The best books that capture France's most epic love stories

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a French-American writer with a passion for young adult stories and flawed female characters. Born and raised in France in a household without a TV, I spent my entire childhood reading avidly, which in turn led me to study Literature and Film. In fact, most of my life, I have been inspired by novels that offer windows into new worlds that open up possibilities. Some of the novels from the list below feature some of my favorite characters, and provide insights into other worlds and other times. 


I wrote...

The Demon King’s Interpreter

By Astrid Carlen-Helmer,

Book cover of The Demon King’s Interpreter

What is my book about?

Tatiana is a half-demon/half-human, orphaned by a war between the Demon and Human kingdoms. Adopted by an abusive human Duke, Tatiana goes on to work for him as an interpreter, using her unique skill: she can speak Shadowtongue, the language of demons, unspeakable by Humans. However, after her adoptive father threatens her life, Tatiana flees to the Demon kingdom. There, she asks the Demon King for sanctuary, offering her strategic knowledge of the Human kingdom in exchange. The cold-hearted king is intrigued by the half-demon woman’s offer and accepts, not expecting that she will also work her way into his heart. The Demon King’s Interpreter is about an audacious woman’s journey as she rediscovers herself, and strives to bridge the gap between her cultures. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dangerous Liaisons

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did I love this book?

In a pair of sumptuous drawing rooms, one in a Parisian mansion, the other in a chateau on a luxurious estate, two aristocrats are very bored. Through a collection of letters, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, former lovers, recount to each other how they pass the time: by using seduction as a weapon in dangerous games.

A French classic, this novel depicts the French aristocracy’s decadence, shortly before the French Revolution. It is also fascinating in its portrayal of a deeply flawed and complex female protagonist, who refuses to accept her place in the society of that time, where she is “doomed to silence and inaction”.

By Pierre Choderlos De Laclos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a frightening and ultimately scathing portrait of a decadent society that was first published in 1782, only a few years before the French Revolution. At its centre are two aristocrats who were once lovers and who now play a complex game of manipulation and seduction to liven up their dreary lives. The Vicomte de Valmont is tasked by the Marquise de Merteuil with seducing an innocent convent girl, but he is equally focused on a righteous married woman. The results, however, turn out to be more dire and fatal than Merteuil and Valmont could have imagined…


Book cover of The Lady of the Camellias

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did I love this book?

Set in the mid-19th century, in Paris, this novel follows Armand Duval, a young bourgeois, as he recounts his passion for the beautiful Marguerite Gautier, a “demi-mondaine” and courtesan. Rebelling against the social conventions of the time, Armand pursues his "unseemly" love affair, and unsurprisingly, pays the price for his defiance.

I love this novel for how richly it describes France’s society at the time. Inspired by the love affairs of Alexandre Dumas fils, with Marie Duplessis, a courtesan, The Lady of the Camellias also serves as the basis for Baz Luhrman’s film Moulin Rouge. 

By Alexandre Dumas fils, Liesl Schillinger (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lady of the Camellias as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The landmark novel that inspired both Verdi's opera La Traviata and the Oscar-winning musical Moulin Rouge!, in a sparkling new translation.

One of the greatest love stories of all time, The Lady of the Camellias recounts the history of Marguerite Gautier, the most beautiful, brazen, and expensive courtesan in all of Paris. Known to all as 'the Lady of the Camellias' because she is never seen without her favourite flowers, she leads a glittering life of endless parties and aristocratic balls, with the richest men in France flocking to her boudoir to lay their fortunes at her feet. But despite…


Book cover of Madame Bovary

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did I love this book?

Madame Bovary is the story of a woman who endlessly struggles to escape the banalities of her provincial life.

This novel makes you feel like you’re in the head of its main characters: first Charles Bovary, then Emma, his second wife and the novel’s eponymous hero. It is so realistic that upon its release, the author was taken to court for public offense against morality.

Still very modern, Emma’s drama is, to me, the discrepancy between illusions and reality. Her quest for happiness outside of her own condition and her inability to be satisfied with what she has are themes that, I believe, still resonate today.

By Gustave Flaubert, Geoffrey Wall (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Madame Bovary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A masterpiece' Julian Barnes

Flaubert's erotically charged and psychologically acute portrayal of a married woman's affair caused a moral outcry on its publication in 1857. Its heroine, Emma Bovary, is stifled by provincial life as the wife of a doctor. An ardent devourer of sentimental novels, she seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment, and when real life continues to fail to live up to her romantic expectations, the consequences are devastating. It was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for…


Book cover of Hunting and Gathering

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did I love this book?

While not entirely about romantic love, Hunting and Gathering was such a huge success when it came out in France, it was hard not to include it on my list.

Set in modern-day Paris, and spanning a year, the story follows four people each struggling with their own demons, who end up sharing a roof, and who, despite their differences, learn to lean on each other. This is a truly refreshing story about love, how vast, unexpected, and healing it can be. A feel-good read! 

By Anna Gavalda,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Camille is doing her best to disappear. She barely eats, works at night as a cleaner and lives in a tiny attic room. Downstairs in a beautiful, ornate apartment, lives Philibert Marquet de la Durbelliere, a shy, erudite, upper-class man with an unlikely flatmate in the shape of the foul-mouthed but talented chef, Franck. One freezing evening Philibert overcomes his excruciating reitcence to rescue Camille, unconscious, from her garret and bring her into his home.

As she recovers Camille learns more about Philibert; about Franck and his guilt for his beloved but fragile grandmother Paulette, who is all he has…


Book cover of A Winter's Promise

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did I love this book?

Beneath her shabby scarf and thick glasses, Ophelia hides singular gifts: she can read the past of objects, and walk through mirrors, into other worlds.

Unexpectedly betrothed to an icy foreigner, Thorn, Ophelia is torn from her peaceful home and must learn to survive in a new place, cold and cruel. She quickly comes to realize that she is at the center of a conspiracy that could threaten the entire universe.

This fantasy novel is richly layered and incredibly gripping. But while the plot and world are brilliantly crafted, what truly stuck with me is the “will they, won’t they” love story at its core, so emotional you won’t be able to put the book down. 

By Christelle Dabos, Hildegarde Serle (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Winter's Promise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Amazon Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book of 2018

One of Entertainment Weekly's 10 Best YA Books of 2018

One of Publishers Weekly's Best YA Book of the Year

A National Indie Bestseller

Longlisted for Irish YA prize Great Reads Award

Lose yourself in the fantastic world of the arks and in the company of unforgettable characters in this French runaway hit, Christelle Dabos’ The Mirror Visitor quartet.

Plain-spoken, headstrong Ophelia cares little about appearances. Her ability to read the past of objects is unmatched in all of Anima and, what’s more, she possesses the ability to travel through mirrors, a skill passed…


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By Mari Sangiovanni,

Book cover of Liddy-Jean Marketing Queen and the Matchmaking Scheme

Mari Sangiovanni

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Introducing the irrepressible Liddy-Jean Carpenter, a young woman who has learning disabilities but also has a genius plan.

While Liddy-Jean spends her days doing minor office tasks with nobody paying attention, she sees how badly the wand-waving big boss treats the Marketing Department worker bees. So, she takes lots of notes for a business book to teach bosses to be better. Liddy-Jean likes office-mate Rose and Rose’s new friend Jenny, but she doesn’t like Rose’s creepy boyfriend. So how can she save Rose?

Liddy-Jean knows with certainty that love is love, and she concludes that Rose should be with Jenny, bosses should do better, and everybody needs the services of Liddy-Jean, Marketing Queen.

Liddy-Jean Marketing Queen and the Matchmaking Scheme

By Mari Sangiovanni,

What is this book about?

Novelist and filmmaker Mari SanGiovanni introduces readers to the irrepressible Liddy-Jean Carpenter, a matchmaker with special talents who will charm readers with her wit, wisdom, and sensibilities in this warm, enchanting love-is-love office romance.

Liddy-Jean Carpenter has learning disabilities. But she also has a surprisingly genius plan.

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While compiling pages of bad behavior notes, she finds she…


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