Being the week of Valentine’s Day, the topic is – you guessed it! – romance. Can’t complain though – this is hands down my favourite genre. I already shared some movies (yes, ten) that would provide a good sobbing session this February 14th, to those of you who crave it. Now it’s time for some novels that will give you the feels. As I said, I’m kind of sick, so I couldn’t quite come up with a clever niche for this week’s topic. Hence why these romance novels are a bit all over the place: classic, contemporary, tragic, funny – something for everyone.
I did exclude my beloved erotic novels, mostly because I didn’t have the strength to go about it in a way that wouldn’t have you running for the hills, clamouring my incarceration. Also left out is the often frustrating, but sometimes thrilling, romantic suspense genre. Shoutout to pretty much every single book written by Penny Reid, and Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us, and oh god so many other perfect love stories. For once, the ten book limit actually feels, well, limiting.
Ten Romance Novels I Love and Recommend
Pride and Prejudice
You can’t make a best of romance list without the mother of all romance authors: Jane Austen. I’m sure other novels from her could be featured here, but Pride and Prejudice is actually the only one I’ve read. What more can I say about it? It’s grand, witty, sad, exciting, and impossibly romantic. It features the ultimate brooding male, effectively inspiring thousands of subsequent romance writers. It could very well be the best of all time, and yet not at all your cup of tea. Either way, I love it.
I can’t believe I owned Outlander for years and never picked it up. Granted, it was a Portuguese edition whose cover didn’t even resemble the original, and translations do make me cringe, but still. This time travel epic romance set in Scotland is the kind of all-consuming love story that leaves you sighing for days. And what sets it apart from so many highlander harlequin types, is its actual historical richness, and the amazing cast of characters you get. Guaranteed you’ll fall in love with Scotland an the highlander culture.
Spanning a massive eight novels (soon to be nine!), plus a few novellas and a spin-off series, you’ve got entertainment for years here, so better get on with it!
Ahh, Jane Eyre. The first classic romance that absolutely broke me. This story works on so many levels for me: it starts as a swooping romance, proceeds to something eerily dark, and ends in shattering, beautiful tragedy. If that’s not the perfect arch, I don’t what is. Fukunaga’s adaptation is as good as it will probably get on screen, so that’s another valentine’s reccomendation for you.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I’ve mentioned this book and author twice in the Top Ten Tuesday series: first as an author I needed to read more from, and then as a book I could remember almost nothing about. So here I am, recommending to you, again, a book I can’t remember. But this time I did some research into my own writings on it, so I’m confident in the following plot decription:
Milan Kundera’s fifth novel is about three people (well, four, but the other guy I really can’t remember) – Tomas, Tereza, and Sabina. Tomas is a neurosurgeon who loves women. Tereza is the naive and insecure girl who falls in love with him. And Sabina is one of his lovers, who lives tormented by her mother’s scorn towards her. Three struggling characters in a struggling country (1968’s Czechoslovakia), each with their own definition of justice, love, existence. Relying heavily on its character’s thoughts and feelings, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a like an inward meditation on life, provoked by the chaos of an outward scenario.
A Single Man
This is also a popular choice of mine for Top Ten Tuesday, and even one Thursday Movie Picks. At this point you probably think I’ve read only 10 books in my entire life, but the thing is, when I find something I love, I really hold on to it. I may not remember it entirely, but I never forget how it made me feel. And A Single Man, once again, wrecked me.
The main character in this novel, middle-aged George, is mourning the death of his lover. His will to live is wilting, the pain and loneliness so overwhelming, he has already planned his suicide. Hey, I never said this was a happy list. He goes through what could be his last day on earth noticing every detail, remembering every feeling and thought, all in exquisite, beautiful prose.
Again… one I’ve featured before. And what I said still stands: The Ballroom is set in an asylum, in 1911 Yorkshire, where men were kept apart from women but for one night of the week, when dances were held in the great ballroom. It’s the love story of Ella and John, who meet on such a night. The setting is gloomy, which together with the challenges that come with it and the character’s states (madness, you would presume), make this story so unique. And it’s a nail bitter too, as the lovers try to be together against all rules and odds. Oh, and expect lots of tears.
The Hating Game
I just read this one, so I might be a little biased at the moment, but one thing I know for certain right now: this book is hilarious. It’s an office romance (a publishing company – queue the bookworm sigh) that fully embraces the hate-to-love trope. She’s a bubble of quirky joyfulness, he’s sulky and handsome. They work opposite each other in every way, and play the funniest, silliest little games. The only sad news is that Thorne has yet to write another book.
Me Before You
Readers, we’ve reached sobfest territory. Sure I may have shed a tear or two for the previous books, but the following three had me bawling so hard, you’d be shocked. Unless you’ve read them, in which case, I’m sure you’re still not okay. Now, Me Before You. I know you know about this book. Maybe you’ve read it and didn’t like it, maybe you don’t care enough to even give it a try. It’s okay. I won’t judge you, so please don’t judge me for what I’m about to say.
I truly did love the characters and romance, everything about it. The fact that it is based on real life events makes it all the more heartbreaking. But even if it were pure fiction, it would be devastating. It’s a whirlwind of emotions, but more than that, it’s a whirlwind of questions. On life, pain, freedom, dignity. I hated the ending. Hated it. The truth of it, it’s crushing. But what I loved, and made me truly respect Moyes, is how the book doesn’t try to convince you on the matter, in any way, of whatever opinion. It merely tells the story, dives into the feelings of everyone involved, and asks you to consider everything.
After I Do
Truth be told, any Taylor Jenkins Reid novel has the potential to make you cry. Often right in the first chapter (never forget Forever, Interrupted). And that’s not because sad things happen. You get those in plenty books. It’s because Jenkins Reid has a way with characters. She can make them feel real with just one scene – a realness that has you rooting for them, wholeheartedly.
In After I Do, we meet a couple at the end of their relationship. Lauren and Ryan, college sweethearts, have seemingly fallen out of love. They decide to spend a year apart, to either put an end to marriage or salvage it. It was the first book I read from Jenkins Reid, and remains one of my favourites. It’s an unconventional love story, that captures sweet, sad, but real moments.
Beauty and the Mustache
You know it, and I’ve accepted it – I’m pretty obsessed with Penny Reid’s books. Not just because they’re great, but also because she’s the nicest person, fully connecting with her fans – and make no mistake, we are the best fans. But, the books. They’re funny, sweet, romantic – yes. They’re relatable, with flawed characters and awkward scenes. But they also touch on serious, often overlooked and, most likely, nerdy subjects.
I think that started with this one, still my favourite: Beauty and the Moustache, third in the Knitting in the City Series. It’s small nature-y town setting (which I always adore), with a fierce woman and as you’d expect, a brooding male. His poetry does irk my mostly uncorny heart, but I can’t blame him for that. More than a near-perfect romance, this book deals with family and loss. It has a fantastic cast of characters and such a picturesque setting, that a whole other series blossomed from it – The Winston Brothers Series. And that’s what made me love it the most.