Opinions matter in the bookish world, and here at Bookstr, we all get to have our say in what we think is the best. We’ve written often enough about our favorite novels of the year and our favorite authors, but in eager anticipation of Valentine’s Day, we’re taking a look at our favorite romance novels. However, we’re not limiting ourselves to novels planted solely in the true romance genre –– instead, today, we are taking a thorough look at all our favorite romances!
Hothouse Flower by Krista & Becca Ritchie
While it’s technically one in a series of novels called the Calloway Sisters series, I love Hothouse Flower a lot especially because of the evolving romance between Daisy Calloway and Ryke Meadows. Despite their large age difference, the two are clearly made for each other. Daisy brightens up Ryke’s world, while he holds Daisy up, and supports her in all her choices, making sure she is never alone in them –– no matter how crazy they might seem. It’s a healthy romance where they both respect and care for each other, and who can really ask for more?Dani Shembesh, Editorial
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
So I know that this book is basically just “people visiting each other’s houses”, but I love the story between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth Bennett was a headstrong english woman living in the 18th century who, apparently, had no time for Mr. Darcy’s pride and aloofness. Eventually, Elizabeth began to realize that Darcy was not the person he came off as.
From then on, their love became a slow burn, resulting in the two explaining their love for each other. And if you’ve seen the movie starring Kiera Knightly, this scene does NOT disappoint!! Jane Austen explores the crucial parts of a relationship during that era, including communication and social class. I really love how the two characters explore love from their own perspectives and continue to come together in the end.
Rachael Facey, Social and Editorial
The Captain’s Daughter by Aleksandr Pushkin
Growing up, I was immersed in the works of many Eastern-European authors such as Anton Chekhov, Lev Tolstoy, and most notably Aleksandr Pushkin. One such example is The Captain’s Daughter. The protagonist of the story, Pyotr Andreyich Grinyov, is sent to military service during the reign of Empress Catherine II. During his time in Orenburg, he dines with the Mironov family and is lovestruck by the daughter of Captain Mironov, Masha.
After the town is invaded by Yemelyan Pugachev during his rebellion against the Empire, most of the town’s residents are executed save for a few defectors and Pyotr, who coincidentally was previously affiliated with Pugachev when the latter rescued him from a blizzard.
The novel describes the series of events and adventures that follow suit, with Pyotr on a quest to find and rescue Masha from her captors as well as to prove his innocence to the Empire, as he had now involuntarily become associated with Pugachev’s rebellion. When the life of his loved one is at stake, Pyotr will do anything in his power to save Masha before it’s too late. As one of the romance novels that I most vividly remember reading, I can’t think of a better example to suggest.
Edward Berdnik, Editorial
Bossman Bridegroom by Meghan Quinn
I laughed from the beginning to the end, with a bit of crying mixed in. Charlee is the female protagonist of the modern age who simultaneously brings a sense of organization and chaos to Rath’s world that is absolutely needed. From color-coded days of the week for productivity to self-care in talking to the office plant, an enemies to lovers office romance that made me fall in love with the male and female love interests.
Also, Charlee’s grandma is absolutely the sweetest busybody there ever was. This felt believable and fantastic all at once; I cannot recommend it enough!
Kristi Eskew, Editorial
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Since the American film adaptation of this novel starring Tom Hanks came out recently, I have been unable to get the titular couple of Ove and Sonja out of my head. Despite being complete opposites, Ove and Sonja have a love that spans decades of hardships and disappointment, yet they still find a silver lining as long as they are together. From Ove traveling two hours by train in the wrong direction every day just to listen to Sonja talk about her favorite books to Sonja encouraging Ove to get out of his shell, these two bring out the best in one another and demonstrate true partnership in their marriage.
As Backman writes, “People said Ove saw the world in black and white. But she was color. All the color he had.”
Cara Hadden, Editorial
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Truth be told, I don’t read much romance, but I enjoyed Normal People (both the book and the Hulu adaptation) because I’m a sucker for realistic, somewhat dull yet heart-wrenching relationship arcs. Connell and Marianne were one of my favorite bookish romances to follow because it was all so utterly plain and imperfect. They fall in and out of each other’s lives in a generally melancholy tale about growing up, encompassing how one’s feelings grow and evolve at different stages of life. The romance itself isn’t overly adorned, but rather sad and stagnated.
Turns out, I like when romances have an unrequited component to them instead of a seamless happy ending. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a romantic cynic, but I liked Connor and Marianne so much because I could see my own struggles with relationships in each of their character’s journeys.
Erin Shea, Editorial
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I am so drawn to love stories that defy all odds, boundaries and can persevere beautifully. The love story of Patroclus and Achilles did all those things and more. I was swooning over their playful love and if I ever had a second of doubt regarding Achilles’ love for Patroclus, it was immediately remedied by a sweet word or action. The best part of their love is they never truly had any fallouts. Perhaps near the end when hard decisions had to be made, but never throughout the book did they fall out of love. Ahh!
I especially loved the way Achilles prioritized Patroclus. When he included him in private meetings, spoke for him when he knew he was too shy to stand up for himself, and above all, protected him against anything and anyone. My stomach is full of butterflies. Protection is expected from Achilles, but when Patroclus steps in to protect Achilles… I am going to stop right there before I start to cry and spoil the novel!
Olivia Salamone, Editorial
The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel
I adore romance…I mean, I don’t shut up about them even when people beg me to. But when it comes to romance books, I’m drawn to strong characters that would be able to stand on their own–something Liya and Jay live up to. Theirs is an enemies to lovers type beat but it’s not in the overdone type of overly cliche type way. It’s organic and it’s nuanced in ways that other stories aren’t.
Both Liya and Jay clearly care about each other and defend one another to the antagonists in the book without question. I’ve always been attracted to these types of stories where the Type A personalities are able to find compatible Type A personalities to end up with because that’s what I want for myself.
Gracie Lambright, Editorial
Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern
I’m the type of person who will read the book before ever considering watching the movie. So when someone recommended the movie, Love Rosie, I knew I had to read it first. When that book arrived I was shaken to my core. I was never expecting that the 90 minute rom-com with Sam Claflin was an almost 600 page book.
Nevertheless, I was determined to experience it how Ahern intended it, and so I sat down and opened it. I then proceeded to not move from my spot for the next 6 hours and finished it in one sitting. The amount of times two people can love each other at different times in their lives is maxed out in this book, keeping them apart for so long, never finding the right time to love one another.
Far more extensive than the movie, the book follows Rosie and Alex through 60 years of friendship, love, and heartbreak. I have truly never been on such an emotional rollercoaster more tear-jerking and heart-pounding than this. It’s the perfect book for a slow-burn romance lover like myself and keeps you on the edge of your seat every time they find themselves in the same place at the same time. Of course it’s cheesy and not the best written novel of all time, but it holds a special and dear place in my heart.
Chloe Moore, Editorial
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
I don’t want to throw in any spoilers because I highly recommend reading this book (and watching the movie!), but I will say that Jhumpa Lahiri is incredible with crafting literary romances in a way that feels recognizable and relatable to the reader.
The book begins with a lens on Ashima and Ashoke, who are learning to navigate their new life together in Massachusetts. What I love about the way Lahiri has framed their relationship is how the “romance” in their life isn’t your traditional display of love with kisses and saying “I Love You” to each other. Their romance is building a life together away from family in India; holding on to traditions and passing it on to their children while assimilating with a different lifestyle in America.
Later in the book as we follow the life of Gogol, we gain a better understanding of his reckoning with his cultural identity and lived experience in America through the relationships he falls in and out of. The relationship that develops between Gogol and Moushumi is exciting, heart-wrenching and draws the reader into a deeply personal space that many South Asian-American young readers can relate to. This is definitely one of those books I finished reading and was left craving more.
Anushe Engineer, Editorial
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