The fun of reading mysteries laced with romance is the double plot: 1) solve the crime; and 2) watch the characters banter while solving the crime. Romance is often about how they compromise and learn to trust. There’s no better way learn that than if you’re working together to stay alive.
Note: I left Nick and Nora Charles off this list, even though they originated in Dashiell Hammett’s books, because their movie counterparts are so well known.
Eve and Roarke are not only one of my favorite couples but Eve is simply one of my favorite fictional characters ever.
The “In Death” series by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) is set in the latter half of the 21st century in a New York City that’s still recovering from the scars of urban warfare. Holding the line is Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas: fiercely dedicated, intelligent, and disdainful of rank and privilege. Roarke is her opposite number, a charming, handsome former criminal who has turned straight to run his (mostly) legitimate business empire. Their romance is not an easy road, especially as Roarke becomes a suspect in the murder that begins the series.
Favorite: Glory in Death. Excellent mystery wrapped around a sometimes heartbreaking courtship.
Created by Elizabeth Peters, one-time spinster Amelia Peabody has one of the most unique voices in crime fiction. Intelligent, reserved, wry and sometimes clueless but always fascinating. Emerson, an Egyptologist has a fierce temper that often gives voice to strong opinions. The pair meet in 1884 in Crocodile on the Sandbank. Over the next eighteen novels, their union encompasses marriage, children, and the solving of numerous crimes.
Favorite: Crocodile on the Sandbank because it’s such a pleasure to get to know Amelia and Emerson for the first time.
Where are Holmes and Watson? They don’t qualify.
This list is for romantic couples and I’m of the firm opinion that Doyle’s Holmes is asexual. Not so Laurie R. King’s version of Holmes. Restless in his retirement, Holmes meets a teenage girl who turns out to be his intellectual equal. It’s a relationship that shouldn’t work but it does because of the slow, careful almost not-courtship between the pair, which, naturally, involves solving mysteries.
Favorite: A Monstrous Regime of Women in which Russell finally realizes she views Holmes as more than her mentor and his past comes back to haunt him.
Another turn-of-the-century sleuth, Campion is the protagonist of seventeen novels and more than twenty short stories by Margery Allingham. He’s a self-professed “professional adventurer,” while she is the daughter of an earl with a real talent for machinery. Amanda, then only seventeen, makes her first appearance in Sweet Danger. Their courtship takes place over several stories and it’s not until Traitor’s Purse that they make a firm commitment to each other. She appears as his wife in several later novels.
Favorite: While I have some fondness for the fake marriage plot of Fashion in Shrouds, it’s Traitor’s Purse where they almost lose each other that I love.
5. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane
The gold-standard. Dorothy L. Sayers’s Lord Peter is the archetypical British gentleman and Harriet is a woman struggling for personal freedom in a time when women were not supposed to be ambitious for themselves. They first meet when Harriet is on trial for murdering her lover in Strong Poison. It’s a long slow burn as societal mores of the time and their own reserve and Harriet’s need to have her own place in the world keep them apart for some time.
Favorite: Gaudy Night in which Harriet struggles with issues of independence at her former college while Peter struggles with how to prove he loves her without smothering her. And in which they, naturally, must solve a mystery.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek, and superhero, thought not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom Blog on Wired.com (www.wired.com/geekmom) and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.