Romance Appreciation/Awareness Month is drawing to a close, (but it’s always romance appreciation month as far as I’m concerned0 and National Matchmaker’s Day is tomorrow, so now it’s time for me to gush on some of my favorite regular-people ships. No ghosts, no vampires, no super powers, only flesh and blood people. Whittling this down to only a few was even harder than the previous version, and I may have to update these posts with an additional post for honorable mention, because, when one is a romance aficionado, that stuff is everywhere, and picking favorites is not as easy as it sounds. So, I am jumping in, in no particular order, with the first couples who come to mind. As before, all links go to my OTPs (One True Pairing) page on Pintrest, where you can see a more comprehensive list.
First up, Max and Kyle from Living Single. Kyle is smooth, fashionable, self-assured, very much in love with himself, and torn between corporate life and his buried musical aspirations. Max is also self-assured, brash, impulsive, a lawyer with a strong sense of ethics (even if those ethics may be particular to her; she still hews to them) and it’s pretty much hate at first sight. These two cannot stand each other, and it is very much a case of when both lady and gentleman doth protest too much, because egads, the chemistry. They fight, they love, they break up, Kyle moves an ocean away, Max totally goes off the deep end, and makes an impulsive decision to become a single mother through IVF (which is not as easy in real life as in sitcomland, but stay with us on this one.) The donor she picks, blind? One guess, romance fans, and when Kyle finds out, oh my my my. The moment when these two finally decide to go for it and admit their true feelings gives me the down-deep shivers. The only thing better than that scene is a brief cameo in another sitcom, a few years later, when we find that Max and Kyle are still happily married, with a mini-them who has the best and worst of them both in one sharply-dressed package. The rare canon HEA, with epilogue.
I could not make this post without one historical couple, and (sorry, Jamie and Claire, you’re in a time travel, so you count as paranormal) Ross and Demelza from Poldark have no competition. From the second we meet Demelza, disguised as a boy, desperate to save her dog from a dogfighting ring, and Ross steps in, the chemistry crackles. Demelza is a scrapper, who gives as good as she gets, and she and Ross do not get off to an easy start, especially as he’s still hung up on his cousin’s wife, Elizabeth. Demelza, however, isn’t going anywhere, and not only because her only alternative is to return to her truly horrible family. Their marriage starts out as convenience, but, somewhere along the way, a true, deep, and abiding love forms between these two strong-willed people, neither of whom wants to give an inch of ground. We see them go through the joy of welcoming their first child, the grief of losing her, and, my favorite scene so far, Ross racing off to drag Demelza back from her, um, freelance fishing job while she is in active labor, only to find that she saved her own self while he was on the way, daft man. They bicker, they clash, they stand by each other when the worst happens again and again and again. Though season two ended on an extremely unheroic note for Ross, these two see each other through the most destructive of storms, so I have faith they’ll get through this one as well. How? No idea, but they’ve always found a way so far.
The couple that caught me most by surprise, in all of ship-dom is Barney and Robin, from How I Met Your Mother. Finale denier for life here; I reject all of it. Barney and Robin are still out there, still together, still living awesomely ever after, until death do them part. Where to start with these two? Even though they’re in a fairly bright and bouncy sitcom, the backstories grabbed my heart and refused to let go. The always nattily dressed corporate shark, Barney, has a secret past as a chaste hippie, hopelessly devoted to the college sweetheart who broke his heart and shattered his soul? (Not to mention the troubled childhood he and his brother endured with their groupie mom and absent dads.) Robin is his best friend’s dream girl (well, off and on, for a while) and grew up with a father who insisted on raising her as the boy he’d always wanted, instead of the girl she really was, and her secret shame is a teenage popstar career that went down in flames, in an extremely public venue? I am there for that, forever and always. Watching two people who didn’t even believe in true love, marriage, or anything of real substance, slowly fumble their way to each other, through breakups, other partners, an infertility diagnosis (hers) to combine a deep, abiding friendship and powerful attraction, well, :happy sigh: That’s the stuff. I’ll take the alternate finale if I must, where it’s strongly implied that things work out at long last, but these two giving up on each other? Nope, not buying that, not even with a coupon.
When I teach my workshop, Play in Your Own Sandbox, Keep All The Toys, one of the first exercises I give is to ask students to list their favorite shows/ships/characters, then ask the question – what do they all have in common? What’s the common thread? What do we find in each one of these cases, be the stories set in the past, present, future, or otherworldly realm? There’s a core story there. While any factors from cancellation, actors’ departure, bad writing, etc, can derail even the most outstanding TV couples, in romance novels, the HEA is a dead solid guarantee. No matter what life or the writer throws at the couple in question, by the last page, they are going to be on their own personal mountaintop, together, and happy to be there, and so are we.
What are some of your favorite ships that deserve the romance novel treatment?