Just in time for Valentine’s Day! We’ve come up with some of our favorite romantic reads, our favorite literary couples, and couples who are putting the “fun” back into dysfunction.
Best Romantic Reads
November 9 by Colleen Hoover: I concede this is a bit controversial because the love story is convoluted and a bit grey area. This one has all the makings of a smaltzy love story. Couple who meets under extremely unlikely and odd circumstances. Male character who makes large and overwhelming gestures. They decide to part and meet up every single year on- you guessed it, November 9! The story is then complicated by the fact that Ben and Fallon actually have a history that only one of them knows about which is what puts it in grey area land. What I did like very much though is that the choice of being with Ben or walking away falls solely on Fallon in the end and for me it did feel like I would understand if she stayed or left. Also this totally preyed on my teenage dream of finding love like in a movie fantasies.
Brooklyn by Colm Tόibίn: Alright so this one isn’t really traditionally romantic but has lots of romantic subtext. Eilis comes to America in the 1950’s to make a life for herself and she falls for and starts dating Tony. Eilis is Irish and Tony is Italian so there’s lots of cultural clashing that occurs but also Eilis is firmly entrenched in both her life in America and that of Ireland due to unforeseen circumstances. What will she choose? Well you have to read to find out.
Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding: I am realizing my choices in romance are a little offbeat but I’m alright with it so far. The love story I like most here is Bridget falling in love with herself. She spends much of the novel figuring out her 30-something self and having interesting run ins and shagging sexy men. To the point where she famously declares herself a “wanton sex goddess”. There’s a little Bridget Jones in all of us.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman: At the beginning of this novel, Mia and her family are in a horrible car accident and Mia ends up the sole survivor. Mia is in a coma for the rest of the novel, but she hovers over her body and learns the fate of her parents and little brother. This is an interesting love story because while we see flashbacks to Mia and her boyfriend, Adam, we don’t see them interacting in the present. The closest we see is Adam at Mia’s hospital bedside begging her to ‘stay’ and Mia hovering above, contemplating what to do. Is there anything to live for? Is Adam worth living for? I loved this quote by Adam: “If you stay, I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll quit the band, go with you to New York. But if you need me to go away, I’ll do that, too. I was talking to Liz and she said maybe coming back to your old life would be too painful, that maybe it’d be easier for you to erase us. And that would suck, but I’d do it. I can lose you like that if I don’t lose you today. I’ll let you go. If you stay.”
Favorite Literary Couples
Simon and Baz, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: This book was just the story that kept on giving for me. Two people who shouldn’t fall in love as they are sworn enemies? Check. Unlikely situations that throw this pair together where romantic moments ensue? Check. I basically read this one just for the moments when Simon and Baz were together. I love this pairing so much and I was SO SAD when this book was over! I need more Rainbow!
Beatrice and Hugh, The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson: This is a real slow burn but that’s what drew me in. Beatrice is a lady who can take care of herself and makes her own money. She has no plans to marry and she is happy with her life as a teacher. Hugh is a doctor and appreciates educational pursuits. Hugh is not your typical leading romantic hero and Beatrice is not a lady looking for love so I think my love for this couple was in their partnership and friendship- any resulting romance is icing on the cake.
Anna and Etienne, Anne and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: I suppose you may need to continue reading this series to see how adorable Anna and Etienne really are. They aren’t really together until the end of Anna and the French Kiss, but they are pretty flirty and cute throughout the novel and you know they’ll end up together as soon as Etienne breaks it off with his moody older girlfriend.
Most Dysfunctional Literary Couples
Nick and Amy, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: Is there a more dysfunctional couple than Nick and Amy? Their marriage is falling apart due to some rough times and when Amy catches Nick cheating, she decides on the ultimate revenge: murder. But she doesn’t murder Nick. No, Amy decides to plot and plan (for over a year) her own murder in which Nick will become the one and only suspect.
Lady Brett Ashley and Jake Barnes, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: This is one part lost generation and one part lost love. Lady Ashley is grieving the loss of her first husband in the war and Jake is just trying to figure out what it all means. They both clearly have love for one another but Lady Ashley is more into the “having lovers” mode and if you’ve read the book you know why that’s a problem for Jake. I am one to think that the reason they are able to stand one another and stay together in whatever form of relationship they have because sex is off the table, but that’s just me. These two are certainly fascinating.
Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: I know, I know, these two are often on the greatest lovers list! Here’s the thing though, lest we forget, previously “crazy” wife locked in an attic does not a romance make. They are able to work around the many, many issues that arise (also fires, blindness, St John). Love that Jane remains a badass and she makes the ultimate choice on how that story ends.
Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: It is clear that Fitzgerald has a very specific point of view about the jazz age and what it means for people and love. Daisy is married, albeit to a total jackass, and Jay is not super forthright about his past or his current state. The fact that the whole story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway is sort of a fantastic view. It saves us from being too overly into soppy territory because Nick’s investment in this whole relationship is very different. Jay and Daisy are often shown as the portrait of love, but given some of the tragic twists and turns as well as how the book ends up, I’m going to put them solidly into dysfunction junction.
Howard Roarke and Dominique, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: Given that the entire book is a manifesto for objectivism, you can’t really expect these two to be romantic heroes. I do not completely hate objectivism, I think it’s really interesting and I also think Ayn Rand is someone to take a look at if you want to see some people use and abuse one another in the name of progress. There is also the question on if you can even say these two are a couple but I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide. There are some very questionable and violent scenes in this book and Rand was famously asked about one scene where the audience wants to know if it is a rape scene. Rand replied, “You can’t rape the willing.” So if all else fails, check this one out and feel rage.