One of the greatest distinctions an author can have is to be considered one of the greatest in a specific genre in literature. Being considered a romance writer is a challenging position especially in the contemporary romantic literature where stories, settings and plots have become cliché and should be overcome with groundbreaking and conformity-defying stories of love, passion and relationships. Of special merit are the classical romance writers because of their courage to break through boundaries of the social norms of their times in the plots of their love stories and romance works. Here are the five classic romance writers I have deemed to make the cut as the best in the field of classic romance.
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Although readers and critics alike would find it hard to include Jane Austen as a romance author even because of her strong criticism of social class, particularly the British landed gentry or the wealthy landowners. Nevertheless, she has penned some of the best romantic fiction novels of the English literature, which include Pride and Prejudice (1813), Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Persuasion (1818). Unlike her contemporaries and other writers of her time, Austen’s novels challenged the norms of sentimental novels by combining love with societal elements, showing a great deal of emphasis and critique on her time’s social norms and strengthening of the female characters.
Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
Charlotte Brontë, the eldest of the Brontë sisters, is widely credited for the innovation of introducing her gothic melodrama in romantic fiction literature; Charlotte Brontë was a gifted writer who took romance to a whole new level with her all-time classic: Jane Eyre (1847). The novel tells the story of an orphan governess who makes the mistake of falling in love with her employer. The novel craftily interweaves themes of social class, religion, love and the early beginnings of feminism.
Anne Brontë (1820-1849)
The youngest of the Brontë sisters, Anne is not to be outdone when it comes to romantic fiction. Her debut novel Agnes Grey (1847) tackles the same issues as her older sister’s Jane Eyre regarding the uncertain position of being a governess for her rich landowner employers. Other themes discussed in this novel include oppression, empathy and social isolation.
Emily Brontë (1818-1848)
Emily Brontë is considered by readers to be perhaps the best writer of the Brontë sisters when she wrote the literary masterpiece, Wuthering Heights (1847). The book particularly challenged the Victorian norms in the 19th century about social class, gender, religion and morality. Although it was widely criticized at her time due to its portrayal of unhinged characters and cruelty, and open challenge to Victorian norms, it eventually gained acceptability and went onto become one of the most widely read and beloved love stories of all time.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Shakespeare is undoubtedly considered as one of the best multi-genre writers of all time. In the romance genre, he is known for his romance plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595), Merchant of Venice (1596), and Romeo and Juliet (1595), with last of the list perhaps the most well-known. Although notorious for injecting tragedy in most of his plays and poetry, his literary skill is so extraordinary that Romeo and Juliet became a byword for romance.
There may still be a lot of classic romance writers I failed to include in the list. Again, I am basing the list on the cultural and societal impact of the literary pieces these authors have written, as well as the content of the love or romance in these works. Nevertheless, most of us can agree that these classic literary works of romance will be here to stay for quite a long while and will not lose their appeal to the hearts of modern readers. For those young readers or millennials for that matter, I urge you to read these literary works and revitalize your intellectual side with these timeless classic romance pieces.