I love Valentine’s Day because I love LOVE. And I love reading about love. I have been browsing through my binder of book notes that goes back to about 1995, and I’ve picked out my 20 favorite books about romantic love.
How did these make the cut?
What I look for in a story of love between a man and a woman, in addition to excellent writing, is the qualities of the main characters. I like to get involved with authentic, realistic characters that I would actually want to spend time with, people with qualities such as integrity, forgiveness, kindness, humility and goodness. By the end I want to see them overcome significant struggles, go through a positive transformation, or experience a revelation that results in a better life for them and those around them.
I look for the author to go beyond the action to expertly convey feelings, motivation, and attitude throughout the story, teach me something new, provide a good pace, and include humor or at least a generally positive outlook. I will stop reading stories with a huge amount of introspection, lengthy descriptions of scenery or houses, a depressing tone, or overdone violence or immorality. I like a gentle writing style as long as it doesn’t get boring, and as long as the story keeps pointing towards significance.
Here is my list!
Here is a mixture of classic and contemporary books, published from 1605 to the present, which include history, humor, mystery, chick-lit, inspiration, and various locales such as Scotland, California, Mexico, England, Colorado, and more. I include the year of their publication.
My top 20, in alphabetical order by author:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1813 – exquisite
What a Girl Wants by Kristin Billerbeck 2004 – hilarious!
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore 1869 – incredibly intense, especially the ending
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 1847 – a roller coaster with the perfect ending
Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes 1605 and 1615 – idealistic knight, surpisingly funny
La Dame aux Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils 1852 – true love’s sweet sacrifice
Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn 2004 – laugh out loud mystery
Reason to Believe by Kathleen Eagle 1995 – gentle story of two cultures
Nick’s Kind of Woman by Margot Early 1997 – fascinating relationship and action set in my home state of Colorado
The Well Beloved by Thomas Hardy 1892 – “a sketch of a temperament”
Arabella by Georgette Heyer 1949 – who knew the proper Victorian era could be this funny?
Thorn in my Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs 2003 – the story of Leah and Rachel moved to 18th century Scotland
The Story of a Whim by Grace Livingston Hill – sweet, creative, upbeat surprise
Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson 1884 – love amid racial discrimination after the Mexican-American War
Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale 1992 – rakish mathematician Duke meets intelligent Quaker
My Favorite Goodbye by Sheila O’Flanagan 2001 – light and fun
The Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne 1999 – never laughed so hard
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 2001 – pointing to the source of love
Happy Ever After (also called Family Happiness) by Leo Tolstoy 1859 – light, easy, insightful
The Sunset Coast by Susan Devore Williams 1995 – gradual awakening of love and faith
I hope you will be inspired to read something off your normal reading track! If you do–or if you have some to recommend to me–please leave me a comment!