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Romantic Reads

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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach-an "outlander"-in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743. Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell: As relevant now as when it was first published, Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South skillfully weaves a compelling love story into a clash between the pursuit of profit and humanitarian ideals. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction by Patricia Ingham. When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the North of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South Gaskell skilfully fused individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale created one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison: Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history. With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably together.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes: Paris, 1916. Sophie Lefèvre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Édouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, Sophie is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel. From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie's portrait-painted by her artist husband-a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision. Almost a century later, Sophie's portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death. After a chance encounter reveals the portrait's true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history and Liv's world is turned upside all over again.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway-a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love-a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan: Mainstream science presents a dismal view of human sexuality based on mutual exploitation: women use sex to get men's resources, while men accrue wealth to "buy" a mate. Yet the true prehistory of our species presents a less conniving, if more ribald, story of human sexual nature. Rather than nuclear families built around monogamous couples, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá argue that humans evolved in interdependent, promiscuous groups. Based on their paradigm-busting interdisciplinary approach, Sex at Dawn weaves together compelling evidence from anthropology, primatology, anatomy, psychology, and psycho-sexuality to reframe our understanding of lust, monogamy and family. Shocking, enlightening, and ultimately inspiring, Sex at Dawn features anecdotes that illuminate "normal" sexuality in obscure societies from the African bush to the jungles of the Amazon to the foothills of the Himalayas. Ryan and Jethá show how human beings everywhere confront familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways.

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan: How does one talk about love? Is it even possible to describe something at once utterly mundane and wholly transcendent, that has the power to consume our lives completely, while making us feel part of something infinitely larger than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this age-old problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary constructs the story of a relationship as a dictionary. Through these sharp entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of coupledom, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss: Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But it wasn't always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book…Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of "extraordinary depth and beauty" (Newsday).

Just Kids by Patti Smith: Patti Smith's evocative, honest, and moving coming-of-age story of her extraordinary relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Just Kids is the story of two innocents who shed sheltered lives and braved the city in search of art and freedom. In each other, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith found kindred spirits and pursued their musical dreams, from Brooklyn to the Chelsea Hotel into the world. Each would eventually reach the pinnacle of artistic achievement, and their vow to always care for one another survived painful trials and separations. Mapplethorpe's unforgettable portrait of Smith for the cover of Horses forever fused their indelible mark on our culture. Intimate and broadly evocative of New York in the early '70s, Smith's first work of narrative nonfiction-part romance, part elegy-is finally about friendship in the truest sense, and the artist's calling.

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