On Valentine’s Day : Five of the Most Romantic Books Ever Written…

by |February 14, 2012

Love is everywhere.

Love with a small ‘l’, that is. Little loves. Cheaply bought. Easily lost.

It’s time to reset the benchmark. We shouldn’t be satisfied with any old love… Let’s be brave. Let’s go for all or nothing.

Let’s hold out for BIG LOVE.

What’s BIG LOVE?

Oh, you poor, poor thing… there, there. Help is at hand.

BIG LOVE, an introductory course…

5 of the most romantic books ever written…


The Age of Innocence

By Edith Wharton

Newland Archer and May Welland are the perfect couple. He is a wealthy young lawyer and she is a lovely and sweet-natured girl. All seems set for success until the arrival of May’s unconventional cousin Ellen Olenska, who returns from Europe without her husband and proceeds to shake up polite New York society.

To Newland, she is a breath of fresh air and a free spirit, but the bond that develops between them throws his values into confusion and threatens his relationship with May.

4 out of 5 Hearts



A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

In 1918 Ernest Hemingway went to war, to the ‘war to end all wars’. He volunteered for ambulance service in Italy, was wounded and twice decorated.

Out of his experiences came A FAREWELL TO ARMS. Hemingway’s description of war is unforgettable. He recreates the fear, the comradeship, the courage of his young American volunteer and the men and women he meets in Italy with total conviction. But A FAREWELL TO ARMS is not only a novel of war.

In it Hemingway has also created a love story of immense drama and uncompromising passion.

4 out of 5 Hearts



North and South

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Milton is a sooty, noisy northern town centred around the cotton mills that employ most of its inhabitants.

Arriving from a rural idyll in the south, Margaret Hale is initially shocked by the social unrest and poverty she finds in her new hometown. However, as she begins to befriend her neighbours, and her stormy relationship with the mill-owner John Thornton develops, she starts to see Milton in a different light.

4 out of 5 Hearts



Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

As an orphan, Jane’s childhood is not an easy one but her independence and strength of character keep her going through the miseries inflicted by cruel relatives and a brutal school.

However, her biggest challenge is yet to come. Taking a job as a governess in a house full of secrets, for a passionate man she grows more and more attracted to, ultimately forces Jane to call on all her resources in order to hold on to her beliefs.

5 out of 5 Hearts




by Jane Austen

Eight years ago Anne Elliot bowed to pressure from her family and made the decision not to marry the man she loved, Captain Wentworth.

Now circumstances have conspired to bring him back into her social circle and Anne finds her old feelings for him reignited. However, when they meet again Wentworth behaves as if they are strangers and seems more interested in her friend Louisa.

In this, her final novel, Jane Austen tells the story of a love that endures the tests of time and society with humour, insight and tenderness.

6 out of 5 Hearts


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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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  • February 14, 2012 at 10:18 am

    I love Jane Eyre and Persuasion and agree they shoudl be in the list. But Age of Innocence? A Farewell to Arms! No and no and no and no. My suggestions? ‘Precious Bane’ by Mary Webb – one of the most beautiful romantic novels ever written. ‘These Old Shades’ by Georgette Heyer (though any Heyer book would be more romantic than Hemingway!) ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell. ‘Breakfast atTiffany’s by Truman Capote. ‘A Room with a View’ by E.M. Forster (how could you not include this!) and I’d have to include Mary Stewart too – maybe ‘Madam, will you Talk?’ Also, what about modern day writers (these are all rather musty and dusty)

    • February 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Dear Kate,

      A Room with a View is one of my favourite books. I love it, love it, love it. But I wanted to bring out a more varied array of BIG LOVE. Hemingway captures BIG LOVE from an unexpected angle. A Farewell to Arms is a ‘I choose you in the face of all obstacles’ kinda love. The Age of Innocence is heartbreaking but it most surely is BIG LOVE. We may not agree with their choices but there can be no doubt as to their feelings for each other.

      Your suggestions are great. I am currently working on another list. I hope my choices there please you more 🙂


  • February 14, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Well, I’ve read none of these, so I can’t comment (much!) I will say, however, that a love story that ends with either of the main characters dying or leaving is not, IMO, romantic. It just sucks.

  • Karin

    February 14, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I would love to see “Love in the Time of Cholera” on the list. Have read and re read it and find something I missed each time – or maybe its the mood I am in when I read it!

  • February 11, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    Love is everywhere this week. Thanks for sharing this amazing list of most romantic books ever written. The Age of Innocence By Edith Wharton is my favorite one.

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