Books to Love: The Magic of Romance


Do you love a good love story? Well, when it comes to pleasure reading (that’s any reading that I do for fun, not research or study), I tend to like a good love story. Ordinarily, they are not the primary crux of the books that I read, but nearly every book I enjoy has an element of romance to it. I also happen to enjoy writing love stories, too, be they happy (see post here) or sad (see post here). 

For today’s post, dear readers, I thought I would give you a few love stories to add to your TBR piles. These are ones that I’ve enjoyed myself. Now, while I’ve been mentally preparing for this post, I find that my mind circles back to some of the books I’ve already shared with you here at Whiskers On Kittens. (In case you’re new to Whiskers, I’ll give you a couple just because I love them so.)

This is the cover I have in my collection.

This is the cover I have in my collection.

Ever since I was a kid watching Disney’s Robin Hood, I have loved the love story between Robin Hood and Maid Marian. (In fact, I was going to marry that foxy cartoon character.) When I experienced it coming to life in a plausible and realistic way in Jennifer Roberson’s Lady of the Forest (see post here), I returned to my childhood roots quite giddily. Their story is continued in the second book in the duology, Lady of Sherwood. (I will admit, though, that the paper back cover is decidedly prurient, making it look like you’re reading a bodice ripper when, I assure you, that is the furtherest thing from the truth. Thankfully, Lady of Sherwood has been re-released with a more fitting cover.) 

Almost any Gothic novel you read has a romantic element that is worthy. I recall as a young girl being wildly transported by the Gothics penned by Victoria Holt. Not all of them, mind you- I still repudiate the Gothic trope of a rape victim falling in love with her rapists… Demon Lover, I’m looking ay you. However, for the most part, Gothics are delightful romances with a twist of suspense, or is it the other way around? 

There’s Tregaron’s Daughter and The Moonraker’s Bride by Madeleine Brent- both excellent love stories amidst the drama and upheaval of history. In that vein, there’s also M. M. Kaye’s Shadow of the Moon, too (see posts here and here). 

And, of course, there’s Persuasion, and, if I’m honest, every other Jane Austen book (see post here). I’ll have to throw Jane Eyre in here, too, although Charlotte Brönte’s writing style does tend to drag compared to her sister Emily’s swift footed and well-paced prose. Yet, the story of Jane Eyre is a love story that I cannot ignore. I particularly adore the spiritual component implemented at the end when Mr. Rochester, in utter despair, calls out for his Jane, and across the country, soughing mournfully through the moors, she hears his voice and goes to him. That’s the stuff of romance right there. 

However, I’ve taken the time to thoroughly go through my reading history and compile a list of books that usher in romance but may be outside of your typical reading sphere. (I’ll own that these books I’m about to list were just that for me, outside of the purview of what I ordinarily read.) Each one contains an element of magic and wonder that fits in beautifully with their love stories. After all, isn’t love somewhat magical to begin with? 

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

One of my dearest friends, Heather, reads a copious amount of Young Adult literature. She is also highly educated in the mythology and fantasy of fairies and other folklore, particular but not exclusive to the British Isles. AND she is a great lover of fairy tales. It is through her that this YA novel popped up on my radar. 

Cruel Beauty is a unique, magical, and mythical re-imagining of the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. I have long been a great fan of Beauty and the Beast- the animated movie, the live-action movie, the TV series with Ron Perlman as Vincent, the stellar illustrated children’s book by Jan Brett- so it was not a difficult sell for me to pick this novel up and read it. Hodge did something in Cruel Beauty that is thrilling to me. Not only is the love story between Nyx and Shade constructed superbly, but the introduction of the Greco-Roman mythological elements made the scholar in me dance a merry jig. The book contains a little something for everyone, as far as I’m concerned. Yes, there’s the romance, but there is also mystery, a touch of time-travel (sort of), horror, suspense, self-discovery, and an entire hierarchy established for the kingdom of Arcadia that can make any student of Bulfinch’s swoon. With eerie atmosphere and poetic prose, this book is a good read to immerse yourself in on a cold and dreary Saturday (like it is here).

Mariana by Susanne Kearsley

Perhaps it’s all the years that I spent remodeling the turn of the century home I grew up in New York City with my father, but any story that revolves around an old house has a tendency to capture my attention. That being said, when I picked up Susanna Kearsley’s novel, Mariana, I felt instant kinship with Julia Beckett, a modern day heroine who has the opportunity to live in the house that has long held her enthralled. From childhood, actually, Julia has felt inexplicably that 16th century home, Greywethers, belongs to her, or is it the other way around? That sense of belonging grows the longer she lives in the house, and as she begins to unearth the history of her new home and the surrounding area, she finds herself transported back into the 17th century, living the life of a woman named Mariana Farr. Soon the past begins to invade Julia’s present so entirely, that she must find a way to solve the mysteries that keep drawing her back in time in order to move forward into her future. Now, how is that a love story, you might ask? Well, dear readers, Julia finds herself in the odd and awkward position of being in love with a man in the past with the disconcerting feeling that his spirit lives on in her present, housed in another form; but whose?

Ordinarily, I am not one for time-travel novels. I find them jolting. However, Kearsley handles this with panache. Never once did I question where I was, what time period I was in, or even how I found myself to be there. The writing is intense and the passion is bittersweet and tender. I highly recommend it.

Now for something completely different. I mean, completely different.

Just Say Yes by Alyssa Goodnight

This book was a freebie I downloaded onto my Kindle one cold winter’s day. It’s light. It’s frothy. It’s the cappuccino of the romance world, just the right amount of pizzazz balanced with sweetness and fun- and heat. Jade Morgan is the heroine, a single mother who lives in Texas with her daughter. The house they live in still boasts the ‘70s avocado appliances (which oddly enough, I have sadly seen making a bit of a comeback). While I cannot remember the exact particulars, Jade finds herself roped into a Supper Club run by the kitchen witch Opal, who seems to possess a preternatural understanding of things, particularly, all things involving Jade. Opal is the fairy godmother of sorts in this whimsical, geeky tale. Jade meets Max at one of Opal’s Supper Clubs. He’s a contractor who Opal insists must come over and remodel Jade’s out of date kitchen. But Jade has been burned before, and we meet her derelict ex-husband to boot (he’s a stinker), so she’s not sure she wants to have hunka-hunka burnin’ love Max around the house. But then, who doesn’t want hunka-hunka burnin’ love Max around? She gives in and what ensues is frivolity. It’s fun. It’s flirty. Superheroes are involved. And food, delicious sounding food. Not only does Jade’s kitchen get an overhaul, but her love life does as well. But, can Jade trust the good to be good? After all, Murphy’s Law has proven true one too many times in her life. 

I read this book in one sitting. I laughed quite a bit and I smiled a lot. It’s sweet. And it’s just flat out fun. Totally out of my box as I don’t really read modern romances, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed it.

And, finally, a most singular tale of star-crossed lovers:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My dear friend, Katie, brought this novel to my attention. It is quite possibly one of the most uniquely constructed novels that I have ever read. In fact, I had difficulty getting into the book for some time because of this. However, I soldiered on, and I am immensely happy that I did. 

I won’t even try to do justice to a synopsis of this novel. It’s too convoluted and complex, even though the gist of the plot is deceptively simple. I will, however, urge you strongly to go to your local library or bookstore and get copy of this book. The prose is absolutely poetry. (As a matter of fact, I’ve revisited the novel numerous times because the way Morgenstern writes inspires me.) The story is magical in EVERY sense of the word. The ending is absolutely one of a kind. 

Now, dear readers, what books house your favorite love stories? Are they happy endings? Fantastical? Magical? Biographical? Please share them with us all and have a wonderful week!