2.15.2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Love Stories

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun!

Okay, I'm not going to lie. I'm a girl, and I love a good romance—love it without apology. Romantic stories get a lot of undeserved knocking about. I'll admit to preferring clean, not-specifically-genre romances that give me lots to think about, but many of my favorite books (and even more of my favorite movies) focus in on that sweet resolution of contraries that is a good love story.

Today's topic asks for our top ten favorite romances from literature. After much consideration, I've come up with the following. The primary difficulty was keeping Jane Austen from getting dibs on all the best spots on the list:

10. Miri Larendaughter and Peder Doterson [Princess Academy, Shannon Hale]. While admittedly a very young love between two very young people, their shy tenderness and the halting steps they take toward each other are beautiful and believable. And when either of them is in need, the other one responds with faith and loyalty.

9. Maria Merryweather and Robin [Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge]. Robin's proposal to Maria makes me laugh a lot. It gets better every time I read it. But it's only one aspect of a love that sweetly juxtaposes both obedience and desire. That's a rare and lovely combination.

8. Amy March and Theodore Laurence [Little Women, Louisa May Alcott]. I like Meg's romance with John Brooke, and I like Jo's love for her jolly, kindly Professor Bhaer. But for some reason, one of the scenes that I turn to most frequently in that book is the poignant little moment when Amy sits in a French garden with letters on her lap and deep sorrow in her heart, and.... well, if you don't know what happens then, you'll have to go read it. :) It's the pinnacle moment of a beautiful, growing love.

7. Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe [The Anne of Green Gables books, L.M. Montgomery]. Ah, Anne. It took her so long to figure out what Gilbert and the rest of us knew from the day she broke her slate over his head in school. Every time she softens to him a little, we all catch our breath. And their joys are immortally sweet.

6. Emma Woodhouse and Mr. George Knightley [Emma, Jane Austen]. It took me a few reads of this book to get past Emma's manipulative ways and really love her, but—mission accomplished. Sometimes I just pick up the book and read the last several chapters, over and over again. Emma got one of the great men of fiction, and the Emma who has mended her ways is good and great enough to deserve him.

5. Alec Forbes and Annie Anderson [Alec Forbes of Howglen, George MacDonald]. I considered leaving this one off because of Alec's annoying detour through infatuation with Kate, but the rest of the story is just too good. The pair's childhood days leave nothing to be desired, and the happy ending between the ever-constant and honorable Annie and her repentant hero is breathtaking.

4. Beatrice and Benedick [Much Ado about Nothing, Shakespeare]. I've read the play and enjoyed that, but I especially recommend the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson movie, which follows the text quite closely. This is a laughing, competitive, grown-up love story with a very apropos title. And despite all the practical joking involved, it seems clear that the anti-marriage Benedick and merry Beatrice are only tricked into recognizing the love they already feel.

3. Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth [Persuasion, Jane Austen]. Youth and young love get reverenced a lot, but there's nothing quite like a well-told mature romance (meaning that the characters are mentally and emotionally adults.) Elegant and intelligent and stronger for her early sorrows, Anne is one of the perfect heroines of all literature. Once he learns to forgive, her captain deserves her. I love this story.

2. Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy [Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen]. The unmatched brilliance of this tale belongs in part to what the title describes: both Lizzy and Mr. Darcy come into their acquaintance with a key flaw in their judgment. They are the antagonists to their own happiness. Fortunately for us, both of them conquer their failings, freeing themselves to love. It's beautiful.

1. Jane Eyre and Edward Fairfax Rochester [Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë]. She is young and virtuous; he is angry, immoral, and has a dark secret. But they are made of the same stuff underneath. I never get tired of watching them live out the truth that love overcomes a multitude of wrongs, nor of the fact that they have one of the most shamelessly happy endings in existence.

Wow, it's hard not to be effusive. Pardon all the adjectives in this post.

Runners-up: Ender Wiggin and Novinha, whose romance was perfect in Speaker for the Dead but appears to go through some horrible times later on; Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. And ever so many more. Mark and Jane in That Hideous Strength might even qualify. Oh, and while we're talking Lewis, there's always Cor and Aravis.

I'll stop there. Who would you choose?

12 comments:

  1. I'm intrigued by George MacDonald's book; I'll have to look into this one. Totally in agreement with the Little Women couples, Anne and Gilbert, and the lovers from Much Ado About Nothing!!!

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  2. Great list of classics. Another participant listed Little Women as a great story of family love, with other love stories woven in.

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  3. Great list, Jenna, although I do sense a predilection toward the 19th century... :) Great choice with Alec Forbes, though--I think Alec's sheer stupidity actually makes the course of the romance more lifelike in many ways.

    Ah, Alcott. Why Alcott? I can never understand--I mean, I almost understand, because it's a book with an abundance of great scenes. But great scenes do not a great novel make, and the gratuitous acts of violence Alcott commits against narrative structure have always and will always rankle me, rankle me, no end.

    That aside, there are some great ones you really must add to your short list--Buttercup and Westley(The Princess Bride), Sophie and Howl (Howl's Moving Castle, Miyazaki's retelling), San and Ashitaka (Princess Mononoke), Chohiro and Haku--lovely young romance, that (Spirited Away), Cornflower and Matthias, Rose of Noonvale and Martin the Warrior...

    OK, I'm showing my predilections now! :D

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  4. Kitty and Levin, Natasha and Pierre..Tolstoy does it best in my mind!

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  5. Mr. Pond, try Little Women & Werewolves. Maybe that will increase your appreciation for Alcott. :)

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  6. You hit on a great many of my favorites as well. I am so glad you put Alec and Annie on the list because sometimes constancy during unmitigated stupidity is what makes for a fabulous romance. I know Todd demonstrates that kind of love for me all the time...

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  7. Also, would you pick up some of Mr. Pond's suggested romances? I would like to read them when you are through. :)

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  8. Kathy, I highly recommend the MacDonald book! If you don't want to wade through a lot of auld Scotch, look for one of the Anglicized versions--The Maiden's Bequest is one, I think, and an older one is Alec Forbes and His Friend Annie.

    E.L. Fay, I saw that and loved it! Thanks for stopping by.

    Oh, Mr. Pond. I love Little Women and would shamelessly call it a great novel. But then, mere modern tactics like narrative structuring according to rule mean far less to me than an evocative tale that gives me a strong connection to its characters. :) Alcott succeeds with great glory at that.

    Masha, maybe I should bump Tolstoy up on my reading list...

    Beth, I can get you the tale of Cornflower and Matthias at any time. It's sitting on my shelf in the bedroom. If you like that, Martin and Rose belong to a later book or books in the Redwall series. As for The Princess Bride, if you haven't read that, you absolutely must, although it's more funny than romantic to my taste. And I'm just about to Google the ones with Asian names. :)

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  9. Oh... should have realized that. Beth, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle are all anime films. Which means I need to take them off my reading list and start a list of movies to see someday.

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  10. Just popping in to say I LOVE that you included Amy and Laurie on here! I reread that book every few years, and during my most recent rereading of it (late last year) my heart was completely opened to Amy, and the love that blooms between her and Laurie is so pure and right--I love them for each other.

    And, for what it's worth, I detest how the movie made in the 1990s handles these two... the movie handles so many other things beautifully, but not this match. Alas.

    Every other couple on your list, whose novel/story I have read, I absolutely agree with their inclusion here: Jane and Edward, Elizabeth and Darcy, Anne and Gilbert, and Beatrice and Benedick--they represent some of the best examples of love between man and woman ever written.

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  11. These are really very great Love Stories. I really appreciated your site and the variety and style of love stories.

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  12. Donna, thanks! I agree with you on the '90s movie of Little Women. It's really a beautifully filmed story, and Kirsten Dunst does an excellent job with young Amy, but adult Amy doesn't get a lot of time or character development.

    I agree with you on your other points, too. :)

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