MAP: 100 Iconic Love Stories From Around the World

Posted 07 Feb 2019, by

Kimberly Mays

As Valentines Day is approaching we decided to create an epic literary map of the best books about love set in 100 countries around the world.

What better way to celebrate love than to highlight some of its great stories?

The list is full of books as varied as the love they describe: poetry, prose, and memoir. You will recognize many of the authors, but some will be new discoveries for even the most avid reader.

Some of the books are lighthearted romance novels, while others are monumental classics of world literature. Many of the stories end happily, but some do not. What they all share is a central theme of love.

Whether you are celebrating love this February or nursing a broken heart, there is a book on this list for you.

So sit back and travel the world with us through these 100 iconic love stories from around the world.

(You can find a short synopsis of each book below the map too!).

best love stories around the world

Afghanistan: The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi

 

Following the daily experience of the wife of a wounded soldier nursing him through a coma, The Patience Stone offers a glimpse into the thoughts, hopes, tragedies, and love of an otherwise silent woman. It is both tragic and moving and forces readers to confront their own expectations of love and marriage.

Algeria: What the Day Owes the Night by Yasmina Khadra

 

When Younes is sent to live with his uncle, everything changes: his name, his home, and his entire life. In the colonial Algerian town he now calls home, he forms lasting friendships and meets the girl that will steal his heart. Jonas and Emilie’s epic love story spans many of the harsh realities of life in Algeria in the 1950s as they grow up and face choices that will alter their futures forever.

Argentina: The Buenos Aires Broken Hearts Club by Jessica Morrison

 

When Cassie Moore loses her perfect job and perfect fiancé on the same day, she impulsively books herself a six-month trip to Buenos Aires…even though she doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. This lighthearted romp explores the joys of new love: both Cassie’s budding romances and her love for the beautiful city of Buenos Aires.

Australia: The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

 

One of the best-selling books in Australian history, The Thorn Birds is the sweeping saga of three generations of a single Australian family from 1915 to 1969. Running throughout the novel is the irresistible attraction between Ralph and Meggie and what their lifelong passion means for everyone they love.

Austria: A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson

 

A Song for Summer is the tale of a romance born in an early 1940s summer among the intoxicating gardens of an Austrian school of music, drama, and dance. The book is not just flowers and romance, however. Each character must choose where he or she stands as threat of war weighs heavily on Austria.

Azerbaijan: Ali and Nino by Kurban Said

 

Translated into over 30 languages, Ali and Nino is one of the great love stories of the last century. When Ali, a Muslim Azerbaijani, falls in love with Nino, a Christian Georgian princess, days before the Bolshevik Revolution, they fight to find a place in their separate worlds for their love.

Bangladesh: The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

 

When an electrical engineer from Rochester, New York and a woman from Dhaka, Bangladesh find love online, how will that love last when they finally meet? Their families and cultures collide in this book that alternates between Upstate New York and Dhaka Bangladesh and the lives of two very different people determined to make love work.

Belarus: An Unusual Christmas by Mona Risk

 

Mona Risk’s festive novel follows Dr. Jillian’s annual quest to run away from haunting Christmas memories by spending the holiday volunteering abroad. Everything is going to plan in Belarus until five children and a handsome doctor work their way into her heart for good.

Belgium: The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst

 

The Folding Star is an evocative, witty, and often-poetic look at love and obsession set against the backdrop of a young, disaffected man’s attempt to start over again in Flanders. The novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1994.

Brazil: Dom Casmurro by Joaquim María Machado de Assis

 

This masterpiece by a king of Brazilian realism references the author’s vast knowledge of Shakespeare in a look at how love and obsession can be twisted by jealousy and suspicion. Dom Casmurro is not the book to read this Valentine’s day if you want a sugar-coated version of love, but it is one of the most important books ever written in the Portuguese language.

Bulgaria: Mystical Emona: Soul’s Journey by Ronesa Aveela

 

Real life and legend collide when a widower and his young daughter move to the coast of the Black Sea and are drawn to the mysterious and not-entirely-normal Emona. An inexplicable bond pulls them together, but Stefan’s memories and Emona’s past threaten to drive them apart.

Burma: The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

 

When the British invade Burma in 1885, Rajkumar and Dolly’s lives are changed forever. One is a poor boy given unexpected opportunity; the other is a member of the royal court of the ousted Burmese queen. The Glass Palace is the story of how they found friendship and love in the midst of political unrest and uncertainty.

Cambodia: The Sea Wall by Marguerite Duras

 

In a grim retelling of the author’s adolescence on a rice plantation in present-day Cambodia, The Sea Wall recounts the battles of man against nature and personal desires against what is best for the family. The Sea Wall has twice been adapted to twice: in 2008 as “Un barrage contre le Pacifique” and in 1958 as “This Angry Age”.

Canada: The Postman’s Round by Denis Thériault

 

Bilodo, a lonely postman who lived alone in Montreal with only his pet fish for company, finds himself in the middle of an exchange of passionate poetry through the mail. When Bilodo witnesses the tragic death of one of the poets, he impulsively decides whether or not to keep writing the poems in the poet’s stead or to keep up to correspondence in the poet’s stead. This title is also translated as The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman.

Chile: Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

 

Isabel Allende is one of Chile’s premier authors today, and Eva Luna is just one of her literary masterpieces. The novel moves back and forth between parallel narratives with the promise to readers that the two protagonists, Eva Luna and Rolf Carlé will eventually meet and fall in love. As they get closer and closer to that promise, each experiences a varied and difficult life that reveals truths about political unrest in Central and South America in the 1950s-1980s.

China: Butterfly Lovers: A Tale of the Chinese Romeo and Juliet by Fan Dai

 

One of China’s Four Great Folktales, Butterfly Lovers is one of the great tragic romances of all world literature and has been adapted to music, film, and opera. This written translation tells the story of an intelligent and driven young woman, Zhu, who falls in love with Liang, while she is impersonating a boy to further her academic studies. Their friendship and later love has been compared to Romeo and Juliet because of its themes and its sweeping influence on Chinese literature and culture.

Colombia: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

 

Love in the Time of Cholera is another pillar of world literature from the Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez. The entire story follows the lifelong love between Florentino and Fermina, even through many years, affairs, and one marriage apart from each other.

Costa Rica: Lying in Your Arms by Leslie Kelly

 

This steamy beach read opens with a woman with a broken engagement and a man on his honeymoon alone after his fiancé ran off with his best friend. Both Madison and Leo went to Costa Rica for solitude, but instead, they found each other.

Cuba: Cecilia Valdés o la Loma del Angel by Cirilo Villaverde

 

Set in Cuba in the early 1830s, Cecilia Valdés o la Loma del Angel explores race relations and the power of class status in colonial Cuba through the loves, heartbreaks, and injustices faced by three very different Cubans: a poor black musician, a light-skinned mulatta, and the white heir to a slave-trade fortune.

Cyprus: Othello by William Shakespeare

 

Set in the (then) Venetian colony of Cyprus, Othello is one of William Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies full of love, jealousy, and betrayal. It was also a major inspiration for the Brazilian novel on this list, Dom Casmurro.

Czechia: The Riddle of Prague by Laura DeBruce

 

Part romance and part mystery, The Riddle of Prague follows Hana Silva through the streets of Prague as she attempts to solve an ancient riddle before anyone else also searching for the reward. That “anyone else” may turn out to be the handsome diplomat’s son that joins her on her quest.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett

 

The Catastrophist is a tale of failed love, but a love nonetheless. James Gillespie is driven to the Congo by his love for the Italian journalist, Inés. In the Congo, however, he discovers a crumbling political movement, fragile alliances, and the reality that he may never win Inés back.

Denmark: The Chronic Innocence by Klaus Rifbjerg

 

Janus and Tore are perfect for each other: they are beautiful, talented, mature, and destined for greatness. They are so perfect for each other that it’s simply a foregone conclusion that they will fall in love and take on the world together. The Chronic Innocence (also translated as Terminal Innocence) examines whether the charm and near mythology of their union is the stuff of triumph or tragedy.

Dominican Republic: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

 

Right there in the title, Díaz tells his readers what to expect: Oscar’s life will be brief, but wondrous. The story alternates between a Dominican-American community in the United States and the Dominican Republic as Oscar struggles to navigate growing up and finding love in a complicated world split between the past and the present.

Ecuador: Cumanda by Juan León Mera

 

The son of a rancher-turned-missionary forms a bond with a young native woman with a mysterious past, but she is promised to another. Cumand. Love, passion, and power fight for control in this saga set in deep in the Ecuadorian jungle.

Egypt: The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif

 

The Map of Love tells two love stories at once. The novel opens with the often-turbulent relationship between Anna, an American journalist, and an Egyptian-American conductor. When Anna travels to Egypt to track her grandparents’ lives there generations before, the author weaves their love story in with Anna’s current passion and pain.

El Salvador: Corazón by Yesika Salgado

 

Yesika Salgado is a rising star on the Hispanic American poetry scene, and Corazón is a poetry collection that makes it apparent why. Each poem centers on love, but it’s not just romantic love that is represented—her poetry evokes the love of a child for a parent, yearning for unfulfilled love, falling in (and then out) of love, and love for her home country of El Salvador.

England: Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

 

Although England is home to many famous works of romantic literature that would be at home on this list, Far From the Madding Crowd is a worthy choice for any Valentine’s reading list in part because a valentine plays such an important role in the story. Thomas Hardy’s tale of love, honor, and betrayal has been adapted to stage and film many times, most recently in 2015.

Ethiopia: Long Ago and Far Away by John Coyne

 

When a young woman dies in Ethiopia in 1973, the fallout from her death drives two lovers apart in their grief. Now, 50 years later and after loves, marriages, and fortunes have changed, they have reunited to confront the one person who knows what really happened that day so many years ago.

Finland: Spellbound: Stories of Women’s Magic Over Men by Joel Williams

Is there anything as captivating as a lovely woman? Not to the men in love with her, according to Joel Williams. This collection of short stories details all the ways women capture the hearts of men…and what lengths men go to in an effort to win over the women they adore.

France: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

 

As much a tale of revenge as it is of love, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most famous works of French literature of all time. When Edmund Dantès is imprisoned on false charges, he sets about forming a plan for escape and to right all the wrongs that put him in jail in the first place, including the loss of his first love.

Georgia: The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Shota Rustaveli

 

Dating back to the 12th century, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin by Shota Rustaveli is as important to Georgian language and literature as Shakespeare is to English. The poem itself is the tale of two brave heroes on a quest to find true love.

Germany: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

 

Michael Ende’s classic tale of adventure and fantasy, Die unendliche Geschichte, starts in a German bookstore before transporting the main character and the book’s readers to the troubled land of Fantastica. There, Bastian must realize his desire to be loved and show love to others if he ever wants to return home again.

Ghana: Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata Aidoo

 

Changes: A Love Story looks at love and marriage in modern Africa with a critical and witty eye. Esi leaves an unhappy marriage only to find herself in love with a married man and facing the prospect of a polygamous marriage and all the new problems her new life and love create as she combines tradition with her modern life and goals.

Greece: Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

 

Set against the backdrop of the Second World War on the island of Cephalonia, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin uses the tense situation the characters find themselves in to highlight different kinds of love: lust between young lovers, the love of a parent for a child, the love between patients and their caregivers, and the slow and steady love that develops between Cpt. Corelli and Pelagia.

Guatemala: The Long Night of White Chickens by Francisco Goldman

 

Growing up in Boston as the son of an aristocratic Guatemalan mother, Roger fell in love with the Guatemalan orphan, Flor, who was his family’s maid. When Flor is murdered many years later, Roger and his childhood friend Luis travel to Guatemala to search for the truth about her death and her life.

Haiti: Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

 

La isla bajo el mar (translated to Island Beneath the Sea) tells the story of a young Haitian slave and her travels with the household from Haiti to Cuba and finally to Louisiana. The book is both heartbreaking and beautiful and intersperses the tragedy with passions and love stories that span generations.

Honduras: Take No Prisoners by Cindy Gerard

 

Part romance and part suspense, Take No Prisoners is the second book in Cindy Gerard’s Black Ops Books series. It follows a revenge-seeking hero and a hesitant buy beautiful heroine on a quest through Honduras to rescue her brother before it’s too late.

Hong Kong: A Many-Splendored Thing by Han Suyin

 

The government, history, and culture of Hong Kong are noticeably separate from the rest of China. A Many-Splendoured Thing by Han Suyin captures much of that distinct feel and culture as it relates the love story of a British expatriate and a Chinese doctor. A Many-Splendoured Thing was adapted to film in 1955 and inspired the song, “Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing.”

Hungary: Budapest Romance by Rozsa Gaston

 

Set against the slow-paced and alluring backdrop of Budapest, Budapest Romance is a steamy read that pays homage to a beautiful city. After a chance meeting, Jan and Kati spend six dreamy days together before returning to their separate jobs and lives. Can their romance survive away from exotic Budapest?

Iceland: Reply to a Letter from Helga by Bergsveinn Birgisson

 

Many years after receiving a passionate love letter from Helga inviting him to leave his home and marriage to start fresh in the city, Bjarni is finally ready to reply. His response is measured, full of longing, and an honest look at what true love is after a life fully lived.

India: The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye

 

Raised as a native Indian child, Ash is actually the orphaned child of a British botanist traveling through India at the time of Ash’s birth and early childhood. Throughout the rest of his life, he must constantly grapple with the two worlds he inhabits, especially when he falls in love with an Indian princess betrothed to another.

Indonesia: An Anthology of Feelings by Ika Natassa

 

An Anthology of Feelings by Ika Natassa tells the stories of a love triangle set in modern Indonesia. Keara, Ruly, and Harris and all friends, but the bonds of love run deep in their relationships as well…just not always in the ways they might expect.

Iran: Horse’s Head by Jaafar Modarres-Sadeghi

 

The second book in a trilogy dealing with the experience of the Kurdish minority in Iran, Horse’s Head tells the love story between a married man and a young Kurdish girl. Because of the political and social themes running through the novel, it has been banned in Iran.

Ireland: P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern

 

This is the novel that inspired the 2007 film by the same name and follows Holly through her grief guided by a series of letters that arrive from Gerry 10 months after his death. Holly and Gerry’s love story unfolds throughout the novel in a touching way, even though readers know how it will end from the very beginning of the novel.

Israel: Valley of Strength by Shulamit Lapid

 

In an effort to save herself, her brother, and her infant child, Fania agrees to marry an Israeli widower and care for him and his children. Her life in the late 19th-century Jewish settlement is harsh, but she thrives there in spite of the challenges.

Italy: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

 

William Shakespeare’s story of the star-crossed lovers of Verona is quite possibly the most famous love story in the English language. Romeo and Juliet’s love is brief and passionate before they are torn apart by their feuding families.

Jamaica: My Darling You by Hazel Campbell

 

My Darling You is a collection of short stories dealing with love in its various forms. This brief collection can be read in one sitting or savored over many readings and includes everything from first and last loves to a Jamaican retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairytale.

Japan: Train Man by Hitori Nakano

 

When a shy boy defends a girl from a drunk on a train, his life changes forever. In an effort to figure out how to navigate this new relationship that he doesn’t fully understand, he turns to an online message board for advice on holding a conversation with a girl, choosing what to wear on a date, and more.

Kyrgyzstan: Jamila by Chingiz Aytmatov

 

A love affair between Daniyar and Jamila is told from the point of view of Jamila’s brother-in-law, a young Kyrgyz artist, while his brother is away from home fighting in the Second World War. Chingiz Aytmatov’s writing helped shape Kyrgyzstan’s national identity after gaining independence, and each of his works gives a glimpse into the history of the nation and psyche of its people.

Laos: Love Begins in Laos by Penelope Khounta

 

Penelope Khounta’s memoir, Love Begins in Laos, tells the true story of her experiences falling in love first with Laos itself and then with the introverted engineer she met there. Their life together was not always simple or easy, but their mutual love and respect bridged many cultural divides.

Lebanon: The Broken Wings by Kahlil Gibran

 

What would you do for love? What can you do? The Broken Wings by Kahlil Gibran sets out to answer those questions in this heartbreaking and poetic tale of honor, passion, and unrequited love.

Liberia: She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

 

She Would Be King reimagines Liberia’s first years as an independent nation with a touch of magical realism through the experiences of three characters united by a shared bond despite their differences. Her characters fall in love, grapple with unmet expectations, and fight to carve out a life for themselves in the midst of creating a new nation that can coexist with the native tribes surrounding it.

Madagascar: Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo

 

Love between a girl and her father’s slave is fraught with difficulty, and the love Fara and Tsito share is further complicated by violence sweeping across the country. Beyond the Rice Fields is the very first novel from Madagascar to be translated into English and beautifully captures both the complexity of nineteenth-century Madagascar and the way love struggles to take root between two people with very different lives.

Malaysia: Don’t Forget to Remember by Sonia Mael

 

Jeremy can’t help but be drawn to Arianna, a Malayan student studying in his home of Australia, even though his mother’s objection will eventually pull them apart. When they meet again in the newly-established Malaysia, will they be able to reignite that love?

Maldives: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

 

T.J. Callahan, a young cancer patient somewhere quickly approaching adulthood, and Anna Emerson, his English tutor for the summer, find themselves stranded on a deserted island with no immediate hope of rescue. While they learn to survive on the island, their trust and friendship blossoms into something deeper and much more confusing for them both.

Mexico: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

 

Even though Tita and Pedro love each other and want to be married, Tita’s mother and family tradition dictate that she cannot ever marry. Like Water for Chocolate is the story of their love and longing throughout their lives and is one of the most important works of modern Mexican literature.

Monaco: Monaco by Eric Robert Morse

 

Dash Bradford, an American businessman visiting Monaco, is drawn into the exotic world of auto racing when he saves the life of Margaux Tourangeau, the beautiful daughter of Monaco’s billionaire auto tycoon. With war on the horizon, the new couple’s love will be tested quickly and often.

Morocco: Amazir by Tom Gamble

 

Two men, in love with the same beautiful Frenchwoman, travel through Morocco and Northern Africa in the late 1930s. A budding romance grows throughout the novel as all three characters witness French colonial rule and the Berber opposition firsthand.

Netherlands: Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach

 

In Tulip Fever, a wealthy merchant attempts to capture his love for his wife by commissioning a portrait by a famous local artist. When an illicit affair develops between Sophia and the painter, however, love and loyalty are called into question against the famed tulip mania of 1630s Amsterdam.

New Zealand: Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge

 

Two sisters, as opposite as night and day, are in love with the same man. When he proposes marriage to Marianne in a letter, the matter seems to be settled. But when Marianne arrives in New Zealand, it becomes clear that he really meant to propose to her sister instead.

Nicaragua: The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War by Giocanda Belli

 

Although she was born and raised in upper-class comfort, Giocanda Belli could not ignore the social inequalities around her in Nicaragua. The Country Under My Skin is her memoir of her life, marriage, love affairs, and participation with the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

Nigeria: A Tailor-Made Romance by Oyindamola Affinnih

 

Things are going well on a first date between Tishe, an advertiser, and her date, Adnan. As soon as she finds out how far below her social class he really is, she vows there will never be a second date…until he kisses her goodnight and she realizes just how desperately she wants to see him again.

Norway: Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset

 

Gunnar’s Daughter is a tragic romance set in Norway and Iceland in the 1200s. The novel was written by the Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset and mirrors the themes, motifs, and prose style of classic Icelandic sagas.

Pakistan: Poetry of Shah by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai

Also known as Shah Jo Risalo, this collection of the famous Sufi poet. The heroines of his poems are known as the Seven Queens for their bravery and repeatedly chose love over oppression, no matter the cost.

Palestine: Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

 

Mornings in Jenin is the multigenerational saga of a Palestinian family’s forcible removal from the newly formed Israel in 1948 through to present day. Amal is at the heart of the family’s stories, and it is the love at the heart of her marriage and motherhood that link the stories together.

Peru: Aunt Julia and the Screenwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa

 

Partly based on the author’s own life, Aunt Julia and the Screenwriter details a love affair between a young man and a recent divorcee in 1950s Lima. The book was later adapted to film as Tune in Tomorrow, which was set in New Orleans instead of Peru.

Poland: Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz

 

Pan Tadeusz, also published as Sir Thaddeus, or the Last Lithuanian Foray, is considered by many to be the very last great epic poem in European literature. The book recounts a five-day love affair between young adults from feuding noble families in what is now present-day Poland.

Portugal: Baltasar and Blimunda by José Saramago

 

Set during the height of the Inquisition in Portugal, Baltasar and Blimunda is a novel that is both a satirical look at royalty and, at the same time, pays tribute to the wholehearted love between two 18th century Portuguese peasants. Tourists to Portugal will recognize the magnificent monastery in Mafra, which plays a large part of its own in the story.

Puerto Rico: True and False Romances by Ana Lydia Vega

 

True and False Romances is a collection of steamy short stories from the Puerto Rican author Ana Lydia Vega. Each story has a distinct style and examines love and romance from a different angle.

Romania: The Forbidden Forest by Mircea Eliade

 

Combining historical fiction with a touch of ancient myth, The Forbidden Forest follows Stefan Viziru on a spiritual quest that concludes amidst the mystery of Midsummer’s Eve. Throughout the novel, he is torn between love of his wife Iona and his mistress Ileana.

Russia: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

 

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak is the novel that has inspired television shows and the 1965 Oscar-winning film of the same name. The novel chronicles a young Russian doctor’s love for two women in the middle of the Russian revolution.

Saudi Arabia: Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

 

Lamees, Michelle, Gamrah, and Sadeem are four Saudi friends each looking for love in a country that has historically limited the movements and actions of women. Girls of Riyadh provides a little-seen glimpse of the private lives and romances of modern Saudi women.

Scotland: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

 

Claire Randall, a nurse in the Second World War on a second honeymoon with her husband, unexpectedly finds herself in 1743 Scotland. Throughout the eight-book series, Claire travels back and forth from the past and develops intense romances in each time.

Serbia: Migrations by Milos Tsernianski

 

Two brothers flee the Ottoman Empire in an attempt to find peace and freedom. Accompanying them on their journey is one woman—wife to one brother and mistress to the other. Migrations is part romance, part war narrative, part examination of a time in Serbian history that has shaped so many individual lives today.

Sierra Leon: The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

 

A British psychologist unearths the stories of two very different men, one a young up-and-coming surgeon and the other a dying old man. As the stories unfold, it becomes apparent that one incredible woman is at the heart of both men’s lives and loves.

Singapore: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

 

Loosely based on the author’s own childhood, Crazy Rich Asians centers on the fallout when the heir to one of Singapore’s largest fortunes brings his American girlfriend home to meet his parents right before Singapore’s wedding of the year. Things do not go well at first, and Nick spends the rest of the trip trying to win Rachel back.

Somalia: Ignorance is the Enemy of Love by Faarax M. J. Cawl

 

Ignorance is the Enemy of Love is the story of an ill-fated love between a Somali soldier and a young girl. Cawrala impulsively writes Calimaax a love letter after he saves her during a shipwreck, but Calimaax can’t read. By the time he overcomes his ignorance and learns to read, however, will it be too late for their love?

South Africa: The Elevator Kiss by Amina Thula

 

When Sindi and Edward meet—and kiss—under the mistletoe in an elevator, they begin a tentative romance. Edward wants more, but Sindi is still getting over a messy breakup. Her determination to take things slowly gets thrown out the window, however, when they end up working long hours together on an important project.

South Korea: No Flower Blooms Without Wavering by Jong-Hwan Do

 

No Flower Blooms Without Wavering is a poignant collection of poems by one of South Korea’s most beloved poets translated for English audiences. Do’s poetry is beautiful and bittersweet, especially when he writes about losing his wife to illness.

Spain: The Seamstress by Maria Dueñas

 

After a heartbreaking end to a whirlwind love affair, Siri Quiroga must start again as a new woman. With determination and effort, she makes a name for herself as the premier seamstress to Spain’s elite. Her position eventually thrusts her into espionage and intrigue as the Spanish Civil War and Second World War rage on.

Sri Lanka: The Road from Elephant Pass by Nihal De Silva

 

Wasantha and Kamala have almost nothing in common—one is a captain in the Sri Lanka Army; the other is a member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. After an ambush leaves them alone in the jungle as the only survivors, they must work together to survive their 12-day journey home. Along the way, their distrust turns to cooperation and later, love.

Sudan: Lyrics Alley by Leila Abouela

 

In the days leading up to Sudan’s independence from Egypt and Britain, one family must come face to face with the changes ahead of their world. The generational saga gives a glimpse into a fascinating period of Sudanese history through the love stories of Sonya and Nur, who must face the result of a tragic accident, and Mahmoud’s relationship with his two very different wives.

Sweden: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

 

The inspiration for two films of the same name, A Man Called Ove tells two intertwining love stories. First, the story of Ove’s undying love for his late wife, which is told through Ove’s memories as he reflects on their life together. Second, the love of a neighborhood that comes together to protect one of their own when it matters most.

Switzerland: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Tender is the Night is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final novel published in his lifetime and is considered one of his finest works. It follows the love, lives, and affairs of the glamorous Dick and Nicole Diver through France and later Switzerland as their marriage slowly unravels.

Syria: The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami

 

Covering over 100 years of Syrian history and tribal feuding, The Dark Side of Love is a tragic love story between members of opposing tribes. The story is told primarily through vignettes that shine light on the history of the feud, the passion of the lovers, and the beautiful city of Damascus that is the backdrop for it all.

Taiwan: Heaven Lake by John Dalton

 

When John sets foot in Taiwan on a volunteer mission, he has no idea how his life will change. After losing his job and his place in his church community, he agrees to travel to China and marry a girl he’s never met so she can travel to Taiwan and marry the Taiwanese man orchestrating the entire plan. The trip is more complicated than John expected, in large part due to his emerging feelings for his pseudo bride.

Tanzania: The African Queen by C. S. Forester

 

Before the Oscar-winning film, there was the adventurous romance novel of the same name. A straight-laced English missionary and a disreputable man with a questionable past find unlikely love traveling through Tanzania by boat in an effort to thwart the Germans stationed in Central Africa.

Thailand: Four Reigns by Kukrit Pramoj

 

Phloi is ten years old when she goes to live in the palace under the reign of Rama V. The novel follows her life in the palace through the reign of four kings until her death under the rule of Rama VIII. Phloi’s love and life provide the lens by which readers experience the changes Thailand experienced in the early 20th century.

Trinidad & Tobago: The Yard by Aliyyah Eniath

 

Not long after Behrooz is adopted into a devout Muslim family, he falls in love with his guardian’s daughter Maya. Ashamed and afraid of their bond, Maya runs away to England, leaving Behrooz behind to rebuild his life with another. When Maya returns home many years later, however, what will be left of their love? Is there room in Behrooz’s heart and life for her after all these years?

Turkey: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

 

Ella Rubenstein is stuck in a loveless and stifling marriage when she takes a job as a literary agent’s reader. She is completely swept into the first book about a thirteenth-century poet named Rumi and begins communicating with the author over email. Both stories—Ella’s and Rumi’s—ask the same question: What is the price of true passion and love?

United Arab Emirates: Forever—A Love Saga by Rajiv Shah

 

When a college romance is cut short by Karishma’s suspicious death, Rahul and Susan set out to find out the truth about what really happened. Each step of the investigation leaves Rahul and Susan with more questions than answers, however, especially about the feelings growing between them.

Uganda: Cranes Crest at Sunset by Dilman Dila

 

Kabita takes a job serving a rural village in Uganda in an effort to escape an arranged marriage waiting for her back home in Nepal. Instead of the solitary escape she was looking for, she finds herself falling in love with a handsome but humble herdsman, forcing her to decide what she is willing to give up for love

Ukraine: Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky

 

Ivan and Marichka are madly in love, in spite of the ongoing feud between their families. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and the tale of ill-fated love blends tragic romance with the culture, superstitions, and traditions of Hutsul families in Ukraine’s past.

United States of America: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

 

Gone with the Wind recounts the experiences of the passionate and determined Scarlett O’Hara as she struggles to preserve her family’s land and lives during the American Civil War. Margaret Mitchell’s masterpiece is both a love story between Scarlett and Rhett and a love letter to the American South that disappeared after the war.

Uruguay: La Tregua by Mario Benedetti

 

Also published under the title The Truce, La Tregua opens with the monotonous existence of a defeated widower, Martin. Everything about Martin’s life changes when a vibrant young woman starts working at Martin’s office, breathing life into everything around him that had been so dull before her arrival.

Venezuela: Doña Barbara by Rómulo Gallegos

 

Doña Barbara by Rómulo Gallegos tells the tale of a tyrannical woman known as Doña Barbara who uses witchcraft and seduction to maintain control over a rural portion of Venezuela. The protagonist, Santos Luzardo, sets out to defeat Doña Barbara by any means necessary, including seducing the seductress herself.

Vietnam: The Lover by Marguerite Duras

 

This autobiographical novel relates a secret affair between a young French woman and a Chinese-Vietnamese man in 1930s Vietnam. Another version of the story, The North China Lover, was released later with a slightly different story structure, though the premise and details remain the same.

Virgin Islands: Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

 

When the Bradshaw siblings are orphaned by a shipwreck off the coast of the Virgin Islands, they must use their unique talents to survive, setting off a chain of events that will shape their family for decades to come. Land of Love and Drowning is a sweeping family epic that follows the Bradshaw family through generations of fortune changes, love affairs, and sometimes mystical experiences.

Wales: The Proposal by Margaret Evans Porter

 

Sophie Pinnock, a landscape designer, is at odds with the new Earl of Bevington over how to revitalize the castle gardens. He wants to tear everything down and start fresh, but she has very private reasons for wanting the gardens restored rather than replaced. In the midst of their professional disagreement, an intense attraction is growing, threatening to expose everything Sophie is determined to keep hidden.

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