To melt your cold, February-bitten heart this almost-Valentine’s day, we present our favorite kissing scenes in literature—and a couple scenes so romantic, you won’t even notice the missing kiss.
My favorite kissing scene is from Jane Eyre, in which (spoiler alert!) Mr. Rochester and Jane confess their feelings for one another and he proposes. Although the focus of the scene is less on the kiss, which is almost an afterthought, the entire scene is still full of longing and sexy, sexy tension. I still remember high school-aged me arriving at the beginning of that chapter while reading late at night, and deciding, after realizing something big and wonderful was about to happen, that I should save the scene for the next day. I was so giddy going to sleep that night that it felt like Christmas Eve. I just realized how nerdy that sounds, but I don’t care! Jane Eyre is still one of my favorite books, and Mr. Rochester one of my favorite romantic heroes.
Laurie kissing Jo in Little Women was IT for me. I can’t even remember how old I was when I first read the book, but those two were definitely my first “will they or won’t they” relationship fixation. As a kid, the kiss happened so fast it was surprising—but I think I just reasoned that’s how people fall in love. It’s simple. Your friend secretly contacts your mother about your dying sister and gets her to come home, then gives you wine, then kisses you, THEN you fall in love! That’s how it works, right? What I didn’t know then is the fun secret that you’ll kiss anything after the right amount of wine—friends, coworkers, a monster who hands you pizza, the pizza itself—literally anything. I might still not know how love works, but I definitely know how wine works. Also, for the record, I still haven’t forgiven Laurie for marrying Amy.
My favorite kissing scene doesn’t actually contain any kissing. Eleanor and Park are sitting together on the bus, too shy and full of lovesick crush feelings to even look at each other. Eleanor has tied a silk scarf to her wrist, and Park is playing with it…”Then he slid the silk and his fingers into her open palm. And Eleanor disintegrated.” The bold move sets off a shimmery, knee-weakening torrent of feelings in both of them, and makes you remember with full-body clarity how it feels the first time the person you’re falling for runs their thumb over your palm. Electric. (Their first kiss scene isn’t bad either.)
Beatrice and Benedick are the bickering couple that is the model par excellence for rom-coms everywhere, the classic that still can’t be beat. I’ve seen many a production of this play, and never have I see one where everyone around me wasn’t grinning ear to ear when they finally kiss after admitting they have the super-hots for each other, For Reals This Time, discovering “their own hands against their hearts,” having written adoring, sappy poetry about each other when they were both supposedly pretending to be in love with the other. How can you not love a kissing scene where each partner goes into it laughing, overjoyed, and comes out of it dancing? A couple whose only moral for the audience is, after everything, “Man is a giddy thing”? Because who has time for morals when there’s dancing off into the sunset to be done? Four hundred years later, and this is just another way that nobody’s topped you yet, Will Shakespeare!
Hardcover $26.99 | $29.99
Harry Potter’s first kiss with Cho Chang will forever hold a special place in my heart. The fact that when Hermoine and Ron ask him how it is and his only response is “Wet” still makes me crack up. Poor guy, can’t even get through his first kiss without the girl sobbing all over him. I should feel pity, but I thought this was hilarious. But then again I, like Ron, have the emotional capacity of a teaspoon
–Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick
One of my favorite kissing scenes is from the first witty, then heartbreaking YA novel Say Goodnight Gracie, by Julie Reece Deaver, which is sort of like When Harry Met Sally if Harry had died halfway through the movie. Best friends Morgan and Jimmy don’t even make out; they kiss, lightly, once, but the power of the kiss lingers and makes everyone, not merely Morgan, wonder endlessly about what might have been.
There are few things in the world as wonderful as the kissing scene between Westley and Buttercup. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t enjoy reading about romance and gets squeamish or disdainful when things get too lovey-dovey. The scene is perfect because it manages to be laugh-out-loud funny while still conveying the epic importance of the smooch. We all know the mechanics of how kissing works—there’s no need to go into a description of lips and tongues—and William Goldman does us a solid by skipping all of that. He says simply that kissing is subjective, controversial, and difficult to compare, but none of that really matters because Buttercup and Westley blow it out of the water with their makeout session.
One of my favorite kissing scenes involves no actual kissing. It occurs in the fourth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Centuries before Shakespeare gave us Romeo and Juliet, ancient Roman poet Ovid told the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe. These two were the original star-crossed lovers, destined to be parted early by fate. Though they lived next door to one another, their parents forbade them from marrying or spending time together. So, each night after their respective families had gone to bed, Pyramus and Thisbe snuck down to the border between their families’ lands. Cursing the brick wall that kept them apart, the two would each say goodnight and “give the goodnight kisses that never reached the other.” Sigh…they just don’t make tragically doomed love stories like they used to.
What’s your favorite kissing scene in lit?