February is the month for romance, and a great time to read about famous [some infamous] couples. While the stories of these real-life romances are tempered by politics, tradition, and even the law, they reflect the reality of relationships in very extraordinary circumstances. From a king that abdicated his throne for love to the unconventional relationship of a president and his wife, you will enjoy these books on real romances throughout history.
Cleopatra and Antony : Power, Love, and Politics in the Ancient World by Diana Preston
Dual biography of Cleopatra, the fourth-decade-B.C. Egyptian queen, and Mark Antony, a Roman general, within the political, historical, and military context of the time. Details their love affair, their enemies, and their suicides, which led to the conquest of Alexandria and annexation of Egypt by Roman ruler Octavian. 2009.
Go Down Together : The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn
Using two unpublished manuscripts and other sources, the author details the lives of outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker–a portrayal different from the glamorous depiction provided by movies and the press. Describes the lovers as inept, homeless crooks from the Dallas slums who both suffered from injuries. 2009.
Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley
Portrays the marriage of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt as a radical partnership that helped both husband and wife achieve their ambitions and political goals. Discusses their extended family of close companions and lovers as well as Franklin’s polio and Eleanor’s social work. Some strong language. 2010.
That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba.
Bestselling British biography of American-born socialite Wallis Simpson (1896-1986) interprets the character and motives of the woman for whom England’s King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936. Biographer Sebba researches Wallis’s background, the psychological and medical disorders of Edward and Wallis, and their affair’s threat to the monarchy. 2011.
Love letters of Great Men & Women From the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day by C.H. Charles
Anthology of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century correspondence between European politicians, poets, and musicians and their wives, mistresses, or intended lovers–from courtly aristocrats’ stilted phrases to Napoleon’s emotional outpourings to Josephine, Alfred de Musset’s declarations to George Sand, and Elizabeth Barrett’s replies to Robert Browning. 1924