When we think of the greatest literary couples, a select few always seem to spring to mind: Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Romeo and Juliet, Cathy and Heathcliff, Jane and Mr. Rochester—all notable lovebirds. And while there’s no denying that these are the definitive literary loves, there are many others that are equally dreamy, destined and entrancing.
We’ve rounded five of the best couples in literature, other loves that have us invested from the first page and finishing the final chapter dreaming of the romance we’re one day sure to find.
So settle in with one of these wonderful pairs, and celebrate romance this Valentine’s Day.
1. Anne and Gilbert, Anne of Green Gables
Ah, Anne and Gilbert. These two were childhood sweethearts, and the first literary couple most of us fell in love with. Anne won Gilbert’s heart when she mistook his terrible attempt at flirting for an insult and broke her slate over his head in Anne of Green Gables. In turn, he spent the next decade, and the next three books, competing with her in school, protecting her from afar and saving her when all of her harebrained schemes went awry. Gilbert gave Anne as long as she needed to realize that she was as in love with him as he had always been with her. We couldn’t help but get goosebumps when Anne finally realized he’d been the prince charming she’d been searching for all along, and the two finally married in Anne’s House of Dreams.
2. Beatrice and Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing
If the “merry war” between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing didn’t draw you in when you first read this Shakespeare classic in high school, then do yourself a favor and go back and read it again. Benedick is the marriage-hating womanizer, to Beatrice’s perpetually single, closeted romantic. The attraction and chemistry between them is palpable throughout the play. It takes their friends tricking them into thinking that they are both objects of unrequited love for them to finally see what’s been right in front of them all along, and when they finally confess their true feelings for each other, it’s perfect. Benedick swears to Beatrice, “I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in their eye.” Can it get any more romantic than that?
3. Emma and Mr. Knightly, Emma
Okay, okay. This romance one is almost as iconic as Jane and Mr. Darcy, but plenty of readers overlook the relationship in Jane Austen’s other classic novel. Emma is a young, self-absorbed know-it-all, who spends much of the book overestimating her own matchmaking abilities and meddling in the lives of those around her without realizing how detrimental her actions can be. Much like Anne Shirley, her imagination is overactive and her perceptions are often wrong. Mr. Knightly has been friends with Emma for years—he knows her flaws and loves her all the same. He spends so much of his time trying to advise Emma without that domineering “men know best” attitude, which is a great indicator of a wonderful man. He’s kind and good, and willing to do whatever it takes to win Emma over. And, in the end, the prospect of “perfect happiness” is almost too much for us to handle.
4. Odysseus and Penelope, The Odyssey
Talk about a love that overcame all obstacles! War took Odysseus from Penelope shortly after their wedding and kept them apart for ten long years. And then it took Odysseus another ten years (and the 24 books of The Odyssey) to make his way home from Troy to Ithaca. But the devotion they had for each other kept their marriage intact. Penelope denied all 108 suitors who sought her hand during the absence of her husband, and Odysseus refused a beautiful siren’s offer of eternal love and youth. In the end, their reunion reminds us that true love is always worth waiting for.
5. Westley and Buttercup, The Princess Bride
Finally, Westley and Buttercup. Our list wouldn’t be complete without this fairy tale romance from The Princess Bride. His “as you wish”-ing is a heart-melting, thinly veiled statement of love. She takes a while longer to return the feelings—but when she finally does there’s no question about whether or not the two will end up together. Until that is, he’s killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts and she reluctantly agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck. The adventure that ensues and the reunion you can’t help but hope for is perfect Valentine’s Day reading, especially for those of us who prefer our love stories sugary-sweet and hopelessly romantic.