If you asked me a couple years ago which was my favourite bookish couple, I probably would have given you the same quizzical brow that Elizabeth Bennett observed in Mr Darcy when he was subjected to the revelry of Mr Bingley’s party. Bookish couples spell romance novels and romance has long been a genre I’ve always tried to avoid in my choice of books, including books that use it as a literary device.
Despite my former misgivings though, romance can be as enjoyable and accessible a genre or story arc that would appeal to all genders, men, women, non-binary etc. The trick is finding those romance novels that aren’t unevenly coated in unrealistic fairytale troupes or kinky toxic relationships or fanfiction. As wild as that concept may be to some i.e. me from the past, there is a vast pool of books that portray romance in an authentic way, providing escapism where necessary whilst also being relatable. The recommendation picks for today’s post are all books that feature each of my top 5 bookish couples.
1. Scarlet O’Hara & Rhett Butler (Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell)
Gone With Wind is a beloved American classic that brilliantly portrays the American civil war and the abolition of slavery through the perspective of Scarlet O’Hara who is the typical Southern Belle who’s family owns a plantation but because of the war, her life goes from the extremes of wealth and excess to poverty and hardship.
Scarlet and Rhett are both strong personalities who clash often and this makes for a riveting dynamic that was sometimes humorous. Scarlet initially dislikes Rhett and treats with him the same scorn as do the other prominent families in Georgia, but they both subvert the standards of their society which eventually draws them together. This romance is the complete opposite of lovey-dovey but it’s impossible not to fall in love with this couple. Click here read my full review of Gone With The Wind.
2. Arya Stark & Gendry Baratheon (A Game Of Thrones / A Clash Of Kings by George R R Martin)
Game Of Thrones is a epic adult fantasy series set in a fictional medieval world, where noble families vie for power of the Iron throne and in turn, all Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
Arya is a noble lady of the house Stark, but unlike her delicate and well-mannered sister, Sansa, she subverts traditional gender roles, pertaining to the ladylike behaviours of her status. She is a ruthless fiery character who can wield a sword as well as any man. Gendry is a lowly bastard who works as a blacksmith in Kings Landing, the capital of Westeros. He falls in love with Arya despite her lack of decorum and there’s no denying that she has a soft spot for him also. Gendry brings out Arya’s softness and vulnerability, without putting on charms and this made their relationship in a way that felt authentic.
3. Ammu & Velutha (The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy)
The God Of Small Things is set in Kerala, India during the year 1969 when a socialist upraising is gaining momentum in the country. It follows the lives of seven-year-old fraternal twins, Rahel and Esthappen, whose lives completely change when their cousin Sophie comes to visit from England. When a tragic befalls Sophie, it causes the divide between Ammu and her twins and the rest of the family to become even more volatile, with devastating effects.
Ammu is the mother of Rahel and Esthappen. The rest of the family treat her with disdain because she disgraced them. Velutha is an accomplished carpenter who works for Ammu’s family, together with his blind father. He is a so-called ‘Untouchable’ because of his lowly social status and very dark skin. His love for Ammu’s twins subsequently draws her to him and the two engage in an affair.
This romance has a classic star-crossed lovers quality, that was addicting. Ammu and Velutha see each other in secret because they come from very different social classes and face the limitations of such things as tradition and politics, which act as barriers preventing them from being together.
4. Geralt of Rivia & Yennefer of Vengerberg (The Last Wish / Time Of Contempt by Andrzej Sapkowski)
The Last Wish / Time Of Contempt are part of an adult fantasy series, popularly referred to as the Witcher books, after the RPG games and recent live action adaptation. Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, which means he’s an enhanced mutant human. He makes a living as a hired monster-killer, but he’s also responsible for a young princess who is bound to him by destiny. Princess Cirilla or Ciri for short, trains to become a Witcher like Geralt as she comes to understand the great power she has within her.
Geralt and Yennefer both epitomise strength which makes for an irresistible power couple. Geralt and Yennefer first meet when Geralt’s travelling companion, Jaskier accidentally releases a genie. Jaskier makes two wishes but also gets injured in the process, leaving Geralt to seek the help of a sorceress. Yennefer agrees to heal the severely injured troubadour, whilst also plotting to use the last wish for herself. Yennefer is as formidable a force as Geralt. Their romance developed in a tantalising way that was devoid of unoriginal clichés. Click here to read a review of The Last Wish!
5. Matthais Helvar & Nina Zenik (Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo)
Six Of Crows is a young adult fantasy about six outlaws from the dregs of their society who agree to go on a suicide heist mission. They live in a world where magically enhanced beings known as Grisha exist and where a mysterious scientist has developed a powerful drug that can be used to control them in such a way that produces life-threatening addiction. These six comrades, headed by the cold-hearted and merciless Kaz Brekker, known to many as the bastard of the Barrel have been contracted to kidnap this scientist from his maximum security prison.
The romance between Matthais and Nina has a forbidden love quality akin to an operatic drama. Nina is a Grisha from the land, Ravka with magical abilities that render her deadly in battle. Matthais comes from Fjerda, a place where Grisha are viewed and god-forsaken abominations and where reverence to their god, Djel is treasured above all else.
This couple is full unhindered emotion and hatred and in equal parts, affection. The conflict between them in tandem with the romantic tension was executed in a captivating light that whilst dramatic, still felt realistic, so long as you suspend your disbelief for all of the story.
Who is your favourite bookish couple? Let me know in the comments down below and I might be tempted to read the accompanying book! ❤️️