The best romance books that deal with grief

Who am I?

I’m a romance novelist who writes about otherwise smart people who deal badly with their feelings. Love, sorrow, jealousy, anger, hopelessness, and grief make appearances in my books because I write in a genre that centers the emotional lives of its characters. When I’m not wreaking havoc on fictional people, I take long walks and eavesdrop on conversations. I’m a recent transplant to Toronto, Canada, after having lived in New York City for more than 20 years.

I wrote...

Open House

By Ruby Lang,

Book cover of Open House

What is my book about?

Accountant Tyson Yang spars with debt-ridden real estate associate Magda Ferrer when she attempts to broker the sale of the empty-lot-turned-urban garden in Harlem that he’s found solace in helping maintain since the death of his mother. But as Ty and Magda uncover more about the lot and why it was abandoned, they grow closer, and in doing so learn about the complicated ways we’re bound to those who are no longer with us, and the importance of holding tight to those who are.

The books I picked & why

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Caroline's Heart

By Austin Chant,

Book cover of Caroline's Heart

Why this book?

A witch mourning her lover is saved by a curious cowboy in this by turns haunting and funny trans romance novella. Caroline’s Heart reminded me of Howl’s Moving Castle, with its magical house that serves as a portal to different geographies. But this book also explores the raw, dark-edged of grief of witch Cecily and her drive to revive her dead partner through her magic; One of Caroline’s Heart’s most powerful moments serves as an eerie reminder that sometimes holding onto grief corrupts our good memories of the people we love.

Back in the Day

By Katrina Jackson,

Book cover of Back in the Day

Why this book?

Jackson’s novel shuttles between present-day Oakland and the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival as music journalist Alonzo Reid remembers and recounts to his grown children how he met his now-deceased photographer wife, Ada. What I love about this book is the fact that although the family is grieving, so much joy infuses Ada’s memory. And while Back in the Day mourns a death and the end of one love story, it ends on a hopeful note and marks the beginning of a new chapter.

Donut Fall in Love

By Jackie Lau,

Book cover of Donut Fall in Love

Why this book?

In this Toronto-set contemporary, baker Lindsay coaches actor Ryan to appear on a celebrity cooking show. Ryan’s mother has recently passed away, and while Lindsay’s father died years ago, she lives with the residual effects of that loss. The two connect over food, laughter, and grief. What I loved about this book was how Lau sensitively explores how grief isn’t an isolated feeling with a set end, but rather is a set of feelings and actions that can have ripples over the course of a person’s life.

The Cybernetic Tea Shop

By Meredith Katz,

Book cover of The Cybernetic Tea Shop

Why this book?

Autonomous robot Sal has run a tea shop for hundreds of years, trying to stick to the mission of her master and romantic partner who passed away years ago. But the shop is failing, and Sal is slowly breaking down when she meets AI technician Clara. Clara is able to switch Sal’s programming, and give her a new lease on life. I love how Katz’s quiet prose gives us a careful exploration of Sal’s struggle with being true to her aims and with the concept of moving on.

In Memoriam

By 'Nathan Burgoine,

Book cover of In Memoriam

Why this book?

James finds out that he has terminal brain cancer and starts to wind up his affairs, including looking for Andy, his lost love. This book takes place in the reality of James’s diagnosis with family and friends sometimes painful reactions to his illness and in the alternate universe of James’ increasingly real hallucinations of a life that could have been with Andy. This book both devastated and buoyed me with its intense and very real portrayal of someone grieving his own life, but who nonetheless seizes the chance to make give himself a happy resolution.  

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