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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.