Those Literary Couples We Loved

Darcy and Elizabeth 


Lord Peter and Harriet


Katniss and Peeta . . . or was it Gale?


I know, I know!  NOT The Hunger Games.  But what are our favorite literary couples?
I’ll start off:


Lord Peter and Harriet —I love the character development throughout the Lord Peter Wimsey series that culminates in Gaudy Night.  I especially love the focus on Harriet and the way she doesn’t conform to stereotypes.  She’s creative and literary and might be called striking.  (Now I need to go off and brood on more reasons I like them, but there’s a start!)
They are my favorite, hands-down. 

Moving to Jane Austen, I’d have to add Emma and Mr. Knightley, too.  Probably because I appreciate how Mr. Knightley is willing to hold Emma accountable.  Also, the fact he knows her foibles and shortcomings, and yet loves her all the same!  The older I get, the more I appreciate his steady gravity and refusal to be bullied by Emma.  

Janie, would the Perilous Gard couple be one of your favorites?  And Megan, I’m thinking you’ll turn to Megan Whalen Turner?  Betsy . . . what about you?  Turner, too?

Betsy: SO many favorites. I don’t normally gravitate to “romance” books, but there are quite a few literary couples whose on-the-page dynamic keeps me coming back to their books. I echo Lord Peter and Harriet Vane. I’ll let Megan speak to the Megan Whalen Turner books.

Some others:

Amelia Peabody and Emerson in the Amelia Peabody books by Elisabeth Peters: these two are so funny and delightful (especially in the audio books!) It’s rare to find a series that shows a couple after they are married, but this series marries the two off in the first book. I haven’t read the whole series, but the first few are delightful.

Classic literary couples that won my heart long ago and continue to delight on each successive reading: Darcy and Elizabeth (swoon), Anne and Gilbert, Jo and her professor Frederick (this relationship was extra delightful in the recent Little Women movie). Each of those (and Amelia Peabody) feature smart, spirited women with strong, (long-suffering) men who love their women dearly.

Megan: [We have agonized over how not to spoil Megan Whalen Turner’s AMAZING series, so here’s a teaser quote Megan wrote as part of a longer discussion]

. . . I love that the Queen is broken in numerous ways, but not hopeless. Everyone who knows her fears her, and she is certainly a dangerous woman, but this sets up such a unique and irresistible romance! (Does that give too much away?)

Hayley: Readers, that should peak your curiosity. If you haven’t already, go find a copy of The Thief, and start reading!

Janie:

Actually my favorite Elizabeth Pope romance is not Perilous Gard but . . .

The Sherwood Ring. Peaceable Sherwood and Barbara Graham meet, she slips him a mickey and he falls senseless at her feet—after some Princess-Bride-iocane-powder maneuvering.

Speaking of Princess Bride, what about Westley and Buttercup?? (Remember, it was a book before it was a movie.)

In the field of Great World Literature, I’m always extremely gratified when Pierre and Natasha finally match up in War and Peace. She needs a steady man to tame her headstrong nature, and he needs someone to anchor him.

“Taming” reminds me of Taming of the Shrew. It’s so easy to make this a bitter satire about male oppression, but as the BBC version (with John Cleese —highly recommended) shows, Kate needs to be tamed, and Petrucio needs to be civilized.

In more recent books, there’s a sweet romance between Hằng, a Vietnamese refugee, and Lee Roy, a would-be cowboy, in Butterfly Yellow.

Hayley: Oh Janie, now that you’ve mentioned Shakespeare, I do have to add Beatrice and Benedict to my favorites list. And speaking of Sherwood reminded me —any Robin Hood and Maid Marian fans?

Yes, this is just scratching the surface, but there you have some of the team’s favorites. Who did we miss? Or did we include some of your favorites, too?

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Hayley

Born in a library and raised by books, or rather, raised by a book-loving family, Hayley loves talking and writing about books. She lives in the middle of Wisconsin and works with children as well as with coffee.

10 Comments

  1. Gretchen on February 14, 2020 at 7:52 am

    One of my favorite literary couples is Father Tim and Cynthia from Jan Karon’s Mitford series. I love Lord Peter and Harriet as well!

    • Betsy on February 14, 2020 at 8:13 am

      Oh, that’s a fun addition, Gretchen. I enjoyed Father Tim and Cynthia, too!

  2. Sheri Cornett on February 14, 2020 at 9:36 am

    A lot of my favorites are listed here, especially Harriet and Lord Peter. But I also love Montgomery’s Blue Castle and Valency and Barney.

    • Hayley on February 15, 2020 at 5:23 am

      Sherri, Blue Castle is on my reading list!

  3. Julie Zilkie on February 14, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Okay, where do I start with the Lord Wimsey series? I know nothing, but keep seeing these recommended. Appreciate your guidance! So many books being added to my list here!

    • Hayley on February 15, 2020 at 5:22 am

      Julie, that’s a great question. You can start chronologically with Whose Body, which is one of the first. Personally though, I might start with a later one to get you into Lord Peter. Strong Poison is the first one with Harriet and could be a good start!

  4. Carrie on February 15, 2020 at 5:04 am

    Fun question! I loved Nat and Kit in The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

    • Hayley on February 15, 2020 at 5:20 am

      Yes! And there’s also Daniel and Malthace in Bronze Bow.

  5. Cody on February 16, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Why do you feel that Petruchio is portrayed as needing to be civilized? His personality, unlike his wife’s, seems pretty much the same at the end of the play. (I love a good Shakespeare discussion!)

    • Janie on February 17, 2020 at 5:11 am

      With Shakespeare, a lot depends on the director’s vision and how he or she wants the characters portrayed. In plenty of versions, Petruchio is simply a monster, but I don’t find that very interesting. In the BBC version he’s more of a prankster who cleverly maneuvers himself into a wife, but once he gets her home we see he lives in a pigsty that sorely needs (excuse the cliche) a woman’s touch. She figures out how to manage him and bring order to the house. It becomes a game between them, and by the end they’re genuinely happy.

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