There’s something that really bugs me about the romances in most books these days: it’s all about how the two people meet and fall in love and how their relationship progresses up until they get married. Then all the excitement and drama ends. Boom. The book of their romance closes with a thud and dust begins to accumulate on top.
It’s not just books or movies or fiction, either. It seems to be the prevailing attitude that once you get married, all the fun ends. The romance fades away, and boring monotony sets in. In some ways, that’s kind of true. I mean, now most of your time together is spent doing normal life stuff like chores instead of primarily fun things like dates. Most of life is pretty mundane and unexciting. I get that. But just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t go on fun dates or that there can’t be moments of romance. More than that, I think that doing normal life stuff together can have its own kind of romance and beauty, the kind that you don’t get to have when you’re just dating.
Okay, so maybe you’re thinking, you’re not married. What do you know about this? Well, for one thing, I have wonderful parents who have shown and told me what a healthy, happy marriage can be. For another, not all the books I read have romances that end at marriage. There really are some books out there that show married couples still in love and portray marriage as an ongoing adventure. Today is the perfect day to celebrate them, wouldn’t you agree?
The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
I already raved about this series in my 2017 reading recap post. I feel like the tagline of this blog should be trying to get everyone hooked on The Queen’s Thief series. There are worse goals, I assure you. Anyway, because of spoilers I can’t be really specific, but in one or more of these books there is a couple that is probably my favorite ship after Faramir and Eowyn. Which is saying a lot. Their relationship is complex and certainly messy at times, but also so beautiful. Ugh, I just love it so much. If you want to give me a Valentine’s present, go read this series so we can freak out together.
Annals of the Western Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
Orrec and Gry, guys. I love how well they complement each other, how their different strengths and personalities are equally important to their mission, and how they recognize that. I love how they know what the other person thinks and needs and how they support and admire each other. I love seeing them work together. Definitely one of my favorite fictional couples of all time. ❤
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
This book is a modern-day spin on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Most of it is about the two main characters meeting and getting to know each other, but you do get a glimpse of them as a married couple (Hey, it’s not a spoiler, you know how the play ends. Or you should. *snooty judgmental stare*). More than that, it just has great views on marriage. There’s this part at the end where one of the characters basically gives a big impromptu speech about marriage, and it makes me want to cheer.
Presumption by Julia Barrett
While I dearly love Jane Austen and her books are quite appropriate for this time of year, they do tend to end with “and they got married and lived happily ever after.” Which is totally fine, but not quite in keeping with the theme of this post. In this sequel, however, Barrett gives us a picture of the Darcys after their marriage. The main plot focuses on Georgianna, Darcy’s younger sister, and her romantic adventures, but we do get to see Elizabeth and Darcy interacting as a married couple. Let me just say, it’s a treat.
The Mitford series by Jan Karon
I’m not sure if I’ve ever mention this series on here before?? If I haven’t, woe is me for this travesty. There are numerous reasons to love the Mitford series, and the relationship between Father Tim and Cynthia hold a high spot on the list. For the majority of this series, they are married, and I love watching their relationship unfold. Jan Karon is masterful at writing real, raw characters and treating them with honesty and compassion. Some of the stuff in her books is hard to read about, but there is always redemption and hope. Father Tim’s and Cynthia’s marriage embodies this. There are ups and downs, but ultimately it is a story of two broken people finding and creating a safe place with each other. Seeing how they make each other better and come through tough times closer has given me a positive and hopeful vision of what my future marriage can be.
Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery
You can’t make any kind of list revolving around favorite fictional couples and exclude Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. Another big ship of mine. Again, while I love reading about how they meet and eventually fall in love, I also deeply appreciate that L.M. Montgomery wrote about their married life together too. I especially enjoy the arc of their relationship in book six, Anne of Ingleside. I won’t say anymore because of spoilers, but it’s a wonderful portrayal of a long-lasting marriage. Make sure you don’t stop at book one of this series because there’s a whole lot of good stuff afterwards. (Shoutout to Rilla of Ingleside, book eight, as my favorite book of the series.)
Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge
This is one of my favorite standalone books of all time, and one of the reasons is the couple that the plot revolves around. This marriage is unlike any of the others in this list. I can’t really say more because of spoilers, but Goudge showed me that marriage is way more messy and more beautiful than I had thought. This book basically changed the entire way I thought about marriage. Just aghhhh, GO READ IT. The writing is really beautiful too.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
I almost didn’t include this one, because even though the couple in it is married, it kind of feels like they’re meeting each other for the first time. Again, I don’t want to say more because of spoilers. Just know this book is a whole lot of fun and a big part of the entertainment is the journey of Marguerite and Percy Blakeney’s relationship. Also, the movie version of this is hilarious and one of my favorite watches of 2017.
Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle
If you’ve only read A Wrinkle in Time, please go read the other books in the series: A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. Man, they are so good. If you haven’t read them, you might want to skip this part because of slight spoilers. *waits for you to scroll down*
Okay, so the marriage I’m talking about for this series is between Meg Murry and Calvin O’Keefe. You don’t actually see a ton of interaction between them when they’re married, but from the little you do see and from their interactions as kids in Wrinkle, I know it’s a great marriage. Maybe my favorite thing about it is that they got married at all and that Meg chose to stay at home and support Calvin’s scientific work. I am totally all for girls going to college and grad school and having careers and all that. But I hate how if you choose not to do that you’re seen as suppressed or limited or boring or whatever. Our culture says women should get to choose to do whatever they want, but what they really mean is that they should choose to have their own job. Choosing to stay at home is it apparently the exception to the rule. I love what Madeline L’Engle says about it:
Several women have written to me to complain about A Swiftly Tilting Planet. They feel that I should not have allowed Meg Murry to give up a career by marrying Calvin, having children, quietly helping her husband with his work behind the scenes. But if women are to be free to choose to pursue a career as well as marriage, they must also be free to choose the making of a home and the nurture of a family as their vocation; that was Meg’s choice, and a free one, and it was as creative a choice as if she had gone on to get a PhD in quantum mechanics.
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
This is another couple that complements each other so well. Vin and Elend are so different in many ways—she’s intense and he’s more relaxed, she is the nobody with powers and he’s the normal ol’ aristocrat, she knows the ways of the world and how to survive and he is a naïve idealist. Each has something the other needs; Elend provides safety and security and unconditional love, and Vin helps push him to be more, to take action, to fight. They are so much more when they are together. I love what Sazed tells them when they get married:
Those who don’t take lightly promises they make to those they love are people who find little lasting satisfaction in life.
And that’s the real beauty of marriage—loving someone enough to make such a promise, to take the risk and make the leap and work through the messiness and fight for love even when it’s hard. We need more books like these ones to celebrate marriages like that, to show us that such marriages can exist.