You can argue with me but I stand firm with my belief that Romantic Suspense is the best romance sub-genre. Why? It’s got everything any reader can ask for: action, mystery, drama, and of course, romance.
If you’re not convinced, well, I have here a list that may just turn you around. Here are my top 15 picks for the best romantic suspense books:
1. Cry No More by Linda Howard
For someone who claims to love Rom-Suspense, I sure am stingy about my rating. This is the only novel under the genre that I rated a perfect 5. This brought in the waterworks—I literally cried like a baby—so consider this a warning. Prepare your heart and prepare tissues. (Full review here).
Fueled by an obsession to fill the void in other people’s lives, Milla Edge finds lost children—all the while trying to outrun the brutal emotions stemming from a tragedy in her past. Traveling to a small village in Mexico on a reliable tip, Milla begins to uncover the dire fate of countless children who have disappeared in the labyrinth of a sinister baby-smuggling ring. The key to nailing down the organization may rest with an elusive one-eyed man. As Milla’s search for him intensifies, the mission becomes more treacherous. For the ring is part of something far larger and more dangerous, reaching the highest echelons of power. Racing into peril, Milla suddenly finds herself the hunted—in the crosshairs of an invisible, lethal assassin who aims to silence her permanently.
2. Breaking Point by Pamela Clare
Fifth installment to the “I-Team” series, Breaking Point has all the ingredients of a good romantic suspense: action packed, kick-ass heroine, loveable hero, and scary enemies wrapped in one epic adventure. My favorite from the series. You might want to check out the other books in the series. I guarantee they’re good! (If you want to see my casting of the two leads, you can find it here.)
While investigating border violence in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Denver journalist Natalie Benoit is caught in a bloody ambush and taken captive. Alone in the hands of ruthless killers, she will need every ounce of courage she possesses to survive.
Betrayed by another operative, Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride has endured a week of torture and interrogation at the hands of a bloodthirsty Mexican drug cartel. Ready to give his life if he must, he remains unbroken—until he hears the cries of an American woman.
Although Natalie is only a voice in the darkness of their shared prison, her plight brings renewed strength to Zach’s battered body. With her help, he overpowers their captors, and they flee through the desert toward the border, the attraction between them flaring hotter than the Sonoran sun.
But past loss and tragedy leave both of them reluctant to follow their hearts, even when the passion between them reaches its breaking point. Faced with feelings neither expected, they fight to stay ahead of the danger that hunts them as forces more powerful than they can imagine conspire to destroy them both.
3. Low Pressue by Sandra Brown
If you want a good old classic romance with a slightly douche-y hero and a groveling heroine, you can find it here. Feminists will condemn me but I’m sucker for this kind of romance! If you want a snippet from the book (also my favorite scene), click here.
Bellamy Lyston Price was only 12 years old when her older sister Susan was killed on a stormy Memorial Day. Bellamy’s fear of storms is a legacy of the tornado that destroyed the crime scene as well as her memory of one vital fact that still eludes her…
Now, 18 years later, Bellamy has written a novel based on Susan’s murder. It’s her first book, and it’s an instant sensation. But because the novel is based on the most traumatic event of her life, she’s published it under a pseudonym to protect herself and her family.
But when a sleazy reporter for a tabloid newspaper discovers that the book is based on a real crime, Bellamy’s identity – and dark family secrets — are exposed. Suddenly, she finds herself embroiled in a personal conflict and at the mercy of her sister’s killer, who for almost two decades has gotten away with murder…and will stop at nothing to keep it that way.
4. After the Night by Linda Howard
Another entry from the romantic suspense queen, Linda Howard. Honestly, save yourself the time and just peruse through her works because she’s amazing. You’re probably tired of hearing about this book; after all, I always include it in my “lists”. But I just can’t leave it out. It deserves a spot. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the sizzling romance!
FAITH DEVLIN: A poor, outcast child in Prescott, Louisiana, she’d always adored the town’s golden boy from afar. But he called her white trash that sultry Southern night when his rich, respected father disappeared, along with her pretty Mom. Now Faith wanted to hate Gray Rouillard…not to feel a powerful surge of desire. But she couldn’t quench her passion, any more than she could hide the truth about the past she had waited so long to unravel.
GRAY ROUILLARD: Even when he raised hell, he did it with style. Reckless, charming, and backed by Rouillard money, Gray controlled the town of Prescott — and Devlin was a name he never wanted to hear again. But when he gazed at Faith Devlin, all he saw was a swirl of tangled sheets and her silken flesh beneath him. To care for her was impossible, unthinkable…because Gray Rouillard planned to use all his power to ruin her.
5. Dream Man by Linda Howard
I told you, didn’t I? Save yourself the time and just look through Miss Howard’s novels… anyway, this one is an emerging favorite. I initially didn’t love it but after a second reading, it was a totally different experience. What makes this book stand out from the rest is the paranormal element and out of all Howard’s work, this one is the by far the most suspenseful.
Detective Dane Hollister of the Orlando police department has never met anyone quite like Marlie Keen. While he has doubts about her supposed clairvoyant powers, she sees crimes as they’re being committed, there is no doubt about how much he desires her. To Marlie, Dane is all heat and hard muscle, and he makes her body come alive as it never has before. But not even she can foresee that their passion will lead them on a dangerous journey into the twisted mind of a madman who will threaten their happiness and their lives.
6. The Witness by Nora Roberts
I can’t leave out the master story-teller, Nora Roberts. She creates the most intriguing back stories, the most exciting prologues, to completely hook you in. Take a chance on this one. It’s slow going after the prologue but it doesn’t really matter if you’re already invested in the story and I promise you, it will happen. Roberts knows how to reel readers in with no chance of escape.
Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.
Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems — and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail’s reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something — and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.
With a quirky, unforgettable heroine and a pulse-pounding plotline, Nora Roberts presents a riveting new read that cements her place as today’s most reliably entertaining thriller — and will leave people hungering for more.
7. Heartbreaker by Julie Garwood
First installment to the Buchanan-Renard series, this book perfectly sets the tone for the rest. Over-all an enjoyable read. There are other gems in the series too so be sure to check it out (some of my other favorites in the series are, “Murder List” and “Shadow Dance“).
Bless me father, for I will sin….
In the still shadows of the confessional, a madman tauntingly reveals his plan for a murder he is going to commit, pulling Father Thomas Madden into a twisted game by disclosing his next intended victim: Tom’s sister, Laurant. In a frantic race to protect her, Tom calls upon his best friend, elite FBI agent Nick Buchanan, to track the predator who is closing in on Laurant. Now, as an electrifying attraction grows between Laurant and Nick, so does the danger — and one false move will cost both of them everything that matters.
8. Swept Away by Toni Blake
Equal parts suspense and hot romance (whew! just look at that cover), this book definitely deserves a mention.
Five days before her wedding to a man she admires but doesn’t love, Katrina Spencer escapes to a private island. There, she can let the sun warm her body as she contemplates a future without the passion she craves. Then she lazily opens her eyes, only to see Brock Denton… muscular, half-naked, the one who got away – the one who makes her body tingle with arousal.
How Brock arrived is a mystery, but it’s clear he’s in danger. Kat faces danger, too, in the arms of a man who is determined to free her from her every inhibition with his hands, his mouth, and more!
Kat has five steamy days and five sultry nights to make up her mind – return home to a man she doesn’t love, or satisfy her wildest passions with Brock and let her herself be… swept away.
9. A Lot Like Love by Julie James
A modern take on romantic suspense, A Lot Like Love is cute, hot, and fun all at the same time. An heiress and an FBI agent? Sounds like a dream!
The FBI wants her cooperation…
As the daughter of a billionaire and the owner of the city’s top wine store, Jordan Rhodes is invited to the most exclusive parties in Chicago. But there’s only one party the FBI wants to crash: the charity fundraiser of a famous restaurateur, who also happens to launder money for the mob. In exchange for her brother’s release from prison, Jordan is going to be there—with a date supplied by the Bureau.
Agent McCall just wants her…
As the top undercover agent in Chicago, Nick McCall has one rule: never get personal. This “date” with Jordan Rhodes is merely an assignment—one they’re both determined to pull off even if they can’t be together for five minutes before the sarcasm and sparks begin to fly. But when Nick’s investigation is compromised, he and Jordan have no choice but to pretend they’re a couple, and what starts out as a simple assignment begins to feel a lot like something more.
10. On Thin Ice by Anne Stuart
Your good old romantic suspense: hot, action packed, loveable characters.
Elizabeth Pennington has come to the war-torn South American country of Callivera to volunteer at a tiny mission. Kidnapped by the local rebels who are more interested in ransom than politics, she ends up at their camp in the Andes where she meets Finn MacGowan, member of the infamous Committee, a covert organization dedicated to destroying terrorism. MacGowan has been held hostage for almost three years, and he’s chosen the night she arrives as the night he plans to escape. When he does, she follows him, heading down the steep mountainous terrain with another hostage, the teenage son of a Hollywood millionaire. Rebels, soldiers, traitors and near-drowning follows them on their journey. As they travel from the mountain fortress to a transatlantic freighter, an old cafe in Spain ending in a shootout at a farmhouse in France, MacGowan reluctantly falls in love, and Beth learns that the cynical, dangerous soldier-of-fortune might be worth saving after all.
11. Mackenzie’s Pleasure by Linda Howard
I would’ve put this higher on the list—in my top 5 in fact—but I wanted to provide a variety of authors you can choose from and they can’t all be Linda Howard, can they? Mackenie’s Pleasure is another favorite from this author. I’ve said just about anything to convince you to read her work so I’ll leave the synopsis below for you as a last ditch effort if you still aren’t on board.
Barrie Lovejoy needed a savior. The terrorist group holding her hostage surely wouldn’t tolerate her silence much longer. Instead they would silence her-forever. Then out of the darkness he arrived. Grizzled and dangerous, he led Barrie from her captors straight into his sheltering arms…
Navy Seal Zane Mackenzie was the best. No mission had ever gotten the better of him-until now. Saving Barrie Lovejoy had been textbook-except for their desperate night of passion. And though his job as a soldier had ended with her freedom, his duties as a husband had only begun. For he would sooner die than let the enemy harm the mother of his child.
12. Night Whispers by Judith McNaught
Miss McNaught is a household name in the historical romance world but she has hidden gems in romantic suspense too and Night Whispers is one of them. I love subtle but powerful heroines and Sloan (the heroine in this book) is just that. This is the third installment in McNaught’s Second Opportunities series but you don’t necessarily have to read the first two books because they’re stand-alone novels. However, I advice you to do so because they’re just as good. I didn’t include them in the list only because they’re technically under ‘Contemporary Romance’.
A policewoman in a small Florida community, Sloan Reynolds knows that her modest upbringing was a long way from the social whirl of Palm Beach, the world inhabited by her father and her sister, Paris. Total strangers to Sloan, they have never tried to contact her — until a sudden invitation arrives, to meet them and indulge in the Palm Beach social season.
A woman who values her investigative work, Sloan is unmoved by the long-overdue parental gesture. But when FBI agent Paul Richardson informs her that her father and his associates are suspected of fraud, conspiracy, and murder, Sloan agrees to enter into her father’s life — while hiding her true profession.
Sloan’s on top of her game until she meets Noah Maitland, a multinational corporate player and one of the FBI’s prime suspects — and finds herself powerfully attracted to him, against her deepest instincts. When a shocking murder shatters the seductive facade of the wealth and glamour surrounding her, Sloan must maneuver through a maze of deceit and passion, to find someone to trust — and to decipher the truth behind those terrifying whispers in the dark.
13. Lethal by Sandra Brown
One of the rare books that leave you with lasting impressions. I finished this and thought, “That couldn’t be it!” but it was this exact cliff-hanger moment that left a mark on me. I will always remember that feeling. For a full review with my own casting, click here.
When her four year old daughter informs her a sick man is in their yard, Honor Gillette rushes out to help him. But that “sick” man turns out to be Lee Coburn, the man accused of murdering seven people the night before. Dangerous, desperate, and armed, he promises Honor that she and her daughter won’t be hurt as long as she does everything he asks. She has no choice but to accept him at his word.
But Honor soon discovers that even those close to her can’t be trusted. Coburn claims that her beloved late husband possessed something extremely valuable that places Honor and her daughter in grave danger. Coburn is there to retrieve it — at any cost. From FBI offices in Washington, D.C., to a rundown shrimp boat in coastal Louisiana, Coburn and Honor run for their lives from the very people sworn to protect them, and unravel a web of corruption and depravity that threatens not only them, but the fabric of our society.
14. Shadow Lover by Anne Stuart
Another classic by Anne Stuart. It has the typical romantic suspense formula but it’s the formula that works for me so.. (for a longer review, you can click here.)
A woman holds vigil over her wealthy, dying step-mother. Tensions — already high with greedy relatives appearing to claim their inheritances — are further strained by the appearance of the dying woman’s long-lost son, who ran away 18 years ago. His mother greets him with joy, the relatives with resentment, but the woman alone knows he is hiding something…that he is not who he says he is. As she uncovers secrets and deceptions of the past and present, she knows only one thing in her heart — that the irresistible appeal and seductive power of this mysterious stranger may be more dangerous than she thinks.
15. Diamond Bay by Linda Howard
Oh look, another Linda Howard. I started with her so I’ll end with her. Diamond Bay is not one of her popular works but for me it’s one of her best. It immediately starts with a grandeur of mystery and danger, a perfect combination to hook you in. After that, there’s no going back. Once you start, it will be impossible to stop. So, dig in!
Rachel Jones wasn’t looking for trouble, much less a man, but in Kell Sabin she found both. On a hot summer’s night Kell is washed up – barely alive – on a Florida beach and into Rachel’s life. Her instincts tell her to help him, and their love blossoms as he recovers from his injuries. But by falling in love with Kell, Rachel has put her own life in danger from the forces that want him dead. Once fate has brought them together, can they learn to live apart?
And that concludes my list. I hope you find one that you love. I’m in need of new Romantic Suspense reads myself so if you know a few, please tell me in the comments. 🙂
Have a great day!
** header photo edited by me.
** stock image of girl in black & white by Alexander Krivitskiy and vintage books by Suzy Hazelwood