Mar 6 2013 10:30am

Author Rainbow Rowell on the Most Satisfying Love Stories Ever

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellToday 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 . . .

Not anymore.

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 AttachmentsEleanor & 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.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Joey and Pacey! I remember I really liked the idea of Dawson and Joey early on in the show (think that's what initially hooked me, in fact) but by Season 3 I was a Joey/Pacey fan and never looked back. Those two had fantastic chemistry.

And Anna and the French Kiss! I was rooting for those two crazy kids like whoa.

Great post.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I love it when people get together in books and then find their way together to their HEA. Relationships are work, it's not just over when you finally admit to your feelings for the other person. Thanks for the post.
3. ChelseaMueller
(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?!??)
Based on this line alone, I have decided to be best friends with Rainbow. Heh.
4. Jennykins
1. Random - I've been watching Pacey/Joey scenes on Youtube the last couple of days. I kind of loathe Dawson's Creek with every fiber of my being EXCEPT for the Pacey/Joey storyline. Man, that couple was made of win. The chemistry was palpable and there was a lot of fighting and angst and *sigh*. Good stuff.
C. I need to read Anna and the French Kiss, have heard entirely too many good things about it.
22. Spike = YEP!!!! That character kept me watching in the good times and the bad. Entirely made of win. Buffy + Spike Por Vida.
5. Jennykins
Heh. Everything is "made of win" apparently. >.>
6. KathyB
Yes, what you said about Anna and the French Kiss. It was absolutely wonderful! I loved how Etienne and Anna and Josh and Rashmi are not perfect. I was surprised at how much I grew to love them all and that has to do with Stephanie Perkins' writing. You are exactly right. She took her time and so when Anna and Etienne are on the top of Notre Dame, I think I was the one swooning. LOL!
Lexie Matias
7. OtterPuff
*hugs Rainbow Rowell to self*
Aside from Twilight - which I cold never stomach, sorry - I loved the couples you picked!!
Dawson never worked with anyone, that guy had all the sex appeal of a piglet. But Joshua Jackson, now that guy has charisma, and can make a scene just by being there and looking at someone meaningfully.
I would so watch Pacey and Joey the series.

Spike, my goddness. I love him and Buffy there is a whole lot right in that relationship than there ever was with Angel. Angel rarely challenged Buffy other thant physically - yes, I have fond memories of those scenes of them fighting and him shirtless - but really. Spike talks and he says what he means, and he probably has the best conversations with everyone in that show.
He talked to Buffy, yes, but he also talked to Willow and Xander and everyone and made them face things they hadn't wanted to face before.

As for Anna and Etiene, I gotta say, they grew on me. I liked Anna and the French Kiss but didn't really love it (there is this whole aspect of Etinne basically stringing Anna along that just doesn't sit well with me) but the more I saw them together, particulary in Lola (they were about the most salvagable thing of that whole book because Lola was awful) they made sense to me, totally. :)
8. Kareni
Thanks for this article -- even though I'm sadly unfamiliar with all of the examples given. I did want to say, Ms. Rowell, that I enjoyed
Attachments very much.
9. vavita79
Rainbow, you and I think alike. You are my twin brain!
Those are my own thoughts over years and years. Nobody ever understood me. YOU ARE SO RIGHT!!!!
11. Lisa W.
I 100% agree with this blog post on Twilight (loved the interactions between Bella and Edward, especially the biology class scene); on Dawson's Creek (agreed Joshua Jackson made Pacey the best boyfriend ever - even when he was with Andi at her most manic-depressive); and on Buffy (I was Team Spike all the way - though I can certainly appreciate David Boreanaz as Angel! and it's incredible that James Marsters was 40 years old by the end of the series - talk about the fountain of youth). I haven't read Anna and the French Kiss, but it sounds like I'd be completely on board given how much I've agreed with Rainbow's other picks.
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