A couple, a duo, a pair, a match, a Brangelina or a TomKat—you can’t have a Romance without them. It’s kind of a staple.
Technically, I guess one could romance themselves, but who wants to read about the single life of Kim Kardashian? (Besides Kim, of course.)
Imagine this . . .
Rhett giving a damn and deciding not to go South with the retreating Confederacy. Juliet forever crying, “Wherefore are thou, Romeo?” as he dumps her on the balcony to go drinking with his buddies. Elizabeth going all Kelly Clarkson in Miss Independent and joining the 19th-century's version of the Pussy Cat Dolls, leaving stiff ol’ Darcy in the rain? The titles would read; The Wind That Never Showed, Just Juliet, and Pride and Patent Leather Heels. Without these Uber-Couples of Romance literature . . . I don’t even want to finish the thought.
So, who are the power couples of Romance? I googled some lists, and the same names kept appearing for good reason. You sigh when you hear their names—recalling their plights, their fates, their loves, and their ha-cha-cha. Your heart actually smiles when you think back on their stories.
What makes these couples the greatest? Is it chemistry? How they met? Why they can’t be together? Is it the HEA or the three hanky cry-fest? I need to know.
The other week I finished Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. There is time travel, betrayal, sex, violence, laughter, history, and of course . . . love. Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall are among the Romance Elite. They made it to every list I found of the best Romantic Couples in novels. And I couldn’t agree more. Jamie and Claire kept me turning the pages, over 800 of them. Yup, you heard right: 800 pages. I read on the train to work, in bed, in the tub, in the car (not driving) and during family time. I heard grumblings that sounded like complaints from the Hubby and Tweener, but I was too busy in Scotland's 1743 to really care.
Now, those of you unfamiliar with this epic tale, relax. I won’t give away too much. During the beginning—I won’t lie—I yawned a bit. If it wasn’t for the rave reviews of some writer friends, I may have even put the book down. When these two dynamic characters finally meet, the initial sparks of attraction are palpable. Claire has been transported from 1945 to 1743. She finds herself in the middle of a battle between Scots and Brits. A group of Scots find her, think she’s a spy, and take her with them. Being a nurse, she sees a wounded soldier and tends to him. Even though Jamie is severely wounded, he manages to rile Claire up. This had me more than curious to see what would happen when he wasn’t half-dead.
As the story progresses, Gabaldon does an amazing job of having a natural push-and-pull form between these two. A slow courtship, all of a sudden, ends up in marriage. And being the time it was, well, we all know marriages had to be consummated. Here, I learned of Jamie’s vulnerabilities (ahem), being the virgin of the duo. Claire is from the 20th century, married, and a few years older than Jamie, hence the more experienced one. A curveball for Romance. Not done often, and certainly not enough in my opinion.
The beautiful awkwardness of virgin Jamie and the inner struggle for Claire—Is she cheating? Will she ever get back to 1945?—forces the raw emotion to shine through. It is truly compelling, and as surreal as the premise is, it’s strangely realistic. You can see the humanity in these two, as if you were one of them, you would react the same way and do the same things in the name of love.
Now, I wanted more of Jamie’s first time, since it kind of gets skimmed over. But in the end, I saw the cleverness of Gabaldon in this. As the story goes on, the number of physical encounters increase, and the sex turns into love-making. She builds it, not just for Jamie and Claire, but for the reader. The marriage goes from necessity to curiosity, to respect, then to need, and finally . . . sigh . . . to love. You sit back and have to re-read scenes. I was left breathless, truly breathless throughout. There were moments where, like in a movie theater, I jumped up and said, “No, he didn’t!” or “I can’t believe she’d do that!”
I mean, let’s face it. How many people would chose to stay in 1743's war-torn Scotland with a nymphomaniac/sadist hunting you, okay, really, hunting your husband. Yup, Queer Eye for the straight-Scot indeed! And this freak is actually a relation of your 20th century husband! I felt like I was watching one of my mother-in-law’s Spanish Soap Operas.
The number of times these two risk their lives for the sake of the other had me shaking my head. Literally, I wanted to strap Claire down in a chair and tell her to stay put. Tell Jamie to give her butt another whoppin’. Yes, there is a scene where the husband takes his belt to her ba-donk-adonk. It’s old-school Scotland and some things are customary or accepted. Gabaldon really makes you question yourself and your beliefs. As a woman, I cursed Jamie. But at the same time, I thought, you almost got him killed again, Claire!
By the end, Jamie is physically and emotionally near the brink of death. Claire’s love and determination sees them through the impossible, the unthinkable. They survive war, rape, witch hunts, time travel, and the most difficult—each other.
Even at 800 pages, I will most definitely read this book again. For me, Jamie and Claire are the couple to beat. But we’ll see. After I read more books from the lists, I'll tell you where they end up.
Charli’s Rank for Jamie and Claire:
Chemistry: A full HA-CHA–CHA
Tension: 2 of out 3 MUSCLE KNOTS
Conclusion: 3 out of 3 SIGHS
Finally, I like to imagine who would play the hero and heroine in a Hollywood rendition, and I have some contenders for Claire and Jamie. The first that came to mind is a rematch of Allie and Noah Calhoun from The Notebook. Rachel McAdams could definitely pull off Claire, but I am not sure if Ryan Gosling can pull off a Scottish accent? However, the chemistry between these two is perfect, IMO.
I think that Alexander Skarsgard could definitely do Jamie's role justice. Now I know, Jamie is about 23, and Alex is in his 30s, but really, so what? Alex is hot enough. And he can definitely pull off the Scottish accent. Who to pair him with, though? Hmm, why not Anna Paquin? Ooh, I am liking this match.
Who would you pick?
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes image courtesy of Jay Tamboli.