I have loathed the third-act breakup since before I realized that was the thing I disliked in many romcoms. In fact, it wasn’t really until I read several romance novels where the third-act breakup did work for me that I realized how much I usually hate it. And oh boy do I hate when a couple breaks up over something that could be solved with a quick check-in — and although that is something that tends to be more prevalent in romcom movies, it’s in an awful lot of books, too. I spent a lot of my early romance-reading years pining for romance books with no third-act breakup.
While romance as a genre is, I think, starting to trend away from the miscommunication-caused breakup in the third act, there are still more books than not with a breakup caused by other factors. And if I’m honest, it’s become something I like a lot of the time! In You, Again by Kate Goldbeck and People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, for example, the separation is necessary for the characters to have some emotional growth that allows them to deal with their own feelings.
So I’ve learned to love the third-act breakup when it feels earned, but I still like the comfort of a book where the couple gets together and stays together; I like that if there is a bleak moment in the third act, the couple gets through it together. Sometimes by (gasp!) communicating. What a concept.
Romance Books With No Third-Act Breakup
The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
A lot of the tension in this book comes from a secret Jeremy is keeping and his fears about how he is going to tell Chloe. Instead of causing a third-act breakup, that secret…well, I won’t tell you, because it’s so much fun to read.
(Bonus: this book also plays with the “only one bed” trope in a delightful way.)
Better Hate Than Never by Chloe Liese
I haven’t read this one yet, but you had me at Taming of the Shrew retelling. Kate and Christopher grew up neighbors, and as adults they don’t speak. But is it all based on a misunderstanding? See, I like those when it’s not the cause of a breakup and instead leads to a couple getting together.
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle
This is another one I haven’t read — I missed it entirely when it came out in 2021 — but it sounds like it will be exactly my kind of romantic nonsense (/affectionate). Maybell inherits a house from her great-aunt and is excited for the chance to start over. Unfortunately, groundskeeper Wesley doesn’t like her ideas for fixing up the house. Oh no, he’s so grumpy, I love it.
Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Look, the subtitle of this book tells you everything you need to know, but in case that isn’t enough, let me put it this way: these characters are adults who talk about things like adults and make decisions like adults, and it’s just great. Also, it’s pretty steamy.
Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner
The premise of this book — a college student secretly and repeatedly hooks up with her friend’s mom — is absolutely rife with reasons to break up, and yet! They do not!
Also: very, very, very steamy. The most steamy F/F book I have ever read.
Role Model by Rachel Reid
Okay, I have yet to find a sports romance that can hold my interest, but this one comes highly recommended. Troy gets traded to a new team, and the team’s social media manager, Harris, is very intriguing. I have been reliably informed that once they get together, they do not break up!
(Bonus: speaking of…hockey, maybe? I dunno, sports, I am told that Icebreaker by Hannah Grace also has no breakup!)
The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite
After losing her family piano shop to a swindler, music teacher Sophie is suspicious of beautiful Maddie. Who is, of course, plotting a heist to fund the weaver’s union. This one is still on my TBR, but if it’s even the tiniest bit as good as the first two Feminine Pursuits books (The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics and The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows), I am going to adore it.
Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk
I am very bad at remembering that fantasy and paranormal romance exist, but I adore C.L. Polk’s writing and am looking forward to reading this fantasy noir (if a little nervous because I am positive it will make me cry).
Helen sold her soul to save her brother, and she has a chance to win it back…and grow old with Edith, the love of her life.
This is a fairly short list, so I wanted to also share a few other authors who frequently write romance books with no third-act breakup:
- Lucy Parker
- Roxie Noir
- K.D. Casey
- Cat Sebastian