Let’s face it: real-life romance just doesn’t live up to the stories. As much as I love my boyfriend, he’s not exactly known for passionate speeches or big romantic gestures. When it comes to the real butterflies-in-my-stomach head-over-heels love, I look elsewhere — to books.
Whether you’re single or paired off this Valentine’s Day, sometimes the best way to get that warm flutter in your heart is by reading a book. So this weekend, cuddle up with some chocolate and these books we love, that just so happen to feature seriously swoon-worthy heroes.
Tristan Thorn from Stardust by Neil Gaiman
If Tristan turns out to be the man of your fantasies, don’t be too surprised: he’s the hero from one of Neil Gaiman’s best fantasy novels. He’s so sweet that he goes to retrieve a fallen star for the girl he wants to marry. Talk about romantic gestures! And of course, what happens on his trek back home will make you love him even more.
Michael Moscovitz from The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
If you’ve seen the second Princess Diaries movie, you’re probably under the assumption that Michael and Mia have broken up. Well, in the books their relationship is still going strong — so strong that they got married in a recent sequel.
Even when Mia’s freaking out about their relationship and journaling instead of talking to him, he never gets angry. He must be the world’s best listener, and nothing’s sexier than a man who knows how to listen.
Park Sheridan from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
If you like your men realistic, nerdy, and incredibly lovable, Park is the guy for you. Despite feeling like a misfit himself, over the course of the novel he learns to stand up for and defend the girl he loves. He’s not the most confident guy, but his understated bravery will steal your heart.
Obinze from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is a book with many threads, but at its core it’s a love story. Obinze and Ifemelu meet and fall in love when they’re students in Nigeria, and then each head down different paths in life. But even separated by years and distance, their love never fades. Once you get to know Obinze, you’ll learn why.
It’s a complicated love and each partner has their flaws, but it will still inspire you to believe that love can conquer all. (And yes, he will be played by David Oyelowo in the movie version.)
Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I’m going to get some flack over this from the Gale supporters, but there’s nothing better than a man that bakes in my book (pun intended). Peeta goes above and beyond for Katniss, and his love is so strong he even overcomes being trained to hate her. He’s the epitome of a sensitive man, and what more could you ask for?
Jamie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
If you’re looking for a man who’s a little on the wild side, Jamie is your guy. He’s crazy passionate — and even wears a kilt.
The Outlander series follows Claire Randall, a 20th century nurse who time travels to 18th century Scotland. There, she meets and falls in love with Jamie — and the passion continues even once the kilt comes off, if you know what I mean. If you’re feeling a little frisky on Valentine’s (or just love fantasy or historical fiction), he’s the perfect hero.
Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
There’s a reason Augustus has already won over thousands of girls’ hearts. Without ever seeming too perfect, he helps Hazel see all the good there is in life — despite both of them battling cancer. The book does a great job balancing grand romantic gestures (hello, trip to Amsterdam!) with realistically awkward falling-in-love moments (losing your virginity).
By the end, you’ll be head over heels for Augustus. But be warned: this date could end in tears.
Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I may not win the prize for originality by naming Darcy, but in the 200 years since Austen wrote him, no author has yet reached his level of perfection. After all, there’s a reason that wet shirt scene in the BBC adaptation was such a hit.
Darcy is the perfect mix of handsome, brooding and willing-to-do-anything in love. And while every Austen hero deserves to be on this list, Darcy is the one you’ll never forget.