The best books about the romances of famous literary couples

Who am I?

I’m a nosy world traveler who loves visiting archeological sites, medieval castles, museums of the strange, and other people’s gardens. As both writer and editor, I know there’s nothing more powerful than finding and using the perfect words. A story can only engage others if it’s told vividly and well. I wrote my first in fifth grade, self-published for classmates on paper purloined from the teacher’s supply closet. Since then I’ve produced poetry, short prose, children’s books, and historical and contemporary novels. In my role as small-press editor, I love coming across a good manuscript by another writer and midwifing it to a final, polished birth as a wonderful book.

I wrote...

The Raven’s Bride

By Lenore Hart,

Book cover of The Raven’s Bride

What is my book about?

There are many novels and biographies about Edgar Allen Poe, but few capture his young cousin and wife, Virginia Clemm. Yet she was, according to Poe, the great love of his life. Some details are known: her striking musical talent, their odd marriage when she was only thirteen and he twenty-seven, the couple’s many moves, with her mother, from Norfolk to Baltimore to New York City as Poe gained and lost writing jobs, and Virginia’s illness and eventual early death from tuberculosis. It’s a convincing portrait of the young woman whose childhood crush became a tragic, lasting love affair – inspiring Poe to create his greatest works. Her untimely death at 27 nearly destroyed him. Part historical drama, part ghost story, The Raven’s Bride explores their lives and the enduring lifelong romance – and beyond.        

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Passion

Lenore Hart Why did I love this book?

Passion features major artists and poets from a long-past yet oddly familiar period: the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a time in some ways like our 1960s and 70s: free love, revolutionary acts, creative and sexual freedom, and advances in art, science, politics, and literature. The novel stars riveting, romantic, larger-than-life literary figures: Mary Wollstonecraft, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Augusta Byron. Why can’t I time travel and inhabit such bygone eras – for a while, anyhow! But a good historical novel is the next best thing.

If it’s full of intrigue, romance, fantastic settings, and the occasional steamy encounter in which characters shed cool-sounding period clothing, even, the author’s uncanny ability to convincingly inhabit the minds of these exciting people, in first-person voice, was impressive. Highest accolade: by story’s end I wished I’d written it myself!  

By Jude Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Passion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They were the Romantic generation, famous and infamous, and in their short, extraordinary lives, they left a legacy of glamorous and often shocking legend. In PASSION the interwoven lives and vivid personalities of Byron, Shelley and Keats are explored through the eyes of the women who knew and loved them - scandalously, intensely and sometimes tragically. From the salons of the Whig nobles and the penury and vitality of Grub Street, to the beauty and corruption of Venice and the carrion field of Waterloo, PASSION presents the Romantic generation in a new and dramatic light - actors in a stormy…

Book cover of Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Lenore Hart Why did I love this book?

I’m married to a novelist, so I like books about writing couples. That’s what drew me initially to this novel about Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and the American writer Fanny Osborne. She was 38, ten years his senior when they met in France in the 1870s; married with children but separated from a philandering husband back in California. Stevenson was single, sickly, immature, and eccentric, but Fanny eventually realized this was outweighed by his kindness and imagination. By turns comic and tragic, the story moves from out West to Europe and back again. Horan’s portrayal of the strengths and all the flaws and faults of the real-life people involved – even that unfaithful husband! -- never slights their humanity. Not an easy task; one I still struggle with in my own writing at times. This fascinating story by the author of Loving Frank taught me even as it entertained.         

By Nancy Horan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Under the Wide and Starry Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'FABULOUS' The Times
'FASCINATING' New York Times


At the age of thirty-five, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne leaves her philandering husband in San Francisco and sets sail for Belgium to study art, with her three children and nanny in tow. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her brood repair to a quiet artists' colony in France where she can recuperate. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who is instantly smitten with the earthy, independent, and opinionated belle Americaine.

A woman ahead of her time, Fanny does…

Book cover of Gertrude and Claudius

Lenore Hart Why did I love this book?

Everyone may love a hero, but let’s face it: They’re far more enthralled by a really good villain. An antagonist can be far more conflicted and complex, and thus more interesting, than a steady, predictable protagonist. And when it comes to infamous couples gone bad, two of the most famous are Gertrude and Claudius from Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. I was once part of a traveling Shakespeare company, years ago, and sometimes still act. So novels that feature characters from classic plays and either update or develop them more deeply fascinate me. Updike’s skilled, vivid take on Hamlet’s mother and scheming uncle-turned-stepfather does not disappoint. He makes them far more sympathetic and human than one would ever infer from the original play, and I was quickly immersed in the setting and era he so vividly recreates. But, fair warning: You may find yourself rooting for the opposition in this revisionist historical romance!   

By John Updike,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gertrude and Claudius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Using details of the ancient Scandinavian legends that were the inspiration for Hamlet, John Updike brings to life Gertrude's girlhood as the daughter of King Rorik, her arranged marriage to the man who becomes King Hamlet, and her middle-aged affair with her husband's younger brother. As only he could, Updike recasts a tale of medieval violence and presents the case for its central couple that Shakespeare only hinted at. Gertrude's warmth and lucidity, Claudius's soldierly yet peaceable powers of command are seen afresh against a background of fond intentions and familial dysfunction, on a stage darkened by the ominous shadow…

Book cover of Twisted Fate

Lenore Hart Why did I love this book?

I mentioned that I love a well-crafted update of a classic tale. Twisted Fate is Shakespeare’s The Tempest in modern dress, moved across the Atlantic to Staten Island with a brief stop in the Bahamas. I was hooked immediately when protagonist Laina, a bookshop owner grieving the death of her beloved brother, is a last-minute fill-in at her cousin’s Bridezilla wedding (wearing the gown of the absent pregnant bridesmaid, which keeps falling down). Laina over-imbibes at the reception and (briefly) even sets herself on fire. Hey, we’ve all been events progress, there’s fate, mistaken identity, misplaced love, and of course the requisite tempest. Only great character development can immerse me in a story. This author’s dry humor is a deft foil for that. Which isn’t always the case; comic romances can suffer from cliches and worn caricatures. Not this book; it’s a gem.    

By Dana Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Twisted Fate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A truly sympathetic main character, sparkling dialogue, and a deeper message about loving oneself first make this contemporary a must-read." - Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) “A funny and moving look at the way friendship, grief and destiny inform love . . . a comedy that makes you laugh and a drama that makes you cry. Supremely satisfying, the way a great romantic comedy makes you feel.” — Susan Cartsonis, producer of What Women Want and The Duff “Dana Miller’s charming romantic debut has the lightness of a meringue. But do not be deceived. Beneath the frothiness is a story of…

Book cover of Jane Eyre

Lenore Hart Why did I love this book?

I’ve always had an affinity for the underdog. Maybe that’s why I’m a Bronte girl instead of an Austen girl. I’ve read Jane Eyre repeatedly since junior high. Though not an orphan, I deeply identified with Jane (who, once you read of the author’s life, often seems to be Charlotte herself, thinly disguised) and her oppressive existence -- first as a scorned charity case and then poor governess. I love that the novel -- published in the early 1800s whose mores are now considered outdated -- in its own time was considered shocking. Condemned as depraved, “unwomanly,” and “anti-Christian” because its protagonist sought love on her own terms, rather than those demanded by the times. And when she finally returns (spoiler alert) to her boss and would-be lover, the formerly rude, obnoxious Mr. Rochester, it’s not until he’s been humbled and made dependent on her. Another favorite thing – a nice turn at the end. 

By Charlotte Brontë,

Why should I read it?

30 authors picked Jane Eyre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introduction and Notes by Dr Sally Minogue, Canterbury Christ Church University College.

Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth…

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Hatching Love

By Heidi Matonis,

Book cover of Hatching Love

Heidi Matonis Author Of Hatching Love

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Vegan Food entrepreneur Reader Animal lover

Heidi's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This is a story of how the human-animal bond can heal, connect and redeem us all – even possibly a very jaded ghost!

The story opens with Tom’s wife, Beth, receiving a shipment of duck eggs. She has watched a YouTube video and was charmed by the idea of hatching a duck egg using her body temperature. She believes, either consciously or subconsciously, that hatching an egg will cure her malaise and set her on the path to finding joy. However, when she mistakenly orders a dozen eggs, she must find other people, who like her, are looking for something. She renames her project a “happiness experiment” in order to lure others to join her and posts it on Facebook.

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