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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?