by Megan Frampton
The best books in the romance genre provide the most satisfying ending, the “Happy Ever After” first developed in fairy tales and expanded upon in romance novels.
The Happy Ever After (or HEA for short) in romance novels is a given, but what’s not always there is great writing, distinct characters, and conflict that makes you wonder just how the protagonists are going to find their HEAs.
Here are three books that are classics of the genre, that provide the best examples of what makes romance novels so compelling, even though you totally know the ending (I’ve limited my classics list to historical romances, since it was too hard to choose just three out of all the books).
Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase
The book is set in Egypt in 1821, and its heroine is a woman who speaks several languages and is in Egypt because of her interest in hieroglyphics. Daphne Pembroke is witty, intelligent, and courageous; of course, her hero is the same, right?
Not so much. At first appearance, Mr. Impossible’s hero, Rupert Carsington, is the black sheep of his aristocratic family. He’s ridiculously good-looking, but he is also—or so it seems to Daphne—a complete idiot. But he is the only person who can help Daphne in her various adventures, and as the book unfolds, she (and we) realize that behind Rupert’s looks lurk an equally impressive brain. By the end of the book, it’s clear to us all (Daphne and Rupert included) that the two are a perfect match.
The book is delightful, and charming, and teaches history without ever seeming as though it’s out to educate the reader.
A Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh
The book opens during a thunderstorm, and the heroine is deathly afraid of thunder. She turns for comfort to a gentleman—one barely tolerated in polite society because of his notorious rakishness—she’s previously loathed, and the next day she is appalled at herself and tries to rebuff the man when he pays a call. It’s incredible how Balogh reveals the characters’ backstory, and how they come to respect, admire, and eventually love one another despite incredible odds (and prejudice). It’s a heart-in-throat romance that never fails to make me worry, no matter how many times I’ve read it, that the two won’t get their HEA.
This plot, when you describe it, is bananapants: It’s got a mathematician duke who suffers a stroke, cannot speak, and is thrown into a madhouse as a result. He is nursed by Maddy, a Quaker woman who distrusts him, but defends him against the people who are trying to have him declared unfit. In the most dramatic scene, the duke goes to the Quaker meeting house to declare his love for his “Maddygirl.” It has this dialogue, painfully wrought as he struggles to speak:
“‘It was . . . you,’ he said. ‘Duchess. You . . . took me out of there. You married . . . duke.’ He pointed at the floor. ‘You tell me now—go down on my knees, and I will do it. The Devil’s gift. Not pearls, flowers . . . gowns. I give you . . . selfish, arrogant bastard . . . what I am, and I can do. I give you . . . my daughter. . . .'”
The writing is remarkable, the characters are unforgettable, and the story is heart-wrenching.
Megan Frampton writes historical romance under her own name and romantic women’s fiction as Megan Caldwell. Her most recent book is Why Do Dukes Fall in Love?. She likes the color black, gin, dark-haired British men, and huge earrings, not in that order. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.