I've always loved a good romance - or at least I have since I was about twelve or thirteen years old. The best romances, I've always thought, are the ones where you just long for the couple to be able to get together, to be together, despite all the odds stacked against them, despite misunderstandings and barriers.
The other thing that's important in a really good love story is that it's not just about the relationship- I feel more drawn in and engaged if there's a full and satisfying storyline beside the romance.
I mainly read historical fiction, so the following selection will be biased in that direction, but I'll read a romance in any genre. Firstly three recent stories I've loved:
Ann Turnbull's No Shame No Fear and the sequel Forged in the Fire. These two novels follow the fortunes of Quaker teenager Susanna in a time when her people were harshly persecuted in the 1600s. These two are an engaging and captivating read, with just the right mix of adventure, action, heartbreak and young love. Wonderful! I also found the Quaker world fascinating.
Another beautifully written love story is Sally Gardner's I, Coriander. This was another teen novel that swept me off my feet and kept me reading until the early hours. Here is a handsome prince in a fairy-tale world that runs alongside the real historical setting of Oliver Cromwell's drab and Puritan England. Coriander falls in love with him, but they don't inhabit the same world - until he makes the transition in the most unexpected way, sending a shiver of sheer delight through the reader. This is a exquisitely constructed love story.
Thirdly (to turn contemporary) is Sarah Dessen's The Truth about Forever. An American high school romance, this is far out of my usual field of interest, but I was captivated by this slow-moving, almost sensual love story. I thought it was beauifully structured and the device of the truth game that brings the two characters together was genius. By far my favourite Sarah Dessen novel.
For my last two choices, I shall turn to the stories that beguiled my own teen years. Firstly Pride and Prejudice. I know, I know, everyone quotes this one, but I discovered it at fourteen and simply adored it. Though it should really not have much to say to modern teenagers, who no longer have love and marriage at the centre of their lives and ambitions, Jane Austen nevertheless taps into such timeless truths and creates such lovable and memorable characters, that the books continue to captivate readers.
Having read my way through Jane Austen, and hungry for more, at fourteen fifteen years old, I discovered Georgette Heyer. I feel her books have dated far more than Austen's, although they are written much more recently, but if you can see past the changed meanings of many words, they are still bubbly, witty and delighful love stories. Don't expect any serious issues or deep meaningful engagement here. Think light, frothy but beautifully crafted entertainment. Try These Old Shades, my enduring favourite of Heyer's novels.