Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And what better way to ring in the day than with a love story?
Now, I could line the bottom of my bird cage (if I had one) with most of what passes for “romance” stories these days. That’s not what this list is about. You won’t find any cheap dime store boiler plate trash here. This list focuses on timeless love stories that go above and beyond basic romance.
Some of these titles are relatively new. Others have been around for centuries. All reach straight for your heart. Climb in. And settle in to stay. B.Y.O. tissue.
Here are 17 of the most unforgettable love stories of all time, along with memorable quotes. Many have been made into movies. Some might surprise you:
1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s masterpiece of love and life among English gentility during the Georgian era. Mr. Bennet is an English gentleman living in Hartfordshire with his overbearing wife, one of the most ridiculous mothers in all literature. Mrs. Bennet’s chief goal in life is to see her five daughters married off and living comfortably. But fate intervenes…
“My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”
2. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak
This novel traces the lives and loves of its two tragic protagonists, Yuri Zhivago, a physician and poet, and Larissa Antipova. Pasternak’s epic love story takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and World War II. First published in Italy in 1957.
“Oh, what a love it was, utterly free, unique, like nothing else on earth! Their thoughts were like other people’s songs.”
3. A Common Life – Jan Karon
Laughter and wedding bells ring as Father Tim and his artist neighbor, Cynthia, get ready to tie the knot. Finally!
“I am not proud, but I am happy; and happiness blinds, I think, more than pride.”
4. Message in a Bottle – Nicholas Sparks
When a woman discovers a tragic love letter in a bottle on a beach, she’s determined to track down its author – and finds much more.
Emotionally intense story of love after loss. Set in Wilmington, North Carolina.
“Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul.”
The Princess Bride – William Golding
Six-fingered swordsmen. Murderous princes. Treachery. Gallantry. Sicilians and rodents of unusual size.
Buttercup and Westley’s love story is a classic that not even the Dread Pirate Roberts can sink. Did you know the 1987 movie was based on a book?
“As you wish.”
Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
The powerful, poignant story of the unbreakable bond between a young boy and his two Redbone Hound dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, reminds us what love really means. Set in the Ozarks during the depths of the Depression.
Once in a lifetime, a story comes along that inspires generations of readers. Where The Red Fern Grows is one of those stories. Bring Kleenex.
Note from Kimber: My personal favorite, friends! Even better than bacon! Mom always wants to snuggle up with this one. I’m a good helper, ya know. But I’m a World Class Snuggler and face-licker!
“I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: ‘You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.’”
Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen
Set largely in Kenya, East Africa, this sweeping epic is a story of discovery, loss and love.
Karen Blixen followed her dreams until her dreams became reality. She came to Africa from Denmark to search for something inside herself. There, she discovers a man and a country. And life as she’s never known it.
Blixen published her autobiographical Out of Africa under the nom de plume, Isak Dinesen.
The 1985 movie won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. It stars Meryl Streep as Blixen and Robert Redford as her lover, Dennys Finch-Hatton.
“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”
– Nicholas Sparks
A touching story about what we long for. What we settle for. And who we were meant for. Full of longing and wistfulness. Despair and hope. And unexpected plot twists. Vintage Nicholas Sparks.
“I read to her and she remembers.”
“We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has only happened once, and that’s why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I’ll never forget a single moment of it.”
Romeo and Juliet
– William Shakespeare
Don’t make me explain this.
“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”
10 – 13. The Last Promise, A Perfect Day, The Letter, The Sunflower, – Richard Paul Evans
The Velveteen Rabbit,
How a brand new toy becomes Real.
Don’t think this “children’s” classic is a love story? Think again.
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
Beloved love story between the plucky orphan and governess Jane Eyre and the dark and brooding Rochester.
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
16. Bid Time Return – Richard Matheson
A haunting story of the link between a man and a woman that transcends time. The novel upon which the movie Somewhere in Time is based.
My husband rolls his eyes every time I drag out my SIT DVD. I just smile and grab some more chocolate.
This story and the movie that followed starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour prove how little critics know and how even a predictable love story never fails to tug at the heart strings.
An unforgettable John Barry score doesn’t hurt, either.
“Come back to me.”
17. West Side Story
The original classic update of Romeo and Juliet set on the mean streets of New York during the 60s, with an unforgettable musical score.
What would you add?
This post was first published on Pages and Paws in 2020. But, hey! We figured it’s worth a re-run. Happy Valentine’s Day!