|Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Amazon/Google)
Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has been making audiences swoon for God knows how long (no more 200 years). It recounts the tale of Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters with a mother hellbent on them marrying rich, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, an arrogantly-wealthy English gentleman. What unfolds between them is a beguiling and lively courtship that is as charming as it is witty, filled with Austen’s keen humor and social commentary on marriage and manners among other things. Plus, it has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, offering further encouragement for you to download the title.
|Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (Amazon/Google)
Following in suite of Austen is English novelist Charlotte Brontë, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters. It’s centered around Jane Eyre, a passionate and intelligent orphane who’s brought up under the cruelest of circumstances, first by her abusive aunt then the exceedingly harsh regime of the charity school she attends. Eventually Eyre accepts a position as a governess at a manor called Thornfield, only to secretly fall in love with the master of the house, Edward Rochester. It explores themes of early feminism and class, with Brontë’s semi-autobiographical sensibilities and rich touch of poesy in tow.
|The One You Love by Paul Pilkington (Amazon)
With nearly 1,700 reviews on Amazon, The One You Love must be worth something. It’s part romance, part mystery, fueled by protagonist Emma Holden’s search to uncover her family’s shocking secrets and the whereabouts of her missing fiance who disappeared from their apartment two weeks before the wedding. Of course, it doesn’t help that the only guy who may know something about the incident, her soon-to-be brother-in-law, was found assaulted and in a coma on their bathroom floor. It’s surprisingly compelling despite its unpolished nature, with enough twist-and-turns to carry you through the lull.
|Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Google)
You’ve seen the stage adaptation and the modern Leonardo DiCaprio spinoff, now it’s time to read the real deal. It’s arguably the romance novel, Shakespeare’s quintessential tale of star-crossed lovers plagued by their feuding families, the Montagues and Capulets. It’s written in Shakespeare’s iconic poetic dramatic structure, featuring some of the most memorable characters of all of literature and a balcony scene that has been hammered into our heads since we were children. It really is beautiful and enthralling though, with an ending the epitomizes the meaning of tragedy and doomed love.
|Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (Amazon/Google)
It wasn’t Leroux’s initial edition of The Phantom of the Opera that garnered all the praise and fanfare, but the 1925 film depiction and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical hit musical. However, the original tale about the Phantom living below the opera houses all the core elements of the latter adaptations: a menacing figure presiding over the opera, a talented chorus girl and an enchanting childhood sweetheart that comes between them. It’s a Gothic love triangle fit for all time, aloft with dark, theatrical color and Leroux’s gift for creating rich characters for which you sympathize, fall in love, and despise.
|Long Time Coming by Edie Claire (Amazon)
Hometowns and high schools have a way of conjuring the past, whether it be good or bad. When veterinarian Joy Hudson returns home to care for her aging father, she becomes flooded with memories regarding her best friend’s death and the young boy she’s held responsible for all those years. It wouldn’t be categorized as a tender love story if it wasn’t for that same said boy though, who’s become a handsome town doctor with an ardent love interest in Hudson. It’s slow, yet suspenseful given Hudson’s bouts of paranoia regarding a potential stalker, and a fairly mindless — which isn’t always a bad thing.
|Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Amazon/Google)
Just because one Brontë is not enough. Wuthering Heights is set in the stormy moors of England during the early 1800s and centered on a love that is disturbingly fierce and vividly dark. It’s told through a series of flashbacks recorded in a diary, chronicling Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff’s inseparable childhood and the ensuing turbulent, and vengeful, events that violently whittle away at a love doomed from the beginning. Despite being her first and only nove, Brontë’s prose is fluid and poetic, draped in lucid descriptions of the moorland and the characters who call it home.
|To Catch a Bad Guy by Marie Astor (Amazon)
Everyone knows dating in the workplace can cause.. complications. Astor’s novel takes that into consideration and then some, spinning a tale about an undercover crime investigator who finds himself infatuated with an employee of the prominent New York investment firm he is looking to bust. It’s the first book in the Janet Maple Series, patchy and grammatically flawed, but it has enough clever moments and spry, romantic wit to make it well worth the nonexistent price.
|The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Amazon/Google)
Let’s be honest, adultery today doesn’t quite resonate with the same woeful shame it does in the harsh, Protestant community of Hawthorne’s memorizing narrative of legalism and sin. It spotlights a young, intelligent and thoughtful woman named Hester Prynne, who is publicly ostracized and forced to wear a piece of fabric in the shape of the letter “A” after having an illegitimate birth resulting from an affair with a minister while her husband is overseas. It’s dramatic and inspiring, rooted in a character that undergoes ample scorn only to retain her dignity and beauty in the end.
|Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Amazon/Google)
Russian author Leo Tolstoy knows all to well that we cannot help who we love. In his second acclaimed novel, the beautiful and passionate Anna Karenina leaves her husband when she falls head over heels for a wealthy army officer named Count Vronsky. Insecurities arise, with Karenina’s paranoid and jealous fits among other things begin tearing the marriage apart, and heartbreak ensues. The story regarding Konstantin Levin also contrasts alongside Karenina’s — heart wrenching in a different way — but it’s teeming with many of the same undercurrents of societal values and carnal desire.
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