For many of us, great romance is a combination of a strong hero and a loving heroine, perfect chemistry, and beautiful writing. But almost as essential, or certainly enhancing, are truly romantic and powerful love scenes. Love scenes are almost as prolific as romance novels themselves, but through thousands of reads, these love scenes cross decades and all genres of romance, as some of the best.
One of the earlier romance novels, and arguably one of the most controversial, is Christine Monson's Stormfire. From my earliest days as a romance reader, I knew about Sean and Catherine and how extreme their story was, absolutely the very definition of “bodice ripper.” In fact, the buzz was so loud, it kept me from reading the book for some time. Once I did, I was struck by how utterly romantic it actually was. Don't be mistaken, there are some very difficult scenes, brutal in both action and honesty. And while I was eager to get past the beginning, filled with hatred and misunderstanding, when I got to the heart of the story, I realized that in coming so far, the payoff was greater than almost any other love I'd read in romance. I came to be convinced of and believe in Sean and Catherine's love, and along with the gorgeous writing, their love scenes transcended any I'd read before.
“Shivering sea witch,” he murmured, brushing her lips with his. Gently he explored her face with his fingers as a blind man might, as if he had never seen it before and might never again. “Yea, thou art fair,” he breathed. “I fear I'm caught in some siren's spell, for your starry eyes are not of this world, sweet witch, and I shall ever see them, dazzled, dreaming.”
She smoothed the damp hair from his temples. “And what of my Sea Beast? When I look into his eyes, I see no wolfish gleam, no fiendish glare, but a man, and such a man as I've never known. I...” She fell silent, a shadow crossing her face.
“You wonder when the reprieve ends,” he supplied with a trace of his old bitterness.
She stopped his lips with a quick, clinging kiss that scattered his troubled thoughts like dead ashes. “We've gone beyond promises. Everything but this moment.”
She drew his head down and his hard body reclaimed hers with a fierce yearning that aroused her own longing to a dizzy pitch, then slowly fulfilled it with piercing, welling intensity until her cry was swept away with the wind.
Famous for very different reasons, and voted as readers' favorite romance novel for over a decade, is Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, and it's easy to see why. This book has many of the classic staples of romance: rakish hero, virgin heroine, rapid-fire dialogue and humor, and marriage of not-quite convenience. Yet it goes beyond conventions. Sebastian is dark and beastly; Jessica is beauty and light. Their attraction and sexual tension is built up so well, and Sebastian and Jessica become so well-connected, that when they finally consummate their relationship, it's so much hotter and more romantic than I even expected it to be.
She'd wanted to touch and kiss and hold him from the day she'd met him. She'd wanted him to burn for her, just as she'd wanted him to set her ablaze.
He was pulling the negligee down, over her hips.
She grasped the edges of his shirtfront and, with one fierce yank, tore it in half.
His hand fell from her hip. She tore the shirt cuff away, and rent the seam up to the shoulder. “I know you like to be undressed,” she said.
“Yes,” he gasped, and shifted back to give her access to the other, useless arm. She was no more gentle with that sleeve. She ripped it off.
He pulled her against him, pressing her bared breasts to the powerful chest she'd exposed. His heart beat next to hers, to the same frenetic rhythm. He grasped the back of her head and crushed her mouth to his, and drove out anger, pride, and thought in that long, devouring kiss.
The ragged remains of his shirt came away in her hands. He stripped away her negligee in the same frantic moment. Their hands became tangled, tearing at his trouser buttons. Wool ripped and buttons tore from the cloth.
He pushed her legs apart with his knee. She felt the hard shaft throbbing hotly against her thigh while her own heat pulsed against his questing hand. He found the place where he'd tormented her last night, and sweetly tormented her again, until she cried out and her body spilled its feminine tears of desire.
She clung to him, shaking and desperate, and “Please,” she begged. “Please.”
The one book that has taken over 2012, and has sparked a new wave of attention for BDSM and billionaires, is Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Love it or hate it, the book's first love scene between Christian and Ana—after he's explained he's not gentle and doesn't make love, then discovers Ana is a virgin—is still heady stuff.
I nod, my eyes wide, my hands on his forearms. I feel so full. He stays still, letting me acclimatize to the intrusive, overwhelming feeling of him inside me. "I'm going to move, baby,” he breathes after a moment, his voice tight.
He eases back with exquisite slowness. And he closes his eyes and groans, and thrusts into me again. I cry out a second time, and he stills.
“More?” he whispers, his voice raw.
“Yes,” I breathe. He does it once more, and stills again.
I groan, my body accepting him... Oh, I want this.
“Again?” he breathes.
“Yes.” It's a plea.
And he moves, but this time he doesn't stop. He shifts onto his elbows so I can feel his weight on me, holding me down. He moves slowly at first, easing himself in and out of me. And as I grow accustomed to the alien feeling, my hips move tentatively to meet his. He speeds up. I moan, and he pounds on, picking up speed, merciless, a relentless rhythm, and I keep up, meeting his thrusts. He grasps my head between his hands and kisses me hard, his teeth pulling at my lower lip again. He shifts slightly, and I can feel something building deep inside me, like before. I start to stiffen as he thrusts on and on. My body quivers, bows; a sheen of sweat gathers over me. Oh my... I didn't know it would feel like this.. didn't know it could feel as good as this. My thoughts are scattering... there's only sensation... only him... only me... oh, please... I stiffen.
“Come for me, Ana,” he whispers breathlessly....
Seeing him come to his knees so quickly, and change everything about how he conducts himself and his many rules in the bedroom, and knowing that it's different because of her, leads to a really beautiful scene, and made me feel things for their story I didn't think I would given all of the hype and exposure of the book.
Along the same vein and one of my favorite reads of 2012, Temptation's Edge by Eden Bradley is an exquisite story of two fiercely independent individuals who are looking for an intense sexual relationship where their mutual interests can come together without explanation, apology, or attachment. Mischa is a tattoo artist, writer, and intelligent businesswoman, and Connor is a graphic artist, and these two characters are similar in ways that complement each other. We can see they're perfect for one other, but the journey is in getting them to believe that. Their BDSM scenes are raw and poetic, and even as they fight something deeper from happening between them, the romantic quality their loves scenes begin to take on gives Mischa and Connor away.
She stayed where she was on her stomach on the sofa, holding her upper body up, braced on her elbows. Her breasts brushed the suede surface, the upholstery soft on her engorged nipples. If only he would take a moment to touch them, pinch them...
But soon enough she was falling into that easy pattern of breath and stillness, giving herself over. Her head hummed, her eyes half-lidded in the fog-clouded light coming through the windows, invading her mind like a veil. Time passed, but she'd lost track. It didn't seem to matter.
“Mischa,” he said finally.
Suddenly he was behind her, his naked hips pressing against her still-sore buttocks, his arm wrapping around her waist, pulling her to her knees. Then he was parting her thighs with his knees, sliding the tip of his sheathed cock between her swollen pussy lips. She loved how he did this, took her by surprise. Started right in on her with no warning. It was too good.
“Going to fuck you, my girl.”
Romantic love scenes aren't really about flowery words, soft lighting, or a specific setting. They don't have to be slow or lengthy. It's about the connection between the hero and heroine, a relationship that has been carefully crafted to bring the romance to a certain point, where the love scenes become truly memorable.
Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.