In all honestly, I think love makes the world go round. Whether it be romantic love, familial love, the love between friends, or even lack of love, love is often the driving force of a story.
It doesn’t have to be. But I’m certainly going to be more interested if your fantasy epic has a main character who is never without his loyal best friend or if the two idiotic teenagers in your horror novel are falling for one another while they run for their lives.
The point is, love is essential to all story telling. Here are some novels that make love its main course, rather than a side-dish, and rank in my top five favorite romances.
In no particular order, because I love them all:
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
A classic for a reason, Pride & Prejudice, with it’s witty heroine Elizabeth Bennet and the dashing, if aloof, Mr. Darcy, is the epitome of a romance. I still swoon every time Darcy is on page. From bad first impressions to a love deep enough to sway the headstrong Lizzie into matrimony, Pride & Prejudice endures the test of time due to its relatable characters and wish fulfilling romance. Every reader wants to pollute the shades of Pemberley for a chance at someone as heroic and steadfast as Mr. Darcy.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Nothing like its film adaptation, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is one of my favorite books of all time. I throw down that phrase a lot, but in all honesty, it might actually be my favorite book of all time.
Ella Enchanted tells the story of Ella who was cursed by a fairy to have the “gift” of obedience. Every time someone tells her she must do something, she must do it. Even if it is at personal harm to herself or the ones she loves.
There are Cinderella adaptation nods, including a wicked stepmother, wicked stepsisters, a pumpkin carriage, and balls. But Ella knows her prince Char for many years and their enduring love story, their letters, their banister rides, and adventures are some of my favorite romantic moments in all of literature.
Ella Enchanted is the first book that made me cry and the first heroine I believed could do anything she set her mind to.
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
The second book of a series, you have to read the first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses, to have context for this novel. ACOTAR is well worth it, but the crown jewel of this series is book two. This is a novel that is… just wonderful.
It’s a story of love in so many ways, self love being chief among them, though finding your soulmate and a found family is nothing to to sniff about. It is filled to the brim with romantic descriptions of several fae courts, exquisite gowns, and handsome men with large… wingspans. This love story is one of equals and no part of this book left me unsatisfied. It’s near and dear to my heart as a reader, a feminist, and a fantasy lover. This book, and series, does not disappoint.
Radiance by Grace Draven
Radiance is a story we’ve all read before: two people thrown together into an arranged marriage that come from different backgrounds and must learn to love one another. It’s a trope we’ve all read and secretly love. But this story packs a few deviations from it’s prescribed script.
These two would-be lovers are not only from different kingdoms and come from different cultures, they’re also not even of the same race. Ildiko is a human woman and Brishen is a Kai man and their races fear one another.
But what is unique about this tale is though their races fear one another and both have valid reasons for not getting close, Radiance doesn’t follow the cliche of the couple hating and distrusting one another at first glance.
Instead, it has them meeting within the first pages of the book, on the day of their wedding before the ceremony, and, not knowing who the other is, confiding their hang-ups and apprehensions about the match to one another, laughing together, reveling in each other’s honesty, and hoping that their new spouse will be like the person they’ve just met. When they do discover their identities, they make a bargain to be friends and agree about what they want out of the match. IT WAS SO REFRESHING TO READ!
That all happens within the first chapters, so not much of a spoiler, but rather something to tease you with. It blew me away so thoroughly that I just had to keep reading and the slow evolution of this romance is made sweeter because of it’s trope defying beginning.
The Trouble with Kings by Sherwood Smith
The Trouble with Kings tells the story of Princess Flian as she unwittingly traverses through kingdoms, survives many kidnappings, and finds love where she least expected to.
Flian and her love interest have very bad first impressions of one another. His impression poisoned by the lies of a villain, her impression incorrectly believing that he is the villain.
The story throws them together through various unfortunate circumstances and every time slowly whittles away their false assumptions about one another until their feelings for one another are so strong, the only person who can’t see it is the love interest’s younger sister, who is all about passion and romance, but is blind to the one unfolding before her.
It’s a book I find myself reading again and again, a more action/adventure romance that calls on the elements I love from my other favorite romances; bad first impressions and a slow understanding that turns into fascination and then fierce, quiet love.
That’s it for my top 5 favorite romances. There are hundreds more I could list, but these are ones that are dear to my heart and I hope you give them a shot and love them as much as I do.
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