There’s been a lot in the media lately about women and desire and what it is, exactly, that flips the female switch from watching “The Bachelor” to wanting to do the bachelor (or the husband or the friend with benefits). Recently, in the New York Times, Sheryl Sandburg (the CEO of Facebook) and co-writer Adam Grant posited that men who do their share of household chores have more sex. They coined the term choreplay which does have a nice ring to it. It’s a myth, though, says a well-known and respected study published in the American Sociological Review. That study showed that “husbands and wives in couples with more traditional housework arrangements report higher sexual frequency” which, in layman’s terms means men who vacuum get laid less. Other sexual scientists believe that many women have responsive sexual desire–what turns them on is to be desired. One thing almost everyone agrees on is that women who read romance have more sex (one study said 74% more).
All of this got me to thinking about what turns me on in romance novels. That in turn made me think about seduction in romance novels. Several scenes immediately came to mind. Here, in no particular order, are a few moves that, were I the heroine, would have swept me off my feet.
Tristan, the hero of Caroline Linden’s Love and Other Scandals, takes heroine Joan on a balloon ride and shows her her world as seen from the sky. He does so because,
But after tea the other day, when she looked so shockingly lovely and he couldn’t think of anything but touching her, Tristan had been determined to do something to please her, as a way of making up for his past failings. Taking her ballooning seemed an excellent choice: something she’d probably never do on her own, but thrilling and exotic. He wanted her to remember this morning for the rest of her life. He knew he would.
Joan adores the outing and why wouldn’t she: It’s an experience a man created specifically for her. That’s something I find very sexy.
In Lisa Kleypas’s Secrets of a Summer Night, Simon, the hero, gives Annabelle, the heroine, a pair of sturdy boots so that she may safely walk in countryside. It’s a lovely gift, one that Annabelle can accept–they arrive at her doorstep without a card–and that she desperately needs but can’t afford to purchase for herself. So often in romance novels, the hero showers the heroine with expensive gems. Those sorts of offerings don’t do a thing for me, but giving a girl a pair of shoes so she can safely explore the outdoors rocks.
When Caleb Clark makes his first move on Ellen Callahan in Ruthie Knox’s Along Came Trouble he does so by offering to change a burnt-out bulb. This particular bulb is just a little too high for Ellen to change herself, even using the ladder, but Caleb’s a big guy and he can do it safely. Ellen knows that Caleb is deliberately being “charming and helpful” and Caleb knows that she knows. It works for her anyway because it’s a sweet, small, unthreatening step in his campaign to win her very wary heart.
I really do have a thing for handymen. There’s a scene in Sarah Mayberry’s Suddenly You where the hero Harry is patching a hole in the wall for Pippa, a broke single mom living in a dump. After Pippa mistakes a tube of filler in Harry’s jeans for an erection–and asks “Is that for me?”–she is so mortified she locks herself in the bathroom. She tells herself she’s “a million miles from the kind of women that would inspire a hard-on the size of a tube of spackle.” Harry refuses to leave her to her misery and, even though he knows getting involved with her is a bad idea, he kisses her into next week. He’s just so perfect here–he makes Pippa feel like the most desirable woman in the world, despite her faux paux, threadbare yoga pants, and baggy shirt. This scene–which includes pulse racing sex against the wall–is hot as hell. As is Harry.
Ash Turner in Courtney Milan’s Unveiled seduces Margaret Dalrymple by giving her control–it’s something he does for her over and over again in the story. I adore a scene early in the book where Margaret thinks he’ll kiss her. Instead he tells her that as much as he wants to, he wants more that she kiss him. “I want you to choose me,” he said, “well and truly choose me of your own accord.” Ash is one of my favorite of Ms. Milan’s and, in this scene, he completely wins me over.
Michael, the hero of Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked–the raciest of the Bridgerton books–seduces Francesca (for the first time) by talking dirty. He’s wanted her for over a decade and, now that she’s in his arms, he tells her all the things he’s about to do to her. It’s quite a list and turns Francesca (and me) into a puddle of lust.
“There are so many choices,” he said huskily, sliding his hands up her legs another few inches. “I scarcely know where to start.”
He stopped to look at her for a moment. She was breathing hard, her lips parted and plump from his kisses. And she was mesmerized, completely under his spell.
He dipped closer once again, to her other ear, so he could make sure his words fell hot and moist upon her soul. “I think, however, that I would have to start where you need me most. First I’d kiss you…” — he pressed his thumbs into the soft flesh of her inner thighs — “…here.”
He held silent, just for a second, just long enough for her to shiver with desire. “Would you like that?” he murmured, his question intended to torment and tease. “Yes, I can see that you would.
“But that wouldn’t be enough,” he mused, “for either of us. So clearly, I would then have to kiss you here.” His thumbs inched up until they reached the hot crevice between her legs and her torso, and then he pressed gently, so she would know exactly what he was talking about. “I think you would enjoy a kiss right there,” he added, “almost as much” — he slid along the crease, down, down, closer to the very center of her, but not quite all the way — “as I would like to kiss you.”
And while it’s true that Michael’s a gifted wordsmith, it’s the power of his desire for Francesca that makes his sexytalk so damn persuasive. If I were Francesca, I’d definitely want to hear more.
These are just a few of my favorite scenes. I’d love to hear yours. What heroic moves would have you saying yes?