Find my next OTP
February 28, 2015 3:36 PM   Subscribe

So I super enjoy a good romance, and I guess that despite my desire to be cool and edgy I have pretty conventional tastes (I have literally only ever liked canon pairings): strong female characters, action/danger, and tension. Can you point me toward my next favorite fictional couple?

I like: strong couples that are pretty much evenly matched, and that are star-crossed in some fashion. The will-they-won't-they is great (maybe even necessary?) but I require that they end up together, even if it's followed shortly by tragedy. Almost always in a sci-fi/fantasy context. Such as:

- Buffy and Angel
- Mulder and Scully
- Chuck and Sarah (from the TV show Chuck)
- Karou and Akiva (from the book Daughter of Smoke and Bone - lots of other YA pairings hit this for me; i.e. the main pairings in Graceling, Finnikin of the Rock, every other dystopian trilogy etc.)
- Marian and Robin Hood (specifically from the BBC series, though any version with a badass Marian is good)
- Jaina and Jag (from Star Wars; Han and Leia are good too)
- Arwen and Aragorn (movie Arwen, anyway; book Arwen is a font of nothing)
- Historical fiction can be good too, with Anya Seton's Katherine a notable example

Though all of those are het couples, that's due to happenstance (most sf/f couples seem to be straight) rather than preference. Looking for any kind of media: books, movies, tv shows, etc. I'm willing to branch out genre-wise except for crime procedurals/mysteries. Also, I am really not looking for a romance novel :( They are fine, but I like my romance to be secondary to plot, characters, action, etc., rather than being the main focus of the story.

Thanks for your help! I am injured and couch-bound for a bit and have to stop just watching reruns of my old favorites...
posted by goodbyewaffles to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
If you like the Arwen and Aragorn story, what about Beren and Luthien? You can find their story in The Silmarillion.

This may not be your cup of tea based on the list you give...but Chuck and Blair from Gossip Girl are one of my favorite TV couples and that show is one of my favorite guilty pleasures. If you're ever in the mood for mindless, trashy entertainment, you might check it out.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:47 PM on February 28, 2015

Look, you said no "crime procedurals", but the crossover between the Veronica Mars audience and the Buffy audience is very nearly 100%, in my experience. Aside from the rest of the show being great and generally charming, Logan/Veronica is OTP crack.
posted by Sequence at 3:52 PM on February 28, 2015 [13 favorites]

Do you watch Arrow (Oliver/Felicity)?

For books, a lot of urban fantasy series have a slow building OTP type romance. Ilona Andrews writes the Kate Daniels series, which is VERY slow burn, and the Hidden Legacy series (Burn for Me is the first one), which seems to be, well, burning a bit faster. I also like the Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane, though it's pretty dark and I'm starting to fear she's never going to finish it. Karen Marie Moning's Fever series has a lot of fans, too. For all of these, plot is primary and the romance secondary.
posted by mjm101 at 3:55 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Anime? Kojou and Yukina in Strike the Blood.

He's a vampire, the "Fourth Progeniture" (kind of vampire royalty). She's a "Sword Shaman", a holy warrior, sent by her organization to check him out. If he's evil, her job is to kill him. But if he isn't (and in fact he is not) her job is to keep him on the straight and narrow, using his power for good.

You can watch it on Crunchyroll, or hit the torrents.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:00 PM on February 28, 2015

Haven. Audrey and Nathan are delectable. (And so are Audrey and Duke)
posted by ellerhodes at 4:03 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Olivia/Peter from Fringe? Fringe as about as much "crime procedural" as X-Files was.
Kira/Odo and Dax/Worf from Deep Space 9
Delenn/Sheridan from Babylon 5 (I'd say Londo/G'kar, but that violates the "must end up together" clause)
posted by katya.lysander at 4:05 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: OH how could I forget Logan and Veronica?? Yes, them forever.

These are great everybody!
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:11 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

The central romance in Farscape is pretty fantastic.
posted by fearthehat at 4:25 PM on February 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

Avatar: the Last Airbender. They even lampshade the ships throughout the series.
posted by gregglind at 4:28 PM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I was just coming in here to say that John/Aeryn from Farscape is my OTP to end all OTPs. Plus its all on Netflix.

I also love Raul/Aenea from the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons.
posted by hobgadling at 4:31 PM on February 28, 2015

Ascendant, by Jacqueline Koyanagi. The (not hetero) romance isn't the main story, but some reviewers complained "too romance-y!" so whatever. It was the right balance for me. It's a good sf novel with a diverse cast, kickass women all over, action, and a satisfying romance*. I'm just dying for a sequel, but I'm concerned there won't be one because it hasn't gotten NEARLY the buzz it should.

Strongly recommended.

*I don't want to spoil anything, but this assumes some comfort with nonconventionality.
posted by wintersweet at 4:32 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Fearthehat beat me to Farscape's John and Aeryn. Female soldier from a society where everyone was trained from childhood to obey matched with a smart aleck human fish out of water. There's the will they, won't they and tragedy.
On edit, DS9 Kira and Odo are also great. If you're also looking for great friend OTP you get Miles O'Brien and Julian Bashir.
posted by blueskiesinside at 4:36 PM on February 28, 2015

Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson. Several OTPs -- Jack and Eliza, Newton and the Calculus...
posted by gregglind at 4:36 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Well, here I am recommending Outlander again. I know it's sometimes shelved in the romance section, and while it is technically a love story, it is really more of a historical adventure with some minor time travel thrown in, especially after the first book. If you can get hooked on them, they'll keep you occupied for a long, long time. And if you have Starz, you can watch the first half of the first season of the show, which is excellent even to this very suspicious long-time book fan.
posted by something something at 4:37 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy Avatar: The Last Airbender.
posted by Sokka shot first at 4:50 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Liaden Universe books that focus on Val Con and Miri, plus (*pulls up Liaden wiki*) Shan and Priscilla, Daav and Aelianna, and Er Thom and Anne should all work. It's a long series with some ups and downs, but the books featuring those couples are all good. Among those, the ones that focus on Miri and Val Con are the ones that drive a larger plot, and the others are usually one-off romances that also give some background to the other stories.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:06 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came to recommend Farscape as well. John and Aeryn are fantastic.
posted by a hat out of hell at 5:37 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Grace and Sam in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, AKA the best werewolf reconstruction story of the decade.

I offer you my anime OTP for the ages: Duck (Ahiru) and Fakir from Princess Tutu: she's a duck who turns into a feisty high school girl who turns into a ballerina princess superhero who was a minor character in an unfinished novel, and she fights to unravel a mystery from the novel that locked her town into stasis long ago; he's a brusque upperclassman dancer-turned-swordsman who's the reincarnation of a fictional knight, and he's obsessed with maintaining the hidden-secrets-status-quo to protect his best friend. Duck and Fakir spend the first half of the series clashing with much UST, and then the plot goes in a very different direction. Princess Tutu is much better than it has any right to be; this video is a good depiction of the visual style.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a following for literally every possible ship, but the canon ones are pretty great too: Tony Stark / Pepper Potts have that old-school Hollywood banter, Steve Rogers / Peggy Carter is equal parts heartbreaking and adorable, and next year's AKA Jessica Jones will give us the snarky friends-turned-lovers Jessica Jones / Luke Cage. (Which hey, if you're up for reading comics: try Luke / Jessica in Alias, The Pulse, and New Avengers.)

Any number of couples in Once Upon a Time, which while not a great series is extremely addictive and attractive to look upon and has multiple canon couples to choose among. My canon ship of choice would be Emma Swann / Captain Hook, because the snarky UST is thick and Hook is essentially "Buffy"'s Spike as a morally ambiguous pirate in eyeliner. Yes, please.

I feel like I'm both spamming you and not giving you enough options, so I will go stare at my fanfic bookmarks and think. Feel free to hit me up on PM.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:53 PM on February 28, 2015

Mmm... S.L. Viehl's StarDoc series. Ten books, complete list partway down.

Science fiction? Check.
More than just romance? Yup, lots going on in these.
Strong, evenly matched couple? Yeah, at times a bit too strong - and strong-willed.
Star-crossed? Good grief. One of these books is seriously the only one I've literally THOWN when I finished it, because the ending was oh-so-right... but dear dog, the things she does to those poor characters.

There are also some short stories set in the same universe - including book one of the series written from the male protagonist's point of view - but I don't recommend reading it first. Described (and some linked) here, the rest are on this page.

And I know you said no mysteries/ crime procedurals... but you might want to take a peek at JD Robb's In Death novels, just in case they might squeak by. Futuristic science fiction, strong couple, and one heck of a lot of other interesting characters as the series moves along.
posted by stormyteal at 5:54 PM on February 28, 2015

Seconding Ilona Andrews, particularly the Kate Daniels and Edge series.

You should also try Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series, and Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye series.
posted by gudrun at 6:15 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

S.U. Pacat's Captive Prince series, which takes every slash/yaoi romance trope and subverts them and/or runs with them to the wall, guns blazing. READ THE CONTENT WARNINGS.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:22 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I love this thread!

Patroclus and Achilles in Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles.

Jacob and Ferris in As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann. You know when you want to shout at the page for them to stop being stupid and get together and when they finally do you're like "YES you idiots, finally!" This is that kind of couple.

Marian and Robin Hood in The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley (delightful YA) and also in Sherwood by Parke Godwin. There's another spoilery alternate pairing in this novel too which readers can get just as invested in.

Also seconding Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle for Jack and Eliza.

These aren't romance novels, a lot else goes on in them. I guess Song of Achilles is a little cheesy but it's a good cheese. Mature cheddar rather than Kraft, if you will.

Seconding the Avatar recommendation which is really good for this sort of slow building relationship thing. Its sequel series, The Legend of Korra, has a great canon OTP which doesn't come into play until the very last season and I don't want to spoil it for you if you don't know. But there are other good pairings in the series, notably Varrick and Zhu Li ("do the thing!").
posted by Ziggy500 at 6:46 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Stargate: Atlantis is full of great ideas and images and yet managed to be 5x22 episodes of mostly crap. The good news is the fanfic is awesome; the OTP is Rodney McKay/John Shepherd.
posted by Jesse the K at 7:03 PM on February 28, 2015

I'm not sure why people are recommending the Baroque Cycle in here because while it's sort of fantasy/sci fi, it's not really and the stuff with Jack and Eliza is sort of underutilized. Eliza is quirky/cool but she really suffers from Trinity Syndrome.

I've only read one book by this author but Elizabeth Vaughn's Dagger Star might be what you want. Fantasy & some romance but there's also a kingdom to save. The cover is dumb. I got it for a dollar at the thrift store, if you want it let me know.

All of Georgette Heyer's mysteries have sassy ladies and cunning young men solving crimes and falling in love, but mostly solving crime. If you like Downton Abbey (season 1-3) you might try one of them.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:11 PM on February 28, 2015

You might like Kate Elliott's Spiritwalker trilogy.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:24 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would say that all of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy trilogies would fit this bill. Each features a main pairing that fits your bill. They interlock, but also can stand on their own, so I would say where to start depends on your tolerance for kink. They get progressively less kinky as the series goes on, so maybe start with the second or third trilogy if you're unsure about that. And romance/sex is not nearly the only focus -- they feature great characters, court intrigue, high adventure, travel to exotic locales and rich, highly detailed worldbuilding. As I think about it, if you haven't read this series, I envy you -- I wish I could have the experience of reading it again for the first time.
posted by Smells of Detroit at 7:38 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jaenelle and Daemon, from Anne Bishop's fabulous Black Jewels Trilogy. It's three books, but trust me, buy the all-in-one.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 7:38 PM on February 28, 2015

Gonna step right over your "no mysteries" rule because I can't in good conscience not recommend Peter and Harriet from Dorothy L. Sayers's books, the OTP that crawled right inside the heart of this girl who grew up shaped and moulded by Mulder and Scully. Over the course of four books these two flirt, battle it out, push each other away and find their way back together on more solid ground, and it's gorgeous and real and human and grown-up while still being ultimately optimistic and healthy in a way you almost never see in literature. The level of honesty they achieve with themselves before they can find it with each other is gorgeous and moving and deeply unusual in romantic storytelling. The books very much tackle the question of what equality means in a relationship, how it's necessary for love, and how two complex, intelligent human beings can negotiate their way to one another when timing and circumstance stand in their way. They don’t save each other; they save themselves, they talk it out as they navigate their parallel but independent paths, and that lets them find each other along the way. Ughhhhhhhh. *emphatic arm-waving*

Anyway if you decide to brave out the mysteries, the books are, in order: Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, and Busman's Honeymoon.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:07 PM on February 28, 2015 [9 favorites]

Deep Secret and Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (one of my favorite authors in the universe!)
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
Crown Duel/Court Duel (they're two books that can also found in a single volume containing both books, confusingly called Crown Duel--the link goes to this) by Sherwood Smith
Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
posted by cheesegrater at 8:23 PM on February 28, 2015

If you like anime, Roy/Riza from Fullmetal Alchemist. I prefer the 2003 series, but FMA Brotherhood from 2009 has a wider variety of really great female characters. The main characters in FMA are teenage brothers, however, Roy and Riza and most of the supporting cast are adults.

LM Montgomery's The Blue Castle
posted by betweenthebars at 8:25 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I hit post too soon - I was going to second the rec for Lord Peter/Harriet Vane. They're one of my first het OTPs.

My other suggestion is Coffee Prince, a k-drama that is available on both netflix and crunchyroll.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:43 PM on February 28, 2015

Paula Volsky's Illusion
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:18 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

John Crichton & Aeryn Sun in Farscape beat out Mulder & Scully and Butch & Sundance and basically everyone. Best romance ever.

I recommend Jaran by Kate Elliott, which is a romance wrapped in the guise of an interstellar spy novel, mashed up with the Mongol invasion. Great stuff, and a killer intercultural romance.

The Ladies of Mandrigyn by Barbara Hambly has a romance of true partners, in a cod-medieval fantasy land with unexpected feminism. Hambly has a lot of good romances, although she does like to pair young women up with significantly older men.

I also recommend, if you have the patience for a sllooooow build and a killer payoff, the Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, starting with The Game of Kings. I do mean slow build, but when you get there, you will be completely on board with the romance. And no, I'm not going to name the players, that's part of the fun.
posted by suelac at 9:24 PM on February 28, 2015

Best answer: Wesley and Fred in Angel, although, possible spoilers, it is also pretty much devastating. It's one of the few times I have sobbed at a TV show.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:08 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I really love the central relationship in Mary Robinette Kowal's Glamour in Glass books. The first book is straight up Jane Austen with magic, which was fine, but the whole thing gets more interesting as the books go on.
posted by linettasky at 11:06 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Spiritwalker, mentioned upthread, is great for this. I'm not gonna tell you who ends up with who in Seanan McGuire's October Daye series, but the romantic subplots in those books are absolutely amazing and weaved into a story with some of the best interpersonal relationships of all kinds that I've read; they're also totally heartbreaking at times, so be prepared for that.

You might like Jaqueline Carey's Kushiel series, but it's got triggers out the wazoo-- the protagonist is a god-touched submissive/masochistic courtesan/spy, and there is some sexual assault in them. It's got some really great romances in it, though, and since they're more often facing-interpersonal-challenge type relationships they have a lot of the satisfaction of will they/won't they with somewhat different angst. If you're not interested in those, though, Santa Olivia and Saints Astray are pretty fun and written in a totally different style, with a central romance that's incredibly sweet.

You mentioned Daughter of Smoke and Bone; if you haven't read Night of Cake and Puppets, do yourself a favor and go read it right now. It's how Zuzana and Mik get together, and it's $1 (or a bit more for the audio, which is well worth it in my opinion). I mean, it's a straight-up romance, but it's in that universe, it gives you context for the rest of it, and it's so absolutely wonderful and sweet and hilarious and omg. So great.

Sarah Rees Brennan's Lynburn Legacy is really funny and really angsty and has a great central relationship plus a bunch of really awesome friends who then get their own relationships and it's great. It might make you cry, though.

If you play video games, the Dragon Age series is rightly known for great romantic subplots.
posted by NoraReed at 6:41 AM on March 1, 2015

Best answer: Aly and Nawat from Tamora Pierce's Daughter of the Lioness novels. It's a spy fantasy two book series in her Tortall universe. You don't need to have read the previous three series, though you can, of course, they're great. (Aly's parents area nice couple as well and appear in the first series.)
I am shipping these two hard and there is one absolutely brilliant love scene in the second book. And they talk about contraception - when does that ever happen?
posted by LoonyLovegood at 8:21 AM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Deborah Harness' All Souls Trilogy ticks all your boxes: het, star crossed, historical, and supernatural. There is plenty of plot outside the romance, and it is written by an academic so while the fantasy elements are there the historic and scientific elements are very good.

Now I want to go and read it again!
posted by Requiax at 11:25 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Coming back to add a movie. Note that the movie is a little bit cheesy, but the relationship between Madmartigan and Sorsha in Willow makes it worth a watch (youtube).
posted by gudrun at 11:53 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if the adaptation of Gaskell's North and South is still on Netflix Streaming, but it's swoon-worthy (there's a little bump in the road upon first meeting that's ehhh feels problematic, but give it a chance through and you might be down with it) in terms of tension (when he brushes her hand over tea it was the sexiest, whoamygosh), and I liked how approachable and quietly-has-a-moral-code-and-past-and-inner-desirous-life the female lead is. It felt like the corrective to Downton Abbey fever a few years back, a soothing balm for me.
posted by ifjuly at 1:41 PM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

And I don't know if I'd pin it to any one couple in particular, but the romantic relationships on Slings and Arrows can be pretty fun, and the women are definitely fully their own characters.
posted by ifjuly at 1:42 PM on March 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

It's not so much a mystery/crime novel series as it is a western, but Walt/Vic from the longmire series (TV show more than the book series but both are good) are my current OTP. Books! TV Show!
posted by aclevername at 4:32 PM on March 1, 2015

Best answer: I can't even say their names for fear of spoiling, but the main couple of Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series are made of this. It's a political fantasy set in a vaguely Renaissance-y vaguely Greece with hearty doses of snark, swashbucking, and not especially mythological myths with an achingly bittersweet romance at the heart of it all. The first book is a breezy YA romp with no romance, the others... much less so. One of my favorite series of anything and couples in anything, period.

My other favorite couple in anything is Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in the original Spider-Man comics. They're the opposite of star-crossed, but that's what makes them so great -- they have to really work to make their relationship work and both it and they are much richer for it. Don't believe me? Ask Ta-Nehisi Coates! I recommend starting with J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr's run on Amazing Spider-Man, the main emotional thrust of which is their slow-burn reunion. It's 1-7 on this goodreads list; unfortunately the most recent omnibus appears to have just gone out of print but all the trades go for cheap used on amazon and the first three are available on kindle or comixology. Then read the MeFi thread for more recs! Or just come bug me.

If you read a lot of young adult fantasy, you'll probably already have read these, but Will and Lyra from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials aren't star- so much as universe-crossed.

I don't find Avatar as ship inducing as everybody else does (except for the Legend of Korra finale ship), but it's a fantastic series and we're only 3 episodes into a FanFare watchalong, so you could join us!

I also nth the previously mentioned Spiritwalker trilogy and Cat/Andevai should be right up your alley, but I do want to mention a date rape trigger for book 2 (not between them). Also seconding Howl's Moving Castle, both book and movie (somewhat different animals).
posted by bettafish at 5:00 PM on March 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh right, I forgot the trigger warning on Spiritwalker, there totally is a sexual coercion scene in that book, thanks for the note on that, bettafish.
posted by NoraReed at 6:00 PM on March 1, 2015

Another vote for Cordelia and Aral in Shards of Honor, Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey, and yes yes yes above all John Crichton and the radiant Aeryn Sun.

And in the same vein as Harriet and Peter (and strongly influenced by them), I recommend Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, which will not utterly destroy your heart like Willis' more well-known books. (Am I over Blackout/All Clear yet? No, no I am not.)
posted by kalimac at 12:12 PM on March 2, 2015

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