Romantic reads: Reading love stories across genres and time


Pink paper hearts and red boxes of chocolates stacked on store shelves remind me that Valentine’s Day approaches. The holiday of romance, of love, of storybook happy endings — love can be found between the pages of so many books, from fantasy to mystery to classics.

Romance novels have a reputation for being cliché, but they vary in setting and style. They span most eras of history and numerous subgenres.

Romance readers usually have favorite authors or types.

Mary Balogh is a prolific writer of the Regency romance, an oft-used time period. During the second half of the 20th century, the Gothic romances of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart reached best-selling status.
Today there are erotic romances (Maya Banks) and Christian romances (Karen Kingsbury). There are paranormal romances (Christine Feehan) and funny romances (Jennifer Crusie). The love story and thriller combine to create romantic suspense (Karen Robards, Julie Garwood).

The common thread of all romance novels is the predictable and satisfying ending in which two people live happily ever after. But do true love stories end when the two lovers find each other or is that just the beginning of another story?

Here are three books often considered romantic and that stretch beyond the confines of girl meets boy and falls in love in 235 pages, as prescribed by the publisher.

0213_rhv_book1“The Bridges of Madison County”
By Robert James Waller

When this book was published, it stayed on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 164 weeks — more than three years. In fact, it is on the New York Times All Time Best Sellers list of top 50 books with the most weeks on the list (as of 2009).

It is the story of a photographer who meets the love of his life. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I won’t reveal the remaining plot.

“It’s clear to me now that I have been moving toward you and you toward me for a long time. Though neither of us was aware of the other before we met, there was a kind of mindless certainty humming blithely along beneath our ignorance that ensured we would come together. Like two solitary birds flying the great prairies by celestial reckoning, all of these years and lifetimes we have been moving toward one another.” (Grand Central Publishing, $12)


the-time-travelers-wife“The Time Traveler’s Wife”
By Audrey Niffenegger

Like “Outlander,” there is a time-travel element involved. After all, isn’t true love timeless? Clare has known and loved Henry, an unwilling time traveler, since a future Henry visited her when she was a 6-year-old girl. Henry’s deep love for Clare is what gives him hope as he is tossed around in time.

“Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments line up, waiting.” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $14.95)


By Diana Gabaldon

I’ve heard people rave about this book for years but only recently read it. Claire is a happily married woman in 1945 Scotland who has just been reunited with her soldier husband. When she passes through a mysterious stone portal she finds herself back in 1743 Scotland.

“It seemed inconceivable, but all appearances pointed to my being someplace where the customs and politics of the late eighteenth century still held sway. I would have thought the whole thing a fancy-dress show of some type, had it not been for the injuries of the young man they called Jamie.”

At first Claire tries desperately to get back to her own time but since she is believed to be a British spy she is held captive and is unable to return to the gateway. Slowly she makes a life for herself in the past, becoming a healer and falling in love with a young Scotsman. (It must be true love because she is happy to settle in an age before indoor plumbing.)

Historical detail and numerous adventures enrich this love story. If you like it, the series consists of seven titles so there is more to enjoy. (Press, $9.99)

You can find all these titles and the authors that I mentioned, and many more love stories, at the Rutland Free Library. What is the most romantic book you ever read? Tell us about it.

Happy reading, Rutland.


Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at the Rutland Free Library.