Whether you are looking for that special someone or blissfully in love, these ageless classics know just how to pull on those heartstrings. So, jump under the covers, turn down the lights and tuck into the most sought-after romantic novels of all time.
Victor Hugo’s story, set in Paris in 1482, centers around Norte Dame cathedral. In this “true love comes from within” story, Gypsy dancer Esmeralda is longed for by Quasimodo, Notre Dame’s kind-hearted but deformed bellringer. Upon order of Archdeacon Frollo, Quasimodo attempts to kidnap Esmeralda, but is caught. Standing trial, Quasimodo is humiliated by the public and his victim Esmeralda has pity on him. Soon after Esmeralda is blackmailed and sentenced to death for the murder of her crush Phoebus. On her sentencing day, Esmeralda is saved from death by her dear Quasimodo. But can true love overcome her distaste for his looks?
Romantic quote: “Love is like a tree: it grows by itself, roots itself deeply in our being and continues to flourish over a heart in ruin. The inexplicable fact is that the blinder it is, the more tenacious it is. It is never stronger than when it is completely unreasonable.”
Fun Fact: Hunchback of Notre Dame has been adpated to the screen numerous times and cast two famous Anthonys in the leading Quasimodo role Anthony Quinn in 1956 and Anthony Hopkins in 1982.
Charles Bingley is new to town and has leased an estate with his sisters and close friend Fitzwilliam Darcy. Named a “catch” by all the single ladies in town (due to surprise . . . his looks and money), Darcy is also known as snob. Neighbor Elizabeth Bennet finds herself repulsed by Darcy’s ego. The resulting pas de deux between the feisty twosome makes for a quite a page-turner.
Romantic quote: “They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects.”
Fun Fact: Helen Fielding’s book Bridget Jones’s Diary was inspired by Pride and Prejudice.
The classic eighteenth-century novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos is the ultimate dark tale of lust, greed, deception and romance, featuring the Marquise de Merteuil, who requests that her partner, the Vicomte de Valmont, seduce the young daughter of her cousin. Meanwhile, young Cecile has the hots for her teacher, Chevalier Danceny. Love affairs, deception and lies aplenty unfold.
Romantic quote: “Now, I’m not going to deny that I was aware of your beauty. But the point is, this has nothing to do with your beauty. As I got to know you, I began to realise that beauty was the least of your qualities. I became fascinated by your goodness. I was drawn in by it.”
Fun Fact: The 1999 cult movie hit Cruel Intentions was a modern adaptation of the novel Dangerous Liaisons.
A Jane Austen classic from 1811, this love story focuses around the Dashwood sisters — Elinor and Marianne. When their father dies, they lose their family estate and are reduced to a life of poverty. The story follows the sisters as they move in with a distant relative, leading them to equal parts heartache and romance.
Romantic quote: “I cannot, I cannot,’ cried Marianne; ‘leave me, leave me, if I distress you; leave me, hate me, forget me! But do not torture me so. Oh! how easy for those who have no sorrow of their own to talk of exertion!”
Fun Fact: In Ang Lee’s 1995 remake of Sense and Sensibility, there are six actors who went on to play parts in the Harry Potter films: Emma Thompson (Sybil Trelawney), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Gemma Jones (Madam Pomfrey), Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge), Elizabeth Spriggs (The Fat Lady) and Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge).
This Noble Prize-winning Russian novel by Boris Pasternak is the ageless classic of one man torn between two women. Yuri Zhivago is a medical doctor and poet during the 1917 Russian Revolution. While married to aristocratic Tonya, he falls in love with nurse Lara. Set during a war time, Zhivago’s love triangle falls prey to a twist of fate, and becomes a tale of protagonist versus an achy, breaking heart.
Romantic quote: “You and I, it’s as though we have been taught to kiss in heaven and sent down to earth together, to see if we know what we were taught.”
Fun Fact: Doctor Zhivago‘s first film version was a made-for-TV version produced in Brazil in 1959.
A romantic comedy by William Shakespeare, this play takes place in Athens as Duke Theseus plans a large festival around his marriage. During this time, Theseus‘ daughter, Hermia, is refusing to marry her fiancé. Due to a true-love-in-the-wings named Lysander. Against her father’s wishes, she flees the nuptials for the woods. And guess who? While there, they befriend fairies who cause a bit of mischief. Cue a new love triangle and surprise ending!
Romantic quote: “I’ll follow thee and make a heaven of hell, To die upon the hand I love so well.”
Fun Fact: In the 1989 blockbuster film Dead Poets’ Society, the character Neil Perry (played by Robert Sean Leonard), was cast as Puck in the a local production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, this love story was originally a play by Murray Burnett. The play was turned into a script by writers (and brothers) Julius and Philip Epstein and their friend Howard Koch. In the story, American Rick Blaine is the owner of a gambling club “Rick’s Cafe Americain” in the Moroccan city of Casablanca. Set during World War II, Rick is a bitter man having been scorned by ex-lover Ilsa Lund. When she walks back into his life suddenly, now married, with her husband in tow, Rick is forced to come face-to-face with well-aged heartache.
Romantic quote: “Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.”
Fun Fact: In a 2005 poll by the American Film Institute, the Casablanca line “Here’s looking at you, kid” was ranked the fifth most memorable line in cinema history. (Six other lines from the film are also in the top 100.)
In one of William Shakespeare’s most celebrated works, this tale of “star-crossed lovers” has been told and interpreted time and time again (from film classic West Side Story to teen flick Romeo + Juliet). A story all lovers can relate to, Romeo and Juliet focuses on the tragedies that accompany the loss of true love. Lovers Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, two of the most famed clans in literature, come from opposite sides of the Verona tracks and their family’s disapproval of their love eventually leads to their demise.
Romantic quote: “Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
Fun Fact: In the popular computer game The Sims 2, there is a neighborhood called Veronaville in which two characters named Romeo Monty and Juliette Capp fall in love.
Frequently a top author’s choice, this Leo Tolstoy novel is a literary soap opera. Set in the highest circles of Russian society, Anna Karenina visits her brother Stiva in Moscow to help him save his marriage. While there, she falls in love with Count Vronsky. A married woman, Karenina fights off her desires until they overwhelm her and she leaves her husband, Alexei. Denied a divorce, Anna spends her life looking for acceptance in her relationship. When the strain of their love life becomes too much, Anna leaves Vronsky in a rage and well, if you haven’t read it, do! We won’t give away a heart-wrenching ending.
Romantic quote: “I’ve always loved you, and when you love someone, you love the whole person, just as he or she is, and not as you would like them to be.”
Fun Fact: Anna Karenina became a best-seller all over again in 2004 after Oprah put it on her list.