A List of Classic Romance Books

A classic romance novel typically contains all of the plot twists and obstacles that readers enjoy. Although the classics may have originated in another time and place, they remain relevant even in today's society. These bygone tales contain riveting turns of events that shaped and molded the heroes and heroines of the stories. While problems and issues may have evolved over time, readers can still become lost in the sweet and poignant themes of these classics. Romance, dating, and love may look completely different in today's society, but the underlying feelings of passion and devotion remain in force.

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen wove a spectacular tale of romance and the societal rules that governed people in England during the turn of the 19th century. This story chronicles the romance of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth's mother's main goal is finding husbands for her daughters. The news that Mr. Bingley, a wealthy young bachelor, has moved to the neighborhood interests the Bennet family, and the local society receives Mr. Bingley readily. However, his friend Mr. Darcy is not welcomed with favor by local residents. Mr. Bingley pursues Jane Bennet, while Mr. Darcy dismisses Elizabeth in a way that she tries to ignore. Circumstances place Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in common company in the following months, and a series of events unfold that leads to Mr. Darcy's eventual marriage proposal to Elizabeth. Elizabeth refuses the proposal, but over time, she is surprised to see qualities and behaviors in Mr. Darcy that she had not realized were there. Darcy proposes again, and this time, Elizabeth accepts.

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë wrote Jane Eyre, which was published in 1847. The story follows Jane Eyre through her childhood and into adulthood. During her childhood, Jane endures abuse at the hands of an aunt. Later, Jane is sent to a charity school. Although unpleasant conditions are present at the school, Jane makes a good friend who helps her learn how to endure the situation. After a typhus epidemic at the school, new administrators take over, and eventually, Jane becomes a teacher. Jane is hired as a governess for the ward of Mr. Rochester. The plot thickens when strange events happen at Thornfield Hall, Rochester's home. Romance develops amid complicating factors, and Rochester proposes marriage to Jane. She accepts, but at the last moment before their wedding, Rochester's insane wife is discovered. Jane leaves and many events unfold, including travel, discovery of family, and an inheritance. Eventually, Jane returns to Thornfield Hall. There, she finds that it has been burned to the ground, Rochester's wife has died, and Rochester himself sustained serious injuries in the fire. They marry in the end.

Gone With the Wind

Margaret Mitchell spent many years writing and rewriting Gone with the Wind. Published in 1936, this epic novel follows Scarlett O'Hara and her life as it unfolded during the Civil War. The book begins with life on the O'Hara plantation just prior to the Civil War. Scarlett is 16 years old and concerned with beaus and parties. However, life is poised for huge changes as the country divides and war begins. A love triangle develops between Scarlett, Ashley Wilkes, and his cousin Melanie Hamilton. Ashley feels duty-bound to marry Melanie, despite feelings that exist between him and Scarlett. Rhett Butler enters the equation thanks to a conversation he overheard between Ashley and Scarlett. Scarlett decides to take revenge on Ashley by marrying Melanie's brother Charles in a fast ceremony before he runs off to war. Sadly, Charles soon dies of pneumonia, leaving Scarlett a widow. Scarlett struggles with various challenges, and her path crosses with Rhett's from time to time. Eventually, the war ends, and reconstruction begins. Through everything, a strong chemistry exists between Rhett and Scarlett, and they go on to marry and have children. An unfortunate riding accident leads to the death of their daughter, Bonnie. Rhett and Scarlett grieve their daughter's death, which eventually leads Rhett to leave Scarlett.

Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare penned Romeo and Juliet, and it was first published in 1597. An unexpected turn of events leads Romeo and Juliet, members of warring families, to cross paths at a party. There, Romeo falls in love with Juliet. They meet the next day and are secretly married. Later, a fight breaks out between various characters. One person is killed when Romeo becomes involved. In response, Romeo ends up killing another person, which leads to his banishment. Romeo and Juliet spend the night together before his planned escape. Meanwhile, Juliet's family is planning her marriage to Count Paris. Friar Lawrence steps in to help the couple by giving Juliet a sleeping potion that will make everyone think she is dead. He sends Romeo a message telling him to go to the tomb to take the sleeping Juliet away, but Romeo doesn't get the message. Instead, thinking Juliet is dead, Romeo kills himself just as Juliet awakens from the sleeping potion. In response, she kills herself, too.

Dr. Zhivago

Boris Pasternak wrote Dr. Zhivago, and it was published in 1957. In the story, Yuri Zhivago divides his heart between two women, one of them his wife. Zhivago's captivation with Lara dominates his thoughts and actions throughout the remainder of his life. In the end, Yuri lives with another woman, and they have two children. He leaves this family and returns to Moscow to write. Soon after, he dies of a heart attack. Lara attends Yuri's funeral, where she finds Yuri's half-brother and gets his help to search for her daughter, who she conceived with Yuri but gave up. In the end, however, Lara is arrested and ends up perishing in the Gulag.

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights holds a prominent place in English literature. Emily Brontë set this romantic tale in the late 18th century, and it delves into the passionate love story of Catherine and Heathcliff. As the book opens, Heathcliff is a landlord living in Wuthering Heights. The tale flashes back to Heathcliff's childhood that involved a deep friendship between him and Catherine. Family circumstances resulted in Heathcliff's relegation to a servant's status, while Edgar Linton pursues Catherine. They become engaged, although Catherine still loves Heathcliff. Catherine and Edgar get married, and time passes. Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights after gaining some wealth. Catherine dies after giving birth to a daughter. Time passes, and Catherine's daughter Cathy grows up. Two cousins surface: Linton and Hareton. A secret friendship develops between Cathy and Linton. Eventually, Edgar dies, and Heathcliff becomes master of Wuthering Heights. Linton dies, which leaves Cathy despondent. This is the point in which Mr. Lockwood entered the story in the beginning of the book. The story ends with Heathcliff's death and Cathy's engagement to Hareton.

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this intriguing tale about Nick Carraway that is set during the summer of 1922 in Long Island, New York. Jay Gatsby lives his life with one goal: finding the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. When Nick buys a house next door to Gatsby, the plot unfolds. Daisy Buchanan (currently married to another man) is Nick's cousin, and eventually, Gatsby learns about this connection. Gatsby has many house parties, and Nick is invited to one. Eventually, Gatsby and Daisy connect again, and they have an affair. Daisy's husband confronts Gatsby at a hotel in New York, and Daisy sides with her husband. Even so, Daisy and Gatsby drive together to return home, with Daisy driving. During the drive, an accident occurs that kills Daisy's husband's mistress Myrtle. Gatsby takes responsibility for the accident. Myrtle's husband goes to Gatsby's house and shoots Gatsby and himself.

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be published. This story follows the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, through their pursuits of love and romance. After the death of their father, Elinor, Marianne, their younger sister, and their mother become impoverished because Mr. Dashwood's estate is left to a son from his first marriage. Elinor falls for Edward Ferrars. Marianne falls in love with John Willoughby. Unfortunately, both romances meet with unpleasant difficulties. Marianne rebounds and falls in love with Colonel Brandon, and they marry. Elinor is reunited with Ferrars, and they marry.

A Tale of Two Cities

This Charles Dickens classic was set in the year 1775 in London and Paris. Characters in this historical work of fiction must overcome obstacles connected with the French Revolution. Jarvis Lorry undertakes a secret mission to break Dr. Manette out of the Bastille to bring him to London. He meets Lucie, and they proceed to find Dr. Manette together. Fast-forward several years, and Charles Darnay is on trial for treason. He is acquitted while Lucie and Dr. Manette watch in the courtroom. Eventually, Darnay and Lucie become engaged and get married. Many events unfold in connection with the French Revolution, including Darnay's arrest. He goes on trial, with Lucie and Dr. Manette trying to free him. Darnay is acquitted but then arrested again. Eventually, Darnay is drugged and people break him out of prison.

Anna Karenina

Leo Tolstoy wrote Anna Karenina between the years 1875 and 1877. Readers follow Kitty and Levin through an endearing romance. Tolstoy borrowed heavily from his own romance with his wife when writing about Kitty and Levin's love. The story also features another romance between Anna and Count Vronsky. Vronsky wants to marry Anna, but she is already married. Vronsky and Anna leave Russia and go to Italy to be together, but Anna suffers paranoia about Vronsky's infidelity.

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