If you are not the romantic kind or feel that classic romance novels fall under ‘chick lit’, think again, as classic romance novels are more than just stories of love. While some have fairy-tale endings, others take a dark and twisted turn. However, what all of them absolutely manage to do is tug at our heartstrings and make us dream of ballroom gowns and happy endings. In this list, you will find literary masterpieces with tales of love, lust, adultery, unrequited feelings, and intimate encounters.

01

Parineeta

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay

Published in 1914, Parineeta is a classic romance novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, a prominent Bengali novelist. Set in Kolkata, Parineeta follows the relationship between Lalita, an orphan who lives with her uncle, and Shekhar, the son of her rich neighbour. Tensions erupt when Shekhar’s father wants to claim Lalita’s house in exchange for the debt owed by her uncle. This leads to a conflict between the couple, which is further exacerbated by the arrival of Girin, an eligible bachelor who is attracted to Lalita. Circumstances force the lovers apart, and years later, when they meet, the story takes an unexpected turn. 

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02

Chander and Sudha

Dharamvir Bharati

This novel was originally published in Hindi as Gunahon Ka Devta and is set in Allahabad, just after the Partition. Chander is in love with his mentor’s daughter Sudha, but since they belong to different castes, Chander cajoles Sudha into marrying a man of her father’s choice. Heartbroken as a result of this separation, he tries to understand what love really is and winds up in a destructive affair. Even though this book was published almost 70 years ago, it remains popular because of how it depicts love.

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03

Emma

Jane Austen

Set in Regency England, Emma is one of Jane Austen’s better-known works and one of the most popular classic romance novels. Emma is a bright, beautiful, and rich resident of Highbury, who believes herself to be naturally gifted at matchmaking and fairly certain that she is immune to romance of any kind. After she attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée Harriet Smith, what follows is a charming tale as Emma discovers that sometimes even carefully laid plans can go astray. She also learns that meddling can have disastrous consequences even as she comes to term with her own conflicted romantic feelings.

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04

The Age Of Innocence

Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age Of Innocence takes us on a trip to 1870s New York City where hypocrisy was the norm and discreet infidelity was tolerated. It’s the story of Newland Archer, whose life is turned upside down when he falls in love with the married Countess Ellen Olenska, while being engaged to May Welland. Torn between his obligation and love, Archer now has to make a decision that will either change his life completely or destroy his reputation.    

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05

Gone With The Wind

Margaret Mitchell

Gone With The Wind is a historical tale of love and loss that won the author the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction in 1937. Set against the grim background of the American Civil War, the book follows the love story of the tempting Scarlett O’Hara and the rakish Rhett Butler. However, it is more than just a simple romance, as it brings the American Civil War to life. The vivid description of the burning cities in the South will haunt you and the hunger of the people is likely to leave you with a cold feeling in your stomach. This is one of the best classic romance novels and a must-read.

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06

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre narrates the love story of Jane, a simple but courageous governess. In love with the aloof and brooding Mr Rochester, a man who hides a terrible secret, it follows Jane’s moral and spiritual journey and the shocking twists of destiny that await her. This novel was considered ahead of its time because of Jane’s individualistic character and the novel’s treatment of themes like class, sexuality, religion and feminism.

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07

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned upon its release and considered obscene for its explicit description of sex as well as the use of profanity. It follows the life of Lady Chatterley whose wealthy husband was paralysed in World War I. His emotional disregard for her makes matters worse, and eventually, the Lady pursues an affair with the gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors. The novel depicts the class differences between the couple and their physical and emotional relationship. It also touches upon the importance of sex.

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08

A Room With A View

E.M. Forster

A Room With A View is a timeless classic romance novel that portrays the conflict in having to choose between social acceptance and true love. Set in Edwardian England, Forster’s novel takes you from the repressed culture of England to a sensual awakening in Italy. Lucy, while on a vacation in Italy falls in love with George Emerson, but is being pressurised to marry Cecil Vyse, a dull but socially acceptable husband. The rest of the novel captures Lucy’s dilemma as she has to decide whether to follow her heart or head.

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09

Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s only novel, is an intoxicating story of betrayal and revenge. Set in the chilly moors of Yorkshire, this gothic novel is the tale of Heathcliff and his love for Catherine, his guardian’s daughter. Believing that his love is not reciprocated and after being humiliated by her brother, Heathcliff leaves town and returns as a suave and polished young man, only to exact revenge. However, little does he know that Catherine’s betrayal and his vengeance would continue to haunt the next generation even after their deaths. Wuthering Heights has proved to be one of the most important masterpieces of the 19th Century and a favourite amongst classic romance novels.  

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10

The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s fascinating tale of love in the “Jazz Age”, The Great Gatsby, flaunts the extravagant and wealthy society of New York in 1920, where an elusive Jay Gatsby hosts lavish parties but never attends them. The novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, comes to know that the only reason Gatsby hosts these parties is for a chance meeting with Daisy Buchanan, whom he had met many years ago and is still in love with. Thanks to Nick, Gatsby and Daisy finally meet again and soon begin having an affair. However, everything changes once Daisy’s husband, an adulterer himself, finds out about their scandalous affair.

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Which of these classic romance novels have you read and liked? Are there any other books you would recommend? Share with us in the comments below.

Prasanna Sawant

Prasanna Sawant

Prasanna is a human (probably) who makes stuff up for a living. When she's not sleeping or eating, you'll find her in the quietest corner of the library, devouring yet another hardbound book. She vastly prefers the imaginary world to the real one, but grudgingly emerges from her writing cave on occasion. If you do see her, it's best not to approach her before coffee.

She writes at The Curious Reader.