Books in which man meets woman, man woos woman (or, woman woos man) and man and woman live happily ever after are a dime a dozen. Enjoyable, for sure, but not what you’d call memorable. So, the editors at Reader’s Digest Select Editions have come up with a list of 10 novels that tell favorite, and timeless, love stories, each of which goes above and beyond basic romance.
1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (1977)
Set in 1915 Australia, this remarkable saga chronicles the forbidden love between a beautiful, headstrong young girl and a priest. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll stay up way too late reading this fabulous story.
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë/Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (both 1847)
Really, how can you pick one Brontë over the other? Who is more romantic, Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester? Whose moors are mistier, whose foggy English countryside is more moody, whose manor house is more creepy? It’s a tie — both timeless romances are not to be missed.
3. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992)
Haunting and beautiful, Ondaatje’s award-winning novel tells the story of four war-damaged souls living in an Italian monastery at the end of WWII, and the love story between two of them, the exhausted nurse Hana, and the severely burned unnamed English patient. Unforgettably unique.
4. True Believers by Nicholas Sparks (2005)
The latest 4-hanky love story by the master of sweet, heartwarming romantic tales. This one features a hotshot New York journalist and a plain-speaking Southern librarian, both of whom have been hurt by love before. Their differences are forgotten when love blossoms in this wonderfully escapist romantic read.
5. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles (1969)
A Victorian gentleman is engaged to a wealthy and suitable woman, but when he encounters a beautiful, mysterious woman rumored to be the forsaken lover of a French lieutenant, he becomes utterly smitten. Truly magnificent entertainment.
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