When life is not giving me what I want, I almost always turn to books to meet my emotional needs. Romance is no exception. I can almost stand being alone when I can live vicariously through the banter between Jane and Mr. Rochester. Healthy? Probably not. But sometimes a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.
1) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
I am aware that it’s problematic to love a relationship founded on lies. But…what can you do? I remember being shocked that Jane Eyre was written in 1847. The dialogue between Jane and Mr. Rochester sparks with wit and sexual tension, and I was immediately hooked. I also really love the character of Jane; her self-confidence and devotion to doing what’s right is incredibly admirable. It doesn’t hurt that she’s plain but winds up catching the eye of a rich man either, hey-o!!
“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”
2) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
This is maybe the most beautifully written book I’ve ever read. Ari’s thoughts are absolutely beautiful, and his friendship turned romance with his best friend Dante is handled delicately, simply, and perfectly. Other than sparkling wit, falling in love with your best friend is my favorite romantic trope.
“I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn’t have the words. So I just stupidly repeated myself. “Dante’s my friend.”
3) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Well, everyone knows this one is sad. It’s very sad. But in between the sad parts, whether it’s contemplating the philosophy of death or living in its reality, the romance between Hazel and Gus is powerful in the immediacy they feel, staring down the monster of cancer.
“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”
4) Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
This is a Beauty and the Beast inspired story in which both people are beauties and beasts. It’s a really uplifting story about the power of loving someone in their entirety, good, bad, beautiful, and ugly. It’s also some of the best sassy and sexy dialogue I’ve read in a long time.
“We’ll both be foolish” I said, “and vicious and cruel. We will never be safe with each other.”
“Don’t try too hard to be cheerful.” His fingers threaded through mine.
“But we’ll pretend we know how to love.” I smiled at him, “And someday we’ll learn.”
5) Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
I cannot talk about Me Before You without wailing. As a lover of dialogue, a romance between an able-bodied person and a paraplegic who can only flirt by talking is right up my alley. But…but oh my gosh, this book is hard to read. It refuses to take the easy or conventional way out, which I respect and hate, depending on how mature I’m feeling.
“Hey Clark,” he said. “Tell me something good.”
I stared out of the window at the bright-blue Swiss sky and I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other. And I told him of the adventures they had, the places they had gone, and the things I had seen that I had never expected to. I conjured for him electric skies and iridescent seas and evenings full of laughter and silly jokes. I drew a world for him, a world far from a Swiss industrial estate, a world in which he was still somehow the person he had wanted to be. I drew the world he had created for me, full of wonder and possibility.”
6) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Although Eleanor & Park deals with some really heavy topics, I mostly remember it for being so sweet. The titular characters fall in love in such a slow, adorable way, a process made all the more heart-squeezing because we get to read about it from both of their perspectives.
“The first time he’d held her hand, it felt so good that it crowded out all the bad things. It felt better than anything had ever hurt.”
7) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Do I wish I were an exchange student in France falling in love with a British boy? Um, duh. This is living vicariously at its finest.
“Why do I care so much about him, and why do I wish I didn’t? How can one person make me so confused all of the time?”
8) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Start the list with a classic, end with a classic. Although at odds with my love for “best friends falling in love,” I am also super into “enemies falling in love.” Lizzie and Darcy hate each other just as delightfully as they wind up loving each other, and I am a fan of it all.
“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
Honorable Mentions for Romantic Pairings that I LOVE SO MUCH but who do not exist in a “romantic” book, per se. Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games series and Eugenides and the Queen of Attolia in the The Queen’s Thief series.
I feel like I’m missing a million books. Help me out by leaving a comment telling me about your favorite romantic book!
Valentine’s Week Posts
February 8: How to Plan a Galentine’s Day Party
February 9: Top 6 Romantic Songs
February 10: Top 6 Heartbreak Songs
February 11: “Romance” in Senegal
February 12: Top 8 Romantic Books
February 13: A Romantic Ideal: Harold and Jean Stark
February 14: Happy Valentine’s Day!