Ep. 18. Heartbreak Hotel: Books about star-crossed lovers

Valentine's day is approaching and we would like to dedicate an episode to all those literary star-crossed lovers we have met in books. We will refer to those books that get us rooting for the couple despite having so many odds against them; stories which end up  wrecking our hearts and make us reach for the break-up ice cream. Stories of doomed love can be found at any literary period and across any literary genre; therefore, choosing just a few books to represent this topic is almost as hard as love itself. 
Photo by Rahul Pandit


These doomed lovers are almost the archetype of star-crossed love. The appeal of this tragedy about a girl and a boy from feuding families who fall in love and encounter tragedy is universal.  So much so, that a legendary Cuban cigar brand is named after Shakespeare's play. The story goes that in the cigar factory owned by Inocencio Alvarez  and Jose Garcia in Havana, the cigar rollers used to continuously request the Spanish version of Romeo and Juliet from the reader, or lector. The lector in a cigar factory is the person who reads throughout the day for the enjoyment of cigar rollers while they work. The cigar rollers at Alvarez and Garcia became so moved by the reading of the play and requested it so often, that the owners registered their cigars under the name of the play in 1876. Almost 150 years later, this brand of Cuban cigars is still one of the most prestigious in the world.  

Romeo and Juliet cigars, photo by Joris Visser


Being in love as a teenager is,... well,... being in love as a teenager. Being in love as a teenager diagnosed with terminal cancer is absolutely heartbreaking. That is what Joh Green explores in this book, and he does so inviting us into all the funny and tragic moments in the relationship between Hazel and Augustus.

If your heart aches for these two, and you would like to sport a token to remind you of their love story, we have found a ring featuring the phrase from the book: "Okay? Okay".

Or maybe a cozy sweatshirt with the book cover design is more to your taste:


This is a fictional interpretation of the love story between Heloise and Peter Abelard, two real individuals who lived during the 12th century. Abelard was a cleric and a famous philosopher and tutor, and Heloise was one of the most learned women of her time in Europe. When Heloise was 17 she and her tutor, Abelard, fell in love, started courting and eventually married in secret, since it was forbidden for Abelard to marry being a man of the church. When Heloise got pregnant with Abelard's child and their affair was discovered, Abelard was severely punished and they were separated. Heloise and Abelard joined religious orders and wrote letters to each other until Abelard's death. 

The tombs of Heloise and Abelard can be visited at PΓ¨re Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Their resting place is in the south near the main entrance and modern lovers have a tradition of leaving love letters at their tombs. Sight Seeker's Delight offers tours of Pere Lachaise Cemetery and their guides will point you to Heloise and Abelard if you request it. 


This is the story of Therese and Carol. Therese is a stage designer, but her talents are on hold while she works at a department store. This all changes when she meets Carol, a divorced housewife, and both fall in love and set on a road trip across the U.S. The romance is threatened when a private investigator blackmails Carol and she is forced to make some difficult choices.

Inspired by The price of Salt, KnightLab has created an interactive map of the road trip taken by Therese and Carol. You can use the map to follow on the footsteps of the lovers from Manhattan to Des Moines, Iowa. 
The book is also the basis of the 2015 movie, Carol, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.


In this story, an octogenarian lady, Isabelle, ask her hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her from Texas to Ohio for a funeral on a one-day notice. During the trip Isabelle opens up to Dorrie about her interracial love story during the 1930s in Kentucky and the devastating consequences resulting from it during a time of segregation. The trip and the story from Isabelle also helps Dorrie with the conflicts she is facing in more modern times. 
This book might be a good recommendation for readers who would like to sob but they like doing so to a thought-provoking story.



Lovers of magical realism will delight with this book set in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. The lovers in the story are Tita and Pedro. Tita is the youngest sister and according to her family's tradition she is destined to renounce marriage and look after her mother until she dies. Pedro and Tita fall in love, but since marriage between them is not a possibility, Pedro marries Tita's older sister instead. This unusual situation causes the pent-up passion between the lovers to simmer until it reaches the boiling point. Set in Mexico, this novel is rich in traditions, and food is almost another character in the story, with every chapter starting with a recipe that Tita cooks affected by her emotions at that moment. 

One of the recipes in the book is Champandongo, a casserole of ground meat, mole, corn tortillas, tomatoes, and cheese. The recipe has been adapted by Lemon Baby food blog, and detailed instructions are available in case you want to make this delicious recipe inspired by this delicious book. 
The novel is set in Piedras Negras, a town in northern Mexico where nachos were created.

There is a Spanish-language movie adaptation from 1992 directed by Alfonso Arau, the husband of the author at the time. If you do not speak Spanish, do not worry; the movie is available with subtitles and it is a great film adaptation for the book.


This book is perfect for those who are attracted to love stories across different time periods. In this case, the two lovers suffer their separation time and time again, and only one of them remembers their past encounters. 
This is the book we have chosen for our Six-Word Review this week, here it goes: Same lovers, different centuries and settings. Remember you can share your own Six-Word Review with us.


The book tells the love story between Achilles, the mythical Greek hero, and Patroclus, an exiled prince in Achilles' father court. Achilles and Patroclus fall deeply in love and together they have to face challenges and sacrifices to keep their love alive. Both men go off to fight in the Trojan War, where as we know from Homer's Illiad, their love will meet a final tragic blow. 

The cover for the 2017 paperback limited edition for Bloomsbury Modern Classics is our choice for our Cover Gallery this week. The design of a bow and arrow in the shape of a heart with just a smear of blood in the tip of the arrow is a great design interpretation of the mythology  surrounding Achilles and Patroclus. Besides, the cover matches perfectly with the theme of our episode.

2017 limited paperback edition for Bloomsbury Modern Classics

This week in our Book vs. Book, we are each choosing a book set in a dream-like circus settings where a pair of orphans are star-crossed lovers.


This is a dark story of two babies, Pierre and Rose, abandoned in an orphanage in Montreal in 1910. Both grow to be children with extraordinary artistic talents showcased as they tour the city as clowns, while their lives are touched by twisted and sordid events. Meanwhile, Pierre and Rose dream of an enchanting future together, in love, and as members of the most extraordinary circus show. During the Great Depression, the orphans are separated and sent to work as servants, turning their dreams into nightmares and sending them deep into the city's criminal world. But one day Pierre and Rose meet again, reviving their love for each other and their childhood plans. They put together a show like the world have never seen before, commanding the stage and the back alleys alike. Pierre and Rose's is a dark and haunting love story. 


This book gives us a circus like no other. A black and white striped canvas appears suddenly every time, showing dream-like shows only at night. Part of the cast are Celia and Marco, two orphans and magicians trained since childhood to compete against each in the Night Circus Arena until only one of them is left standing. But Marco and Celia do not know they are part of the magical battle and they fall deeply in love with each other while competing for the fate of everyone within the spectacular striped canvas.  

For lovers of The Night Circus, and I know there are many, we found a watercolor print from Ivan Hristov. The artist uses only black, grey, white, and red, as in the cover of the book, to depict the silhouettes for Celia, Marco, and the circus tent.

We have also found out a novelty item that might delight lovers of The Night Circus: a Phantomwise Tarot set created by Erin Mortgenstern herself. Unfortunately, the set is not yet available for purchase, but the author is looking for a publisher who would like to take on the enterprise. 

There is another devastating love story written by an author married to another popular author. You can try to guess the title of this book from its first line at GuessWork.




To buy books covered in this episode, visit our TBR Bundles.

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