Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita
Vladimir Nabokov

In Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander says, "The course of true love never did run smooth." No kidding! And what about when love isn’t remotely true and it goes from bad to worse? Literature is littered with examples where bad romantic relationships go to hell in a handbasket.

For the reader, it’s strangely addictive watching two lovers fall apart – rather like seeing a car crash in slow motion. We have selected 20 examples of fiction featuring adultery, deceit, abuse, torture, obsession, murder, lying, cheating and a myriad of poor decisions made in the name of love.

There’s no shortage of drama in this selection as love veers into abject terror.

20 Novels of Bad Romance

Room at the Top by John Braine
Room at the Top
by John Braine

An RAF veteran, in the late 1940s, has his eyes on two women.


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War of the Roses by Warren Adler
War of the Roses
by Warren Adler


A lifetime of small mistakes and neglect explode into the nastiest of divorces.

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Third Degree by Greg Iles
Third Degree
by Greg Iles



A husband finds out his wife is having an affair and then loses it.

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White Oleander by Janet Fitch
White Oleander
by Janet Fitch



A young girl’s mother falls for a womaniser. Everything goes badly wrong.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
The Postman Always Rings Twice
by James M Cain



A young woman is unhappily married to an older man.

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Waiting by Ha Jin
Waiting
by Ha Jin



Lin Kong is an army doctor forced to marry a woman he doesn't love.



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Little Children by Tom Perrotta
Little Children
by Tom Perrotta



Everyone in this suburban neighborhood seems to be involved with the wrong person.


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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro



Tommy spends years in a relationship with Ruth while secretly loving Kathy.



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The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
The Other Boleyn Girl
by Philippa Gregory



Henry VIII is the ultimate bad husband. Based on fact, but we couldn’t ignore this book.

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Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates



A lesson in how couples fail to communicate. A very good novel indeed.



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The Collector by John Fowles
The Collector
by John Fowles



The main character falls in love but is socially inept, so he kidnaps his love.

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The Pact by Jodi Picoult
The Pact
by Jodi Picoult



A painful story of a teenage couple with a suicide pact.


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The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Awakening
by Kate Chopin



Edna Pontellier struggles with a passionless marriage.


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Damage by Josephine Hart
Damage
by Josephine Hart



Married man falls for his son’s fiancé and tumbles into a family-destroying affair.

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An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
An American Tragedy
by Theodore Dreiser



A young boy falls for a rich girl while exploiting a poor girl.

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The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
The Good Soldier
by Ford Madox Ford



The book, about dissolving relationships, begins: “This is the saddest story I have ever heard”

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights
by Emily Brontë



The classic love triangle – as usual three is a crowd in this legendary novel.



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Candy by Kevin Brooks
Candy
by Kevin Brooks



A young boy falls in love with a heroin addicted teen prostitute with an angry pimp.


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A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
A Reliable Wife
by Robert Goolrick



Set in 1907 a man places an ad for “a reliable wife” and gets more than he bargained for.


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Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Tipping the Velvet
by Sarah Waters



A woman is driven to madness after finding her lover, a male impersonator, in bed with a man.


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More to Discover


Exquisite editions from Collectible Authors If you like strange books, you will want to read our feature on Codex Seraphinianus - The World's Weirdest Book