Note: this a queued post. I may or may not actually be here, and direct link will be corrected once the main post is up.
Most of these are fairly recent because honestly, I am very bad at remembering text characters more than a few years, no matter how much I loved them, unless there was also a movie or TV version. I even had to look up the names of most of the ones on this list.
1. Harry Potter: Lupin/Tonks
I wanted to spotlight lesser-known options for this list, but the truth is these two regularly turn up even on lists where I'm trying to focus on TV, because they just made that strong an impression on me in the summer of 2007, as we amped up to the final release. To be fair, I had noticed them in 2005, when they were introduced in book 6 and I immediately got on board because it coincided with the age difference and general dynamics of my new OTP Grissom/Sara. But to this day, they light up my heart and I will whip out ten arsenals to FIGHT YOU with if your first response to this pairing is anything remotely resembling "BUT SIRIUS."
2. The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla: Samantha/Jesse
At a certain point I had to stop reading this book because my heart couldn't take the pummeling anymore. But as you've probably heard me mention before about this tragic boy-with-deadly-cancer love story, "they make me cry every time over how they become each other's whole world."
3. The Truth About You and Me by Amanda Grace: Madelyn/Bennet
It's been two years and I'm STILL fired up about how bad I want to rewrite the last third and give it a happy ending. Possibly because I wrote a very detailed review that I reread a lot, but:
A 16-year-old taking a community college course fails to disclose her age and falls for the young professor, who likes her right back but knows better than to kiss/officially date her until her grade is finalized? THAT IS THE DREAM. I mean, not the 16-year-old part, but the fact that he thought she was at least 18 safely preserves all the things I love about my stubborn insistence that "teaching skills" and "talented learner" are magnetically attractive attributes and just make sense, while removing the moral struggle on his end (and putting it on me, apparently, but I think even adults should keep their pants on for a year or two into the relationship, and isn't that the real issue). These cute dorks fall for and hang out with each other in the most rom-com way you can imagine and it is everything my heart desires from this genre
4. The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman: Gabe/Jamie
I have started so many posts raving about them that I don't even remember how many I actually posted, so I'm gonna do it again: young woman breaks up with boyfriend when he proposes; dude immediately dies in a terrorist bombing that injures her; girl is rescued by a local guy 10 years older who got divorced after his 4-year-old son died and now pretty much keeps to himself, and is brought back to recuperate at his place for a few days when the hospitals are overwhelmed by worse injuries, until she can catch a flight home. It's so many layers of hurt/comfort, physical and emotional, I can't even count them all. I don't think I have ever fallen for a "strangers hook up" story as hard as this one.
5. The West Winds of Wyoming by Caroline Fyffe: Charlie Rose/Nell Page
Handsome cowboy drifter (with a sweet blind school-age daughter) + fearless, men's-clothes-wearing, rifle-toting, horse-whispering young ranch widow who hires him as a farmhand = the best damn 19th century prairie romance that my eyes have ever seen.
6. Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen: Dean/Jane
I can't believe it took me this long to remember them, WHOOPS. They are only the greatest success story in the history of my casting books with TV actors.
7. Flying Changes (and technically also first book Riding Lessons I GUESS) by Sara Gruen: Dan/Annemarie
A THROWBACK FROM 2007. It is possible that now that I'm her age, Marie comes across as a touch weepy and/or melodramatic. But to me at 21, Dan was a Perfect Man, and frankly he still is. A widowed vet who rescues abused horses in his spare time? And is 100% ready to pick up with former flame/Human Disaster Annemarie, even though the package includes her bratty teenage daughter, and is steadfast about his intentions no matter how many times she freaks out and basically pulls the "I'm not good enough" card? Yes good very good. (Also, Annemarie has horses herself, as well as an adorable Dachshund, and basically except for the whole marrying-the-wrong-guy-young thing, she has my dream life.)
8. When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney: Danny/Holland
Danny is possibly the most romantically-inclined boy who has ever gotten complete control of the narration in a YA novel. YEAH, IT'S THAT GOOD. These two have been broken up for months when the novel starts, but he cannot stop rhapsodizing about how much he loved her and misses her, because they were lifelong best friends before they dated for a few glorious months and then she dumped him with no explanation. Because when we get the explanation, it's a doozy but the book still pulls out of it and finds a way to make it emotionally satisfying. And regardless, from what we see of her in both the present day and flashbacks, I one hundred percent bought their soulmatehood.
9. Shelter Me by Catherine Mann: Mike/Sierra
I can't improve on my review, so:
"How am I supposed to resist a story about a grad student living at home and helping run her mom's animal shelter whilst falling (back) in love with the hot army guy on leave who spends all his time alternately being an on-site handyman, getting involved with the dogs and providing support for both her grandfather with Alzheimer's and her depressed/sullen teen brother?
I loved both of them and I loved their relationship, between Sierra generally being an awesome gal and Mike being that perfect archetype of a brooding guy convinced he's not good enough in the long run, but completely in love and sensitive to emotional nuances.
(I literally could not request a more perfect set of character attributes there, so fifty high fives to loveisastate for making me aware of it.)
10. Anything but Ordinary by Valerie Hobbs: Bernie/Winifred
I don't actually, entirely remember why I loved them, except that I think they reminded me of the main kids on Joan of Arcadia? Yet they made a strong enough impression for me to put them on here, because we gotta listen to Past Me, in all her succinctness: They won my heart in five pages, broke it within 30 as intended, and spent the rest of the book tenderly putting it back together.