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What makes a great love story?

What makes a great love story?

Love in all its forms, we crave it, need it. But romantic love is the ultimate wish for most of us. Whether we have romance in our lives or not, women enjoy reading romance novels or watching romance unfold on screen. Men do too, apparently, though to a lesser extent and they prefer a bit of violence and or nudity thrown it to spice it up. Love Actually (2003), the movie, was an all-time block buster showcasing romantic love in its many forms. Something for everyone.

girls hands holding copy of wuthering heights
top love stories ever

In 2007, Richard Kingsbury, channel head of UKTV Drama, commissioned a study to nominate the twenty top love stories ever written. 2,000 readers participated from (I presume) Britain. The details on the actual polling are absent as with many polls. So, the age, gender and demographics are not easy to find. I tried.

The findings were interesting to me back then in 2007, even though I was not yet an author. I saved the article about Kingsley’s survey for future reference. You can read it by following this link.

The List

Below is Kingsley’s list;

The top 20 Love Stories ever.

1 Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, 1847

2 Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 1813

3 Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, 1597

4 Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, 1847

5 Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, 1936

6 The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje, 1992

7 Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, 1938

8 Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, 1957

9 Lady Chatterley’s Lover, DH Lawrence, 1928

10 Far from The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy, 1874

11 My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner, 1956

12 The African Queen, CS Forester, 1935

13 The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

14 Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, 1811

15 The Way We Were, Arthur Laurents, 1972

16 War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, 1865

17 Frenchman’s Creek, Daphne du Maurier, 1942

18 Persuasion, Jane Austen, 1818

19 Take a Girl Like You, Kingsley Amis, 1960

20 Daniel Deronda, George Eliot, 1876

This list honours the classic romance novelists of the past. As a teenage fan of the works of  Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and the Bronte Sisters, I appreciate this list. I’ve read all the titles, watched the film versions and love them all. For a tragic romantic, like me, they all deliver the required fix. So, what is the magical combination that makes a romance memorable and captivating?

The Love Formula. What is It?

Do we need a happy ending, beauty, wealth, magnificent mansions for our heroes and heroines?

The answer is ‘no’. Scroll down the list and you will see why that is not necessary at all. In fact, the harder it is for the two lovers to be together, the better the rating. Catherine and Heathcliff, Romeo and Juliet, Darcy and Elizabeth, our top three couples all had barriers to their love. Family, class, wealth, and religion can all make love forbidden. And when something is forbidden, don’t we want it even more?

Great Passion

All the novels capture great passion that defies societal taboos and conventions. Love risks all to be with the other. True love is finding one’s soul mate and no two lovers define that ‘oneness’ as Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff in the winning title. The love story in Wuthering Heights emerges from the vast desolation of the moors. It is a brooding, dark novel, tragic but also stunning in its depth of passion. Heathcliff as our hero is both cruel and aloof, the Byronian hero, yet beneath the surface his passion for Catherine runs hot. These two share a love beyond the grave. Their love is more than a physical love. It is metaphysical, almost religious in nature. It is everlasting.

Romeo and Juliet Love

The same can be said of Romeo and Juliet. They die for each other. Another  young love, another tragic ending. But what beauty in the language of Shakespeare, as he writes of such love. “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the East and Juliet is the sun!” They worship each other as do Catherine and Heathcliff. Don’t we all wish that for ourselves? A love that defies all obstacles and transcends time.

True Loves Never Runs Smooth

As you can see by scrolling down the list, love stories, unlike fairytales, don’t have to end happily ever after. Some do. Elizabeth and Darcy eventually settle their misunderstandings and ride off into the sunset at the end of Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre marries her Mr. Rochester and Sense and Sensibility offers a happy resolution of matters as well. But not without complication, barriers, and torment.

Too easy, and love stories are boring. Boy meets girl followed by an easy path to marriage and happiness. No fun there. This love formula is not what we want in book and film. Shakespeare wrote, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth.’ (Midsummer Night’s Dream. ) The plot of this play is classically riddled with a myriad of misunderstandings, false identities and trickeries before the couples settle with their intended.

Gone With the Wind Love

In Gone with the Wind, we witness another love affair, beset by difficulty even after marriage. Rhett Butler declares to his wife, Scarlett, in the final lines, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ How was that love story to end? We will never know. Margaret Mitchell did not write the sequel.

The English Patient, a poignant sweeping drama, a beautiful film, also features a tearjerker ending. Great love can be so great that it is destructive. I could go on down the list. But don’t worry, I won’t.

Not Always Happy Endings

Suffice it to say, that these novels, most transformed into films, capture our hearts not because of ‘happily ever afters’,  but because of the passionate love the characters have for each other. Basically, we all want that passion, we want to experience it again and again through film and reading maybe because our own lives have lost the passion. We want to experience the full gamut of emotions, relive it or know it if it never came our way.

Why Do We Love Love Stories?

As well as nominating their top romances Kingsley’s participants commented on why they read romantic novels.

Forty per cent of women read romantic novels to feel better, 15% for nostalgic reasons and 10% to compensate for their own less highly-coloured love lives. This makes total sense. Romance novels are escapism from our own lack-lustre lives. All books are of course, but crime novels and films do not have the same feel-good effect unless you are clever enough to solve the crime before the last chapter.

Historical Dramas Sell

Richard Kingsbury says, “We find that romantic drama is a very powerful kind of escapism for our viewers, and well-made costume dramas like Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre have an extra dimension to them. Viewers get caught up in the beauty and language of the period.” This interest in other people’s passions and history still resonates today with the popularity of the Bridgerton period dramas based on Julia Quinn’s novels.

I Wish You Love

Book, film, real life, I wish you love in your life in whatever form you take it.. It is the feel-good emotion that nurtures above all others. Women need nurture. Treat yourself to some love today!

Joni Scott has written three novels and award winning short stories. She co-hosts a women’s blog; and has her own website;



Stringybark stories competition! You have won an award!

Stringybark stories competition! You have won an award!

From: Stringybark <>
Date: 27 April 2022 at 11:41:49 am AEST
Subject: HIGHLY COMMENDED – CONGRATULATIONS!  — “Fruitcake Frenzy” — Stringybark Stories


G’day Joni,


By now you will have read the good news on the Stringybark Stories website or on Facebook, so please accept my congratulations on receiving a Highly Commended in the Stringybark Short Story Award 2022.


With 287 entries submitted to the competition to be chosen as a highly commended and published author is an impressive achievement. Your story has been edited and published in our newest anthology Fruitcake Frenzy.


Printed anthology and pre-orders

The printed anthology is currently being prepared, and it is expected that it will be delivered by late May for all those who pre-order (probably earlier although it depends a little on Covid absences at our printer). Pre-ordering is done via the Bookshop.  Please click here to pre-order.

We are most grateful for receiving pre-orders as it assists us in setting the size of the print-run and avoids us having to do extra print runs (which incur bigger costs). In addition, you get your copy of the book faster. If you wish to pre-order a copy (or copies) of the paperback, please do so via the Bookshop (note we now offer direct deposit for book purchases if you don’t wish to use PayPal). If you or your buyer is not in Australia they should email for a postage quote before purchasing via the Bookshop. Australia Post charges through the nose to transport our books overseas.



May I invite you to promote your success to your friends and colleagues via as many channels as possible — emails, facebook, twitter, carrier pigeon, ink on paper, blog, shouting from your bedroom window, instagram. tiktok vids etc.  The more sales of Fruitcake Frenzy we can achieve, the greater the impact of your writing and the more likely we can offer bigger prizes in future. Attached is a jpg of the cover image for your use.


Please also take a moment to review Fruitcake Frenzy on the Smashwords page (after you have had a chance to read it!). This is a very important part of promoting the book. We are not asking you to review your own story but the anthology as a whole. It doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to write a review. Please consider doing so. We are always disappointed how few authors review the anthologies — writer’s block perhaps? [Our last anthology, The Lighthouse received just THREE reviews, despite it being a marvellous read and it had over 30 authors showcased! ]  Stringybark Stories relies on the generous support of writers to help promote their writing.  Writing a review is the simplest way to help.


To assist you in promoting your writing please feel free to pass to your friends and colleagues a 25% off discount coupon which allows them to purchase the e-book for about A$3.75. This coupon code is WX87Y and is good for as many uses as you wish but please note it expires on 11 July 2022. Printed copies are available to your friends and colleagues at the normal rate and can be ordered via the Bookshop. 



If you were awaiting feedback on your story (see here for more details or to order feedback) then it will arrive in the next four to six weeks.


Next competition

Our next competition opens shortly.  Details will be announced in a few weeks on our website.


On behalf of all the judges may I thank you for entering the competition and we hope to read more of your wonderful writing in future.


I look forward to hearing from you shortly.


With very best wishes,




On behalf of Dr Mel Baker, Antoinette Merrillees and Dr Rick Williams the other hardworking and sadly unpaid judges.


  1.  If you are a Facebook user, do ‘like’ Stringybark Stories on Facebook so as to keep up with our latest news.


Development Of The English Novel In The Twentieth Century

Development Of The English Novel In The Twentieth Century

Writers embracing a bold new style

Moving on from the novels of Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters that characterized the previous century, let’s trace the development of the English novel in the twentieth century and meet writers embracing a bold and less convoluted style of writing. We, as modern authors should thank these writers for paving the way and granting us the freedom to write creatively.

All the authors I cover today are male but I did cover women authors last blog and will again feature writers of the sisterhood.

Joseph Conrad

My first featured author is Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) who was not really English, but Polish. He spoke no English at all in his first twenty years.  He left Poland for life at sea at 17 and became a sailor on British ships, sailing the oceans of the world. Such adventures inspired his brilliant and psychologically fascinating novels; Lord Jim, Heart of Darkness and many others. Heart of Darkness offers a strong discourse about colonial rule in Africa and racism. It provided the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film, Apocalypse Now. Conrad explores the moral consciousness of his characters and writes often in the first person not as an omniscient narrator. This at the time was a bold change of direction for the novel.

Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald

I devoted a previous blog,  (Novels of the Jazz Age) to the novels of Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald.  Certainly, world events impacted on this generation of writers and musicians. The post-World War One years saw a burst of amazing energy funneled into creativity in the arts and set the scene for experimentation in art forms. These two high living Americans in Paris wrote from their own experiences and capture the disillusionment surrounding war and love in their novels, The Great Gatsby and Farewell to Arms.

H.G. Wells

Along with these two writers, H. G. Wells (1866-1946) made the first real break away from upper class love triangles dominating past English literature. Apart from the brilliant French writer, Jules Verne, Herbert George Wells seems to be the first writer of the English language to embrace Science Fiction. His novel, The Time Machine is still a good read today. Later novels include War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon and The Food of the Gods. Later, despite his mastery of the SF genre, Wells branched out to write tales of social realism, featuring the common man confronted by the industrialization and commercialization of the world. Sidetracked by his own strong views on the modern world, he lost his imaginative touch and returned to the didactic style of the previous century, preaching at his readers, with scant attention to character and plot, about the evils of progress and world government. But he will always be remembered for The Time Machine and is considered the father of Science Fiction.

Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley (1894-1968) also explores the possible future issues of a capitalist and technological society in his dystopian novel, Brave New World.

E.M. Forester

There seemed a bit of a trend amongst writers at that time to use just initials not full name! An even stronger divergence from the traditional way of writing is seen in the prose of E.M Forester and D. H Lawrence.

E.M, Forester (1879-1970) wrote the famous novels, Passage to India and Room with a View, both now excellent films. Both are personal favourites of mine. They feature confused young women who discover after near disaster that it is best to be truthful early on about how you feel. This new intimate treatment of characters opens the way for the raw humanity of D.H. Lawrence.

D.H. Lawrence

Lawrence (1885-1930) was unlike others before him, (despite again using only his initials.) David Herbert Lawrence burst onto the scene like a storm. His earthy, sexual novels shocked many in society. Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published in Italy, was banned in Britain until 1960. As the son of a miner, he had an insight into the humanity of the working class and perfectly captures this living force in his writing. His free form sentences and imagery are as liberating as the explicit content of his work. His love scenes are raw, sensual and incredibly daring for their time but pave the way forward for other writers.

Didactic prose to Subjective Creativity

Thanks to these amazing writers we see the development of the English novel in the twentieth century from  didactic stilted prose to a more personal subjective and creative style.