books · romance

Top 10 romance novels (…part one of my unusual selection)

A few of my vintage romance novels.  The photo is of my grandmother’s wedding – you can hardly see it, but I always wonder what happened to her beautiful dress

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly on the lookout for a good romance novel.  I don’t ask much – just a decent romance novel, and one I haven’t read before.  I know what you’re going to say – take a look on the web!  There are THOUSANDS of romance novels out there!  Yes, I know.  There are a lot.  But the trouble is, they’re not all good!  I’ve read some I really thought were terrible, badly written, with awful characters, and I hate that.  I hate it when I read a review saying “You must read this awesome book – the greatest romance ever!” and I plough my way through the book only to find I’ve been wasting my life.*

That’s why I love getting recommendations for romance authors I’ve never heard of and finding someone new to love.  So I’m starting to list some of my all time favourite unusual romance novels  in the hope that, like me, you’re looking for something different and that one of these might be new to you.  I’ll have to admit I cheated a little – I’ve included novels which aren’t necessarily categorised as romance, but they involve a great love story!

So, part one of my list, in no particular order:

  • The Book Lovers, by Leon Garfield

This book is no longer in print, which is a massive shame, but second-hand copies were available on Amazon last time I checked.  The story is about a geek who falls in love with a beautiful librarian, but, too shy to speak to her himself, he keeps offering her passages from classic love stories to try and explain his feelings.  The author describes the love-struck hero’s mood as ‘…not unlike that of Romeo in the tomb, only a shade more depressed,’ which I find brilliant.  If you do read this book, you’ll find it includes passages from all sorts of classic love stories, too, from Walter Scott to Charlotte Bronte to Thomas Mann.  Great to read for the excerpts alone, and you may come across another author in there that you like and haven’t tried.  You’ll have to read it yourself to see if the geek gets the beauty!

  • Far, Far the Mountain Peak, by John Masters

This book is also out of print, but available second-hand.  John Masters wrote during the days of the British Empire in India.  I enjoyed this book as a love story and adventure, although you have to bear in mind that the author’s style is old-fashioned by today’s standards.  I found an old Time Magazine article which stated: ‘The gist of Far, Far the Mountain Peak is that, given enough rope in India, a cad may climb the highest mountains…’  Well, I love a good cad!  And the hero, Peter Savage, is certainly a man of ruthless will…but of course, *SPOILER ALERT* eventually redeemed by the love of a good woman.

John Masters was a member of the British ruling classes of the day, but try not to let that put you off.  I hope this isn’t a controversial choice – for his politics I refer you to this Wikipedia article, which I found symapthetic to his writing.  We have to understand he wrote during an era which no longer exists and so I take this story for the cracking climbing adventure and the love story it is and try and ignore any jarring anachronisms.

  • The Cinderella Factor, by Sophie Weston

This is a Mills & Boon (Harlequin) Romance from 2006, and again, is sadly out of print.  I love Sophie Weston, and this is a classic M&B, with all the ingredients.  Set in a romantic French chateau, the story’s heroine is a young girl, on the run with her little brother from an abusive family.  The hero is an injured and jaded (of course!) war reporter.  The characters are well-drawn, the story is tight, and it has a great first sentence: ‘Three continents watched foreign correspondent Patrick Burns torpedo his brilliant career on live television.’   The best Mills & Boons are really great contemporary romances, andthis is one of them.

So there’s part one of my top ten.  Parts two and three to follow.  And if anyone else has a great romance to recommend, PLEASE let me know.  I’m always on the lookout.

* I realise I’m opening myself up to some terrible reviews here if I ever get published!  Congratulations to any romance authors, good, bad or indifferent, who have actually managed the difficult feat of getting a book out in print.  If anyone ever writes to me after publication and tells me my romance novel sucked, then I will duly hang my head in shame.

Thanks for reading!

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