Honest Portrayals of Mental Illness in Romance Novels
You won't find any romanticized books about mental illness here!
Romance Novels Featuring Mental Illness
If you're living with mental illness, you know how hard life is sometimes, especially when it feels no one understands what you're going through. That's why seeing mental illness in books, movies, and TV shows is so important.
In this article, we're focusing on honest portrayals of mental illness in romance novels. Because we're all fans of romance (I mean, that's why we're here, right?), it's incredibly therapeutic to see bits of ourselves in our favorite genre. Even if you don't have a mental illness, reading a romance novel with a mentally ill character can help you better understand any mentally ill people in your life. The more mental illness is written about romance, which is a huge book genre, the less stigma it will have.
We tried to include a variety of mental illnesses in these romance novels because they aren't the same across the board and aren't even the same for every person who has been diagnose with the same one.
Trigger Warning: Some topics discussed in the article may be triggering for some people. This includes mentions eating disorders, domestic violence, various mental illnesses, and likely more.
1. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
Livvy Kane, the heroine of Alisha Rai's first book in the Forbidden Hearts series, Hate to Want You, is someone who suffers from depression. In the book, she and Nicholas Chandler spend one night together a year, reveling in passion and letting themselves forget the tragedy that made their families enemies. Then one year, Livvy doesn't show up.
With an empire to run, Nicholas doesn't need distractions like Livvy and her sudden reappearance in town. That doesn't really stop him from wanting her though. She may not have come back for him, but she can't forget the past they share. She knows even love isn't enough to mend the relationship between their families. So what are they to do?
2. Far From Home by Lorelie Brown
Rachel, one of the main characters in Lorelie Brown's Far From Home, has anorexia. She's post-rehab and still going to therapy in the novel, which I found really awesome to see. Rachel jokingly suggests to Pari Sadashiv they should get married because Pari, who is in the U.S. one a work visa sponsored by her job, wants to go into consulting.
While Rachel has always identified as straight, she finds herself slowly falling for Pari as they plan their wedding. Pari is everything she's everything she's ever wanted in a partner. But Rachel is terrified of letting Pari see her vulnerability. She needs to get out before she falls in love with her wife.
3. Fools Rush In by Gwynne Forster
The heroine in Gwynne Forster's Fools Rush In, Justine Montgomery, experienced a deep depression after a tragedy in her life. As a result, she decided to give her newborn child up for adoption, but by the time she comes to regret her decision, it's too late. She discovers her daughter was adopted by divorced journalist Duncan Banks, and he's looking for a nanny.
Without revealing who she is, Justine takes the job to have a presence in her child's life. An attraction grows between Justine and Duncan, but he also knows something isn't quite right, that Justine is hiding something from him. The truth must come out for them to have a real chance of becoming a family.
4. Spiral by Mila Ferrera
Mila Ferrera's Spiral is a novel in which the hero has bipolar disorder and the heroine is the daughter of a parent who had bipolar disorder and fears finding out she has it herself. Nessa Cavanaugh is a psychology student beginning an internship at a children's hospital. Her first day on the job, she literally runs into the brilliant and sexy Dr. Aron Lindstrom and is immediately attracted to him.
As they get to know each other, Aron urges Nessa to take a chance for once, take a chance on him, and she does. However, some of the things Aron starts to do remind Nessa of her dad and before long, everything spirals out of control. Nessa will have to choose between protecting her heart so it doesn't get broken again or weathering the storm.
5. Stand By You by A.M. Arthur
The third novel in A.M. Arthur's The Belonging series, Stand By You, features a man with panic attacks and social anxiety stemming an abusive ex. Romy Myers is rescued by ex-football player, Brendan Walker and the two men become fast friends. Romy gets a job in his friend's coffee shop and develops a gym routine with Brendan. It's the most stability he's had in a long time.
Brendan fell for Romy pretty quickly, but knew he needed time to heal. Being his friend is great. But then an argument between them turns into a hot make-out session, and Romy is left reeling. He thought his heart had been destroyed. But maybe, just maybe, it's beginning to piece itself back together.
6. Trial by Desire by Courtney Milan
Trial by Desire is the second novel in Courtney Milan's The Carhart Series. Due to the time period, the mental illness isn't specifically named, but it's implied to be bipolar disorder. While Ned and Kathleen Carhart married three years ago, he left due to his mental illness. In the meantime, Kathleen has been helping women escape from abusive husbands and is only mildly perturbed her husband left her.
When Ned returns, she's in the middle of her most harrowing operation yet. He is determined to win back Kathleen's trust, but she needs to keep her secrets even if it means risking her heart.
Let's Keep the Conversation Going...
What romance novels with honest depictions of mental illness have you read?