Love is a universal feeling that knows no boundaries, and yet society has always tried to dictate who we can and cannot love. From race and class to gender and sexuality, the restrictions placed on love have created a society where some people are deemed unworthy of love. However, romance novels have been challenging these societal norms for centuries, telling stories of forbidden love that show us that love is worth fighting for, no matter what the odds.
Here are the top 10 best romance novels that have challenged society’s norms:
1. “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare
“Romeo and Juliet” is the quintessential forbidden love story that has stood the test of time. Set in Verona, Italy, the play tells the story of two young lovers from feuding families who fall in love and ultimately meet their tragic end. Despite the fact that their families forbid their love, Romeo and Juliet are willing to risk everything for each other.
2. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
“Wuthering Heights” is a Gothic novel that explores the destructive power of love. The novel tells the story of Heathcliff, an orphan who falls in love with his adopted sister, Catherine. Despite their deep love for each other, their class differences and societal expectations make their relationship impossible.
3. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
“The Color Purple” is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that tells the story of Celie, a young black woman living in rural Georgia in the early 20th century. The novel explores themes of racism, sexism, and abuse, but also love and redemption. Celie’s relationship with her sister’s lover, Shug Avery, challenges societal norms of both race and sexuality.
4. “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx
“Brokeback Mountain” is a short story that explores the forbidden love between two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. Set in the 1960s, the story takes place in rural Wyoming and explores the societal pressures that force Ennis and Jack to keep their love a secret.
5. “The Bridges of Madison County” by Robert James Waller
“The Bridges of Madison County” is a novel that tells the story of a brief but intense love affair between a National Geographic photographer and a lonely housewife in rural Iowa. The novel challenges societal norms of both class and age, as the photographer is a worldly, sophisticated man, and the housewife is a married mother of two.
6. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
“The Time Traveler’s Wife” is a novel that tells the story of Henry, a man with a rare genetic disorder that causes him to time-travel unpredictably, and his wife, Clare. The novel challenges societal norms of time and space, as Henry and Clare’s love transcends these constraints.
7. “Call Me By Your Name” by Andre Aciman
“Call Me By Your Name” is a novel that tells the story of the forbidden love between 17-year-old Elio and his father’s 24-year-old research assistant, Oliver, who is staying with the family in Italy for the summer. The novel challenges societal norms of both age and sexuality, as Elio and Oliver’s love is both passionate and unconventional.
8. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
“The Fault in Our Stars” is a novel that tells the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a teenage girl with terminal cancer, who falls in love with Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer patient she meets at a support group. The novel challenges societal norms of illness, death, and disability by portraying its young protagonists as fully-formed individuals capable of love and intimacy, despite their illnesses.
9. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
“Pride and Prejudice” is a classic novel that challenges societal norms of gender roles and class. The novel tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet, a strong-willed woman who refuses to conform to the expectations of her society. Elizabeth’s love interest, Mr. Darcy, challenges these norms as well, as he defies his class and societal expectations to pursue his love for Elizabeth.
10. “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
“Outlander” is a novel that challenges societal norms of time, space, and gender roles. The novel tells the story of Claire Randall, a World War II nurse who is transported back in time to 18th-century Scotland. There, she falls in love with Jamie Fraser, a Scottish warrior. The novel explores themes of love, loyalty, and the power of fate.
These 10 romance novels challenge society’s norms by telling stories of love that transcend societal restrictions. From Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet” to Gabaldon’s epic “Outlander,” these stories remind us that love is worth fighting for, no matter the obstacles. By pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable in society, these novels inspire us to question and challenge societal norms in our own lives.
In a world where love is often restricted by societal norms, these novels remind us that love is a force that cannot be contained. They show us that love can triumph over class, age, gender, and even time and space. These novels inspire us to fight for love and to believe that, no matter the odds, true love is always worth pursuing.