The Lush and Lovely Romance Reading Challenge

By Madeline Farquharson

Paper hearts will soon deck the halls of restaurants, supermarkets, and (hopefully) your mailbox! One of my guilty-pleasure genres will always be Romance. But I find that hoards of romance novels are plotless and dry, leaning more on the hot and steamy than the human connection. These five novels are perfect for a romance reading challenge as they are lively plotlines that focus more on love than lust. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the reverse.) Sit back and enjoy a brain-candy novel or two (or five)!

One Day In December


By Josie Silver

Long Story Short

Can fate truly dictate who we are meant to be with? This love story unfolds over the course of several years, as two people who miss their opportunity to meet keep finding each other but never at the right time for them both.

Long Story

Laurie first sees Jack while on a bus right before Christmas. He doesn’t get on the bus, and so they never meet. That is, until a year later her best friend, Sarah introduces her new boyfriend, and it’s Jack: the stranger she fell in love-at-first-sight with against a Christmastime London a year before.

I’m a complete sucker for romance, so they plot on this drew me in immediately. As Laurie pledges to never speak of the fact that her “bus boy” is the love of her closest friend, my heart broke a little. The story does a great job of showing how easy it is to meet the right person at the wrong time.

Written in all the charm (and a bit of vulgarity) popularized by books like Bridget Jones’ Diary, this novel is sure to have you dreaming of British living (if you aren’t living there already). The one major flaw that kept this from being a truly amazing romance for me was that I didn’t really like many of the men. They’re a bit stale and stereotypical, lacking the depth I was hoping for. But, in that way, it’s very early-2000, British rom-com. Which I think it what Josie Silver was going for, anyway.

The Time Traveler's Wife


By Audrey Niffenegger

Long Story Short

If you’ve seen the movie and never read the book, you’re in for a treat. If you’ve never experienced either, then boy am I ready to give you a gift of a great book. Thought-provoking, sweet and sour all at once, this novel is a great story of great love. One that spans across time and space and redefines the concepts of “soulmate” and fate.

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It’s actually hard to keep track of all the movies in which Rachel McAdams plays the role of the spouse of a time traveler (there’s at least two), but The Time Traveler’s Wife is a really good one nonetheless. While I absolutely adore the movie, I actually liked the book even more.

Whenever I read a book after seeing the movie rendition, I am mildly surprised at the bits they chose the leave out, but in this case, it was SO MUCH. Probably because the book is about 540 pages and almost 18 hours as an audiobook. Major characters, plot lines, love triangles were left to the wayside by Hollywood. But the payoff is that when reading the book, I felt that is contained so much more texture and plenty of surprises despite my having seen the movie (and therefore know how it ends).

The concept is pretty straightforward given the title, but a couple of things you should know about the book are that the narration alternates between Henry and Alba, and the book spends a lot more time chewing on the ideas of fate and free will. The first date of publication was 2003, so there are a few elements in the book that are less-than-sensitive (and therefore a bit problematic). But I found that the novel itself was engaging, and I was able to eat it up in just over a day.

Pride & Prejudice


By Jane Austen

Long Story Short

This romance classic has survived the test of time for a reason! Littered with wit and sarcasm, it’s an excellent satire of societal expectations and the judgments that get in the way of love.

Long Story

Those close to me (and anyone who can read one of my tattoos) will know that Pride & Prejudice is a novel that I hold near and dear. Cliché love of Austen aside, this is a novel that I would recommend everyone read, regardless of your preferences.

Elizabeth and Darcy have become an iconic couple both on the page and on the screen. There’s a reason that romance-lovers flock to this story. But Austen intended her novel to be a commentary on social norms in a way that chastised frivolous expectations of women and marriage. Many readers often miss this.

The novel navigates some complex topics, which were typically ignored during Austen’s lifetime. The idea of a brainless woman is one of them, and she explores the expectations of women through the many Bennett sisters. Jane, innocent and lovely, is in many ways the perfect woman as she is unopinionated and plain. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is outspoken and strong-willed. Everything a woman shouldn’t be.

I love this book not for the romance but rather for the sharp and cutting wit that Austen laces throughout its pages. If you cringed when this came up on your high school reading list, you should take another look and reconsider!

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo


By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Long Story Short

Full of twists and turns, this is a romance story like no other. Evelyn Hugo, in her old age, gives a tell-all to the journalist of her choosing, revealing her version of her love-life and career.

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It’s difficult to tell the difference between fact and fiction in Taylor Jenkins Reed’s novel. Evelyn Hugo feels like such a real person as she’s written with such presence and bravado that she fills the pages completely.

The world was captivated with Evelyn, much as the reader is on the other side. So when she calls up a journalist unexpectedly, ready to dish on her life, everyone is shocked. Told through the interviews as they unfold, the style of Reed’s masterpiece feeds into the drama of the narrative.

There are so many parts of this book that are unexpected and help to build and maintain a captivating plot. The twists and turns were so eloquently woven together that I couldn’t pull myself away for very long. This is a great read for anyone who likes a romance novel with a little more depth than just a casual affair. In fact, there’s nothing casual about Evelyn at all.

The Flatshare


By Beth O'Leary

Long Story Short

This is a quirky romance where two strangers share a flat (one lives there at night and one during the day) and they develop a friendship through notes they leave for each other.

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I was lucky to receive an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of this book, and I am so happy that I picked it up. Ordinarily, I’m not big on romance novels. Even the quirky ones aren’t typically captivating enough for my snobby reading. Or maybe I just read so many when I was younger that I don’t have the taste for it anymore (I feel the same about peanuts for the record).

That being said, I loved this book. Quirky doesn’t even begin to cover it. The premise is that a freshly heartbroken young woman, Tiffany, somehow ends up accepting an offer to rent out the apartment of Leon, a night nurse who doesn’t exist anywhere but the hospital during the wee hours of the night. He only requests that she clear out during the day, which is when he sleeps, and when Tiffany goes to work. Leon and Tiffany don’t meet at first, as it’s Leon’s girlfriend that arranges to meet Tiffany and apparently, Leon couldn’t care less about who lives in his flat.

The relationship between these strangers in an awkward situation unfolds mostly through the notes that they leave for each other in their apartment. Honestly, this was my favorite angle in the book, and it’s what kept me reading.

I would recommend this one for anyone who’s looking for something a little more lighthearted. Fair warning: the book does deal with emotional abuse/control issues in relationships. But I found that it was well done overall, and enjoyed the time I spent reading something so sweet and human at its core.

Spending the night with a romance novel is never a bad idea when the stories are this good. There’s nothing like a solid love story to get the warm and fuzzies going. Let me know how you’re doing with the challenge by tagging me on Instagram with @ofbooksandhooks and using the hashtag #booksandhookschallenge.