Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! It’s that time of year again when everyone is cuddling up with their sweetheart, watching romantic movies, and devouring mounds of heart-shaped chocolates. It’s also the time of year when I get to talk about one of my favorite things – bookish romance!
I would categorize my favorite kind of fictional relationship as a tie between “terrible people in love” and “good people in love under terrible circumstances.” Messy, complex, complicated love stories are what I’m all about. If a romance breaks my heart, makes me cringe, or forces me look at love, myself, or the world in a different way, I’m guaranteed to love it.
The following list features 10 of the most thought-provoking, unconventional romances I’ve read to date. There are selfish/manipulative/self-sabotaging couples, lovers facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and relationships that make the people in them question who they are or what they believe in. Happy Valentine’s Day!
1) Scarlet and Rhett from Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell – This resilient, self-serving pair will do whatever it takes to survive, resulting in a relationship fraught with mind games, manipulation, and equal parts passion and loathing.
2) A and Rhiannon from Every Day by David Levithan – Relationships are hard under the best of circumstances; imagine how much harder they’d be if one of the people in the relationship woke up as a new person each morning, complete with a new body, new family, and new life. This is the premise of Every Day, which raises questions about gender, identity, and what it means to really love someone.
3) Abel and Anna from The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis – Abel is a drug dealer with a secret. Anna is the curious, naive girl who follows him after school one day and learns more than she bargained for. The relationship that develops between them is partly touching, partly dangerous and begs the question – what will you forgive of the person you love?
4) Anastasia and Christian from Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James – I’m not ashamed to admit that I not only read Fifty Shades of Grey, but loved it too. Why? Because I was fascinated by the relationship between Christian and Anastasia. They’re two very different people with vastly different needs and values. I was fascinated by watching them try to figure out a way to be together without one or both of them having to compromise who they were.
5) Diana and Caine from the Gone series by Michael Grant – Give it up for villain love! Diana and Caine are some of the “bad guys” in the Gone series, powerful, vicious, and spoiled. Even in their tenderest moments together they’re always keeping an eye out for ways to gain an advantage over one another and use their mutual attraction for their own gain.
6) Margo and Oliver from The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar – Oliver is a genie. Margo is his master. Inevitably, the two fall in love. Sounds awesome, right? Who wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with a cutie who can grant your wishes while making you swoon? The problem is this: genies are magically engineered to please their masters. This means their behavior, sexual orientation, looks, personality, and even gender are malleable, defined by their current master’s will. This causes Margo to question how much of her relationship with Oliver is real and how much is Oliver’s subservience to the magic.
7) Cole and Isabel from Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater – This is one of my favorite Maggie Stiefvater books, and it’s all because of the relationship between Isabel and Cole. They’re a train wreck as a couple as well as individually. Cole is manic and suicidal. Isabel is cold and self-sabotaging. While reading, you constantly wonder: can two broken, self-destructive people forge a lasting relationship?
8) Treasa and Gabriel from The Other Me by Suzanne van Rooyen – The Other Me is about a damaged boy, the confused girl who falls in love with him – and wants to BE him – and the realization that love doesn’t always show up in the shape you expect it to. The moral of the story? Sometimes you have to fight your own demons before taking on somebody else’s.
9) Maya and Lochan from Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma – Lochan and Maya are everything to one another. They’re partners, confidantes, and each other’s only sanity. The issue? They’re also brother and sister. Only Tabitha Suzuma could write a book about sibling romance and make it sad, captivating, and sympathetic instead of creepy and gross.
10. Froi and Quintana from Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta – Froi of the Exiles is about two imperfect people made perfect together. Need I say more?