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TEAM ZOELLA FEBRUARY 9, 2022

18 Books That’ll Have Your Heart for Breakfast

From the celebrated classics to contemporary rom-coms, affairs of the heart, childhood sweethearts, passion, tragedy, intrigue and unrequited love, the romance genre has something for every type of reader. 

Draw yourself a 5* bath, light your favourite candle, slip into something comfy and escape into the land of l-o-v-e this Valentine’s Day – you’ve got a hot date with these babin’ romance reads.

From the celebrated classics to contemporary rom-coms, affairs of the heart, childhood sweethearts, passion, tragedy, intrigue and unrequited love, the romance genre has something for every type of reader. 

A slew of satisfying happy ever afters,will they won’t they storylines and tear jerking plot twists await your readerly consumption…

1. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover 

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Even though it’s been six years since Colleen Hoover’s bestselling novel came out, Booktok is still very much obsessed with this romance and rightly so – all aboard the hype train. It Ends With Us combines a captivating romance with unforgettable characters and a perfectly realised love triangle with such skill, you will have a visceral reaction to it in the best possible way. Prepare for one almighty book hangover because Co-Ho is a hard woman to follow. 

2. Things We Never Said by Nick Alexander

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If you like the correspondence, PS I Love You format, you’ll swoon all over this novel.  

Catherine was the love of Sean’s life. But now she is gone. All that’s left is a box full of envelopes, each containing a snapshot and a cassette tape.

Through a series of recordings, Catherine shares their long love story, but will Sean recognise the story she tells? Catherine’s words have been chosen with love, but are painfully honest—and sometimes simply painful. She reveals every unspoken thought and every secret she kept from her husband—revelations that will shake everything Sean thought he knew about their life together.

But as disconcerting as the tapes turn out to be, Sean prays that they will ultimately confirm the one thing he never dared question. Does destiny exist? And were his and Catherine’s love and life together always meant to be?

3. One Day by David Nicholls 

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You know you’re onto a good’un when Marian Keyes says she wishes she’d written it. Spanning 20 years and written in alternating POV, One Day follows main characters Emma and Dexter as they vow to meet up on the same day every year following a one night stand on the night of their graduation in 2008. It’s a story about growing up, self-discovery and the minutia of relationships. Worth every last tear. 

4. When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri 

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Fast, sexy and laugh out loud funny, Camille Perri’s gay-girl meets straight-girl rom-com is a pitch perfect nod to Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally. It tells the story of 28-year-old Katie Daniels, a corporate lawyer who’s just been dumped by her fiancé and the suited and booted Cassidy Price, her intimidating opposing counsel. At first neither of them know what to make of the other, but soon their unexpected connection will bring into question everything each of them thought they knew about sex and love. Psst! You’ll want to take a highlighter to the sex toy shopping scene…

5. When We Were Birds by Ayanna Lloyd Banwo

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Meet Darwin, a handsome gravedigger down on his luck and Yejide, the girl with the gift of speaking to the dead. Both have something that the other needs. Their destinies are intertwined, and they will find one another in the sprawling, ancient cemetery at the heart of the island, where trouble is brewing. This masterfully crafted Trinidad-set debut is the love-story-cum-ghost-story you didn’t know you needed this Valentine’s Day, from an irresistible new voice in fiction. Out today! Happy publication day, Ayanna. 

6. The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary 

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For fans of The Switch and The Flatshare, you’re in for a treat. Beth O’Leary is your elite Valentine! Ever wondered what would happen if you randomly bumped into an ex two years post-breakup and had to share an awkward 24-hour car journey with them? The Road Trip explores the trials and tribulations of *that* experience right here. 

With each chapter alternating between Addie and Dylan’s point of view, and a dual timeline to explore the then and now of their relationship, this is a story of love lost and second chances. It also handles some serious subject matter from sexual abuse, stalking and alcoholism – the grittiest of Beth O’Leary’s books so far. 

7. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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Exploring the thin line between love and hate, Sally Thorne’s novel is a treat for anyone who enjoys a classic rom-com enemies-to-lovers storyline.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman sit across from each other every day . . . and they hate each other.

Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. HATE. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight approach to his job and refusal to smile. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and desire to be liked.

Now they’re up for the same promotion and Lucy, usually a determined people-pleaser, has had enough: it’s time to take him down. But as the tension between Lucy and Joshua reaches its boiling point, it’s clear that the real battle has only just begun. 

8. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 

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You’ve probably watched the film starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin a minimum of 3 (translation: 20) times but if you do one thing this February, couple up with the book and ship Will and Lou all over again. 

Will Traynor was once a successful businessman, travelling the world and enjoying extreme sports until a major accident left him quadriplegic, unable to move anything below his mid torso. Since his accident, he has no desire to live until Louisa Clark bursts into his life when she takes a job as his carer and sets out to help him find the joy in living again. “They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose.” Someone is cutting behemoth onions in here.

9. Normal People by Sally Rooney

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A subtle novel, packed with Rooney’s signature simplicity and nuanced observations. There’s no doubt about it, Normal People is one of the best romance stories of the 21st Century. We said what we said. Prepare to swoon all over Marianne and Connell. 

10. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

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No self-respecting romance round up would be complete without what is arguably the greatest romance ever written. The genre would be nothing without Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Nothing. 

11. A Certain Appeal by Vanessa King 

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A raunchy retelling of Pride & Prejudice with a Burlesque twist, Vanessa King’s novel is for anyone looking for more Will & Liz action. 

12. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks 

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Are you even a true Notebook fan if you haven’t read the book? No doubt you’ve bawled your eyes out to the movie more times than you can count but the book just hits different. The hold this couple has on us. Allie and Noah would find each other in any lifetime. 

13. Maurice by E.M. Forster 

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Written by Forster in 1914 during a time when homosexuality was illegal, Maurice chronicles the sexual awakening of a young man and his journey to self-discovery. It was published after the author’s death and quickly became one of the greatest love stories of all time. 

14. Once Ghosted Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole

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Once Ghosted Twice Shy is part of Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series but works just as well as a stand-alone book. 

Months after Likotsi and Fabiola’s love affair ended in heartbreak, the two reunite on a subway train in New York City of all places. Fab asks for one cup of tea and Likotsi agrees, hoping she’ll find out why their whirlwind romance ended with a break up text. The course of true love never did run smooth! A grade A second-chance F/F romance novella for a cosy afternoon at home. 

15. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

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A novel with a special kind of staying power. Step back in time to the glamourous jazz age of hedonistic heights and heart wrenching tragedy in Fitzgerald’s beautifully written classic. “I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity.” Ooof, consider The Great Gatsby a compulsory read from one of the most distinguished authors in the history of American literature. 

16. The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

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It’s a perfect match but will it last? Rhiannon Hunter may have revolutionised romance in the digital world, but in real life she only swipes right on her career – and the occasional hookup. The cynical dating app creator controls her love life with a few key rules: 

– Nude pics are by invitation only 

– If someone stands you up, block them

– Protect your heart 

Only there aren’t any rules to govern her attraction to her newest match, former sports star Samson Lima. The sexy and seemingly sweet hunk woos her one magical night… and then disappears. 

Rhi thought she’d buried her hurt over Samson ghosting her, until he suddenly surfaces months later, still big, still beautiful – and in league with a business rival. He says he won’t fumble their second chance, but she’s wary. A temporary physical partnership is one thing, but a merger of hearts? Surely that’s too high a risk…

17. Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson 

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A tender and intimate masterpiece about love and all it encompasses, deftly written by a promising new voice in fiction. Short enough to get through in one sitting, poignant enough to stay with you long after closing the cover. 

18. PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern 

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With over 25 million copies sold worldwide, PS I Love You is a sensational novel with a storyline as bitter as it is sweet. It tells the story of childhood sweethearts Holly and Gerry – an inseparable couple who could finish each other’s sentences… 

When Gerry dies, Holly is devastated. But Gerry has left her a bundle of notes, one for each month of her year, each signed ‘PS, I Love You’.

As the notes are opened, the man who knows Holly better than anyone teaches her that life goes on. With some help from friends and family, Holly laughs, cries and finds that life is for living – but it helps if there’s someone watching over you. Nothing will make you weep like letters beyond the grave. Not. A. Dry. Eye. In. The. Vicinity. 

If you’re looking for something steamier than all of the above, may we point you in the direction of our 12 Saucy Books in the Same Throbbing League as Fifty Shades of Grey. You’re welcome.    

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