What about all the classic literary love stories? The ones that showcase complex, non-pathetic, non-contrived romantic relationships? The ones that don’t just follow typical YA tropes? The ones that are so beautiful and heartbreaking that we’re still reading them decades and even centuries later? Those are the love stories that really deserve our attention.
My personal top ten literary couples (listed in no order of preference) are as follows:
1. Darcy and Elizabeth
Darcy and Elizabeth are, in a word, perfect. Feisty, intelligent, charming, and tender, theirs is a love story for the ages.
2. Sorcha and Red
Sorcha and Red overcome so much to be together–Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest is, in my humble opinion, one of the most beautifully, agonizingly romantic stories out there.
3. Howard Roark and Dominique Francon
I’m not telling you that you have to love The Fountainhead–it’s one of the most controversial books out there, even if it is mind-blowingly well-written. But the relationship between Howard Roark and Dominique Francon is definitely one to take note of. It’s wildly dysfunctional, of course, but it’s also incredibly, dangerously seductive.
4. Wesley and Buttercup
“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam…” (The Princess Bride).
Who couldn’t love these two?? Wesley and Buttercup forever.
5. Narcissus and Narcissus
Not only is Narcissus’s obsession with himself a hilarious reminder that not all love is created equal, it’s also quite uplifting: it reminds me of the inevitable fate of all the real-life Narcissuses/Gastons/Lockharts out there. And that just makes me smile.
6. Sir Percy and Marguerite Blakeney
“We must prove to the world that we are all nincompoops” (The Scarlet Pimpernel).
Delightfully ridiculous, poignant, and elegantly charming, the relationship between Marguerite and Sir Percy is absolutely captivating. He, the brainless, fashion-obsessed fop with a dangerous secret, and she, the beautiful, witty actress-turned-gentlewoman who must turn her famously clever brain to solving her husband’s riddle before they both lose everything.
7. Matthew Clairmont and Diana Bishop
I love Deborah Harkness‘s books–the dichotomy between strength and vulnerability in her characterization of Matthew and Diana is one of the most compelling aspects of her writing. And of course, Matthew and Diana themselves are a wonderfully romantic, complex couple. The best thing about them? They always keep growing as a couple as well as individuals. The Book of Life isn’t written just for the sake of wrapping up the trilogy and providing a nice solution to all the conflict in the previous two books–it allows Matthew and Diana to retain their status as dynamic characters, to keep evolving and learning until the very end.
8. Tristan and Isolde
A classically tragic love story if there ever was one, the legend of Tristan and Isolde captured my heart many years ago. Like Romeo and Juliet, it features two doomed, passionate lovers (one of whom is forced to marry another man) and ends in inevitable heartbreak and death. More mature and complex than Shakespeare’s most famous couple, Tristan and Isolde are a couple to remember.
9. Arwen and Aragorn
10. Beauty and the Beast
I love the dynamic between these two lovers–the fierce independence coupled with unparalleled compassion and empathy–but I think what I like most is the adaptability of their story. From tales of Eros and Cupid to modern adaptations like Uprooted and Heart’s Blood, Beauty and her Beast have enchanted readers for centuries. And will continue to do so, I hope, for many more.
Who is your favorite fictional couple? What’s their story? Share your thoughts below!
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