For the month of February, it's all about love and writing romance here on the blog.
To kick things off, I've put together a list of characters in fiction who have had me falling head over heels for them time and time again (for better or for worse, as some of my picks prove).
In no particular order, here's a short list of characters who never fail to make me swoon.
Just a note, there are bound to be spoilers throughout this post.
Jack Dawson, Titanic
What better way to start off this list than with the first character I fell truly in love with?
I first watched Titanic when I was in middle school and loved absolutely every second of it. It's still my favorite movie to this day.
One of the major reasons for that is Jack Dawson. 90s Leonardo DiCaprio is an undeniable dreamboat, and the character he portrays is in a class of his own when it comes to on-screen rogues.
The way Jack complements Rose, in some ways a foil for her while bringing out the best in her and giving her a taste of the life she may not have realized she truly wanted, there's something simply remarkable about it.
You want to root for them even though you probably know how things are going to go before the film even starts.
Among my favorite things about Jack is that he doesn't push Rose beyond her limits and respects her boundaries unless he feels a need to intervene, as seen when he takes her aside to address his opinions towards her engagement and genuine concerns for her—and backs off when she tells him to.
That first kiss on the bow of the ship? Magical.
Especially because he waits until she indicates a desire for it rather than try to force it.
The infamous car scene? As cringey of a line as, "Put your hands on me, Jack" is, it indicates consent and we absolutely stan consent in this house. Had she said something about wanting him to stop, something tells me he would have done so without question.
That respect and patience are present throughout the entirety of their relationship. He gives Rose the control of her life she yearns for.
What's more is Jack keeps a level head in times of crisis. We all know I have a sincere appreciation for Cal as a character, but his efforts to get Rose off Titanic as it sinks always include a means of making sure he also gets off.
Jack puts Rose's safety first, and he'll figure himself out later. It's admirable, and it makes his inevitable fate and sacrifice a kick in the gut.
And while I am well aware of the argument of their both being able to fit on the door and theoretically make it out alive together, that's not what this post is about so let's just move on.
Finnick Odair, The Hunger Games Trilogy
Even though it wasn't as big of a sensation among my peers as the Team Edward/Team Jacob debacles of the Twilight era, The Hunger Games sparked the Team Peeta/Team Gale era.
With the first book, I admittedly found myself preferring Gale, but Peeta did eventually grow on me by the end of the series.
However, I wasn't necessarily into either of them.
Catching Fire introduces Finnick Odair, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't smitten from his first appearance. His overall personality won me over instantly and the more I learned about him and his past, the more I liked him.
I was Team Finnick all the way, not as a love interest for Katniss as the Team Peeta/Team Gale was based in, but just because I genuinely admired him as a character.
His showmanship and charisma were a survival tactic in the arena. Making it out alive depends on the support of sponsors, and gaining their favor demands a particular appeal Finnick plays to.
But, like Katniss and Peeta and other victors, there's a side to Finnick Capitol spectators don't get to see.
There are a few things I can nit-pick about the films, but Finnick's backstory being condensed is a biggie for me. Granted, there were plenty of scenes trimmed or cut for either time constraints or to maintain a PG-13 rating, and I think Finnick's history being shortened as a result of both.
Finnick has something of a playboy reputation. It's commonly assumed that he's either in it for pleasure or being showered with gifts because in Panem, having a tryst with a victor of the Games (especially someone as revered as Finnick), is a coveted experience. As such, Finnick is said to go through several lovers whenever he's in town.
The thing is, it's not for the sake of his carnal gratification.
Finnick's affairs are the result of President Snow's orders to entertain wealthier Capitol citizens and threats to torture his loved ones, forcing Finnick's compliance.
Forced prostitution, though common for victors in the aftermath of The Hunger Games, isn't necessarily something that could make the PG-13 grade.
What does get featured is his romance with former mentee and fellow victor, Annie, who he finally marries in Mockingjay. Katniss at one point in the book notes that he hasn't seemed to let go of Annie's hand out of fear of losing her again, and I cannot emphasize how that tugged at my heartstrings.
However, the honeymoon phase isn't a long one.
The revolution known as the 76th Hunger Games arises and Finnick joins the cause, eventually costing him his life and making him the only survivor of the 75th Games to not survive the revolution.
Ultimately, his death in Mockingjay was the one that wrecked me the most because I truly wanted a happy ending for this poor soul. It just seemed so unfair to him.
As far as I was able to discern, he may not have even known he was to be a father, as he was killed before getting to meet his son. How heartbreaking is that?
Drake Carne, Poldark
I said this list was in no particular order but to be perfectly frank, Drake Carne would claim the top spot for sure.
Drake is one of Demelza' brothers and joins the cast in Season Three. He and Morwenna still hold the record for the quickest I've shipped a couple. After their first, very brief encounter, my heart was set on their ending up together.
I just felt it. I knew it.
Drake is such a swoon-worthy cinnamon roll. I tremendously love slow-burn romances, and the gradual progression of his and Morwenna's kept reeling me in. Like Finnick and Annie, I just wanted happiness for them.
It was a long, tumultuous road for these two, but Drake scarcely changed, not becoming hardened in the face of difficulty. Maintaining his gentle temperament through it all made him all the more endearing. I just wanted to give the poor kid a hug and tell him things would be okay.
Since there's a gap between books seven and eight, the most recent BBC series focused on what might have happened in that time. This exploration allowed for a deeper look into Drake and Morwenna's experiences as husband and wife.
I'm glad the show took its time with their relationship and the aftermath of her first traumatic marriage, mainly because there were serious issues needing to be handled properly rather than glossed over.
Drake's patience and understanding, allowing Morwenna time to heal from her past, rather than expecting too much at her at once or telling her to get over it as others might be inclined to do, is a level of sincere respect essential in any relationship. Rebuilding her sense of trust rather than just expecting it to happen overnight was done so well and secured Drake's place as one of my favorite love interests and characters overall.
Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
It is a truth universally acknowledged that I would be highly remiss if I did not include Darcy on this list.
There are plenty of Austen men worthy of making cut, but Darcy is my absolute favorite—and that's coming from someone who named their cat after Willoughby of Sense and Sensibility. I even have a framed print of him in my writing nook (specifically the portrait seen at Pemberley in the 1995 adaptation).
The thing I love most about Darcy is the quiet transformation he undergoes throughout Pride and Prejudice, ultimately disproving Elizabeth's first impression of him.
When introduced, Darcy seems to be haughty and standoffish, less inclined to interact with those beneath him than Bingley, who is immediately enchanted by Jane.
As Wickham comments at one point, "His pride never deserts him; but with the rich, he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honorable, and perhaps agreeable—allowing for fortune and figure."
This, I imagine, is the result of his upbringing and society in that time period. Darcy isn't titled like an earl or a duke, but his wealth still has him high up in the ranks of the landed gentry. Therefore, dancing at the assembly wouldn't have been considered proper in his mind.
There are also the societal protocols at play. For one, introductions in such a setting needed to be facilitated by a mutual acquaintance. Darcy wouldn't have been able to approach Elizabeth out of the blue and make a move if he wanted to.
The ball at Netherfield sees him more relaxed since he is among his peers and in his comfort zone, making his dancing with Elizabeth more okay than it would have been at the assembly.
Darcy's reserved nature persists, mostly because he's never been made to think differently of himself. We don't know a lot about his childhood, but it can be assumed he would have been potentially groomed to take over as Pemberley's master and inherit the estate following his father's death, furthering the importance of conducting himself in a particular way. There may be jests from friends like Bingley on the subject, but he's never been advised to act differently.
Elizabeth is quite possibly the first person to put him in his place, turning down his marriage proposal and calling him out on his flaws. After all, insinuating that such a relationship would be against your better judgment and that your love interest's family is at times not worth putting up with isn't the best way of wooing them.
This is a turn for the course of not only their relationship, but for Darcy as a character.
The rejection forces Darcy to realize his arrogance and pride and come to terms with the fact that he is flawed just like anybody else. The thing is, rather than brush it off and say something like, "Yeah, well, that's just who I am. Take it or leave it." Darcy makes the effort to improve himself, recognizing his faults and accepting others'.
That's why I love Darcy. His development as a character and his efforts to become a better man and redeem himself in Elizabeth's *fine eyes* will never fail to delight me.
Mr. Wickham, Pride and Prejudice
I realize this is a more problematic pick, but that's his character.
What can I say? I love bad boys in fiction. There's something appealing about a good old-fashioned rakehell, and Wickham is among my favorites.
Back when I first read Pride and Prejudice, I was suspicious of this guy but for some weird reason, I didn't care. It was the complete opposite of my experience reading Twilight and all of the red flags waving in Edward Cullen's wake. My inhibitions were always tamped down whenever Wickham made an appearance. My denial of his true self is strangely interesting.
His smooth talk and charm had me drawn in without question, just stringing me along and convincing me that his account of his life growing up with Darcy and the conflict that drove them apart was half of a whole truth—the other half being Darcy's side of the story.
Part of me wanted to believe it was just a misunderstanding, not even considering the possibility of his having a wicked nature.
Whenever I devote an afternoon or evening to watching Pride and Prejudice, I somehow ignore everything I know about him.
I almost laugh at myself for not only believing his stories and feeling duped the first time around, and then become annoyed with myself for forgetting it all and being reeled in.
Part of this is related to the way Wickham reads people, a trait shared with Elizabeth. The difference is, Wickham uses his findings to his advantage, manipulating encounters so they serve him. His discovering Elizabeth's dislike of Darcy inspires him to share his side of the story and slander Darcy's name to gain her favor—which works until she realizes his true nature.
His perception fares better in conversation than gaming hells, as he's racked up some debts.
This is what prompts his efforts to marry a woman of a decent fortune, but it's oddly what makes me want to believe he has legitimate feelings for Lydia given the Bennet family's financial situation. The money he does get is actually from Darcy in his efforts to prevent further scandal. I want to hope there's an honest man beneath his sly and cunning conduct.
My always falling for Wickham—and his tricks—is what fascinates me and persuaded me to include him in this lineup.
If it worked on me as a reader and viewer, I can only imagine how several young ladies of Merryton would have been feeling in his presence.
Which brings me to the final (and perhaps the most concerning and questionable) addition to this list.
Prince Hans of the Southern Isles, Frozen
I debated having an animated character on this list but I couldn't help myself. Hans has been my favorite Disney Prince since Frozen was released, and with one of my goals in life being to find and be bold enough to flirt with him at Walt Disney World, it seemed like justification enough.
For one thing, the twist of his actually being the villain was thrilling for me as a storyteller because it was the last thing I expected walking into the cinema. I had the feeling Anna would break things off with him, maybe say something about realizing she needs to reconnect with Elsa or realizing Kristoff is a better match for the person she's become after the journey to find her sister, but Hans's absolute betrayal and total 180 had me floored.
I'm not condoning his nearly beheading Elsa and trying to take over the kingdom, but I do harbor a peculiar respect for him that has me coming to his defense—primarily based on who he was before things escalated to that point.
It's the same effect Wickham has on me.
For what it's worth, I support the theory that the sudden change was influenced by the trolls. We're shown very early in the film that Pabbie has the power to alter and even erase memories, with his removing Anna's knowledge of Elsa's magic. We also know the trolls ship Anna and Kristoff hard, harder than I shipped Drake and Morwenna on Poldark. They devote an entire song number to being a tribe of wingmen for him and trying to set them up with one particular line being, "Get the fiance out of the way and the whole thing will be fixed."
And who's her fiance? Hans.
When Anna left Arendelle to find Elsa, she left Hans in charge, and we see him passing out blankets to townsfolk and holding down the fort before deciding he needs to go after Anna.
And then a bit after the troll's desperate hope of a Kristoff/Anna hook-up, he's suddenly evil and conniving. It came out of nowhere, and I think I know why that is.
Hans is very much an example of absolute power corrupting absolutely, but it's not necessarily the power he's been given as temporary regent of Arendelle.
Even though Hans may have traveled to Arendelle with the intention of wooing the new queen and marrying into ruling the kingdom, his meeting Anna in town inspires a change of heart. I genuinely believe he's crushing on her. The way he gazes at her from under the upturned boat, that's not a look of plotting or discovering a new opportunity to usurp a throne.
I also think Anna is one of if not the first person who makes him feel seen. He tells her about having twelve older brothers and feeling invisible or shut out, just like Anna does with Elsa.
Perhaps leading him to rush into the engagement as easily as she does.
The sad thing is, I probably would agree to marry Hans if he asked. You know, before the attempted regicide and overall whiplash in his disposition.
Plus I feel bad for the man overall. Not a good guy so not a member of the Disney Prince club that would count The Little Mermaid's Prince Eric or Aladdin among its members. Frozen has become a franchise of its own but there's not a lot of Hans-related merch within that. He's not included in the Villains line with the likes of Jafar or Maleficent.
Finding a Hans doll at the Disney Store while on a road trip was an absolute joy for me, and you can bet I proudly displayed him in my college dorm.
Don't be surprised if you find bits of these guys woven into my own characters. These examples and others are often who I'll turn to during the initial planning phase of a new writing endeavor.
I won't say Drake Carne's being a blacksmith was the sole inspiration for Marcus of Forged in the Salle being a blacksmith, but I'll definitely be firing up another rewatch of Poldark for research purposes in the future.