Who Needs Romance? A Top Ten List

Romance. If you can imagine, and this should not be much of a stretch, I’m not particularly romantic. In the days of yore (also known as high school), I used to gauge how much a guy liked me by whether he would read certain books for me. The usual book of choice: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Yes, I was a fun kid (my personal soundtrack would have led off with this song). The subject of this week’s top ten list: romance (as hosted by The Broke and The Bookish and in honor of Valentine’s Day).

Now, as an adult, I’ve grown up. Sylvia Plath is out. David Foster Wallace is in. Only kidding, I’m not that mean. Alexander Pushkin is the true test. And no, I’m not trying to make a point about men being superfluous. They’re not. If not for men, who would kill spiders? If no one is around, I have to use a book and I feel really guilty about that (I even tape a paper towel around the dust jacket with painter’s tape so as not to mar the cover with spider remnants).

I just bought this card.

Seriously though, I’m not the Grinch, I do have a heart, and deeply appreciate romantic gestures that do not include flowers, candy, or Hallmark cards. Like reading The Bell Jar, Eugene Onegin, or watching a John Hughes movie. The following ten books made my heart hurt in the best way possible, despite the fact that only one is a “romance”.

In no particular order:

10. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. 

Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light footsteps had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.

9. Bag of Bones by Stephen King.

Love is a thing formed of equal parts lust and astonishment. The astonishment part women understand. The lust part they only think they understand.

8. A Room With a View by E. M. Forster. 

It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.

7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. 

For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.

6. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham.

How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.

5.  Brokeback Mountain by E. Annie Proulx.

If you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.

4. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. 

I know I don’t need him, but I think I want him.

3. Persuasion by Jane Austen. That letter, everyone needs a letter like that once in their life.

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.

2. Experiments in Terror Series by Karina Halle. 

I love you. So much. Too much. Always…I’m not supposed to be anything other than a man that’s stupidly in love with you.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. 

I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.

If I included poetry, I would most certainly have included something by W. H. Auden (He was my North, my South, my East and West / My working week and my Sunday rest), though generally I agree with Ms. Bennet about the effect of poetry on love – Auden is an exception.

Happy Valentine’s day. I hope you have something fun planned!

Image courtesy of Pink Orchard Press.

25 thoughts on “Who Needs Romance? A Top Ten List

    1. No one writes letters like that anymore! Why (cries half of Austen readers everywhere)? I can also admit that someone pining for me (or Anne) for years after only a brief relationship is incredibly romantic. Men should use Austen novels as blueprints for women.

      And I must say you have excellent taste in literature. For the average person, Pushkin is a little obscure – though this is the book blogging world, so maybe not. Seriously though, it was made into a movie starring Ralph Fiennes – how do more people not know about it?


  1. Oh I have so much love for the Outlander series. I didn’t do a TTT post but if I had that would have been on there. And the Experiment in Terror series! hahaha I haven’t gotten to the part where there’s an actual romance (I’ve read up through #2.5) but I knew it was coming one way or another. Great list. 🙂


    1. Yep, I started it and got sucked it. Luckily they are all short. Now you know what happens – sorry, but like you said, you could tell where it was heading, even if it took 7 books. I am surprised I like the series so much, I’ve even been able to overlook the typos.

      The Outlander series…I’ve only read the first 2.5. I think I would’ve preferred to stop at one and just imagine they had a happily ever after. Because who survives all of that drama?


  2. Wonderful list and I love the quotes you added with eace one, especially the Cold Mountain book. I remember reading that line in the book and smiling.


    1. It’s not the most romantic line in the book, but it is one of my favorites (that and “They call this war a cloud over the land. But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say ‘Shit, it’s raining!”). Thinking about this book makes me want to reread it.


  3. what a fantastic list! i, too, love WH Auden. It’s definitely one of my favorie poems. if i included poetry, i would include Gwendolyn Brooks’ To Be In Love…also, I REALLY need to read Jane Eyre.


  4. We have a lot in common LOL Seriously that is exactly how I gauged how much a guy liked me..and low in behold my husband read Jane Eyre for me LOL Also he loved it which was another most for me LOL Seriously though great list…I ADORE Room With A View..the scene with the violets..sigh..Persuasion..the letter..sigh…Jane Eyre..the entire book..sigh..Scarlet Pimpernel..the scene in the library..sigh..Outlander..Jaime in general..sigh..GREAT list!
    I also love the Bell Jar and I was a fun kid as well…all dressed in black and scribbling angsty pictures in my notepad LOL


    1. Ha, he’s a good man. Can you imagine being married to someone who didn’t at least read one of your favorite books?

      And Jamie…while I do feel Outlander gets a bit ridiculous (who survives THAT much), I can’t complain. Jamie always knows exactly the right things to say (made even more right by his delightful Scottish accent), though I haven’t read the entire series yet – so I cannot claim that definitively.


  5. I get the feeling I really need to make an effort to read Jane Austen. I’ve always wanted to and have most of her work but for some reason never pick up a book.


  6. Re: Persuasion – I wrote that letter to myself. Even lied to myself that it was original and not copied out verbatim. I was devastated when I found out.

    Spiders are good luck, except the really venomous ones. If you learn to live with them and appreciate the fact they eat flies, then you have no need for men whatsoever…


    1. You just need to become a more convincing liar. And don’t check to see if your love letters are plagiarized, it makes you look paranoid and ungrateful. Not that I would know, of course.

      I was bitten by a venomous spider and reacted badly, since then my ability to tolerate them has become nonexistent. I’ve decided that there is no way to address the falsity of that last part without being at least slightly obscene and/or awkward (which I am anyway, but promised I wouldn’t be after my list two weeks ago). Just know that I could increase the level of awkwardness – it would start something like “so you were in this dream I had the other night” – don’t worry, it wasn’t a particularly complimentary dream.


      1. Saw a documentary about spiders on a plane once. It featured this guy who was bitten in the chest by a black widow that had been relaxing on his drying bedsheets.

        As you can imagine he didn’t have a nice time, and so now he goes out every night and patrols his lawn looking for black widows. With a shotgun.

        He also dislikes certain types of ant, so he douses their nests in gasoline and drops a match. Except that he doesn’t find that very satisfying, so what he does first is shoot the nests with his shotgun.

        He expressed concern about being caught by environmental communists. Not so much concern that he wasn’t pleased to appear in a documentary, of course.

        I’m even a disappointment in dreams as a figment of someone else’s imagination. Legend.


      2. Can’t say I’ve been lucky enough to see anything like that (I particularly like the shotgun part, gives new meaning to self-defense – the NRA should sponsor him). I once watched about 5 minutes of Arachnophobia, I couldn’t watch after they opened up the coffin (revealing the shriveled corpse) and the spider scurried out.

        The dream: you were born in 1908, knew everything about everything, and I hated you for it. Because (even in a dream) if anyone is ever going to know everything about everything, it’s going to be me. So ultimately, I was the only one who looked bad, you were the smartest 105-year-old to ever live. I’m still jealous.


      3. Documentary was genius, although the man was a poster child for gun control.

        I actually was born in 1908, but I still look like a 12 yr old, just like Leo DiCaprio. A more bloated and greying 12 yr old, but a 12yr old nonetheless.


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