Valentine's Day has finally arrived, and if your real-life love interest just isn't putting the effort in, you can always rely on the escapism of a good book to seduce you. If you're sick of the same old pick-up lines, there are dozens of sumptuous romance stories out there to tide your love life over this year. Here are just some of our favourites.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
This book may be one of those rare examples where the movie is better, but the story is still worth consuming in as many forms as possible. The story follows Wesley, a poor farm boy, and Buttercup as they fight against the odds for their true love. With princesses, giants, revenge, magic and true love, The Princess Bride is the ultimate fairy tale. But don't be put off by its childish themes; the book, and especially the movie, has plenty of laughs to keep everyone happy. The story tells us that true love can span distance, time even death (as long as you're only mostly dead); nothing can stop it. And who doesn't want a handsome farm boy to tell them "as you wish"?
Most romantic quote: “Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.”
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
What was originally written by author Audrey Niffenegger as a metaphor for miscommunication and distance in her own relationships turned out to be one of the most well-loved romance novels of the past 20 years. It follows Henry, a librarian with a genetic disorder that causes him to involuntarily travel through time. When he meets Clare at aged 28, he has never seen her before, but she has known him most of her life. Henry begins to travel to scenes of Clare's childhood and adolescence, forming a relationship with her that spans both of their lives. While heartwrenching and frustrating, The Time Traveller's Wife is a gorgeous tale of love being the only constant in life, despite the challenges that come with it.
Most romantic quote: “Don't you think it's better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”
One Day by David Nicholls
One Day tells the story of two people, Dexter and Emma, and their pattern of meeting on the same day, the 15th of July, every year for two decades. During those 20 years, Dex and Em kiss, get together, break up, get married to other people, be friends until eventually, they find their way back to each other. It's very reflective of a lot of real-life relationships, where it takes two people years of fighting, breaking up and making up to finally get their shit together. Real relationships are rarely perfect and mismatched timing is one of the biggest culprits of failed love. But One Day goes to show that, if you're really meant to be, you'll always find your way back to each other.
Most romantic quote: “You can live your whole life not realizing that what you're looking for is right in front of you.”
Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
If you're looking for old-fashioned romance, Russian prose is the way to go, and Dr Zhivago is one of the best. Taking place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the second World War, the story is long and complex with a tapestry of characters and themes (that's Russian writing for you) but the story of Yuri and Lara's lasting love throughout the years makes it all worth it.
Most romantic quote: “You and I, it's as though we have been taught to kiss in heaven and sent down to earth together, to see if we know what we were taught.”
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
This debut novel by author Rainbow Rowell (how could you be anything other than a writer with a name like that?) follows awkward teens (you guessed it) Eleanor and Park as they navigate the typical teenage tropes of bullying, puberty and young love, and the more serious issue of domestic abuse. While it is a Young Adult novel, Eleanor and Park will make you nostalgic for young love and connections based on mutual loves of music and 80s movies.
Most romantic quote: “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
When its movie version came out in 2017, it spawned Instagram pages galore in honour of its watercoloured beauty, but the original book from ten years previous is where the real beauty lies. The story follows Elio Perman, a 17-year-old living in Italy with his parents for the summer, as he embarks on a relationship with Oliver, a student staying in the family home while studying under Elio's father. The story mainly follows the men's feverish, obsessive love of each other but also their reuniting years later. Call Me By Your Name is filled with nostalgia of love we once had, that we could have and how fantasy and reality live side by side.
Most romantic quote: “If I could have him like this in my dreams every night of my life, I'd stake my entire life on dreams and be done with the rest.”
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
If heartwrenching true love stories are your vibe, then get the tissues out for The Tattooist of Auschwitz. The book is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who were kept in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. Lale was tasked with tattooing inmate numbers onto the incoming prisoners and this was where he met Gita - a terrified 18-year-old girl with whom he fell in love immediately. The ensuing story is of their life - how they managed to keep their love alive throughout the horrors of the Holocaust, find their way back to each other and live and love together for 60 years.
Most romantic quote: “Remember the small things, and the big things will work themselves out.”
A Room With a View by E.M Forster
While a lot of love stories are often all-encompassing, enveloping tales that merge the couple into one, it's refreshing to read about two independent people who fall in love with each other's individuality. A Room With a View, written in 1908, is about the complicated love of Lucy and George, who meet while in Florence, Italy (romantic backdrop or what?). Throughout the years, their love is hindered by class and social norms, but the real romance between the two comes out when George professes that he wants Lucy to have her own thoughts and ideas, and not be imprisoned by a life of just being 'a wife'. A woke feminist couple for the ages.
Most romantic quote: “I taught him, 'he quavered, "to trust in love. I said:'when love comes, that is reality.' I said: 'Passion does not blind. No. Passion is sanity, and the woman you love, she is the only person you will ever really understand.”
The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
If you've ever been left wondering how best to describe your feelings, frustration or adoration for your significant other, then The Lover's Dictionary is just the thing. The book is a story of the ups and downs of a relationship, told entirely through dictionary entries. Through the entries, we get an intimate glimpse into the highlights and tribulations of modern love, all told in complete honesty through simple definitions.
Most romantic quote: “breathtaking, adj.
Those mornings when we kiss and surrender for an hour before we say a single word.”
Emma by Jane Austen
We had to have some Jane Austen on the list, and since our love for its remake Clueless also knows no bounds, Emma was the perfect addition. While Cher Horowitz was the perfect 90s manifestation of the story, the original book follows Emma Woodhouse - rich, beautiful, intelligent, and with no desire for love or marriage. She does, however, get a great amount of satisfaction in sorting out other people's love-lives. But when she starts matchmaking for her protegee Harriet, things start to go wrong and Emma realises her own desires for love.