Have you ever wondered if someone was up there, pulling the strings when it comes to romance? Or marveled at how two people can meet at the right time and the right place, seemingly against the odds of chance? In my new book, The Romantics, which Amulet is releasing TODAY (!), I imagined Love as a character—a sort of modern-day Cupid narrating the story and helping humans get together with the people who are truly right for them. This includes Gael, a seventeen-year-old movie buff straight out of his first real heartbreak and dangerously close to falling for the wrong girl.
As much as Love loves… well, love… she’s also realistic, snarky, and occasionally even a little cynical. She adores a good meet cute but knows that there are plenty of depictions out there that miss the romantic mark. So without further ado, our narrator shares three great—and two not-so-great—romances from the classics.
Great: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)
Love here! And I know exactly what you’re thinking—Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy? How clichéd. But it’s a cliché because it’s true: Austen’s classic is a wonderful depiction of the real deal—and I would know. On first meeting, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam fall into a typical pattern of on-the-spot judgments and, yes, prejudice. But their love is all the stronger for this rocky start. See, the subjects of the six-hour BBC special overcome their tendencies to judge, hold grudges, and generally be disagreeable, strengthening their relationship in the process. In my opinion, they complement each other perfectly, softening each other’s edges and bringing out the best in one another. Not to mention, when Mr. Darcy says, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you…” I swoon.
Great: Mercedes and Edmond Dantès (The Count of Monte Cristo)
Talk about star-crossed lovers. Edmond Dantès, also known as the Count of Monte Cristo, has a soon-to-be in-law who most certainly doesn’t know the bro code. See, Edmond is in love with and engaged to the beautiful Mercedes, but he loses her when her cousin, Fernand, spreads an anonymous rumor that Edmond is a Bonapartist traitor—and on the day of his wedding, no less. (And you thought your family was dramatic.) Edmond spends years in prison, but inspired by his love (and, let’s be honest, his thirst for revenge), he plays dead and makes an epic escape. While these two may never end up together, they treat each other with love and respect even when the world has torn them apart—Mercedes even renounces her title and fortune when she learns that Fernand (her husband) was responsible for the rumor about her former beau. Unfortunately, every great romance does not have a happy ending (though I try to do my best).
Great: Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre)
Let’s just get one thing out of the way here: Mr. Rochester, who locked his wife in an attic, is beyond flawed. It’s true, and I won’t deny it. But we are talking about literature here, so I’m going to give that a pass. What’s so wonderful about Jane and Mr. Rochester? They develop a friendship over many years that allows their romance to blossom, before they ever officially get together. Even more, Jane stays true to herself and never lets her love for Mr. Rochester lead her to make the wrong decision (like running away to the south of France with him). Instead, with patience and soul-searching, Jane and Mr. Rochester find their way back together eventually, even if Mr. Rochester loses a hand and his eyesight in the process. “Am I hideous, Jane?” he asks her. “Very, sir: you always were, you know,” she replies. Honesty is a crucial ingredient to love, after all.
Not-So-Great: Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet (Romeo and Juliet)
In The Romantics, I’m not so secretive about my dislike of Romeo and Juliet. First off, they know each other for all of like a millisecond before they declare themselves in love. While that occasionally is possible, it seems like you should spend a teensy bit more time together before deciding to mutually renounce your families (like, I don’t know, try cooking a meal together… see how you handle a chill night in?). But the biggest reason I just can’t get down with R & J is this: As I explain in Rule Number Three of Love’s Rules (you’ll have to grab The Romantics to see the rest), “Real love makes you better than you ever knew you could be.” And I’ll be frank—ingesting poison isn’t living your best life. It just isn’t.
Not-So-Great: Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale (Scarlet Letter)
Look, I get it. Puritanical culture made lots of real love forbidden, causing people to have to engage in romance behind closed doors, or in forests. But if you’re really in love, you don’t leave your baby mama to live banished in the woods with a freaking A on her chest while you deliver weekly sermons in town. It just ain’t right.
The Romantics is in stores today! If you love Rainbow Rowell, ugly cry every time you see the Notebook, which you’ve seen 800 times, or just want to restore your faith in the universe (for real)—get your copy HERE.