In February, it’s natural for our hearts and minds to turn to romance. Pink and red hearts are everywhere, as are mushy jewelry ads and shopping aisles filled with candy and flowers. Whether you think Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday or one of the best days of the year, is unimportant. The undeniable truth is that reading and watching great romance during the last mighty gasp of winter is what everyone needs to warm their souls.
Romance is about the thrill and adventure of finding a deep and powerful connection. It’s about the butterfly feelings we get in our stomachs that accompany the small looks and gestures communicating possibility. I love that well-written romantic novels allow me to experience these electrifying feelings alongside the protagonists. When done well, I’m transported into the story and invested in the outcome.
This month’s reading challenge is to share our favorite romance novels that have been made into movies or TV series. Is the book better? You’ll need to read and watch for yourself to decide.
My list shies away from the most obvious choices. If you do a quick internet search for “romantic books made into movies,” a dozen or so titles appear on almost every list. (The Notebook is one, but you can easily name the others.) Those are wonderful choices, and they top peoples’ lists for a good reason. But if you’re looking for more ideas to add to your reading list, here are my picks for satisfying anyone’s craving for romantic reading.
Quick Romance Adaptation list:
- Emma by Jane Austen
- Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
- Virgin River Series by Robyn Carr
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
- Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
- Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
- If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
- About a Boy by Nick Hornby
- Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Jane Austen, 1815
It feels appropriate to start with an obvious choice. Jane Austen pioneered the romance genre, and her stories continue to delight readers. Any Jane Austen title could be on this list; all her classic romances have been made into films. But Emma is a particular favorite of mine; it’s funny and dreamy all at once, but what makes this book wonderful is the slow and gentle transformation of the heroine. Many movie versions have been made of this classic, both period pieces and modern interpretations, many of which are very good. The evolution of Emma is a journey all of us have to take to some degree, which is why this book stands the test of time.
The Outlander Series is historical fiction set in Scotland in the mid-1700s. The romance between time-traveling Claire and the highlander Jaime Frasier is a central focus of these novels that take readers through the Jacobite rising all the way to the American Revolution. These books are top-notch historical fiction and romance rolled into one. The TV series of the same name is just as fun.
Robyn Carr’s Virgin River book series includes 20+ books about the residents and romances in Virgin River, a small town located in the redwoods of Northern California. These wonderful, contemporary romances are fun to read and keep you coming back for more. The Netflix Series of the same name is charming as well.
Kevin Kwan, 2013
Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in a satiric trilogy about wealthy Asian culture. The books are laugh-out-loud funny, and the romance between Rachel and Nick is just what we want romance to be. The movie was a blockbuster hit and makes for a perfect date night at home.
Thomas Hardy, 1874
I love this book. If you’ve been reading my book lists for a while, you’ll know it pops up periodically. Honestly, I recommend it any chance I get. Bathsheba and Gabriel’s romance is one of my favorites. There’s drama, humor, and slow-burn passion throughout this brilliant novel. I’ve seen the 1960s movie with Julie Christie and enjoyed it, but I learned while writing this list that a new movie version was made in 2015 that I have yet to see. You know what I just added to my watchlist.
Emily Giffin, 2010
The situation is a bit cliché: one best friend has romantic feelings for the other friend’s fiancé. We’ve seen this before. However, Giffin manages to make this a truly compelling story. Her characters are well-developed and highly nuanced. There aren’t any obvious heroes and villains in this story, so readers want everyone involved to have a happy ending. Yes, this is a romance, but it’s also a relatable story about friendship. You’ll be hooked from page one.
James Baldwin, 1974
Many folks believe this love story is Baldwin’s finest work. It’s the tale of the romance between Tish and Fonny and the challenges these young lovers face when Fonny is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. This book is full of the blues, for which Beale Street is famous, but Tish and Fonny are also two of the most alive and wonderful characters you’ll ever encounter. A movie based on the book was made in 2018 and was nominated for several Academy Awards.
Nick Hornby, 1998
Will is a dedicated bachelor living his dream life in London, living off the royalties of a Christmas song his father wrote. Marcus is a young teen living a less-than-ideal life with his single, suicidal mother. Will and Marcus meet after Will attends a support group for single mothers in a horribly misguided effort to pick up available, somewhat desperate women.
When Will falls in love with charming single mum Rachel, much to his chagrin, his simple life becomes decidedly more complicated. The film starring Rachel Weisz and Hugh Grant is one of my favorites.
Alice Hoffman, 1995
Is there such a thing as the perfect man? Sally Owens doesn’t think so, which is why she casts a spell ensuring she’ll only fall in love with a man that possesses a long list of desirable traits, thinking she’ll never meet such a remarkable fellow. This is extra protection for any potential sweethearts, as a centuries-old family curse dooms any man the Owens women fall in love with. Can Gillian and Sally find true love? There’s romance, magic, and quite a bit of suspense sprinkled throughout this brilliant book by Alice Hoffman. The movie with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman is fun, too.
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, 2008
Juliet Ashton is a published writer desperately seeking inspiration for a second book when a letter appears in her mailbox from Mr. Dawsey Adams of Guernsey. His request is simple. He finds Juliet’s name and address inside the cover of a book of essays, and he respectfully wonders if she can help him find more written by the same author.
Following this simple request, what unfolds is a beautiful story about Guernsey’s people and how they survived the German occupation during WWII. It’s also a romance. Which will Juliet choose, the dashing American publishing tycoon Markham Reynolds or the shy, quiet Dawsey Adams? The book is written in the style of letters between Juliet and Guernsey’s various residents. You’ll laugh and cry as you enjoy this memorable novel.
A Bit of Romance Between the Covers
February is the perfect time to discover a bit of romance between the covers of a great book. Do your romantic preferences lie with straight-up Harlequin bodice rippers, or do you prefer romance mixed with suspense, history, or something else? Remember to share your favorite romantic books that have made the leap to the screen with your fellow readers and us this month for our reading challenge. We’re excited to see what you love to read and watch.
You can grab these and other romantic books from discoverbooks.com. We have thousands of romance titles to choose from, so embrace the challenge and pop several into your cart today. Add some romance to your life this month with the help of Discover Books. It’s not to late to join the challenge. You can find January’s recommendations here.