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Romance and conflict together offer a wealth of narrative possibilities, along with the promise – not always fulfilled – of a satisfyingly happy ending. William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has become the standard for not only forbidden but doomed love, setting up the question of to what extent the forbidding enflames the romance, and might also determine the doom.
- Set in China in the 1930s and based on the real affair between the nephew of Virginia Woolf, Julian Bell, and a married Chinese writer, called Lin, the publication of K: The Art of Love by Hong Ying led to a court case brought against the author for libel and the banning of the book in China.
- An older Pākehā woman falls in love with a young Māori street kid in Sue McCauley’s Other Halves.
- Jacob joins a travelling circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, and falls in love with Marlena, an equestrian star married to a brutal man, in Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
- An ancient covenant forbids unions between witches and vampires in Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy, a covenant flagrantly broken by Matthew and Diana.
- Examining racism in an alternate society, Malorie Blackman’s YA series Noughts and Crosses follows the romance between Sephy – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class of Crosses – and Callum, one of the colourless under-class called Noughts.
- A forbidden and thwarted love is the family secret uncovered in Witi Ihimaera’s The Matriarch.
- A middle-class, middle-aged, white woman falls in love with a young, black man in Nick Hornby’s social satire Just Like You, and each must confront their own prejudices, along with those of friends and family.
- Young lovers are separated, in Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, until, many years later, their love is finally realised in old age.
- Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is Jeanette Winterson’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about a lesbian girl growing up in a Pentecostal community.
- The affair between Kemal and Füsun crosses the divide in Istanbul between the world of the Westernised bourgeosie and the city’s impoverished and traditional backstreets, in Orhan Pamuk’s novel The Museum of Innocence.