Romance Novels That Won'T Make You Want to Vomit


We strive for romance in all its forms, and this post is about the books that aren't cheesy or particularly wistful. These romances are perhaps lustful and sexy. Or realistic and sad. Or a kind rarely seen.




Just Kids by Patti Smith


This is probably the most unconventional "romance," but it is a beautiful story of a lifelong love between two artists. Beginning in 1970s New York City, poet and musician Patti Smith's National Book Award-winning memoir tells the tale of her chance meeting with now deceased erotic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Although their growing careers took them in different directions and into other relationships, this once-in-a-lifetime love remained firm. This is a beautifully written celebration and elegy showing us that love can take on very diverse forms. One of my favourite memoirs ever written, and after re-reading countless times it never fails to bring me to tears. Smith is a masterful storyteller Nicole


Buy it here.




The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins


This is a historical novel centering on Frannie Langton, who is on trial at the Old Bailey, London for the murders of her master and mistress/owners, George and Marguerite Benham. Frannie Langton proceeds to tell us her life story in “confessional” form which defies the slave narrative genre and also allows Langton to tell her story through the prism of her relationship with her slave mistress, Marguerite Benham. Langton and Benham’s relationship builds over time only to be tamped out once Benham casts her eyes elsewhere. Can we classify this one as a Georgian period same-sex love story replete with addictions to laudanum (opium), studies in phrenology, and a murder trial? Marian


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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


On the surface, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander slots neatly into the thriving bookish microcosm of Scottish romance — but in truth, this series is far removed from the tattered-tartan, kilt-wearing bodice rippers that saturate that literary category (although there's a fair amount of bodice-ripping and rugged Scotsmen, and I'm INTO IT). It doesn't help that one of the old covers looks like this, but these books are actually jam-packed with a prodigious amount of keen historical detail and a level of character and plot development that rivals the best epic fantasies out there today. The relationship between protagonists Jamie and Claire is one for the ages, and it's as deep and complex and joyous and heartbreaking as any of literature's great love stories. Nikki


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The Warming by Craig Ensor


This book is not only a cli-fi spectacle but a story of survival and determination in the name of love. Ensor gives us a relationship that grows from an innocence, to infatuation, then to a lasting love. The reader isn’t saturated with the cheesy feelings “absolutely nothing matters except this” love but rather are given a natural and seemingly essential relationship in a dire futuristic setting. It is unlike me to say, but this book gave me the impression that when all hope is lost and the planet is spiraling into a collapse, love is something that makes the struggle worth it. Courtney


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One Day by David Nicholls


I read this book in college when I was going through a major romance phase as I was dating a loser who wouldn’t actually ‘date’ me. This book gave me a first realistic look into loneliness and the devastation of fate. It is a love story that is riddled with harshness and cruelties, not a picture-perfect novel with an ending that could be wrapped up with a pretty bow. It is painful, tragic, and an incredible display of what love actually looks like in the real world. Maggie


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Spending by Mary Gordon


The world is inundated with stories of women as muses to great men. Spending treads on the story of a painter trying to succeed as a woman who can’t make money creating art and can’t create art without money. Then she meets someone who proves muse and benefactor, a delight to witness their romance, and all the economic and relationship-dynamic questions that are raised in its shadow. Plus, it’s really hot. Jessica Maria


Buy it here.