Gone With The Wind is a love story? I didn't sign up for this! I thought it was a Civil War novel.
Of course, I'm joking — my copy of the book actually says "the greatest love story of our time" on the cover. But reading Margaret Mitchell's tale of Scarlett and Rhett's romance has also gotten me scrambling to look back into my past conquests (books, I mean) and thinking about other love story novels I've read. Is there a pattern that explains why I've enjoyed the few love story novels I have?
Let's be honest, books that could even remotely be categorized as "love story" are practically anathema to many male readers. I know it's narrow-minded, ladies, but we don't judge you for not reading Fantasy Football Weekly and ESPN The Magazine. So cut us a little slack. Anyway, my perception of Gone With The Wind as a love story is the sole reason I've resisted reading it until recently (I'm about halfway through). But I'm glad I have, because it's really entertaining. (It's also amusing: Rhett uses words like "quixoticism" in conversations with the proud-to-be-a-dolt Scarlett. I keep wanting her to answer: "Like, totally...wait, what?")
Of course, Gone With the Wind is actually a Civil War novel, too — and I'm really enjoying the historical detail. And so, as un-earth-shattering as this may be, there's the key for getting dudes to read love stories: There has to be something else to attract our attention as well. As another example: Leon Uris's Trinity is one of my favorite novels of all time. Similar to Gone With the Wind, it's a historical novel (about the founding of modern Ireland) with a love story at its core.
The Time Traveler's Wife is, by all rights, the wheelhouse-definition of a love story. But when you consider what an awesome character Henry DeTamble is (Claire, too), the creativity and intricacy of the plot device, and the fact that Chicago screams off the page, you have a love story suitable for dudes. In fact, this novel is the one novel I can talk about with other dude friends at, say, a bar while drinking beer, and not get mercilessly made fun of. Many other fellas have read and enjoyed this novel, as well.
One last example is Joshua Henkin's slim, underrated novel titled Matrimony. Less a novel and more an engineering schematic of a marriage, the novel is so realistic, it gives readers that sense of voyeurism into others' lives that, when we're the most honest with ourselves, is one of the reasons we love reading fiction. So that realism was what kept me interested. And perhaps the fact that this "love story" was written by a male contributed to the fact that it felt like almost more of an academic study of marriage than a love story.
So, fellas, what are your favorite "male-friendly" love story novels? Ladies, can you suggest other love story novels we knuckle-dragging dudes might enjoy?