06 February 2019
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You know those articles that begin with ‘I don’t usually read romance, but…’? Well, this isn’t one of those look-down-your-nose, apologetic pieces about love stories, because it’s Valentine’s Day, the one day of the year when love truly is all around. This time of year, romance is loud, proud and in your face, whether you like it or not. Personally, I love it; I’m a complete romance junkie, whether in books, on TV, or in the movies, and never more so than when a ‘will they, won’t they’ situation is built into the plot – as you might have guessed from the complicated relationship between Laurie and Jack in One Day in December.

(Friendly warning: there’s some spoilers ahead! Though I’d be surprised if you didn’t know the endings to these much-loved romances already.)

Ross and Rachel are a gold standard example of the genre. Friends viewers were totally hooked by their ten-year push and pull against each other; they were on, they were off, and of course by the end we had the hugely satisfying confirmation that they were together again. It’s masterfully done; over the years they both fell in love with other people, and in Ross’s case even married, leaving viewers genuinely unsure if they’d ever get their happy ever after. Proof, if needed, that romance doesn’t have to be predictable.

Dawn and Tim from The Office are another favourite example from TV. I loved the subtle, tender and often misjudged flirting between them – there was an ever-present underscore of longing beneath the humour. And of course we were treated to that wonderful scene at the end when Dawn came back to the office party and kissed Tim; you could almost hear the entire nation sigh with contentment.

Television aside, ‘will they, won’t they‘ is a fiction mainstay, too. I’m going to get my first book choice out of the way early – Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. I tried valiantly not to include Jane Austen’s wonderful novel, but predictability aside, I couldn’t in all good conscience omit it. I read it first when I was fifteen as a required school text, and it’s fair to say it changed my impressionable young heart forever. Feisty Elizabeth, austere Mr Darcy… I tumbled headlong into their world and emerged after the last page in love with both of them. Pride and Prejudice will forever remain my ‘will they, won’t they’ benchmark.

But let’s turn to more up to date stories, with another memorable love story – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This book stamped on my heart; literally jumped up and down all over it and pummelled it flat. Even up to the very final scenes I longed for a different ending, despite the fact that the one that’s written is beautiful and absolutely, heart-achingly right. For me, that’s the essence of the very best ‘will they, won’t they’ stories – you invest in the characters, you want them to make it, and you believe in their love. I absolutely believed in Will and Lou.

Similarly, Isabelle Broom’s One Thousand Stars and You captivated me from the opening pages. Alice travels to Sri Lanka for one last hurrah before marrying her long-term love, but whilst there she meets Max, a man in recovery, both physically and emotionally. Neither of them are looking for love. Quite the opposite, in fact, but this is a story of how love sometimes finds you when, and where, you least expect it. Sri Lanka is almost a character in itself here too; Isabelle brings the vibrancy of the island alive on the page through the colours, the sultry humidity, the evocative spices and scents; One Thousand Stars and You is a love story of both people and place. Gloriously romantic.

My final choice is an early recommendation of a book to watch out for this April. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of Star-Crossed by Minnie Dark, and I’ve slunk off to bed early over the last week to spend some time with Justine and Nick. It’s a really unusual book, not similar to anything I’ve read before. Justine and Nick were brief teen sweethearts, and then meet again by chance as adults. He’s a struggling actor with a beautiful girlfriend and a fascination with astrology; she’s an up and coming local reporter, responsible for the horoscope column. As they spend more time together, Justine can’t resist a little bit of astrological meddling to try to encourage Nick, an Aquarian, to see her as more than just an old friend. What we also get to see is an ensemble cast of other Aquarians across Australia who also take her advice to heart, and how her small changes impact on their lives. It’s wonderfully eclectic and off beat, but Justine and Nick’s ‘will they, won’t they relationship’ sits squarely at the heart of it. I found myself willing them on, but of course, you know all along that the truth of Justine’s deception has to come out in the end. I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling it, except to say keep your eyes peeled for it in the spring.

So this Valentine’s Day, it has to be said, I’ll be curling up with one of my favourite ‘will they won’t they’ love stories. It’s undoubtedly a concept that I’ll return to again and again for the intrigue it brings, the rollercoaster ride it puts me through, and the absolute desire to root for two characters who belong together.
 

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