Now in the process of coming up with the best list we also discovered that the worst list is actually really long. No but really though, it is a honking list filled with all sorts of cads who are abso-freaking-lutely bonkers. These love interests leave you cringing with the level of crazy they are.
Edward Rochester from Charlotte Brönte’s Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is literally my favorite book of all time, so it might seem weird that the male love interest is NOT my favorite. I love the novel because of Jane and her commitment to her moral code and the way she stands up for herself even when it causes her some emotional pain. So much love for Jane!
Rochester, however, is a bag of cats [insert other slightly derogatory but appropriate name]. He is dark and brooding and angry pretty much all the time. He is secret about the weird noises and things happening in his house. And, oh yeah, that one time his bed was lit on fire and Jane had to save him? Totally not related to the other creepy things. Not at all.
****For complete spoilers continue, to save yourself some surprise, skip this next part****
He pretends to be a gypsy to get Jane to reveal her secrets. Really?! He couldn’t just ask?! And-- Bonus-- He neglected to tell Jane about his *literally* crazy first wife he has locked up in the attic until his and Jane’s wedding day. Which, by the way, would have been illegitimate because he was still technically married to his first wife. Prime example of a lack of communication. And lies. And deception. Good job, Edward. You made the worst list.
Mr. Collins from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen is amazing at writing believable, loveable characters (Mr. Darcy). This also makes her fantastic at writing the worst characters, including Mr. Collins. The situation is that Mr. Bennett and his wife have five daughters who, by virtue of being female in a misogynistic era, cannot inherit Mr. Bennett’s money or estate. That will all go to Mr. Collins -- a cousin or some such-- when Mr. Bennett dies, which could be any day in those times. Not gettin’ any younger. So Mr. Collins decides to marry one of the Bennett girls because he is positive that he is quite the catch. Seriously, he is the most boring and oblivious man in the entire novel and he thinks he is all that and a bag of chips! His proposal to Elizabeth sums him up quite well. Here is a paraphrase of that;
Collins: You should marry me
Elizabeth: I’m not going to marry you
Collins: *refuses to accept that no means no*
Collins: *lists the reasons why she should marry him like he is trying to sell insurance door to
Collins: And you are pretty, but poor, so those kind of cancel out and most likely no one else is
going to ask to marry you ever again.
In summation, Mr. Collins is a socially obtuse fellow who is so sure he is the ideal man that someone could only refuse to marry him because she is playing hard to get. And did I mention that he thinks women are kind of dim? Because, misogyny
Willoughby from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility
Okay Willoughby is such an interesting toad. He seduces and impregnates Beth, a 15 year old girl. Leaves her, moves along on his merry life and runs into Marianne who twisted her ankle in the rain. We will put the fact that Marianne is 16 on the shelf (it is a representation of the age of the story blah blah blah). He courts Mariannne in the most scandalous way possible without actually getting her pregnant, ruins her name, is so close to proposing, but then his aunt finds out what he did to Beth and tells him to fix it, he refuses and then like any sane person his aunt promptly disowns him. He then ambiguously breaks up with Marianne claiming an extended business trip to London, and because he has a lifestyle to maintain he marries a wealthy woman whom he does not love.
And to put the cherry on the cream when Marianne is dying because he has been such a frog face he has the gall to go to Marianne’s older sister Elinor and whine about why his life is so hard because he is stuck with a rich woman he does not love.
Romeo Montague from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
Anyone who asks me knows that I detest the story of Romeo and Juliet. I had zero patience for it in the ninth grade and honestly it has not gotten better with age. First Romeo starts by professing undying love to Rosaline and then Juliet walks by and Rosaline promptly falls out of his brain. Then you get the argument that their love is deeper than anything anyone has ever known… if my eyes rolled harder they would fall out of my head.
Let's pretend for a moment there was true love between these two, just for fun. He risks dying to look at her… because he loves her… then in a passionate rage he goes off and kills his “true love’s” favorite cousin to avenge the death of a friend. Then when he thinks he has found his true love dead he promptly kills himself, which obviously makes everything all better.
Erik aka The Phantom from Gaston Leroux Phantom of the Opera
I definitely remember being 14 when Phantom of the Opera came out and really loving everything about it. Something that definitely came up is who would you pick Raoul or the Phantom? And at the time I was definitely team Phantom because let's be honest, Gerard Butler. Then getting older my opinion has changed.
Erik has a horribly tragic childhood, he was born deformed according to the original telling of the story and has never known physical affection even from his own mother which admittedly is enough to drive anyone bonkers. Fast forward to the present he creepy teaches Christine how to sing and then insists she performs at the opera house. Then when that did not work, because let's be honest that is not how real life functions, he sabotages the Prima Donna and causes the chandelier to fall and kills someone. He kidnaps Christine, when she sees his face decides he wants her around forever. She asks to leave after two weeks and he acquiesces to her request only if she wears his ring and is faithful.
When he spies on her and hears that she wants help escaping, he kidnaps her and traps Raoul in a torture chamber. Erik tries to force Christine to marry him, she agrees as long as he lets Raoul go. When the Phantom kisses her forehead and she kisses him back he becomes overwrought and emotional and sends Christine away only if she promises to come back and visit him on his death day because he is dying soon because… you guessed it, love.
Wickham from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Wickham is a special sort of entitled, his father works for the Darcy family and Wickham, Fitzwilliam,Georgiana are all raised together and are like siblings. When Darcy Sr. dies he leaves Wickham a portion of the estate. Nice right? But Wickham has a gambling habit and in a short period of time blows through the money. What is his solution you might ask? Marry little sister Georgiana, and use her money when she is 15. Thankfully big brother steps in and intervenes saving her from a crappy relationship.
Then if that was not bad enough Wickham moves on to the Bennet family. He whines about how Darcy is so mean to him and does not like him. And then that turkey nose does a very similar thing to 15 year old Lydia. Fortunately Darcy steps in and saves Lydia and her family from ruin.
Arthur Huntingdon from Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Alright this one y’all may not be as well acquainted with because this book was sabotaged but holy cheese this guy sucks. He is a manipulative, spoiled toad. When he is trying to get Helen to marry him he flirts with someone else to get her to move faster. She resolves to try to influence him by loving him out of his crappy habits (by the way this is a really bad plan). They have a son who is also named Arthur, and then Arthur senior gets jealous because guess what kids take a lot of time to raise.
Then one of Arthur’s friends starts flirting with Helen and lets her know about Arthur’s affair, then Arthur starts to publicly pine for his paramour and be publicly derisive of his wife.Also to be spiteful he gets his little child addicted to alcohol and coaches him to use foul language. Helen says “Fine, I am done, divorce me” he says no, she decides to leave and support herself by painting. He finds out because he read her journal and then proceeds to burn all her art supplies. And then dies of liver failure/falling from a horse...shucks.
Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
I find anti heroes an interesting concept they aren't actually anyone you would want to be like so I guess the moral of the story is this is how bad it can get. Move on from the hard things in your life before you trash your life and the lives of everyone around you? Sure.
Justifiably Heathcliff has a profoundly difficult life, he was found on the streets of Liverpool and taken in by this family, and in the beginning both Catherine and her brother Hinley resent him, but over time Catherine’s feelings soften and they grow to love each other. However Hinley continues to hate Heathcliff and when his father dies, Hinley treats Heathcliff like a servant and send him outside to work in the fields. Then Catherine grows up and, heaven forbid, she starts to have feelings for someone else. She ends up marrying the other guy and then Heathcliff pitches a fit and runs away for 3 years. Heathcliff comes back magically wealthy no one knows what he did to get money...and then he promptly is out to destroy everyone’s lives in the most crazy abusive way imaginable. And after he does that he starves himself to death. Such romance.
Runners Up (Mostly because it is a really really long list):
Sir Percy Blakeney ( Scarlet Pimpernel)
Sergeant Troy( Far From the Madding Crowd)
Jay Gatsby(The Great Gatsby)
Bill Sikes( Oliver)
John Rivers( Jane Eyre)
This was our list. Who are the love interests you absolutely cannot stand in classic literature?
We have discussed classic literature and romance in previous blog posts, and while we have touched upon some of the male characters, this blog post will be a more comprehensive list of best male love interests.
Gilbert Blythe from L.M. Montogomery’s Anne of Green Gables
Okay now Gilbert is one of my absolute favorite fiction crushes. Gilbert and Anne start on the wrong foot and it takes them a while before Anne is able to forgive Gilbert for calling her “Carrots”. But all throughout that time Gilbert works really hard to help Anne achieve her goals. He saves her when she gets stuck under the bridge when Anne’s misadventures go awry. He gives up the Avonlea school so she could stay with Marilla and really just grows into being a loving and devoted husband and father.
Colonel Brandon from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility
Jane Austen is pretty much the reigning queen of classic romance, and true to an Austen hero, Colonel Brandon is the picture of patience and decency. His is also a tragic backstory! Once upon a time the Colonel loved Eliza. She didn’t return his feelings *of course* and he eventually ended up taking care of Eliza’s child, and as a heroic figure attempts to defend her honor and that of Marianne. Marianne of course, thinks he is old and uninteresting and takes the entirety of the book to realize that Colonel Brandon is sweet and awesome and superdy-duper patient and pretty much the best.
Fitzwilliam Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Be still my beating heart! Fitzwilliam Darcy is arguably the best male love interest in Austen literature. He is also super relatable in a lot of ways: awkward, shy, resting angry face....And per usual it takes an entire novel for the heroine to recognize that he is the literal best. Admittedly, he is prideful at times throughout the novel and has some very rude family members (looking at you, Lady Catherine). This kind of makes him the perfect match for Elizabeth, though, because she is prideful and sassy and has some shockingly embarrassing family members. But back to Darcy! He tracks down her wayward sister, saves her family’s reputation, and doesn’t murder the dude who ran off with her little sister and had broken his little sister’s heart in the past. So….self- control.
Also when asked how he ever fell in love with Elizabeth, he says, “I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It was too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!
Theodore Laurence from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women
Teddy is so interesting because of his growth as a character. He starts out as an inattentive student but tries to be better because he likes Jo and wants her to like him too. Then when she is like “Nope!” when he proposes; he jumps off the moral deep end and starts exploring this world of male privilege and starts drinking, gambling, traveling, and flirting with anything with two legs. Then he runs into Amy who in all the awesomeness of a childhood friend calls him on his crap and tells him to grow up and make something of himself and he does and becomes the man that Amy deserves.
Captain Wentworth from Jane Austen’s Persuasion
I truly love Captain Wentworth. He is such a dependable personality because he works himself through the navy's ranks, makes his own fortune and makes a name for himself as opposed to all the spendy gambling dudes who just want to marry someone so they can spend and gamble some more. Backstory: He and Anne were on the verge of being engaged when they were both young before he worked through the ranks and became a captain, and the meddling neighbor next door ruined it. Then seven years later he comes back to visit his sister and her husband when they rent Anne’s father’s estate… series of events… blah blah blah, begins to realize Anne isn’t a prude and begins to get less mad that she rejected him. He overhears her telling his best friend why women tend to be more steadfast than men, joys of all the old rules of decorum.Then he madly starts writing her a letter basically says “ I have loved you for always, please look, nod… whatever you feel comfortable doing let me know how you feel, thumbs up lets be engaged, thumbs down I will never look at you or come around you again.”
Mr. Thornton from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South
At the start of the novel, John Thornton is the kind of guy your mother hopes you marry: Rich, hard working, owns his own company, honest and respectable. But all that hard work and self-made-ness hardens him to the point where he is the kind of guy you want to punch and hug at the same time: a pug if you will. Or a hunch? Either way, he is prideful and penny pinching and not all-together super nice to Margaret or his employees at the beginning of the novel. Can he justify being a little grumpy, though? Yes.
Again, the relationship between Mr. Thornton and Margaret is full of misunderstandings and leaving and coming back and no small amount of work. They kind of fall in love without overtly stating “THEY ARE FALLING IN LOVE” which is pretty much how real life works, and I can appreciate this.
Faramir from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Tolkien is the master of backstories, and there is a THICK backstory with Faramir. The quick version is that Faramir is the son of a power-hungry madman who doesn’t like that his son (Faramir) is nice and kind and doesn’t like killing people. Weird, right? Faramir proves himself to be the opposite of his dad and was injured during a battle. He is sweet and sensitive and does his best to fight for that which he believes is right. Then, he meets this strong, independent woman who is “no man”, and loves her and lets her be her best self! He doesn’t relegate her to the fringes of things or tell her that her place is in the house like every other stinking person did. He is not saving Eowyn like some damsel in distress, but is her equal. And to add a little bit of gooey, “And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many.” CUTE!
Gabriel Oak from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd
Gabriel Oak is such a solid character, now initially he got off on the wrong foot with Bathsheba but over the course of the story he continues to love her and support her as she goes through the struggles in her life. Gabriel experiences his own struggles over the course of the story and while he is rejected by his love and becomes penniless when his sheepdog runs his sheep off the edge of a cliff he does not allow these hard times to make him bitter or cruel. When Bathsheba marries another he respectfully backs off but he is there when she needs him.
These are our favorites. Feel free to comment below and tell us yours!
Looking for some inspiration on what to read next? Who better to ask then the people who work around books for a living!? Each month we will post a "staff picks" blog post written by one of our staff members. These posts will vary in genre, theme, age appropriateness, etc. If you have any requests on a genre or age category you would like to see, submit a comment here and we will get it on the list!