Over the weekend, one of my best friends got married. As I was writing my toast as maid of honor, I did a lot of thinking/researching/reminiscing about epic love stories. All of the common threads, the swoon-worthy lines, the stolen moments. Yes, there were tears and tissues involved.
And obviously, I just had to share with you all the top twelve literary love stories (per my own unbiased opinion). There are some old classics, some new hits, and a few which may not be familiar to you. But each has that unmistakable essence of love that squeezes your heart as you read.
Elizabeth Bennett & Mr. Darcy – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
So for anyone who knows me, this is the most obvious choice in the world. Despite Mr. Darcy’s snobbiness, Elizabeth’s pigheadedness, the most obnoxious family in the world and several other circumstances Mr. D is dumb enough to mention, these two are able to overcome their own character flaws to create the best couple in literature. And give me unrealistic high expectations of men.
Jacob Jankowski and Marlena – Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Typically, love stories don’t have a true antagonist and instead struggle with circumstances, timing or some kind of baggage. But Gruen’s story is different, with a true villain that threatens – literally and figuratively – to keep our couple apart.
Akiva & Karou – Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
This is a strange one. In a centuries long battle between chimaera and angels, two star-crossed lovers are torn apart. Reincarnated as a human girl, Karou is found by her former angel love and reignites both their relationship and their determination to end the war. If you like series, you’ve got three full books of good stuff here.
Scarlett O’Hara & Rhett Butler – Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Let’s face it, Scarlett is a brat. But holy moly, Rhett loves her, and that alone makes her likeable enough to buy into this relationship. Plus the setting lends an air of romance… at least in the beginning. Bum, bum, BUM.
Nora Grey and Patch – Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Another angel story… Not sure if that has to do with my own personal preference or industry trends over the last few years. But the idea of a “fallen angel” is nothing new, and when Patch stars to fall for the human he was sent to Earth to kill, things start to get a little heated, in more ways than one.
Noah and Allie – The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Cliche, yes. But no list of love stories is complete without Nicholas Sparks. This novel became an insta-classic around the world by tackling a few heartwarming/heartbreaking topics from first loves to Alzheimer’s. Getting to see Ryan Gosling shirtless in the film adaptation didn’t hurt either.
Melanie & Jared/Wanda & Ian – The Host by Stephenie Meyer
What a two-fer! One woman, body taken care over by a parasitic alien, desperate to find her boyfriend. The alien, trapped in a host who refuses to cooperate, falling in love with a human. But what happens when your body loves one person and your mind loves another? Such an interesting concept and insanely better than Meyer’s other stories… (*cough* TWILIGHT *cough*)
Ada Monroe and W.P. Inman – Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
A wounded deserter from the Confederate army walks for months across country to return to the love of his life. Grab the tissues people.
Lucie Manette and Sydney Carton – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
You wouldn’t think that the French Revolution would be an ideal setting for romance. And honestly, it’s not. Dicken’s novel is primarily a narrative on society. But Sydney’s complete 180 in character and his sacrifice for Lucie has this one landed on my list despite the romance being more of a subplot.
Louisa Clark and Will Traynor – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Too. Many. Conflicting. Emotions. Louisa Clark – the most adorable person on the planet – attempts to save a man whose life changing accident has made him lose the will to live. It’s funny, it’s devastating. And if you are more of a movie person than a book person, the film adaptation is one of the best I’ve seen.
Beatrice and Benedict – Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Mistaken identities? Tricks and deceit? Two weddings? Iambic pentameter!? Good ol’ Will’s most famous comedy has everything you need and more.
Claire & Jamie Fraser – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Set in the gorgeous Scottish Highlands, Claire travels back in time to fall in love with James Fraser and attempt to change the course of the future. And I am officially obsessed. Claire is one of the more realistically engaging characters I’ve seen, and Jamie is every woman’s dream. These books may be long, but they are WORTH IT.
You’ll notice that I left some of the classic “love stories” off my list. I do not think Romeo & Juliet is romantic. I think it’s a disastrous tale of bad parenting. Nor do I find Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby full of love (although it is one of my favorite novels). Gatsby deserved much better than the narcissistic fool that is Daisy. Speaking as someone who has dated one, there is no room for narcissistic fools in the game of love.
You’ll also notice that not all of these love stories have a happy ending. Unfortunately, that is a scary reality that comes along with love. But regardless of the ending, these characters’ love were strong enough to transcend time travel, war, reincarnation
As you can see by each and every one of the stories above, life gets messy. Relationships get hard, but love is as easy as breathing. So as I told my friend on her wedding day, all you have to do is to take a deep breath, and love.
P.S. I couldn’t post this blog without a few honorable mentions of my favorite TV couples.
Chandler and Monica – Friends
Eric and Tami Taylor – Friday Night Lights
The perfect couple. I aspire to be them.
Elena and Damon – The Vampire Diaries
My guilty pleasure. If they don’t end up together, I am boycotting love altogether.
Lexi Grey and Mark Sloan/Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd – Grey’s Anatomy
I still haven’t forgiven Shonda Rhimes for ripping these relationships away from me.