So, I thought we’d count backwards, because I always like my lists counted backwards, don’t you? That way, it builds anticipation for number one!
And btw, my abiding thanks to Modern Mrs. Darcy and her fine readers, whose comments about my guest blog–Gilbert Blythe vs Mr. Darcy: Who Smolders More?–provided ideas and inspiration for this list!
Buckle your seat belts, kindred spirits, it’s going to be a fun ride!:
10. Anton Reiker, “Summer of My German Soldier”
Anton, principled, gentle, and a German soldier during World War 11—he’s an unlikely Lit Crush. But the way he treats Patty, the 12-year-old girl who protects him when he escapes from his prison camp, inducts him into this hall of fame. He’s grateful, caring, and gets under your skin like the best characters do.
Sweet quote: “Even if you forget everything else I want you to always remember that you are a person of value, and you have a friend who loved you enough to give you his most valued possession.”
9. Mr. Rochester, “Jane Eyre”
Sure, there is the matter of the loony wife in the attic, but oh! Jane and Mr. Rochester’s chemistry sizzles like a freaking frying pan! As Aloof Romantic Heroes go, Rochester has just the right mix of arrogance and warmth we ladies love.
Sweet quote: “And was Mr. Rochester now ugly in my eyes? No, reader: gratitude…made his face the object I best liked to see; his presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire.” (See, Jane mentions fire.)
8. Barney Snaith, “The Blue Castle”
You guys: The Blue Castle is like gelato—luscious, scrumptious, sweet and satisfying. It’s also one of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s two adult novels, and one of her finest gifts to her readers. Rogue Barney Snaith makes it so. I won’t ruin it for you, but Barney is a man of mystery, the subject of many rumors (oooh). When “spinster” Valancy thinks she only has a year to live, she proposes to Barney, only to be swept off to his wooded island home…Cue sighs.
Sweet quote: “Love you! Girl, you’re in the very core of my heart. I hold you there like a jewel…”
7. Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, “Little Women”
Genteel, rich, bored and antsy (until the March sisters moved in), we adore Laurie for the way he transforms under the influence of the sisters. He pines for Jo despite her writing ambitions, smarts, and hacked off hair, which makes us weak in the knees. We hate that Jo rejects him, but she knows her soul mate cometh soon…
Tidbit: In 1865, while in Europe, Louisa May Alcott met a Polish musician named Ladislas Wisniewski, “Laddie” (aka “Laurie”). Laddie and Louisa flirted madly, spending two weeks together in Paris, alone! I think we all want to know much, much more…
6. Teddy Kent, “Emily of New Moon”
Lucy Maud Montgomery definitely cut Teddy from Gilbert’s cloth–he’s the boy next door who falls for Emily and pines for years until she finally comes to her senses. A slow-cooked romance with slow-cooked payoff.
The Scene that Makes Me Sigh: When Emily, trapped in the old church with a madman, telepathically calls to Teddy for help. He of course shows up, rescues her, comforts her, and almost kisses her in the moonlit graveyard! Of course, that’s when his Cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs mother shows up and ruins everything.
5. John Thornton, “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell
I watched this magnificent miniseries with my writer’s Guild, and well, good thing we were all sitting down! Richard Armitage as Thornton takes a page from Colin Firth’s Darcy book—the brooding hottie simmering (deep down) with bottled-up feelings of passion and cuddles and justice and … MERCY! Someone pass the smelling salts.
Tidbits: Elizabeth Gaskell was a pastor’s wife who based Milton, the Northern industrial town in which the novel is set, on Manchester. Also Charles Dickens was her contemporary and editor.
4. Colonel Brandon, “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen
You know which scene gets me every time? The one in the movie where Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) is out of his mind with worry for a gravely ill Marianne: “Give me an occupation or I shall run mad!” In other words, I love this girl so much it hurts. Still waters run deep with Brandon, an honorable, kind, and worthy officer. (When the movie came out, like, 20 years ago, I adored Hugh Grant in all his stammering glory as Edward Ferrars. Interestingly, I watched it again this weekend, and I sighed over Colonel Brandon. Even post-Snape!)
Memory: My late friend Tammy had the biggest crush on Alan Rickman; his framed and signed photo sat atop the TV set in her mobile home. When I think of Tam’s Alan Rickman, I think of Colonel Brandon (not Snape, although Snape is cool, too). And I smile.
3. Professor Friedrich Bhaer, “Little Women”
I know—I know. Simmer down there, Laurie-ans. How could I place old (39), fusty Professor Bhaer ahead of young and frisky Laurie? I could, I will, I did! In the age-old debate that asks, ‘Who is better for Jo—Laurie or Professor Bhaer’? I choose the gentle, absentminded, adorably accented Bhaer! Maybe it’s because he’s an intellectual equal to Jo; maybe it’s his golden heart. Maybe it’s Gabriel Byrne’s butter-melting portrayal in the movie (who am I kidding—that’s it!).
Sweet quote: “Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you … Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?”
2. Mr. Darcy, “Pride and Prejudice”
Unapproachable (or is he?), gruff (or is he?), reserved (he is)—yet seething with repressed feelings of amore: that’s our Mr. Darcy. He not only broke the mold of Aloof Romantic Hero, he is the mold, which is why we are madly, deeply attached to him and all of his archetypical fellows. This just in (to me): Even our mouse sisters can’t resist The Darcy, or The Darcin in their case: In 2010, a protein sex pheromone in male mouse urine, extremely attractive to female mice, was named Darcin in honor of the character. And that just says it all, don’t you think? I mean, clearly, if you want to get higher on THIS list, you have to have a pheromone named after you.
(Unless of course you are Gilbert Blythe, in which case you do not need a pheromone named after you to top this list.)
- Gilbert Blythe, “Anne of Green Gables”
Gilbert has it all—Anton’s gentleness, Rochester’s admiration for a woman’s intellect, Colonel Brandon’s honor—without a trace of superiority or repression. (Mind you, ironically, usually we love repression in our Lit Crushes. We know that our Lizzies and our Janes can scale the highest emotional wall!) Gilbert is the boy next door, true, but he and Anne share lots and lots of sparks over the years until she finally gets it through her thick, carrot-colored skull that this knight stands before her, heart in hand. He makes her feel wanted, respected, and deeply loved. Can any of us ask for more? No, we cannot, which is why for me, Gilbert will always be #1.
Who tops YOUR list, friends? Why? Which of these books is your favorites? Which are you dying to read or re-read? (For me, it’s “Summer of My German Soldier,” which I believe I read snatches of as a wee slip of a girl. Also, am trying to find my copy of “The Blue Castle,” which, as I said, is like gelato).
PS: You guys: This blog led to an online book club! Sign up for my blog here and soon and very soon you shall receive an update about the first book club. We are reading the woefully overlooked “Summer of My German Soldier,” and folks, it’s an incredible little book.
GIVEAWAY: Comment below to be entered in a random drawing to win a copy of “Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me” AND a complete “Anne of Green Gables” Radio Theater gift set on CD! There will be three winners, one entry per person, open to kindred spirits in the US and O Canada. Contest ends October 7.