I asked the AAR staff to share the scenes from novels they found the most romantic. And, boy, did they come up with some exquisite scenes. Be prepared to swoon….
In Again, by Kathleen Gilles Seidel, the heroine Jenny Cotton, showrunner of a Regency-set soap opera, has been with her boyfriend Brian (an actor on the soap) for over a decade when Brian commits a terrible betrayal. Meanwhile, Alec Cameron, another actor, has fallen in love with Jenny, and his Grand Romantic Gesture is of the most delightfully practical and empathetic type.
Everyone in the production goes into hysterics over Brian’s misdeed, which doesn’t help Jenny in the slightest. An actress doesn’t want to work with Brian, but Jenny’s show will be ruined if the actors don’t act. A producer offers to fire anybody to help Jenny, but Jenny’s professional reputation will be in trouble if she’s seen as having someone fired for personal reasons. She shouldn’t have to put aside her emotions to moderate every else’s.
Alec, and only Alec, understands that this well-meant but unhelpful loyalty is worse. He steps in. He talks the actress into playing her scene and intervenes with the producer. Even more delightfully, he sets the example and tone for the entire production team by giving Brian the cut direct in the green room:
Here is the rule, Alec announced by the set of his shoulders, the line of his jaw, work with this person when you have to, but otherwise, he does not exist.
Which is exactly what Jenny needs. Not hysterical emotion, but practical and effective loyalty.
What else does Alec give Jenny? The perfect revenge. Alec plays a horrible duke, and Brian plays his good-guy butler, who is also in love with the duchess. In the scene shot that day, Alec improvises the duke’s sudden realization that his servant is pining for his wife. Jenny, observing, decides to go with that as a new plot point. Then:
he let his voice go mild. Oh, gee wilikers, I’m just a Canadian farm boy and I’m a mite curious here. “But if I really believed that, that a servant of mine has been hankering after my wife, gosh, wouldn’t I fire him tomorrow?”
Alec gives Jenny the gift of power and control: she can write Brian out of the show that night if she wants to, and it would make perfect plot sense. Raising up the woman you love, and helping her realize the strength she’s had all along: that’s pretty damn romantic!
My favorite romantic scene: there’s a moment in Kimberly Cates’ Crown of Dreams
where the heroine, Devlin, having lost one childhood playmate in battle and having been sent on a not-quite secure marriage to her other friend, Myles, mourns the loss of a flower crown she’d been weaving to the rapid waves around her as the war-scarred hero fusses after her. In a long monologue, she explains to him that the flowers represent the dreams she’s woven together from their relationship – past incidents and future hopes. She points out she can start again, with new dreams – and that he should never give up dreaming just because he’s been injured and faced disappointment. It causes him to finally confess his love to her. Fittingly so. Who could resist such an entreaty?
“They are dreams, Myles,” she insisted. “You of all people should be able to see them. You’re the one who gave them to me…This one is the garden where you kissed me the first time. Can’t you smell the roses? See them trailing along the garden walls? I can. And I can feel the buttons of your frock coat against my breasts. I can taste your lips, all heady-sweet and searching against mine….This dream is bathed in starlight, the night you gave me the miniature of Lady Brianna, You had dreams in your eyes then. Touch them, If I had just reached out….This is our wedding night and here, here is the book of legends you left for me. Did I ever tell you that when I finished reading the pieces of dreams that you left for me, I knew that i was in love with you? They were like holding pieces of you in my heart, Myles. And I needed something to hold on to so badly, when I was terrified you would die before I had the chance to tell you I love you…And this dream,” Devlin whispered, suddenly unable to meet his eyes, “This Dream is the most special of all, because it hasn’t come true yet. For a little while at Thistlewood I hoped, but…”
…..”What was it?” he asked softly, as he laid the crown of flowers upon her tumbled curls. “The dream that hasn’t come true.”
“That you would give me a child. A little son or daughter with eyes like the summer sky and a mouth fashioned for laughter. That I would feel life growing inside of me, a part of you, mine forever. That I could lay our baby in your arms and watch you teach our little one to see beauty,..magic…the way you taught me.”
Joanna Bourne’s heroines save themselves–and England. And, when they fall in love, they chose men who see them for the gloriously strong, brilliant, capable women they are. Sebastian Kennett, of My Lord and Spymaster, loves and deeply desires Jess Whitby and has waited and waited for her to come to him. When she finally does, the night before she’s about to do something that risks both her life and their relationship, she slips into his bed. And though there’s nothing Sebastian wants more to do than to make love to Jess, he waits. He waits for her to relax, lying there next to him. This scene and the lovemaking that follows it is lovely. We should all be so treasured and so known.
SEBASTIAN listened to a horse and cart clatter through the square. When they passed, it was quiet again. Jess lay beside him in the dawn, wearing a pale, silk ribbon around her neck and the locket on it and not a blessed thing more. Pretty soon he’d lay her down underneath him and take her.
Nothing could have been more natural. It was as if they’d been married a dozen years and she’d come back from checking up on the kids. She let her nightgown slip down around her feet and took the empty spot in the bed. In all creation there was no woman so right for him. She was his.
She loved him. It was written in her eyes for him to read, her loving him and hurting about it and planning something hazardous to her safety fairly soon. She’d try to break into Meeks Street or storm Parliament.
He’d talk to her and put a stop to it. Adrian was sure he could get Whitby transported to Australia, not hanged. He’d explain that, and some of the desperation would go away. Right now, she didn’t want to hear anything he had to say. She was hurting and afraid, and she’d come to him to hide for a while.
Lovemaking is a good place to hide.