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Love them or hate them, romance novels are here to stay. Romance is one of the fasting growing fiction genres, with Penguin Random House reporting a 50% increase in romance book sales in 2021. And the most recent obsession in the industry is modern romance novels, which captivate millions of readers. 

Whether you’re unfamiliar with the modern romance genre or looking for the hottest recommendations, BestReviews book expert Ciera Pasturel, a California librarian, is here to explain the genre and what’s new.

In this article: “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid and “Things We Never Got Over” by Lucy Score.

How romance novels adapt to keep up with modern life

Romance novels aren’t new; the earliest date back to the 18th century. Classic romance novels include beloved works by Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë. However, not everyone enjoys lining their bookshelves with historical fiction. Instead, they find love in modern romance novels. 

“Modern romance novels are set in contemporary society and often reflect current issues people experience today in the world of dating and love,” Pasturel says. “For instance, these novels may contain drama surrounding a scandalous text message or the woes of online dating. They cater to those interested in reading a romantic tale that could occur in their own lives.”

One new element of modern romance novels that stands out for Pasturel is cover design. Instead of real pictures of hunky, shirtless men or idyllic beach scenery, modern romance novels often showcase illustrated designs that include pastel hues.

Currently, the most popular modern romance author is Colleen Hoover, who penned “It Ends With Us,” “Verity” and “Reminders of Him.” In fact, her books have become so popular that “Gossip Girl” star Blake Lively has been cast as the main character in a movie based on “It Ends With Us.”

Key elements of a modern romance novel

Most modern romance novels follow a certain storyline and have three main elements.

  1. There’s a developing central love story with a conflict preventing the lovers from being together. This element hooks readers and invests them in the story.
  2. The main characters decide how to overcome barriers to be together. After all, what’s an exciting relationship without a little drama?
  3. They live happily ever after, or what’s known in the book world as “HEA.”

While the key elements may be similar, modern romance novels also have unique tropes or storylines. For example, in “enemies to lovers” books, the main characters start off as enemies.

Pasturel lists these as the most popular modern romance novel tropes:

  • Enemies to lovers.
  • Forbidden love.
  • Forced proximity.
  • Second-chance romance.
  • Fake relationships.
  • Friends to lovers.
  • Workplace romance.

Why people love the modern romance genre

While some people love to escape modern times and read about a knight sweeping away a princess on his white horse, Pasturel says, the current generation wants to be heard and understood. Because modern romance novels are full of current issues, such as a couple moving in together during the pandemic, people can relate to the content.

Another reason people love to read about love, Pasturel says, is that it makes them happy. “There is a bigger emphasis on self-care and self-love among society today that may translate to people reading romance novels that are comforting or bring happiness to their daily lives.”  

She also refers to the newly illustrated modern romance covers. “The hues of pinks, blues, purples, and yellows may be attracting readers that usually wouldn’t pick up the typical small mass-market paperbacks with half-clothed models on the front cover.”

But the most significant reason the modern romance genre is growing, Pasturel says, is likely due to the “happily ever after.” With the chaos of the world, she says, people want that happy ending. And if they can’t get it for themselves, at least they can read about it.

Best modern romance novels

Best It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

“It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover

Be sure to pick up this novel in paperback, audiobook or Kindle before it airs on the big screen with Blake Lively. It’s a brave, honest and tender story about abuse, a past relationship and a new relationship that seems too good to be true.

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Best The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

After its overwhelming success and popularity worldwide, Netflix announced a new movie based on the romance novel. This book follows a reclusive Hollywood movie icon as she’s ready to finally tell her entire story, not leaving out the good, the bad or the forbidden.

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Best Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score

“Things We Never Got Over” by Lucy Score

No one can resist a bad boy, especially one who is kind enough to help someone out of a jam. With elements of real danger and an evil twin, this novel will have you hooked until the last page.

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Best People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

“People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry

For 10 years, the main characters and best friends have taken a summer trip together. But after a vacation gone wrong, can they put aside their differences and fix everything? They’re betting it all on one last summer trip.

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Best The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

“The Love Hypothesis” by Ali Hazelwood

To prove to her best friend that she can have a healthy relationship, Olive kisses the first man she sees and convinces him to be her pretend boyfriend. In this novel, the line between fake and real gets fuzzy as they navigate a counterfeit relationship.

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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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