Written by Jessie Mearns
It seems that Valentine’s day 2021, though still happening, won`t be as expected. Undoubtedly, no matter with, who or how you will be spending Valentine’s day, the coronavirus pandemic will be placing a limit on your celebrations. As someone who personally has never enjoyed the day, many a time have I been craving a bit of romantic escapism; and this year it seems more relevant than ever.
For anyone searching for a romance novel worth the read, I am here to tell you my best picks, from both the classic to the contemporary.
Novels that made me believe I was born in the wrong era.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
A classic ode to the romantic era and a staple of the genre, Pride and Prejudice is well known for both its moral teachings and unmatched romance. Following the protagonist Elizabeth Bennet, it documents her emotional journey to discovering she completely misjudged the initial assumption of the seemingly taciturn Mr Darcy.
Clashing personalities of the rather outspoken Lizzie and the pompous Mr Darcy, immediately create a dynamic atmosphere, allowing Austen’s notable wit to persevere. An enchanting mixture of intrigue, flirtation and a subtleness to romance creates the perfect classical read.
The Duke and I, Julia Quinn.
For those left in a rut after binge watching Bridgerton, you will be equally as pleased as I was to discover it is based on a series of novels by Julia Quinn. Following the close-knit Bridgeton family, the novel depicts the ever-increasing romance between the honest Daphne and Simon, who has just returned to London.
Regency romance and gossip certainly prevail; it suffices any cravings for longing glances and ethereal ballroom scenes. Though differing from the popular Netflix show on many occasions, The Duke and I as a leading novel still provides a charming and light-hearted read.
To inspire the new romantics.
Normal people, Sally Rooney.
A personal favourite of mine, I finished this in only two days. Set-in modern-day Dublin, Rooney depicts the lives of two opposing protagonists: the shy and anxious Marianne and the falsely secure football player Connell.
Beginning with them through high school and following their rather complex relationship through their University years, it is both strikingly intimate and an incredibly resonant as to what it means to be young and in love. The rather dusty, academic setting of Trinity college only adds to its almost poetic intimacy, and Rooney creates a heart breaking and uplifting modern classic.
Overall, a beautifully written novel that provides a new insight into defining intellectual and physical intimacy.
Americanah, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie.
Providing a less fluffy narration of romance, Americanah follows the lives of two Nigerian migrants who reside in the US and UK. Ifemula, who has lived in the US for a significant time and Obinze, who has just moved to the UK as an unregistered immigrant, are the two protagonists contributing to a complementing narrative of their time together and apart.
At its heart though, is an intrinsically thought-out slow burn romance, providing an interesting perspective on the role of social norms in Western society and their relationship with race. Adichie creates a provoking and relatable narration, while maintaining a balance of romance and challenging Western social norms.
Romance novels and classical love stories are not only a genre in themselves but breach many other genres. All the novels here are in my opinion a brilliant starting point for any aspiring romantic; and may hopefully fulfil any cravings for romantic literature this Valentine’s day.
Jessie Mearns is a first-year geography student, interested in politics, literature and economics.
Imae by Josh Felise, from Unsplash.