favoritethings It’s just about impossible for me to pick a favorite movie, book, song, or place is. I always have to qualify it. So, when asked what my favorite book is, I’ll respond with “Well, it depends. Do you mean my favorite non-fiction or fiction book? And if you mean fiction, that’s too hard for me. I need to break it down into smaller categories.” I’ve been thinking about my favorite romances ever since AAR began publishing its reviewers’ top ten lists this summer. Every time I try and make my list, I get distracted by other lists of smaller, easier things I feel decisively about.

This week I’ve been thinking about my favorite things in romance novels. I’ve contemplated my favorite alpha male hero, my favorite bath scene, my favorite pet, my favorite first time making love scene, my favorite governess heroine, and my favorite first and last lines. These are, of course, just my favorites this week. But they are fun to think about and I thought I’d share mine and ask for yours.

My favorite alpha male hero is Nick Ward from Shannon McKenna’s Extreme Danger. Ms. McKenna’s McClouds and Friends series is full of overbearing, super masculine men, but wounded bad boy hero Nick is the best. He’s smokin’ hot, got a wry sense of humor, and constantly puts his life on the line in order to save the heroine. The scene where they rendezvous in a hotel as Mr. and Mrs. Steiger after she has endangered herself and thus enraged Nick stands as a perfect example of how an alpha male makes his woman feel loved in the most alpha way possible.

My favorite bath scene comes from Loretta Chase’s Lord Perfect. The hero, the Earl of Hargate, Benedict Carsington, has been doing his best to resist the charms of the alluring but utterly inappropriate Bathsheba Wingate while the two try to find her daughter and his nephew. However, when he accidentally walks in on her as she’s just rising out of her bath, she startles and slips and Benedict catches her. She’s naked and wet and his best intentions vaporize. The scene is sexy, funny, and replete with great dialogue.

My favorite pet in a romance is Tater the elephant in Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Kiss an Angel. The heroine of that novel, Daisy, has never done a lick of hard work in her life and finds herself married to a man who travels with a performing circus. Daisy bonds with baby Tater in ways that are funny and genuinely moving. I’m not a big fan of cute animals in romance so a baby elephant who routinely behaves badly works for me.

I can’t pick just one favorite scene in which a couple makes love for the first time–I think I could narrow it down to ten if I tried. However, two of my favorites are both from historical romance novels. In Tessa Dare’s marvelous debut Goddess of the Hunt, the virginal heroine Lucy seduces her brother’s friend Jeremy, the night before Lucy and he are to be married under forced circumstances. Jeremy has longed for Lucy forever and when he realizes he can’t talk her out of anticipating their vows, he makes love to her like a man (wonderfully) possessed. Ms. Dare does a nice job of making Lucy’s pleasure utterly believable and of making Jeremy’s sexual intensity an expression of the emotions he feels for Lucy but is unable to say. The other first scene I read again and again (along with the novel it’s in) is from Melody Thomas’s A Match Made in Scandal, one of the books in her very good Donally Family series. Neither hero and heroine are virgins and the relationship they share is complicated by their competing professional interests. (The book is set in the late 1800’s. Both the heroine, Rachel, and the hero, Ryan, are civil engineers.) The two agree to be lovers for one night. I love this scene for many reasons but perhaps my favorite is the way Ryan and Rachel make sure she doesn’t conceive. I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read the book, but if you thought using a sponge couldn’t be an extraordinarily erotic event, you haven’t read A Match Made in Scandal.

Romance is full of great governesses but if I had to choose just one, I’d pick Anna Thraxton from An Affair to Remember by Karen Hawkins. Anna’s battle of wits with her employer, the determined to seduce her arrogant Anthony, Earl of Greyley, is a marvelous one. Anna is short tempered with Anthony, successful with her mischievous charges, and smart as can be. Anthony tries all sorts of tactics to bend Anna to his will and none of them succeed. As she writes in one of the many amusing notes she sends him, “I have many duties to see to today and you, my lord, are not one of them.”

Currently, my favorite first line of a book is this: “‘Move your bleedin’ arse’, Miss Charlotte Spenser’s maid, Maggie, said to her.” (from Reckless by Anne Stuart) This is a line that yanks you into the story. It works, of course, because every line that follows it keeps you hooked. (This is one of my favorite romances of all time.)

My favorite last lines in a romance–and I’m defining that liberally here–is from William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. “I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops.  But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn’t fair.  It’s just fairer than death, that’s all. 

I could go on and on here. I have a favorite use of art in a novel (found in Julie Anne Long’s What I Did for a Duke), a favorite book within a book (the Daphne books written by Molly Somerville in Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s This Heart of Mine), etc….

How about you? Do you have a favorite something in romance? I’d love to hear it!

– Dabney Grinnan