Today we welcome author Rainbow Rowell to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Rainbow’s new release, Eleanor & Park, is an intimate account of two people falling in love for the first time. Rainbow herself points out that the main characters in her first novel, Attachments, spent most of the book apart, and she is just so over that. We asked her to share her thoughts on the most satisfying love stories ever, and she told us that, for her, it’s all about depth. Thanks, Rainbow!
I think when I was younger, I thought it was romantic when characters took an entire book or movie—or TV series—to find their way to each other.
I swooned over those first kisses that began just as the credits rolled . . .
Now, if two characters take the entire story to finally kiss—I’m too fed up by that point to care. There are exceptions, of course, but usually these romances make me feel manipulated, jerked around. Bored.
This might seem hypocritical to anyone who’s read my first book, Attachments. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the main characters in Attachments spend most of the book very apart. In fact, it might have been writing that story that pushed me over the edge.
When I started writing, Eleanor and Park, I just wanted to get past all that. Eleanor and Park don’t fall in love right away, but they meet on the second page.
That’s what’s interesting to me now—and what formed the basis of the relationship in Eleanor and Park—not how characters get together, but what they do when they are together. I want to read and write about people falling in love, and people don’t fall in love in separate rooms.
So this blog entry is dedicated to the most satisfying love stories I could think of. To couples who fall in love on the same page, then stay there a while.
1. Twilight. Yeah. I just went there. Right out of the gate.
Here’s what I (genuinely!) loved about the Twilight series:
You get so much of Edward and Bella together. Talking. Sharing space. Thinking about each other, reacting to each other...I remember reading Twilight for the first time, and there’s that scene in biology class, where Edward and Bella have to sit next to each other, and it’s torture for both of them. (Though for different reasons).
That scene goes on FOREVER. And I remember thinking, “YES. KEEP GOING. NEVER END.”
Because that’s exactly how those falling-in-love moments feel in real life. Everything slows down. You’re over-aware of each other. You’re counting eyelashes.
Normally, in books or movies, scenes like that get summed up or skipped past, because—in terms of plot—nothing happens. But when you’re the person sitting in biology class next to a supernaturally hot vampire, EVERYTHING HAPPENS. (I can’t even type about Twilight without slipping into all caps.)
When I was reading that scene, I was like, “Yes, Stephenie Meyer—YES. Keep going. Make this biology class last a lifetime.”
2. Dawson's Creek: We’re not talking about the whole Creek here...Not Jen and that freshman football player, or Dawson and Pacey’s sister, or Dawson and anyone.
This is all about Joey and Pacey, Season Three.
The reason their love story works—well, the reason their love story works is because Joshua Jackson (Pacey) is a charisma machine. Most of us inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. But Josh Jackson puts off charisma. Don’t ask me to get into the science of it—charisma respiration—I’m not a biologist; I just know that it’s true.
Three seasons into Dawson’s Creek, the writers decided to turn all that charisma onto fresh-faced Joey Potter (Katie Holmes at her cutest and smirkiest). And OH MAN, it was good.
It was extra good because Joey and Pacey were together a lot. They talked. They argued. They teased each other and pushed each other—they danced. Then they danced some more. I think one time they danced on a boat . . .
It didn’t last forever. After about a season of this, the writers thought they had to keep things interesting, so they broke Pacey and Joey up. But breaking up a great, charismatic couple isn’t interesting. Watching a great couple be together, sort things out, make it work – that’s interesting. Fortunately, for my heart, Joey and Pacey were reunited in the series finale …
Which gives me an idea.
Fringe is over, right? And that show Katie Holmes was on is over, too...Time for Pacey and Joey, the series. An hourlong dramedy with at least a half hour of banter every week. And every episode has a slow dance. And the whole thing takes place on board the True Love.
I would watch the holy hell out of that.
3. Anna and the French Kiss: I just read Stephanie Perkins’s YA romance last year, on an airplane, actually—and I loved it.
To talk about this book, I also need to talk about Clay Aiken. (Sorry. It’s the only way.)
Back when Clay Aiken was on American Idol, he’d always choose songs with ridiculous high notes. The first few times he sang, you were on the edge of your seat, wincing, like 'Is he going to hit it? I don’t think he’s gonna hit it … Oh God, I can’t watch!'
But Clay always hit those notes. Always. Clear as a bell. And pretty soon you just trusted him—you knew he had it under control.
That’s how I felt reading Anna and the French Kiss. It’s kind of a long book for a YA romance, which means Perkins had plenty of rope to hang her characters; so much could’ve gone wrong.
But she’s utterly in control. She doesn’t rush Anna and Etienne through a bunch of ridiculous plot hoops; she doesn’t torture them. She takes her time and lets them get to know each other—she lets you, the reader, get to know them. And when you truly know two characters, it’s so, so much more powerful when they fell in love.
I felt like Perkins gave me enough room, as a reader, to stretch out inside this love story and enjoy it. To savor the inevitable.
4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Best romantic hero? Spike. Best character of all time ever-ever-ever? Spike. (Yes, you in the back, I hear you shouting “Angel,” but I’m ignoring you. Because you seem like a nice person, and I don’t want to shout at you. HOW COULD ONE HUMAN BEING BE SO WRONG?!??)
What’s brilliant about Spike—and later Spike and Buffy together—is how deeply we get to know them. Not just at a skin level; at a soul level. Spike and Buffy talk about everything.
It always bothers me in love stories when characters fall in love for completely surface reasons. (“My dog loves him!”) I want to see characters tear each other open too see if their hearts beat in time. I want to see them together. That’s the voyeuristic thrill of loving love stories. Seeing them find each other, learn each other, sleep together, wake up together, patrol the cemetery at night, side by side.
Buffy and Angel loved each other from afar; they whimpered in each other’s general direction. But Buffy and Spike happened onscreen. Team Spike 4EVA.
5. I’m out of space, but I just want to mention one other incredibly satisfying love story: Jamie and Claire in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. Proof that true love doesn’t get boring even after middle age and over seven books.
Rainbow Rowell is the author of Attachments, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. When she's not writing, she's obsessing over other people's made-up characters, planning Disney World trips, and arguing about things that don't really matter in the big scheme of things.