Contemporary romance is a wildly popular genre, with authors turning out books by the thousands each year. And while some of these books are certainly worthwhile reads, a whole lot of them aren’t. Romance books have a reputation for being cheesy, so it can be a challenge to weed out the good from the bad, the addictive from the unreadable. But we’ve done it. Have a look at the top 5 romance novels of all time.
5. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. This Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War epic tells the story of the beautiful Southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara, and the darkly charismatic Rhett Butler. One of the bestselling novels of all time, it is often considered the model of the Great American Novel, with a love story at its core. It is described on Amazon as follows:
“This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage, in the pages of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell brings to life the unforgettable characters that have captured readers for over seventy years.”
4. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. This is arguably the most universally loved piece of English literature the world has ever known, and it was penned by Jane Austen as a work of popular entertainment. It tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet who lives in a remote Hertfordshire village under the roof of a man who was burdened by the task of marrying off his bevy of daughters. Elizabeth is headstrong and opinionated, intelligent and shrewd. And when she meets Mr. Darcy, she finds him obstinate and rude. But the two warm to each other, slowly. Can these two opposites find happiness in each other’s arms?
3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This stunning and historic love story has recently been made into a hit Starz television series. But if you’re only watching the show, you’re missing out on Diana Gabaldon’s exquisite historical descriptions and character development. Here is a description from Amazon of the #1 New York Times Bestselling novel:
“Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.
Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.”
2. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. This is the heartrending story of a woman torn between two men: an affectionate and dutiful husband, and a writer for whom she harbors a burning love. She engages in an affair with the writer in London during the air raids of World War II, and when her love is injured in an air strike, she pleads with God to save him, promising that she will give him up if only he will live. And then he does, in fact, survive. But can she keep her promise to God? And if not, at what consequence?
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This beloved classic has been made into a number of films, but nothing beats reading Charlotte Bronte’s deliciously rich writing. This masterpiece tells the story of Jane Eyre, who becomes a governess in the household of the brooding and mysterious Mr. Rochester at the opulent Thornfield Hall. But when she falls in love with her employer, his deepest, darkest secrets are revealed, forcing Jane to ask herself if she is willing to give up her convictions for the man she loves, or leave him and be true to herself. Enjoy this beautiful quotation from the novel, when Jane stands up to her love:
“Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”