Jun 1 2011 4:30pm

Fancy Meeting You Here: Historical Meet Cutes

Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack in SerendipityIt’s not just contemporary heroes and heroines that get to “meet-cute.” The historical folks have had centuries to perfect this type of encounter. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite cute meets from days of yore:

Emily and the Dark Angel by Jo Beverley: Emily Grantwich is minding her business in town when she collides with a handsome man, Piers Verderan, barreling out of a nearby doorway. His former mistress is not taking the news of her dismissal very well. In fact, she’s lobbing things at him from the upstairs window.

The man began to turn, his hands still on Emily’s arms. The woman reached behind her and threw. A beribboned oval box sailed through the air to knock his hat flying. The box burst open and a pungent cloud of violet-scented powder billowed out over both of them. The woman shrieked with laughter.

The man choked and let Emily go. He stooped, ripped up a tall weed complete with muddy roots and hurled it with deadly accuracy at his attacker. She was still laughing as it hit. She stopped and opened her mouth to start another blistering tirade but after an alarmed look at the gentleman she shut her mouth, retreated and slammed the window shut.

Stunned, coughing and waving away the pungent powder, Emily still had to admire such ability to silence a harridan. When the man turned back to her his face was smoothly expressionless. He coughed again, brushed a volume of powder out of his dark curls, grimaced slightly, shook himself and then turned his attention to Emily.

Duchess by Night by Eloisa JamesDuchess by Night by Eloisa James:  Harriet, Duchess of Berrow, wants to throw off her stultifying life, especially after a year of mourning her husband’s death, so her friends convince her she should attend a soiree at the home of the wickedly notorious Lord Strange. She goes, but with a new identity: she is now a male named Mr. Cope.

When Jem, Lord Strange first sets eyes on Mr. Cope, he thinks, “There was only one word for Mr. Cope: adorable.” Jem isn’t a man who is surprised by much, “[b]ut he was surprised now. Surprised by a little surge of interest in himself—shamefully—for Mr. Cope. For a stripling with big eyes and not even a sign of a beard. For a male. For God’s sake, Jem thought with disgust. If this is getting old, I want nothing to do with it.”

Mad About the Duke by Elizabeth Boyle: This cute meet is a perfect storm of events, including mistaken identities, and domestic crises, and falling instantly in love. Elinor Standing sees a handsome visitor in the foyer of her house, “the most handsome man she had ever clapped her eyes on. Surely a man so sinfully endowed couldn’t be a gentleman.”

She believes he is the solicitor sent over to help with some guardianship issues, but before he can correct her misconception, she enlists him to help deliver some puppies. Even worse, before he leaves, she hires him to help her find a husband, preferably a duke, so she can rescue her sister from their stepfather’s control. Her newly hired matchmaker is flabbergasted, and with good reason: he is actually James Tremont, the Duke of Parkerton.

My Pleasure by Connie BrockwayMy Pleasure by Connie Brockway: Helena Nash is dressed as a young man, in order to attend a masquerade where she is acting as a courier for a pair of lovers. She is accosted by some young ne’er-do-wells, but rescued in the nick of time by Ramsey Munro. After he dispatches the troublemakers, he kisses Helena. She tries to explain that she is “not that kind of woman,” and he replies:

“I am in awe of your skill. I had heard there were clubs in the east end where gentlemen such as yourself practiced amazing transformations from one gender to another but I never—”

“I am not a gentleman!”

“One would never know that either,” he said consolingly. “Perhaps you are not by birth but in speech and manner you are the equal of any peer,” he frowned, “or peeress of my acquaint—”

“In no way whatsoever am I a man!” she declared, aghast. “I am entirely female. I am just not that sort of woman!”

“Oh?” He tipped his head, studying her form and face with every evidence of doubt. And Helena, her femininity for the first time in her life being suspect, could not refrain from puffing her chest out and tilting her chin to an angle which would display to advantage the long, graceful neck many, many men had declared flawless.

“Well?” she demanded haughtily.

His sudden smile declared his delight but she had the sudden suspicion that he’d been teasing her all along. “I believe you. You are female. Which is excellent as I confess I was concerned for my powers of discrimination. Not to mention my hopes for future heirs.”

She should have been insulted. Mortified. At the very least, shocked. Instead, she laughed.

From cross-dressing to cross ex-mistresses, those are just a few of my favorite historical “meet-cutes." Tell me some of your faves. I’m always looking for more to add to the TBR pile.


Donna Cummings writes lighthearted contemporary and historical romance. She can be found at, or talking incessantly about coffee on Twitter @BookEmDonna.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Great post! I always look forward to the first meeting. Also, I need to get my hands on Duchess by Night ASAP.
Louise Partain
2. Louise321
@redline -- You will not be disappointed!

I wish I could find My Pleasure!
3. Janga
I think Emily and the Dark Angel would top my list too. I love that book. Does the meeting of eyes as the heroine is spying on the hero because of the rumor that he killed his wife count? If so, I'd definitely add Julia Quinn's What Happens in London to the list. Another favorite is Benedict Carsington and Bathsheba Wingate's meeting via Olivia and Peregrine in Loretta Chase's Lord Perfect.
Louise Partain
4. Louise321
@Janga -- Definitely a good one! Actually I like almost all of the Carsington Brothers series for meetings -- particularly Mr. Impossible. I always thought one of the screenwriters of The Mummy must have read it before they did the prison meeting, but maybe great minds and all that.
Donna Cummings
5. Donna Cummings
@Redline -- Duchess by Night was actually the first Eloisa James book I read, and I was utterly charmed, and became an instant fan. @Louise321 -- Is My Pleasure out of print? If so, I'm really glad I have a copy. *clutches it tightly* I feel a re-read coming on. :) @Janga -- Thanks for the recommendations. And I'm happy to add a meeting via spying to the list. :) I read Olivia and Peregrine's story as adults (Last Night's Scandal), but I still have Lord Perfect to look forward to.
6. EvangelineHolland
I love, love, love the opening scene in Emily and the Dark Angel. I will forever associate violet powder with the book.
Janet Webb
7. JanetW
My most memorable Jo Beverley opening scene -- or more the meet "not so cute" -- is when Cyn is held up by Chastity (My Lady Notorious). It's a sad, moving book, in many ways, set in the Georgian time period but Cyn always enlivens the mood.

How about The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer -- golden haired stripling Pen sliding into the arms of fairly inebriated Richard.
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