Originally L’Amant in French, but translated into English for our reading pleasure, The Lover tells of the affair between a French teenager and her Chinese lover in Saigon. Both are outcasts for different reasons of race and class in the twilight years of France’s colonial presence. And it all plays out in their wildly passionate love story.
Lady Chatterley's Lover
D. H. Lawrence
Nothing says “sexy but smart” like a literary masterpiece that was initially banned in the U.K. and the U.S. as pornorgraphic. Rest assured it was “pornographic” only 1928’s standards as it narrates the sexual awakening of an aristocratic woman lost in a loveless marriage through an affair with her estate’s groundskeeper.
The Age of Innocence
The engaged Newland Archer and the mysterious divorcée Countess Ellen Olenska are torn between duty and passion in New York City’s Golden Age. The two fall madly in love but manage to maintain some restraint, proving that just a kiss on the wrist can have you fanning yourself if done with the right amount of sexual tension.
A sexy mystery man rolls into town and women are falling into a trance at his very presence, losing control and giving themselves to him completely. Then he meets one who is possibly his reborn soulmate who had killed herself years ago when she incorrectly thought he was dead? Some say horror? I say passion.
The Black Dahlia
Narrator Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert is a boxer-turned-cop with a heart of gold and a tough hand with the bad guys but a soft touch with the ladies who fall into his protective arms while he’s trying to solve the gruesome murder of a girl-about-town in post WWII Los Angeles.
Edna Pointillier sabotages her stifling marriage through infidelity in late-19th century New Orleans and Gulf Coast Louisiana. But husband and lover only play supporting roles in this one woman show. “The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude.”
Rules of Civility
Set in 1938 New York City, 25-year-old Katy Kontent goes from the Wall Street Secretarial Pool through the upper classes of New York City after she meets Tinker Grey, a handsome banker in a Greenwich Village jazz bar.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
All deep south and Southern Gothic, John Berendt jumps into the deep end of Savannah, Georgia’s eccentric community after the murder of a local male prostitute by a respected antiques dealer. The book was turned into a movie, but I’d stick with print for the better experience.
You’ve probably seen the movie, but you won’t realize how much of the subtext you’re missing until you read the book, which goes into the wives and lovers of the Corleone men with much more detail, including Michael’s first night of marriage to his young wife in Sicily.
The English Patient
In this case the movie did justice to the written word. But I’d definitely recommend the book if you want to slow down Count Almásy’s torrid love affair with the married Katherine Clifton; his chaste love with his nurse in a bombed out monastery and her affair with a Sikh bomb defuser in WWII Italy.
Fear of Flying
This 1973 novel was instantly controversial for its portrayal of female sexuality. Narrated by 29-year-old poet, Isadora Zelda White Stollerman Wing, while she’s on a trip to Europe with her husband, the story tells of how she decided to indulge her fantasies with another man.
Story of O
OK Kiddies, this one’s just for the adults. If all that “play” in Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain intrigued you more than just a passing curiosity, this is the book for you. It’s got all the S&M you could ask for when a naive young protégé is taken under the wing of a more experienced man.
There’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ “trashy” romance novel. Starting back in middle school with V.C. Andrews’ Dawn series all the way through Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve read my fair share. But while eye candy’s got its time and place, sometimes a reader wants something sexy and well-written. Here are some of our favorite books that turn up the heat but don’t lose anything in the quality department.
Shelf curated by Alexandra Gekas. Image credit: shutterstock.com/Falcona