When I first saw this topic, I thought that it would definitely be one of my skip weeks. After all, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t often enjoy romance plots in books. However, upon reflection, I realised that I actually do enjoy romance in my literature quite a bit, but only when it feels real and story-appropriate. I continually rant against love stories that force characters to fall into eternal devotion at just a glance because interesting and engaging relationships are the ones that are allowed to develop. Further, romance can be really fun to read about except when it is trampling all over the main plot of one’s book. Even though I have read many romantic duds lately, there are still literary couples that make me smile, and inspire all the myriad of emotions connected to love. So here’s to the top ten books that… give me lots of romantic feels! (Thanks to the Broke and the Bookish for hosting!)
1. Cinder and Prince Kai in The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Sometimes the trope of love at first (or close to first) sight can actually work. In the Lunar Chronicles, Prince Kai sneaks out of the palace to Cinder’s booth to ask her to fix his childhood android. At the time, he’s extremely stressed as his father is dying, and Earth is being threatened by the Lunar queen. Cinder is an average teenage girl who is appealing because she doesn’t fall apart as soon as she realises who he is, and she lets him escape from the confining realities of being a prince. Cinder becomes intrigued with Kai as he’s one of the only people who treats her like a human being (as he didn’t know she was a cyborg when they first met). There hasn’t been a lot of development for these two, but neither are they actually in a relationship yet. I am enjoying the mix-up of social classes (a prince and a cyborg mechanic!), and the fact that their relationship is intertwined in a heap of political intrigue that makes it so very hard for them to sort everything out.
2. Gamache and Reine-Marie in the Inspector Gamache Mysteries by Louise Penny
Gamache and Reine-Marie are adorable lovers who have been together for many years. They know each other’s habits, and are totally at peace with one another. They represent the type of relationship that I want to have when I am older, after life and age have mellowed me out, and further strengthened my partnership. The affection and simple joy that these two characters give to one another is born out of celebrations, hardships, and the everyday occurrences of life. They represent a very positive and beautiful image of spouses, and their interactions never fail to leave me with warm and fuzzy feelings.
3. Temperance Brennen and Andrew Ryan in the Temperance Brennen Mysteries by Kathy Reichs
Temp and Ryan are one of those will-they-won’t-they couples that can drive you nuts. They are colleagues, but also genuine friends, and Reichs allows their relationship to grow and shift throughout the entire series. I’m not too happy about their recent break-up, but when they were together, they were an exciting and dramatic couple that always seemed to be there for each other in their worst moments. Plus they jointly owned a cockatoo with a foul-mouth, and there’s just something awesome about that, and the fact that bird continues to keep them in contact.
4. George and Shaun Mason in the Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
I fully admit that this particular couple is controversial, and lots of readers absolutely loathed their relationship; however, George and Shaun Mason as lovers really worked for me. For those who have not read the series (SPOILERS!), these two are adopted siblings. Both lost their parents to zombies and were adopted by a husband and wife who just wanted to use the kids as convenient media props. The duo are not related by blood, and thus the taboo aspect of their relationship is complicated. While they do view themselves as family, theirs is a family forged out of danger, neglect, and ultimately choice. After losing everyone they had ever loved, they developed a new strong bond with each other. When George is killed at the end of book 1, Shaun falls apart. He can’t properly face life without the one person he trusted completely, and the depth and strength of his love for George is undeniable. Some people might never be able to find this relationship unsquicky, but these two inspire powerful emotions in readers, and that’s exactly what I want from a romance.
5. Batman and Catwoman by DC Comics
Batman and Catwoman were probably one of the first literary couples that I shipped as a child. I love that their relationship is a challenge because they are very different people with diametrically opposed life philosophies. I love that even though they obviously want to be together, the problems between them can’t just magically be fixed. I love the passion and the forbidden nature of their affection, and the fact that they push each other so hard to change in often positive ways. I love that their love is always something they think of fondly of, but something that they can’t act on all that often. They are a complicated mess, but a really enjoyable one to read about.
6. Lyra Silvertongue and Will Parry in His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Lyra and Will represent a very sweet, tender, and youthful type of love. Both are still children in this story, so this is not a pairing that relies on making readers swoon. However, readers watch these two children slowly grow-up and mature throughout their story, ending at the point where they are ready to acknowledge that there is something more than just friendship between them, but also knowing that they cannot stay together. Their journey to adulthood is forever intertwined, and you know that no matter what happens in the rest of their lives, they will never forget one another.
7. Alana and Marko from Saga by Brian K Vaughan (author) and Fiona Staples (illustrator)
Alana and Marko are rebels, lovers that met on the front lines of war, and are now on the run for their illicit relationship. They are also very sexy, and obviously passionately in love. Vaughan is not afraid to show how they are a romantic pairing plagued by outsider interference, yet still full of humour, love, and perseverance. I enjoy reading about their tumultuous life, and hope that they can use their relationship to prove to their people that war doesn’t always have to be the answer.
8. Lady Amalthea and Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle
Star-crossed lovers are a trope that I seem to really enjoy, and Lady Amalthea and Prince Lir are a textbook example of this type of relationship. Lady Amalthea is a unicorn who has been turned into a human. At first, she cares nothing for Lir and his very human expressions of affection. However, as she loses herself in her mortal form, she slowly falls in love with the prince. But alas, the two are ripped apart when Amalthea must transform back into a unicorn to save her people. Their romantic ending is bittersweet as through their efforts, they saved the rest of the unicorns, but in doing so, doomed their love forever.
9. Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes in the Mary Russell series by Laurie R King
This is another couple that readers tend to either love or hate. For me, the pairing works really well, and I found myself seeking fanfiction of the two because I wanted to explore more of their relationship. The reasons that I find these two characters together so appealing have a lot to do with my personal romantic preferences. The features that I find most attractive in other people are intelligence and wit. If someone is well-read and good at debating, my interest will be piqued. So when you have two incredibly smart individuals, I just melt when they start exchanging barbs, and doing fun, intellectual experiments together.
10. Olivia Taylor Jones and Gabriel Walsh in the Cainsville series by Kelley Armstrong
I really have no idea why I enjoyed this pairing so much. In fact, they aren’t even really a pairing in this first book of Armstrong’s latest series, but I really want them to be. Omens was really a book about Olivia’s life changing dramatically. There wasn’t a lot of room for romance, but something was starting up between her and Gabriel. I love slow build-ups because they recognise that many relationships don’t take off from a single meeting. Instantaneous love is far less common than books lead us to believe, and letting characters get to know one another and experience things together means that you get a much more nuanced relationship that feels like one someone might actually experience.
(Also, I have no pairing photo for this couple because my brain has decided that Gabriel is a bald, Black guy, and nothing Armstrong has said on the matter has seemed to change this headcanon, even though he’s supposed to be white and blonde. Whoops!)