I was listening to an NPR podcast the other day. The topic was “Why We Can’t Resist ‘Best Of’ Lists,” and I was very keen to listen!
Psychologists tell us that making lists gives our brains comfort because we’re hardwired to crave the organization of list-making.
But a ‘Best Of’ list can be polarizing. Consider when Rolling Stone released its list of the 200 greatest singers of all time, and some fans let their extreme displeasure be known because greats like Nat King Cole and Celine Dion got excluded.
As an audiobook lover, it also got me wondering: what are the best romance audiobooks of all time?
I took a fantastic deep dive into this topic! I also found some neat facts about these romance selections that make each one worthy of being called great.
Hopefully, this list of the 23 best romance audiobooks of all time contains something for all lovers of the genre. If you think a beautiful romance audiobook is missing… go ahead and tell me!
From notable narrators to pulsating plots and sexy, swoon-worthy characters, you’re in for the best audiobook experience. Enjoy!
- The Notebook
- Bared to You
- The Fault in Our Stars
- Gone with the Wind
- The Best Is Yet to Come
- Run, Rose, Run
- The Thorn Birds
- Black Hills
- An Extraordinary Union
- Red, White & Royal Blue
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
- The Princess Bride
- Eleanor & Park
- Bridget Jones’s Diary
- A Madness of Sunshine
- The Time Traveler’s Wife
- Pride and Prejudice
- The Light Always Breaks
- Anna Karenina
- Fifty Shades of Grey
Best Romance Audiobooks of All Time
The movie based on Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook is his most successful book adaptation ever, and here’s a fun fact: a real-life romance inspired Sparks to write it!
When Sparks married his ex-wife Cathy, her grandparents were too ill to attend. So to cheer them up, the newlyweds put their tux and gown back on and held a second private ceremony for Cathy’s grandparents.
That’s when Sparks heard about the grandparents’ love story, and that’s how The Notebook came to be.
Reviews for The Notebook audiobook vary because the movie is incomparable, but Barry Bostwick’s mature narration works for me. And if you’ve seen cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Bostwick played Brad Majors!
Bared to You
Bestselling author Sylvia Day is among the most successful romance writers ever, but here’s a fun fact: Day worked as a Russian linguist with United States Army Intelligence before her writing career skyrocketed!
Bared to You is the first erotic romance in Day’s internationally successful Crossfire saga. Day self-published Bared to You in 2012, and it was eventually re-published and translated into over 41 languages, becoming the UK’s fastest-selling paperback in over a decade.
Many compare Crossfire with the Fifty Shades series by E.L. James. While Fifty Shades of Grey is a famous erotic romance (and a well-known erotic romance audiobook), I prefer Eva and Gideon’s scarred, scorching passion, and Jill Redfield is a great narrator here.
The Fault in Our Stars
John Green redefined the young adult fiction market in 2012 with the publication of his bittersweet romance, The Fault in Our Stars, about teens meeting at a cancer support group.
It became one of the best-selling books of all time, and here’s a stunning fact: Green once worked as a student chaplain in a children’s hospital, and that emotional experience inspired him to write The Fault in Our Stars.
The 2014 feature film adaptation was a huge commercial success, and audiences fell in love with Shailene Woodley’s Hazel and Ansel Elgort’s Augustus.
I love the romance audiobook version brought to life by narrators Kate Rudd, Laura Grafton (and John Green). It’s always comforting being allowed to sob alone to a beautiful story without worrying about my “ugly cry face” in a movie theatre!
Gone with the Wind
Next in the best romance audiobooks of all time is a classic by Margaret Mitchell, a true great in American literature. Not only is Gone with the Wind one of the most popular books ever, but it also won Mitchell the Pulitzer Prize for Literature after its publication in 1936.
The film adaptation is equally timeless. If you ever get a chance to read about the burning of Atlanta scene or the desperate hunt for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara, you’ll discover the real-life making of Gone with the Wind was as dramatic as the book.
The unabridged audiobook version of Gone with the Wind comes in at over 49 hours, which sounded staggering to me—until I realized how much more mindless time I spend bingeing streaming content that is far less memorable than this.
Narrated authentically and masterfully by Linda Stephens, Gone with the Wind is spectacular in romance audiobook form.
The Best Is Yet to Come
Bestselling author Debbie Macomber may be familiar if you adore sweet romance novels (and or Hallmark Christmas movies!).
Macomber’s romances have spent over a thousand weeks on bestseller lists combined. Hallmark movie fans call her the official Christmas storyteller, with six of her Christmas books (and counting) becoming original movies on the Hallmark Channel.
While The Best Is Yet to Come is not set during the holidays, the plot is rich with emotion as tragic pasts turn to hope, redemption, and the promise of happily ever after.
Hope has lost her twin brother, Shadow is a forgotten shelter dog worth rescuing, and Cade is a wounded ex-marine looking for a safe soul to trust.
Narrated by the personable and delightful Thérèse Plummer, The Best Is Yet to Come is ideal when you’re craving a Hallmark-like romance audiobook for your ears only!
Run, Rose, Run
Run, Rose, Run was called the “most eagerly anticipated novel” upon its release, and the excitement will keep building with time.
Co-author James Patterson has sold nearly half a billion books and is one of the highest-earning authors in history. But his co-author, Dolly Parton, makes the Run, Rose, Run audiobook experience truly magical.
Our heroine, Rose, escapes an abusive past when she arrives in Nashville seeking stardom. She meets Alex and sparks ignite, but the danger has just begun for this new couple…
A cast of outstanding voices, including young country star Kelsea Ballerini, narrates the audiobook, and Dolly recorded a 12-song album of original tunes for Run, Rose, Run.
Reese Witherspoon is producing the highly-anticipated Run, Rose, Run movie, but I’m enjoying the audiobook because it’s such a romantic and suspenseful listening treat!
The Thorn Birds
Author Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds was a big deal in 1977. This sweeping, multi-generational romance novel set in the Australian outback has become the best-selling book ever in Australia.
The Thorn Birds was also featured on a must-read list in celebration of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, with the top 70 authors of the Commonwealth represented.
Accomplished actress Greta Scacchi narrates the audiobook, and here are fun facts: Greta is good friends with Bryan Brown, who starred in The Thorn Birds miniseries in 1983.
The Thorn Birds is the second-highest-rated miniseries in cable TV history, and Bryan married his co-star, Rachel Ward, who played heroine Meggie Cleary as an adult.
Listen with a free trial at: Audible
Prolific author Nora Roberts wrote Black Hills, one of her many #1 New York Times bestsellers.
This romantic suspense features Cooper Sullivan and Lil Chance, who met as children in the rugged Black Hills of South Dakota. Twelve years later, they meet again; this time, danger and passion intertwine in this spine-tingling listen.
There’s no question that Nora Roberts is a romance writing superstar. So much so, the Romance Writers of America renamed their most prestigious honor—their lifetime achievement award—the “Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2008.
Narrator Nick Podehl does an excellent job here, and he’s also won awards in his field, including AudioFile’s “Voice of the Year.”
An Extraordinary Union
Alyssa Cole is a striking voice in romantic literature. I love that she resides between New York City and the history-filled Caribbean island of Martinique!
An Extraordinary Union is the only espionage romance on our list of the best romance audiobooks of all time. Cole’s premise here is just as extraordinary, with heroine Elle Burns—a former slave—risking her life in the South to spy for the Union Army.
Publishers Weekly and Entertainment Weekly voted An Extraordinary Union among the best books or top romances of that year. A work like this demands a narrator at the top of their game.
Thankfully, acclaimed voice actor and writer Karen Chilton narrates An Extraordinary Union, and her remarkable talents deliver an unforgettable listening experience.
Red, White & Royal Blue
With non-stop press and very public airing of dirty laundry between Prince Harry and “the institution,” you may be craving a royal romance that is hopeful, tender, and laugh-out-loud funny.
Author Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue received Best Debut and Best Romance by Goodreads in 2019.
The instantly engrossing LGBTQ story sees America’s First Son falling for the Prince of Wales, with the duty to family presenting enormous difficulties for both heroes.
Ramón de Ocampo does an outstanding job narrating Red, White & Royal Blue, delivering the exquisite tension of lovers coming out on a world stage.
When anyone teases me about reading fluffy romance novels, I love reminding them about Dr. Diana Gabaldon’s game-changing time travel, historical, and adventure romances.
Gabaldon is a triple science degree holder with a Ph.D. in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology!
Although the Outlander series was an accident (Gabaldon started writing for “practice” in the 1980s), each standalone book became a worldwide bestseller and a global TV phenomenon.
And if you think that no one can bring Outlander to life like Sam Heughan, audiobook narrator Davina Porter gives gorgeous Jamie a run for his money. Porter has over 400 audiobook credits and is among the 50 Best Voices of the Last Century.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author Jenny Han’s YA romance series To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was such a massive hit that Han became an executive producer on the film trilogy for Netflix.
The heroine of Han’s books is 16-year-old Lara Jean Song, whose deeply personal, secret love letters to her five teenage crushes accidentally get sent to the boys who weren’t supposed to read them!
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a “true teen classic” and “one of the best audiobook romances on Audible.” Narrator Ali Ahn is sheer youthful perfection as Lara Jean, and the audiobook will resonate with hearts of all ages.
Another strong contender for the best audiobook romances on Audible is Wanderlust, a sexy contemporary romance by bestselling novelist Lauren Blakely.
The British hero is a French translator assigned to the heroine (who he suavely calls a “fetching American”).
She’s instantly attracted to his sexy accent, and although she should concentrate on her new job… they’re soon too preoccupied with each other and headed for trouble.
Yummy-sounding Richard Armitage and Grace Grant sweep the listener away into this delicious romance. With nearly 6,500 highly-rated reviews on Audible, Wanderlust fans agree it’s one of the best romance audiobooks of all time.
Listen with a free trial at: Audible
The Princess Bride
A beloved film classic since its 1987 release, many diehard fans of The Princess Bride may be keen to know its origin story.
William Goldman wrote the family-friendly romance and adventure novel in 1973 for two special listeners—his four and 7-year-old daughters.
One daughter wanted to hear a story about a princess, while the other wanted a bride heroine… and The Princess Bride was born!
Rob Reiner directed the movie, calling The Princess Bride his favorite book of all time. And if you’re looking for an extra-special narrator on the abridged audiobook, your wish has been granted… because it’s Rob Reiner!
Listen with a free trial at: Audible
Eleanor & Park
Author Rainbow Rowell’s first YA novel follows “star-crossed misfits” Eleanor Douglas and Park Sheridan, and their experience of a heartwrenching first love resonates with readers of all ages.
Set in the 80s, this is an ideal audiobook to share between adults who are familiar with the era and kids who may identify with the desperation, bravery, and angst of these teens.
Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra handle the narration deftly on the Eleanor & Park audiobook, and reviewers praise their alternating perspectives that truly bring the story to life.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
The film adaptation of Bridget Jones’s Diary was box office gold with Renée Zellweger in the starring role, but it didn’t diminish the impact of Helen Fielding’s novel.
In December 2020, the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) poll voted Bridget Jones’s Diary the most popular romantic book from the 1960s to today. Pretty darn impressive!
In awarding the honor, the president of the RNA praised Fielding for creating a “new genre” of rom-com and chick-lit that has been “endlessly copied but never surpassed.”
The audiobook versions are interesting because I’ve heard two different voice actors narrating Bridget. I’m a fan of Imogen Church’s take on Bridget, and many reviewers delight in her playful narration.
A Madness of Sunshine
I’ve always enjoyed the exotic plots in Nalini Singh’s suspenseful romance novels, and Singh’s backstory is super-cool, too (she quit the lawyer life to teach English in Japan!).
A Madness of Sunshine is set in Singh’s home country of New Zealand. Anahera returns to her broken hometown of Golden Cove as another young woman disappears eight years after several other people have vanished.
Anahera meets Will, and they team up to solve the mystery.
Narrator Saskia Maarleveld is also a New Zealander, and her stunning voice fills this audiobook with nail-biting tension as sexy romantic suspense unfolds.
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Audrey Niffenegger is a hugely successful author and a trained visual artist. Initially, she pictured her debut book, The Time Traveler’s Wife, as a graphic novel.
Equal parts unpredictable, harrowing, funny, and passionately romantic, The Time Traveler’s Wife received a massive endorsement from crime writer Scott Turow during a televised interview after its release.
The first print run sold out immediately, and the movie rights for The Time Traveler’s Wife became a hot commodity.
It’s interesting to note, though, that Niffenegger hasn’t watched the film adaptation—she’s said that her characters remain truly hers in the book. So I’m assuming she won’t be watching the television remake, either!
Accomplished theatre and voice actor Fred Berman voices Henry in the audiobook, and Phoebe Strole embodies the character of Clare.
Reviews of The Time Traveler’s Wife audiobook are not universally favorable, but true fans consider it among the best time travel romance audiobooks ever.
Pride and Prejudice
Do a Google search for “Great Britain’s greatest novelist,” and you’re bound to see umpteen results returned for Jane Austen.
Austen only published four works of romantic fiction during her short lifetime, with two finished novels released after her death.
But the lore of Regency England settings remains hugely popular with romance fans and streamers alike (Bridgerton, anyone?!), and I’m not about to dispute Austen’s status!
Pride and Prejudice has been beloved for centuries in print and film adaptations. The audiobook version scores nearly perfect, with close to 38,000 reviews online, making it one of the best romance audiobooks on Audible.
I couldn’t agree more with everyone’s enthusiastic opinion of the delightful narrator Rosamund Pike, an Academy Award nominee with the warmth, wit, and winning tone to bring Pride and Prejudice to vivid life.
Listen with a free trial at: Audible
The Light Always Breaks
Writer, playwright, and academic Angela Jackson-Brown is an accomplished and award-winning voice in Black romantic literature.
In 2022, Jackson-Brown became an associate professor in the creative writing program at Indiana University Bloomington, and her interracial love story, The Light Always Breaks, was released in audiobook form.
Set after World War II, The Light Always Breaks finds successful restaurant owner Eva attracted to Courtland, a white politician from the South. Highlighting all that has changed—or remained the same—since the Civil Rights era began.
Voiced by the gorgeous-sounding Joniece Abbott-Pratt and Neill Thorne, The Light Always Breaks is a powerful and mesmerizing listen. It redefines what the best romance audiobook of all time should be!
Leo Tolstoy’s dark and doomed love story remains a timeless literature classic.
While a happy-ever-after is pretty much required in the romance trope, I could not deny the power of Anna Karenina, now ranked as one of the best romance audiobooks on Audible. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s narration is unparalleled!
She’s professed that Anna Karenina is one of her favorite books too. After falling deeper in love with the material during the recording process, Gyllenhaal said that narrating Anna Karenina is one of her greatest work accomplishments.
Listen with a free trial at: Audible
Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight brought cred to the young adult vampire romance genre. While her novel received pretty harsh critical reception, it sold exceptionally well and was a top book according to Publishers Weekly in 2005.
Of course, the Twilight films were big commercial successes, too, launching the careers of its young stars and making legions of fans.
Listeners either love or hate the narration of The Twilight Saga audiobooks. However, new fans are still attracted to this selection, so it deserves a place among the best romance audiobooks of all time!
Fifty Shades of Grey
Yes, people… you’re reading this right.
While I was never a devotee of E.L. James’ Twilight fan fiction, there is no denying the global demand for this erotic romance material.
Fun fact: when James published what would become the Fifty Shades trilogy online, she used the assumed name of Snowqueen’s Icedragon!
Worldwide sales topped 150 million copies in 2017, and Fifty Shades of Grey remains noteworthy for being the fastest-selling paperback in multiple languages.
Reviewers of the Fifty Shades audiobook trilogy are pretty merciless!
But for others, the audiobook narration and clumsy dialogue are SO bad; it’s humorously good. So let’s just call this the Best (Worst) Romance Audiobook of All Time!