Admit it– We’ve all fallen head over heels for a romantic duo whose love story spelled an honest and wholly believable happily ever after. However, this is not the case for every bookish couple. Most seasoned romance readers have stumbled across one literary pairing that just irked them for some reason. Maybe the characters had a toxic relationship, or their chemistry fell flat on the page. Whatever the reason, each reader is entitled to their own opinion on who to love and who to loathe in any given story. Therefore, I consulted the Bookstr team to round up some literary couples that left us feeling cold, cross, or confused rather than warm and fuzzy.
Amy & Laurie from Little Women
Laurie & Jo are my ride-or-die, so I can’t help but be immensely annoyed by the sudden pivot at the end of the story when a freshly-rejected Laurie suddenly decides to go for the youngest March sister. I can never fully invest in that rebound of a final pairing at the end of Little Women, which always feels insincere and far from a satisfying ending. Perhaps the most important element in a romance novel is the believability and chemistry of the couple, and when it comes to Amy and Laurie, it’s hard for me to see either. I will forever hold fast to the idea that Laurie’s one true love was Jo. Period point blank.
– Erin Shea, Editorial
Elain & Azriel from A Court of Thorns and Roses
I love Elain and Azriel separately, but I think they’d both be better off either alone or with different people! In the bonus chapter that we got from Azriel’s perspective, it almost seemed like he only had interest in Elain because she was a third sister that would make him equal with his chosen brothers, and that, to me, really didn’t seem fair. I think Elain deserves to be adored on her own merit, and honestly, I’m just way more of an Azriel and Gwyn shipper at this point! Elain & Az aren’t the worst ship out there, but now more than ever, they’re just not for me!
– Dani Shembesh, Editorial
Christian Grey & Anastasia Steele from the Fifty Shades trilogy
I can understand being naive about relationships and sex, but for real Christian Grey, grow up and be an adult! Anastasia Steele, get more self worth, not just a portion of it. If I knew why you consider horses as “fiends of Satan,” then I might like you better. I know everyone doesn’t like horses but that is one mystery that is never really explained in the books.
– Christina Hardesty, Graphics
Avery Grambs & Jameson Hawthorne from The Inheritance Games
While these two have some good banter and make a great puzzle-solving team, their relationship begins with Jameson manipulating Avery’s feelings in order to obtain the information he wants. Jameson frequently puts competition with his brothers over Avery so she is never quite sure how he feels about her until The Final Gambit.
Even if I were to overlook the unhealthy nature of their relationship, Avery arguably has more chemistry with Jameson’s brother, Grayson, to the point where Jameson’s character in The Final Gambit acts more like Grayson to convince Avery to stay with him. Furthermore, considering both Avery and Jameson have a “hunger” that makes them restless in the absence of mystery, I have a feeling that once they learn all there is to know about one another, they will grow bored of each other and break up.
– Cara Hadden, Editorial
Gideon & Harrowhark from Gideon the Ninth
I loved loved loved Gideon as a character. She was strong, hilarious, and just overall made me smile. Harrowhark, on the other hand, was the worst. She was mean, corrupt, and essentially a slaver. That’s why at the end of the book when Gideon (spoilers!) gave up her life for Harrow because of her newly discovered “love” for Harrow I was pissed off! So much so that I have yet to read any of the sequels and I don’t think I will. I understand that Muir was trying to do an enemies-to-lovers situation, but the imbalanced power structure between the two women just left a sour taste in my mouth. Harrow and her family owned Gideon, and Gideon deserved her freedom but now Gideon will forever be a part of Harrow and not in a good way.
– Jayde Gavlik, Editorial
Katniss & Peeta from The Hunger Games
Okay, I know I’ll probably get some hate for this one, but I gotta say it– I never liked the Peeta and Katniss romance in The Hunger Games. From the start, I felt like Katniss never really loved Peeta. Yes, that relationship was a very slow burn, with Katniss supposedly growing to love him by the end, but personally, I felt like Katniss only “loved” him because she was obligated to, because they built the “star-crossed lovers” narrative for the Games. Especially in the books, it’s very unclear at times as to who she loves (gotta love a good love triangle). By the end, though, I still wasn’t convinced she truly loved him. It just felt like she was still playing a part. Sorry not sorry for this probably unpopular opinion.
— Savannah Swanson, Editorial
Any Couple Written by Sally Rooney
From Marianne and Connell in Normal People to Frances and Nick in Conversations with Friends, these couples have intense chemistry and complicated dynamics that I find myself both entranced and repulsed by. In Conversations with Friends, despite Nick being married and emotionally unavailable, Frances is drawn to him as a kindred spirit. However, their relationship lacks trust and commitment, caused by Nick’s inability to find fulfillment, which will always cause emotional instability in Frances.
Similarly, in “Normal People,” the relationship between Marianne and Connell is tumultuous, with Marianne’s vulnerability and Connell’s insecurity leading to miscommunication about their feelings for each other. Their relationship is emotionally taxing, and Connell’s feelings of inadequacy will always linger, with his difference in social class playing into Marianne’s tendency to be emotionally dependent on Connell. As introspective as these couples try to be, they can’t seem to escape the patterns they find themselves repeating at the end of their stories.
It’s clear that Sally Rooney has a knack for creating deeply flawed couples that mirror the complexities of real-life relationships, which aren’t always sustainable. And that’s what makes them so relatable yet tragic.
– Marina L, Social
Gideon & Eva from Bared to You
The couple is extremely toxic, and while Sylvia Day writes a captivating series that makes you crave the next book, the couple is terrible together. From intentional causation of jealousy to immature and trauma-based responses to situations where logic and reason would otherwise win out, their relationship is fraught with drama no one should endure for the sake of love. Their co-dependency is beyond what healthy realationships are made of. The entire relationship hinges on not walking away when the others PTSD causes further physical and mental trauma. While those suffering through the painful and real life experiences of their youth deserve a love that is all-encompassing, they deserve to be with someone compassionate of their needs, not susceptible to using them against one another.
– Kristi E., Editorial
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