In honor of Valentine’s Day and all the gushy feelings it brings, I thought I’d share some of my favorite literary couples. As always when I write one of these lists, this is by no means exhaustive. Honestly, if I tried to remember and rank every bookish couple I love (from romance novels and beyond), I don’t think I’d ever finish!
Some of these will be classic pairings that I’m sure you give you the warm-fuzzies, too. I’ve also tried to include a few lesser-known lovers, which I hope will encourage you to dive into a brand new romance. Fear not — I’ll keep it short and sweet, so you can get back to your own sweetheart (or your cat/wine/half-eaten box of chocolates — no judgment here!).
Inman and Ada Monroe | Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Beyond the fact that it is a beautiful classic about the Civil War, Cold Mountain sets off my long-distance romance waterworks. (My husband and I did long distance between Australia and the U.S. for two years, so I’m sucker for anything with lovers torn apart.) Despite the distance, Ada and Inman stay loyal to each other and persevere through personal hardships, all on the faith that they’ll one day reunite. Their love is truly admirable.
Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan | The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Let me be clear: Gatsby and Daisy are horrible together, and that is exactly why I love their ill-fated romance. Gatsby is in love with the idea of Daisy (or at least who she used to be), so much so that he reinvents himself to earn her love. Daisy is in love with the idea of Gatsby, the charming boy he was and the mysterious man he’s become. But neither can love the real other. Their romance a great statement on what love should be, and makes for a dreamy ride while it lasts.
Josephine Grant and Elias Addison | A Man Above Reproach by Evelyn Pryce
In this saucy historical romance, the Duke of Lennox falls for the “Bawdy Bluestocking,” the mysterious piano player at the Sleeping Dove brothel. What I love about this book (besides the gorgeous 1830s London backdrop) is the interplay between the characters. Between witty banter, steamy scenes, and the rush of hiding from society, it’s quite the titillating tale!
A haunting tale that was ahead of its time. With a title like Mrs. Dalloway, you’d think the romance would be between a husband and wife, but the real love story lies in the past. Thirty years ago, Clarissa Dalloway shared a kiss with her friend Sally Seton, and she still considers it the happiest moment of her life. While unable to recognize the truth behind her feelings, Clarissa provides a meaningful look into the fluid nature of sexuality and what matters most about the people we love.
Allie Nelson and Noah Calhoun | The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Speaking of guilty pleasures, I’m ashamed to say that I own almost every Nicholas Sparks novel. But I will never be ashamed to own The Notebook. The best part of Allie and Noah’s romance is how it evolves over time. They experience the throes of young summer love, the ache of distance, the thrill of reuniting, and the depth of a lifelong partnership.
Anne Edmond and Mike Everett | Start Me Up by Nicole Michaels
This is one of my guilty pleasure contemporary romances that really speaks to my Midwestern heart. A crafty single mom and a rough-around-the-edges mechanic fall in love. Will Anne be the one to finally get Mike to commit? I bet you can guess the answer, but there’s only one to find out for sure!
Martin and John | Martin and John by Dale Peck
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly a romance. In nearly every chapter, the characters of Martin and John are reimagined as different people in different scenarios. However, they are almost always shown as lovers. The entire novel works to paint a captivating and heartbreaking image of how love strengthens and collapses under the pressure of the 1980s-90s AIDS epidemic.
Dellwyn Rutt and Lord Collingwood | The Courtesan’s Avenger by Kate M. Colby
I know, lame, but I couldn’t resist including my favorite couple to write! What I enjoy about Dellwyn and Lord Collingwood’s romance is that they try so hard to fight their chemistry, and yet they can’t help but be drawn to each other. Their relationship is clear-cut behind the Rudder’s walls, but outside, they struggle to agree on what it should be. I’m glad I was able to give them a little closer in this book.
Buffy Summers and William “Spike” Pratt | Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon
Spoilers ahead, because this requires self-defense. A little unconventional and complete sacrilege to those on Team Angel, but hear me out. Spike loves Buffy even as a vampire without a soul, so much so, that he’s willing to go through hell to get his soul back and be the man she deserves. When Buffy is desperate in the comics, she turns to Spike (over Angel and her friends) time and time again. I could go on (trust me, I have), but suffice to say this is the No. 1 Vampire-Human romance. You can fight me in the comments, but you’re wrong.
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy | Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
We were all waiting for this one, right? Since I probably don’t need to say anything about why Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy make for a wonderful couple, I’ll tell you a little secret. Though I admire Elizabeth’s fiery wit and headstrong nature, I’ve actually always identified more with Darcy. I do not have the talent of conversing easily with others, and my good opinion once lost is lost forever. As silly as it sounds, seeing him open himself up to love gave me hope that I could one day do the same … and hey, it worked out!
And there you have it! Now, I’m off to spend the rest of the day devouring chocolate roses (thanks, honey!), putting lovey-dovey puns into wine copy, and writing Aya Cogsmith and her Willem into swoon-worthy scenes. Feel free to share your thoughts on my list or add your own favorite couples in the comments!