Do you ever feel like you’ve met a new “kindred spirit,” as Anne Shirley would say, when you read a new book? It’s often a particular character of the book, but it can also be the author of the book. This week, I finished reading Book Girl: A Journey Through the Treasures & Transforming Power of a Reading Life. The connection I felt with the author of this book, Sarah Clarkson, is a little uncanny. I’ve often encountered authors whose words leap out at me and make me feel understood, but sometimes you come across an author that just “gets it” in a way you can’t totally explain. 

That was Sarah Clarkson and Book Girl for me. Book Girl is partly her memoir, partly her love letter to books and reading, and partly her own precious efforts to pass on the gifts that reading has given her. Whether you’re a lifelong reader, trying to find your way back into regular reading, or want to build a reading life for the first time, this book is for you. Sarah Clarkson shares her own dear reading experiences, exhorts her audience to join her in receiving the richness awaiting them in a reading life, and offers a treasure trove of book recommendations that will make bookish hearts sing. There are already way too many underlined and bookmarked pages in my copy of Book Girl to share all my favorite quotes, but here are a precious few that I’ll offer as their own endorsements. I’m so glad I read this book and know I’ll be returning to it often. Thank you, Sarah Clarkson.

On a Woman Who Reads 

“To be a book girl is to be formed by a bone-deep knowledge that goodness lies at the heart of existence. The feel of my mother’s warmth behind me as read is one of the first things I can remember – the safe anchor of her body and the music of her read-aloud voice were the ocean on which my small consciousness sailed into power through stories of music and brave maidens, feasts and castles, family and home. Before I knew how bad the world could be, I knew it was wondrously good.” 

“A woman who reads is a woman who taps in to the fundamental reality that she was created to learn, made to question, primed to grow by her interaction with words. A book girl is one who has grasped the wondrous fact that she has a mind of her own, a gift from her Creator, meant to be filled and stretched, challenged and satisfied by learning for all the days of her life.” 

“A woman who reads is a woman who has been prepared to accept the truth that beauty tells, to embrace the good news that imagination brings, the promise of joy that greets us in the happy endings or poignant insights of the novels we love. She has learned to glimpse eternity as it shimmers in story or song, to receive satisfaction of a happy ending as a promise. She has come to recognize the voice of love speaking in the language of image and imagination and to trust what it speaks as true.”

“A book girl imagines. She looks for God’s reality in the realm of story; she finds hope in beauty, grace in a fairy tale; and she revels in the crimson truth of a sunset. A woman who reads understands that symbol and image, story and song, the heft of mountains and the arc of the heavens speak to us in a language without words. A book girl knows that imagination — that faculty by which we perceive meaning beyond the mere surface of things, by which we picture and believe in 'things hoped for...not seen' (Hebrews 11:1, NASB) — is vital to faith in the God who crafted the world to tell of his presence and made us in his image as artists, storytellers, and creators.”

“A woman who reads is one who sees that every common bush is afire with God. A book girl is one who takes off her shoes, and wonders.”

“A woman who reads has learned how to hope. She understands the grief of the present – small sorrow or searing pain that it may be – is not the final word. ‘Love,’ as Chris Rice croons in his ballad, ‘has the final move,’ and the best stories teach a woman who reads how to frame her sorrow within the larger tale of both human endurance and divine redemption.”

On Imagination

“To reject image, emotion, and story as peripheral to faith is to ignore the way God created us – as beings made in his image to create in our turn, as souls capable of both reason and analysis but also equally capable of imagination, creativity, and emotion. We are living stories whose lives turn on our hope of the ultimate happy ending, and we too quickly forget the fact that faith is described as “the assurance of things hoped for” (or perhaps, imagined), “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB). We miss the reality that much of Scripture comes to us as narrative, that the Psalms are also poems, that allegory and metaphor make up much of the prophets’ writings, and that the gospel appeals to us in the form of a story. If Jesus himself used parables to illustrate and announce the coming of his Kingdom, if he felt that the tale of a prodigal son was the best way to introduce the glory of grace or that the story of a lavishly merciful Samaritan was the ideal means to speak of God’s compassion, then we, too, can embrace both story and imagination as realms in which we may encounter and know God’s own truth.”

“We grow to know God better as we encounter his reality in stories that richly image his splendor or his power or even his humble presence among us. Can imagination be false? Of course. We can be deceived in the language of story just as we can in the language of atheistic science. But we humans are not merely ‘thinking things’ (as James K.A. Smith puts it) who can survive by assenting to a list of doctrinal truths. Rather, we are ‘defined by what [we] love,’ and our loves are deeply shaped by the stories we tell, the narratives we believe.”

“That’s what works of imagination do for us every day. What we rediscover in reading them is the extraordinary nature of real life. What we reclaim is a view of the world as charged with meaning, as shot through with the truth, beauty, and wisdom that we were created to find. From the disenchantment of a materialistic or simply bored viewpoint, in which things like trees and babies, music and story have lost their power to amaze or shape us by their truth, we are startled back into a wondering engagement with reality in its fullness.”

On How Stories Shape and Teach Us

“Stories shape our existence because we recognize in a deep part of ourselves that life itself is a story. The tale of the world opens with a sort of divine ‘once upon a time’ or ‘in the beginning.’ Much of Scripture is narrative, and the Gospels are crammed full of the parables Jesus told to announce and explain the coming of His kingdom.” “We need to have our attention restored, that holy capacity to be fully present to the moment in which we find ourselves. We need to be summoned back from the many tasks we have yet to do, the endless scroll of the online world, the frantic pace that nips at our heels like a pesky dog. We need to be halted in our frenzied steps and called back to this moment in its possibility, to this day, in its shifting seasonal beauty, to this person, irreplaceably precious. The written word, the great works of literature and essay – if we will only engage them for a few moments – have the power to arrest us in this way, to demand our attention, to set us back down in the present with a quieter mind and more attentive eyes.”

“You can’t read Tolkien or C.S. Lewis or George Eliot or Chaim Potok and come to the conclusion that heroism is something like a rare gift or special talent, something rooted in the extreme effort of a single human being. When you read those authors, you quickly come to see that heroes and heroines are formed by the narratives they believe. Frodo didn’t become a hero by gritting his hobbit teeth and pumping his small muscles; rather, he glimpsed the greater story of which his small, faithful actions were part.”

“Children are small philosophers, encountering the goodness and the darkness, the joyous and the grievous in their experiences with an intensity we sometimes forget as adults. Because of this, they need stories that deal in ultimates – stories whose images make a window into all that waits beyond the walls of the world, into the love that is always present to them, even in their fear. They need fantastical tales of knights and dragons, kings and castles, epic quests and fairy-tale love. They need myth. They need fantasy, because fantastical yarns and epic tales help children to picture a happy ending, to act bravely, to believe that beauty is possible.”

“This is the ongoing and wondrous gift of all good literature. I have long argued that children cannot think in abstract terms, but I’m increasingly convinced that adults cannot either. What does it mean to be good, brave, and resourceful? We struggle to define those vague, essential ideas, but we know exactly what they look like when we see them embodied in Lucy from the Narnia books or Dorothea in Middlemarch, or described in the sparkle and wit that is the spiritual writing of G.K. Chesterton. A great book meets you in the narrative motion of your own life, showing you in vividly imagined ways exactly what it looks like to be evil or good, brave or cowardly, each of those choices shaping the happy (or tragic) ending of the stories in which they’re made.”
Anne Bogel’s new book, I’d Rather Be Reading, opens with an essay titled “Confess Your Literary Sins.” She also shared some totally relatable literary confessions from readers on her blog earlier this year. This idea of sharing the more embarrassing aspects of your reading life is a hilarious exercise in self-evaluation, but Anne has proven it can also be an incredible bonding experience with fellow readers. Book people are the best people, but we can be weird about certain books, reading habits, and literary preferences. It’s easy to think other people will judge you for these literary “sins,” but in reality, they may be ripe for a C.S. Lewis, “What, you too?!” moment. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my own literary confessions. Do you relate? Please tell me in comments! 

  • I once pulled a book off the shelf of Barnes & Noble, sat on the floor, and read the first three chapters to see if I wanted it. Then I ordered the book on Amazon later that afternoon. (Sorry, B&N. I do love you, I promise)
  • Frequently, I DO become that person who talks during a movie or TV show about how it’s different from the book and how the book is better. (I just CAN’T help it, guys!)
  • I like to think of myself as a classics fan, but I can’t do Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol was fine, but I didn’t finish A Tale of Two Cities when it was assigned in 11th grade and I’ve never wanted to try again. Not particularly intrigued by Great Expectations or Oliver Twist either. Whether the legend that he was paid by the word is true or not, WHY SO WORDY, CHARLES?!
  • I hated The Great Gatsby. None of the characters were likable and the whole story is just depressing. I cringe whenever people start gushing about it (sorry, y’all).
  • I’ve loved Jane Austen since my teen years, but the MOVIE of Pride and Prejudice was actually my first introduction to her. And not even the one with Colin Firth. AND – I will STILL pick that movie (the non-Colin Firth one) if forced to choose one. Don’t @ me with your torches and pitchforks, purists. I’ve now read the book 5-6 times and can quote large parts of it from memory, okay?
  • I didn’t read the Harry Potter books till adulthood. I actually had a sort of snooty attitude towards them as a teenager. But, judging by the way I talk about them now, you’d think I was one of those fangirls who was in line at the midnight release of each book.
  • I occasionally love a cheesy Christian romance. Nothing steamy or overly melodramatic, just nice and predictable sweetness and fluff. It’s just good brain candy sometimes, okay?
  • I took a Tolkien class in college. I loved it, but I was very tired of Tolkien by the end of that semester. Even this far on from it, I don’t think I’ve reread any of The Lord of the Rings or re-watched any of the movies since I finished that class. It was just a LOT, okay?! And I still think The Chronicles of Narnia are better.
  • That said, I love C.S. Lewis! But his non-fiction and higher-level works can still be a struggle for me. I know Till We Have Faces is supposed to be one of his best, but I couldn’t totally grasp it. And the Space trilogy? My head hurts just thinking about it.
  • Even deeper confession on that note: I joined a book club specifically to read Lewis's Space trilogy, but resorted to skimming the second book and didn't finish the third. 
  • Back to that Tolkien class for a moment. Our last assigned reading for the semester was The Silmarillion. I deliberately decided not to read it after maybe 10 pages or less. And, to this day, I’m pretty sure I made something up for one of the essay questions on the final. And I STILL made an A in the class? I’ll never know how.
  • I’m partial to rather extended restroom breaks when I’m reading something particularly good. I’ve also gotten rather good at reading while walking.
  • I’ve used two online library systems for e-books for well over two years now. If there’s an eternal waiting list for a particular book, I’ll place a hold in both systems for it so that hopefully one will be faster than the other.
  • I hated Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
  • I once “went to bed” much earlier than usual, but what I actually did was just lay in bed for 3-4 hours to finish listening to my latest and greatest audiobook. I just HAD to finish! (It was The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – I recommend having tissues on hand)
  • If I love a book, I REALLY love it. As in, I turn into a full-out fangirl who reads articles and author interviews (or interviews and biographies about the author if they’re dead), stalks the author’s event tours, finds out everything possible about the inspiration and the writing process, and researches any film versions and all the behind-the-scenes facts.
  • If I’m afraid a character is going to die, I’ll often skip ahead in the book and just skim lightly for the character’s name. There are times when the suspense and angst are just too much.
  • I hated The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. Where is the plot?
  • When I was reading The Four Swans, the sixth book in Winston Graham’s Poldark series, I reached the tense and emotionally charged “church scene” (you know it, fellow Poldarkians) during a plane ride. I kept right on reading after landing, but it seemed like the fastest taxi-in ever – I was so engrossed that I nearly missed my opening to stand up and leave the plane!
  • I’m never more unrealistic than when I get reserve-happy on the library catalog. Inevitably, they all come in at once and when I’m in the middle of reading something else that I don’t want to put down. When I get a lot of holds in at once, I almost always return at least one, often more, to the library unread. But it still just feels so bookish and smart to have a ton of things on hold and then to walk out of the library with a tote bag full of books! 
Okay, I now actually feel pretty good about getting all that off my chest. Your turn – what are your literary confessions? Don’t hold back!
If you’ve followed me on Instagram over the last month, you know I recently went to England for the second time in my life. If you know me personally, you also probably know that I was terribly torn about returning. True life: I cried on and off during the trek back. It started as I was saying goodbyes and continued throughout the long flight over the Atlantic (Official apologies to the girl who was my seat partner. You’re a trooper). I was a mess, but it was because this trip was one of the sweetest and most refreshing weeks I’ve experienced in recent memory. I shared on Facebook about how I wished that I could freeze time on a particular day of the trip, and that got me thinking about the whole week. I had many moments like that – just wanting to stop, take everything in, fix it in my memory, and stay there for a while. More than once, I felt close in mind to one of my favorite fictional heroes, Ross Poldark, when he reflected thusly: 

“And Ross again knew himself to be happy – in a new and less ephemeral way than before. He was filled with a queer sense of enlightenment. It seemed to him that all his life had moved to this pinpoint of time down the scattered threads of twenty years…… Someone – a Latin poet – had defined eternity as no more than this: to hold and possess the whole fullness of life in one moment, here and now, past and present and to come. He thought: if we could only stop here.” (Winston Graham; Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787

Me too, Ross. I feel you (And yeah, sorry not sorry for bringing up Poldark like I often do here). So, on that note, I thought I’d share my very top “if only we could stop here” moments from this recent jaunt through England. Pardon me if I get slightly emotional and mushy. 

On a rooftop in Cambridge 
Cambridge was my first stop this time, and after two plane rides, a long ride on the London tube, and a train ride, I was exhausted and relieved to arrive there. Kind friends met me at the station and then guided me through a weekend of sightseeing. After an initial walking tour, my friend Simeon took me to a nice overlook on top of a restaurant where we could sit and wait for our next activity. It was only a few minutes, but the view of the city was stunning. This was definitely the first moment of the whole week when I started thinking: How did I get here? This is unreal! This is what I was seeing, so hopefully you can imagine why.



Formal dinner in Cambridge 
Talk about a full experience. This dinner was a unique glimpse into Cambridge and British education in general like few other things could be. I felt like I’d stepped into the Great Hall at Hogwarts in Harry Potter – long tables, candlelight, formal black robes, a high table for the teachers, a multi-course meal…it had everything. And the student next to me soon began talking about how he was studying behavioral science in cows within the veterinary medicine program. That’s a thing? I thought. And the next day, my lovely host told me she had written her grad school thesis on hymnody, specifically examining the hymns of John Newton and Keith and Kristyn Getty. By then, I felt very surrounded by geniuses and waaaay out of my league, but so pleased that these unique interests could be studied. You go, Cambridge.


First sighting of the colorful Notting Hill houses 
Does it get much more delightful than a day in London with two of your favorite friends who you grew up with, but had to go all the way to England to see again? This day was full of activity and walking, but my heart was even fuller by the end of it. I now strongly recommend high tea at the famous Fortnum & Mason (we spent 3 hours there to fill our stomachs with tea and to empty our wallets for more tea to go), as well as an autumnal stroll through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I happily pictured how Queen Victoria and Prince Albert would ride their horses every day through Hyde Park before all the pavement was added. But I definitely grinned a bit silly to myself when I first caught sight of the famous colorful rows of houses in the Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market areas. It was just so British. Does it get any more so than those bright houses and a Union Jack umbrella sticking out of one of the shops? Not much.



Outing to Box Hill 
I think back on this day with such affection. I was well and truly in awe from the moment we came around the bend and saw the view from our chosen vantage point on Box Hill. If you’re a Jane Austen fanatic like me, you might recall that Box Hill provides the setting for an important scene in her novel Emma, and the view definitely lived up to Austen’s description: 

“It was a sweet view — sweet to the eye and to the mind. English verdure, English culture, English comfort, seen under a sun bright, without being oppressive.” (Jane Austen, Emma) 

Sweet indeed. My dear friend Gracie and her four children and I took a picnic there and just sat, admired the view, basked in the sunshine, took pictures, rolled down the slope (well, the kids did), laughed, spotted various birds, enjoyed the gentle breeze, and admired the view some more. I couldn’t stop staring. It was the most quintessentially English scene imaginable – rolling green countryside, an occasional train winding through the hills, little towns spread out below us, wood smoke rising from between the trees here and there, and such a glorious expanse of blue sky and huge clouds. I felt like I could have stayed there in that afternoon forever. And I was keenly reminded of the love of my heavenly Father, who, amazingly, is also the Master and Creator behind all of that day’s beauty. He formed those hills, painted that sky, laid out every tree, and gave flight to every bird I saw that day, and it all made me very aware of His grandeur. Yet, I was also awed by the reminder that He calls me His own. He designs and orchestrates the beauty of this earth, but He also has set His affection on me and made me His child. Thanks be to God. Psalm 8 and Psalm 23 definitely came to life in new ways on that slope at Box Hill.




Tea and cake at Wisley 
Another outing with Gracie and the kids took us to the exquisite Wisley Gardens, a widespread ground of flora and fauna belonging to the Royal Horticultural Society. My camera was going crazy with so many flowers and landscapes at every turn, but perhaps my favorite part of this day was the “Taste of Autumn” event that we discovered was already underway when we arrived. The kids got to help squeeze fresh apple juice, tea and coffee were everywhere, and vendors lined their designated sidewalks to sell everything from homemade fudge, to specialty jams, to cakes, to cider. Gracie and I bought cake to go with our tea, and I’ve rarely felt so content as I did that afternoon as I sipped my Earl Grey and ate a very British bit of cake in the beautiful autumn weather. Can I go back already?


Breakfast on my final morning 
Sometimes it’s the little things that get you, right? This was definitely one of those. I don’t have pictures to prove it because it actually felt a little too sacred for that. First, let me give context by saying that I truly believe the British obsession with tea has made them a more patient culture than America. Tea breaks are a real thing all over the country, and making tea involves a decent amount of waiting – waiting for the kettle to boil, waiting for the tea to brew properly, and waiting for it to be cool enough to drink. Overall, I think this is a very good thing. And the precious family I was staying with exemplified this general patience well on my last morning with them. 

It was a Sunday morning, and they knew they had to get ready for church and leave the house soon. Yet, they still took time to sit down together at the breakfast table, eat without too much hurry, and just enjoy being together. They also used this time to make cards and small gifts to send back with me for their American friends. I sat at the table with them and wanted to memorize everything about the scene – the warm cup of tea in my hands, the sunlight streaming through their bright kitchen windows, the children’s heads bent in concentration as they worked over their cards, the sounds of the kettle and the stove, the taste of their very English jam, and the sweet sense of togetherness and peace around the table. Then, Jamie, faithful husband and dad that he is, read a short devotional aloud and prayed. In his prayer, he included requests for me and my travels, and that was my predictable cue to start crying. I should have known that I would, but I was still taken by surprise for some reason. You’d think I would learn. Thanks for the hugs afterwards, Gracie!

I'm so grateful for this trip. Grateful for the friends and opportunities and resources that made it possible, for how the Lord has grown my affection for this part of the world so greatly over the years, and for how He has allowed me to explore that love with travels there. Here's to planning the next.
In the past three years or so, I’ve revitalized and reorganized my reading life. I like to make reading goals and keep track of what I’m reading, and I’ve become pretty good at finding the hidden pockets of time in the day that allow me to get more reading done. All of this has made me realize how book nerdy I am, and because I’m realizing how REALLY book nerdy I am, I thought I’d share an update on where I am with my 2018 reading! This update will include really nerdy details like how many books I’ve read so far, what formats I’ve used to read, favorites so far, and a few other tidbits. Hopefully this will inspire you in some way with a new book recommendation, a new idea for keeping track of your reading, or a nudge to try a new reading format you haven’t before. 

2018 reading goal: Read 50 books (They must be new to me. Re-reads do not count!)
 

Number of books read so far: 37 – 74% there!
 

Currently reading: The Miller’s Dance (Poldark series #9) by Winston Graham, Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard, Sing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty
 

Standouts so far: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (this one is likely to end up a lifetime favorite)
 

Book format breakdown so far: 
  • I read the physical book: 21/37 (~58%) 
  • I listened to the audiobook version: 11/37 (~30%) 
  • I read the Kindle e-book version: 5/37 (~13.5%)
I was honestly surprised at what a chunk of my reading has consisted of audiobooks. I’ve loved having audiobooks as a supplement for a few years now, but the idea that I’ve read 30% more books this year so far because of them was a very pleasant surprise! They do make a difference, y’all! 

How I’m tracking my books: 
I became a bullet journaler last year and it’s been a blast. I thought for a long time that I wasn’t cool enough for it, but the beauty of bullet journaling is that it’s completely customizable for your life and your needs. For me, it’s been a lifesaver for scheduling purposes and list purposes. I sure love to make me some lists, and having one notebook for all of them simplifies life exponentially. The majority of my lists have to do with books, of course. Here are the big ones.
 

  • Books to Read: this is for pretty much any title that catches my interest and makes me feel a desire to remember it. I probably used to be too liberal with what I’d write down, so I’ve gotten a little better about writing down ones that I think I’ll legitimately read. I’ll write down the title and author on this list with a bullet point next to it. If I read the book, I’ll then put an X through the bullet point. If I abandon the book or come back to the list and decide I’m not as interested as I thought, I’ll put a little sideways caret through bullet point: > 
  • Books Read in [Year]: I have 2017 and 2018 lists for this! It’s so fun to see the list growing throughout the year and then to go back at the end and remember all that I’ve read. These are simply formatted: they’re numbered lists with the title and author of each book included, and if I’ve read a book in a format other than a hard copy, I’ll note that in parentheses.
  • Books Re-Read in [Year]: These are formatted the same way as the full annual lists. I love a good re-read and generally get a few in each year. I’m pretty nostalgic so I like to remember these too. 

And in other news, my Kindle and my Audible app are both stocked for my second-in-my-life trip to ENGLAND very soon! Yes, I’m determined to bring ZERO physical books on this trip. That may sound unrealistic to the people who know me, and it even does to me at moments, but I just keep reminding myself that I’m going to the land where all the good books were written. First stop is Cambridge, then it’ll be on to Surrey, London, and hopefully the surrounding areas. I’m excited to see some places I didn’t see on my last trip and also to see dear friends who live in England. Check back later for lots of pictures! :)


Just a few more days till I get to roam through more rolling green hills and 1000-year-old churches. Bring it on! 
In many works of fiction, a proposal marks a climactic moment in the story that the audience has been waiting for, so we want it to be exciting and memorable. As I began thinking about good literary proposals, I realized that while wonderful love stories are ever multiplying, really fabulous proposal scenes are fewer. In many of my favorite books, the proposal is simply “understood” through the author’s narration or the characters’ personal reflections in their minds. And among the good proposal scenes I enjoy, the phrase “will you marry me?” or something similar is even more rare! I was honestly surprised to realize these interesting tidbits as I started narrowing down my favorites. So, while there’s no shortage of tried-and-true romance among old classics and newer fiction, I think these five literary proposals are my top favorites. And I know some of the book excerpts are long, but bear with me… they’re just SO good. Also, this probably goes without saying, but I am about to spoil the endings of these books for you :) You've been forewarned.

Persuasion by Jane Austen 

-Captain Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliot- 


People (myself included) may swoon forevermore over Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, but Captain Wentworth is far more sure of himself in the “ability to romance a woman” category than Darcy. Wentworth and Anne are the older, more seasoned couple out of Austen’s leading pairs, and by the time they get engaged, they’ve learned a few things about heartbreak and second chances. And even though Captain Wentworth proposes by letter, it’ll probably be the most romantic thing you read all day (my own love for handwritten letters also probably has something to do with my feelings about it). He writes it as he listens to Anne discussing with another male friend how men and women approach romance; her words give Captain Wentworth hope and he pours out his heart on the page. Here it is in all its glory. 


I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
F. W. 
I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never. 

Now to scoop up the melted puddle of me off the floor. 

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 

-Dawsey Adams and Juliet Ashton- 


This is the more unconventional favorite on this list since the woman does the proposing, but this was definitely a situation where the man needed a little help. With the prodding of her publisher and friend, Sidney Stark, Juliet finally accepts near the end of the book that she’s madly in love with Dawsey Adams, a poetic pig farmer with a quiet exterior and a big heart. Everything started for them when he found a secondhand book with her address in it and wrote her a letter. Later on, they discover they share a love of books, nature, community, and a little girl named Kit who needs a family. However, when Juliet admits to herself that she loves Dawsey, there’s another woman named Remy who unfortunately seems to have his attention. But one day, she realizes during a conversation with her unknowingly helpful friend Isola Pribby that maybe she’s mistaken there, so she takes a chance. 


[Excerpt taken from a section of the book containing Isola Pribby’s “detective notes,” so Isola is the narrator] 

Dawsey said, “Hello Juliet.” He was on top of the big stepladder. I found that out later when he made so much noise coming down it. 
Juliet said she would like a word with Dawsey, if the gentlemen could give her a minute. 
They said certainly, and left the room. Dawsey said, “Is something wrong, Juliet? Is Kit alright?” 
“Kit’s fine. It’s me – I want to ask you something.” 
Oh, I thought, she’s going to tell him not to be a sissy. Tell him he must stir himself up and go propose to Remy at once. 
But she didn’t. What she said was, “Would you like to marry me?” 
I liked to die where I stood. 
There was quiet – complete quiet. Nothing! And on and on it went, not a word, not a sound. 
But, Juliet went on undisturbed. Her voice steady – and me, I could not get so much as a breath of air into my chest. “I’m in love with you, so I thought I’d ask.” 
And then, Dawsey, dear Dawsey, swore. He took the Lord’s name in vain. “My God, yes,” he cried, and clattered down that stepladder, only his heels hit the rungs, which is how he sprained his ankle. 

Awesome. Just awesome. And even though Isola did the right thing by not spying further, we readers have a pretty good idea of what happens once Dawsey’s down the ladder. 

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley 

-Hugh MacPherson and Mary Dundas- 


I’ve been working through Susanna Kearsley’s entire backlist this year, and A Desperate Fortune has been one of my favorites from her. Like many of her books, the historical plot focuses on Scotland’s Jacobite revolutionaries, and a faulty plan to protect a Jacobite exile brings our heroine, Mary Dundas, across France and eventually to Rome. From the beginning of her adventure, a hardened Scottish Highlander named Hugh MacPherson acts as guide and protector. Mary is terrified of him at first, but almost without realizing it, she finds herself slowly warming to this enigma of a man. He has many secrets and says very little, but his courage, dependability, quiet watchfulness, and constant nearness endear him to Mary overtime. 


The two of them slowly find a tender connection over fairytales, for Mary has a gift for creating stories based on old legends, and she tells many of them during the journey. When their course ends in Rome and Hugh must continue to Spain alone, Mary realizes that she now dearly wishes she could create a different story for herself like she does for imaginary characters. But one night on a quiet bridge in the middle of Rome, Hugh lets her do just that with this heart-stopping proposal that’s wrapped in a fairytale they both know from earlier in their adventure. 

As she told the tale over again to him, Mary could not keep from noticing all the small points of connection to how things had happened with them in real life – from the earliest part where the hero had gazed upon his lady and followed her without her ever noticing him in return, to their first meeting when the hero's lady had dropped her scarf and he'd returned it, to the time when he had kissed her and her world had been forever changed, until Fate cast a pall upon their happiness and forced him to decide between remaining with his lady or returning to the battlefield.
She stopped the story there, because she found it struck too close to home
“You do not like the ending,” she reminded him. “You told me so yourself.” 
He turned his head towards her then, his face so far in shadow now she scarce could see his eyes. “Then write a different one.” 
Mary was not sure at first that she understood what he was asking. 
Until quietly he told her, “Write a better one.”
…Hope – a tiny twisted knot of it – began to loosen and expand within her. She remembered what she’d written in her journal so despondently that morning: If it were my choice to make I would lay all my heart before him and refuse to leave his side. And he was making it her choice…… 
… “Then he told her,” Mary said, “that he must leave, for he could not neglect his duty nor his honor. And his lady sighed with sadness, but she understood, and said to him, ‘Your honor and your duty are so very much a part of you I could not ever ask you to abandon them, but neither do I think I can endure it, sir, if you abandon me. So what to do?’” She could not hold Hugh’s gaze although she could not truly see it, so she looked away again, repeating, “What to do?” 
A night bird in the trees along the river’s edge began to trill, and Mary drew her strength from it. 
“And so it happened," she went on, “a fairy of the nearby forest heard the lady’s mournful speech, and being deeply moved by it, the fairy turned the lady to a falcon that could ride into the battle on her true love’s hand, and so they rode away together and had many fine adventures, and he carried her forever with him and she spent her life content, for she had wings to spread and fly with and the man she loved to hold and keep her safe.” 
There was no sound or movement for long moments but the rushing of the river and the night bird calling. 
And then Hugh asked, “What adventures did they have?” 
She found it difficult, with all of the emotions of her speech to make a calm reply. “I do not know.” 
He thought this over. “Then ye’d better come to Spain,” he said, “and live them for yourself.” 
She turned to look at him, and saw that he was straightening to stand at his full height before her in the semidarkness, and the faint light from the windows of the little island at her back showed her his steady gaze was serious. 
Her heart became a trembling thing within her as she straightened too and faced him, and the night air grew alive between them, though she could no more have guessed his thoughts than she had done when they’d first faced each other in the Paris street. Except his eyes now were not cold, she thought. Not cold at all, and no longer impenetrable. 
“Marry me,” he said. 
She had to smile at his tone, for it could not be helped. “That’s not a question.” 
“No,” he said, and bent his head towards her. “It is not.” 
And then her smile was covered by his kiss and Mary, wrapped within the warmth of it, could care for nothing else. 
Let currents flow and kingdoms fall and time move onward, Mary thought – this moment was for them. Those people of an age to come who stood upon this bridge would never know how long she’d stood tonight in Hugh’s strong arms, or what he’d said to her, the quiet simple words that had been spoken from his heart and were for her alone; nor would they know what she had answered back, and how he’d smiled and gently tipped her chin up with his hand to kiss her longer and more deeply; nor how he had finally held his hand to her outstretched and she had taken it with happiness and followed him. 

I can’t remember how long I sat still and processed this one while grinning like an imbecile, but I know it was a while. At the beginning of A Desperate Fortune, I never would have thought Hugh capable of the gentleness, emotional intelligence, or deep care he displays in these closing moments of the story. He develops so gradually that it’s nearly imperceptible, but oh, what hidden depths lie beneath his sheer physical strength and war-roughened persona. Fortunately for hopelessly romantic readers like me, he let Mary into those depths by the end. 

Poldark #7: The Angry Tide by Winston Graham 

-Drake Carne and Morwenna Chynoweth Whitworth-
 


These two have my heart. What a long and difficult road it’s been for them when we finally reach this gorgeous proposal, but gorgeous it is, and it’s made so much sweeter because of the trials Drake and Morwenna have endured. By this point in the story, Drake and Morwenna have been kept apart for years by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Morwenna was forced into a “suitable” marriage with the socially respectable, but privately monstrous, Reverend Osborne Whitworth. His incessant abuse nearly destroys Morwenna emotionally, so after Osborne’s sudden death, she pushes Drake away, saying she is now tainted and damaged. But oh, dear, dear Drake. I don’t think there’s a more gentle or sensitive soul in the whole Poldark series. His tender persistence and love become lifelines for Morwenna, and we have a precious glimpse of how he will love her back to life in this beautiful exchange below.
 

But first, here's a nice Drake and Morwenna appreciation picture from Series 4 of the BBC Poldark adaptation. Harry Richardson and Ellise Chappell are gems in the roles. Photo edit credit to my pal @drorwenna on Instagram ;) 

[From The Angry Tide]

“But now… Will you not marry me, Morwenna?” 
She shook her head, not looking at him. “I can’t, Drake……There’s so little I can give you.” 
“You can give me yourself. That’s all I want.” 
“That’s just what I can’t do.” 
“Why not, my love?” 
“Drake, you haven’t understood. Because I am still – contaminated – in my mind. I can’t look on – on love – on what marriage means – without revulsion. If you were to kiss me now I might not shiver, for other people have kissed me. It could be just – a salute. But if you were to touch my body I would shrink away because instantly, across my mind would come the thought of his hands…” 
… “He stood up, but not over her, keeping his distance. ‘Morwenna, I must tell you that just before he – Mr. Whitworth – died I had engaged to marry a girl in Sawle called Rosina Hoblyn. I’d thought that you were lost to me for ever. Kind friends thought my life was being wasted, lost. So twas. So I engaged to marry Rosina. But when I heard he was dead, I went to see Rosina and asked her to set me free… …But when you turned me away I didn’t go back to Rosina – even if she’d have had me. I resolved never to marry ‘tall. I told my sister – she was here, today – I told her only today that I should never marry ‘tall. And that is the honest truth, without a word of a lie! So… …Would it not be better to marry me than to see me have no wife – all my days?” 
She put her free hand to her mouth. “Drake, you still don’t understand.” 
“Oh, yes, I reckon I do.” He moved to sit on his haunches in front of her, but checked himself in time. He crouched some way away. ‘Be my wife in name – marry me – in church proper – that’s all I ask. Love – what you call love – carnal love – if it d’come some day it come. If not, not. I shall not press. Twill be for you always to say.” 
She released her mouth long enough to say: “I couldn’t ask it. It wouldn’t be fair on you. You love me! I know that. So how could you – how could you keep a promise it wouldn’t be fair to ask you to make?” 
“When I make a promise I make it. Don’t you love me enough to believe that?” 
She shook her head. 
“Look,” he said, “why have you come here today?” 
She stared at him. 
He said patiently, “Was it not because ye wanted to see me?” 
She nodded. 
He said: “There’s more to life than carnal love, isn’t there?” 
“Yes…oh, yes, but –” 
“Be honest. Do you not really want to be with me? With me more than anyone else in the world?” 
She hesitated a long moment, then nodded again. 
“But –” 
“Then be that not the most important thing of all? Being together. Working together. Talking together. Walking together. There’s so much to love – even if it be not the love you mean. The sunrise, and the rain and the wind and the cloud, and the roaring of the sea and the cry of birds and the – the lowing of cows and the glow of corn and the smells of spring. And food and fresh water. New-laid eggs, warm milk, fresh-dug potatoes, home-made jams. Wood smoke, a baby robin, bluebells, a warm fire…I could go on and on and on. But if you enjoy them wi’ the one you love, then it is enjoyment fourfold! D’you not think I would not give all my life to see ye sitting in that chair? What is life if you live it alone?” 

Drake Carne – hardworking blacksmith, free spirit, eloquent speech-making extraordinaire, and the most patient and pure and tenderhearted man of the Poldark saga. Be still my heart. 

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

-Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley- 


Oh, Anne and Gil. This famous, slow-burning romance of classic literature takes readers through a whole range of emotions for the first three books of the Anne series. It’s at the end of the third volume that they’re finally engaged, to everyone’s endless relief and PURE JOY. Gilbert had been head over heels for Anne since they were kids, but he had to wait and wait and wait for her to come to her senses. He served her, encouraged her, laughed with her, advised her, studied with her, and much more throughout their teen and college years. It took a few more years, a first proposal from him that Anne foolishly rejected, some heartbreak for Anne, and a bout of scarlet fever for Gilbert for Anne to finally admit the truth to herself. She had always loved Gilbert. But would he try again with her after so long? Happily for her and for all of us readers, yes, he would. 


“I think,” said Anne softly, “that ‘the land where dreams come true’ is in the blue haze yonder, over that little valley.” 
“Have you any unfulfilled dreams, Anne?” asked Gilbert. 
Something in his tone – something she had not heard since that miserable evening in the orchard at Patty’s Place – made Anne’s heart beat wildly. But she made answer lightly. 
“Of course. Everybody has. It wouldn’t do for us to have all our dreams fulfilled. We would be as good as dead if we had nothing left to dream about. What a delicious aroma that low-descending sun is extracting from the asters and ferns. I wish we could see perfumes as well as smell them. I’m sure they would be very beautiful.” 
Gilbert was not to be thus sidetracked. 
“I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends – and you!” 
Anne wanted to speak but she could find no words. Happiness was breaking over her like a wave. It almost frightened her. 
“I asked you a question over two years ago, Anne. If I ask it again today will you give me a different answer?” 
Still Anne could not speak. But she lifted her eyes, shining with all the love-rapture of countless generations, and looked into his for a moment. He wanted no other answer. 
They lingered in the old garden until twilight……There was so much to talk over and recall – things said and done and heard and thought and felt and misunderstood. 
“I thought you loved Christine Stuart,” Anne told him, as reproachfully as if she had not given him every reason to suppose she loved Roy Gardner. 
Gilbert laughed boyishly. 
“Christine was engaged to somebody in her home town. I knew it and she knew I knew it. When her brother graduated he told me his sister was coming to Kingsport the next winter to take music, and asked me if I would look after her a bit, as she knew no one and would be very lonely. So I did……I knew college gossip credited us with being in love with each other. I didn’t care. Nothing mattered much to me for a time there, after you told me you could never love me, Anne. There was nobody else – there never could be anybody else for me but you. I’ve loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.” 
“I don’t see how you could keep on loving me when I was such a little fool,” said Anne. 
“Well, I tried to stop,” said Gilbert frankly, “not because I thought you what you call yourself, but because I felt sure there was no chance for me after Gardner came on the scene. But I couldn’t – and I can’t tell you, either, what it’s meant to me these two years to believe you were going to marry him……I believed it until one blessed day when I was sitting up after the fever. I got a letter from Phil Gordon – Phil Blake, rather – in which she told me there was really nothing between you and Roy, and advised me to ‘try again.’ Well, the doctor was amazed at my rapid recovery after that.
Anne laughed – then shivered. 
“I can never forget the night I thought you were dying, Gilbert. Oh, I knew – I knew then – and I thought it was too late.” 
“But it wasn’t, sweetheart. Oh, Anne, this makes up for everything, doesn’t it? Let’s resolve to keep this day sacred to perfect beauty all our lives for the gift it has given us……But I’ll have to ask you to wait a long time, Anne,” said Gilbert sadly. “It will be three years before I’ll finish my medical course. And even then there will be no diamond sunbursts or marble halls.” 
Anne laughed. 
“I don’t want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want you.” 

I think we all know that these two couldn’t be any happier together if they had all the diamond sunbursts and marble halls that even Anne could dream up. 

And there we are. Those are my favorite proposals from literature, at least for today. What are yours? I’d love to hear in comments!