Books are our wonderful companions. They can transport us into different worlds and give us a great escape from the monotony of life. But more than anything, they give us life lessons that can save us from a lot of heartbreak and sadness. However, things are quite different when it comes to the theme of love. The books still manage to give us an escape but the mushy parts and the picture-perfect endings are so not real. Moreover, they’re so repetitive that we’re now just immune to them.

So, let’s be honest, we’re tired of reading about love. In fact, everything attached to it, from the tummy full of butterflies to the pain of heartbreak, has just become nauseating. Readers now want something different. We want to read stories where love is real and complex, like it is supposed to be.

Here are 15 novels that you must pick up if you want to read a love story but cannot deal with mushy at all:

1. Love in the Time of Cholera

A novel by Gabriel García Márquez, you can trust it to take you on a roller coaster of emotions. Florentino and Fermina are two youngsters in love. They’re the old school lovers who exchange love letters and sweet words and carry on their affair, away from the judgemental eyes of the society. However, the problem arises when Fermina’s father finds out about their affair and moves her to another city. 

Time goes by and Fermina ends up marrying a doctor. Florentino is busy having multiple affairs. Old age strikes them both and after Fermina’s husband dies, the two ex-lovers come face to face again. The question is, will they start seeing each other again in old age or will they, once again, have to give each other up?

2. Dear John

John Tyree, an army man, bumps into Savannah while he is home on leave. The two hit it off immediately and after a couple of dates, decide that they love each other. What the two of them have is something we all wish for, till John has to leave. They keep exchanging letters as often as they can but soon, Savannah decides to marry someone else. 

This novel will teach you that love isn’t the happily ever after bullshit we’re taught it is. It is complicated and isn’t for everyone.

3. Memoirs of a Geisha

Chiyo is sold to a geisha house because of the poverty her parents are suffering from. Brought from a village to a geisha neighbourhood, Chiyo hates every single day of her life. She is a young child who just wants to return to her family. One day, while she is crying in the marketplace, a man chances upon her. He speaks to her kindly and gives her some money and a handkerchief. That’s when Chiyo, even at her tender age, decides to become a geisha just so she can be in his company again. 

This is the kind of love that drives Chiyo to succeed as a geisha. But will she be able to meet that man again?

4. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Bryn Greenwood takes you on a journey that will make you look at love in a whole new different way. Wavy is only 5 when she’s introduced in the novel. However, she has lived a life much beyond her years. She’s seen her rude, drug addict mother going to jail and her drug-dealer father neglecting her. There’s no one to take care of her except for her father’s low-level employee Kellen. By the time Wavy turns 13, Kellen and her embark on a sexual relationship. 

But the novel makes you empathise with the characters in a very matter-of-fact way. How do you blame an affection-starved girl to not reach out for the love she’s getting? This is a book that will put your concept of love under the scanner we call dilemma.

5. Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult is set in a high-school but is far away from a high-school romance. Instead, the book will teach you that love isn’t just butterflies in the stomach. Instead, love is built on long-term affection and care. 

Peter, a bullied high-school student, is in love with his best friend Josie who now ignores him in order to become the popular kid. Peter is troubled by the bullying and the lack of friendship on Josie’s part. However, his mental stage declines rapidly and one fine day, he goes on a shooting spree in the school. One of the victims is Josie’s boyfriend and the prime bully. Josie does come to court but will she be able to stand up for her friend this time around?

6. Gone with the Wind

A classic novel that shows how twisted love can really be. Don’t expect mushy love like holding hands or butterflies in the tummy from this one because this is all about a love triangle. Scarlett O’Hara is a woman who doesn’t fit the time she’s born in. She marries Charles at a young age and is left a widow just a few months into her marriage. But she finds herself charming two men: Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler. Who will she choose in the end?

7. Sputnik Sweetheart

This book is special in the way it portrays same-sex love, something that we don’t see a lot of novels doing. Sumire, a young writer, has only one friend: the male friend referred to as ‘K’. While he loves her, she doesn’t think of him in a romantic sense. She, instead, feels attracted to a lady called Miu. 

It is the first time in her life that Sumire feels something romantic for someone and hence, when Miu asks Sumire to work for her, she packs her bags. She is travelling all over Europe and sending letters to K, till he gets an alarming call from Miu. You need to read this tale of love and mystery.

8. Goodbye For Now

Contrary to its sappy title, the book deals with very dark subjects. It is the novel that we ‘modern’ people need to read. We’ve all tried online dating, haven’t we? The protagonist, Sam, frustrated with his single life, also tries it. He ends up on a date with a colleague. 

The problem starts when Sam designs an online version of Meredith’s dead grandmother whom she dearly loved and now, misses. Will love mixed with technology prove fatal?

9. Devdas

A tale imbued with tragedy, something very far from what love looks like, Devdas is a read that will leave you sad. Devdas and Paro are childhood friends but they’re separated when Devdas leaves for a foreign land for higher studies. 

When he returns, Paro’s mother proposes marriage to Devdas’ family. However, their class difference doesn’t allow it. While Paro ends up marrying a rich widower, Devdas slips into alcoholism. Chandramukhi, the prostitute, never leaves his side. So, whose love was true love?

10. Me Before You

Louisa is a caring girl who needs a job and that’s when she finds the opportunity to be a caregiver to a young man, Will, who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident. The job starts on a rocky note because Will is extremely frustrated with his condition. However, over time, the caregiver and the patient form a nice bond. 

Louisa is just getting used to everything by the time he gets to know that Will wants to opt for assisted suicide due to his paralysis. But is Will going to drop his plans for euthanasia when he finds love?

11. Lolita

This is the novel that will tell you all about the creepy side of love. In the beginning, Humbert is a teenager who falls in love with a girl his age. However, after her death, he is forever stuck in that phase which messes with his head. He keeps growing older but his infatuation for girls aged 9-14 stays. Soon, he rents an apartment from a woman who has a daughter who is just 12. Her name is Dolores but he privately refers to her as Lolita. He has sexual feelings for her and often even contemplates killing her mother. 

So, does his mind make him do bad things or can he refrain?

12. High Fidelity

If you’ve recently had a break up, just pick this book up. Rob, the protagonist, is your basic guy till his girlfriend leaves him for another man. That’s when he decides to do something. No, he doesn’t go on a journey of self-discovery. In fact, he decides to analyse his past relationships so that he can be a better person. His journey is more philosophical. He doesn’t decide to cut his hair or change his profession only because his girlfriend left him. In fact, instead of rebounds, he looks within for introspection. 

Maybe this time, he’ll fall in love with himself?

13. The Rosie Project

Don is a man of science and is a genetic scientist. Everything for him is scientific and calculated. With that thought process, he decides he should start finding a wife. He calls it the ‘Wife Project’ and meets a lot of women in his search. He keeps rejecting women based on their habits and personalities. And then he meets Rosie, a bartender, he also eliminates her. 

However, Rosie is searching for her father and Don’s DNA testing skills can really help her out. After a lot of eliminations, again, Don and Rosie are only left with the option of travelling to New York. But is this search Don’s professional self or is he falling for her?

14. Addition

The book is about Grace, a woman who is obsessed with numbers. She has a mental illness, a life-consuming obsession that makes her want to surround herself with numbers. Hence, she never really thinks about falling in love. She feels no one will accept her. Till she meets Seamus who is exceptionally accepting and fantastic in the beginning. 

However, after a point, he wants her to take psychological help. But is it out of support or is he planning on leaving the struggling woman? A comic take on a serious issue like mental health, this one is all about coping with what life throws at you.

15. The Time Traveler’s Wife

Travelling in time seems like the coolest concept, except that in this novel, it is a genetic disorder and places the protagonist at random places, at random times. His wife is the one who has to deal with her husband’s random disappearances and dangerous adventures. However, even with this major problem, they try to make their marriage work. 

But with such a huge hurdle, will it actually work? If we look at it all as a metaphor, we realise how tough it is to keep love in a marriage alive.

It isn’t so bad to read about love every once in a while, is it?

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