In fiction much is made of first love, and it is often believed to be the truest. However, not everyone gets it right the first time. As in real life, it is often the second, third, or even fourth attempt that leads to lasting happiness. These instances are somewhat less common in fiction. Second loves in fiction are often a slow burn, developing over longer periods of time. Protagonists are usually more hesitant and careful of their feelings. It is the longer courtship and gradual buildup that can make the love story all the more rewarding when the couple finally gets together in the end. Here is a selection of literary characters that found true love the second time around.
Second Time Lucky in Love – Ten Literary Couples Who (Eventually) Find True Love
#1 Jo March and Professor Bauer – Little Women
To readers of Little Women, from the moment they met, Jo and Laurie appeared to be made for each other; enjoying a good chemistry and similar hobbies. As they got older, however, the two grew apart as Laurie pursued a university education, something which she as a woman could not do. Louisa May Alcott famously said, “I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.” By the time Laurie proposes, Jo sees that they are unsuited and refuses him. Frustrated with her life, she eventually moves to New York to pursue her dreams. While living in a busy boarding house and tutoring young girls, she meets Professor Bauer and he shows interest in her writing. The two form a close relationship which eventually blossoms into love.
#2 Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley – The Harry Potter Series
While Harry was not in love with Cho Chang, for a while it seemed like she might be the primary love interest for him. Unfortunately, it turned out that she only had eyes for Cedric Diggory. Meanwhile, Ginny Weasley harboured a crush on Harry ever since the first book, The Philosopher’s Stone. However, for a long time, Harry only ever saw her as Ron’s little sister. Throughout the books, Ginny grows up to be an intelligent, funny and talented young witch. She has all but given up on Harry returning her affections and so takes Hermione’s advice to try dating other boys. Finally in Half-Blood Prince, Harry notices his own feelings of jealousy when he sees her with Dean Thomas and the two eventually kiss after a Quidditch match. The epilogue to the series reveals that they later marry and have three children.
#3 Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane – The Lord Peter Wimsey Stories
Despite being the main character of the book series, Lord Peter Wimsey, in this case, is the second love to Harriet. When they first meet she is on trial for the murder of her fiance Philip Boyes. Lord Peter Wimsey sets about trying to prove her innocence and save her from a certain death. Harriet only appears in four of the mysteries. They have a strong chemistry and Wimsey is taken with her from the very beginning. He proposes many times often jokingly to which she refuses despite being quite fond of him. The two solve several mysteries together before she finally accepts him in Gaudy Night. They have a beautiful exchange in the Scholars’ Gardens in Oxford when he asks her to marry him one last time in Latin.
#4 Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak – Far From the Madding Crowd
Some might argue that Gabriel Oak is actually Bathsheba’s first love but since she does not admit her feelings even to herself until the end of the book, it still counts. Though the two meet and he proposes quite early on in the book, Bathsheba rejects him stating that she doesn’t wish to be married. After a reversal of fortunes, he comes to work on her farm, becoming a close friend and confidante. He remains in love with her as she is courted by other men. It is only after she has loved and lost the unworthy Frank Troy that she finds the strength to admit her true feelings before it is too late.
#5 Eowyn and Faramir – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Eowyn of Rohan never truly had any chance of winning Aragorn’s heart away from Arwen, but she loved him all the same. When she was wounded in battle fighting the Witch-King, she was sent to recuperate at the Houses of Healing. Here she met Faramir, also recovering from serious wounds received during the attack on Gondor. The two fall in love quietly and when Middle Earth is again at peace they marry.
#6 Catherine Linton and Hareton Earnshaw – Wuthering Heights
When Heathcliff abducts Cathy’s daughter it is to force her to marry his son Linton. Despite his spoiled and spiteful nature the two form a fragile bond. However, Linton is sickly and dies soon after the marriage. Initially, Catherine feels isolated and hates Hareton for his loyalty to Heathcliff. However, after many miserable months, Catherine begins to see the good in Hareton and becomes aware of his feelings for her. To Heathcliff‘s chagrin, they begin to fall in love much like he and Cathy did many years previously. After Heathcliff’s death, Hareton and Catherine are married, coming into their inheritance as owners of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
#7 (Bel)Garion of Riva and Ce’Nedra of Tolnedra – The Belgariad/ Mallorean
In book one of the Belgariad, Garion spent much of his childhood growing up on a farm completely unaware of his royal lineage and so fell head over heels for the slightly capricious Zubrette, one of his friends on the farm. He leaves her behind when he sets out on his adventure to reclaim the Orb of Aldur. During his journey, he discovers his true heritage. He also meets a spoiled half-dryad Princess named Ce’Nedra who is, unbeknownst to him, destined to be his Queen. The two hate each other for the first few books but throughout their travels begin to form an attachment and finally fall in love as was prophesized.
#8 Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon – Sense and Sensibility
Marianne represents the sensibility in the title much concerned with poetry and an idealised version of love. When the dashing Willoughby swoops in and rescues her when she turns an ankle in a rainstorm, she believes she is found a love worthy of poetry. Unfortunately, despite genuinely loving her, he reveals himself to be false and marries another with greater prospects. Marianne falls ill largely due to her romantic sensibilities. During her illness, Colonel Brandon does much for her inadvertently revealing the depths of his devotion. When she recovers, Marianne eventually begins to see his value.
#9 Jocelyn Fairchild and Luke Garroway – The Mortal Instruments Series
A young Jocelyn made the mistake of falling in love with Valentine, a young man who would go on to be a villainous extremist intent on wiping out those he viewed as having impure human blood. Luke is also part of his army of misguided idealists, their loyal friend who harbours a secret love for Jocelyn. When Luke was bitten by a werewolf and came to Valentine for help, he was turned away and told to kill himself before he becomes a monster. Instead, he runs away. Years later when Jocelyn finds the strength to leave Valentine and take her young daughter with her, she hides with Luke’s help. It is clear that he has loved her for many years and in City of Glass, Clary, Jocelyn’s daughter, convinces her to finally admit that she loves him in return as he is planning to leave.
#10 David Copperfield and Agnes Wickfield – David Copperfield
David and Agnes were childhood friends who remained close into adulthood. For his first marriage, he chose unwisely and married the childlike Dora. They were happy for a time despite their problems until a miscarriage caused her to develop an illness from which she never recovered. Agnes loved David quietly for many years, remaining a close friend during all his troubles. After David has been through much, he returns to England and turns to Agnes, realizing that he has loved her for some time. They marry and live happily ever after.
What do you think of these second loves? Is there anyone else you would include?
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16 thoughts on “Second Time Lucky in Love – Ten Literary Couples Who (Eventually) Find True Love”
How could you leave out Darcy and Elizabeth. She turned him down the first time.
The theme of this list is that people tried first with someone else. I never felt that Lizzie seriously considered Wickham as a suitor, likewise with Emma and Frank Churchill. Both men felt like a distraction that the heroines enjoyed but did not truly care for.
I agree that Darcy and Elizabeth don’t really feel like a second chance at love.
I never really got over Jo not marrying Laurie. I always felt that Amy didn’t deserve him. Would you really want an old professor ( Gabriel Byrne notwithstanding!) when she had such a solid friendship with Laurie. I still feel it’s not quite right thirty years after first reading it,,,,,,
I used to be annoyed at Jo for not choosing Laurie but I eventually saw that she worked better with the prof. At least in my opinion. Agree wholeheartedly about Amy though, even if she did get a bit better when she grew up. I still can’t quite forgive her for what she did to Jo’s book.
I’m still not over Jo and Laurie not getting together (I admit I’m not ‘really’ a Professor fan), but Amy really bugs me the most. I can’t stand her with Laurie…
Amelia Sedley and Major Dobbin from Vanity Fair?
I’ve yet to read Vanity Fair. Did you enjoy it?
I believe that Jo never romantically loved Laurie, so I actually wouldn’t put her in the second love category. (It’s part of the reason that though I felt disappointed at first when they didn’t get together, I grew to agree with Jo that they didn’t suit. Louisa May Alcott did such a good job creating the character of Jo that I wanted what was best for Jo, and I think Jo’s instincts were correct. She only saw him as a friend and brother, not a lover.) I am sure Laurie loved her though, so I’d definitely put him down as having had a second chance at love.
I don’t think Gabriel is Bathsheba Everdene’s first love. I feel so bad for Gabriel in the first part of the book because she seems so completely uninterested in him. Believe me, I’ve read that part with great care to see if I could find any evidence that she cared for him in that way, but I couldn’t find anything. I’d be interested in hearing evidence from those who think that she loved him then. I love lists like this. So many interesting discussions come out of them. 🙂
I’m not entirely convinced either that Bathsheba cared for him that early on, though a friend of mine might disagree.I do like to think that she was becoming fond of him before she met Frank though. : )
Thank you for including Peter and Harriet—they were and are something truly special. Sayers wrote their relationship so beautifully and with such honesty, and Petherbridge and Walter were brilliant in bringing them to life on screen (issues with the adaptation of “Gaudy Night” notwithstanding).
Harriet Vane was Peter’s 2nd love as well as Peter Wimsey being Harriet’s 2nd love. Peter’s 1st love being Barbara, if I am remembering the name correctly.
Yes, I remember as that is both my mother’s and my daughter’s name.
Jane Austen’s Persuasion is a wonderful second time around story. There is also a very nice film version of this novel, released in 1995.
The 1995 adaptation of Persuasion is amazing!
Lady Jane and Charles Lenox in the mysteries by Charles Finch. She married a man who died in battle, he fell in love with a woman who didn’t actually want him.
Beautifully written, I highly recommend reading them.