I enjoy Valentine’s Day, as long as we keep it low-key. My ideal Valentine’s Day plan has changed over the years and seasons, from a romantic candlelit dinner at home to making heart-shaped pizzas with the kids. (This year we’re having family dinner with friends, nary a heart-shaped item in sight.)
For a laid-back Valentine’s, there’s a classic plan that never gets old: sitting on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn to watch a favorite rom com.
Last year, I started noticing brand new rom-coms on our streaming platform of choice and on plenty of book lists. I’m not the first to observe that the rom-com is back—in film and on the page—but I am here for it.
Readers, with romance in mind, I have a fun list for you today. With the help of some romance-novel-loving friends, I’ve put together this huge list of rom-com pairings—one movie and one book that follow the same romance tropes or feature similar elements and themes. I haven’t seen or read all of these, but have enjoyed quite a few, and many more are on my to-watch and to-read lists!
As a reminder, readers’ literary preferences for the romance genre vary wildly, so here’s a quick guide: if you prefer sex scenes to be minimal or only hinted at, look for “closed door” romance. If you’re okay with your romance being more explicit, look for “open door.” If you don’t want there to be anything more than kissing, then look for romance described as “chaste.” And please keep in mind that even these terms are subjective. (And don’t be misled by the illustrated covers! Plenty of those adorable books are seriously spicy.)
I hope you find old favorites in this list, as well as new-to-you books and movies you’ll love to watch and read.
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In Set It Up, two professional assistants work together to set their bosses up on a series of dates, leaving them with more free time and less burnout. The ambitious pair develop a sweet friendship, which of course turns to love. This is one of the spicier movies on this list. In The Dare and the Doctor, pen pals Dr. Rhys Gray and Miss Margaret Babcock are just friends, but when Rhys helps Margaret realize her professional dream, they start to see one another in a new light.
Dripping with southern sass, this pairing is perfect for anyone who feels like a fish out of water in their own hometown. When high-powered city gals find themselves in the rural south, hilarity ensues. Strong family dynamics and southern hospitality serve as backdrops while the featured couples fall in love.
After a big change in perspective, these heroines get moving. Literally, their stories each start with a move that places them in the path of handsome handy-men. Get a Life, Chloe Brown has been heralded by many as the best romance of the year, featuring both laugh-out-loud and poignant moments. You guys, this book was so sweet and fun … and also way more open-door than I’m comfortable reading.
Ignore the “Mistletoe” part here, because this book is worth reading at any time of year. Pastry chef Kiskeya Burgos is determined to win this year’s Holiday Baking Challenge in Scotland, but sparks fly when she faces off with home-cook Sully Morales. In No Reservations, clashing personalities create chemistry between master chef Kate Armstrong and her sous-chef.
The characters in Crazy, Stupid, Love deal with complicated questions around commitment, family, and masculinity. If only they’d started a romance book club! In Adams’s hit romance novel, married couple Gavin and Thea work through their marriage problems with the help of their friends and an unlikely guide: a historical romance titled Courting the Countess. I loved the premise of this book (which I’ve recommended on What Should I Read Next). There are a few open-ish door moments and heaps of profanity.
I love a good Austen retelling (as you’ll detect from this list). This Pride and Prejudice-inspired pairing is especially apt because in Ayesha at Last, our heroine Ayesha frequently watches Bollywood movies with her cousin. Movie nights are a big part of their bond until a surprise engagement threatens to tear them apart. Ayesha is a 2019 Summer Reading Guide selection, and will make readers seeking chaste romance happy.
10 Things I Hate About You is based on The Taming of the Shrew. No Shakespearean dialogue here, but there is plenty of social commentary on gender roles and romance. Well Met also follows the enemies-to-lovers trope, set at a renaissance faire. There are plenty of Shakespearean references for fans of the Bard, but this pairing is distinctly modern (and a little bit open door in places).
Girl puts on gown. Girl gets stuck in an awkward situation. Girl finds love. Both heroines are struggling to make ends meet, when they’re suddenly thrust into high society. They try to find their footing in new worlds as dreamy heroes stand by to sweep them off their feet. (Tessa Dare writes the wittiest dialogue.)
Women kick-butt at sports and break the rules in this soccer and tennis pairing. In the essential soccer rom-com, Jess falls in love with “football” and her coach. Their romance is further complicated by her family forbidding her to play. In Code of Conduct, top tennis player Viva Jones falls for lineswoman Gabriela, but they face a tough challenge: players and officials aren’t allowed to date.
Not the Girl You Marry is a gender-bent retelling of the delightful rom-com, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Typically, readers declare that the book is better than the movie. But in this unusual case where the movie came first, you’ll have to read and decide!
In Hitch and The Bride Test, matchmakers play a significant role in setting up the main relationship. With a little help from their mentors, the main characters finally start to believe that they are worthy of love. The Bride Test also features a beautiful immigration story. Hoang fans know to expect open door moments.
This is such a fun pairing. While the Duke was Sleeping puts a historical spin on the 1995 film. When the dreamy Duke of Autenberry is hit by a carriage in front of the shop where Poppy works, she rescues him and gets mistaken as his fiancée. While the duke is in a coma, Poppy faces off with his handsome brother, who sees right through her lie. If you’ve seen the movie, you know which characters fall in love.
Unlikely beauty queens take on pageant life in this pairing, featuring a 2019 Summer Reading Guide pick. In the movie, Gracie is an FBI agent sent undercover after a bomb threat. In the closed-door novel, Charlotte is a Harry Potter-loving elementary school librarian posing as her twin sister after an unfortunate allergic reaction. Both stories are fun, frothy, and light-hearted.
Famous actresses find themselves bumping into handsome small-town locals and falling in love, in this swoon-worthy pairing. The movie’s hero is a bookshop owner, and the book’s hero is a park ranger. Both fall head-over-heels for the famous actresses who shake up their lives.
If you ever find yourself feeling awkward, out-of-place, and well…13 again (don’t we all, on occasion?), you’ll love this pairing. Shug is a sweet (and chaste) YA rom-com by the author of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. When Annemarie starts junior high, all of her friends seem to be changing around her, especially Mark, the boy she’s known all her life.
These friends-to-lovers romances make perfect Valentine’s Day reading or watching. Both include characters who have known each other “since way back,” and powerful career women who, despite their success and world travel, can’t stop thinking about the guy back home.
These fun, flirty office romances include motivated characters reaching for promotions, opposites-attract tension, and snappy dialogue. The Proposal features a boss-assistant relationship, while The Hating Game revolves around two executives competing for the same corner office. (Thorne writes some open door moments.)
Is there such a thing as too many Austen-inspired rom-coms? “Ugh, as if!” These delightful Emma retellings are firmly rooted in time and place, so prepare to be whisked away to Beverly Hills and Kauai. Well-meaning matchmaker heroines overstep their bounds, but it all turns out in the end as they find love despite their mistakes. We know Paul Rudd is dreamy as Josh, but Theodosia and Kini’s romance is equally swoon-worthy!
The girl-meets-prince fairytale trope gets a real life spin in this pairing. Both feature heroines who reluctantly fall in love with princes, while in school. The princes are accustomed to getting their way, of course, so when our studious heroines don’t immediately agree to run away with them, the heroes’ worlds are turned upside-down. (Alyssa Cole typically writes open door romance.)
These rom-coms have a lot of heart and incorporate deeper themes of cultural tensions, family, and identity. Both the movie and the book feature interracial relationships and stage performance. In the movie, our hero is a stand-up comedian, and in the book, a barbershop quartet baritone. If you like a rom-com that makes you think, and maybe even tear up a little, this pairing is perfect for you.
Kathleen Kelly is a true romantic. Joe Fox is logical and focused on his business. He has no time or space for fairytales. Annie and Wes don’t own storefronts, but their relationship does mirror the opposites-attract, book-centered romance of You’ve Got Mail. In the new YA novel Tweet Cute, two classmates who manage social media accounts for their families restaurants find themselves embroiled in a twitter battle on the Upper East Side. I read this sweet, fun, and chaste story in a single evening.
Different sports, same trope. Childhood sweethearts meet again and reconnect over shared history. These second-chance romance stories revolve around football and basketball, but you don’t need to be a sports fan in order to enjoy them.
This pairing features responsible, loyal heroines and the heroes who help them let loose. Who can resist a romance series titled “Bridesmaids Behaving Badly?” Add Bridesmaids and Made of Honor to your queue for a wedding-themed movie marathon.
Unmarriageable is a true Pride and Prejudice retelling while Bridget Jones’s Diary is more of an homage. Both are fun, funny, and worth your time. I especially love the cultural commentary in Unmarriageable, as the main characters face many of the same social constraints as our beloved Bennet sisters.
One more thing: it’s true, there are 48 books and movies on this list, so pick two of your favorites and share them in comments to bring us up to fifty!
Do you have a favorite romantic comedy? Or a special Valentine’s Day tradition? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!