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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.

Great Love Stories, Spoilers For Everything AboveCollapse )

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 08:49 pm (UTC)
I can't decide if I love your description of Irene/Gen, Sophie/Howl, or Laura/Sorry better!

It's sort of like the Artful Dodger falling for Snow White's Evil Stepmother.

Jan. 19th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
So while I love witty banter and the attraction of clever involved not-quite-love-love-stories (obvious as I adore you and Pratchett both) they are mostly mentioned already. I also like couples who resolve their own issues (of the undelivered letter, missing info variety) through communication, like Neddy and Clare, (Whitehorn Woods) she confides in him some of her past which she is aware could end it between him and he goes and sorts it out. He keeps things from her and she's human enough to panic and freak out but chooses to listen to him despite that.

I like stable couples who know what the other has done, and accept that and stay close even when they don't like it. Edward and Catherine who adore each other in a very real -rather than the deathless passion Robert has for Ed's sister- way and do everything they can to assist each other. Ed's sacrificing what he wants and eventually he accepts a price on the ideals he hoped never to sell for the family and she fights for it with cold certainty. It's just the unity they present to the outside world and how they actually care in a book full of people who are twisted, and they are themselves, but their relationship manages to be almost straight.

Terry Pratchett's love stories are pretty awesome, like Tiffany Aching's and the one the witches end. Nation Daphne and Mau, the characters learn to communicate, that they don't actually wind up together doesn't bother detract from it, they both have the strength to give up what they spent ages creating, they make a pretty awesome couple.

Shadow and Laura, American Gods, even if their communication doesn't really start till after she's dead, because I like them they are cold and wrong but they know and do love each other, although I prefer Sam to Laura as characters because Sam is straightforward - although Laura could kill people. So it would seem that my favorites are fairly twisted... but they communicate.
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
I seem to remember in the changeover Laura says she inherits her curly haid from her dad who suggests he is (part) Maori
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
Thank you for what is effectively a romance reading list.

I very much like the early Kareshi Kanojo No Jijou stories for the romance - without spoiling anything, I can safely say that the problems fun for the main characters, Yukino and Soichiro, begins soon after they admit they love each other.

That doesn't happen enough in romance; too often the story is over when they admit love, which isn't only unrealistic but unhealthy IMHO.
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Sophie/Howl and Lizzie/Darcy are my favorite couples ever! Or at least my favorite het couples, I have a few additions when we get into books like Swordspoint (Richard and Alec!) or the Nightrunner series (Alec and Seregil!). (...Authors seem to like writing Alecs into gay romance stories, IDEK.)
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:14 pm (UTC)
I found these to be exceptionally hilarious! I haven't read any except the Queen's Thief and Howl's Moving Castle (yup, I'm from Sounis) but your quick versions of the stories were amazing and had be literally laughing out loud. Write more! :)

Oh, and Pride and Prejudice. SIR I DECLINE. That one made me crack up, too.
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
I am complimented to be linked on Sounis. ;) I do have some more romance parodies lined up, but I also have a third book deadline, so we shall see what wins!
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
Kit Tyler and Nat Eaton from The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Also, Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs from On the Jellicoe Road, because she looks him in the eye when even his mother is afraid to, and five years ago he changed the way she breathes.
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(no subject) - westingturtle - Jan. 19th, 2010 11:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jan. 29th, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
Christopher and Kate from The Perilous Gard (Elizabeth Marie Pope). They spend most of the 'courtship' talking, separated from each other by the wall of Christopher's prison cell.

I think that of all Heyer's couples, I love Venetia and Damerel most because of how they fall in love over words and poetry and literature.

Jan. 19th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
Yessss Christopher and Kate. They were one of my "wait, what, she loves him? He loves her?... OF COURSE THEY DO IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE WHY DIDN'T I SEE IT" couples. I am occasionally oblivious, but I think in this case it was just Elizabeth Pope laying some very subtle groundwork that came to fruition in Christopher's remarkably cranky proposal ("What, and she told you EVERYTHING? Goddamnit I was looking forward to your face! And I was gonna have such a good proposal too! You were gonna be so wowed. I was gonna make out with you and everything, and what I said was not surprising enough for your face to be doing that"). Such a wonderful book.
(no subject) - elsa12790 - Jan. 20th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bookblather - Jan. 20th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 19th, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
I tend to love the old married couples more than anything else, by which I mean the couples who talk to each other and bicker affectionately and are best friends and who generally just act like they've known each other FOREVER, whether they have or not. Beatrice and Benedick are obviously the ur-example of this, and Lizzy and Darcy get there too. I love love love Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan for exactly this reason. The thing that sold me on Adama/Roslin in Battlestar Galactica was this exchange:

Roslin: "He's your son."
Adama: "He's your military advisor."
Me: You guys are secretly married, aren't you.

And Harry and Murphy, in the Dresden Files, who aren't actually married yet or indeed sleeping together but are close enough that it really doesn't matter all that much. The Placidas, in the Codex Alera, who are basically Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan WITH SUPERPOWERS (no, really, Butcher admitted it). Gaheris and Lynet, from Gerald Morris's The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf, who made me love them so much that now I read Sir Thomas Mallory and I'm all, "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG."

I have a number of real-life couples I adore as well, but I'm not sure if it falls under the scope of this post, except that I mostly encountered them first in fiction.
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:08 am (UTC)
Oh I love, love "old married couples" as well. Butcher's books have just moved higher on my TBR pile!
(no subject) - bookblather - Jan. 20th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bookaddict88 - Jan. 20th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jan. 19th, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
Well, you picked a few of my everlasting couples -- Elisabeth/Darcy and Laura/Sorry 4EVA -- but while I definitely feel you on the Heyer matchup, I have to throw hat in ring for Frederica and her Cousin Alverstoke myself. They're not as tortuously quasi-sadistic as Leonie and her Milord, and less incestuous than Sophy and her questionably-abusive Charles (I love both those women and want them happy, preferably while wearing their breeches and riding habits à l'Amazone, just to clarify!).
Jan. 20th, 2010 12:26 am (UTC)
Agreed that Mahy is tragically underread (at least in the U.S.) I'm also very partial to Angela and Tycho in her 'Catalogue of the Universe.'
Jan. 20th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
It's sort of like the Artful Dodger falling for Snow White's Evil Stepmother.

Having just read this book last weekend, I feel I can say with authority that omg, that's *exactly* what they're like :).

And I love The Changeover. I've read it I don't even know how many times.

In conclusion, this post is pure win.
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
Having just read this book last weekend, I feel I can say with authority that omg, that's *exactly* what they're like :).

Hi there! We were reading the same book the same weekend! And it wasn't even a book that recently came out! Cool there! Bye again! ;)
Jan. 20th, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
The Bestest Couples Ever:
Nick and Norah (of Infinite Playlist fame) because they are both individually really awesome, because even in one night they kind of grow through interacting with each other, and because the whole book is really, intensely (but also hilariously and awesomely) about them falling for each other. I'm not sure it's possible to finish that book and not adore Nick/Norah.
Will and Lyra, even though *SPOILERS SPOILERS* they can't ultimately stay together. Maybe BECAUSE they can't ultimately stay together.
Val and Ravus! I can't even put it into words. They are just awesome.
Georgia Nicholson and Dave the Laugh. Because they are so perfect for each other and by the time ten books have happened you want them to get together so much you are just ready to lock them in a room and tell them to sort it out.
Do couples who are not in books count? Do couples who don't actually end up together count? Because if they do then Inara and Mal from Firefly might be my favourite couple ever.

And, and this book with the waistcoats, there aren't quite words for how much I OMG SO NEED TO READ IT. There are people who are vain and awesome and sensible and feminist! I LOVE THESE PEOPLE.
Jan. 20th, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)
From Firefly, I think Kaylee and Simon are adorable together!
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 20th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
Prydain Chronicles
Princess Eilonwy and Taran by Lloyd Alexander. I Love them, they always make me smile. :)
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Prydain Chronicles
Seconded! So much love.
Jan. 20th, 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
I know you didn't love the book, but Cordelia/Aral in Barrayar. The conversation she has with the psychologist who insists that Cordelia is simply too old to fall in love, and then the presentation of her "Winterfair gift" to Aral during the war conference... I love them both so very much.

I also really liked McKinley's Sunshine & Constantine.
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:50 am (UTC)
Ahahahaha that Winterfair gift. Actually, the entire shopping conversation around it made me so gleeful, even given the circumstances, because they were so in tune with each other and playing off each other's repartee while everyone else in the conference room was torn between "WTF," "ew," and "HOLY SWEET JESUS OH GOD."
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