Since I have read nearly every novel Nora Roberts has written, I had an enormous sigh of lovers to consider in selecting a top five. I could have chosen a top twenty more easily. But after due consideration, these five are the couples that I love most together. They are not necessarily the heroes I consider most swoon-worthy or the heroines I most admire or the books at the top of my keeper list but rather those whose HEAs I believe in most wholeheartedly.
5. Caroline Waverly and Tucker Longstreet, Carnal Innocence (1991)
Burned out concert violinist Caroline, a Yankee who retreats to the small-town South after a breakdown, and wealthy, laidback Southern charmer Tucker, who is practically legendary for his allergy to commitment, are no one’s idea of a perfect match. Tucker, a connoisseur of beautiful women, finds Caro captivating from the beginning, but she is unimpressed with him until she becomes aware of the substance beneath the good-old-boy façade. Caroline is hungry for connection and for love based on who she is rather than on her talent, and Tucker has a great capacity for love as evidenced by his devotion to his messed up family and his anonymous acts of charity. Both characters are more than the sum of their parts, and at heart, they are more alike than different.
4. Zoe McCourt and Bradley Vane, Key of Valor (2004), Key Trilogy #3
Cautious Zoe has two good reasons for distrusting Brad—a handsome, privileged Mr. Perfect. She has been badly burned by a younger version of him in the past, and she has a young son to consider. But Brad has a core of integrity and a great respect for Zoe and what she has accomplished, both qualities that the father of her son lacked, and he develops a bond with Zoe’s son that is separate from his feelings for Zoe. The relationship between Zoe and Brad grows convincingly over the course of the trilogy. The joy of watching it is what put the Key trilogy on my keeper shelves.
3. Brenna O’Toole and Shawn Gallagher, Tears of the Moon (2000), Gallaghers of Ardmore #2
Brenna, his sister’s best friend, has been part of Shawn’s life forever, but absorbed in his music and his responsibilities at the family pub, Shawn is oblivious to Brenna’s love for him. What makes this pairing different from hundreds of others similar to it is that Brenna is equally oblivious. She knows the sight of Shawn fills her with lust, but she is pragmatic rather than romantic and is convinced that once they become lovers and desire is quenched, they can return to being friends. The scene where Brenna propositions Shawn is one of Roberts’s best. I’d love the book and these two for that one scene. The reader realizes long before Brenna and Shawn do that the outspoken Brenna is exactly what Shawn, a dreamer rather than a doer, needs and that he adds some needed poetry to her prosaic life.
2. Mackensie “Mac” Elliot and Carter Maguire, Vision in White (2009), Bride Quartet #1
Carter had a crush on Mac in high school, but she was unaware of him. She doesn’t even remember him when they meet again. Mac is gorgeous, poised, and confident in her role as photographer in Vows, the wedding planning business she owns with three of her life-long friends. Carter may no longer look like the nerd he used to be, but he is still a shy scholar more comfortable quoting Shakespeare that offering flirtatious compliments. Mac is the only child of self-absorbed, neglectful parents who divorced when she was four; Carter belongs to a large, loving family. Carter falls for Mac quickly and completely. Mac is too terrified by love to think in terms of forever. Can this match possibly work? I love a beta hero, and Carter—awkward and endearing, sweet and persistent—is one of the best. Mac has the intelligence and perception to appreciate him, and no matter how often I read their story, I love watching her find the courage to return his love without reservations.
1. Anna Whitfield and Daniel MacGregor, For Now, Forever (1987), MacGregors # 5
Readers know Daniel MacGregor best as the family patriarch of the MacGregor clan who refuses to stop his meddling and matchmaking until all of his children, and later his grandchildren, are paired with the person with whom they will find the kind of happiness Daniel has found with his Anna. In this fifth book in the series, Roberts gives her readers a look back at the courtship story of this couple who have been happily married for nearly four decades.
Young Daniel was an Irish immigrant, a self-made man who was proud of his success and determined to expand it, when he met Anna Whitfield, cherished daughter of a blue-blooded family. Daniel is looking for a conventional wife who will be a poised hostess, bear healthy babies, and take her vow to obey seriously. But from the moment he sees her, he can’t think of any woman but Anna. She may have the social connections he is looking for, but there is little conventional about Anna, who is strong and independent and unswervingly focused on becoming a surgeon at a time when women rarely achieved such a position. Anna loves the brash, arrogant, large-hearted Daniel who is completely different from the other men she knows, but she will not surrender her dream even for the man who has claimed her heart. Daniel almost loses Anna before he learns that respect and freedom are essential parts of the kind of love that fulfills the promise of an HEA.
To find out more about each book mentioned:
|Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts|
|Key of Valor by Nora Roberts|
|Tears of the Moon by Nora Roberts|
|Vision in White by Nora Roberts|
|For Now, Forever by Nora Roberts|
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.