That's the subject that was explored in the latest BBC 'Imagine...' programme, fronted by Alan Yentob.
To quote the programme blurb:
"What makes a great love story? Imagine looks at the great books, films and pop songs that have tackled the thorny issue of love, pain and desire. Lancelot and Guinevere, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Lady Chatterley's Lover, 24 hours from Tulsa, Casablanca, Brief Encounter and Lolita are all great love stories. But what makes them special? 'A great love story has to have a fly in the ointment', according to Pulitzer prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides.
Other contributors include best selling authors Sarah Waters, Helen Fielding, Jane Austen's biographer Claire Tomalin, Burt Bacharach's lyricist Hal David, screen doctor Robert McKee, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and literature professor John Sutherland"
You can watch the programme using the BBC's iplayer here:
(available to watch online until 9th December).
I found it to be a really thought provoking programme, particularly as love is something that features heavily in novel 1 (and is also the subject of novel 2). What particularly interested me was the debate on whether or not a love story should have a happy ending. Helen Fielding (author of "Bridget Jones's Diary") argued that there should be happy endings in light entertainment and Robert McKee (author of screenwriting bible "Story") agreed that romantic-comedies should have happy endings but that true love stories are more powerful for having tragic endings.
I have to admit I'm a fan of both types of story. Some of my all time favourite films end tragically - Casablanca, The English Patient and The End of the Affair for example - but I do like love stories in books to end happily (mostly).
I won't give away how novel 1 ends (or it'll spoil it for you if/when it gets published) but what do you think? Do the best love stories end happily or tragically? Which ones stay with you the longest?
And which modern love stories (post "Pride and Prejudice" and "Wuthering Heights") have you most enjoyed and why?