If we’re being honest, most of the stories we see on the screen or read from the page contain that wonderful, terrible, confusing and delighting human condition known as “love”.
You don’t always have to wander over to the Romance shelves in the bookstore to find it. Here are seven stories classified as something other than romance that contain a love story too wonderful to miss.
All descriptions come from the book’s Amazon.com page.
1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Literary Fiction)
“Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time.
Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.”
Why you should read it: Rich characterizations that make Ifemelu and Obinze seem incredibly real, combined with emotion that won’t let you go. Race and racism are explored but you are left to feel it from the plot, Adichie doesn’t smack you over the head with it.
2. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (Fantasy)
“(Angharad) Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelander occupation and the secretive, magical Free Hillfolk. When Corlath, the Hillfolk King, sees her for the first time, he is shaken—for he can tell that she is something more than she appears to be.
He will soon realise what Harry has never guessed: She is to become Harimad-sol, King’s Rider, and carry the Blue Sword, Gonturan, which no woman has wielded since the legendary Lady Aerin, generations past.”
Why you should read it: McKinley’s world building and lyrical prose are second to none. Every time you think you have her mythology pinned down she surprises you with new twists and the images she paints in your mind are vivid. Plus giant hunting cats, horses, the fish-out-of-water trope did really well, and a strong heroine who is just as responsible for saving the day as the King.
3. Stardust by Neil Gaiman (Fantasy)
“Catch a fallen star . . .
Tristran thorn promised to bring back a fallen star. So he sets out on a journey to fulfil the request of his beloved, the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester—and stumbles into the enchanted realm that lies beyond the wall of his English country town.
Rich with adventure and magic, Stardust is one of master storyteller Neil Gaiman’s most beloved tales, and the inspiration for the hit movie.”
Why you should read it: Remember everything you love about a traditional, Brothers-Grimm type fairy tale, and then add . . . more. More beautiful words, strange twists, unsettling danger, interesting characters and the unique touch only Gaiman can add. Plus some banter between a snarky star and our hero Tristran.
4. Graceling by Kristen Cashore (YA Fantasy)
“Graceling tells the story of the vulnerable yet strong Katsa, a smart, beautiful teenager who lives in a world where selected people are born with a Grace, a special talent that can be anything from dancing to swimming to holding your breath.
Katsa’s is killing. As the king’s niece, she is forced to use her extreme skills as his thug. Along the way, Katsa must learn to decipher the true nature of her Grace . . . and how to put it to good use. A thrilling, action-packed fantasy adventure (and steamy romance!) that will resonate deeply with adolescents trying to find their way in the world.”
Why you should read it: Unique world-building and a super interesting concept with the “Graces”. Like X-men mutations, but different and set in a more feudal society. A strong heroine who learns to direct her own life and takes the lead in her relationship rounds the plot out nicely.
5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA Romance)
“Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.
Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits-smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love and just how hard it pulled you under.”
Why you should read it: OK it’s cheating a little to include a YA romance, but I stand by the claim that it wouldn’t be found in the romance section because the YA puts it on a different shelf. Forgive the weaselling and read it anyway, because Rowell’s writing is so much fun. Silly, sarcastic, emotional, sincere and geeky. It really does drag you back into being a teenager, in a (mostly) good way.
6. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Fiction/Fantasy)
“A MOST UNTRADITIONAL LOVE STORY, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course.
Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.”
Why you should read it: To have your heart ripped out and then handed back to you on a platter, and to read the happiest unhappy ending I’ve managed to find in a while. The movie version isn’t bad either.
7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Literary Fiction/ Fantasy)
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.”
Why you should read it: With writing that reviewers described as “luscious” and “fantastic”, full of “wonder” and “magic”, the inventive world of the Night Circus is so much fun to fall into. The second-person POV either made readers fall in love (and yay for a book that’s not in the first person finally!) or put them off.