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The College Romance Genre

What is the “College” Romance Genre?

Not surprisingly, there isn’t much more to this genre than the fact that it involves protagonists who are in college – that’s it. That said, it is an incredibly popular genre with over 2000 novels which claim this as its main category.

What to Expect in the “College” Romance Genre

  • Involves college students

  • Usually the heroine is a virgin or had an awkward “first time”

  • Usually involves a “bad boy”

  • Potential warning: can involve some (or all) of the traditional teenage “angst” categories including assault, depression, abandonment, drug abuse, suicide, etc. And sometimes the main characters have experienced significant trauma in their pasts that they are trying to put behind them when they leave for college.

  • For whatever reason, most of the novels are either about college students in their first year of college or their last (or they sometimes focus on students who are studying abroad during their third year)

Clean Romance Characteristics

  • Level of Angst

    On a scale of 1-10, the level of angst in this genre is usually around a 7 or 8. The heroine usually has to be “convinced” to get involved, and a lot of time is often spent wooing her.

  • Character Development

    As with most romance novels, the level of character development depends on the writing ability of the author in developing them. However, this genre kind of defaults to the traditional themes found in other “new adult” novels, which are a winning combination. Plus, it’s kind of fun to remember back to our own teenage years and wonder either “what if” or “I wonder whatever happened to…”

  • Plot Strength

    This genre is set in modern times, so the plot is very identifiable. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is a “big school” or a “small school,” although an inordinate amount of these novels seem to take place in small schools or an Ivy League school.

  • Romantic Tension

    The romantic tension for this genre is usually pretty high. There is a sense of physical wanting that tends to overwhelm the psychological and emotional need in these novels.

  • Level of Eros

    This element is usually pretty high – again, something about the whole notion of the “virgin” being had by the resident bad boy (or rescued by him). Plus reminiscing about [insert personal story here] is always fun!

  • Prose Quality

    This is an interesting genre for prose quality since some of these novels are as awkward in writing about the first time as the characters are in experiencing it. There is a fine line between wanting and forcing, and the writers of this genre need to be very careful in straddling it.

Related Romance Subgenres



  • The main genre for this category is the relatively new category of “new adult fiction,” marketed as a more mature take on “young adult fiction.” “College Romance” is actually a subgenre to that larger genre. It is also closely related to the contemporary romance genre and the bad-boy romance genre.

“College” Romance isn't for you if

You like history-based stories, complicated stories, and time-travel/the supernatural.

“College” Romance is totally for you if

You had a “true love” back in college (or wish you did…). You like the good girl-bad boy relationship, and enjoy sweet sex scenes (since they often are)

Popular “College” Romance Books
  • 1 Beautiful Disaster (2012)

    By Jamie McGuire. Focuses on the story of the goody two shoes who meets her match in the “fight night” bad boy on campus. They soon find that they have met their match in one another.

  • 2 One Tiny Lie (2013)

    By K.A. Tucker. Tells the story of an orphaned Princeton freshman and the popular rowing captain who is everything she thinks she doesn’t want, but whom she cannot stop thinking about.

  • 3 The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden (2013)

    By Jessica Sorensen. Is the story of two college freshmen who both have serious skeletons in their closets. She manages to save him; will he be able to return the favor?

  • 4 Left Drowning (2013)

    By Jessica Park. Tells the story of a two college seniors who are both struggling with losing their families under tragic circumstances, and the story of their attempts to start to heal with one another.

  • 5 Take What You Want (2013)

    By Jeanette Gray. Tells the story of a serious, dedicated college senior who has dedicated the past 4 years to working to get into medical school. For her last spring break she throws caution to the wind and approaches a guy in a bar for some fun casual sex. Somehow she doesn’t recognize him from her classes, but he sure recognizes her!

  • 6 A Little Something Different (2014)

    By Sandy Hall. Takes an interesting approach as it tells this college love story between 2 people who think they should not be together from the perspectives of 14 people who think they should.

  • 7 Anywhere with You (2012)

    By Kaylee Ryan. Is the story of the orphaned young girl and the college football hero who thought he wasn’t ready to commit – but he can’t stop thinking about her.

  • 8 Losing It (2013)

    By Cora Carmack. Is the only book on this list that doesn’t involve 2 college students – simply because it’s such a fun read. It’s about a college senior who is bound and determined not to graduate a virgin – she has somewhat awkward but mind-blowing sex one night only to find out 8 hours later that she just slept with her new theater professor. Oops!

  • 9 Keep Me Still (2013)

    By Caisey Quinn. Tells the story of an orphaned girl who leaves her past, and the boy who loves her, behind for a new start at a college across the country. He follows her there, and then she has a decision to make.

  • 10 The Year We Fell Down (2014)

    By Serena Bowen. Is the story of two college hockey players who get injured and need to sit out their seasons. She will never play the sport she loves again, and he is slow in recovering from a broken leg…will they both be willing to risk it all for each other?