Content note: this piece mentions suicide. This piece also contains minor spoilers for various Romance Club stories.
In 2019, I was scrolling through Apple’s App Store in search of an interactive story mobile game similar to Pixelberry’s Choices. I had wanted to play Choices since its conception, when I used to watch playthroughs of some of the stories on YouTube. However, my problem is that I’ve always found the diamond choices to be extremely expensive. I’m not interested in having to watch numerous ads and then wait for hours to mine for free diamonds, so I feel that I can’t fully enjoy the app’s stories. There have also been complaints from fans about how the quality of the app’s story outputs has been dwindling. In fact, I had tried playing another mobile game, Chapters: Interactive Stories, but found the stories badly written.
While searching on the App Store, one game caught my eye. It’s called Romance Club. I initially thought that the name was incredibly cheesy, but I downloaded it anyway because I was bored. When I opened the game, there were only seven stories available. With my phone screen staring back at me, I was witnessing the beginning of the app that I believe will soon exceed Pixelberry’s Choices in quality.
I’m not going to explain in detail each of these early stories. However, I will tell you about the first story I played, Moonborn. I picked Moonborn after feeling a sudden wave of nostalgia for the Twilight series. Moonborn was Romance Club‘s second release, and it follows a college girl who aspires to be a writer. She seems to be nothing special until she receives a mysterious invitation to a masked party at a mansion, which starts her involvement in a supernatural world full of vampires and werewolves.
The first season of the story has clunky writing despite its interesting premise. Some of the dialogue is cringe-worthy, and I found the main character to be too curious for her own good and a little obnoxious (even though I can relate as a curious writer!). The romantic options for Viktor, your first potential love interest (LI) and a vampire are rushed. Despite the season’s shortcomings, I remained hooked. As I entered the ninth episode of the season, Max, a werewolf LI (and one of my favorites in Romance Club), was introduced, and the quality of the writing improved significantly. It took me by surprise.
Since then, I’ve had hope for this game’s progress. I started logging in every day to receive daily diamonds to the point that it has become a habit. The game also occasionally runs an in-app event called “Diamond Rush,” when all diamond options are made free temporarily. Romance Club is far more generous than Choices or Chapters.
As the app has progressed, there has been a great improvement in its art, animations, and original music, which creates an immersive experience. The variety of stories is growing, with the game currently featuring over 20 books. As a result, it’s easy to understand why this mobile story game is growing in popularity. Here are the Romance Club books you should check out first.
Shadows of Saintfour
Shadows of Saintfour is the fifth book released on Romance Club, and the game’s first horror story. It’s set in a fictional town called Saintfour, with the story divided into two different periods: the 1980s and the present. It follows a girl who goes back to her hometown to attend the funeral of an old acquaintance. She sees high school friends who she hasn’t seen in a decade, which makes her recall her past and the horror that occurred.
This book reminds me of Stephen King’s It as it is also about a group of friends in the ’80s who are working to stop supernatural threats ingrained in their town’s dark, bloody history. There are other influences as well, like Stranger Things, Riverdale, and American Horror Story: Freakshow. If you’re into horror set in a small town during the ’80s, this is the perfect story for you. It won’t disappoint as the writing is consistent, tying up its ends well, with different endings based on the choices you make. This is why this is the first Romance Club book that I declare my favorite.
As for the romance, in Season 1, the players are introduced to several potential LIs. The “main three” are Luke, a shy, withdrawn, and rich boy who resembles a young Leonardo DiCaprio; Michael, a typical jock who is the brother of the nerdy Bobby; and Stephanie, a sweet girl who moves in after the protagonist and provides the only sapphic romance. There is also Derek, the brave and often blunt son of the town’s sheriff—he starts out as the protagonist’s friend and becomes romanceable in Season 3.
I find the main three to be the story’s blandest LIs, even though I like Stephanie. Thankfully, the game introduces players to more LIs in later seasons, even if some can only be romanced in the final season. In Season 2, the newly introduced LIs are more interesting. John, for example, is the antagonist of the second season. He pretends to be a high school student but has a hidden agenda. If the protagonist pursues a romance with him, he can end up falling for her and redeeming himself.
In the final season, the player can romance Aaron and Cherry, members of a gang called the Black Dragons, and the Masked Man, the leader of a circus and the primary antagonist of this season (an ideal choice for those who love twisted romances).
In my playthroughs, my protagonist always ends up with Aaron because, well, I have a thing for hot older men with a past. But I also ship the protagonist and John.
Legend of the Willow
Legend of the Willow is directly inspired by Japanese mythologies and feudal Japan. It is about a geisha named Mei who discovers that she is a kitsune—a type of magical fox in Japanese folklore—after a ritual. Mei has to learn how to control her magic while being chased by both humans and mysterious forces.
I’m not Japanese, so I don’t know whether Japanese culture is represented well in this story, but I can’t deny that the writing is solid. The world is depicted vividly and vibrantly, with a soundtrack inspired by traditional Japanese music, which makes for a more immersive playing experience. The book also doesn’t shy away from violence and darker subjects.
Mei is one of my favorite Romance Club protagonists, with her quick thinking and great adaptability, regardless of the personality path she is on. Even when her magic hasn’t developed well yet, she knows how to get out of tight situations by herself. She utilizes skills from her geisha training to deceive and obtain information from people.
The story doesn’t have an abundance of LIs, but they are well-written and likable. I find this story’s potential LIs to be some of the best in all of Romance Club because I dislike none of the options. I had a hard time choosing who to romance. There is Kazu, a ninja who is a contract killer; Masamune, a ronin who seeks to avenge his former master; Takao, a wizard who becomes Mei’s mentor in magic; and lastly, Shino-Odori, a youkai—a type of supernatural being in Japanese folklore. Shino-Odori is one of my favorite sapphic romances in Romance Club due to her curiosity and straightforwardness. If you want a demon girlfriend, she’s perfect for you.
Before I broke my old phone, I had reached Season 4 of this book and I was romancing Masamune. I’d intended to romance Kazu (it’s hard not to ship him with Mei) but I was locked out of his romance because I failed to do all the relevant diamond choices in Season 1. However, Masamune has grown on me. I find his romance with Mei to have a tragic note because he intends to perform seppuku and die by suicide. In my current playthrough, I’m planning to pursue Kazu as I’d originally intended, and I’ll also be playing again so that I can romance Shino-Odori.
Arcanum is categorized as dark fantasy, but it is more of a blend of several genres, including horror. In fact, this book is written by the writer of Shadows of Saintfour. Arcanum is about a troubled businesswoman with ego and temper problems. She often hurts people in her life. After an encounter with a mysterious tarot reader, she is banished to alternate dimensions haunted by ghosts from her life. In these dimensions, she is known as Lilith and given a choice to redeem herself or sustain her toxic behavior.
The story is highly atmospheric. It makes players feel claustrophobic at times—after all, there’s nothing more horrifying than being trapped in alternate universes where you know nothing, including yourself. Then, after building up some relationships, you’re sent to another world to restart everything, like an endless cycle. In my opinion, the game’s ghostly jumpscares aren’t as terrifying as being stuck in a loop. However, the entire journey is worth it because, in the end, the protagonist can change and feel a deeper connection with their LI in the real world.
Lilith is also one of my favorite Romance Club protagonists as she’s the most morally questionable one. She is strong, stubborn, and resilient. However, her bitterness and bluntness often hurt others—yes, even when you play on the High Priestess personality path that makes her show more sensitivity and empathy. She wouldn’t be what she is if it weren’t for her dark past, which is explored throughout the story. If the players allow her to redeem herself, she will have the best character development in any Romance Club story.
I’ll be honest, I don’t care about most of Arcanum‘s LIs, except for Rob, who is a detective from the Anti-Narcotics Task Force in the real world. He is as strong-willed and as stubborn as she is, which makes him a perfect equal for her. There are other potential LIs, such as the gentle, caring, and attentive Liam, whose true identity is never known, and the outgoing, cocky Bert who bears a dark secret. There’s also the determined Mary, a civil engineer working under the protagonist before she is fired, and Damon, Lilith’s ex-boyfriend and one of the main catalysts to why the protagonist becomes the person she is in the present.
They are all well-written characters with distinctive connections to the protagonist. However, Lilith x Rob owns my heart.
Theodora is an ongoing story that blends drama, historical fiction, and fantasy. It is about a journalist named Theodora who is invited to interview the mysterious philanthropist Monsieur Lachance in 2019 Paris. During her interview with him, she has flashbacks of her past, including how she became immortal. She was initially a sharp and ambitious young magazine writer who dreamed of being well-known and respected in journalism until she was sent to be a frontline journalist in Belgium during World War I.
Theodora is my absolute favorite Romance Club book. It is the story that I find to be the most character-centric, and I love stories that are moved by characters, especially by the protagonist. Theodora doesn’t disappoint as the main character because of how driven, curious, and intelligent she is. Other characters, including potential LIs, are also well-written, with interesting backgrounds. They don’t exist just to serve the protagonist. Some of them have their own agendas, and some of them take action even when it’s not morally acceptable.
Thanks to these compelling characters, the book becomes Romance Club‘s most heartbreaking. It forces players to face characters getting older or dying while Theodora stays young forever. Supporting characters’ deaths feel final, which can leave you feeling devastated. Therefore, when Theodora has to depart from them (whether it’s due to death or other circumstances), it’s difficult not to sympathize with her growing pain and cynicism.
As for the romance, each season introduces the players to a new set of potential LIs. The first season is set during WWI and introduces players to Lawrence, a fellow American journalist who is Theodora’s senior in frontline journalism, and just as charming and ambitious as she is. There’s also Yoke, a nurturing nurse with a son; Friedrich, a closeted, low-ranking German soldier who never wanted to be part of the military; and lastly, John, the mysterious doctor.
In the second season, set in Italy during the 1960s, the protagonist encounters Antonio, a businessman whose Jewish father lost a jazz club during World War II; Charlotte, a burlesque performer at Madame Rosetta’s House; Blaine, a shy, reserved fashion designer for the same club; Julian, a pianist newly hired by Madame Rosetta; and Rosetta herself, the owner of the club with shady ties. The third season has the most racial diversity among romanceable characters, featuring LIs such as Jamie Zhao, a Chinese lawyer with a practice in Paris who is a good friend of Theodora in the present; Darius, a North African man who has ties to the supernatural; and Marcel, a black researcher working on his PhD thesis in theology.
It is obvious that this story is rich in LGBTQ+ representations, especially bisexual representations. In Season 1, there’s an option to match Friedrich with a fellow soldier if you’re not romancing him. Besides that, I appreciate how the writer centers on sapphic characters more than most Romance Club stories, especially in Season 2.
Currently, I’m romancing John, because he is the one responsible for Theodora’s immortality. I find the idea of star-crossed lovers to be romantic and tragic, which is the main appeal of this romance. John is also my favorite Romance Club man. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t love other potential LIs. Once the story is completed, I’d love to replay to try each different romance path.
If you play Romance Club, let me know which stories and romances are your favorites!
A graduate from Macquarie University who majored in Creative Writing for her Bachelor’s degree.