This week’s Top 10 Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl‘s blog) was open ended – a love freebie – so I thought I would take the chance to share some of my favorite fictional characters. This really made me realize how often fiction depends on relationship dysfunction! That does often make for a compelling read, of course, but I ultimately enjoy reading about couples the most when both characters are well-developed, equal partners, and build each other up rather than tearing each other down.
Warning – this post definitely contains spoilers, so feel free to skip over anything that you don’t want to read about.
1. Lan and Nynaeve from The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
There are a lot of relationships in The Wheel of Time, and I would be remiss discussing those books without mentioning Rand. He is in a poly-amorous relationship with three women, and while the women all have a great deal of respect for each other and all seem to love Rand, their relationships with Rand are full of conflict and often disrespectful to each other. Instead, the relationship that I loved to read about was more in the background – that between Nynaeve and Lan. At the beginning of the books, Nynaeve is bitter about her experiences, snapping at everyone, and needing to constantly be in charge. In contrast, Lan is emotionally distant from everyone around him, deeply committed (professionally) to his Aes Sedai Moiraine, but clearly heartbroken about the fate of his nation. Though Nynaeve and Lan fall in together relatively quietly, it is plain that they make each other better people. Nynaeve becomes more loving to everyone, and Lan becomes far more compassionate and patient. They are both still fiercely independent, but their bond stays strong throughout the books.
2. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I am sure this seems over-done to a lot of you, but there is just something I love about how incredibly stubborn Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are, and how they just keep misunderstanding each other – and how much they are able to learn from each other. This is one of my favorite re-reads, particularly when Elizabeth reads that letter from Mr. Darcy and starts to understand how much she has gotten wrong. These two absolutely make each other better people.
3. Daine and Numair from The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce
I first read The Immortals when I was about twelve or thirteen – before I had my first boyfriend – and I like to think that these two set my standard for relationships. If that is the case, I chose a great couple, because despite their substantial age difference, Daine and Numair are perfectly matched. They are both powerful and compassionate, highly moral, and motivated by the same concern for their friends and their country. As an adult, I could be troubled by their teacher/student dynamic, if it weren’t for a key scene in Realms of the Gods: Numair tries to break things off with Daine because he doesn’t want to risk the chance that she feels pressured into a relationship by a man who has social power over her. Daine manages to convince him that her interest in him is separate from any influence he has as her teacher, and their relationship continues on a much more equal footing. As an added bonus, just last Tuesday 2/6/18 Tamora Pierce released the first book in a new series about Numair’s childhood called Tempests and Slaughter. It’s sitting on my TBR shelf – I’m dying to pick it up!
4. Jamie and Claire from Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
I’m sure this is a popular one as well, but I just love the relationship between Jamie and Claire. They manage to be very different people, yet still equals in the relationship, and their love for one another is always stronger than the obstacles they face.
5. Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery
This is another relationship from my childhood, and is one of the few cases of enemies-turned-lovers that I think still results in a functional relationship. Anne and Gilbert are so sweet together, and I love how the competition between them in school makes them both better students, rather than tearing them apart. I re-read all of the Anne books when my daughter was born, and they still appeal to me as an adult. Anne and Gilbert are such interesting, complex characters, and they really grow throughout the series in a way that many novels are not able to manage. I think that is what makes them such classics.
6. Tam Lin and Jeanette from An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton
This is a much less well-known book, but An Earthly Knight is one of my favorite re-reads, and that is mostly because of the relationship between Tam Lin and Jenny. The start of the book starts with a typical but still problematic premise given its medieval setting, as Jenny is faced with the prospect of a marriage that she does not want for the sake of her family and her father. However, the relationship that develops between her and Tam is sweet and they both learn so much from each other – and ultimately, Jenny is able to save Tam from his fate as well as saving herself. Despite the otherwise-realistic historical setting, the affection built for one another is based on common interests, and Tam and Jenny treat each other well, in a way that only equal partners really can. I have talked about this book before – see it here.
7. Orlando and Rosalind from As You Like It by William Shakespeare
There is not much to say here that hasn’t been said – I just love the unraveling of the “friend-zone” in As You Like It. The romance that develops out of Orlando and Rosalind’s friendship is sweet and familiar to me – my husband and I were good friends before we started dating. Shakespeare is a classic, and there is a reason why the story of this couple has been told again and again.
8. Colonial Brandon and Marianne from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility is another common re-read for me, and while I do not exactly see myself in Marianne’s character, I especially love re-reading the beginning when Marianne laughs Colonel Brandon off because of his age. I just want to shake her because they are so perfect together! I know this wasn’t exactly the star couple of the novel, but like in As You Like It, the affection that develops out of their friendship is sweet.
9. Maria-Grazzia and Robert from The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
First of all, The House at the Edge of Night is one of the books that I recommend to absolutely everyone, so if you haven’t read it yet, go find yourself a copy now! It is one of the few multi-generational novels I have read that still have wonderfully developed characters and a great transition of the narrative from generation to generation. Maria-Grazzia and Robert’s relationship is a little different from some of my other favorites – they have a much more tumultuous relationship, partly due to conflict between each other. Robert is an English soldier stranded on an Italian island in World War II – he feels a deep sense of responsibility to return to his duties as a soldier, and Maria-Grazzia just wants to keep him close to her. This causes a great deal of conflict between the two of them, and when I first read the book I was so caught up in how this would end for the two of them! But of course love wins in the end, and these two really make the whole book. I have a full review here of The House at the Edge of Night.
10. Tessa and Jem from The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
This relationship is a little more sneaky, and I feel like many may disagree with me, but the relationship between Tessa and Jem was my favorite in The Infernal Devices. It didn’t have the spark between Tessa and Will, but it just felt more natural. If they had all been mortals with normal lives, I feel like Tessa and Will would have been over in about a year after a huge, dramatic fight, whereas Tessa and Jem’s relationship had enough substance to keep it going.
My sister and I covered a lot of the same books in our posts today – plus she is just amazing anyway! Come check her out at The Effervescent Bookworm.