My Favorite Literary Couple

Betsy Ray and Joe Willard are one of my all-time favorite literary couples. I love everything about them, from their first meeting in “Heaven to Betsy,” to the absolutely lovely recounting of the first years of their marriage in “Betsy’s Wedding.”
I’ve wondered sometimes what makes me like them even more than most classic couples, such as, say, Anne and Gilbert
Or Elizabeth and Mr Darcy
Or even Taran and Eilonwy (a classic couple for fans of YA Fantasy)
I even like them a little bit better than Molly Gibson and Roger Hamley, which is shocking.
But there you have it. For some reason, Betsy and Joe just stand out above the rest for me. After thinking about it, I’ve come up with a few reasons why:
(Note: I’m not saying that none of the other couples I mentioned don’t have all these traits, just not all together, like Betsy and Joe)
  1. Joe really respects Betsy. He doesn’t just adore her without thinking of her as a person, or think her perfection without recognizing her human flaws, or worship the ground she walks on without acknowledging that she has a brain. He respects her as a person, a human being, and he doesn’t try to shelter, coddle, or protect her. He critiques her writing honestly, and tells her real ways she can improve it. He is fiercely competitive in the first three years of their high school writing rivalry, but it is always a friendly competition.
  2. Although Betsy and Joe meet when they are fourteen, it is not at all certain they will end up together by the end of the series. There is an obvious attraction there, but while the reader hopes they will act on it, between their own stubbornness and outside influences, one can’t be at all sure. So that, when they do end up together, there is simultaneously a sense of “Of course!” and “Whew!”
  3. (and somewhat connected to 2) Because we get to see Betsy with SO many other boys, and Joe with at least one other girl, we are able to see even more clearly how perfect they are for each other, in contrast with all the other romances they’ve had.
  4. They are neither best friends nor bitter enemies. Nor do either of them think of the other as a sibling, while the other is hopelessly in love. Thank goodness!
  5. They don’t start dating (or courting, I suppose, given the era) and immediately get engaged and then married and everything is perfect. We get to see them continue to quarrel and make up, and even to break up for a time. Things aren’t perfect after they are married, either, but they meet every challenge with love and humor, and it makes them so human. In fact, everything about them is human and realistic, while still romantic enough to make the reader swoon.
So there you have it! My top five reasons why I love Betsy and Joe so much. All good things to keep in mind, for me, when writing romance between my own characters.
Who is your favorite literary couple? What are some things that you love in a literary romance, and what are some things you hate? Out of the five couples I mentioned, which do you like the best? Don’t you love Vera Neville’s illustrations for the Betsy-Tacy books?
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12 thoughts on “My Favorite Literary Couple

  1. OOOOOOO and I don't know. I'm likely to say "OH, THEY are one of my favorite literary couples!" about people other people bring up (FOR EXAMPLE, Anne and Gilbert! And Elizabeth and Darcy! But maybe Anne and Gilbert slightly more!), but I guess I haven't made my own list OFFICIALLY because I don't have answers popping into my head. Howl and Sophie and Ron and Hermione are both popping into my head now. Apparently I like couples who argue a lot.I like my couples to have a true RELATIONSHIP, not in the They-Are-Having-Sexual-Relations sense, but the sense that they have to RELATE to each other, WITH each other– there's giving and taking and working things out, you have two distinct personalities fitting together, and HOW they fit together is the interesting thing. Don't like love-at-first-sight. Don't like it built on hormones. I LOVE when it's clear both parties are perfectly aware of the faults in each other and, not only do they love them anyway, but they are able to DEAL with those faults in ways other people might not. When you see that each party is actually a BETTER PERSON because of the influence of the other, that's pretty awesome. I actually have never read the Betsy-Tacy books. Commence to throwing stuff at me.

  2. I've never even heard of them–or Molly and Roger–but all of the others I know and love. I'm torn between which is my favorite…I love fantasy and the Prydain Chronicles and ADORE Taran/Eilonwy, but I think I'm going to have to go with Anne and Gil.That's neat about how their relationship stood out to you–there are so many different kinds of romances, and I've enjoyed couples of all different sorts. It's hard to choose a favorite…off the top of my head, I'd say Ron/Hermione from the Harry Potter series holds a very special place in my heart.

  3. Rockinlibrarian – YES to the idea of couples seeing flaws and still loving each other, and helping each other to overcome those flaws. Emma and Mr Knightley are the first couple to pop into my head who fit that mold. Probably why Mr Knightley is one of my favorite heroes, along with Roger Hamley, because Roger and Molly do that too. And you really ought to read the Betsy-Tacy books, they are pure delight.Lydia K – great minds must be thinking alike! I really do like all of them too, just not as much as Betsy and Joe!Laura Josephsen – In some ways, I think I like Taran and Eilonwy even above Anne and Gil – but that might just be because the Anne and Gil type of romance has become so much more cliched these days. And possibly because I just adore Eilonwy so much.Oddly enough, I never really cared about Ron and Hermione. I liked them … but nothing about their romance ever really stood out to me. Well, aside from the dangers of breaking a really talented witch's heart. I did always like Hermione and the attack of the angry birds on Ron's head.

  4. One of my favorite couples that hasn't been mentioned is Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. They are wonderful. If you want to read some of their stories try Partners in Crime.

  5. Connie, how did I forget to mention Tommy & Tuppence? Especially since I'm pretty sure I included them in my "Favorite Families" post. Shocking oversight on my part. But yes, they are a great couple, especially in their "jolly good fun" attitude toward marriage and life.

  6. No, I never have! I'll have to see if I can find them. I also (speaking of detective couples) forgot to mention one of my other favorite romances, which is between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. But that one I like for the characters themselves, not for any outstanding traits about the romance itself.

  7. Hurrah for happy parents/families! I do love Mr and Mrs Ray – the way they encourage their daughters, believe in them, guide them, and even let them make their own mistakes. They are AWESOME.

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