36 Sad Romance Books That Will Crush Your Heart

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Let’s get real: Heartache can be cathartic. There’s something strangely comforting about reading a story in which the main character goes through the same experiences and emotions that we encounter in our own lives. For those who find solace in stories of complicated love, sad romance books offer a glimpse into the ways that the strongest emotions can make us question our decisions and question life itself. So grab your favorite box of tissues and get ready to explore the emotions stirred up by the genre’s greatest works.

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Full Tilt by Emma Scott

Let’s face it, the chances of befriending a lead guitarist in an up-and-coming rock band seem pretty much nonexistent for your everyday muggle. Thankfully, Jonah Fletcher beats those odds the night Kacey Dawson’s band enters his limo. 

Following the alcohol-induced rampage that was her Las Vegas concert, Kacey wakes up hopelessly hungover on her limo driver’s couch. What should have been the end of their paragraph turns into a chapter when Jonah offers up his couch for a couple of days so Kacey can get back on her feet. 

From there, the ill-fated friends turned lovers jump into a whirlwind romance that can only end in one way: Tragedy.

To this day, Full Tilt remains one of my all-time favorites. Not only is it Emma Scott at her best, but it is a poignant story that forces its readers on a journey of rediscovery, love, grief, and unimaginable heartbreak. Prepare to be wrecked in the best and worst ways possible.

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The Ribbon Duet by Pepper Winters

The day eight-year-old son Ren was sold into child labor by his mother marked the end of his childhood. From that day on, he would live in constant fear. 

When he makes his escape, he fails to detect the infant stowaway in his backpack, his tormentor’s young daughter, Della. With so many unknowns, survival will be difficult, but their bond will be their saving grace. 

Spanning across two decades, we watch as Ren and Della survive against all odds. Forced to shed their innocence at an age when all they should’ve known was love, their story is one that will stick with you. Quick warning, The Ribbon Duet will make you ugly-cry, so grab a box of tissues because you are about to read the reigning queen of tearjerker romance books.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

In a world where a company dubbed Death-Cast rings people to alert them when it is their last day on Earth, people get 24 hours to say their goodbyes, tie up loose ends, and come to terms with their ticking clock. 

For those who receive that call, there is an app called Last Friend that allows them to connect with others in their final hours and form new memories. That is how Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio meet and embark on their final adventure.   

They Both Die at the End is a thought-provoking sad romance lauded on BookTok as one of the best and most heartbreaking tear-jerker books that pack a punch despite knowing what is to come.

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A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole

Rune and Poppy have the type of love that never dies, and it all begins with a friendship, a jar, and a thousand boy kisses. 

For a breathtakingly beautiful yet heartbreakingly tragic romance, I recommend A Thousand Boy Kisses as it is one of the best sad romance books. If it is an ugly cry you are looking for, then it is an ugly cry you will get.  

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You is the heartbreaking story of Louisa Clark, a twentysomething whose world turns upside-down when she takes a job as a caretaker for the acerbic and wheelchair-bound Will Traynor. Written by Jojo Moyes, Me Before You is one of the most tragic and moving romance books of all time. Brace yourself for an unforgettable journey of raw feelings and tears as the story reaches its climax.

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It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

The same day Lily Bloom delivers her father’s eulogy, she hightails it out of her hometown in Maine to the bustling city of Boston. There, she jumps on starting her own business and meets Ryle Kincaid, a neurosurgeon who makes her heart race and her knees weak.

Ryle Kincaid is sweet, compassionate, and stubborn with a touch of arrogance. He also seems to be breaking all of Lily’s rules. Still, Ryle’s severe reluctance to enter a relationship gives Lily pause, but her worries fade as their relationship flourishes.

Everything changes once Atlas Corrigan comes back into the picture. As their relationship slowly falls apart, the frayed threads holding the remnants of their love together can last only so long before irrecoverable damage is done. 

It Ends with Us is a heart-wrenching romance novel that will have you in a perpetual state of tears. By the end, prepare to feel emotionally drained because Colleen Hoover is a master at imbuing her novels with complex emotions and devastating situations.

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The Ravenhood Trilogy by Kate Stewart

An estranged father, a life-changing inheritance and a summer that will irrevocably stain the souls of everyone entangled in the seductive web of lies. 

To acquire her inheritance, nineteen-year-old Cecelia Horner moves to Triple Falls where she is to work at her father’s company for a year. It is during the orientation that she meets Sean, her supervisor at the plant. What starts as a strong attraction evolves into something as she is enfolded into Sean’s brotherhood of friends, known as the Ravenhood. 

With every sunrise and sunset, Cecelia becomes more and more enamored with her boys of summer. The question is, will their burgeoning love survive beneath a shroud of secrecy and uncertainty. 

Read Flock if you’re looking for an unforgettable MFM romantic suspense that will leave you brokenhearted and questioning everything. This epic trilogy only gets better with Exodus. Trust me when I say no one is safe from Kate Stewart’s twists and turns.  

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The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros

Besides his trusty labrador retriever Havoc and his best friend and fellow brother-in-arms Ryan, special ops soldier Chaos – Beckett Gentry – has no one, a problem Ryan rectifies by convincing his younger sister Ella to write deployment letters to him. 

When tragedy strikes and leaves Beckett more alone than ever, he finds solace in the arms of the one woman who understands the unbearable agony of Ryan’s passing. 

If it is an ugly cry you want, then it is an ugly cry you shall get. The Last Letter is a heartbreakingly tragic military romance that deviates from the typical contemporary romance script and explores the ups and downs of motherhood while taking its readers on a journey of love, loss, grief, forgiveness, heartache, hope, and the power of unconditional love.

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In Memoriam by Alice Winn

Alice Winn’s gripping debut novel, In Memoriam, unflinchingly chronicles the tragedy, love, and loss of innocence experienced by Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood in 1914. Set against a backdrop of relentless warfare, the two friends, who believe their love for one another is unrequited, attend a peaceful boarding school in the English countryside. But when Gaunt enlists to fight, Ellwood follows him to the front, only to discover the harsh realities of war. 

An emotionally intense story of passion, courage, and survival, Winn’s depiction of these two lovers amidst the brutality of war is poignantly moving. From the poetic confessions of unrequited love to the stark reminders of the devastation inflicted by conflict, this novel is an intense exploration of the power of love and its capacity to transcend war and tragedy. In Memoriam is devastatingly beautiful, aching with emotion – an unforgettable read for all romance readers.

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All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

The tragedy of young love is explored in All the Bright Places with Violet Markey and Theodore Finch, two teenagers on the brink of destruction until they save each other and become each other’s lifelines. All the Bright Places is a beautiful and incredibly heartbreaking story that will stay on your mind long after turning the last page.

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For You by Jodi Ellen Malpas

For two years, Lo has been watching helplessly as her beloved husband, Billy, slowly fades away from cancer. But when a near-fatal car accident brings her Luke Williamson, a man who makes her smile, the future feels a bit brighter. 

Jodi Ellen Malpas is a skilled wordsmith, as demonstrated in her novel For You. Through her beautiful writing and engaging characters, Malpas tells a poignant story of love, loss, heartache, hope, and the restorative strength of friendship. However, be prepared with several boxes of tissues, as this book will undoubtedly evoke tears along the way.

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Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover

Five years ago, Kenna Rowan made a fatal mistake that resulted in the death of the man she loved and her behind bars. The day her sentence ends, Kenna returns to the town where everything went wrong in hopes of reuniting with her four-year-old daughter and earning a spot in her life. But those in her daughter’s life are not so quick to forget her mistakes nor allow her a place in her daughter’s circle. 

Enter Ledger Ward, a local bar owner who finds himself unwittingly sympathetic to Kenna’s situation. Despite a rocky start, Ledger can look beyond her past mistakes and, against all odds, falls for her infallible determination and insurmountable strength, forcing him into a terrible position littered with obstacles. 

Reminders of Him is a profound love story that takes its readers on an emotional journey of forgiveness, redemption, absolution, and self-love. As one of the best sad romance books of 2022, Colleen Hoover knows what she is doing, and I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next. 

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June First by Jennifer Hartmann

They say bad things come in threes. 

Brant Elliott’s life lived up to that superstition. 

The first tragedy robbed him of his childhood innocence. The second sent him spiraling into a hole of loss and regret. And the third pushed him to do the one thing he was never strong enough to do before, fly.

Throughout all of these tragedies, Brant had one constant: June Bailey.

Heartbreakingly beautiful, immensely emotional, and wonderfully written, June First is an unforgettable forbidden slow-burn romance that tells a story of loss, heartache, self-discovery, love, and happiness.

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Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Fern Taylor is used to being invisible and overlooked. The only person who has ever really taken the time to see her is Bailey, her best friend and cousin. But when Fern’s roped into penning love letters as her friend Rita to the town’s golden boy, she realizes that she does want to be seen. 

Ambrose Young is the gorgeous star wrestler with a full scholarship to college and a bright future. But what no one knows is that he’s drowning under the pressure to retain his winning streak. And when the need to escape lands him and his four best friends in the military during 9/11, he suffers a devastating tragedy that leaves him mentally and physically scarred.

Making Faces is a heartbreaking story of loss, forgiveness, friendship, self-discovery and learning to love oneself. Amy Harmon will break your heart and leave you in an emotional state of despair after finishing this heavy masterpiece. 

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The Silver Cage by Anonymous 

When bright-eyed journalist Michael Beck is commissioned to write a profile on Caleb Bright, the internationally bestselling author turned bitter recluse, he is more than ready to bank on this lucky break. Little did he know that his life would be forever changed after Caleb Bright.

The Silver Cage is a beautifully written and emotionally draining tale that follows the tragic love story of Michael Beck and Caleb Bright. 

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All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

Quinn and Graham walked into each other’s lives as their own worlds were falling apart. Nothing about them should have made sense, but a twist of fate sent them careening into their very own happily-ever-afters. But their perfect love is soon put to the test – a test that may end with them falling out of each other’s lives.

Heartbreaking, emotional, and honest, All Your Perfects is a poignant love story that will take you on a journey of pain, self-destruction, love, hope, and healing. Colleen Hoover delivers an unforgettable read that is certainly one of her best books yet. 

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Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

After ten years of radio silence, a chance encounter at a cafe reunites childhood friends Macy Sorensen and Elliot Petropoulos, dredging up all the sordid memories from their past. Now practically strangers, the pair find themselves wading in stormy waters as they struggle to pinpoint where it all went wrong.    

Beautifully crafted, vividly realistic, and heartbreakingly sweet, Love and Other Words is an unforgettable friends-to-lovers romance about forgiveness, friendship, and love.

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The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

The story takes place in a small Southern town and starts with Alix French, an 8 year-old girl from a respected family, trying to help Nick Anderson, the 10 year-old son of an abusive drunk, by treating the wounds on his back. That one act would change the course of their lives forever.

Sweet, heartbreaking, and angsty, The Sweet Gum Tree is a beautiful friends-to-lovers romance that will take you on a journey filled with ups and downs. And if you love sad second chance romance books that leave you at a loss for words, Katherine Allred’s captivating book should definitely be added to your bookshelf.

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Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

College graduate Bree Prescott flees from her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio to the small lakeside town of Pelion, Maine for a fresh start. 

While there, she meets 23-year-old recluse Archer Hale who hasn’t spoken for sixteen years after undergoing a traumatic experience. 

Determined to befriend the enigmatic man, Bree sets out to help Archer rediscover his voice and shatter the walls he has lived behind since the age of seven.

Mia Sheridan weaves an unforgettable tale of friendship, forgiveness and love that will make you cry, laugh and swoon. Archer’s Voice is not a slow burn romance you want to miss, so make sure to add it to your TBR list. 

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles tells the epic love story of Achilles and Patroclus, an affair that could only end in one way – Tragedy. 

Madeline Miller gives us a memorable story that delves into the complexities of the renowned warrior and his most faithful companion. 

Riveting, unique, and beautifully told, The Song of Achilles is a masterful take on The Iliad and the all-encompassing love that blossoms between Achilles and Patroclus. 

Alongside the love story is the unforgettable tale of war, glory, sacrifice, redemption, and friendship – A feat that is utter perfection.

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Someday, Someday by Emma Scott

After being kicked out of his home as a teen and overcoming his struggles with addiction and homelessness, Max Kaufman has finally turned his life around. 

Becoming a nurse and helping others became his calling, but working in the ER proves to be too much. So when a job opens up as a private caretaker for a wealthy billionaire Edward Marsh III, Max jumps at the chance. 

But Max soon learns that the Marsh Empire is marred by a web of deceit and lies and the only person who may be able to fix it all is the elusive and unattainable son, Silas Marsh. 

Heartbreaking, heavy, and thought-provoking, Someday, Someday is a beautiful MM romance that will bring you to tears. As one of the best sad MM romance books, I recommend adding Emma Scott’s standout novel to your bookshelf.   

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The Wrong Heart by Jennifer Hartmann

When tragedy strikes on the eve of her wedding anniversary, Melody March loses everything: her husband, her sky…her indomitable happiness. Lost in a sea of never-ending grief, Melody reaches out to Zephyr79, the man who has her husband’s heart. And it is on one of her darkest days when all else seems pointless that Melody’s beacon of light pierces through the gloom and makes her realize that all is not lost. 

When it comes to creating beautifully broken characters, Jennifer Hartmann is a master at her craft and The Wrong Heart is no different. In this emotionally charged contemporary romance, Hartmann weaves a complex tale of loss, grief, heartbreak, family, friendship, revival, love, and happiness that is bound to etch a lasting impression onto your brain. Prepare to feel properly gutted by the end. 

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Underneath the Sycamore Tree by B. Celeste

When Emery is diagnosed with the same autoimmune disease that stole her sister Logan’s life, she chooses to move in with her estranged father and his family to save her mom from watching her go down that same road as Logan. There she meets her new stepbrother Kaiden. After a rocky start, the two form an unbreakable bond one afternoon while sitting underneath a sycamore tree.    

Emotional, heart-wrenching, and beautiful, Underneath the Sycamore Tree is a heartbreaking romance that will tug at every one of your heartstrings. Make sure you have some tissues on hand because this stepbrother romance will have you sobbing by the end.

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Still Beating by Jennifer Hartmann

After a late-night out celebrating her sister’s birthday, Corabelle is more than ready to ditch the slimy sleazeballs prowling the bar for the adorable fluff-ball waiting for her back home. Those plans come to a screeching halt when she learns her wallet’s been stolen, leaving her stranded and dependent on her arch-nemesis Dean. A nightmare in the making.

The nightmare only worsens when she wakes up in chains in a monster’s basement. And the cherry on top? Dean shares the same fate. 

Beautiful, tragic, and powerful, Still Beating is a heart-wrenching tale that will hold you captive from the first opening sentence till the last. Prepare for a sleepless night with this unputdownable dark romance.

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Desperately Seeking Epic by B.N. Toler

At twelve-years-old, Neena is running out of time. All she wants is to meet her dad before it’s too late. 

Unbeknownst to her mom Clara, Neena puts an ad on Craigslist addressed to her father which quickly goes viral and finds its way to Paul, the famous stuntman and resident adrenaline junkie. 

Still, Clara is hesitant to allow him back into their lives after he abandoned her in search of a new adventure. But nothing will stop Paul from meeting his daughter.

For an epic love story, read Desperately Seeking Epic. Be sure to break out the tissues because there’s a 99.9% chance that you’ll be sobbing after the first chapter. Let’s face it, B.N. Toler will rip your heart out.

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The Story of Us by Lesley Jones

From the moment 12-year-old Georgia “George” Rae laid her eyes on the boy with the golden flecks in his eyes, she knew he was the one. And for the next five years, everything was perfect. That is until it wasn’t. 

For Georgia, Sean would always be the boy who owned her heart. Not the rockstar who captured the hearts of millions and toured the world in a blaze of drugs, sex, and rock and roll glory. But all good things come to an end, and, in their case, it could only ever end in carnage.

When I say The Story of Us is angsty, I mean that quite literally. It’s practically angst-central. Who am I kidding? It is angst-central. If you happen to be a masochistic looking for a painful heart-shredding, look no further than this angst-ridden masterpiece. It is almost guaranteed to pulverize your insides and leave you gasping like a widemouthed blowfish. Enjoy.

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Where There’s a Will by Jessie Walker

Will Foster is drowning. Lost in a web of grief, Will returns to the one place that has haunted him for the last decade, the tiny Pennsylvania town of Shiloh. Home to the childhood best friend that broke his heart, Will is not sure what to expect upon his arrival. 

But with his life in tatters, anything is better than going back to Philly, even if that means facing Waylon McAllister and the painful memories of their past.   

Emotional, angsty, and raw, Where There’s A Will is a powerful second-chance MM romance that tells a story of loss, hope, and love. If you’re looking for sad MM enemies-to-lovers romance books that will tug at your heartstrings, I recommend adding Jessie Walker’s outstanding debut to your shelf.

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Heart Bones by Colleen Hoover

At nineteen, Beyah has suffered more hardships than many could imagine. When tragedy strikes, Beyah is left with no option but to move from her trailer in Kentucky to a lavish beach house in Texas with a family she barely knows. There she meets her twenty-year-old neighbor Samson, a rich boy who comes from a life of privilege. 

On the surface, Beyah and Samson seem to be from two different worlds, but they have more in common than one would think.  

Heart Bones tells the story of two broken individuals who find a home in one another, a home filled with unconditional love, trust and hope. Colleen Hoover delivers an emotional slow burn romance that you don’t want to miss.

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Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Seventeen-year-old Lachlan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings, especially after they had to step up and raise their three younger siblings in place of their flighty alcoholic mother. 

Becoming de facto guardians to their siblings pushed them to grow up fast and become closer than normal siblings should ever be. What happens when they realize their true feelings for each other?

If you’re looking for the pinnacle of success in terms of taboo love stories, Forbidden is one of the best taboo romance books to get your hands on. It will obliterate your comfort zone and cross every line imaginable in an utterly tragic fashion. 

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In Harmony by Emma Scott

At seventeen, Willow Holloway was on top of the world – until she wasn’t. When her father receives a promotion that uproots them from their swanky NYC life to the small charming town of Harmony, Indiana, Willow sees it as a fresh start. And when she hears about the upcoming casting calls for Hamlet, Willow throws caution to the wind and auditions on a whim, not thinking for a second that she would land Ophelia. Or that her Hamlet would be the prodigal Isaac Pearce.

Beautifully written, empowering, and deeply emotional, In Harmony is a captivating coming-of-age story that will leave you speechless. 

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The Tragedy of Felix and Jake by J. Daniels 

The day Jake Tully’s girlfriend breaks up with him via text, he loses seven years of sobriety, is dishonorably discharged from the military, and moves in with his brother in hopes of getting his life back on track. 

There he meets Felix, a recovering addict who offers to become Jake’s sponsor after bonding over donuts and coffee. The two hit it off, and despite their mutual attraction, nothing could ever happen. Not if it means risking their sobriety.

Beautiful, heartbreaking, and emotional, The Tragedy of Felix and Jake is a tragic love story between two recovering addicts determined to remain clean.   

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The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher

Olivia and Caleb met in college…and the rest is history. That is, until things ended badly, pushing Olivia to run for the hills. Four years pass before Olivia suddenly runs into Caleb again. Expecting an awkward and chilly interaction, Olivia’s shocked when she realizes he has no idea who she is. Turns out, he’s suffering from a severe form of amnesia after a car accident. 

With Caleb’s lack of memories, Olivia sees this as a prime time to turn back the clock and start over, maybe even fall back in love. The only problem with this plan is Caleb’s current girlfriend Leah who has no plans of letting him go. Olivia is walking on a tightrope and one misstep can destroy everything. 

In the mood for a sad slow burn romance books with twists that you’ll never see coming? If yes, you should think about reading The Opportunist. Tarryn Fisher does not disappoint with this second chance romance.

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A Love Letter to Whiskey by Kandi Steiner

At 17-year-old, Brecks “B” Kennedy’s entire world tilted off its axis when she slammed into Jamie Shaw during her morning jog. Even though B saw him first, fate had other plans…plans that came in the form of her best friend Jenna. 

Angsty, raw, and poignant, A Love Letter to Whiskey is an emotional rollercoaster filled with an array of ups and downs. As one of the best sad friends-to-lovers romance books on the market, I recommend adding it to your to-be-read pile.

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When Life Happened by Jewel E. Ann

After a wedding prank gone wrong, twenty-six-year-old Parker Cruise decides it is time to cut the cord and move out of her childhood house and into her grandfather’s old farmhouse across the street. 

While enjoying her newfound freedom one night, she hears a noise from outside and suspects it’s her mom coming to check on her. In a moment of hilarity, Parker fakes an obnoxiously loud orgasm only to realize that it’s not her mom but a wayward dog and his smoking hot owner. Embarrassingly enough, the man also happens to be her neighbor. 

Her very married neighbor Gus Westman. 

If you’re looking for second-chance romance books with insane plot twists, I recommend you check out When Life Happened. As far as romances go, this is not of the conventional sort, so pull up your panties and prepare for the worst. You are about to embark on one wild ride.

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A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life follows the lives of four friends who move from Boston to New York after graduating from a small, prestigious college to achieve their dreams: Willem is the kind and talented actor, JB the confident and sharp-witted artist, Malcolm the timid, aspiring architect and Jude, the enigmatic and brilliant lawyer who serves as the center of his friend group. 

Unflinchingly honest, brutally raw, and deeply moving, A Little Life is a spellbinding tale that tells a story of pain, trauma, and the enduring power of friendship. Boasting more than 700 pages, carve out a couple of days, or weeks, to devote to this heavy masterpiece, literally and figuratively. It is entirely unforgettable.

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Slammed by Colleen Hoover

At eighteen, Layken’s life is irrevocably altered following the unexpected death of her father. Forced to be strong for her mother and younger brother, no one can see that Layken is falling apart. That is until their move from Texas to Michigan lands her in a house opposite to an attractive neighbor who sees beneath the happy veneer. 

After an unforgettable first date with 21-year-old Will Cooper, Layken is more than ready to kickstart their blossoming relationship when life sends her another curveball – One that forces them apart.

Slammed is an emotionally touching love story that offers a taboo romance set amongst unforgettable slam poetry performances, beautiful familial moments, and unimaginable relationship struggles. As one of the best sad contemporary romance books from Colleen Hoover, I recommend adding it to your bookshelf if you have yet to read this page-turner.

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