Confession: I love reading stories with romance.
(Notice that I didn’t say “romances.”)
I used to pretend I didn’t. I used to say oh, I don’t care if a story has romance and I wish there were more books with platonic relationships instead of all this romantic stuff. It was out of a desire to seem open-minded, to make it clear that I don’t think everyone needs to fall in love and I don’t think every story should be a love story.
But I eventually realized that, despite my attempts to make it appear otherwise, I really, really like reading stories with romances. I ship couples with my whole heart, squeal when they finally get together, cry when they’re separated, and just can’t stop reading until I know how their relationship ends.
I still haven’t changed my mind on the issue of whether or not every story should have romance: no, they shouldn’t. Some stories shouldn’t be romantic (for example, almost every story for young and middle-grade readers, stories about characters who don’t want romantic relationships, stories where romance doesn’t add to the plot, etc.). But… I personally love reading books with romance.
Sometimes I even love it when the romance doesn’t work out. When it’s cringy and awful and they break up… even if they never get back together, it can be incredibly, weirdly enjoyable to read.
In my many years of reading, I’ve amassed a large collection of scenes (yes, you can collect scenes) in which confessions of love don’t go quite as planned. These passionate admissions amuse me every time I read them, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
I do want to get married someday, so future husband, if you ever read this, take note: please don’t propose like these characters. Thank you 😆
Warning: spoilers ahead. Each section heading includes the name of the book, so feel free to skip a section if it spoils a book you want to read.
Spoilers for The Lunar Chronicles, Pride and Prejudice, Tales of Goldstone Wood, The Gateway Chronicles, Emily of New Moon, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Hamilton: An American Musical
“I think I’m in love with you” // Cress and Thorne, Cress
series: The Lunar Chronicles | author: Marissa Meyer
Cress is the third book in a fairy tale/scifi/romance series, and is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel. Cress, a castoff of the lunar society and a genius with technology, is trapped in her (falling) spaceship with Thorne, a wanted convict. They crash land in the Sahara and spend a few days wandering through the dunes, dehydrated (both), blind (Thorne), and love-crazy (Cress).
As they’re nearing the end of their water and losing the will to continue on, Cress decides it would be a great time to confess her hopeless crush on Thorne…
“Captain,” she murmured. “I think I’m in love with you.”
An eyebrow shot up. She counted six beats of his heart before, suddenly, he laughed. “Don’t tell me it took you two whole days to realize that. I must be losing my touch.”
Her fingertips curled against him. “You knew?”
“That you’re lonely, and I’m irresistible? Yeah. I knew.”
Oh, Cress and Thorne. You’re ridiculously adorable.
lesson learned: don’t moon dreamily over someone but wait to confess your love until you’re in danger of death
“But before I am run away with my feelings… perhaps it will be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying” // Mr Collins and Lizzy, Pride and Prejudice
author: Jane Austen
Everyone knows the story of Pride and Prejudice, but even hardcore Austen fans will get a laugh out of revisiting the most awkward proposal in the history of proposals.
Mr Collins, the male heir to Mr Bennet’s estate, originally seeks the hand of the eldest Bennet daughter. But after he discovers she is otherwise attached, he quickly changes his plans and decides that the second, Lizzy, will do just fine. With the help of her mother, he corners her, and…
‘Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far from doing you any disservice, rather adds to your other perfections. You would have been less amiable in my eyes had there not been this little unwillingness; but allow me to assure you that I have your respected mother’s permission for this address. You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse, however your natural delicacy may lead you to dissemble; my attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as soon as I entered the house I singled you out as the companion of my future life. But before I am run away with my feelings on this subject, perhaps it will be advisable to state my reasons for marrying…’
(Try reading that out loud. Just do it.)
The idea of Mr Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing that she could not use the short pause he allowed in any attempt to stop him further, and he continued.
Mr Collins goes on, stating that his reasons for marrying are as follows:
- It is the right choice for a pastor who can afford it to set an example of matrimony for his church.
- He is convinced that ‘it will add very greatly to his happiness.’
- He is following the advice of his patroness (this reason being the most important — ‘I ought to have mentioned [it] earlier’).
This speech goes on for an entire page of small print, after which a desperate Lizzy interrupts and begs him to stop. She says that she is ‘very sensible of the honour of [his] proposals’ but must decline.
It takes two more pages for him to leave, and even then he is still convinced that her love for him is unabated, and that her refusal is simply a feminine wile designed to make him love her even more.
lesson learned: don’t be like Mr Collins
Just don’t. Don’t do anything he does. You’ll be fine.
“Because I love you” // Eanrin and Imraldera, Shadow Hand
series: Tales of Goldstone Wood | author: Anne Elisabeth Stengl
It’s no secret that the Tales are some of my favorite books of all time, and that Eanrin + Imraldera (aka Eanraldera) is my #1 ship ever. The two of them are adorable and beautiful and perfect for each other.
The first time there’s an admission of love… not so much.
“That’s a fine joke, that is! So you really believe I’m just going to let you go marching off to certain doom and folly?”
“If you’re so certain it’s certain doom and folly, you can turn around and wash your hands of it!”
“That I won’t.”
“And why not?”
“Because I love you.”
The Wood held its breath…. Imraldera stood like stone, unable to breathe or speak or even think.
The poet took a step, closing the distance between them. “Don’t pretend you didn’t know,” he snarled.
One of my greatest sorrows in life is that AES never finished the series, thus leaving this romance on something of a cliffhanger. (Don’t worry, it does get better than the above scene.)
lesson learned: telling somebody you love them while also telling them they’re undertaking a task of “certain doom and folly”? not the best idea
“My feelings will not be repressed” // Mr Darcy and Lizzy, Pride and Prejudice
author: Jane Austen
Jane Austen really is the master — er, mistress — of awkward romantic confessions. Example #2:
‘In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’
Elizabeth, astonished ‘beyond expression,’ has no idea what to say. After two paragraphs of uncertain silence, she politely refuses.
Then they argue for two pages about whether or not Darcy’s instrumental role in Lizzy’s sister’s breakup was a good idea.
Then Darcy tells Elizabeth how much he has tried to not like her:
‘Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?’
lesson learned: don’t ask someone to marry you, then admit you ruined their sister’s chance at happiness, then tell them all the reasons why you tried to not fall in love with them
“You should know how highly I regard you” // Tellius and Darcy, The Enchanted
series: The Gateway Chronicles | author: K.B. Hoyle
The Gateway books are one of my recent favorite portal fantasy series, and [fair warning, I’m about to spoil some plot points] book one introduces the prophesied marriage of Prince Tellius of Alitheia to Darcy Pennington of Chicago. As ten- and thirteen-year-olds (yes, he’s three years younger at this point) who have just met and have little in common, they are understandably less than thrilled.
They spend the second book doing everything they can to avoid getting married, going so far as to seek magical aid to prove that the prophecy is wrong (it isn’t, but they learn it might not mean what they thought it meant) and the third book realizing that they actually might not mind being together. By book four (both of them now sixteen), they realize their previous pettiness and actually fall in love (as their mentor says: the prophecy doesn’t mean they have to get married, just that they will).
It only takes a near death experience, years of awkward interactions, and the romantic experience of one of them throwing up all over the other.
“I should go,” she said, although she wanted to stay. “You really need to rest.”
His eyes flickered, and he parted his lips, wet them, [and] said, “Do you want to leave?”
He caught her around the back of the neck and pulled, gently, until her forehead rested against his….. “You should know how highly I regard you.”
The confession of love does work out, if only because Darcy realizes that that’s just how Tellius talks, but it’s definitely not the best I’ve seen.
lesson learned: pick a verb other than “regard” when confessing your love
P.S. Because of time travel, by the end of the series, he’s three years older. Read the books to find out how that works.
“I suppose the earthquake is over” // Ilse and Perry, Emily’s Quest
series: Emily of New Moon | author: L.M. Montgomery
This one requires… a lot of explanation.
Emily and her friends Ilse, Perry, and Teddy have grown up together (see books one and two). It’s clear to everybody but themselves that Emily and Teddy are destined for each other, but other people keep on getting in the way. Ilse, hopelessly in love with Perry, has agreed to marry Teddy (who thinks he loves her). Perry, hopelessly in love with (he thinks) Emily, is continually spurned. Emily, hopelessly in love with Teddy, dreads the coming wedding.
The wedding day arrives. Just minutes before the ceremony is set to begin, news arrives that Perry has been injured in a car accident. Ilse jumps out a window and runs to the hospital in her wedding gown.
“Emily, I’m going to marry Perry — next year. It’s all settled. I fell on his neck and kissed him as soon as I saw him. I let go my train and it streamed magnificently over the floor…. I told Perry I loved him and that I would never, never marry Teddy Kent no matter what happened — and then he asked me if I’d marry him — or I told him he must marry me — or neither of us asked — we just understood. I honestly don’t remember which — and I don’t care.”
It works out in the end. Even for Emily and Teddy (though it takes poor Teddy a while to recover from the shock of being dumped on his wedding day).
lesson learned: don’t agree to marry one person, then run away on your wedding day to confess your love to someone else
“you are a girl….” // Ron and Hermione, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
series: Harry Potter | author: J.K. Rowling
Ron and Hermione are one of my favorite couples from the Harry Potter series (though *cough* I occasionally find myself sympathizing with Dramione shippers). Their relationship is so sweet, though it has a cringe-worthy beginning.
It’s Christmas. Harry and Ron have been given the seemingly impossible task of finding dates to the Yule Ball. Having both just asked (and been rejected by) girls they’d previously only dreamed about, they find themselves with no recourse but to offer to take any girl who will have them.
And then, Ron has the stunning realization that their best friend Hermione is, well, a girl!
“This is mad,” said Ron. “We’re the only ones left who haven’t got anyone — well, except Neville. Hey — guess who he asked? Hermione!” ….
Ron was staring at Hermione as though suddenly seeing her in a whole new light.
“Hermione, Neville’s right — you are a girl….”
“Oh well spotted,” she said acidly.
“Well — you can come with one of us!”
It doesn’t really get much better. Not even after the ball, when Ron, angry at Hermione for being friendly with students from a different school (“the enemy,” in his words), starts to shout at her.
“Well, if you don’t like it, you know what the solution is, don’t you?” yelled Hermione…
“Oh yeah?” Ron yelled back. “What’s that?”
“Next time there’s a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!”
Ron mouthed soundlessly like a goldfish out of water… “Well,” he sputtered, looking thunderstruck, “well — that just proves — completely missed the point –“
Harry didn’t say anything… but he somehow thought that Hermione had gotten the point much better than Ron had.
lesson learned: don’t ask someone out as a last resort and act like you only just noticed their existence
“Would you like him for a husband?” // Billy and Anne, Anne of the Island
series: Anne of Green Gables | author: L.M. Montgomery
Most people have at least heard of Anne, whether through the books or one of the many television adaptations. But not everyone knows that there are actually eight books in the series, following Anne from her arrival at Green Gables at age eleven to her daughter Rilla’s 16th birthday and adventures during World War I.
In the third book, Anne is home from college for Christmas, having a sleepover with her childhood friend Jane. Jane randomly brings up a new topic of conversation.
“Anne… what do you think of my brother Billy?”
Anne gasped over this unexpected question, and floundered helplessly in her thoughts. Goodness, what did she think of Billy Andrews? She had never thought anything about him…. “I — I don’t understand, Jane,” she stammered. “What do you mean — exactly?”
“Do you like Billy?” asked Jane bluntly.
“Why — why — yes, I like him, of course,” gasped Anne, wondering if she were telling the literal truth. Certainly she did not dislike Billy….
“Would you like him for a husband?” asked Jane calmly.
lesson learned: don’t propose by proxy
“I’ve loved you ever since I’ve known you” // Laurie and Jo, Little Women
series: Little Women | author: Louisa May Alcott
I hold the
somewhat very controversial opinion that Jo and Professor Bhaer are just right for each other (but not this Bhaer, this one). (This reminds me that I need to write a post comparing the 2017 and 2019 versions of Little Women — someone remind me, please.) So this scene doesn’t devastate me as much as it could. But it’s still very emotional.
If you don’t know the story of Little Women… meaning you haven’t seen any of the multiple adaptations or read the (superior to all adaptations) book… I suppose I’ll give you a quick rundown of the context. (Then go read the book.) Jo and Laurie have known each other for a few years and grown up like siblings. Jo realizes that Laurie has feelings for her, but she doesn’t return them and runs off to New York in order to avoid hurting him. Of course, that doesn’t work, because as soon as he gets a chance he tells her he loves her.
“No… Please don’t!”
“I will, and you must hear me. It’s no use, Jo, we’ve got to have it out, and the sooner the better for both of us,” he answered, getting flushed and excited all at once.
“Say what you like then. I’ll listen,” said Jo, with a desperate sort of patience.
Laurie was a young lover, but he was in earnest, and meant to “have it out,” if he died in the attempt, so he plunged into the subject with characteristic impetuosity, saying in a voice that would get choky now and then, in spite of manful efforts to keep it steady…
“I’ve loved you ever since I’ve known you, Jo, couldn’t help it, you’ve been so good to me. I’ve tried to show it, but you wouldn’t let me. Now I’m going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for I can’t go on so any longer.”
“I wanted to save you this. I thought you’d understand…” began Jo, finding it a great deal harder than she expected.
“I know you did, but the girls are so queer you never know what they mean. They say no when they mean yes, and drive a man out of his wits just for the fun of it,” returned Laurie, entrenching himself behind an undeniable fact.
“I don’t. I never wanted to make you care for me so, and I went away to keep you from it if I could…. I don’t know why I can’t love you as you want me to. I’ve tried, but I can’t change the feeling, and it would be a lie to say I do when I don’t.”
“Really, truly, Jo?”
He stopped short, and caught both her hands as he put his question with a look that she did not soon forget.
“Really, truly, dear.”
After a long argument in which he accuses her of being in love with Professor Bhaer (she denies it) (but she’s wrong), the conversation finishes with this:
Laurie looked at her a minute as if he did not quite know what to do with himself, then turned sharply away, saying in a desperate sort of tone, “You’ll be sorry some day, Jo.”
“Oh, where are you going?” she cried, for his face frightened her.
“To the devil!” was the consoling answer.
How very consoling.
lesson learned: don’t confess your love when you know you’ll be rejected (but did he?)… um, don’t confess your love when you’re… never mind, I can’t think of what Laurie did wrong here…
I give up. Go ahead and confess your love like Laurie. Just don’t — (aha! I’ve got it!)
don’t tell your beloved you’re going to the devil after they say they don’t love you
I’m sure all the Jo/Laurie shippers (what would that ship even be called? Jorie? Josedore? Theophine?) will tell me that the problem here isn’t Laurie, but Jo, and that you shouldn’t tell someone you don’t love them if you actually do…
Good thing Jo doesn’t really love him then.
“I turn and see my sister’s face” // Angelica and Alexander, Hamilton: An American Musical
author: Lin-Manuel Miranda
I know I’m cheating a little bit here, since Hamilton isn’t a book, but I’m counting it because a) you can read the script in Hamilton: The Revolution and b) I just want to talk about it right now.
If you don’t know the story (keep in mind that the musical is not entirely historical, and that the whole love triangle thing is basically completely fictional), Eliza and Alexander meet at a ball. Angelica introduces them and decides to let them get together, but still likes Alexander for the rest of the show.
He’s after me ’cause I’m a Schuyler sister
That elevates his status, I’d
Have to be naive to set that aside
Maybe that is why
I introduce him to Eliza
Now that’s his bride
Nice going, Angelica, he was right
You will never be satisfied
Later on, she even (sort of) tells Alexander about her feelings (keep in mind that at this point, they’re both married to other people):
I’m coming home this summer at my sister’s invitation
I’ll be there with your family if you make your way upstate
I know you’re very busy, I know your work’s important
But I’m crossing the ocean and I just can’t wait
And you won’t be an ocean away
You’ll only be a moment away
I just watched the first half of Hamilton this week and it was amazing. Especially “Satisfied.” While I don’t recommend falling in love with your sister’s boyfriend/husband, it definitely makes for a great story.
lesson learned: don’t tell someone you love them if they’re married to your sister and you’re married to someone else
Actually, just don’t fall in love with them at all. Make yourself stop. You’re married to someone else, okay!?
Wow, that was long. (3600 words long.)
I hope you enjoyed reading about all the ways you should NOT profess undying love!
I’ll see you on Wednesday with island living II.
Until next time,
P.S. Do you prefer the 2017 or 2019 Little Women? Did I take the right lessons from all these failed proposals and confessions? Which scene was your favorite? Tell me in the comments!