Top Ten Tuesday: Valentine’s Day / Love Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.


Whilst I am far from being a cynic, romance is not a genre that I fall into naturally. To be honest, when I think of love in literature – which is very different from love in real life, of course – my imagination slips straight to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. And it is not a great role model for loving another human being

If all else perished, and HE remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. – My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I AM Heathcliff!

There is something utterly compelling about this depiction of an all-consuming, implacable, adamantine love… but it is so co-depedent at best, toxic at worst.

So with a nod to Wuthering Heights, these are a list of toxic love stories – a list of couples who should never have got together! This is not to say that they are bad books at all – many are great and amongst my favourites – but not great couples!

And I am not even going to venture into Twilight and Fifty Shades territory. Edward, Bella, Jacob, Renesmee, Anastasia, Christian Gray … that is not a rabbit hole I want to enter ever again.


Romeo and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

The reasons why:

  • a classic rebound romance: as the Friar says “Jesu Maria, what a deal of brine / Hath wash’d thy sallow cheeks for Rosaline.” And Romeo’s response is “Rosaline-who?”
  • Could there be a more rushed marriage – a matter of hours between meeting and wedding?
  • Oh, and the bitter family rivalry.
  • And Romeo’s self-loathing language…

Oedipus and Jocasta, Oedipus Rex, Sophopcles

The reasons why:

  • any woman who marries you because you can solve a riddle, may not be marrying for the best reasons… even if the riddle was set by a sphinx;
  • also, he had just murdered her previous husband in a crossroad spat;
  • and she is his MUM!

Don’t get me started on Greek tragedies: Jason and Medea, Herakles and Megara, Herakles and Deianira… no wonder Freud found so much here!

Mr Rochester and .. well… anyone, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë 

The reasons why:

  • the man is one of the rudest and most arrogant prigs in history
  • his first wife is locked up in the attic
  • he only accepts Jane when he has been blinded so he cannot see how “plain” she is!

I’ve not read Wide Sargasso Sea yet but I feel it won’t rehabilitate him.

Tom and Daisy Buchannon, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

The reasons why:

  • he is a serial adulterer with little if any respect for her, or any woman
  • she is fawning over Gatsby – and who wouldn’t?! The guy would literally do anything for her.
  • oh, and there’s covering up the homicide moment

Contemporary Novels

Edie and Eric, Luster, Raven Leilani

The reasons why:

  • Eric is entirely distant from the relationship: this is characterised by its being initially online and we meet Edie when the relationship first becomes face-to-face; then he is away when Edie moves into his house; even when physically present he seems emotionally absent
  • the friendship / hostility / flirtation between his wife Rebecca and Edie was much more interesting.

And this is a book waiting to be reviewed in my ever growing to-be-reviewed pile!

Connell and Marianne, Normal People, Sally Rooney

The reasons why:

  • the relationship was characterised by total imbalance of power in Connell’s favour and then in Marianne’s – although they did find a balance
  • starting relationships in secret because your partner would be embarrassed if people knew you were dating is a bit of a red flag
  • Connell’s complete inability to communicate effectively

This was a great book and the relationship does improve and is genuinely sweet at times – and ends up in an unconventional place – but it was a bad start!

Queenie Jenkins and Tom, Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams

The reasons why:

  • Tom – although he has already left Queenie as the book opens – displays a range of micro aggressions in his frequent flashbacks
  • his racist family and his inability / refusal to defend Queenie to them
  • Oh and he has another woman

I loved this book but had had enough of Tom a lot earlier than Queenie did and found her pining irksome.

Finally, let’s celebrate some much more joyful relationships found in books and novels recently.

Gideon Nav and Harrowhawk Nonagesimus , Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

The reasons why:

  • enemies to lovers
  • a gorgeous bathtime confession, guarded by reanimated skeletons in a haunted mansion
  • Gideon’s unquestioning devotion to Harrow, wrenching her way into the haunted tunnels even as she professed to hate her

Lovey and Jenks, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers

The reasons why:

  • she is an AI, he is a human engineer but their relationship was so sweet
  • whilst I can think of many relationships where one character offers to die for their love (Romeo, I’m looking at you), how more intense to offer the choice to live in a body with all its limitations and restrictions

To be honest there were a few relationships in this novel I could have chosen – Rosemary and Sissix, Ashby and Pei (Captain Gapei Tem Seri) – but I loved these two more!

Linus Baker and Arthur Parnassus, The House in the Cerulean Sea, T. J. Klune

The reasons why:

  • oh it was just so sweet and tender!
  • Linus was so bumbling and discovering his feelings – for the first time allowing his bubble to be burst and the joy of love to enter it
  • and there’s a wonderful phoenix – a phoenix!

So, book lovers, there we have it: a range of toxic and positive relationships and love in books to celebrate Valentine’s day. And one final thought: I am more excited about the release of Casey McQuiston‘s One Last Stop on 1at of June than I thought I would be!

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.


  • February 16: Purple, Yellow, and/or Green Book Covers (in honor of Mardis Gras, which is today!)
  • February 23: Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud (Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza)
  • March 2: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had (maybe not even because the job sounds fun, but maybe the co-workers are cool or the boss is hot?)
  • March 9: Spring Cleaning Freebie (for example, books you’re planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’s you’d like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you’re not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)
  • March 16: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR
  • March 23: Funny Book Titles
  • March 30: Places In Books I’d Love to Live

19 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Valentine’s Day / Love Freebie”

  1. Love your take on this weeks topic, especially your take on Oedipus Rex, lol. And you’re right- the bathing scene in Gideon is so beautiful and painful and perfect, I just love those two!


  2. I always feel among my people when Shakespeare and a Wuthering Heights quote are around! Sometimes you’re just not in the mood for a “and they lived happily ever after” story, and some of these kinds of characters are the most interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I love this topic. You did such a great job and your post is so well thought out! I have to say, I loved The Great Gatsby (and went so far as to name my dog Gatsby 😂) Great post!!


  4. Well, if you want to hate Rochester, you should definitely read Wide Sargasso Sea. I’ll be honest, I was a huge fan of Rochester after Jane Eyre, though I did think Jane’s decision to leave him was a good one. And then came Wide Sargasso Sea, and Bertha gets a whole new backstory.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had to skip a few of these because I was afraid of spoilers. Ha! But I was laughing at the ones I have read–Romeo & Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Oedipus, Gatsby, and Normal People. You’re absolutely right about their toxicity. 🙂


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