I’m aware that I missed Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure how this happened. One moment I’m ordering stuff for my 4th graders, and the next thing I know, those same kids are trying to stuff me with pounds of candy (and immeasurable love). Needless to say, my sugar coma got in the way of any blogging.
I’ve read a lot of books. I’m a sucker for a good love story. There’s the hate to love trope (a personal favorite), the hate/love trope (similar, but not the same; think Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy vs. Catherine and Heathcliff), the unrequited love trope, the girl disguised as a boy trope (which has been surprisingly popular over the years), love at first sight tope, star-crossed (aka doomed) lovers trope, and friends to lovers trope. I love them all. Some of my favorite love stories come in the form of classic novels. If you want to enjoy the month of love while improving your mind, here are my top picks:
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The classic hate to love story. I’ve loved it from the moment I first read this book as a teenager. Pride meets prejudice and, like the unstoppable force and immoveable object, collide. But when the rubble clears, that’s when you see the beauty.
“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. When I first read this book, I wondered that I hadn’t read it before. I’d missed out all this time on one of the most beautiful of love stories, one of self-sacrifice and trial. One in which people find there salvation in each other.
“The world may laugh—may call me absurd, selfish—but it does not signify. My very soul demands you.”
3. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy. I don’t even know what you call this love story because it’s so unusual. The idea of a disguise that shrouds both the body and the soul is quite fascinating. I love this so much because we get to discover that love with the characters, to search out the depths of each other’s souls.
“He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light footsteps had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.”
4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This is star-crossed lovers and love-hate…maybe it just goes under the general heading of tortured. I am impressed by the grasp the characters have on love, because it is not all just sunshine and roses; it’s pain and work. And sometimes suffering.
“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!”
5. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. This is another hate to love story, and these two characters are definitely opposites attracting. This book shows that people can change, that love can affect that change for good, and that there’s always a way to meet in the middle.
“He loved her, and would love her; and defy her, and this miserable bodily pain.”
6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This story of unrequited love and personal sacrifice is one of the most touching things I’ve ever read. It’s not a bitter love for not being returned—that’s the beauty of it—but it’s self-sacrificing and pure. As love truly is. There are so many great love quotes that it was hard to choose just one.
“I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.”
7. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It’s been a while since I read this book, but I remember the vividness and vitality of Scarlett and Rhett. They are much like Catherine and Heathcliff in their tortured love (but in this case, the former couple have more hope).
“There’s one thing I do know… and that is that I love you, Scarlett. In spite of you and me and the whole silly world going to pieces around us, I love you. Because we’re alike. Bad lots, both of us. Selfish and shrewd. But able to look things in the eyes as we call them by their right names.”
8. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. I could have written a dozen other plays instead of this one. Romeo and Juliet is the quintessential story of star-crossed lovers. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is well-known…but I love the story of Much Ado About Nothing, the change from heated rivals to tender lovers, the witty banter. So sweet and spicy.
“For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?”
9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. This book has two elements of love: love at first sight and the love of a father for his daughter. Both are beautiful and transformative. I’m not a fan of love at first sight, but this book almost makes me a believer.
“To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.”
10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I can’t say I’m thrilled about one of the love stories in this book (it still kills me to think about it), but there’s that love between sisters that deeply touches me.
“Love is a great beautifier.”