Yes, I’m fully aware that there’s an entire genre of fiction called “Romance,” and that it is quite popular. These are the novels one would go to when they want a sweeping tale of love and romance, complete with tastefully descriptive love-making (sometimes with pirates and farmhands). But a grand romantic gesture out of the blue in works more traditionally literary or in genre fiction resonate a bit more for some. Here are some swoon-worthy moments from books that will make your heart melt, on Valentine’s Day or non-Valentine’s Day.
Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
So, there aren’t a whole lot of options in Avonlea, or the greater Prince Edward Island community of 100 years ago to begin with, so Gilbert Blythe really lucked out when Anne Shirley moved to town and charmed everybody right out of their stoic doldrums. She’s a dreamer who feels her feelings, and Gilbert Blythe is the smartest kid in school, so really it was only a matter of when these two would become the Beyoncé and Jay-Z of early-20th century Canada. While there’s flirting through many of the Avonlea books, along with some missteps, like Gilbert calling Anne “Carrots” on account of her red hair, and her smashing her slate over his head in response, it finally happens when the childhood friends both grow up, and decide to be teachers. Gilbert shows how he’s really felt about Anne all along when he gives up the plum (and only) teaching gig in Avonlea so Anne can have it, enabling her to stay and take care of her adoptive mother, Marilla. If you have the means by which to do so, I highly recommend giving your crush a school.
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
I avoided reading this book for quite a while, assuming it was going to be a calculated heartstring-tugger, what with that dreamy title and the fact that it was about teenagers with fatal diseases. It was not that at all—it was extraordinary, and devastating, and left me an emotional wreck for days. (Also, while somebody does die, it’s kind of not the character you think it’ll be, so that was a swift kick in the stomach.) John Green’s YA classic captures all those giddy feelings of teenage crushes and love. The only thing not accurate is that Augustus Waters’ big romantic act is far smoother and more amazing that anything an actual teenage boy in real life could probably think up. He saves his “grant-an-ill-child-a-wish” wish—which could be his one shot at a perfect moment in his young life—for his beloved, and takes her to Amsterdam, where her favorite reclusive author lives. And in doing so, they both wind up with a perfect moment; several of them, actually.
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
Westley is but a farm boy, but he loves the beautiful Princess Buttercup, and she too loves him, but it is not to be, because they come from different stations in life. Nevertheless, Westley leaves his beloved to find his fortunes, learns the skills necessary to become worthy of her, reunites with her, and then gets himself horrifically tortured and killed because the Princess is betrothed to the evil Prince Humperdinck. Mere temporary setbacks for Westley. With a little help from Miracle Max, Westley fights off death because he simply has to be with Princess Buttercup. The book simply must have a happy ending. As you wish.
The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan
[Spoiler Alert!] It’s in the fifth Percy Jackson novel that heroes Percy and Annabeth resolve the romantic tension once and for all, admit they’re into each other, and start with the kissing. How could they not fancy each other? They’re both the offspring of gods. That comes into play when the two make the mistake of kissing in front of their friends, who throw them in a lake. Remembering he’s the son of Poseidon, Percy uses his power over the domain of all that which is water, and creates an air bubble at the bottom of the lake, where he and Annabeth just hang out and kiss for a while. It was, as he says, “pretty much the best underwater kiss of all time.”
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
A master of the dark, the macabre, and the ridiculous, Neil Gaiman is really at heart just an old softy who wants to write timeless fairy tales. And fairy tales are stories made up of equal parts adventure and romance, and Stardust does not disappoint. Plus, the big romantic acts of Stardust that actually happen are different from the ones the characters set out to do. Early on, Victoria, the most beautiful girl in the village of Wall, tells the humble Tristran that she might considered being with him if he completes the impossible task of retrieving for her a fallen star. Well, he totally does, except that the fallen star takes on the human form of a beautiful woman named Yvaine. Together, Tristran and Yvaine fight off all manner of bad guys and witches, and through simple acts of kindness to one another along the way—he builds her a crutch, she enlists the power of magical creatures to help him escape—they fall in love…and accidentally become royalty.
What are your favorite unexpectedly romantic novels?