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When Irish Eyes are Beguiling: 10 Lively Irish Romance Novels

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Isabelle Popp

Senior Contributor

Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she's writing romance. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she's as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Ireland has an undeniable mystique, and Irish romance novels possess an extra special oomph. The gift of gab? The luck of the Irish? Whatever it is, it makes for good reading. Whether it’s the setting for a contemporary story or a historical saga, Ireland is a place that captures the imagination.

I once had a magical experience in Ireland, though it was decidedly not romantic. I finished knitting a sock on the ferry from Wales to Ireland. As soon as the sock was off my needles, it was snatched out of my hands by an Irish granny and passed around among her friends for inspection. They told me I’d done a good job with it. I already knew that because I’m a seasoned sock knitter, but it was nice to have their stamp of approval nonetheless. Even though it wasn’t a meet cute — I’m happily partnered up anyway — you can’t visit Ireland and come away without at least one good story to tell.

So here are the books to read over a cup of tea, a pint of beer, or a dram of your favorite Irish whiskey. These books include contemporary Irish romance novels and historical Irish romances. They also span age categories and romance sub-genres, so you’re sure to find something that will catch your eye.

Irish Romance Novels for Adults

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Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts

Let’s get one thing straight. If you want Irish romance novels, you have to look to Nora Roberts. She has many contemporary Irish romance novels, as well as some “paraNora” series that incorporate witches and other supernatural entities. It was hard to pick just one of her titles, but I had to go with this series as it was my personal first Nora. It’s a contemporary story following Jude, who has fled America for Ireland, where she meets brooding Irishman Aidan. If you love the idea of a magical town with a seaside pub as the setting, this is your book.

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The Irish Heiress by Kaitlin O’Riley

There are lots of historical romances starring Irish characters, but many of them are set in England. In this compelling read, Lady Mara Reeves has been avoiding the London season because she prefers her Irish home to the ballroom scene. But she becomes smitten with Foster, who’s in a loveless marriage. He wants her as a wife rather than a mistress, and he’ll follow her to Ireland to win her heart.

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A Bittersweet Love by Janice Sims

Teddy Riley is a photojournalist who needs to land a big story in order to get her dream job. The stakes are extra high because her ex is knocking at the door, threatening to start a custody battle. So Teddy heads to the Emerald Isle in search of an interview with a reclusive writer named Joachim. He also has pain in his past, so the two of them really have to dig deep to let love into their lives again. Sorry, this one is not for the people who hate the trope of the journalist falling for her subject!

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All the Way Happy by Kit Coltrane

Jack and Theo did not get along while they were together at boarding school. Wealthy Theo bullied Jack, who hated Theo’s perfect veneer. The summer after graduation, the two had a memorable encounter in Ireland that changed everything. Seventeen years after graduation, they meet again, dropping their sons off at the same school. And now is their time to really address their past, and maybe look to the future. You may be able to tell that this story has some very recognizable fanfic vibes, if that sways your opinion one way or the other.

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The Irishman by V. Vee

Here’s the book for people who like mafia romances and want to read about the Irish mafia. Instead of the story of a damsel coming under the protection of a mob boss, this story follows mob boss Andrew McCarthy, who becomes smitten with Kyra, the leader of her own all-women crew. It’s action-packed, both steamy and violent. As a side note, this book is not set in Ireland. But if you listen to the audiobook, you will get to hear Andrew’s Irish accent.

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The Maiden of Ireland by Susan Wiggs

Of course we need some more Irish historical romance novels! This one is unusual for its setting, namely during the brief period in the 1600s when England was ruled by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell rather than a monarch. In it, a man condemned to hang is instead sent to Ireland by Cromwell to wrest the secrets out of a fierce woman leading the resistance against English rule. If you like headstrong women and lots of derring-do in your historicals, pick this one up.

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Quest for Kimchi by Raquel Look

So many romances set in Ireland feature an American woman blowing up her life and heading to Ireland. For the record, I’m generally in favor of anyone who chooses this plan. And lawyer Rachel See does just that after a bad breakup. As she works on finding herself in Ireland and beyond, she meets lots of people and eats lots of food, too. This one is heavier on the journey of self-discovery than romance itself, but it’s a delightful book for people looking to vicariously experience a little wanderlust.

Irish Romance Novels for Young Adults

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The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

How about a historical coming-of-age story set in 1990s Ireland? Yes, fellow olds, the 1990s count as historical to the teens of today; they weren’t born yet. Whether you’re someone who’s hung onto your Nirvana T-shirt since the ‘90s or you have a new one, you’ll enjoy the nostalgia of this grunge-inflected romance. It stars Maggie, recently relocated to Ireland from Chicago. She goes on something of a pilgrimage to fulfill a dying wish and finds romance along the way. While the novel is a bit more coming-of-age than romance, it does have a happy ending.

Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating Book Cover

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

I am weak for the trope when a person tells a whopper of a lie in a moment of weakness and then has to try to live it! If you too love that plot device, you’ll appreciate this story of Hani. When pressed about her bisexuality, given that she’s only had a history with boys, she claims she’s in a relationship with Ishu. Ishu could use a bump in popularity so she agrees to go along with the ruse. Set in contemporary Ireland, this novel serves up commentary on racism, Islamophobia, and biphobia alongside the romance.

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth Cover

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth

The set-up of this story is perfect. Saoirse doesn’t believe in happy endings. But Ruby convinces her to share the most romcom-worthy summer with a binding agreement to end the relationship come fall. And you know how those binding agreements always go. This one’s steeped in contemporary Irish culture. Two notes: this one has a storyline about dementia if that’s something you’d rather avoid. Also, this book doesn’t end in a perfect happy for now/happily ever after and therefore doesn’t comply with the rules of the genre; this of course won’t work for some readers, while others say the whole book is too dang cute to care.