Who doesn’t need a little love sometimes? Romance is one of those genres that exist easily in every other genre. Seriously, pick up any of your favorite anime or manga watches in the last few years and tell me that they didn’t have a cute couple or a tragic romance in them! Romantic couples are such a fun dynamic, and so they add a lot of flavor to any story.
Whether it’s a quiet romance in the background or the main focal point, romance is a mainstay in most of the stories we consume. Fantasy, Isekai, Shounen, hell, even something like a psychological thriller can have One True Pairing (OTP) lurking around somewhere in the background!
As a long-standing fan of anything romance, one of the best discoveries I made during the pandemic was the existence of Light Novels. Light novels can be found so readily, in every setting possible and they are extremely binge-worthy. Now, honestly speaking, most of the popular light novels are Isekai or Fantasy based.
Solo Levelling and Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint usually get thrown around as the most famous examples. Some, like All Of Us Are Dead, even get picked up for being adapted into manhwa or even TV adaptations. And Isekai and Fantasy are great and all, but I want more variety.
Hence, welcome to the world of Romance light novels! Romantic light novels are severely underrated when we talk about light novels in general. This is sad because often, they are more than just the chase between two individuals. They could involve entire government conspiracies, with rich world-building, or just be something comfortable and wholesome. But one thing that all romance light novels all have in common? They are immensely satisfying. So, here are my top picks for top romance light novels whenever you’re in the mood for some feels!
Listen, I couldn’t have a list about romantic light novels start without mentioning the one that every anime fan has seen on their radar, at least once. ToraDora! the anime is a cult classic in the rom-com genre, but did you know it had its start as a light novel?
We all know the story but just in case you were living under a rock: Takasu Ryuuji is, by all means, a polite, caring dude living with his ditzy single mom during his second year of high school. He cooks, he cleans, and he’s got the meanest face you’ve ever seen. Sadly, that means only two people interact with him: Yusaku Kitamura, his bestie, and Minori Kusheida, his unrequited crush. Enter, Taiga Aisaka, Minori’s best friend and “the school’s most dangerous animal of the highest risk level” who has her own crush on Yusaku, hates Ryuuji’s guts, and lives next door to him? Talk about coincidence!
Aided by Yusaku’s childhood friend, the ditzy but shrewd Ami Kawashima, the gang goes through misunderstandings and revelations while having love blossom somewhere along the way. Taiga and Ryuuji are adorable, and the hijinks they get into together are hilarious. If the anime was too short for you, give the light novel a try!
2. Death Is The Only Ending For The Villainess
This is a darker twist on the usual ‘Stuck In An Otome Game!’ stereotype, filled with suspense and edge. Death Is The Only Ending For The Villainess echoes the classic Cinderella trope, where a girl is left at the mercy of an evil stepfather and 2 wicked stepbrothers, dubbed ‘unloved burden’ by the family. She does get out, thanks to working part-time jobs as she reaches adulthood. But that newfound freedom is cut short when she gets transported into an otome game.
Surprise surprise, this fantasy life is the same nasty situation she was stuck in before. Only this time, she is forced to play on Hard Mode as Penelope Eckhart, the villainess who everyone hates, and every choice can easily lead to her death. With only a year left before Yvonne, the true heroine of the game comes back and replaces her, it’s up to Penelope to make her own destiny and survive living amongst the male leads who will not hesitate to kill her at a moment’s notice.
Penelope is an intelligent, clever but sensitive protagonist that you can’t help but root for. Her tale of negligence and finding autonomy even in the strangest conditions is filled with suspense and dread. And I enjoyed every second of it!
3. Spice And Wolf
Slowburn fans, this one is for you! Before the dawn of Isekai, there was Spice and Wolf. Kraft Lawrence, our male lead, is a traveling merchant who dreams of opening his own store one day. He goes about his life, not caring for the strict rules inflicted upon the land by a Church until he finds a literal goddess asleep in his wagon. Holo is the wolf deity who decides to run and hide with Lawrence in fear of being chased by the church for being a Pagan god.
Together they make their way through the lands, encountering issues heavily focused on economics, weirdly enough, but it doesn’t overpower the overall tone of the story. The conflicts are mainly between two companies, and they get wrapped into said conflict while dealing with their own budding feelings of romance.
A heart-warming and exciting series about love, finances, and traveling around the countryside, Spice and Wolf is the original slow burn. For a burst of that mid 00’s anime nostalgia, pick this light novel up.
4. Doctor Elise (Queen Of The Scalpel)
This is an oddly accurate medical-centric story set in a fantastical landscape that ends up being extremely endearing. It has your usual tropes of reincarnation, an oblivious female lead, and love triangles but with a twist!
Our female doesn’t reincarnate once, but twice. In her first life, Elise De Clorence was a horrible Queen that was executed alongside her family. Then she gets reborn as an orphan and grows up to be a genius surgeon, a way for her to repent for her sins from her previous life. Unfortunately, she meets her hasty end in a plane crash and wakes up back in that old life but before she became Queen. Now, lest her family come to ruin again, she focuses on helping those who need her medical skills. Impressed by her empathy, King Minchester De Romanoff is determined to make her his daughter-in-law. But Elise is armed with the power of hindsight, she refuses and she will try her hardest to avoid Linden De Romanoff, the crown prince, at all costs.
The bonds in this novel are heartwarming and Elise is a dense but extremely likable female lead. With enough twists to keep you hooked, this one is a must-read!
5. Under The Oak Tree
A romance between two introverts alongside a ton of character growth and all the warm fuzzies? Sign me up! Under The Oak Tree is one of the most popular manhwas out right now and it just started its second season. But if you’re impatient like me, the light novel is available to binge at your heart’s content!
Maximilian Croix is not your average lead. Abused both physically and mentally by her family, our stuttering heroine leads a miserable life. She thinks she finally has an out when her father, Duke Croix, marries her off to Riftan Calypse, a lowly knight, but he is forced to leave her on the very first night of their wedding. He returns 3 years later, a changed man, and Maximilian decides to take fate into her own hands.
Aside from the handsome brooding male lead, what I like about this story is how it treats Maximilian, a female lead with a speech disability. She isn’t somehow fragile or meek, but she has gone through a lot, and it shows through her insecurities. The stuttering isn’t what makes her weak, it is a part of her character. This is a story about trust and unconditional love which makes me swoon every time I read it. And I’m sure it’ll be the same for you!
6. Rascal Does Not Dream Of Bunny Girl
Okay so this one does get a little risqué, but it’s worth it, I promise! Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a slice-of-life novel that revolves around the woes of adolescence, having to grow older, and finding where you fit in.
Sakuta Azusagawa, our male lead, is running an errand for his younger sister and arrives at the local library, where he runs into his classmate, Mai Sakurajima. Which is completely normal and not out of the blue, except she is wandering around in a bunny girl costume? And apparently, only Sakuta can see it? Together, they decide to get to the bottom of the so-called Adolescence Syndrome, a phenomenon that seems to be caused by an emotional shift in an individual’s life.
The premise might be a little strange but what the characters are going through is extremely relatable. These are the formative years of their life, where they are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do as individuals. And we’ve all been there once, right? That edge of uncertainty that lies at the cusp of adulthood. For that alone, this deserves a read!
7. Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?!
First things first, the title? Mood. Second, this has a really unlikable male lead but it’s funny and he gets better later on. Quirky and hilarious, Can Someone Please Explain What’s Going On?! works so well because of its tropes, not despite them.
Introducing our heroine, Viola Mangelica Euphorbia, who is the daughter of a flailing noble family. In order to save them, she enters a marriage with the aloof Duke Cercis Tinensis Physalis. Upon viewing the contract she signed, Viola’s life is turned upside down, and she moves into the Physalis family’s manor. With only sharp wit and sarcasm by her side, she has to learn how to traipse her way through the lavish lifestyle she only so from afar, while putting up a good enough act as the ‘show wife’. And boy, does she shake things up!
The star of this show is Viola and her narration. Almost sharp-toothed in the way she describes the flashy façade around her, she is shrewd, headstrong and the perfect foil to Cercis. So it’s super entertaining when impatient Cercis starts falling in love with his ‘pretend’ wife. If you like guilty pleasures, this is it!
Whelp, that’s it for me folks. These are just some of my favorites, but your girl really likes romance and shojo anything. So, if you have any of your own recommendations (or disagree with the ones here), let me know so I can give them a read. See you next time!