Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Keep Romance in Oven Until Fully Baked: Or, Why I Love Slow Burn Romance

Many moons ago, Molli, Shae and I had a discussion about the glory of slow-burn couples. While I don't remember the impetus of this discussion, we did all decide to write posts about why we love the slow burn. So make sure to check out their blogs today and see what they wrote on the subject!

In a lot of YA series, the destined romantic couple get together in the first book. This is often... okay, but imagine how much more satisfying the eventual coupling would be if the author had waited. This is why my favorite type of literary romance is the slow-burn, where the tension builds between two people for ages. Where you get a hundred little moments that make your heart skip. Where you just want to reach into the pages and knock the character's mouths together.


Where you sob into your pillow about how life would be perfect if they could only SEE how much they should be together. Where you curse every obstacle in their path as slowly, inevitably, they make their ways towards each other. And when they finally kiss... it is magic.


 TV does this so well. Maybe it's because everybody is terrified of the Moonlighting Curse (though not anymore... thank you, Castle and New Girl and Bones), but TV shows like to keep their TV couples apart for ages and ages, tossing you a few tantalizing  morsels of goodness every now and then to make you die a little. Obviously you don't want to drag out the tension TOO long, so that the chemistry fizzles, but when you have a long history of push-pull-almost-almost, that moment where they come together will be all the sweeter. It will be earned. The couple will have taken their slow, delicious time. Not from zero to a million in thirty pages flat. No, no, no.

These are the kinds of ships I love. These are the ships that make me go a little crazy.


 These are also the ships that are given time to develop and never rely on inta-love, which is often used in the place of development. If the characters just know they love each other, then we don't have to spend all this time explaining why, right? But I think a bookish couple that waits will love each other more in a million more ways. Why? Because they'll get to learn about each other. And we get to watch. There's nothing more fun.

Related: Insta-Love: An Insta-Turn Off

Sometimes, when the couple gets together so early, it feels like a wasted opportunity. I mean, if Castle and Beckett had gotten together in Season One, would their first (real) kiss have made me scream and (quite literally) topple off my couch in ecstasy? If Ron and Hermione hadn't been bantering and bickering for seven years, but had instead decided they were Meant to Be 4everz back in their first year, would we have loved them as much? No. Because we wouldn't have gotten to  see all the moments of normalcy between the two characters. Those are the moments that make me really love a ship. The everyday chemistry. The under-the-surface love coming through in the little things. In Castle bringing Beckett coffee. Daine from The Immortals bemoaning the fact that Numair talks all fancy. Ron making fun of Hermione being a teacher's pet.

I'm just going to leave this here for no reason whatsoever.

I really love Castle, okay?
OH WHOOPS, no clue how this got in here, either. *stares at GIF for ten more minutes*

You've all experienced the moments. Things look like they're going southward for our beautiful, stubborn, non-canon OTP. Maybe they're fighting, or there's a battle, or one of the characters is dating somebody else. But then something HAPPENS, there's a MOMENT, and...

HAAAAAALLELUJAH! THE GREATEST FEELING THERE EVER WAS. Tell me you have never screamed or clasped a book to your heart or danced around the room when your couple finally coupled? Twelve-year-old Gillian practically had a seizure when Daine and Numair kissed in the last book int The Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce. These moments of finally coming together feel... well, momentous. Life-changing. Earned. The author has put in the hard work and the patience, and so have I. All those years of investing have paid of big time. The more feels you invest in a couple, the more feels you get out. It's simple shipping math.

Here are some of my favorite slow-burn TV couples with some of the BEST "Eureka!" moments around.

Castle and Becket from Castle
Chandler and Monica from Friends

Luke and Lorelai from Gilmore Girls

Rory and Jess from Gilmore Girls 

Nick and Jess from New Girl

Elena and Damon from The Vampire Diaries

And here are some of my favorite slow-burn YA couples (this was a harder list to put together)

Alek and Deryn from Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Daine and Numair from The Immortals by Tamora Pierce

Elisa and Hector from The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Anna and Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Persis and Justen from Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Blue and Gansey from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
(not actually a couple but I SHIP THEM SO CAN'T YOU FEEL THE TENSION)

Michael and Mia from The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot 

Georgie and Dave the Laugh from the Georgia Nicolson series

Make me wait for it, authors. I may die in the short run with impatience, but in the long run... well, if you play the long run, you may make it onto my shipping hall of fame.

What about you? How do you feel about slow-burn romances? Do you have any favorites?


  1. Of all the shows that did the "they finally did it" plot line, I think Castle's handled it the best. I really can't find one thing wrong with it. It's two mature (well, Castle not so much, but you get it), professional adults that "get" each other. (I'm a little wary about the way they handled this Washington DC thing a little, but I trust them.)

  2. That shipping/sanity gif is the greatest thing ever.

    Luke and Lorelai getting together was SO GREAT. They had one of the best first kisses everrrrrr. I'd also add Nathan/Haley from OTH to that list.

    Mia and Michael are the best. Love them.

  3. I have only seen like two episodes of Castle from season 1 (don't shoot me! I plan on catching up eventually), but I could *feel* the chemistry between the two and loved it. I'm glad they waited, even if I haven't seen it. And Luke & Lorelai - YES YES YES!!! I'm glad I'm not the only one who loved Angel *and* Spike. :)

    I completely agree, though. Although it's, as you say, okay when the couple gets together early on, it's so much more gratifying when the chemistry is slowly built up and there becomes layer after layer of yummy goodness when they finally sink their teeth into it.

  4. Yes, YES! I love the slow burning romances so much more than the insta-love. It makes me root for the couple which is all we ever want to do. Castle has been BRILLIANT at this. I ship Castle & Beckett SO HARD. A little worried about how they are going to handle DC,but I trust them. Ross & Rachel & Ron and Hermione are obvious picks for this slow burning, will they or won't they category.

    Ooooh I should make a list...

  5. Oh my god. Dave the Laugh. You actually know Georgia and Dave the Laugh!!!!! AAAAHHHHH I waited for them to be together for SO LONG. Loved that series! Ron and Hermione, a perfect given. And your tv couples are right on as well, Elena and Damon are amazing and Ross and Rachel are the original slow burners. Plus zomg Rory and Jess... I died. I luuuurve slow burn romances, the way they make me earn every glance, every accidental touch and ALL THE BUTTERFLIES WITH IT. Great list :)

  6. HELL YES GEORGIA AND DAVE THE LAUGH THE ORIGINAL OTP. <3 I'm still not at the point that she finally admits Dave is what she's been looking for in a bloke all this time, but he did just admit that he wanted to stop playing games. My heart. It was all over the floor.

    Here's the thing. While I 100% undoubtedly absolutely positively for certain agree that the slow burn trumps instalove every time, I don't think it necessary that characters know each other through and through when they start a relationship. Of course, it's preferable that their connection runs deeper than physical attraction, but a lot of relationships start out that way and there is something to be said for getting to know one another whilst in the relationship.

    What I'm trying to say is that relationships don't always start when two people are in love, so as long as they grow during the relationship without being all undying love and I can't breath without you, that's okay with me. It feels realistic. That rarely happens in fiction though. Relationships are often seen as endgame, while they could be a great opportunity to show character growth.

    Okay, that was it. Dave + Georgia forever. This post. I like it. Not as much as DtL, but it's getting prrretty close.

  7. I think the thing that's enticing about slow-burn romances is that it's so much more REALISTIC than insta-love (aka LUST). IRL you can surely be attracted to someone on the spot but that doesn't mean it's true love. You have to get to KNOW someone, inside and out before you can really love them, and that takes time. You need to see the progression from acqaintence to friend to lover to know that it's for real. Plus, the anticipation of watching and wanting and wondering is SO wonderfully addictive, isn't it?! Totally squee-worthy, for sure!

  8. Oh my god this post is literally PERFECTION. That is the only possible word there is to describe it. I completly agree with you with slow burn romances but for me it's like a love and hate thing. You HATE the constant waiting and the heavy tension scenes but then when things finally happen YOU LOVE IT. Because the waiting made it all the better. I'm not going to lie i rewatched the Castle kiss scene after your GIF because i felt like swooning and don't even get me started on that how motel kiss Damon and Elena shared and when Anna and Etienne finally kissed i literally jumped up dancing. IT WAS JUST PERFECTION.
    Love this post SO CRAZY MUCH.
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

  9. Okay. Damn. I think I need to watch Castle.
    SO right about Ron and Hermione, it really would not have been the same. YES. That moment when it finally happens and it's like FINALLY. And TA DA! All at the same time. I haven't read (or watched) hardly any of the ones you listed unfortunately BUT absofreakinglutely on Luke and Lorelai. I am totally drawing a blank on some of my favorites, I must have far too many insta-loves crowding my brain.

  10. OMG Rory and Jess foreverrrrrrr <3

    Also, I'm so with you on this! I favor slow burning romances too, and the Hector/Elisa one is one of my favorites too :)

  11. OMFG Blue and Gansey and the tension is so perfect! And they're not even a couple! How come Stiefvater mastered that and there ain't no kissing or dating yet more authors turn to insta-love then that?! Just why?!

    So...SANCTUM. You will love Malachi and Lela, I am tell you. They are slow-burn to the fucking extreme in the best perfection around. Just gah. I can't even, Gillian. I can't even. I love them both so hard <3 And of course Gem and Isra and such.

    Just gah...this post is perfection!

  12. YES. Totally completely absolutely right there with you on Castle. I adore Castle/Beckett too, and if they had gotten together sooner, definitely wouldn't have been as good. What good is a romance if it jumps straight to the end without giving us a REASON to want them together?

    Great post! :D

  13. Oh my goodness! This has just become one of the best blog posts I've read recently, and maybe it's because you basically just said everything I always think when I read books that involve romance/love storyline. I may also have been influenced by the numerous references to Castle because dang I love that show. I wish more people watched it!

    But, back to the topic at hand, I agree with so many of the slow burn couples that you've listed! I also felt that way about Puck and Sean in The Scorpio Races. I don't know if it's a perfect example, but I do remember loving the fact that you could see the initial attraction but it took some time for that relationship to develop to a point where I was like YESSSS! FINALLY!

    It's also something I've noticed about classics. So, classics obviously tend to have very little pay-off as far as romantic kisses and such, but there is that gradual and realistic development of their relationship. I mean... Darcy and Elizabeth. Jane and Rochester. Anne and Gilbert. Definitely no insta-love there, but they're couples that people LOVE. I think the way their relationships develop is definitely a part of that!

  14. *flails*

    Armada shipper! HAHA! I'm dyingggggg.

    Clearly, I need to watch this Castle show. Wowza.

    Who the heck is Dave the Laugh? Educate me!


  15. This post makes me want to watch Castle.

    (Also, Gilmore Girls.)

    MY personal reigning slow-burn couple is Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy. I always think, 'These two aren't going to make it.' BUT THEY DO.


  16. I love that you love Castle as much as I do, Gillian! I adore this post. Your "armada shipping" made me giggle. Those moments where we see a couple simmer and grow are so worth it, when they're done well. So glad we all had this idea. <3


    Also, Michael and Mia. GAH. YES.

  18. So much yes to all of this. (Although, while I see your point about Buffy/Angel, Buffy/Spike & Angel/Cordelia were my shrieking at the TV, feels for life OTPs)

    The OMG THEY FINALLY GOT TOGETHER feels may be my favorite thing about fiction (all medias included). That's not true, there are a bunch of things that are my favorite, but they are definitely engaged in a vicious flight to the death for the number one slot.

  19. I absolutely love this post of yours! It's so right! Very rarely insta-love feels right, but usually things that build up little by little feel much better!

    And I'm a huge Castle fan myself!!

  20. I just read all three of these slow burn posts, and I'm SO FREAKING HAPPY RIGHT NOW. For one, because I seem to share about a gazillion ships with you guys. But mostly just because slow burn WINS MY HEART AND LIFE.

    There is nothing - NOTHING - like that caving when your ship finally caves and kisses for the first time. When my favorite ship on House (with which I was completely obsessed in high school) kissed for the first time, I literally lost count of how many times I watched the scene. When I went back and did the math, I estimated I watched the kiss around 70 times. Just that first night. This is, of course, an extreme. But it just shows how incredible that first moment can be!

  21. Everytime I watch Firefly or see one of its gifs, I cannot get over how babyfaced Castle is. Just.... LOOK AT THAT FAAAACE.

    Do not talk to me about Bones. Slow burn romance is one thing, but the way they treat Bones and Brennan drives me up a wall. Besides that, I am wholly on your side. NICK AND JESS FOREVER.

    Also, Daine and Numair. PERFECTION. Just... the best fantasy slow burn romance ever. It still makes me happy to think about. THIS is why instalove is such a waste. Authors don't seem to realize how much more intense it is to make their couples come together over time rather than shove them into forced situations that give way to premature declarations of love.

    My favorite slow burn romance in YA? Definitely Ron and Hermione. I wanted them to kiss since book four and WHEN THEY FINALLY DID. Oh, the feels. And it just felt right. Those two kids knew each other so well, they were friends... and their love was real.

    THIS POST IS AWESOME. This should be required reading for all YA authors who want to add a romance to their books.

  22. I COMPLETELY agree, the slow burn is the best!!! Because yes, I have done the exact same, I have done the YES FINALLY dance when a couple I shipped finally, FINALLY got together. Most recently -- Elena and Damon. I'm pretty sure I actually clasped my hands to my face and went eeeee! Speaking of vampires, Buffy and Angel FOREVERR. Also, should I start watching Castle? I feel like I need to.

  23. YES YES YES!!! I love a slow burn romance. The minute Elana and Damon finally kissed....I screamed like a little girl. Same with Castle and Becket!!! :)

  24. Love this post and 100% agree! (especially with Castle, New Girl and Bones! LOVE THEM!) It seems that too often once the guy and girl are together, the book starts to centre a lot around how the two interact, and every problem that occurs is one that stems from their relationship. And this happens so often when the book isn't promoted as say a romance. If I'm reading a dystopian or sci-fi, the majority of it shouldn't be about a spat that the couple is having.

  25. Can I just take a moment to mention Daemon and Kat from the Lux series? I mean golly, what a romance. Other than that, I absolutely ADORED this post.



    It sort of looks like Becket is about to unhinge her jaw and eat Castle. I think it's the lighting.


    Bahahaha, another perfect gif.


    Ugh, I did love Ross and Rachel, but after the big breakup, NO MORE. Rory and Jess. YES YES YES. Awwww, I've never seen Ron and Hermione's kiss! That's awesome.

    Cath and Levi. That was excellence. And a million of them, but I can't list them all or I will die.

  27. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR INCLUDING DAINE AND NUMAIR IN YOUR LIST. I loved the Immortals series as a teenager, and still have all of the books in storage so that if I ever have kids they can read them and love them as much as I did.

  28. ok awesomeness to Tamora Pierce and all of her books, she has it to an art. Bones- the perfect mix of suspense, funny and eventual romance. covert affairs is also on the list I think. other than castle anybody have any tips on that line?

  29. Well, wow.
    Jared Padalecki (Sam from Supernatural) was in that last gif!

  30. What about Mulder and Scully from The X Files?

  31. OMG I'm not the only one that squealed in great joy over Daine and Numair!!!

  32. I know I'm gonna remember a couple for the rest of my life when after facing so many obstacles and such they finally kiss and I feel like I'm invading in on a private moment while reading it 'coz they aren't just characters in some book anymore, they're people who have been lighting up for ages to finally explode in that one HEART-STOPPING moment.

  33. Donna/Josh is my #1 slow burn couple (watch West Wing seriously)
    Followed by: Luke/Lorelai, Mulder/Scully, Monica/Chandler, Bones/Booth
    But HEY remember Lizzie/Gordo? Lol


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