Sunday Salon: Favorite Literary Couples

 In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to celebrate those couples whose stories make our hearts beat just a little faster, whose ups and downs make us swoon, whose on-again off-again states keep us on the edge of our seats. And so I offer a list of some of my favorite literary couples. 

(Be warned: Because not all these couples are initially presented as potential romantic partners, the fact that they made this list might be spoilery. I have, however, tried to stick with couples who are well-known as romantic partners or whose romances are incidental to the plots of the books in which they appear. But if you absolutely don’t want to be spoiled regarding some surprise romances in a few of my favorite mystery and fantasy books, then stop reading at  number 4.) 

  1. Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester (from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë): From their earliest meeting, Jane and Rochester are presented as excellent sparring partners. He may be her social superior, but she more than equals him in intellect and in principles. I especially love that Jane doesn’t give up her identity and beliefs to be with him. It’s not a story of romance above all else, which makes it one of the most romantic stories of all.
  2. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (from Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, and Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers): Another case of intellectual equals of different social classes. Their story begins when Lord Peter attempts to clear Harriet of a murder charge, and the will-they or won’t-they element involved in his continual pursuit of her and her own fears of losing herself makes for a compelling romance.
  3. Thorfinn and Groa (from King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett): They are neither of them altogether admirable, but it’s so clear that they are made for each other. You can never be sure that Dunnett’s characters will be true to their lovers, and this uncertainty makes for some great suspense.
  4. Almanzo and Laura (from the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder): It started with a few random meetings around town and gradually grew. It’s never quite clear if Laura loves him or his horses, until her shining eyes after their engagement reveal where her heart was all along.
  5. Faramir and Eowyn (from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien): Their romance is covered in just a chapter or two of the books, but seeing the woman I wanted to be end up with the man I wanted to be with made me swoon.
  6. Russell and Holmes (from the Mary Russell mysteries by Laurie R. King): I know some have found the age difference to be a little creepy, but these two are so clearly equals that it hardly matters. Neither one would be suited to a conventional romance, and the fact that they found each other makes me happier than I can say.
  7. Susannah and Eddie Dean (from The Dark Tower series by Stephen King): Yes, a Stephen King series boasts one of my favorite couples. These two meet and fall in love under some of  the worst possible circumstances, and they bring out the best in each other and demonstrate great loyalty throughout the series, providing a important emotional touchstone and a bit of hope in an otherwise dark, unpleasant world. 

So who are some of your favorite couples in literature?


Notes from a Reading Life

Books Read  

  • Family Britain by David Kynaston. Social history of post-War Britain. Very interesting social history that could have benefitted from some reorganization.
  • Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor. A short novel that immerses readers in the world of drug addicts, alcoholics, and other invisible people. Written in an experimental stream-of-consciousness style that was surprisingly effective.
  • Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner. An entertaining bit of chick lit after two heavy reads.

Currently Reading 

  • The Devil’s Horse by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. Morland Dynasty #16.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien. For the LOTR Readalong.
  • The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (audio). First in the Bartimaeous Trilogy, a YA series about a djinni and an apprentice magician. I’m on the next-t0-last disc and expect to finish this week.
  • The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry. Poetry lessons. I’m still managing about a lesson a week.

On Deck 

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I’ve had this children’s book on the shelf for months, and the recent announcement that it won the Newbery has encouraged me to move it up in the stack.
  • The Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud (audio). The second Bartimaeous book.

New Acquisitions 

  • A Question of Power by Bessie Head. A novel about mental illness from one of Botswana’s most well-known writers.

On the Someday List 

  • Passing by Nella Larson. The story of two African-American friends who can pass for white. Reviewed at Books and Chocolate.
  • The Other Side of the Dale by Gervase Phinn. I’m going to Yorkshire this April, and I’ve been looking for pleasant Yorkshire-based books to take along, or to read in anticipation. This one sounds like a great holiday read. Reviewed at Tales from a Reading Room.
  • Nella Last’s War and Nella Last’s Peace by Nella Last. The diaries of an English housewife during and just after World War II. I’ve been curious about these after seeing them talked about on several blogs, but it was reading the excerpts in Family Britain that convinced me I’d enjoy reading them in full.
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42 Responses to Sunday Salon: Favorite Literary Couples

  1. Lenore says:

    Faramir and Eowyn are favorites of mine too!

    • Teresa says:

      Lenore: They are so wonderful, aren’t they. It broke my heart that their romance didn’t make it into the theatrical version of Return of the King–it’s a highlight of the trilogy for me.

  2. I loved the early books with Mary Russell and Holmes, but the more recent ones haven’t really engaged me. Loved Laura and Almanzo when I was young though and who can resist Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane? (I included them in my own, similar post earlier today).

    • Teresa says:

      Claire: I keep expecting the Russell/Holmes series to lose steam, but it hasn’t yet for me. (I haven’t read the newest one but plan to soon.) I’ll go check out your post now!

  3. kiss a cloud says:

    Faramir and Eowyn and Susannah and Eddie are some of my faves too!

    While Love in the Time of Cholera is my fave love story, I don’t think that Fermina and Florentino make the most memorable couple. I even prefer Fermina with Dr Juvenal.

    Anyway, the most memorable couple for me is Luthien and Beren from The Silmarillion. So heartbreaking.

    • Teresa says:

      kiss a cloud: You and I are on the same page about Love in the Time of Cholera. I really enjoyed the romance between Fermina and Dr. Juvenal because it felt mature and honest.

      And Luthien and Beren is a great story. I just read the poem about it in FOTR a few days ago.

  4. litlove says:

    Oh love the idea. And my mind has gone completely blank for couples, beyond for some peculiar reason, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. They have a fine, manly love for one another (all those stories in which one or other gets hurt and the unharmed party is utterly distraught). I’ll be interested to see who others come up with!

    • Teresa says:

      litlove: I like the non-romantic couple twist! (Although I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve hardly read any Holmes and Watson stories, despite being an ardent fan on of the Russell and Holmes series.)

      As I’m thinking about it, most of my favorite non-romantic couples happen to appear in books with my favorite romantic couples: Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings, Lord Peter and Bunter from Sayers’s mysteries, Roland and Jake from the Dark Tower. And that leads me to think that authors who write well about love can write well about it in multiple forms.

  5. Aarti says:

    I have King Hereafter on my shelf and just haven’t picked it up yet. The font is so small and the book is so big! But everyone I know who has read it agrees with you on the marriage front :-)

    • Teresa says:

      Aarti: King Hereafter earns its length. (And since it’s a one-off, it’s not nearly as big a commitment as Dunnett’s other historicals which are all in long, addictive series.)

  6. juliebrichta says:

    Clare and Henry from The Time Traveler’s Wife are by far my favorite literary couple. Loved them!

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  7. Sasha says:

    Oh, Jane and Rochester. I’ve been in love with Rochester since I was nine, and was always in awe of how gutsy Jane was. Also, I’ve been in love with Rochester since I was nine. Just saying, haha.

    • Teresa says:

      Sasha: Rochester is such a great character. I often lose patience with dark romantic heroes (ie, Heathcliff), but Rochester is absolutely swoon-worthy.

  8. Jenny says:

    You know, I read an interview with Audrey Niffenegger where she said that she slightly based Henry and Clare on Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. I can’t really see it at all – but I love the idea that they’re literary descendants.

    • Teresa says:

      Jenny: Really? I totally don’t see that. Maybe the fact that Henry is insistent that they’re meant to be together, just as Peter was? But Henry had the advantage of time travel. And Clare, likable as she is, is no Harriet Vane. Yep, scratching my head over that one.

  9. softdrink says:

    Anne and Gilbert! Mostly because they tormented each other for years, and never seemed to be on the same page, love wise, even though it was obvious they were meant for each other.

    • Deb says:

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who finds Anne and Gilbert to be a favorite couple. They have the usual ups-and-downs before they realize they are meant for each other, but the thing I really like about the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES books is that the love story continues after the marriage. The last ANNE book is about Anne and Gilbert’s youngest daughter and her romantic entanglements.

      • Teresa says:

        Softdrink and Deb: Anne and Gilbert just missed making my list because I do love their story. I thought about them and then decided on Almanzo and Laura instead because I read the Little House books over and over, whereas I didn’t even finish the Anne series.

  10. Kristen M. says:

    I want to re-read Jane Eyre now. When am I supposed to find time for that?!? ;)

  11. gaskella says:

    I shall have a treat in store with Faramir and Eowyn for I can’t remember that at all! I found re- reading the FellowshipOTR a revelation after so many years and the film in between!

  12. rebeccareid says:

    I love Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. That’s my go to!

  13. Steph says:

    Oh, I would have totally forgotten about Almanzo and Laura, but they really were a great couple! I remember being absolutely swept away by their romance when I was a young girl!

    And of course you know I was won over in the end by Mr. Rochester! Sigh…. :D

  14. Stefanie says:

    Like many others, I like that you included Faramir and Eowyn! Is it too trashy to suggest Jamie and Claire from Gabaldon’s Outlander?

    • Teresa says:

      Stefanie: I figured someone would think of Jamie and Clare! I know lots of folks consider them very swoon-worthy (although, alas, Outlander just didn’t do much for me).

  15. Frances says:

    I would also add Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza since I groove to Marquez’s tale of unrequited love, Westley and Buttercup from A Princess Bride, and my daughter thinks Harry and Ginny of Harry Potter fame make a fab couple. Fun couples here but I especially like Holmes and Russell.

    • Teresa says:

      Frances: Ooh, yes–Westley and Buttercup! But as much as I loved the Marquez, I just couldn’t get into Fermina and Florentino as a couple. And in the HP books, I was a Hermoine and Ron fan, but I’m a sucker for stories of long-time friendships turning into love.

  16. I always go back and forth on Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Sometimes I think they’re desperately romantic, and other times I just think Rochester is a creep. I love Jane and want her to be happy, so I think I try to like Rochester because he makes her happy even if he makes me mad.

    • Teresa says:

      Kim: See, my feeling is that Rochester is a jerk, but he’s learning not to be one. Not a relationship I would recommend to a friend, true, but Jane is more than up to managing him :-)

  17. Maxine says:

    I love Jane Eyre! I think Jane always handles Rochester so well.

    Also, Anne and Capt. Wentworth from Persuasion by Jane Austen. Great story. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Westley and Buttercup. Aragorn and Arwen (though they’re really a better couple in the movies than the books).

    I left you an award at my blog: http://maxinereads.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-sweet.html

    • Teresa says:

      Maxin: I love all your suggestions, and I agree Aragorn and Arwen were a better couple in the movies. I just read the part in Fellowship of the Ring today where Arwen is introduced, and there are hints that they’re a couple, but you’d only notice the hints if you already know.

  18. Christopher Lord says:

    Surely someone ought to mention Scarlett and Rhett?

    I would also suggest Kristin Lavransdatter and Erlend Nikulaussøn.

    Pip and Estella?

    Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist?

    Okay, so none of those turned out so well, but they meet your criteria (at least I thought so)

    And then the raft of Shakespearean couples, almost too numerous to mention…

    • Teresa says:

      Christopher: Oh, I didn’t even think of Shakespearean couples. Hmm… I think I’d go with Benedict and Beatrice there.

      And if we’re going to add in couples for whom things did not end up well, yours are all good choices. I’d also toss in Tess Durbeyfield and Angel Clare.

  19. Christopher Lord says:

    And of course, if you want to pick a couple where things go really, really bad, think Jude and Sue. Not to mention that other pair of star-crossed lovers….

  20. I agree with Maxine — I love Anne Elliot and Capt. Wentworth. I think I like them even better than Darcy and Elizabeth. And I love Molly Gibson and Roger Osborne in Wives & Daughters.

  21. Kathleen says:

    I would add Darcy and Elizabeth to this list!

  22. Samantha says:

    I am looking forward to reading When You Reach Me too – it is my next YA novel.

    Also, I would very much recommend Nella Last’s War – I thought it extremely poignant and eye opening and so personal. I will be reading Nella Last’s Peace sometime in the future.

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