By Sheroog Kubur, September 4 2023—
Romance is, by nature, a generic genre. There is a clear path that the hero and heroine take while exploring their relationship, the romance is oftentimes gripping and steamy and the plotlines can be minimal. Now that romance has grown more popular, the same titles seem to be circulating around so here are a couple of recommendations that you won’t see anywhere else.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The romance that no one wants to admit is a romance, Jane Eyre is the bildungsroman following Jane — the orphan turned governess turned wife. While the story isn’t particularly romantic, with the dynamic between Mr. Rochester and Jane being uncomfortable and confusing at best, it technically follows all the beats of a classic romance. Coupled with the twist of Mr. Rochester’s hidden past life and Bronte’s ethereal and gothic prose, the novel still makes for a fascinating read beyond the alleged romance.
The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
Trigger warning: Sexual assault
When Bridgerton first aired, it took the world by storm. It was a shameless wish-fulfillment drama, bringing together the stereotypical brooding hero and the innocent ingenue together for a romance that was scandalous. The novel isn’t much different from the series, although it focuses much more on Simon and Daphne than on other characters. The novel is quite short but densely packed with all the development these two characters could ever need, including some genuinely good moments that didn’t make it into the final cut of the series. However, like all romance novels from the 2000s, it includes questionable consent and little repercussions, so be warned before reading it.
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
The most unconventional romance you’ll ever read, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers follows Ziao, a young Chinese woman who just landed in England and finds herself in a relationship with an Englishman. The novel is told through a series of vocabulary words she learns throughout her time in England, using each word as a launch pad into the phases of her life. It talks about love in all its forms — from the intense sexual relationship between Ziao and her lover to the deep-rooted appreciation she has for her family. It recontextualizes the way relationships are typically portrayed, and Ziao’s limited English means the story bares itself plainly. An irregular story for the irregular relationship, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is necessary reading.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Princess Bride is the beloved tale of Buttercup and Westley, the two lovers torn apart by unfortunate circumstances and brought together by worse ones. The novel takes a new approach to this tale by satirizing the romances we’ve all grown accustomed to, turning some heartfelt moments into sidesplitting comedy and the silly moments into compelling storytelling. This deviates from a typical romance in that it spends a good portion discussing all the characters around the two lovers as well, giving insights into each motivation and background. The story is a touching romance as much as it is a fun time and a watch party afterwards is more than necessary.