Valentine’s Day has never been a holiday that I have enjoyed. Society seems to place certain expectations on the day and well, romance has never been Ned and my forte. The other day I was cleaning off a bookshelf and I came across our Penguin Classic copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Neither Ned nor I had read those classics in our younger years (read: high school literature assignments). Intimidated by the poetry and unfamiliar language, we decided to read these two books to each other out loud. For about two months, every night, we would go to bed early and take turns reading about the Greek wars, Odysseus’ journey and Penelope’s faithfulness.
As I got to thinking about romance and Valentine’s day, I realized that Ned is very romantic, but not in the big John-Cusak-standing-outside-the-window-in-the-rain-with-a-boombox way, but in the small detailed way that he makes sure my car is never out of gas or that we always have root beer in the bottles.
When I think back to my favorite romances, they reflect my own idea of romance – however unconscious and subliminal. You see, my favorite romances are generally about the quiet characters whose actions speak louder than words.
Take, for example, the infamous “You are My Egypt” speech that Harry Braxton gives to Desdemona Carlisle in Connie Brockway’s As You Desire.
“Your mouth.” He paused, and her lips felt suddenly sensitized, tingling as his gaze fixed on them. “Your mouth is a sweet well sealed against me, keeping me thirsting for the clarity of your kiss. Your flesh is like the desert sand, warmth and shifting strength beneath its golden color. Your palms open, ringers flexed, are minarets, delicate and elegant. And your body– it is the Nile itself–"the camber of your back slipping so easily by the narrows of your waist and jettied hips to the lush delta below.”
He stopped. She heard the intake of his breath. “You are my country, Desdemona.” Yearning, harsh and poignant, and she felt herself swaying toward him. “My Egypt. My hot, harrowing desert and my cool, verdant Nile, infinitely lovely and unfathomable and sustaining.”
Of course, when Henry say this to Dizzy, she does not believe it because Henry’s perceived actions says to her that she is nothing more than a younger, irritating sister. Compare this passage to the one in All Through the Night between Jack and Anne.
He weighed carefully the responses he might give her: vows of love, a promise for the future, pledges of fidelity, guarantees that her hurt would fade. But he couldn't promise any of those things but the first, and that she already knew. So finally he gave the one response he could and it proved the most healing one of all.
“I know,” he said, gazing steadily into her eyes. “I know.” And Anne smiled.
Tayse, the King’s Rider, whose father and father’s father was a Rider, took the step beyond himself to change his world and Senneth’s in Sharon Shinn’s Mystic and Rider.
Now she lifted her hands, hesitantly, and the gesture was full of such uncertainty and such supplication that he could not endure it. He closed the short distance between them. He wrapped her in his arms as if she was a child who needed succor and he was the only avenger for miles. Fire flashed between them; he thought for a moment the flimsy gown had gone up in flames, but it was just the heat of her body, or the excitement of his, or the reveling of the night around them, and nothing to be concerned about. He kissed her, and that was the end of it. No more pretending, no more holding back. Life changed by love, life sparkling now with its own peculiar magic. He tightened his hold and let the transformation take over. When he lifted his mouth from hers, he knew, he would be a different man.
In one of my favorite Amanda Quick book, Scandal, the heroine is constantly interfering with her husband’s plans for revenge. But the point of her actions is all to please her husband because she loves him.
Emily stared at him in confusion. “I could not let him humiliate you, Simon.”
“No, of course not. You love me. You adore me. You think I am noble and generous and brave, a paragon among husbands.” Simon took a sip of brandy. “You would do anything for me.”
“Simon?” Emily’s voice was uncertain.
“You must forgive me for being somewhat dazed at the moment. Actually, I have been in this state for the past several hours. No one in my entire life has ever tried to protect me, elf.”
Emily continued to stare at him, unable to speak.
“I have taken care of myself for as long as I can remember,” Simon continued. “And when I met you, I realized I wanted to take care of you, too. But the notion of someone being willing to risk her life for me, the concept of someone willing to shoot a man to protect me, has temporarily scattered my wits.”
Last year’s Angels Fall by Nora Roberts featured a gruff, no nonsense approach to life. I read some people’s comments that these single titles by Roberts aren’t very romantic, but I found Brody to be very romantic. Reece witnessed a murder but many people of Angel’s Fist are having trouble believing her. In fact, many begin to suspect that Reece may be imagining it all. Brody does not. He never wavers, not once, in his belief in her. I felt when I read this book that Reece and Brody would last. He stood by her when his friends and his newfound community would turn against her. As I wrote in the review, “Those actions show me more than any amounts of endless exposition that not only does Brody love Reece, but he will love her forever, no matter what, amen.”
In the end, the actions of these characters leave the reader to believe that the happy ever after will truly be “happy ever after.” These characters understand the value of the action versus the spoken word. How do you define romance? Any particular romantic or anti romantic moments? Favorite passages? Do you want the big declaration or can actions speak as loud as the words? Let’s celebrate in our own, Dear Author way, with the best stories you’ve got. Feel free to steal them from books, like me. :)