Romance books can be more than just a happily-ever-after love story. They have the ability to teach and to bring awareness to important topics such as mental health and mental illness.
This book list gives you some of the best romance books featuring mental health conditions and characters who are more than just their mental illness.
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In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to pull together a book list of the romance books that I’ve read that feature characters dealing with mental illness or a mental health disorder.
I think all of these books represented the mental health disorder in a real way and added to the characters development and growth.
Mental health conditions affect millions of people in the US and worldwide.
Even if you personally are not dealing with a specific mental health condition, chances are you know someone who is.
These romance books spotlight specific mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as other mental health disorders like bipolar disorder and PTSD.
I’ve listed the specific condition that is explored in the book below the cover as well as the book synopsis for you to decide if it is a book you’d like to pick up and read yourself.
I personally recommend reading each and every one because they are all fantastically written with amazing characters and story lines.
These are the top 10 romance books I’ve read featuring mental illness in no particular order:
Beard in Mind
by Penny Reid
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Shelly Sullivan is an artist and car mechanic who is living with obsessive compulsive disorder which makes it difficult for her to be touched by other people.
“Beau lives a charmed life as everyone’s favorite Winston Brother. But since his twin decided to leave town, and his other brother hired a stunning human-porcupine hybrid as a replacement mechanic for their auto shop, Beau Winston’s charmed life is over.
Shelly Sullivan is not nice and is never accommodating. Ever. She mumbles to herself, but won’t respond when asked a question.
She glares at everyone, especially babies. She won’t shake hands with or touch another person, but has no problems cuddling with a dog.
Beau wants her gone. He wants her out of his auto shop, out of Tennessee, and out of his life.
The only problem is, learning why this porcupine wears her coat of spikes opens a Pandora’s box of complexity—exquisite, tempting, heartbreaking complexity—and Beau Winston soon discovers being nice and accommodating might mean losing what matters most.”
by Ilsa Madden-Mills
Dane is a secondary character in Dear Ava who is using drugs to cope with his depression after his mother’s attack and passing.
“The rich and popular Sharks rule at prestigious, ivy-covered Camden Prep. Once upon a time, I wanted to be part of their world–until they destroyed me.
The last thing I expected was an anonymous love letter from one of them. Please. I hate every one of those rich jerks for what they did to me. The question is, which Shark is my secret admirer?
Knox, the scarred quarterback. Dane, his twin brother. Or Chance, the ex who dumped me. . .
Dear Ava, Your eyes are the color of the Caribbean Sea. Wait. That’s stupid. What I really mean is, you look at me and I feel something REAL.
It’s been ten months since you were here, but I can’t forget you. I’ve missed seeing you walk down the hall. I’ve missed you cheering at my football games. I’ve missed the smell of your hair.
And then everything fell apart the night of the kegger. Don’t hate me because I’m a Shark. I just want to make you mine. Still.”
by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
Anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Luca struggles with post traumatic stress disorder after surviving an accident in which she lost her best friend. She also lives with severe anxiety in which she cannot be around crowds of people.
“I’d never forgotten him—a man I’d yet to meet.
Griffin Quinn was my childhood pen pal, the British boy who couldn’t have been more different from me. Over the years, through hundreds of letters, we became best friends, sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and forming a connection I never thought could break.
Until one day it did.
Then, out of the blue, a new letter arrived. A scathing one—one with eight years of pent-up anger. I had no choice but to finally come clean as to why I stopped writing.
Griffin forgave me, and somehow we were able to rekindle our childhood connection. Only now we were adults, and that connection had grown to a spark.
Our letters quickly went from fun to flirty to downright dirty, revealing our wildest fantasies. So it only made sense that we would take our relationship to the next level and see each other in person.
Only Griff didn’t want to meet. He asked that I trust him and said it was for the best.
But I wanted more—more Griff, in the flesh—so I took a big chance and went looking for him. People have done crazier things for love. But what I found could change everything.”
by Nicole Edwards
Dylan has been struggling with depression ever since his wife passed. Sarah is struggling to come to grips with her husband taking his own life. Can the two find love together?
“Time doesn’t always heal a broken heart. Sometimes the only thing it does is fill the darkness with more shadows, more pain.
Dylan Thomas has spent the past decade living in the shadows, mourning the loss of his wife, his best friend, his very reason for breathing.
He long ago accepted that he would never feel again, that he was damned to a world without light, without hope. That was the day the bottle won, and he gave himself over to the darkness.
Until the one night that rocked his brittle, crumbling world on its axis. She told him what they shared was simply a distraction, a way to forget for a little while.
It would’ve been, except the tiny glimpse of how it feels to live again, to feel again, gives him the strength he needs to pull himself up by his boot straps. But three years later may be three years too late.”
by Kristen Callihan
Jax is a popular rock star who was struggling with depression unbeknownst to his band mates until he attempts to take his life. Now he is learning how to manage his depression.
“The first time I met Jax Blackwood things went a little sideways.
In my defense, I didn’t know he was Jax Blackwood—who expects a legendary rock star to be shopping for groceries? More importantly, a blizzard was coming and he was about to grab the last carton of mint-chocolate chip.
Still, I might have walked away, but then he smugly dared me to try and take the coveted ice cream. So I kissed him. And distracted that mint-chip right out of his hands.
Okay, it was a dirty move, but desperate times and all that. Besides, I never expected he’d be my new neighbor.
An annoying neighbor who takes great pleasure in reminding me that I owe him ice cream but would happily accept more kisses as payment.
Clearly, avoidance is key. Except nothing about Jax is easy to ignore—not the way he makes me laugh, or that his particular brand of darkness matches mine, or how one look from him melts me faster than butter under a hot sun.
Neither of us believes in love or forever. But we could be more. We could be everything.
All we have to do is trust enough to fall.”
by L.H. Cosway
Ellen is an author who struggles with social anxiety.
“We pretend to be prettier, happier, more confident versions of ourselves, but not Ellen Grant. She takes it to a whole other level and pretends to be someone else entirely.
Adopting the persona of a woman far more interesting is the only way she can break free of the socially awkward, romantically inept girl she really is.
And it’s all going swimmingly until she catches the eye of a man at her local coffee shop.
Julian Fairchild has been noticing her for a while and he’s fascinated. Little does he know, the woman he thinks he’s obsessed with is a fake.
It’s not long before the jig is up, and Julian discovers Ellen’s true identity. However, he has a proposition. If she really wants to pretend, he can introduce her to a world where she can be anyone she wants.
Ellen is intrigued by the prospect, and, blind to the nature of Julian’s profession as a male escort, closes her eyes and lets him lead the way.
Can Ellen keep her feelings in check while discovering a new world of thrills and excitement? And will Julian let it show that he isn’t entertaining Ellen purely out of the goodness of his heart?”
by Katy Evans
Remington Tate is a boxer dealing with bipolar disorder. Real showcases the ups and downs that he struggles with as a result of this condition.
“A fallen boxer. A woman with a broken dream. A competition…
He even makes me forget my name. One night was all it took, and I forgot everything and anything except the fighter in the ring who sets my mind ablaze and my body on fire with wanting…
Remington Tate is the strongest, most confusing man I’ve ever met in my life.
He’s the star of the dangerous underground fighting circuit, and I’m drawn to him as I’ve never been drawn to anything in my life. I forget who I am, what I want, with just one look from him.
When he’s near, I need to remind myself that I am strong—but he is stronger.
And now it’s my job to keep his body working like a perfect machine, his taut muscles primed and ready to break the bones of his next opponents…
But the one he’s most threatening to, now, is me.
I want him. I want him without fear. Without reservations.
If only I knew for sure what it is that he wants from me?”
by Emma Scott
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & Asperger’s Syndrome
Silas Marsh is coping with post traumatic stress disorder after a very traumatic event he experienced as a teenager. He is also helping his older brother who has Asperger’s syndrome.
“Max Kaufman was kicked out of his home as a teen and his life has been an uphill battle ever since. From dependency and living on the streets, to recovery and putting himself through nursing school, he’s spent the last ten years rebuilding his shattered sense of self.
Now he’s taken a job as a private caretaker to Edward Marsh III, the president and CEO of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.
Max soon learns Marsh’s multi-billion-dollar empire is a gold and diamond-encrusted web of secrets and lies.
The longer Max works and lives with the Marsh family, the tighter the secrets tangle around him.
And his heart—that he’s worked so hard to protect—falls straight into the hands of the distant, cold, and beautiful son of a dynasty…
Silas Marsh is set to inherit the family fortune, but his father is determined his heir be the “perfect” son. Before Silas can take over the company and end its shady business practices, he must prove himself worthy…and deny his true nature.
Silas must choose: stand up to his father by being true to himself and his undeniable feelings for Max. Or pretend to be someone he is not in order to inherit everything. Even if it means sacrificing a chance at happiness and real love.”
Some Sort of Happy
by Melanie Harlow
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Sebastian is living with obsessive compulsive disorder that compels him to do certain actions repeatedly a certain amount of times.
“Skylar Nixon. She’s even more beautiful than I remember. Ten years ago she was an impossible dream, and now she’s right here in front of me, offering everything I ever wanted.
But happiness never lasts, not for someone like me. I have to protect us both.
Sebastian Pryce. He’s the most complicated, frustrating, beautiful man I’ve ever met, and my body craves his with a hunger I’ve never known.
My heart is his completely. Why won’t he let me in?”
by Nicholas Sparks
The Notebook deals with dementia and how it robs one of memories.
“A man with a faded, well-worn notebook open in his lap. A woman experiencing a morning ritual she doesn’t understand. Until he begins to read to her. An achingly tender story about the enduring power of love.
A man with a faded, well-worn notebook open in his lap. A woman experiencing a morning ritual she doesn’t understand. Until he begins to read to her.
The Notebook is an achingly tender story about the enduring power of love, a story of miracles that will stay with you forever.
Set amid the austere beauty of coastal North Carolina in 1946, The Notebook begins with the story of Noah Calhoun, a rural Southerner returned home from World War II.
Noah, thirty-one, is restoring a plantation home to its former glory, and he is haunted by images of the beautiful girl he met fourteen years earlier, a girl he loved like no other.
Unable to find her, yet unwilling to forget the summer they spent together, Noah is content to live with only memories…until she unexpectedly returns to his town to see him once again.
Allie Nelson, twenty-nine, is now engaged to another man, but realizes that the original passion she felt for Noah has not dimmed with the passage of time.
Still, the obstacles that once ended their previous relationship remain, and the gulf between their worlds is too vast to ignore.
With her impending marriage only weeks away, Allie is forced to confront her hopes and dreams for the future, a future that only she can shape.
Like a puzzle within a puzzle, the story of Noah and Allie is just the beginning. As it unfolds, their tale miraculously becomes something different, with much higher stakes.
The result is a deeply moving portrait of love itself, the tender moments and the fundamental changes that affect us all.
Have you read a romance book featuring a character dealing with a mental illness that’s not on this list? Share in the comments below!
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