One of my favorite tropes in romance novels is ‘marriage in trouble’ – a once-happy married couple who’ve become estranged before the main action of the book starts and fall in love once more by the end of the novel. I’ve always found it really satisfying as a reader, because there’s so much history between the two characters, and watching them unravel the misunderstandings and mistakes of their past, even as they fall in love all over again, makes for really emotionally satisfying reading. If you love this trope as much as I do, here are seven books – romances and otherwise – that are great reads.
This tie-in novel for the TV series Younger follows Kate, the wife of a wealthy publishing tycoon who experiences something of a mid-life crisis, realizing that she has sacrificed her own dreams for the sake of her husband and children. This results in her flying around the world, taking a hiatus from her own life, to figure out what she really wants. Anyone who’s ever looked around and wondered, “How did I get here?” will sympathize with Kate’s journey (literal and emotional) in this book.
This contemporary rom-com focuses on baseball player Gavin Scott, who is desperate to convince his wife, Thea, that their marriage is worth saving. With this goal in mind, he joins the Bromance Book Club, a secret romance novel book club run by some of Nashville’s most famous and powerful men. Watching Gavin take tips from a romance novel as he works to win back his wife is hilarious, and their eventual reunion is equal parts steamy and heartfelt.
In Georgian-era London, Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont, is the scandalous wife of a very prim and proper duke. They married for love nine years ago, but early in their marriage, Jemma discovers her husband’s infidelity and they’ve endured a not-so-polite marriage of convenience ever since. Romances where one party has been unfaithful are tricky to pull off, and James manages it brilliantly in this clever, witty, swoony read.
After years of estrangement from her husband, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, is petitioning Parliament for a divorce. Haven, still in love with his wife, promises to support her in this aim if she first grants him one last summer to try to win her back. What follows is a smart, emotional historical romance about two people whose past is full of misunderstandings and pain; watching them find their way back to each other is pure joy.
The title of this classic is the nom de guerre of Sir Percy Blakeney, who works secretly to rescue aristocrats in Revolution-era France. His public persona is of a witless dandy, and he and his French wife, Marguerite, enjoy a cool relationship – until Marguerite learns of her husband’s secret identity, and sets off to save him from a trap. Full of adventure and humor, this book is just plain fun – and when you’re done reading, there are numerous film adaptations, too!
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When Gabriel, the supposedly-dead husband of aviatrix Evie Starke, reappears in her life (in the form of a recent photograph), Evie is shocked – and determined to get to the bottom of her husband’s deception. This quest takes her to Damascus, where she’s swept into a world of adventure and intrigue – and, perhaps, a second chance at love. It’s impossible not to fall in love with everything about this book, from its glamorous 1920s setting to the far-flung locales, and most importantly with its feisty, determined heroine.
In 1930s England, Amory Ames’s marriage to Milo, a wealthy, notorious rake, has been strained for years by Milo’s rumoured womanizing and frequent absences. The estranged couple find themselves joining forces, however, when a trip to a coastal hotel ends in murder – one that Amory is determined to solve. This delightful homage to classic Golden Age mysteries is as enjoyable for its clever plot as it is for the bickering, charming couple at the book’s heart.