When you’re looking for your next great read, it is easy to lean towards fantasy novels with satisfying conclusions or romance books with a happily-ever-after ending.
However, just as sci-fi readers enjoy the chaos of a dystopian world or horror fans enjoy the creeping-crawly feeling all over their bodies, you may want to experience the raw emotions of a devastating story that has the ability to make you cry.
Therefore, to provide you with the very best novels we searched far and wide for personal and reader recommendations on the best heart-throbbingly sad romance novels.
Whether you’re looking for a novel that is equally tear-jerking as it is thrilling or a simple heartbreakingly sad romance, then you have come to the right place.
With this in mind, this article will explore the saddest books of all time that you’ll become completely absorbed in.
Let’s get started.
What Makes A Sad Romance Book Sad And Romantic?
Today, it is our job to provide you with some heart-throbbingly sad romance books that have many tear-jerking opportunities.
To make the list, the YA or adult book has to include a HEA (Happily Ever After) or an HFN (Happy For Now) and the ability to make you cry – ideally both in the same book!
You’ll find that some sad romance tropes overlap with Comfort/ Hurt, as well as angst. That said, the main element here to look out for is sadness.
Therefore, you’ll find books of all genres in this article. Grab your box of tissues and get ready to experience a heartbreaking journey.
To jump straight into the sad romance books, we present you with Anna Karenina – it will be hard to find a bigger or more sweeping tragedy.
Published in 1878, Leo Tolstoy’s novel features a noblewoman who finds herself in a disastrous affair with a young, handsome cavalry officer.
Despite sympathizing with Anna – who is currently married to a man 20 years her senior – each character is completely complex with no clear villain – not even Anna’s husband.
There is also a secondary – albeit less tragic – romance between the optimistic young lovers: Levin and Kitty. These characters provide the books with some much-needed lightness.
Would it be considered wrong to kidnap your best friend from his attic hideaway with the motive of good health? Well, from Will’s perspective, the answer to this question is certainly not!
Will hasn’t heard from Martin for months and when he finally finds him, the only way he can bring him back is by a trip to the country.
The two characters find themselves in their new, cozy cottage. Both characters have to make sacrifices for the greater good while holed up in the cottage.
In the friends-to-lover queer historical romance, you’ll hear some of the most heartbreaking confessions as Martin and Will begin to imagine what a future may look like if they can stay together.
It would seem that Anna Bolles has been through a lot recently – she is seemingly God’s favorite when it comes to all things tragedy, including a recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
With her recent diagnosis, Anna has practically given up on her future and the chances of her ever finding love.
As a result, she watches the world move around her from a distance, refusing to let anyone in her life who might become burned by her life’s harshness.
Besides her mother – who Anna heavily relies on – Anna chooses to stick to herself. That is until Jo Malone comes into the picture – who is certainly tough to ignore.
Joe is adamant to make a life with Anna and is willing to risk everything to be with her. However, hardly short on his own problems, with the pair connected or is it destined to be doomed?
If you ask anyone what is the saddest book released in the last decade, then their answer is likely to be A Little Life.
The novel tells the heartbreaking story of Willem, Jude, Malcolm, and JB – four friends who first met at college.
From here, their individual stories unfold. As their life develops, we are shown flashbacks of their earlier childhood traumas – showing the struggles each friend has faced.
It is depressing, dark, and could even be considered traumatic at times. However, the pain is powerful and it is certainly a book that leaves an impression.
If you’re not quite ready to take on the expansiveness of Anna Karenina, then Wuthering Heights is another 19th-century classic romance novel that is not as long. Additionally, it can be considered darker than Anna Karenina, too.
Despite teenagers all around the world swooning over the all-consuming, intense passion that is Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship, something Bronte didn’t want to endorse was how they treated one another – not to mention those around them.
Essentially the book is about bad people behaving badly, however, that’s to Bronte’s incredible writing, the book is transformed into something that is eerie and vivid – making it hard to look away.
It began with a trade: Blake – the son of a billionaire who owns Cyclone Systems – has to spend a month living Tina Chen’s life.
With this trade comes a switch in their homes, incomes, and jobs. Before, Tina was hardly able to go to class, pay her rent, and save enough money to support her parents.
Now, Tina is living in luxury with one of the nicest apartments she has ever seen and has plenty of time to finish all her coursework.
However, the longer she stays, the more she is uncovering about Blake. The more secrets she learns, the more they have the ability to destroy her.
After she tragically lost her fiancé to a suicide bomber, reporter Carline James believes her life to be over.
To help heal from the traumatic event, Caroline returns home. However, one thing she wasn’t prepared for was meeting David Sloan – her fiancé’s brother.
As the two spend more time together, the quicker David’s feelings begin to grow. However, David is conflicted on whether or not to act on these feelings.
Whether they were brought together or a reason or his feelings could mean the end of their friendship, the two must decide this for themselves.
Author Colleen Hoover is known for creating powerful emotions in her novels, with examples such as Verity and It Ends With Us.
One of her most recent novels, Reminders of Him, continues this trend.
After returning from her prison sentence to reconnect with her daughter, Kenna Rowan finds her family doing whatever they can to keep them apart.
Well, almost everyone. The only link she has now to her daughter is the local bar owner. Kenna must do everything she can to prove she will be a good mother and can’t let her daughter down again.
Celie is a young black girl who was born in a segregated world in the early 1900s.
As the novel unfolds, you begin to learn – through letters Celie has written God and her sister – that Celie was beaten and raped by the man she believes to be her father, loses her mother, has her children taken from her, and is taken away from those she cares most.
The abuse Celie experiences is heartbreakingly unthinkable, however, she has an unbreakable spirit that makes her one of the strongest characters you will ever meet.
This novel features more traditional tragic pleasures.
Unlike Heathcliff and Cathy in Wuthering Heights who are kept apart from cruelty and foolishness, the two lovers here are separated by societal pressures.
Here, Newland Archer is engaged to Ellen Olenska’s cousin – while she is still married to her abusive ex-husband.
During this period – in the spotlight of upper New York society in the 1870s – divorce is something shameful.
Despite Newland and Ellen knowing they can’t be together, they can’t help but grow feelings for each other more and more each day – making it all that more painful.
This novel follows the story of Hazel and Augustus – two teenagers suffering from cancer.
While Augustus is in remission, Hazel is fighting a terminal diagnosis – the two grow a quick bond and make it their mission to fight for one another.
Sometimes you’re simply in need of a good cry – and one of these heart-throbbing sad romance books is sure to do the trick.
From A Little Life and The Age of Innocence to Reminders of Him – this list features something for everyone.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some heartbreakingly sad romance novels to indulge in.