The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
I adore the Bronte sisters, because really, their novels are like guilt-free chick lit. I mean, they're classics, so reading them must be good for the brain. Yet you know that when you pick one up, you're going to be rewarded with a good ol' tale of starstruck lovers, usually only kept apart by their own consciences.
A brief summary: A mysterious woman takes up residence in Wildfell Hall with her young son, and is a topic of speculation for pretty much everyone in the shire. Gilbert, a farmer, falls in love with her and pledges to squash the rumours while finding out about her shadowy past.
The first part was by far the most interestingly written, being from the POV of Gilbert Markham, the self-righteous farmer. Actually, pretty much everyone in the book was kind of self-righteous. Maybe it's just because I'm partial to romances from the male perspective, and how female authors portray them. Anyway, there was a really good passage that I have vowed to memorise so that I may one day rattle it off in a heartbroken state, but I doubt I'll ever manage.
"She had observed my preference for the young widow, and evidently felt herself neglected. She did not manifest her chargrin by keen reproaches, bitter sarcasms, or pouting sullen silence- any or all of these I could have easily endured, or lightly laughed away; but she showed it by a kind of gentle melancholy, a mild, reproachful sadness that cut me to the heart. I tried to cheer her up, and apparently succeeded in some degree, before the walk was over; but in the very act my conscience reproved me, knowing, as I did, that, sooner or later, the tie must be broken, and this was only nourishing false hopes, and putting off the evil day."
So male. The kind of thoughtless, flippant, "oh this girl I've courted for like her whole life, I don't really like her anymore, oh well".
However, about 1/4 way in, Helen (widow-lady) throws her journal at him, and the next half is her backstory. I had been wondering how such a thick book would draw out their romance when the end seemed nigh pretty close to the beginning, and that's how! I'm not going to lie, Helen got a little irritating with her rigidity and piousness. She seemed a little full of herself. No wonder her husband had affairs and became a drunkard. Well, obviously, that wasn't completely her faunt, but she was a little robotic, as everyone kept accusing her. I think I was a little over-sympathetic to her dastardly husband, he seemed like someone I'd get along with- lots of vices and great parties. Her best friend's brother has also been in love with her, and at times he is a little hard to distinguish from Gilbert, as they act in much the same way. Or rather, how they court her is kind of alike.
The last quater goes back to Gilbert, but this time seemed much less realistic. He waits for her for 6 months while she nurses her ex-husband back to health, despite having been told that they can never be together. Not even a glance at another girl. Then one day he gets the great idea to jump up and chase after her, and she is so happy and they get married and live happily ever after. Uh, really?
I liked the bitchy husband better.
But still, it was engaging and emotionally satisfying. I also liked that they were all quite beautiful and young, call me shallow but it really adds to the credibility of the romances.