Monday, February 14, 2011

Favorite Fictional Romance?

Assignment: Come up with a Valentine-themed blog post! Result: one author with a headache!

Don't get me wrong. I love romance in real life. But I'm not the biggest fan of romance writing. And usually, when I do like a novel with romance, it’s a dysfunctional romance that may or may not end well. Not appropriate for Valentine’s Day! However, my all-time favorite fictional romantic couple do get together. Most of you have read or at least heard of them: Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.

I love Lord Peter and Harriet’s relationship. They originally meet with Harriet on trial for her life, accused of murdering her fiancĂ©e. Lord Peter sees her in court, is immediately attracted, and sets about proving her innocence, in the course of which he manages to fall in love with her.

Harriet, on the other hand, not only has sworn off any romantic relationships, but because Peter saves her life, her (very British) pride won’t allow her to care for Peter back. Thus begins a famous literary chase which spans several novels as Peter doggedly pursues Harriet (and the occasional criminal), eventually becoming successful in Gaudy Night.

I love Peter and Harriet’s relationship. Probably the most obvious reason is Sayer’s brilliant characterization. In Peter and Harriet she pairs two extremely intelligent, independent, proud and reserved people who on first glance are clashing opposites. Sayer also succeeds in creating two equally interesting characters. Contrary to most romantic stories, where if one character evaporated the story would flop, Peter and Harriet are equally fascinating.

Then there’s the dialogue and scenarios, which range from hysterically comedic to thoughtfully poignant. In scene after scene Harriet and Peter spar with subtle wit, making every interchange great fun to read.

And finally, there’s the romance. It’s not overt. It’s very British, very subtle. And yet Sayers manages to explore the ins and outs of every romantic relationship. She shows the darkness and the light that enters into any couple’s lives, and she challenges the conventions of typical romance. In short – her brilliance in literary romance is a constant inspiration. I’ll never be that good, but I’ll definitely try!

Who’s your favorite fictional romantic couple? Why do you like them?


Katherine Sophia said...

I don't like romance writing all that much either... but this sounds interesting! :)

Ruth Rockafield said...

Favorite romantic couple--you already know them!! Henry and Clare... "the Time Traveler's Wife". I think I love them so much because of the closeness of their bond...Henry made Clare into the woman that redeemed him from a life that was going downhill, and fast. Their love was wild and true. Scandalously intimate, undying in passion. No surrender, no turning back. It wasn't a perfect relationship; and at the end of the day they often had to force themselves to make it up, but they always did. They had love, forever young I love them. :)

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