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The Best Couples in Books Ever!

I have loved many a fictional romance. Sometimes I love them because of how well they are done, sometimes I love them because I love one of the characters and like or can tolerate the other one.

Sometimes I love both the characters, and the way they get together.

I have chosen books in which the story's finished and the characters do get together: there are some couples I love but have not mentioned as they are NOT YET TOGETHER in ongoing serieseses...es (Kate and Curran in Ilona Andrews's Magic series, Derek and Chloe in Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series). There are some couples written by authors I know who I will leave out lest I be accused of partiality (even though Ravus and Val from Holly Black's Valiant are the best ever). There are some couples I love but who never actually became couples, which is a HORRIBLE TRAGEDY.

But those couples who do get together, and who are the best ever:

Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Of Course, Everyone Says That. My favourite example of attraction without Austen ever mentioning such a thing: even when Elizabeth hates Darcy, you notice how they talk to each other, zinging back and forth.

Maud and Sue, Sarah Waters's Fingersmith - They spend most of the book lying to each other. And being brilliant, one in a very intellectual and one in a very street-smart way. And through lies find truth, and love. In a library.

Kitty and Freddy, Georgette Heyer's Cotillion - She believes he's a complete fool, nice but only capable of thinking about his waistcoats. He believes she's an utter nuisance, nice but totally uninterested in fashion. All of London seems to believe he is sexless or gay or at the very least incapable of attracting a woman. His rakish cousin believes he can insult a lady in Freddy's presence. Everybody's wrong.

Gen and Irene, Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series - How do I put this? It's sort of like the Artful Dodger falling for Snow White's Evil Stepmother.

Sophie and Howl, Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle - A vain, cowardly Welsh wizard and a grumpy, practical hat-maker enchanted to look like an eighty-year-old lady. What could be more romantic? Again, they learn about each other through interacting: Sophie's impressions of Howl start off from Step 1) Cold-blooded murderer, eats hearts, to 2) Total idiot, in love with his own hair.

Laura and Sorry, Margaret Mahy's The Changeover. The best YA romance I have ever read, possibly the best YA I have ever read, and I will explain why. For this post was meant to be a no-holds-barred recommendation for The Changeover before I got carried away.

Laura Chant is a Maori-appearing girl in New Zealand with a blond mother and brother and an absent father. (The Maori-appearingness is a cool detail Mahy never goes into. I wish she did! But I find it awesome that it's there.) Sorensen Carlisle is a blond witch guy, which came as a bit of a shock to his all-female witch family.

Laura's on a mission to save her little brother. (UM. Apparently, I got the idea that was an awesome mission to be on from somewhere. Sorry, Margaret Mahy, that was unconscious. I can only blame how OVERPOWERINGLY AWESOME you are.) He's having the life sucked out of him by the creepiest toy shop owner in the world, and when Laura goes to Sorry for help, he thinks she's arrived because they have a ROMANTIC CONNECTION. Awkward!

Also turns out, only Laura herself can save her brother. Luckily, Laura is really awesome. In other news, Sorry is the least smooth operator in the history of time.

I have also decided to give you some SUMMARIES of these magnificent love tales.

ELIZABETH: I detest that man he is so PROUD.
DARCY: You have me there, less hot sister.
ELIZABETH: I hear he is also a blackguard, I have no choice but to engage him in scathing repartee.
DARCY: ... Your eyes are pretty.
ELIZABETH: Our hatred for each other is obvious to all, and I am glad!
DARCY: Let's get married!
DARCY: *writes a letter proving his innocence*
ELIZABETH: Oh no, it seems I have been terribly PREJUDICED.
DARCY: Baby, I just saved your sister from eternal disgrace. And I have a HUGE... estate.
ELIZABETH: Tell me more about this estate.

SUE: I am the best thief in the whole world. Or I will be one day. This is my chance at a big double-cross, all I have to do is trick this innocent lady into marrying this mean dude.
MAUD: La, I am so innocent.
SUE: Aw, I feel bad. And she's so pretty.
MAUD: Sue, on wedding nights, does stuff go a little bit like - KISS KISS KISS!
SUE: So innocent! Also hot. Man, it's a shame to lock her in an asylum.
MAUD: Alas, Sue, for I have totally doublecrossed you, and now it is you who are to be locked in an asylum.
SUE: ... The hell you say I what...
SUE: Time to orchestrate a break-out. And go kill Maud.
MAUD: Sue, I missed you!
SUE: Talk to the hand lady.
MAUD: Well, I have to be getting back to my library.
SUE: Wow it turns out everyone I ever loved was deceiving me. And Maud told me some more lies - out of LOVE! Beautiful love. Hi Maud I have found you in this library. Hi Maud, lookin' good, baby. What are you doing?
MAUD: Um, writing some naughty stories for publication?
SUE: Oh Maud. I think that given the fact we are both lying liars from broken homes, one of us with elite escape skills and the other amazing naughty story writing abilities, we should join forces and take over the world.
MAUD: Agreed! Awesome Victorian lady criminal romp is a go!
SUE: Libraries are sexy places.

KITTY: Alas, I am to be forced into marriage with one of my cousins. This is horrible! ... Excuse me while I go look out the window to check if sexy, sexy cousin Jack is here yet.
KITTY: Oh my God, sexy cousin Jack isn't coming! This actually IS horrible. I must show him I am a woman of SPIRIT. Cousin Freddy, notorious idiot, will you be fake engaged to me so I can go to London and SHOW Jack?
FREDDY: Dude. I don't want to show Jack anything. Aside from my new waistcoat. Do you like it?
KITTY: Freddy, I want to go to London, please please please. I REALLY WANT TO BUY SOME CLOTHES.
FREDDY: Fake engagement is on!
KITTY: I love London! Though I do seem to get into an awful lot of scrapes on account of my kind heart.
FREDDY: That's okay, I will fix those, on account of my also kind heart.
KITTY: You know Freddy, I don't know why everyone thinks you're an idiot, you're actually quite intel-
FREDDY: La la la I bashfully can't hear you! Waistcoats waistcoats waistcoats!
KITTY: You know, turns out in real life RAKES, like my SEXY COUSIN JACK, actually want to seduce and ruin innocent women. You know, maybe RAKES AREN'T SEXY AT ALL.
FREDDY: My, you have a good eye for colour. I like that in a woman.
KITTY: I have to help some more of my friends out of a scrape! Oh no, I forgot a vital thing!
JACK: I'll help you if you marry me.
FREDDY: Hi Kitty, I brought you that thing you needed? Also a toothbrush.
KITTY: My hero!
JACK: Imma going to call you a ho, and what is Freddy going to do about it?
JACK: ...
FREDDY: ... Oh my God, I am going to die. BUT IT'S ON, BUDDY.
KITTY: Oh la, I fear I may swoon. Freddy, you valiant champion, you must promise me under no circumstances to fight! Not because you would be killed, you understand. But because it would upset me. I am such a delicate lady. Did I mention, la?
FREDDY: ... you can marry Jack if it would make you happy.
KITTY: Jack makes me about as happy as yellow turbans on ladies make you!
FREDDY: Gosh, they are a hideous sartorial mistake! Oh Kitty, please be mine, so we can go shopping together always, and I can buy you jewels to complement your skin tone!
KITTY: I would love that! Careful of my bonnet, it is in the latest fashion.
FREDDY: I love you more than waistcoats.

GEN: There goes the Queen of Attolia, that hateful hellbeast. Hi Attolia, I'm in your kingdom stealing your miracle stone.
ATTOLIA: I poisoned my fiance you know. Why do you think it is a good idea to cross me?
GEN: I broke into your bedroom just to leave earrings by your bed. Mocking earrings.
ATTOLIA: I have hatched a cunning plan to catch you. And now I'm going to cut off your hand.
GEN: No, you're not, I am the hero of the story, and a master thief. There's no way - ow. OW.
ATTOLIA: Told you.
GEN: I am off to plot my revenge. It will involve kidnapping you and taking you away in a boat and threatening your life.
ATTOLIA: Well, crap.
GEN: Or... we could get married.
ATTOLIA: I cut off your hand.
VILLAIN: I have rescued you, Attolia. Are you not GRATEFUL?
ATTOLIA: So grateful! He is short and younger than me and missing a hand and crazy. By the way, do you like my new earrings?
VILLAIN: Very fetching!
ATTOLIA: They're a sign I'm going to doublecross you and marry Gen.
GEN: I'm so happy, my brilliantly deceitful love. As a wedding present to ourselves, shall I defeat all the troublesome nobles in your country by means of trickery, fashion, and brilliant swordplay?
ATTOLIA: Assuredly you may, my husband. Come visit me through our secret passageways and we'll do pillowplotting.
EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD: But... she cut off your hand.
GEN AND ATTOLIA: Every relationship has problems. Don't be a hater.

SOPHIE: Hello, I am your eighty year old cleaning lady.
HOWL: I could have wished for a sexier introduction.
SOPHIE: You should quit eating hearts.
HOWL: I don't eat hearts! Think of my trim figure. Now think of it some more. Excuse me, gotta get to a mirror, contemplate my own beauty.
SOPHIE: What do you do in the bathroom for five hours a day?
HOWL: MY HAIR. It's a work of art, baby. Art can't be rushed.
SOPHIE: Gotta clean up the bathroom and sort out the hair dyes.
SOPHIE: The kingdom is in turmoil. You should save it.
SOPHIE: I will help save the kingdom.
HOWL: Do you want to pretend to be my mom?
SOPHIE: I could have wished for a sexier undercover role.
HOWL: We have saved the day, due to our combined magics, your kind heart and me lying to myself about my own plans. God, I'm good!
SOPHIE: Yay, I am no longer eighty years old!
HOWL: Sophie, I want to ask you a very important question.
SOPHIE: *waits*
HOWL: My hair - is it a total mess?

LAURA: I sense that blond boy staring across the playground at me is a witch.
HER MOM: He's a boy.
SORRY: It's pretty complicated.
LAURA: When my baby brother is under magical attack, I know where to go for help!
SORRY'S MOTHER AND AUNTS: Laura Laura Laura we're so glad you've come, have some tea, have some cake, please marry Sorry and become a witch yourself!
LAURA: I can do that last one.
SORRY'S MOTHER: Please consider my son. His temper is a little uneven, but he has all his own teeth.
SORRY: Hey baby. I see you've... come on by. While here I am, lounging in my room in a dressing gown, like an eighteen year old Hugh Hefner.
LAURA: Are you going to kiss me?
SORRY: I am going to grab your boob!
LAURA: ... Very smooth, dude.
SORRY: This always worked for Hugh.
LAURA: Save my brother.
LAURA: My baby brother is dying, dude. I don't have time for this. Laura out!
SORRY: I... what... my romance novels didn't cover girls acting like this.
LAURA: Is that my photo pinned up to a nudie poster?
SORRY: *shifty eyes*
LAURA: Creepy behaviour, my friend.
SORRY: My romance novels have just been LYING to me all this time, haven't they?
LAURA: Must save brother by becoming a witch.
SORRY: I will help you. I'm sorry about my behaviour from before. I am messed up by my childhood and also by having to apologise every time I introduce myself.
LAURA: Okay. Let's go on an adventure of self-discovery, complete with making out! Do you really read romance novels?
LAURA: Tell you what. You can keep my photo, but take down the gross poster.
SORRY: Deal!
LAURA: I have defeated evil with my new and awesome witchy abilities! What's next?
SORRY: Well, I have to pursue my career goals, and I care about you as a person and don't want to rush you into something you're not ready for. So I'm going away to college, and you're going to explore your magic powers and we're both going to grow up a bit.
READERS: This convinces me like no ending on a kiss ever could that they are TOTALLY MEANT TO BE.

As you can perhaps see, I don't seem to care for love at first sight at all! I do seem to care for people examining and taking apart classic 'romantic' ideas, and sensible ladies, and guys who don't care about stereotypes and are willing to embrace things like a) fashion, b) romance novels, c) awesome ladies. I like romance to take place in the midst of a ton of other stuff, like adventures, and crazy plots, because I like a couple with other stuff besides gazing at each others' beauty going on! I like people being equal but very different.

But what I like best of all, and what makes me believe most of all in a pairing, is seeing people communicate - use words rather than a Magical Love Connection to learn about each other, become real to each other. And in the process, to us.

So - words/Sarah forever! What are your favourite couples ever?


( 307 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 19th, 2010 12:33 pm (UTC)
Howl's Moving Castle is and always will be one of my favourite love stories OF ALL TIME. ♥
Jan. 19th, 2010 12:38 pm (UTC)
Heeheeheeheee. Loved this. :)
Jan. 19th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
Your breakdown of Cotillon has absolutely made my day. And I do love the communication which then can totally lead to Magical Love Connection Which Isn't That Magical Because Now We Actually Know Each Other.

So my favourite couples ever are awesome people like Rochester and Jane, who cannot properly get together and be married and have lots of babies (even if he does sell them one day) until they actually talk to each other and fundamentally understand one another. She knows him so well and therefore loves him so well that she cannot get with him until his entire life has fallen apart. Which is awesome.

I also love forever and ever Maude and Goring from An Ideal Husband (yes I know it is a play and not a book but it's just a slightly less awesome version with sadly fewer words) because they are so arch and witty and totally get each other in lots of very shallow ways but also on a real, deep-down level so that at the end Maude knows she won't get and doesn't want an 'ideal husband', she just wants Goring. Which is awesome.

Although I think my favourite couple today might have to be words/Sarah, for making me so happy and being many levels of fantastic together.

Edited at 2010-01-19 12:43 pm (UTC)
Jan. 19th, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC)
Sadly I do not believe in Rochester and Jane, even though I love their words-y connection. I just believe that a dude who brings a fake fiancee into the whole secret crazy wife mess is an adrenaline and lies junkie who will sell the kids to pirates! But I have every faith Jane would get them back.

Maude and Goring's banter is for the win, I agree! And I curtsy for the kind compliment of words/Sarah.
Jan. 19th, 2010 12:45 pm (UTC)
Hoooowl! I love Howl and his vanity so.

And I don't care what you say... Fitz and the Fool ended up together.
Jan. 19th, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC)
Alas because HORRIBLE TRAGEDIES happen.
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Jan. 19th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
SOPHIE: What do you do in the bathroom for five hours a day?

Yeah ... hair ...

Maori-appearingness is pretty normal in NZ and comes in a broad variety. One of my friends there is 13, she is tiny and very blonde, but is a Maori, and she gives astonishing death glares to people who suggest otherwise, including the Christchurch Police recently when she was there reporting a crime. Apparently the sight of large senior constables quailing at small girl glares is something one should see.
Jan. 19th, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
Maori-appearingness is normal in NZ, and so are blond kids who are Maori but do not appear typically so, but the thing is that Mahy simply says "Laura appears Maori!" (or rather, she describes her, and then describes her looks as her gene's "random tribute to the Polynesian warrior among her eight great-great-grandfathers" um problematic) and yet throughout the narrative, not only does Laura never have a problem with people wondering why she looks different from her very blonde mother and brother, but there is no hint given that she has ever *had* a problem with people wondering that. In Christchurch. In the eighties.

So I agree with Sarah; Mahy had some very cool potential to explore, and not least yet another way Laura is a halfway girl, but she sadly didn't.
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Jan. 19th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
Laura/Sorry has been one of my favourite couples since I was 13, and I'm totally stoked you mentioned them. Also, Howl/Sophie. Usually, I don't tend to notice couples I like, though, usually it's just the ones I don't like - like Jane Eyre/Mr Rochester. He spends the first half of the book boring her to death with pretentious conversation, then turns out to be a bigamist. Meanwhile, she's just boring and easily led.
Jan. 19th, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
Since I was 12 my all time favorite couple is Anne and Gilbert, Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series. Ever read those books?
Jan. 19th, 2010 12:56 pm (UTC)
I have, yes. I like their head-slamming introduction! My very favourite of the series is actually Rilla of Ingleside, the one about her daughter and WWI, because I am a nut for fictionalised history.
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Jan. 19th, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)
Marcus Didius Falco and Helena Justina, whose nearly twenty books of awesomeness cannot be contained in just one comment.

Sir John Smythe and Dr. Victoria Bliss. He is an international art thief! She is a museum curator, who keeps getting stuck with the bill! (And also the embarassment when the police knock the door down in the morning.) Together they solve crimes! (Along with Herr Professor Schmidt, the secret star.)

Francis Crawford of Lymond and Philippa Somerville.

Sir Tristram Shield and Miss Sarah Thane. (Promises that he will ride ventre-terre to her deathbed are naturally included in the marriage contract.) (Also, Sir Hugh Thane/Old Constancia)
Jan. 19th, 2010 12:59 pm (UTC)
Lymond drives me totally nuts, so I cannot be with you there, but I agree that Tristram and Sarah have some very nice banter indeed!
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Jan. 19th, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
I love all of this. I also love "Help Hannah!", because Heyer is awesomesauce.
Jan. 19th, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, how I love Elizabeth & Darcy. They remind me of a far more restrained Beatrice & Benedick, who shall always remain my most favourite couple in the history of the written word, with the aforementioned zingy conversation and abundance of wit and conversation.

And BY GOD YES, the lack of a happy Fitz/Fool ending is a tragedy of the ages. DAMMIT.

Edited at 2010-01-19 01:20 pm (UTC)
Jan. 19th, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)
I am so with you on the Beatrice/Benedick. Made for each other! Made for each other!
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Jan. 19th, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
Kit and Nita from the Young Wizards series. Actually, any couple from the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane.
Jan. 19th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
I agree forever. I loved those books growing up, and I still love them now.
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Jan. 19th, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
Like another commenter above, I adore Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. It always seems like such an equal relationship, and I love how she always had a certain image of her perfect man, but Gilbert trumped it by actually being friends with her as well as in love with her. They have proper conversations and make each other laugh and are just so comfortable! I did like Rilla of Ingleside (because yay for WW1 books), but Rilla and Ken never captured my imagination like Anne and Gilbert did.

I tend to latch on to so many fictional couples that I cannot list them all, but here are few:

Ron and Hermione. I know some people have problems with them, but they also have the friends-falling-in-love things which I've always liked. And he starts to care about the house-elves because of her! And she cried for a week when he left! And they fight all the time, but in an affectionate way, and I can't help feeling like they'll stay together.

Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey. Words cannot express how much I love them. Again, their relationship is very much one of equals, which I love, given how they met and how they just don't let it affect the power dynamic. They understand each other so well and can be intellectual and tender and passionate and companionable all at once, and there is nothing that I can say that will be better than the last scene in Busman's Honeymoon.

Sam and Sybil Vimes. Despite the fact that it was in many was a marriage of practicality rather than passion or romance, I feel they do love each other. They take care of each other, and they make compromises and try rally hard to make each other happy, and I find them too lovely for words.

I have many more, but those four are some of my favourites. Looking at them, it's fairly obvious that one of the things I like most in a couple is friendship and understanding and just being able to talk to one another and be happy. Grand passion is fine, but I'm far more susceptible to friendship.

(Also, Gen + Irene 4-ever. And I want to see Eddis and Sophos!)
Jan. 19th, 2010 01:34 pm (UTC)
Ditto to the Vimes's. Though There has to be a bit of romance, what with the whole saving her from being eaten by a dragon and they do try to be romantic. "Here's looking at you kid." Though they are much better at the whole practicality thing.
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Jan. 19th, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
Kitty and Freddy are the best. And that, along with Elizabeth and Darcy and Sorry and Laura, is enough to convince me to read the other things you're talking about.

One of my favorite fictional couples is in a novel from the 1880s that no one but me seems to have read. They're secondary characters, but they're awesome. Tom is in love with the heroine of the book, and Ann Eliza has been in love with Tom for ages. He starts to notice her when he has to carry her home in a rainstorm after she twists her ankle, and he ends up proposing to her because his family has lost all their money, and Ann Eliza's father is rich. And then they go off to Paris and fall properly in love.
Jan. 19th, 2010 01:31 pm (UTC)
Sam Vimes and Lady Sibyl Ramkin. He is a cynical drunkard in charge of the worst police force in Ank Morpork, she is the most noble lady in the city together they fight dragons! Then they get married and are absolutely adorably sensible for the rest of the series.

Also can I say Gwen/Arthur? I mean its canon. We know its canon. It is possibly the canonyest canon ever and they are just so wonderful. She calls him on his shit, he tries to be better for her, she /pushed him against a pillar and kissed him/, he /dipped her/, they had TRUE LOVE's KISS. Every time he called her Guinevere I melt.

Jan. 19th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
YES ME TOO. GWEN/ARTHUR, I LOVE IT SO MUCH. When he dipped her I about died. Whenever anyone is mean about my Merlin OTP, I weep in my soul.

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Jan. 19th, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC)
I love these summaries! I've just finished rereading Fingersmith and that summed it all up perfectly.

Christopher and Millie from the Chrestomanci books are definitely one of my favourite couples. I'm also very fond of Sabriel and Touchstone from the Old Kingdom trilogy.
Jan. 19th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
Oh I'd forgotten about them! Both of them. How could I do that?

Christopher and Mille I particularly like because I read "The many lives of Christopher Chant" before I read Charmed Life so, yeah. Again with the sensible women and the slightly dandyish men who love them.
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