What makes romance novels so perfect for you? Is it the strong female lead that fights everyone standing in her way until she gets what she wants? Is it the imperfect love interest that has to battle his demons until he’s worthy of the woman he’s fallen so hopelessly in love with? Or is it the journey riddled with bend after bend, catastrophe after catastrophe, hurdle after hurdle? To get you in the romantic mood with Valentine’s Day only two sleeps away, I’m counting down my five favourite romantic stories (a task that was unbelievably difficult). So, without further ado…

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Here’s some romantic reads
Especially for you!

  1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Perhaps the most unusual choice in this countdown, Me Before You starts us off. It’s downright heart-breaking but also strangely heart-warming too. Our heroine is Lou Clark, an eccentric twenty-six-year-old who becomes a caregiver after she loses her job at The Buttered Bun, a tea shop she loves. Her patient? Will Traynor, a once successful man who, after a motorcycle accident, is paralysed from the neck down. Where she’s chirpy, unambitious and slightly mad, Will is grumpy, bitter and ready to give up on life. It’s not long before Lou manages to chip away at the ice-cocoon Will has built around himself and brings moments of joy back into his life. There’s no twist at the end. No sudden change of mind or miracle. It’s tear-jerking, just as Moyes promises us it will be, but the love shared between Lou and Will and the way it changes their lives is enough to get it put it on the list of romantic reads!

  1. P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

There was part of me fighting against putting P.S. I Love You on this countdown, especially as our romantic lead is… well, dead. The story is about Holly Kennedy, a woman who completely withdraws from her life when her husband, Gerry, suddenly dies of a brain tumour. Before long letters begin to arrive, each one from Gerry and each one ending with the words ‘P.S. I love you…’. Encouraged by her deceased husband’s words, and the help from friends and family, Holly goes on a number of new adventures, overcomes her fears and rediscovers why life is worth living. She even learns to love again! P.S. I Love You isn’t just about a love that surpasses even death, it’s about realising that that kind of love can never be lost, that you can love again without betraying a love lost, and learning to love the life that you lead because life is far too short to be unhappy.

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Although it’s considered the greatest romance novel by the majority, Pride and Prejudice only makes it to third place in my countdown. Why? Because to me it’s more about vanity, pride and (go on, take a guess what my third adjective is going to be!) prejudice than love. But the more I think about it, the overcoming of all three of those things in order to get to the desired ending is what puts it in my countdown. However infuriating the protagonists can be, the whirlwind courtship (can you call it a courtship?) between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is one of the greatest literary plotlines ever written. Every love story requires the protagonists to find ways around outside factors that become obstacles in the narrative, but Pride and Prejudice forces it’s characters to get over internal obstacles as well: cynical notions about love, their own desires and anxieties, and the terrible first impressions they get of each other.

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre finds itself stealing the top spot in a lot of my countdowns. It’s definitely one of my favourite novels in history; practically perfect in every way. The story tracks the titular character at various points of her life: as a child being raised by her cruel and abusive aunt, her time in a boarding school which she finally leaves to become a governess, the years spent at Thornfield Manor where she falls in love with my literary crush Mr. Rochester, and even as a penniless woman forced to sleep outside and beg for food. With Jane being orphaned as a baby and leading a loveless life, the theme of ‘love’ runs deeply throughout the narrative – not just that between a man and a woman – although Jane and Mr. Rochester’s romance is, without a doubt, one of the greatest romances of all time – but also the love for oneself. To say it’s a must read is the biggest understatement of the century!

  1. La Belle Et La Bête by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

After discovering the 2014 French adaptation of La Belle Et La Bête at the end of last year, I found myself re-reading the original tale by Madame de Villeneuve. Beauty and the Beast is the ultimate romance story and has become the backbone to many novels that we now consider great works of art: Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, even Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. The story follows Beauty, who sacrifices her freedom when her father is caught stealing a rose for her from the garden of a monstrous beast for her. Over time, Beauty learns to see beyond the animalistic qualities, aggressive and arrogant nature, and grotesque appearance of the Beast and falls in love with him, teaching the Prince within him to love in return. How much more could you ask for in a romance story?

Do you have romantic reads that you think ought to have been on this list? Send me an e-mail at gksihat@gmail.com, join in the conversation over on my Twitter page at @GKSihat or comment below!