What makes a memorable couple?

February 2008

I would believe that the ultimate goal for a writer would be for their book to be memorable with the readers. In particular for romance writers, I would then include that the hero and heroine must remain with the reader. That when the reader puts the book away, they will feel as if they are now leaving friends that they would like to see again, in future books.

So what is it about these couples? Is it the characters themselves? For me, Admiral Branden Kel-Paten from Linnea Sinclair's Games of Command is my all-time favorite romance novel hero. I can write an entire article about him, and I already have on my site. But what is it about him, and his heroine, that they have stayed with me? What makes a memorable couple?

For me, I adore a hero who is Oh-So-In-Love with his heroine. He can be a completely "alpha male", able to leap tall buildings (if a paranormal), yet his heroine can bring him to his knees with a look, word, or gesture. What will make the heroine equal for him is that she may know her power over him, but wouldn't use it. She is just as in love, at least by the end of the book, with him. Kel-Paten falls into this category.

I'm also a sucker for a best friends romance. These are two individuals who know that they love each other, know each other's quirks, but are blinded by their bonds of friendship to not recognize that they are perfect for each other - or at least one may still be blind. Or sometimes, they may both realize they love the other, but the fear of losing their close friendship holds them back. A couple of my favorite Best Friends couples come from Maya Banks Seducing Simon, and Erin McCarthy's User Friendly and You, Actually.

I asked readers who they considered some memorable couples. They responded, and included several factors that they feel make the stories, and characters, so memorable.

First and foremost, a writer must develop well rounded characters. The best heroes and heroines are ones who you could predict their reactions outside of the book. They have a past, as well as present. During the course of the story, they must go through events that will bring the couple together. Sometimes, these events will evoke memories that the reader has gone through, or perhaps they are touched because they know someone who is going through something similar at that time. These are characters the readers relate to. And even though it is fiction, it is still inspiring.

Emotion tended to be a continuing response as well. We read romances for the emotion. In particular, we want the hero and heroine to fall in love, but it is when the reader's emotions are affected that it becomes memorable. We want to worry how they will escape their predicament, we want to weep due to the obstacles they've overcome, and we want to root when they finally triumph. The characters who participate in these books become memorable.

One responder said she enjoyed characters who are larger than life, and her example made me think of Bruce Willis in "Die Hard". I have to admit that any hero who rescued his heroine in that manner would definitely be memorable.

Finally, here are a few traits that responders said they enjoy in their heroes. They like alpha heroes who show beta reactions, a hero who can be a father figure (not just if the heroine has a child, but shows they can be a big brother, or someone a younger individual can look up to), and last, but definitely not least, a hero in a kilt. I agree, difficult to resist.

Here are a couple quotes that I think sum this issue very well.

Author Ciara Gold stated "...they were so well crafted that you felt what they felt, cried when they cried, and cheered when they achieved their life's goal."

Author Tracey Devlyn adds for a hero she remembers, "He suffers mightily knowing he's not nearly good enough for her, and that makes him, and the book, a compelling read." Oh, the emotion that can evoke.

So, can we actually say it is the characters who make the book memorable? Or is it really the back story, plot, and perhaps the readers' own life experiences? As any writer knows, there are no hard and fast rules, so perhaps it is both.

Maybe you would like to read some of the books with these memorable characters? Below is a list that was supplied to me.

Once and Always by Judith McNaught

Most Nora Roberts

Savage Thunder by Johanna Lindsey (I agree, very Good, memorable, and often re-read)

Luke & Sarah from The Rainbow Season by Lisa Gregory

Coulter's Wife by Joan Johnston

The Enchanted Land by Jude Devereux

Gwen and Drustan from The Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moening

Ruark and Shanna from Shanna by Kathleen E Woodiwiss

Alaina and Cole from Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen E Woodiwiss

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

I would be interested in learning your opinions about memorable couples, and the comments I received from others. Feel free to e-mail me also with questions or topics you might like to have addressed in future columns. Although I do not make any guarantees, I will take all e-mails into consideration.