The best romance novels to feature characters with mental illness

Barbara Claypole White Author Of The Unfinished Garden
By Barbara Claypole White

Who am I?

The two people I love most, my husband and my son, manage obsessive-compulsive disorder. Their struggles constantly inspire me and illustrate the courage it takes to navigate everyday life with an invisible disability. We don’t talk enough about that courage. Instead, society passes judgment and shares OCD jokes. There’s nothing funny about a chronic, potentially fatal illness that demands lifelong management. After all, we don’t laugh at diabetics, and people aren’t defined by their disabilities. (Think of Helen Keller’s achievements!) My passion is to create characters who chip away at the stigma, shame, and stereotypes of mental illness. They also prove the mantra, “You are not your disorder.” Amen.


I wrote...

The Unfinished Garden

By Barbara Claypole White,

Book cover of The Unfinished Garden

What is my book about?

Young widow Tilly Silverberg is rebuilding her life one potted-up plant at a time. Gardening is her salvation and her livelihood. Software developer James Nealy is on a solitary mission to reclaim his life from irrational obsessions (OCD). His plan? Employ Tilly to help him conquer his greatest fear: dirt. But Tilly, who’s heading back to her native England to diffuse a family emergency, isn’t for hire.

Tilly’s quietly happy to return to her childhood village, until she discovers her first love is unexpectedly single, her mother is scheming, and her best friend is keeping secrets. Then James appears. As they work together to rescue a garden, they share fears and hopes, and despite every reason against it, a tentative bond takes root and blossoms.

The books I picked & why

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The Prince: A Devil's Duke Novel

By Katharine Ashe,

Book cover of The Prince: A Devil's Duke Novel

Why this book?

This historical romance features an ambitious heroine, who doesn’t allow undiagnosed OCD to define her life, and a displaced immigrant determined to reclaim his birthright, despite a physical disability. The parallel between their struggles illustrates how physical and mental illnesses share similar challenges. Why can’t we treat them equally?


The Charm Offensive

By Alison Cochrun,

Book cover of The Charm Offensive

Why this book?

This gay rom-com packs a serious punch about panic disorder, OCD, and depression. Neither Dev nor Charlie believe they deserve love, but they show up for each other constantly. And yet to survive as a couple, they have to learn, independently, how to manage mental illness. There are no shortcuts.


The Reckless Oath We Made

By Bryn Greenwood,

Book cover of The Reckless Oath We Made

Why this book?

This love story is unique. Zee is a hot-tempered drug dealer with a damaged leg. Sir Gentry is a sweet guy on the autism spectrum who hears voices, thinks he’s her Medieval champion, and talks only in Middle English. But lack of judgment, understanding, and compassion make them equals in love.


Weather Girl

By Rachel Lynn Solomon,

Book cover of Weather Girl

Why this book?

In this romance, the author doesn’t gloss over the raw, ugly lies of the heroine’s depression. She also touches on an issue we don't often see in fiction—body dysmorphia in men. Ultimately, two broken souls step outside their comfort zones to be together. That’s where the good stuff happens…


Ten Rules for Faking It

By Sophie Sullivan,

Book cover of Ten Rules for Faking It

Why this book?

Kudos to the author for creating a charming romance that brings readers deep inside crippling social anxiety. Taking it one step further, the novel shows how effectively someone—the heroine—can mask mental illness. Here is the heartbreaking reality: anxiety is easily hidden and often misread as anti-social behavior.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, mental disorders, and gay men?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, mental disorders, and gay men.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Heart Principle, Float Plan, and Ever After Always if you like this list.