Romances are full of heroes who bail their lady-loves out of unimaginably tough situations: kidnapping, evil guardians, villainous fiancés, dire financial straights.
But while a SEAL rescue is always appreciated, most of us could use some assistance with more ordinary difficulties. For example, I’m not tall enough to change the light in my bathroom without standing on the rim of the tub and risking a concussion. Fixing a broken water heater or a providing company on a late-night trip to the vet is often when true-life love interests really shine.
So sometimes, it’s not the big saves that create a great romance hero. The mundanest of rescues can ensure his place in the genre’s canon.
Here are five of my personal favorites:
Offering a ride to a damsel in distress, Natural Born Charmer, Susan Elizabeth Phillips:
When Dean Robillard first spots Blue Bailey, she’s marching down the road in sweltering weather, ready to do violence to her dirtbag boyfriend. She’s also dressed, from the neck down, in a beaver costume. The football superstar immediately stops his sick Aston Martin and hops out to offer help. He can’t provide the gun she’d like, but he can offer her a ride to her big confrontation. Of course, he follows this gesture with another, more spectacular one, pretending to be her gorgeous, wealthy fiancé. But it’s that lift that starts it all.
Saving you from parental pressure, Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie:
This novel is a favorite among romance fans, and for good reasons. Cal and Mina don’t want to date each other. They don’t even like each other. But once their best friends get together, they’re stuck with each other. And almost against his own will, Cal launches a veritable campaign of rescues, big and small. When she burns her dinner, he brings her chicken marsala and offers a cooking lesson. When her sister’s wedding shower nearly derails, he rounds up his friends and they pull it off. But perhaps his most touching gesture is when Cal saves her from an fugly “slimming” black dress, mandated by Min’s mother. It makes her look like a chubby penguin. He tells the shop assistant to find something slinky.
Freaking out over spilled coffee, After the Night, Linda Howard:
Gray Rouillard and Faith Devlin do not have a great history. He’s convinced his father skipped town with her mother; she’s not forgiving the humiliating childhood eviction he instigated. Exacerbating matters are their positions on the opposing poles of Southern society. The first sign of a turning point is when he completely wigs out at her suffering a slight coffee scalding. Granted, it’s his fault. He goes to shake her and she drops her mug. But his response to her cry of pain is immediate and comprehensive. He strips off her skirt, carries her to the kitchen, and ices her wound (with sweet tea, naturally). It takes him a minute to realize he’s being a bit over-the-top. Gray does some seriously questionable stuff in the course of this novel, and this adorable overreaction goes a long way toward redeeming him.
Sending over a replacement pair of shoes, Secrets of a Summer Night, Lisa Kleypas:
Annabelle Peyton has one priority: Bag a rich, titled husband. That’s the only thing that will save her family. They’re putting on a good show, but poor as church mice, and so she doesn’t have the proper walking boots for a party in the country. This shouldn’t be a problem, except Annabelle’s foot happens to find a poisonous snake. Industrialist Simon Hunt isn’t her social equal and has little interest in marriage. But he does take an interest in Annabelle’s welfare. Not only does he make sure her bite is treated, he sends her a beautiful pair of leather ankle boots, saving her from future pain.
Double-checking your financial math, Paradise, Judith McNaught:
Background: Both characters are high-powered corporate types. There’s a moment—before the protagonists have hashed out their traumatic past—when the subject of a slightly questionable financial transaction comes up. Meredith’s banker fiance has less-than-favorable terms on a commercial real estate deal. In a response that, if handled wrong, could have been hopelessly man-splainy, Matt objects to the terms of the deal and suggests Meredith structure future deals in a way that limits her personal liability. It’s no grand romantic gesture, but a willingness to comb through complex corporate deals? The stuff everyday heroes are made of.
Obviously, this list is nowhere near comprehensive. What are your favorite mundane rescues in romance? What are the small but lovely gestures that stick with you?
Lightbulb image courtesy of clgregor via Flickr
By day, Kelly Faircloth covers innovation and technology. She spends the rest of her time reading and writing about books. Her work has appeared at io9, Inc and The Big Money, and she blogs intermittently atwww.NoKindaLady.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyFaircloth.