What is a love scene? I bet if you asked four different people, you’d get four different answers. One might limit it strictly to sex scenes, another to any physical affection; one might include proposals and similar grand declarations, while the last might include even the simplest and subtlest showings of love, be they verbal, physical, or something else entirely. I decided to take a broad approach and assembled 22 of the best love scenes in books, ranging from Jane Austen to Talia Hibbert, with diversity of almost every kind (though you won’t find any paranormal romance here, simply because I don’t read it).
Best Love Scenes in Books: Best Declarations and Proposals in Classic Literature
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
There’s a lot of book before Laurie and Amy fall in love, and he spends a good deal of the book infatuated with Jo…but when he and Amy do finally acknowledge their feelings, it’s just so dreamy.
“You must be tired. Rest a little, and let me row. It will do me good, for since you came I have been altogether lazy and luxurious.”
“I’m not tired, but you may take an oar, if you like. There’s room enough, though I have to sit nearly in the middle, else the boat won’t trim,” returned Laurie, as if he rather liked the arrangement.
Feeling that she had not mended matters much, Amy took the offered third of a seat, shook her hair over her face, and accepted an oar. She rowed as well as she did many other things, and though she used both hands, and Laurie but one, the oars kept time, and the boat went smoothly through the water.
“How well we pull together, don’t we?” said Amy, who objected to silence just then.
“So well that I wish we might always pull in the same boat. Will you, Amy?” very tenderly.
“Yes, Laurie,” very low.
Then they both stopped rowing, and unconsciously added a pretty little tableau of human love and happiness to the dissolving views reflected in the lake.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.“
Okay, so this was actually a terrible proposal other than these sentences. Darcy was far too caught up in his pride (and/or prejudice) to just say he liked Lizzie and not insult her family. It was a total bust and she denied him, as she should (“I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly”). But the WORDING is just a DELIGHT. I know for a fact that my husband ardently admires and loves me, but if he ever said so in as many words I would simply melt on the spot.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Yes, yes, two Austens in a row, but they’re the only Austens on the list so kindly just pretend we are going alphabetically.
Frederick Wentworth’s letter to Anne Elliot is so romantic I had to lie down after I copied this over:
“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.”
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
“Jane, be still; don’t struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage in its desperation.”
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”
Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
“And your will shall decide your destiny,” he said: “I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions.”
“You play a farce, which I merely laugh at.”
“I ask you to pass through life at my side — to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”
“For that fate you have already made your choice, and must abide by it.”
“Jane, be still a few moments: you are over-excited: I will be still too.”
A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk, and trembled through the boughs of the chestnut: it wandered away — away — to an indefinite distance — it died. The nightingale’s song was then the only voice of the hour: in listening to it, I again wept. Mr. Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously. Some time passed before he spoke; he at last said—
“Come to my side, Jane, and let us explain and understand one another.”
“I will never again come to your side: I am torn away now, and cannot return.”
“But, Jane, I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to marry.”
I was silent: I thought he mocked me.
“Come, Jane — come hither.”
This is another proposal that is ultimately a disaster — Rochester has not only lead Jane to believe he intends to marry Miss Ingram, but he is in fact already married — but oh, the beautiful words!
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
I confess, I think episode 4 of the eponymous miniseries gets this scene across even better than the book…but reading it is awfully lovely, too. Mr. Thornton runs a cotton mill that Margaret has just inherited; he’s shut down and she proposes a financial arrangement to allow him to reopen…but that isn’t really all she’s proposing, is it? In this final scene of the novel, she struggles to explain, showing him the papers she’s had drawn up, until he interrupts.
For an instant she looked up; and then sought to veil her luminous eyes by dropping her forehead on her hands. Again, stepping nearer, he besought her with another tremulous eager call upon her name.
Still lower went the head; more closely hidden was the face, almost resting on the table before her. He came close to her. He knelt by her side, to bring his face to a level with her ear; and whispered — panted out the words:—
“Take care. — If you do not speak — I shall claim you as my own in some strange presumptuous way. — Send me away at once, if I must go; — Margaret!—”
At that third call she turned her face, still covered with her small white hands, towards him, and laid it on his shoulder, even hiding it there; and it was too delicious to feel her soft cheek against his, for him to wish to see either deep blushes or loving eyes. He clasped her close. But they both kept silence. At length she murmured in a broken voice:
“Oh, Mr. Thornton, I am not good enough!”
“Not good enough! Don’t mock my own deep feeling of unworthiness.”
After a minute or two he gently disengaged her hands from her face, and laid her arms as they had once before been placed to protect him from the rioters.
“Do you remember, love?” he murmured. “And how I requited you with my insolence the next day?”
“I remember how wrongly I spoke to you, — that is all.”
“Look here! Lift up your head. I have something to show you!” She slowly faced him, glowing with beautiful shame.
“Do you know these roses?” he said, drawing out his pocket-book, in which were treasured up some dead flowers.
“No!” she replied, with innocent curiosity. “Did I give them to you?”
“No! Vanity; you did not. You may have worn sister roses very probably.”
She looked at them, wondering for a minute, then she smiled a little as she said—
“They are from Helstone, are they not? I know the deep indentations round the leaves. Oh! have you been there? When were you there?”
“I wanted to see the place where Margaret grew to what she is, even at the worst time of all, when I had no hope of ever calling her mine. I went there on my return from Havre.”
“You must give them to me,” she said, trying to take them out of his hand with gentle violence.
“Very well. Only you must pay me for them!”
“How shall I ever tell Aunt Shaw?” she whispered, after some time of delicious silence.
Best Love Scenes in Books: Best Declarations and Proposals in Contemporary Literature
A Delicate Deception by Cat Sebastian
In this delightfully bisexual historical, Sydney has proposed, and agoraphobic/anxious Amelia has told him she cannot move to town with him.
“I know that this would all be easier if I didn’t have my — predicament, if I could pack my bags and go with you. I know this is burdensome.”
He held her chin steady and looked at her hard. “Nothing about you is burdensome,” he said, his voice rough. “Do you hear me? You are clever and kind and”— he broke off to kiss her, clumsy and fierce —“you’re sunshine. Meeting you is the best thing that’s happened to me, and every time I see you I love you more. I’m going to take you on whatever terms I can get you. Separate houses, separate towns, marriage, no marriage.” His arm tightened around her. “Just so you know.”
A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
Tavish has recently been acknowledged as the heir to a dukedom and is with the literal Queen, surrounded by the press. He asks them to livestream what he has to say, not realizing Portia is there.
He was likely about to do something he’d deeply regret.
She began pushing her way through the crowd.
“Portia Hobbs,” he said, and both her name and the reverence with which he said it stopped her again. “Portia Hobbs first came into my life as my apprentice at the Bodotria Armory. She then became an aide as I took on a new chapter in my life — becoming a duke. Despite being treated poorly by a great many of the supposed reporters before me, Portia is competent, intelligent, kind, and beautiful, but above all that, she is the woman I love.”
“Oh shit,” Portia said, and the reporter beside her glanced her way. Her phone was vibrating incessantly in her hand, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from Tavish.
“What are you doing, mate?” a reporter asked. “I mean, Your Grace?”
“I’m publicly declaring my love for someone who was hurt because of me and by me.”
“He’s groveling,” the Queen said with just the right amount of royal contempt, then turned a kinder gaze onto Tav. “Go on.”
“Right. Portia, I would like to say, for posterity, that I was the fuck-up here. I thought I could protect you—”
[…]“—I did what I did because I thought to protect you, but I didn’t bother to ask if you wanted to be protected, or how. So. That’s about it, Freckles.
“I don’t expect her to take me back, but everyone should know that nothing a paper says, nothing about her past, could change the fact that I love Portia Hobbs. Right. Um, you can stop videoing now. Thank you.”
He crossed his arms over his chest and stood awkwardly, but his hands dropped to his side as he caught sight of Portia pushing past the reporters.
“Bloody hell. You’re here?”
Best Love Scenes in Books: Best First Kisses
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
I love sweet thick-headed FSOTUS Alex and sweet moony, conflicted Henry so damn much.
Henry bites his lip, waits a beat, and opens his mouth again. “I’d date more, probably, as well.”
Alex can’t help laughing again. “Right, because it’s so hard to get a date when you’re a prince.”
Henry cuts his eyes back down to Alex. “You’d be surprised.”
“How? You’re not exactly lacking for options.”
Henry keeps looking at him, holding his gaze for two seconds too long. “The options I’d like…” he says, dragging the words out. “They don’t quite seem to be options at all.”
Alex blinks. “What?”
“I’m saying that I have…people…who interest me,” Henry says, turning his body toward Alex now, speaking with a fumbling pointedness, as if it means something. “But I shouldn’t pursue them. At least not in my position.”
Are they too drunk to communicate in English? He wonders distantly if Henry knows any Spanish.
“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about,” Alex says.
“You really don’t?”
“I really, really don’t.”
Henry’s whole face grimaces in frustration, his eyes casting skyward like they’re searching for help from an uncaring universe. “Christ, you are as thick as it gets,” he says, and he grabs Alex’s face in both hands and kisses him.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Alexa has attended a wedding as Drew’s fake girlfriend, and as the festivities wrap up she says she supposes she ought to get home.
“Or”— he looked straight down into her eyes —“you could stay.”
A question was in his eyes, and a smile hovered over his lips. His thumb drew slow circles on her hip and then moved up her side to her ribs. His other hand moved up to her face and traced the outline of her lips with his fingers.
“Or,” she said, “I could stay.”
He pulled her against him and kissed her. Their lips clung together softly at first, then with more urgency. He tasted like bourbon and chocolate cake and everything she’d ever craved. She sighed against his lips and murmured his name, and she could feel his smile. Her hands moved into his hair, that hair that she’d been wanting to touch all night, and he kissed her harder. His hand cupped her cheek, and the gentle touch on her skin as she felt the heat of his mouth had her nerve endings on fire.
Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Technically, there isn’t a kiss in here, nor for many pages more. But I think you’ll agree that a first touch is close enough.
Would she regret him, after tonight? Would she see him as a failed plan, a thing she couldn’t control and wanted nothing to do with? Would she leave him, and everything wonderful growing between them, behind?
He couldn’t let that happen. But he couldn’t let this moment pass, either.
“I’m going to ask you something,” he said softly, studying her face — the V between her eyebrows, the heat in her eyes, the vulnerable flash of pink inside her mouth, revealed by her parted lips. He wanted that mouth. He wanted that vulnerability. “I’m going to ask you, and I don’t want you to worry about anything. Not a fucking thing, Chlo. We’re friends. This doesn’t have to be complicated. I’m not going to make it complicated. Okay?”
He heard her breath hitch slightly as she nodded. “Okay,” she said softly. “Okay. So ask.”
“Should I make you moan again?”
Her answer was so fucking sweet. “Please.”
Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour
“Last time I did this, I was in a terrible place, and I wasn’t very kind and I wasn’t ready to love anyone. You were right to say no and I’ll understand if you say no again but I hope that you won’t.”
She takes a step closer to me.
“Don’t you want to kiss me?” she asks.
She smiles just a little, a hopeful, sweet smile, but somewhere buried in it is that confidence that slays me.
I say yes and she says yes? and I nod and she touches my waist with one of her hands and I touch her face with mine, that spot where the sunlight landed on the day I really saw her. We don’t kiss right away. Instead, there’s a moment when we just look at each other, the moment where, if this were a movie, the music would start. And surrounded by all of my careful details, everything still just a little more perfectly placed than it would be in life — the plants that cascade down the wall in their charming pots, the deep-sea curtains and the colorful jars, the fairy-tale sofa with its gold vines and plush cushions — and Ava’s movie-star face, her Clyde Jones nose and her freckles and her beautiful green eyes, this could be the scene in the movie that everyone aches for. The moment where the thing that you wish for becomes the thing that you get.
When we tip our faces to the side, we do it in the perfect movie way — no awkward repositionings, no pressed noses. I swear: I can hear the music swelling.
Our lips touch. The imaginary music goes quiet. The room is only a room and we are the miracles. Her mouth is warm and human and soft, her hand presses hard and insistent against my back, her breasts press against mine. My hand grazes the delicate line of her jaw; there’s the whisper of her hair against my fingers as we kiss harder.
Every single moment of this book makes me swoon, but this moment? The very swooniest.
Best Love Scenes in Books: Best Consent & Communication
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
In this scene, Lucien and Oliver don’t hook up, but what’s sexy about it is Oliver’s reveal of why they didn’t hook up a different time. Just trust me, okay?
He visibly unsoftened. “You really do think I’m a god-awful prude, don’t you?”
“Yes. No. Maybe.” Oh God. How could I make this sound less…messed up and needy. “I’m just not used to a hookup being a big deal, so it feels kind of personal that you keep refusing to shag me.”
“What do you mean, keep?”
“Bridget’s birthday. Couple of years ago. We nearly got together, but instead, you pissed off and left me.”
He gazed at me with obvious incredulity. “Sorry, are you insulted that I didn’t date-rape you?”
“You what?” I gave him a shocked look back.
“I remember that evening, and you were completely out of it. I don’t think you knew who I was, much less what you were doing.”
“For fuck’s sake,” I snapped. “I’ve had a lot of drunk sex. I’d have been fine.”
“Oh, Lucien, how can I explain this?” For some reason, he sounded sad. “I don’t want fine. Fine isn’t enough. It’s not about the open fire or whatever other clichés you can conjure up, but yes, I want a connection. I want you to care as much as I care. I want you to need it and want it and mean it. I want it to matter.”
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
These four passages are from a single sex scene, spaced out over several pages — I love how they keep checking in on each other.
His fingers flirted with the hem of her sweater. “Can I touch you?”
He licked the rim of her ear. “Anywhere? Really?” “Really.” Twisting her neck, she pulled his mouth to hers for a brief, wet kiss, sucking his tongue until his vision turned white around the edges.
She let out a choked sound, and he paused. “Okay?”
“Yes.” Her hips tipped, pressing her tighter against his hand. “Please.”
He lifted his head for a moment, raising himself up on his arms enough to make eye contact, and she groaned at the sudden absence of that incredibly talented tongue.
“Everything okay?” His mouth was wet with her, his pupils wide and dark. “If I do something you don’t like, just tell me. Or if you want me to stop—”
Leaning forward, she tucked her hair behind her ears and petted his dampening chest.
How To Be A Normal Person by TJ Klune
Gus is neuroatypical (I read him as autistic but YMMV) and Casey is asexual (named on the page) and they fall in love. This book is so lovely. These two passages are from the same scene.
Gus didn’t quite understand the word. It was too long. Far too long for Scrabble.
His mind didn’t quite get it. It was still a little foggy.
Casey looked nervous.
He was even blushing a little.
Gus looked back down at the word.
There was a C and A and N, then I, K, I, S,S—
Gus got it then. Not one word.
At this point they decide to hug first. Then…
Casey pulled away first, but he didn’t go far.
He said, “I’m going to kiss you.”
Gus swallowed thickly. “Okay.”
“Just…no tongue or anything.” Casey looked away briefly. “Is that okay?”
“Yeah. Yes. That’s fine. That’s more than fine. It’s awesome.”
“And I don’t like a lot of…movement. Not right now. Just nice kisses. With lips.”
“Yes. No movement. None. I’m a statue. That you’re going to kiss.”
Casey laughed. “Maybe a little movement.”
“Okay, but I don’t—”
Casey kissed him.
Best Love Scenes in Books: Sexiest Sexytimes
Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
This book and Alyssa Cole’s A Prince on Paper both feature inexperienced heroines and initial sex scenes with no penetration, and I had trouble choosing between them! Ultimately, this one wins because it’s also hilariously funny.
“On top of the clothes stuff only.”
“Do panties count as clothes?”
“I don’t know. Yes.”
“Sweet.” Before she could lose her nerve, Georgie wiggled the skirt down over her hips and nudged it aside, feeling her face turn pink but staunchly ignoring it. “I’m ready.”
The world tilted when Travis picked her up by the waist, tossing her into the center of the bed like she weighed less than a feather. He crawled slowly up her body. “No. You aren’t.”
“I lie corrected,” she breathed.
People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry
I’m sure I’m blushing now and probably smiling ridiculously. “That’s okay,” I say. “It’s just us.”
What I mean to say is, if there’s anyone I would do this with, it would be him. If there’s one person I truly trust, want all of in this way, it’s him.
But that’s how I say it: It’s just us. And he says it back to me, like he knows exactly what I mean, and then we’re on the ground, in a sea of discarded plastic, and he’s tearing my top off, pulling my bottoms off too, pressing his mouth between my legs, clutching my ass in his hands, making me gasp and rise against him as his tongue moves over me “Alex,” I plead, knotting my hands into his hair, “stop making me wait for you.”
“Stop being impatient,” he teases. “I’ve waited twelve years. I want this to last.”
Oh my goddddddd these two idiots spend SO much time in love and not admitting it. It’s so goddamn satisfying when they do.
The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite
I had to read SEVENTY-THREE PERCENT of this book, one hundred percent of it longing, before Agatha and Penelope finally kissed, then went to bed. Lucky you — you get to skip ahead. But I suspect you’ll want to read the whole thing.
Agatha shuddered, arching her back, her long hair falling like a curtain around both of them, her hips working as Penelope toyed with her. Penelope flung the blankets back, the better to watch. She wanted to remember every bit of this — every sight and sound, each gasp and groan — because it was the first time, and whenever there was a first time, there would be a last time, too.
She shoved that thought aside; it could wait until the morning.
Agatha’s hips rocked faster, matching Penelope’s rhythm.
Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
This passage proves, I think, that sexytimes can be extremely steamy with almost no explicit detail (there is a bit more detail before and after the passage I’m quoting — but not as much as many books I’d consider this steamy.)
The storm gathering in her body grew stronger with each indrawn breath. “Rhine,” she cried helplessly.
“Go ahead, darling, let it come, baby. I have you.”
Her legs widened, his wicked fingers continued to bestow their enthralling magic. Suddenly, the storm broke, crackling through her body like summer lightning, and she was flung to the stars, hoarsely screaming his name.
Eddy didn’t know how much time had passed, but when she opened her eyes he was smiling down. Still breathless, she asked, “What in heaven’s name was that?”
“An orgasm. When your body can’t hold any more pleasure it explodes sort of like black powder. Did you enjoy it?”
Embarrassment heated her cheeks and she turned away.
Glutton for Pleasure by Alisha Rai
Rai’s first published novel is basically 250 pages of a threesome between Devi and twin brothers Jace and Marcus. It’s, uh, real steamy. This passage is short because everything around it is, uh, NC-17.
When she tried to move, though, Marcus’s hand snapped against her ass. The smack only drove her passion higher. “Please!”
A low chuckle resounded from Marcus’s chest where it pressed against her back. “You’re such a bad girl, Devi. What are we going to do with you?”
Her head tossed.
Drag Me Up by R.M. Virtues
Black trans Hades and Persephone retelling set in Las Vegas? Yes, please.
She goes limp against him though her frame continues to quiver, and he slouches back against the chair, wrapping his arms around her.
His hoarse laugh tickles her neck. “I think the whole casino heard you.”
“Me?” She scoffs, peering out of one eye although she doesn’t have the strength to raise her head enough to see him. “You were loud as fuck too.”
American Sweethearts by Adriana Herrera
I don’t usually love second chance romances, but this one is making me reconsider.
“You still like it a little rough? Just a little bit of teeth.” She inhaled, like she was looking for a scent in the air. “I’m feeling really fucking reckless right now, Juan Pablo.”
Groans and moans were my mother tongue now. I wanted her to take me all the way out of my head like I knew she could. Like she always did. “Pris, fuck.” I was begging, and I would keep doing it too.
Special Category: Best Bad Sex
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Listen, I need you to hear me out on this. Hoang writes incredible sex. The Kiss Quotient is full of the hottest sexytimes that ever sexytimed. But in this book, she accomplished something that absolutely destroyed me: a couple having a first-time sexual encounter that was a disaster…for one of them. Esme didn’t realize it was Khai’s first time, and he didn’t know she hadn’t finished. This scene, the aftermath of which is below, ultimately led to better communication (and really good follow-up sex). Esme:
She sat upright and stared at the door to the bathroom as her skin went cold. He was really done. He’d enjoyed himself, and now he was showering her off. It hadn’t even been a minute since he’d finished. Her lips were still wet from his kisses.
And from Khai’s perspective, the next morning:
He sat up, put his feet to the floor, and speared his fingers through his short hair. He’d slept like the dead — great sex probably did that — but everything felt off today. The walls were too gray, the room too dingy, his bed too big.