4 Books with Romance But Aren't Romance Books

As Valentine's Day comes and goes, you might be craving a little bit of romance in your daily reading to fit into the spirit of the holiday. However, not everyone is a huge afn of the fluffy, overdone, perfect love stories of the romance genre, myself included. Still, there are books that exist that have great romantic subplots, but without causing the romance to be too overpowering. 

  1. 1. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue- Mackenzi Lee

    While this book might be marketed as a romance novel, it is far from it. This first installment of a three book series follows two best friends and one of their younger sisters as they are chased across Europe on what was supposed to be a fun relaxing vacation. It's a historical fiction full of adventure and humor, but the romantic subplot is beautifully paced and developed in a way that will keep you invested and rooting for the characters to finally get together. 

    For an added plus, this book also features an explicit LGBT+ romance! 

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  2. 2. Six of Crows- Leigh Bardugo

    This historical fantasy novel set in a reimagined version of Amsterdam (renamed Ketterdam) definitely does not read like a romance. Following members of a local gang, the main plot and conflict involves an unbelievable heist that the six incredibly diverse and unique main characters have to pull off. Each character has a different dynamic with each other, ranging from strictly acquaintances to friends to lovers. It's an incredible book no matter what you're looking for with twists and turns at each major plot point, but the romances themselves definitely don't shy from anything less than well fleshed-out and unforced. 

    As a bonus, this book duology, as well as Bardugo's other book series that exists in the same universe, are currently being made into a Netflix original that will air sometime this year. 

  3. 3. These Witches Don't Burn- Isabel Sterling

    Set in modern-day Salem, These Witches Don't Burn follows the life of a young witch who belongs to a large coven right in the center of the US's witch history. While a good amount of the conflict does deal with the main character struggling to distance herself from her ex after a recent break-up, the main conflict is much more exciting and intriguing: witch hunters. This book has so many different aspects to it, and the romance is only one part of it. There's action, suspence, and incredibly well-written emotion. There's also a great amount of explicit WLW (women who love women) characters, which is fairly uncommon in young adult literature, and better yet, the book is written by a woman who also identifies as WLW.

  4. 4. I Wish You All the Best- Mason Deaver

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    The central theme of this book definitely isn't romance. In the wake of being kicked out by their parents, the non-binary protagonist has to start their life over as they move in with their sister in a new town and attend a new school, leaving most of their old life behind them. This book discusses and shows the daily struggles of being a non-binary youth in the US, exploring everything from coming out to mental health. While the romantic subplot was beautiful, the book definitely stands strong without it, working to educate and validate the non-binary experience and existence.

Even in a world where Valentine's Day is a giant commercial holiday each February, there are ways books can balance romance with other aspects that move a story along. There are so many great books out there, so many that leave romance as a side plot in their story, and this is just a small, personal selection. If you love romance, maybe this list can be a good start to help you branch out and learn to love another genre, and expand your reading tastes! 

Happy reading, Valentines!