Romantic Reads that Will Melt Your Heart

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Even at my most bitter and cynical, I have never been able to resist a good love story. I guess I’ve just always had the ability to look at the world through rose-coloured glasses. Romance novels indulge this part of my personality or at the very least provide me a means of escape when my outlook is looking a little less rosy.

Variety is key to keeping things spicy in a relationship; I feel the same way about the books I read. The occasional bodice-ripper has found its way into my collection once or twice, but these I kind of regard as one-night stands of fiction because they’re short and satisfying, and you’ll probably never read it again.

Other books featuring romances are more like long-term relationships: as you learn more about the characters your affection for them grows, and the more you become invested in their relationship.

For example, in his novel One Day, author David Nicholls chronicles through the history of two best friends whose timing never just seems to be quite right. The more we see their lives take shape over the years, the more we want them to be together. Oh yes, we do.

Other relationship stories feature protagonists that are slightly quirkier and less likely to be so intrinsically linked, like The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano or The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (whose lovable characters have spawned a sequel). In both cases, the reader falls in love with the people more than the actual love story itself, and it’s because of our concern for their well-being that we want things to work out so badly for them. If they’re lucky and things do work out, it feels like emotional catharsis for us.

If things don’t work out, it’s a different kind of emotional catharsis. For example, Claire Calman’s Love is a Four Letter Word had me sobbing by the end, as did The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. (I still can’t bring myself to watch the movie.)

None of these books, however, moved me as deeply as The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. It has got to be one of the most beautiful and devastating books that I have ever read. Every so often I found myself having to pause and look up from the page so I could soak it all in. What is it about forbidden love stories that makes them so enticing?!

It’s not hard to be enticed by romance novels, really- the desire to love and be loved is universal. All the heartache, the longing, the disappointment, the hope- we’ve all felt that way at one point or another in our lives.

No wonder Harlequin makes so much money.

Honorable Mentions

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is proof that love can exist after age 65.

This husband has a strange way of loving his wife in So Much for That by Lionel Shriver, but their relationship is still oddly touching.

If you’re looking for the kind of angsty, teenybopper romance that keeps you on your toes (will they? won’t they?) then you’ll love The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. There’s enough butt-kicking and smooching to keep you hooked through all six novels, and if that wasn’t enough for you, The Infernal Devices trilogy can be read as a prequel or as a stand-alone series (although trust me, you’ll want to read them all together).

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I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads either! Btw: These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company.

Good Laughs with Geriatric Sensations

I’m no expert on things fashion or beauty, but I’ve decided that 90 is officially the new 30. Or 25. Or whatever.

The point is, seniors don’t often get the starring role in most stories, but recently I’ve come across some examples that made me think it’s time we stopped overlooking the elderly as a source of entertainment.

Take my 94-year old grandfather, for example. His memory may be lacking, but he still manages to be the center of attention wherever he goes, bursting out into little ditties of his own invention, and referring to everyone he meets as “old chap” or “lovey”. (He’s very British). However, we sometimes have to be careful- his advanced age and state of mind means his social graces can be somewhat lacking, as he’s never afraid to point out (often loudly) when someone has a “tremendously large bottom”. (His words, not mine).

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Before his decline in health, my grandfather’s fierce independence put me in mind of the title character of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It’s both a heartwarming and hilarious tale about a man determined to make peace with an old friend as she lies dying in a hospice miles away, and the lengths he goes to achieve his goal. Literally. It was one of my favorite books I read last year, alongside The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. It’s another story about a spunky senior who breaks out of the retirement home where she lives, along with a gang of unlikely friends.

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If you like break-out stories, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is another tall tale out of Sweden that delivers one hilarious hijinck after another. (It was an international bestseller, and got made into a movie in Sweden. The author, Jonas Jonasson, has a larger catalogue of work that’s recently been translated into English that’s worth checking out if you enjoy his dry, Scandinavian sense of humor.)

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (which is one of my most frequently borrowed books) features six separate story lines, one of which involves a struggling, eccentric publisher trying to escape the retirement home where he feels he has been wrongly imprisoned by his rich, conniving brother. I’m biased because Cloud Atlas is one of my favorite books, but those who find it too heavy or convoluted may find comic relief in this particular character. (Jim Broadbent played him in the movie and he’s pretty funny.)

One of the things I admire the most about my grandfather is the love and affection he had for my grandmother; the quiet strength he showed getting dressed in his suit and hat and driving down to the nursing home first thing every morning just so he could be the one to feed her breakfast. He did this for seven years straight until her death in 2011. It’s one of the truest, most honest love stories I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing.

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In honor of their love I feel obliged to include a romantic story on this list, and in this case I think Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson is the most fitting. It’s beautiful and well-written, so well-written you often to have go back and re-read a sentence before Simonson’s humor makes itself apparent. When it does it catches you off-guard- I was surprised at how often this book made me chuckle out loud, and how it made me cry just as often.

Major Pettigrew is a lonely widower in a small English village who finds himself forming an usual friendship with the owner of the local corner store. It’s so touching to see their relationship gently blossom underneath the shadow of race and class tensions within the community, and within their own families. I was remiss in leaving this off of my list of favorite books of 2016- that’s how much I loved it.

Climbing out windows, impromptu cross-country hikes, art gallery heists- the things these retirees get up to makes my list of accomplishments look a little boring. Ok, so maybe I’m not aspiring to anything as daring (or in some cases, illegal) but these fun, quirky characters that remind me of my grandfather also give this young whippersnapper some hope for the future. They’re literary proof that frail bodies don’t necessarily equal frail hearts.

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I love to read and I love sharing my favorite books with you. (For more reading inspiration click here or here.) Don’t forget to friend me on Goodreads either! Btw: These lists are totally my own creation and I was not paid or perked to share my opinions with you by any author or publishing company.