Everyone’s always talking about which couples are the hottest on screen, but what about in books? Twilight definitely doesn’t make the list because Edward is low-key abusive and controlling, and Bella needs to understand that she can’t always have the best of both worlds. Don’t even get me started on Jacob; he can barely keep his clothes on for half a second. Fear not though, there are plenty of quality literary romances for you to discover and enjoy.
1. Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby
Don’t get me wrong. Their relationship is way beyond normal, bordering on twisted beyond belief. Jay is obsessive and a liar who has done many a questionable deed in the past. Daisy is vapid, superficial and fickle. Yet, somehow they work together. Is it because they are both terrible people and no one else deserves their mountains of emotional baggage? Yes. Is it because they are also incredibly conventionally attractive? Also yes.
2. Carol Aird and Theresé Belivet, The Price of Salt: Carol
One of my favorite couples on the list, Carol and Theresé’s romance is fraught with tension. Set in the 1950s, Patricia Highsmith’s tender novel about two lesbian women trying to love each other in the face of adversity is amazing. Carol happens to be a married woman with a child, while Theresé has a boyfriend that she does not love or even like very much. Although it never became very famous when Highsmith was alive (partly because it was written under a pseudonym), it is notable because it is the first lesbian novel that has a happy ending.
3. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, The Hunger Games
Katniss is hardly the easiest character to understand because of all the suppression of her emotions, and yet Peeta falls in love with her. It’s both expected and adorkable. They survive almost dying at each other’s hands but still come out on top, which I think says a lot about trust and commitment. Although arguably Gale has much more in common with Katniss, she loves him more as a brother rather than a boyfriend or husband. Also, they both have super abrasive personalities which I can predict would have worked out terribly.
4. Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez’s masterpiece about a failed teenage relationship that eventually spanned decades, marriages, and even affairs is not always sweet, but it’s always passionate. Fermina and Florentino are destined to be with each other, even if they could not be together for most of their lives. It’s about hope and overcoming obstacles put in one’s way with exquisite prose.
5. Frank and April Wheeler, Revolutionary Road
Similar to Jay and Daisy, these two are terrible for each other but somehow stay together and make it work. Frank works a dull job that he hates and April is a stay at home mother of two. What makes their marriage so memorable is precisely because they are ordinary characters that desperately want a bit of that dream of escapism, to Europe preferably. They are the everyday couple of 1950s suburbia, which makes their up-and-down love more relatable to modern readers as they struggle to make their marriage and lives work.
6. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind
It’s difficult to read this novel without thinking of Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh but I highly recommend reading this. It’s almost ubiquitous to American culture and just as important a read as any other book on the list. Their love story is juxtaposed against the racial oppression of the South, and haunted by Scarlett’s fantasy of loving the Major George Ashley Wilkes, who Scarlett sees as the ‘Perfect Knight.’
7. Lena Duchannes and Ethan Wate, Beautiful Creatures
Lena and Ethan are every misfit, awkward teenage couple who you’ve seen hanging out in your cafeteria in high school. You don’t really talk to them much, but when you do they’re always either laughing at some nerdy but obscure jokes or glaring at each other because they’ve just unleashed some dark force that they need to defeat. At first, they’re a tad annoying because the whole cliché of ‘I’m-the-misunderstood-weird-but-somehow-conventionally-attractive’ shtick is introduced, but eventually their strangeness grows on you.
8. Robbie and Georgia, Angus Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Ughh! If Robbie wasn’t your first literary crush, then I don’t know who else it could be! He’s charming and smart and funny and kind and cute but most importantly, he loves Georgia just the way she is. He even helps her find her cat Angus and wins over her little sister Libby, which is very important. The scene on the beach where Robbie reveals to Georgia that he still likes her and has dumped his girlfriend, Lindsay, will melt your heart.
9. R and Julie, Warm Bodies
Yes, it involves the undead but it’s still a better love story than Twilight. R is a zombie who can’t remember his real name, or even who he really is, but when he meets Julie, he starts to feel human again. It’s a cutesy story about how love can overcome anything and everything, even being a member of the walking undead.
10. Clary Fairchild and Jace Herondale, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Clary and Jace are my two favorite and most problematic characters of all time. Clary is the unknowing descendant of two very powerful Shadowhunters and possesses much more angel blood than other ordinary Shadowhunter. She meets Jace at a nightclub when he’s fighting a demon that feeds on humans. Cue intense and passionate romance, where the two characters never say what they actually feel, which is frustrating for both the readers and Clary and Jace.