Usually when we talk about most memorable moments in romance novels, we are referring to scenes featuring the hero and heroine. After all, they are the novel’s raison d’être. But there are those other scenes—small, perfect moments that are not part of the love story itself, but are memorable for the laughter or the tears they provoke, for the sense of identification they offer, or for the way they perfectly capture a character. Sometimes these moments, rather than the love scenes, are the ones that linger in my mind once I close the book. Here is my list of top seven such moments.
7. Daisy Bellamy’s “mother moment” (Snowfall at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs)
Daisy has slipped away from the wedding of her father and Nina Romano to breastfeed her son. Like many other girls, she has dreamed since childhood of her own wedding day, but as she holds her child, she realizes that her dream of Prince Charming and the perfect wedding has changed. She has resented her mother’s career that took Sophie Bellamy away from her family, but as Daisy talks to baby Charlie about her plan to leave him with a babysitter so that she can take photography classes, she wonders about her mother’s feelings. It’s a small, almost insignificant, moment, but it prepares Daisy for a reconnection with Sophie:
“I’m going to feel totally guilty about leaving you, though. Mom left Max and me when we were little. She had to, because of her work. I wonder if she felt like this too. Just totally guilty—”
6. Jack’s birth control talk with Ricky (Virgin River by Robyn Carr)
This is one of those scenes that seemed so real and honest it moved me to laughter and left me misty-eyed too. Anyone who has ever watched a teenager that he/she loves and feels some responsibility towards fall headlong into love understands Jack’s sense of panic. I suspect many can also relate to his admission to Ricky that he both hopes the young man will use the condoms he’s giving him and will have no need to use them. “You wanna be a man, son? You have to think like one. It’s not enough to just feel like one.”
5. Wulfric’s dive into the lake (Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh)
Wulf is one of those cool, self-contained, always-in-control characters. I can’t express how delighted I was to see him spontaneously shuck most of his clothing and dive into the same lake where he had once frolicked before the burden of a dukedom was forced upon him. I also love it when the arrogant Freja responds to Wulf’s dive by hugging Christine and saying, “If this is what you have done for him . . . I will love you all my life.”
4. Lucius’s giving Josie a handkerchief (Pleasure for Pleasure by Eloisa James)
Poor Josie! She’s having such a miserable season, and her conclusion that there will never be a hero to do for her the kind of thoughtful things Lucius does for her sister Tess is a poignant bit. Then one sentence is added that just so flawlessly sums up the reason Lucius is one of my favorite heroes: “In the end, Lucius Felton had two handkerchiefs, which was just like him.”
3. Darcy and Brenna’s sleepover at Jude’s cottage (Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts)
Her ability to capture women’s friendships so accurately is one of the reasons that I have been a Nora Roberts fan for more than twenty years. Any woman who has enjoyed a night of girl talk that ranges from fashion to sex to ghosts, protoplasmic and/or metaphoric, will connect to this scene where Darcy and Brenna show Jude what life is like with friends. The reader shares Jude’s conclusion: “It had been wonderful—the talk, the laughter, the foolishness.”
2. The ballroom scene (Gallant Waif by Anne Gracie)
Kate Farleigh is quite simply one of my favorite heroines ever. “Gallant” is the word for her. She has suffered beyond imagination, and yet she remains courageous, generous, and large-hearted. In the ballroom scene, vicious scandal mongers are attacking her once again. But this time she is not alone. Many of the young soldiers that Kate once nursed come to her aid. They and their relatives lend their support, and Wellington himself appears and strolls with Kate around the ballroom, praising her gallantry to all they meet. But the tenderest moment in this wonderful scene comes when Oliver Greenwood, blinded in battle, requests a dance.
“Somehow they got through the dance. Oliver being gently steered in the right direction by his fellow officers, and Kate too, for by this time she was completely blinded by her tears.”
1. Nicholas’s toast (An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley)
The Rogues have just read the lists of Waterloo casualties and learned that the name of Lord Darius Debenham (Dare) is on the list of the fallen. The Rogues have already lost two of their number. Lord Roger Merrihew died in Spain, and Allan Ingram died at sea. With Dare’s death, there are nine Rogues left, and some of them are still in danger. Beverley makes the grief over Dare so real that the reader can see the somber faces and feel the tension. Then, Nicholas makes a toast. I cry easily, but these lines move me too deeply for tears. They touch an old wound, and I am broken anew each time I read them. Unfortunately, they are no less appropriate in 2011 than they were in 1815.
“To all the fallen, may they be forever young in heaven. To all the wounded, may they have strength and heal. To all the bereaved, may they feel joy again. And please God . . . may there be one day an end to war.”
What non-romantic moments from romance novels do you remember most vividly?
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724