Very often we turn to books for the satisfaction of a love story well told. If it’s done right, we get all swoony, clutch the tomes to our winsome bosoms (or winsome pectorals, as the case may be), and sigh over the perfection and delicious unreality of a fictional love affair. I may really dig a dude in a real life, but him spontaneously being all Edward Fairfax Rochester and telling me about an invisible cord connecting our ribs is, I can almost guarantee, never going to happen.
To that end, I’ve always had a soft spot for books where the “perfect love story” doesn’t turn out to be so perfect after all. I know I’m not alone in this. Every reader gets a wonderful shiver of schadenfreude each time a pairing between characters goes south and goes south HARD. Here are 10 characters who ended up with absolutely the wrong people:
1. Jo March and Professor Bhaer (Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott)
Okay, I can feel the masses ready to string me up on high for this one, but I’m standing by it. Oh sure, Jo and the Professor are a sweet, modern couple and I kind of dig them, and everybody knows accents are sexy, but none of this matters because LAURIE. He loved Jo most of his life, and you know the feeling was mutual. That said, while I always wanted to be a Jo, I am probably closer to being an Amy, so I guess I should be grateful.
2. Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)
A girl’s gotta eat, BUT AT WHAT COST? Marriage to a pompous, socially climbing, sniveling parson = not worth it. I want an alternative version of P&P where Charlotte takes up a life walking the streets of London solving crimes while deep undercover as a prostitute. It would be all about female empowerment and also Jack the Ripper.
3. Cassandra Mortmain (I Capture The Castle, by Dodie Smith)
To be fair, there’s something admirable and noble and sweet and real about our narrator Cassandra ending up on her own and learning that a broken heart doesn’t mean the end of love altogether. Still, when a good chunk of a novel has been dedicated to Cassandra falling for her sister’s then-fiance, you can’t help but feel slightly cheated by the ending.
4. Harry, Hermione, and Ron (The Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling)
I tend to be a Hermione and Ron apologist, but if even J. K. Rowling admits that it should have been Harry and Hermione, then who are we mere plebes to argue with her wisdom?
5. Frank and April Wheeler (Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates)
Frank and April Wheeler’s totally borked dynamic eventually leads to disasters we won’t discuss here, because spoilers. Frank and April clearly weren’t meant to be together, or if they were, the timing was off and the repressive culture of the age shot their union in the foot before it even had a chance to trot. One could argue that without their cataclysmic pairing the book wouldn’t exist, to which I respond: DON’T CARE TOO DEPRESSING.
6. Romeo and Juliet (Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare)
They literally die because they are mad at their parents. Are they smitten with each other? Totally. But are they also infants with poor impulse control? Oh very much so.
7. George and Martha: (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, by Edward Albee)
Just a word of wisdom for the collected masses reading this post—if you and your partner both have significant drinking problems and a shared semi-delusion of a child, it’s best to get out before one of you starts breaking the furniture, you dig?
8. Charles and Camilla (The Secret History, by Donna Tartt)
Fraternal twins Charles and Camilla take a beyond warped page from George R.R. Martin’s books when it comes to how twins feel about each other. In their pants. No, just…no.
10. Wanda and Ian: (The Host, by Stephenie Meyer)
Look, I get that love is about more than just the physical body, but the body is a big part of it—especially at first. So forgive me if I give Wanda and Ian the side-eye. We get it Wanda, your love for Ian surpasses the physical. Doesn’t erase the fact that you are making out with him using basically a corpse’s mouth. Barf.
What fictional characters do you think ended up with the wrong people?