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Books

Romantic books: 29 holiday reads that are perfect company for the beach

Not sure which book to pick up next? This feel-good holiday reading list has been made for all those in need of a serious boost.

Whether you have a holiday booked or not, this is well and truly the season to take over a sunny corner of the beach or park, soak up those rays, and lap up a good book.

But which good book, eh? Well, for those who just aren’t in the mood for a gritty true crime or a historical thriller, though, we wholeheartedly recommend dipping into the romantic fiction section of your local book shop.

And, in a bid to help you settle upon one of the many thousands of titles this genre has to offer, we’ve whipped up a list of our favourite romantic books – each of which aims to soothe your soul and lift your spirits.

From old favourites like Bridget Jones’ Diary to popular new titles like Last Tang Standing, there truly is something here for everyone.

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Red, White And Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston

This utterly addictive bestseller deals with one of our favourite romantic tropes – hate at first sight – as Alex, the son of the US president, is forced to fake a friendship with the UK’s Prince Henry. 

“Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: can love save the world after all?” asks the official synopsis. Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colours shine through?”

Essentially, true love isn’t always diplomatic… but it is deliciously good fun to read!

The Last Letter From Your Lover – Jojo Moyes

The Last Letter From Your Lover tells the story of journalist Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones).
Shailene Woodley stars in the upcoming film adaptation of The Last Letter From Your Lover.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley, The Last Letter From Your Lover follows Ellie Haworth, an ambitious journalist who discovers a trove of secret love letters from 1965 and becomes determined to solve the mystery of the forbidden affair at their centre.

As she uncovers the story behind Jennifer Stirling, the wife of a wealthy industrialist, and Anthony O’Hare, the financial journalist assigned to cover him, a love story of Ellie’s own begins to unfold with the assistance of an earnest and endearing archivist, who helps her track down more letters.

Real Men Knit – Kwana Jackson

The hero of this absolute swoonfest is avid knitter Kerry Fuller, who has worked at Joy Strong’s knitting shop (aptly named Strong Knits) for years. When Joy unexpectedly passes away, though, Kerry is forced to join forces with her late boss’ son, Jesse, in order to keep the shop open and… well, you can probably guess what happens: a romance every bit as cute and cosy as a handknit jumper.

Bridgerton: The Duke And I – Julia Quinn

Simon Basset and Daphne Bridgerton
Bridgerton spotlights female sexuality and desire.

Shondaland’s Bridgerton has been streamed by a whopping 63 million households since it arrived on Netflix on Christmas Day… so why not read the book it was based upon, hmm? The first in a series of eight novels, it sends us hurtling back to Regency-era London, where Daphne Bridgerton and the Duke of Hastings have entered into a sham courtship. 

He’s convinced that their little arrangement will cause “every presumptuous mother in town” to leave him well alone (he’s sick of being hounded by all the debutantes’ mamas). She, in turn, hopes it will give her a newfound sense of allure and draw “every suitor” back to her.

Naturally, though, things quickly spiral down the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before route: pretending to be besotted with one another leads to them becoming… well, becoming besotted with one another. Swoon.

A Pho Love Story – Loan Le

Looking for another take on the star crossed lovers genre? Look no further than this gorgeous romance, which sees Linh and Bao fall head-over-heels for one another… despite the fact that their families own rival pho restaurants and hate each other’s guts.

Can their love transcend an age-old feud and heal the rift between these two families? You’ll have to read it to find out (sorry not sorry).

Normal People – Sally Rooney

Normal People
Normal People features very lifelike portrayals of sex.

Normal People was, without a doubt, one of the biggest books of the 2010s, and the BBC’s adaptation – starring Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones – has since made it a household name. If you’ve yet to read Sally Rooney’s award-winning tome of love and displacement, though, now is the time. 

Set in a tiny Irish town during the economic downturn of the 2000s, and begins with a secret schoolyard romance: Connell is well-liked by his peers, and so does his utmost to hide his relationship with the unpopular Marianne.

Normal People doesn’t follow the path of so many other love stories and wrap things up neatly with a bow, however. Instead, it follows Marianne and Connell’s relationship as it continues well into adulthood. And, as the lonesome Marianne finds her footing at university, and Connell finds himself on the sidelines, we’re left to ponder whether their intense bond can ever hope to last.

Can You Keep A Secret? – Sophie Kinsella

Emma is terrified of flying. So, when her plane is rocked by turbulence, she immediately assumes the worst and begins spilling all of her deepest, darkest secrets to the stranger sat next to her. You know, things like how she feeds OJ to her most annoying colleague’s desk plant. And how she’s not sure if she has a G-spot, or whether her inept boyfriend could find it anyway.

She survives the flight, of course, and the next morning she meets her new boss.

You guessed it: it’s the man from the plane. And he recognizes her. And it’s soon clear that he remembers everything she said. But what will he do with all her secrets? Only time will tell…

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

crazy rich Asians kevin kwan
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan is narrated by Lynn Chen

As in, yes, the book that inspired the hit romcom movie of the same name. This satirical romantic novel sees New Yorker Rachel Chu agree to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young.

However, while she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry, Nick has failed to let his girlfriend know that his family is obscenely wealthy (and famous!) and that he is the country’s most eligible bachelor. Cue the drama.

The Wedding Date – Jasmine Guillory

The bestselling first novel in Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date series kicks off with Alexa Monroe and Drew Nichols, two successful professionals who quickly fall for one another after he ropes her into pretending to be his girlfriend at a friend’s wedding.

This feel-good romance is a favourite of Reese Witherspoon (in fact, she recommended it for her Hello Sunshine Book Club) and for good reason: it’s every bit as charming as it is funny, and guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.

Last Tang Standing – Lauren Ho

Andrea Tang is doing her best to make her mum proud: she’s on track to become partner at a top law firm in Singapore, she has a beautiful apartment in the right postcode, and a perfect boyfriend who is practically made of husband material.

Except… well, except there’s an unfairly attractive new lawyer out to steal her promotion, she’s maxed out all her credit cards, and her perfect boyfriend is now her ex.

Naturally, Andrea decides the best way to deal with this is by creating a fake boyfriend. Y’know, just to throw her nosy family off the scent and put an end to their romantic meddling.

And, just as naturally, events soon begin to spiral out of control. 

Sophia Khan Is Not Obliged – Ayisha Malik

In this hilarious novel, we meet Sofia Khan, who’s just about ready to swear off men for good after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents.

But then her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene. And, in amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers, and decidedly odd online daters, she quickly discovers that she might just be falling in love after all…

Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding.
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding.

“December 25, weight 140 pounds plus 42 mince pies. Alcohol units, oh, thousands.”

Bridget Jones needs no introduction at this point. The modern-day reimaging of Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett, she navigates the social minefield of friendships, relationships and career through a haze of cigarette smoke and turkey curry buffets. 

Will she find her very own Mr Darcy? Well, you probably know the answer already – but half the fun is the journey, right?

The Bennet Women – Eden Appiah-Kubi

This literary equivalent of a tub of Ben & Jerry’s takes us to Bennet House, the only all-women’s dorm at prestigious Longbourn University. There, we are introduced to three close friends who are about to have an eventful year: EJ is an ambitious Black engineering student, her best friend, Jamie, is a newly out trans woman studying French and theatre, and Tessa is a Filipina astronomy major with guy trouble. 

For them, Bennet House is more than a residence: it’s an oasis of feminism, femininity, and enlightenment. But as great as Longbourn is for academics, EJ knows it can be a wretched place to find love… until she finds herself drawn to a man who’s not exactly a perfect fit for the future she has planned, of course.

The Bride Test – Helen Hoang

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

In this original and sensitive tome, Esme Tran – a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City – leaps at the opportunity to go to America and meet a potential husband. 

Seducing Khai, though, proves harder than she imagined, especially as he’s convinced his autism has rendered him incapable of love. 

And, as her time in the US dwindles, Esme finds herself hopelessly smitten. Too bad, then, that Khai doesn’t feel the same – or does he?

The Bookshop On The Corner – Jenny Colgan

A must-read for anyone who’s ever dreamed of opening their own bookshop, this sweet tale sees Nina lose her job as a British librarian.

With nothing left to lose, she takes a leap of faith and opens a bookmobile in a tiny Scottish town. And it’s not long before her little shop’s magic is felt by every single person living there…

Unmarriageable – Soniah Kamal

When the wedding of the year brings forthright Alys Binat face-to-face with the impossibly rude Mr. Darsee, she is 100% convinced of her opinion that marriage isn’t for her. 

Unfortunately, though, her sister has fallen head-over-heels for Darsee’s best friend. And the more she gets to know Darsee, the more she realises that she may have misjudged him the first time they met. Maybe.

Satirical and brilliant, consider this your essential guide to marriage, class, and sisterhood in modern-day Pakistan.

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman – Milly Johnson

Milly Johnson is basically the queen of the frothy romcom genre, with a bevy of titles to her name. If you’re not sure where to start, though, try The Perfectly Imperfect Woman.

All about the hopelessly flawed Marnie Salt, it sees our heroine befriend an old lady on a baking chatroom. When she begins confiding in Lilian, though, Marnie has no idea how much her life will change.

Because Lilian owns a village – and entire village, mind – in the Yorkshire Dales. And it isn’t long before Marnie finds herself upping sticks and moving there.

But what will she find in Wychwell? And can she ever hope to win over the locals?

The Trouble with Hating You – Sajni Patel

The Trouble with Hating You – Sajni Patel
The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel

An MBA-toting biochemical engineer, Liya Thakkar has always known she will never, ever be a docile Indian housewife – much to the despair of her parents.

Keen to change her mind, they attempt to ambush her with a probable suitor, prompting Liya to escape out the back door.

When he spots his would-be date leaving, Jayesh Shah is shocked and angry. Which makes it doubly awkward when he’s unveiled as the new hotshot lawyer that’s been hired to rejuvenate Liya’s failing company.

Sure, it’s a classic hate-at-first-sight story, but trust us: this enemies-to-lovers arc is still an impossibly fun ride.

American Royals – Katharine McGee

Ever wondered what would happen if the USA had its own royal family? Wonder no longer. 

This glamourous regal blockbuster sees four young women – a royal rebel, a demure princess, a wannabe consort, and the daughter of the king’s secretary – do their best to navigate the drama and gossip of the most glorious court in the world.

Because as the synopsis promises: “There’s everything to play for… but there can only be one queen.”

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

We are steered through this uplifting tale of love by unlikely romcom hero Don Tillman, a 39-year-old geneticist.

After a string of unlucky first dates, he devises the Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. 

The results are… interesting, to say the least. Because it’s not long before the Wife Project throws up Rosie – ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ – sending Don’s safe, ordered life into absolute chaos. 

But could it be that the strange, warm feeling in his chest is… love? 

The Last Anniversary – Liane Moriarty

What would you do if your ex-boyfriend’s great aunt – whom you’d only met once or twice at most – died and left you the island home of your dreams?

Well, you’d take it. Especially if said island home of your dreams came with a promise of true love. And, y’know, was also shrouded in a 70-year-old mystery, just ripe for the solving…

Get A Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert

Get A Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert
Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

This bestselling novel follows chronically ill (and computer-obsessed)  Chloe Brown, who makes a checklist to officially help her “get a life.” 

Her list includes such gems as:

  • Enjoy a drunken night out
  • Ride a motorbike 
  • Go camping
  • Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex
  • Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage
  • And … do something bad

Cue her convincing a tattooed handyman artist to help her complete the list in full. But it’s not long before she’s left wanting more from him than she ever expected…

Exciting Times – Naoise Dolan

In this enthralling novel, Ava finds herself spending more and more time with Edith, a refreshingly enthusiastic and unapologetically earnest lawyer, when her boring banker boyfriend leaves town for work.

But, when Julian suddenly announces that he’s coming back to Hong Kong, the rug is pulled abruptly out from under Ava’s feet.

Should she return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian? or should she take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

Ayesha At Last – Uzma Jalaluddin

“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single, Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations were of secondary importance.” 

In this modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, wannabe poet Ayesha is unimpressed when she meets the conservative and judgmental Khalid. 

As for Khalid, he’s busy waiting for his mother to find him a suitable bride, but soon find he can’t he get the  outspoken Ayesha out of his mind.

Could it be that he’s finally met his perfect match? And, if so, how will he ever convince her that he’s the man for her?

Watermelon – Marian Keyes

On the day she gives birth to her first child, Claire Walsh’s husband James tells her he’s been having an affair and now’s the right time to leave her. 

It’s not long before Claire is running back home to mum and dad to lick her wounds and work out what the hell she’s going to do next. Then, just as she thinks she’s found her footing, James bounces back into her life, keen for a second chance.

Should she give him one?

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean Covey fall in love in the screen adaptation of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
Peter Kavinsky and Lara Jean Covey fall in love in the screen adaptation of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.

You’ve seen the Netflix film, now read the book!

When her secret love letters somehow get mailed to each of her five crushes, Lara Jean finds her quiet high school existence turned upside down. And, for those who fall in love with this story about… well, about love, rest assured that there are two sugary-sweet sequels to get stuck into, too.

The Garden Of Small Beginnings – Abbi Waxman

Lilian’s husband died in a car accident in front of their house four years ago and she hasn’t been quite ready to move on (which fine, doesn’t sound like the premise of a feel-good novel, but bear with us).

It seems as if she’s going to stay stuck in a rut forever, until she’s asked to illustrate a book about vegetables. Suddenly, she’s signed up for a six-week gardening class, and throwing herself into something unlike anything she’s ever done before.

Friendship soon blooms in the class, providing Lili with a whole network of interesting new pals. And, as the course progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that, just maybe, she may have another chance at love, too.

P.S. I Love You – Cecelia Ahern

PS I Love You - Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler
The big-screen adaptation of PS I Love You starred Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler

When her soulmate Gerry dies (again, we know it doesn’t sound feel-good, but wait for it), Holly is devastated. 

However, she soon learns that Gerry has left her a bundle of notes, one for each month of her year, each signed ‘PS, I Love You’. And so, with a little help from her friends and larger-than-life Irish family, she sets to fulfilling each of the tasks he has set her.

She laughs, a lot. She cries just as much. She embarrasses herself horribly at a karaoke bar, too.

And, in the process, she finds that life is for living – but that it helps massively if there’s someone watching over you.

The Boyfriend Project – Farrah Rochon

When Samiah Brooks learns that she’s been catfished through her viral live tweets, she makes a six-month pact with her best friends: no men, no dating, just time to focus on themselves.

Then, she meets an irresistible co-worker who puts her resolve to the test. But is Daniel really boyfriend material… or is he simply too good to be true?

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