Romance is one of the bestselling genres in the US. In fact, according to the Romance Writers of America (RWA), statistics show that romance novels make up more than 50% of all sales of mass-market paperback fiction in America.
Romance is a popular genre because nearly everyone can relate to the thrills and challenges of love and its complications. Research shows that readers of romance include both men and women, with male readers making up about 9% of the audience (although the men tend to be less vocal about their interests).
The Best Romance Authors
If you want to be a fiction writer, one important piece of advice is to read extensively in your chosen genre. To write romance, immerse yourself in the writings of the bestselling romance authors.
Or, if you simply want to sit down with a good, sizzling read, here are some of the best romance authors to choose from:
1. Danielle Steel
The bestselling author alive today, Danielle Steel has sold more than 800 million copies of her books. She is also the fourth bestselling fiction writer of all time, with more than 179 books, 146 of them fiction, to her name.
Must Read: Zoya
Steel shows her storytelling prowess in this romance novel featuring Zoya, a Russian countess who flees the Russian Revolution with her grandmother. When they arrive in Paris without a cent to their name, Zoya has to form a new life by joining a ballet company.
2. Nora Roberts
The first writer in the Romance Writer of America Hall of Fame, Nora Roberts is known as the queen of romance fiction. Roberts is the pseudonym of Eleanor Marie Robertson, who also writes under other pen names, such as J.D. Robb.
Must Read: Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
This romantic suspense follows New York police lieutenant Eve Dallas on the trail of a heartless killer. What happens when she gets involved with one of her suspects in her investigation?
3. Nicholas Sparks
Must Read: The Last Song
Three years after 17-year-old Veronica Miller’s parents divorced, “Ronnie” stays angry and estranged from them, especially her father. Then her mother makes the call of sending Ronnie to spend the summer with her father in Wilmington.
Her father is a former concert pianist who is now living quietly in the beach town, preoccupied with creating his life’s masterpiece. The Last Song explores not just first love among young people but also the affection shared between parents and children, showing us how these valued relationships can both break and heal our hearts.
4. Robyn Carr
One of the most well-known names in romance novels since 1980, Robyn Carr fascinates readers especially with her Virgin River series, detailing different love stories set in a California forest outpost.
Her stories in the series include unique characters, like a disgruntled sous chef or a tough marine who finds his soft side. Plus, it now comes with a Netflix adaptation starring Alexandra Breckenridge.
Must-Read: Virgin River (Book 1 of the Virgin River series)
After her husband dies, 30-something nurse Melinda Monroe moves to the secluded Virgin River—and finds it falling short of her expectations. In fact, the shabby conditions and the curt manner of the local doctor convinces her to leave, but the retired marine she meets changes her plans.
5. Carolyn Brown
Brown’s debut novel Love Is was published in 1999, and for the last 20 years she has written both historical and contemporary romance, specializing in cowboy romances.
Her stories tend to be set in the South and feature a rancher with tall, dark, and handsome looks, and a heroine that has no radar for love: she’s likely too preoccupied with her child, or perhaps she’s struggling to let go of memories of her last relationship—but they end up falling in love anyway.
Must-read: Long, Hot Texas Summer
Seventeen years ago, after having found her husband Jackson making out with another woman, Loretta Bailey walked out of Lonesome Canyon Ranch, supposedly forever. Now that Loretta and Jackson’s daughter drops her college plans to get married to a rancher, Loretta bristles and decides to go back to the ranch to work with Jackson—and finds him still as handsome and wily as ever.
6. Lisa Kleypas
Expert storyteller Lisa Kleypas shines in historical romance. Having started writing at 21 years old, Klaypas began with duologies and moved on to multi-book series, with The Hathaways and The Wallflowers among the most popular.
The author’s intimate knowledge of the time periods she sets her stories in gives her books a very solid historical background.
Must Read: Mine Till Midnight (Book 1 of The Hathaways Series)
A surprise inheritance throws Amelia Hathaway right smack in the middle of an aristocratic society. Between that and needing to keep her younger siblings in check, Amelia finds her life crammed full—but not too full to notice Cam Rohan, a bad boy character who also came from less well-off roots.
7. Sarah MacLean
Specializing in historical romance, MacLean often explores the intersection of the romance genre with gender studies.
Must Read: A Rogue by Any Other Name
This first book in MacLean’s Rule of Scoundrels series perfectly carries out the fiction trope of the lady who turns out to be a bit naughty herself.
8. Alyssa Cole
Cole doesn’t stick to just one genre: most of her writing revolves around historical romance, but she also has a few contemporary novels in her collection.
Must Read: Radio Silence
This first book in the Off the Grid series combines a dystopian thriller story with romance.
9. Susan Elizabeth Phillips
A mainstay in romance fiction since the 1980s, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is known for her novels revolving around sports and athletes. She’s also known for playing with humor, earning her the title “Queen of Romantic Comedy.”
Must Read: It Had to Be You
Phoebe Somerville is a New York girl who has just inherited a football team, made of sexy and sexist athletes, led by the worst sexist of the group, head coach Dan Calebow. Phoebe and Dan clash from the get-go, but Phillips effectively weaves a tale of humor, warmth, and chemistry.
10. Jane Austen
Classic writer Jane Austen is best known for her 6 major novels, and the film adaptations of her books have added to her popularity in recent generations.
Must Read: Pride and Prejudice
This romantic novel follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, whose prejudices keeps her from realizing her developing friendship and attraction to the proud Mr. Darcy. Through her family’s experience with potential husbands, she also learns important lessons about appearances and genuine goodness.
11. Julie Garwood
Julie Garwood has 26 New York Times bestsellers in her collection and more than 35 million books in print. She points to her Irish heritage as a key to her success, a culture that has continued to have a strong emphasis on dramatic and detailed storytelling.
Having started in young adult (YA) fiction, Garwood has since focused on historical romance, one of the most popular of which is her Highlands’ Lairds series.
Must Read: The Secret (Book 1 of Highlands’ Lairds)
Judith Hampton journeys from her comfortable home in England to the Highlands to be by the side of her childhood friend as she gives birth. She clashes with a Scottish barbarian named Iain Maitland, all while struggling to resist his passionate kisses and caresses. But what happens when she discovers a life-changing secret about her father?
12. Debbie Macomber
This New York Times bestselling romance author has sold over 200 million copies of her novels, and a few of her books have also been made into film adaptations. She is known for tackling complex relationships that include loyal friendships and family dynamics, giving her readers stories of hope and connection.
Must Read: The Shop on Blossom Street
Debbie Macomber shares her love of knitting in this romance novel set around a newly-opened yarn shop in Seattle, where four women come together in a knitting class to make baby blankets. They form a special friendship which takes readers on a heartwarming journey of hope, love, and renewal.
13. Johanna Lindsey
Another expert in the historical romance genre, the late Johanna Lindsey has sold over 60 million copies of her more than 50 bestselling novels. Her first novel, Captive Bride, was published back in 1977.
Must Read: Warrior’s Woman
This science fiction take on the romance novel centers around Tedra De Arr, the fearless heroine who works to save her home planet from the evil Crad Ce Moerr. Challen Ly-San-Ter stands in her way and wants to take her back to his lair.
14. Jude Deveraux
Jude Deveraux is the New York Times bestselling author of over 40 books, having sold more than 50 million copies as of 2016. Her specialty is historical romance, but she also dabbles in paranormal and mystery subgenres.
Must Read: A Knight in Shining Armor
Jude Deveraux weaves an excellent time-travel tale in A Knight in Shining Armor, with a present-day lady mourning over a tombstone in an English church, and a 16th-century earl who suddenly shows up, despite having supposedly died in 1564.
15. Jayne Ann Krentz
Bestseller Jayne Ann Krentz writes under seven pen names, including Amanda Quick, Amanda Glass, and Jayne Taylor. She is best known for writing contemporary romantic-suspense and historical romantic-suspense. She has more than 35 million copies of her novels in print.
Must Read: Smoke in Mirrors
This romantic-suspense novel starts off with seductress and con artist Meredith Spooner stealing more than a million dollars and leaving the money in an offshore account for Leonora Hutton.
15. Judith McNaught
Bestselling author Judith McNaught has 30 million copies of her more than a dozen contemporary and historical romance novels in print.
Must Read: Almost Heaven
This romance novel follows Countess Elizabeth Cameron, whose perfect reputation is torn to shreds when she is found in the arms of the social outcast, notorious gambler Ian Thornton.
Favorite Romance Authors
The best romance authors found success by crafting unforgettable stories, but it also took lots of practice.
If you have dreams of becoming a successful author, start by developing a regular writing routine, reading some of the best authors, and asking for feedback. Who knows? You just might become the next Danielle Steel!
Who is your favorite romance author? Share your top pick in the comments below!
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Yen Cabag is the Blog Writer of TCK Publishing. She is also a homeschooling mom, family coach, and speaker for the Charlotte Mason method, an educational philosophy that places great emphasis on classic literature and the masterpieces in art and music. She has also written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her passion is to see the next generation of children become lovers of reading and learning in the midst of short attention spans.