Top Five Saturday: Fake Love Couples

Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. The list of themes currently runs at

Fake Love Couples.

Sometimes I look at these lists and I wonder – with huge respect to those who create and curate them – where on earth I am going to start from? Do I even know what it means? I don’t read romances and this conjured up memories of somewhat dated and perhaps, in hindsight, slightly problematic 1990s films: She’s All That, Ten Things I Hate About You… Dating someone for a bet, or because you were paid for it, then falling in love for real…

The List

Thomas Cromwell and Elizabeth Wykys from Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wykys stumped away after he showed him the figures. ‘Lizzie?’ he yelled. ‘Lizzie? Come downstairs.’
She came down.
‘You want a new husband. Will he do?’
She stood and looked him up and down. ‘Well, Father. You didn’t pick him for his looks.’ To him, her eyebrows raised, she said, ‘Do you want a wife?’
‘Should I leave you to talk it over?’ old Wykys said. He seemed baffled: seemed to think they should sit down and write a contract there and then.
Almost, they did. Lizzie wanted children; he wanted a wife with city contacts and some money behind her. They were married in weeks.

Whilst the “contract” seems utterly professional and practical, the love that these two have for each other grows from it, mutually respectful, tender, wonderful and the scene where the plague takes her – oh my lord!

Nella Oortman and Johannes Brandt in The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

A marriage made to hide Brandt’s sexuality from the repressed and puritanical society of 1680s Amsterdam – a fact not exactly made clear to the young Nella! Her resolve and fortitude when she discovers the truth were quite remarkable! But once the truth is uncovered, an affection and regard grows between them which becomes increasingly tender as the novel is propelled to its tragic conclusion.

Aneeka Pasha and Eamonn Lone in Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

I’m not sure I can pretend that this love turns into true love by the end: Aneeka – very convincingly – seems to play Eamonn throughout in order to persuade his father to repatriate her brother, Parvaiz. Whether there was a The imagined tabloid reactions was

Aneeka “Knickers” Pasha, the 19-year-old twin sister of Muslim fanatic Parvaiz “Pervy” Pasha has been revealed as her brother’s accomplice. She hunted down the Home Secretary’s son, Eamonn, 24, and used sex to try and brainwash him into convincing his father to allow her terrorist brother back into England.

Jonah Hancock and Angelica Neal in The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This was a complicated relationship: he was infatuated, she was desperate and . But something tender and moving – if not quite love – grows from it.

Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

Oh, Shakespeare, there are so many fake and contrived loves in Shakespeare I could have chosen from many of the big ones. Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream because love that begins with a drug is never truly convincing, is it; the triangle between Rosalind, Phoebe, Silvius in As You Like It, however secondary it is in the play – I have seen the most tender portrayal of this on stage, full of longing looks and lingering glances. Gertrude and Claudius in Hamlet.

But Beatrice and Benedick are the model and pinnacle for me. Two lovers with a difficult past, both commitment-phobic, both acerbic and vicious to the other: they both “speak poinards and every word stabs.” Their animosity has become a public spectacle, a “merry war” and yet there is just enough hurt and pain beneath the humour to really bite. But only real feelings could be hurt so deeply. The consequence is that they are tricked into emotions and onto the verge of marriage, and the revelation comes just in time to save them – but has by this point been transformed into – or has reignited their buried – true love.

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