel how providence will always yield results where there is a resilient spirit. She takes us on an emotional rollercoaster with all the poignancy that accompanies loss and grief and every mother's terror of being separated from her child. Vanessa Riley perfectly executed the emotions in a non-sappy way.
The novel has a 3.9/5.0 on Amazon and boasts a truckload of accolades.
Bringing Down The Duke by Evie Dunmore
This romance novel by Evie Dunmore, set in England in 1879, tells the story of green-eyed Annabelle Archer, whose father is a country vicar. Annabelle is brilliant but of a deprived background. Nevertheless, she works her way amidst hurdles—and other students of the University of Oxford—to earn a scholarship for herself.
Her scholarship, however, isn't entirely free, as she must be a part of the women's suffrage movement.
Her primary assignment for being a part of this movement is to bring in influential men to support the cause of the suffragette movement. She knows not to get emotionally attracted to these men and seems to get it right until she meets Sebastian, the enigmatic Duke of Montgomery.
Sebastian does not like the idea of a suffragist lady, not to mention that she is a commoner. He is only looking for a lady with the competence to become a duchess, with whom he would entrust his legacy. Unfortunately, Annabelle doesn't fit his expectation. But there's no telling what happens—or is bound to—when love steers the wheel of time.
Bringing Down the Duke is an impressive debut by Evie Dunmore.
The Rebel by Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins ranks high on the list of romance novels—no big surprise if you've read any of her books. Jenkins' prestigious name in the literature world was won with over forty-five culturally-appreciating bestselling romance novels to her credit. In The Rebel, published in 2019, Jenkins tells the story of war, love, and freedom redefined through Valinda's journey.
Valinda engrosses herself with a mandate of helping her newly liberated community gain a stance and survive the times. But, in her quest to do so, she discovers the true meaning of freedom has been compromised. Freedom here means bondage; it means trouble; it means war.
Soon after the destruction of the school Valinda established for the people of her community, she becomes the next target. Finally, she has no choice but to flee for her safety—and safety is in the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq, a man who understands her as a fortune teller does the strokes on a palm.
Valinda's father does not support this union despite their connection, which tests their relationship.
The novel once climbed to the number one spot in the USA Today bestselling list.
To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters
Martha Waters presents quite an exasperating yet brilliant novel. After calling the historical romance comedy a “laugh-out-loud regency romp,” New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig added, it is an adorable book compared to Bridgerton. In To Have and to Hoax, readers follow the life of an estranged married couple.
Lord James Audley and Lady Violet Grey are devoid of communication for four years after their marriage, resulting in a fight the author describes as one that would end all their problems.
As unpredictable as love goes, the couple who once were in total awe of the other, glowing with a love others envied, soon become strangers to each other. That is, until a hilarious event spurs back their feelings.
When news reaches Lady Violet that her husband had fallen off a horse and was close to giving up at their country estate, she hurries there, only to find him hale and healthy. Violet tricks her husband into thinking she has taken ill to get back at him. Lord James Audley discovers it is only a trick but plays along.
What began as a silly ruse, births a new chapter for their marriage that would either strengthen the union or break it more.
Mr. Malcolm's List by Suzanne Allain
Like some items on this list, this romance novel is now a major motion picture, an incredible feat. Mr. Malcolm's list has all the features he wants in a wife—he has no regard for matchmaking experiments by mothers and impulsive debutantes. However, he gets frustrated when there doesn't seem to be any woman in the entire universe who ticks all the boxes.
Then fate brings him to Selina Dalton through her friend, Julia, who introduces them only because she plans on using Selina to exact her revenge on Mr. Malcolm. Selina discovers that Mr. Malcolm is nothing like in Julia's stories. She grows affection for him until Mr. Malcolm places her under the scrutiny of his list.
In return, she decides she must make him reveal his true nature to know how compatible they are.
Mr. Malcolm's List is a riveting delight, a page-turner till the very end.
Reputation by Lex Croucher
Readers have compared Reputation by Lex Croucher to Bridgerton and Mean Girls. Some even consider the story to be Bridgerton meets Mean Girls, a perfect fusion of both. If you're familiar with both novels and haven't heard of this, Christmas just might have come a bit early. You're welcome.
Reputation follows the story of Georgiana, who goes to spend the summer break with her relatives. She meets with Frances, who introduces her to his naughty friends. The significant events of the story pool into action when Georgiana falls in love with a young man, Frances. Frances lives in a different world with his high-class friends and daily debauchery.
Georgiana toes the line between right and wrong as she questions her ideals and the things she's willing to give up and allow for the sake of love.
Reputation is a brilliantly entertaining, historically aware novel for anyone of any culture and age.
Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen
Kelly Bowen's Duke of My Heart has a rating of 4.4 on Amazon. The award-winning author crafts a fantastic tale built around an intelligent, gracile heroine and solid and inspiring characters.
As usual, the prospect of any scandal entertains every regency family but terrifies them when such a scandal involves their name. Captain Maximus Harcourt, the Duke of Alderidge, might be as strong as ten men put together, but he isn't immune to the impact of scandals. He returns home only to discover a naked earl attached to the bed of his lost sister.
Unable to stay, the young Duke leaves for Miss Ivory Moore's service, whose company captivates him, not just her attitude but her grace.
For Miss Moore, a scandal leaves her to Captain Harcourt's companionship. While they tend to each other, the captain grows feelings for Miss Moore. A love that begins tender but grows with the rage of a wild flame.
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
This contemporary novel by Abby Jimenez is sure to induce all kinds of emotions in its readers, with its oozing warmth and electrifying dynamic! The Friend Zone is a USA Today bestseller. In the romance comedy, Abby portrays a woman's pertinacity in fighting for the people dear to her heart, despite any circumstance.
The story's protagonist, Kristen, doesn't have room in her life to consider any form of romantic relationship with anyone. Aside from that, she is undergoing medical procedures that will close her womb to childbearing—there seem to be more reasons for her to turn away from romance.
While planning her best friend's wedding, Kristen meets Josh Copeland, a hilarious, down-to-earth, devilishly handsome man. The only problem is that Josh desires to settle with a wife and children, which is the opposite of what Kristen wants, so she slowly shoves him away.
However, there is only so far she can push him with the love that has already taken root in both their hearts.
A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins
This unputdownable novel tells the story of Lady Katherine Bascomb, who reports on a series of London murder cases. Along the line, she draws Andrew Eversham's attention, and not necessarily in a positive light.
Andrew, the detective, doesn't know how to tame either his tongue or his character. He is unimpressed no matter how much she puts into delivering a clean job. With time, they both decide the only way to get through their differences and finish a job ideally, is by working as a team.
This unlikely liaison introduces readers to a different side of romance, where a shared passion for justice catalyzes a deeper connection. A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem is anything but the romantic comedies you're used to; it is a breath of fresh air.
Cold Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas
Lisa Kleypas' Cold Hearted Rake navigates through the story of a charming rake and his grueling fate. Devon Ravenel, a recent inheritor of the earldom, meets with a young widow, Kathleen, whom he once again—as is his nature—falls for. But there's something different about her.
Not only does she not trust Devon, but his attitude also irks her to no end. To Kathleen, he is nothing but a scumbag and flirt, but to Devon, Kathleen is everything he has always looked out for in a woman. He is sure of it from the first moment he encounters her, and while Kathleen does everything humanly possible to resist his charms, he would stop at nothing to win her heart.
Cold Hearted Rake is a profoundly passionate tale that once again portrays the complexities of love. Initially published in 2015, this novel by bestselling author Lisa Kleypas might be her best work yet.
The Duke Who Didn't by Courtney Milan
Courtney Milan's The Duke Who Didn't is another novel deserving of way more international acclaim than it receives. A fun read about love, life, and self-discovery. The title, appealing to the reader's curiosity, already passes the constant suspense throughout the novel.
The soft-toned friends-to-lovers story focuses on the romance between Chloe Fong and Jeremy Wentworth, Duke of Lansing, her childhood sweetheart. After Jeremy goes AWOL for years, he has a lot to atone for and must do all he can to regain Chloe's trust and love.
Chloe determines not to fall back into his lure easily, but Jeremy is a trickster and a light-hearted, easily loveable fellow. Finally, she's left with no choice.
Chloe is an overachiever who has her life planned to the letter, so imagine her annoyance when Jeremy waltzes back in, threatening to upset her life's perfect balance.
Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh
Angels might have inspired Mary Balogh during the creation of Seducing an Angel because the novel places the reader under a spell that imprisons one till the last page.
It is yet another regency drama with its fair dose of local scandals. Stephen Huxtable is no exception to the ruthless lips of gossip. When he falls in love with the widow Cassandra Belmont, his name becomes the hottest commodity on the gossip mill. The heat becomes much more intense with the implication of his own family's reputation being dragged down to the mud, as supposedly, Cassandra is guilty of her husband's murder.
Times are extremely trying for Cassandra, but it is some relief to have Stephen by her side.
Stephen, however, has his desires, and Cassandra ponders the realities in store for her when she cannot fulfill them — or when she crosses the boundaries she had set for herself.
The most notable feature of this book, aside from its engaging characters, is its solid plot and clever pacing.
My Darling Duke by Stacy Reid
Amalie Howard, the bestselling author of The Beast of Beswick, confessed to losing her heart to the endearing My Darling Duke. With a rating of 4.9/5 in Barnes and Noble, no one word could do justice in describing the novel, hence this entire section.
Miss Katherine comes up with the perfect plan to save her family from the financial crisis they face. It's a supposedly simple plan: Katherine takes on the mysterious identity of Alexander Masters' fiancée to have her sisters married to influential Dukes.
Then, with her plan succeeding and her sisters married off to these men who would help hide her family's predicament, she would retreat to her quiet life—a storybook happy ending for everyone.
Unfortunately, Alexander Masters returns to town. On discovering what Katherine (now known as Kitty Danvers) has done, he demands retribution. The rest, as they say, is history. My Darling Duke is a delightful, beautifully written book, paying keen attention to the plot and characters' needs.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.