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The Tear-Jerker Romance Genre

What is the Tear-Jerker Romance Genre?

Not surprisingly, there isn’t much more to this genre than the fact that it involves stories that make you cry, but still feature a “happily ever after” ending. The genre crosses lines with a LOT of other genres – it can include both contemporary and historical, category and single-title, western, Christian, inspirational, etc.

There is just as wide a variety in the situations which make the reader cry, too. It might be something tragic that happens to a character in the novel (or a child, or one of their pets – that is what usually makes me start crying); it could be that there is an especially bad situation which is written about (a death, a divorce, etc) that reminds us of something that happened to us and reading about it happening to someone else makes us relive the situation; it might be that it’s a novel where we are invested in a relationship and that relationship is threatened in some way; and sometimes it’s about an unrequited/unresolved relationship.

Obviously, this genre is INCREDIBLY subjective in a way that most aren’t, so just bear that in mind. What makes some people cry makes other people angry, and still other people who just kind of shrug and think “whatever.” And obviously, some people cry at everything (think: while watching a McDonald’s commercial) and some people don’t consider themselves “criers,” but every once in a while, the “always crier” won’t cry at something that the “non-crier” will…it depends on the reader and their personal perspective and background as they read the novel.

What to Expect in the Tear-Jerker Romance Genre

  • Involves stories, characters and/or situations that are designed to provoke emotional responses in the reader

  • Otherwise there are no common situations or characteristics…and no money-back guarantee that you will actually cry

Tear Jerker Romance Characteristics

  • Level of Angst

    On a scale of 1-10, the level of angst in this genre is usually on the lower end of the spectrum for most of the novel, but then is much higher as the novel moves toward the requisite HEA ending.

  • Character Development

    As with most romance novels, the level of character development depends on the writing ability of the author in developing them. However, for this specific genre to have any chance of success, the reader needs to be invested – this means that the characters need to be likable, identifiable, and well developed.

  • Plot Strength

    Ditto character development; emotional investment depends on identification with the characters, settings and events. The more relatable the plots, the more chance of connection with the reader.

  • Romantic Tension

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

  • Level of Eros

    This element is usually pretty low – sometimes that changes toward the end of the novel as the HEA comes into focus, but in general these novels are not focused on the “hot” nature of the relationship.

  • Prose Quality

    The writers of these novels tend to be relatively thoughtful in putting together their story; there is still a formula, but it somehow feels like the majority of novels that fall into this genre are a little more insightful in trying to connect characters and situations with readers’ experiences.

Related Romance Subgenres



  • As mentioned above, every single romance genre can also be a “tear-jerker.”

Tear-Jerker Romance isn't for you if

You want a light “beach read”. You are trying to read on a plane; people might look at you funny
You have a lot of your own drama and read these books to get away from it.

Tear-Jerker Romance is totally for you if

You love a good cry, enjoy “wistful”. You are a dainty crier, or just don’t care what other people think if you are reading it in public.

Popular Tear-Jerker Romance Books
  • 1 Kiss an Angel (1996)

    By Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Tells the story of a young woman whose father set up an arranged marriage. She goes from living an uptown life to traveling with a circus and finds herself married to a man who doesn’t love her and only wants to use her. Fortunately she has nothing but heart to share and is willing to do so liberally.

  • 2 Out of the Box Regifted (2014)

    By Jennifer Theriot. Tells the story of a woman who is trying to get over an ugly divorce and a man who has some secrets that he would like to remain in the past. This story is about blended families, lies, betrayal, trust and ultimate redemption.

  • 3 Love in the Afternoon (2010)

    By Lisa Kleypas. Is the story of a young woman who would rather be outdoors in nature than inside in the ballroom, and who has become resigned to spending her life alone. Her best friend is engaged to a wonderful man who has gone off to war. The letters he sends back, however, show that he is changing, and her friend is disappointed that her charming suitor has become pensive and angry. When Beatrix takes over the responsibility of responding to his letters (pretending to be her friend), a real and deep relationship begins to develop, but the deception can only stay hidden for so long.

  • 4 My Beautiful Enemy (2014)

    By Sherry Thomas. Tells the story of a woman who craves her independence, and the man who is the only one to stand in the way of giving it to her. This is also a novel of suspense and intrigue, and learning to trust again.

  • 5 A Walk to Remember (2004)

    By Nicholas Sparks. Tells the story of a cool high school jock and a serious and studious wallflower. Brought together under unusual circumstances, a friendship-turned-romance begins. As beautiful as their love story is, it teaches an important lesson about not taking things for granted and loving while you can.

  • 6 Always to Remember (1996)

    By Lorraine Heath. Is set in the era immediately following the Civil War and tells the story of a man who refused to fight for the “wrong side” and was imprisoned as a result. After the war when he returns home, he is spurned by the townspeople, except for the wife of his best friend who was killed in the war. She had always been off limits…until now.

  • 7 Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas (2003)

    By James Patterson. Is the story of woman who has finally met the perfect man…and then he disappears, leaving behind only a diary. What follows is a complex story about love and loss, hope and fear, and a wish to come out okay on the other end.

  • 8 Beautiful Disaster (2012)

    By Jamie McGuire. Focuses on the story of the goody two shoes who expected to leave her past behind her when she arrives at college. She meets her match in the “fight night” bad boy on campus who is known as a walking one-night-stand. They soon find that they have met their match in one another.

  • 9 Me Before You (2012)

    By Jojo Moyes. Tells the story of two people who have been going through some difficult times. It tells the story of people who have nothing to lose, until they encounter one another.

  • 10 Effortless (2013)

    By S.C. Stephens. Is the story of a young woman coming out of a love triangle and swearing never to do it again because of the emotional trauma that was caused. But as every relationship experiences new challenges, she will find her love put to the ultimate test.