Sep 4 2011 11:00am

Poignant (Non-Romantic) Moments in Romance: Nora Roberts, Eloisa James, Susan Wiggs, and more!

Snowfall at Willow Lake by Susan WiggsUsually 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.”

Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh5. 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.”

Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts3. 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.”

An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley1. 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

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1. jsmom2
The scene in 'Rising Tides' where Ethan Quinn takes off into the woods chasing after Seth, who has just discovered he and Grace were together (as in together, together). The conversation they have brings me to tears every time I read it and it reminds me why Ethan Quinn is one of my favorite heroes ever.
2. grettel
I just love the dialogues between Uncle and nephew in Lorraine Heath's Waking up the duke, especially the one about the dog.
3. Janga
Jsmom2, Ethan is a wonderful hero, and the scene with him and Seth is memorable. I also love the principal's office scene in Sea Swept with all the Quinns standing up for Seth.
4. Janga
Grettel, I read and enjoyed Heath's Waking Up with the Duke, but I don't remember that scene. What made it so unforgettable for you?
5. Santa
Janga, I've adored every single scene you've written about. The revelation of the concealed depths of Wulf's grief upon hearing about one sibling's death and his return. Only the reader and one other character is privy to it. Gripping.
6. Janga
San, that is a powerful scene, as is Wulf's reaction to Alleyne's return. It's obvious that there are many Wulf fans. I'm always happy to catch glimpses of him and Christine in the Simply books.
Elizabeth Halliday
7. Ibbitts
Zsadist singing at Wrath and Beth's wedding in "Dark Lover" by J. R. Ward.
8. jsmom2
yep, Janga, you're right... that's an awesome scene also :) Those Quinn men are something.
9. grettel
I love all the dialogues. I think they are serious but full of love, this one is my favorite:
The kid says to his uncle that he need a dog for his nephews to play while they're at his house. The duke asked him to bring theirs but the kid said that dog would make a mess in the coach and his mother will not be happy
"...Father says we must always make Mother happy.”
Ainsley grinned. “Your father is quite right. It is your job to keep your mother happy...."
(Because that is what my husband says to our kids when he thinks I am getting angry)
Louise Partain
10. Louise321
I loved the scenes that you chose, Janga, especially the Wulfric scene. I also love the scene (a happy one) where Christine waves at the children at the wedding and Wulfric, because he is there, waves too. Presages the changes in his future with Christine.

I've been re-reading MJP's Rogue series (although I couldn't start it out properly since I can't find a paper copy of Thunder and Roses) and I love the scenes of misunderstanding between Lord Robin Andreville and his brother, the Marquess of Wolverton in Angel Rogue, culminating one evening in a balcony exchange in which the Marquess tells Robin what happened when their mother died at Robin's birth. Giles, the Marquess was 5 when their mother died. Robin intimated that Giles must have blamed Robin for the death of his beloved mother just as their father did.
Giles' reply was long but I loved this part of it.

"You were several weeks early and not expected to live. After she died, Father locked himself away and wouldn'te speak to anyone. . . . I heard one of the maids say that you would die without a wet nurse, so I rode my pony into the village. ... I . . . practically dragged her back to Wolverhampton. I insisted that your crib be put in my room, so I could listen during the night and be sure you were still breathing."

I loved the insight into a 5 year old raised from birth to the responsibilities of his station caring for his brother in such a way.
11. angel-gidget
In "Lover Eternal" of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, when John Matthew has his first dinner with his new foster family. He has spent all his life thinking something was terribly wrong with him, ashamed of his body, and the fact that he can't seem to eat like a normal human, and Welssie prepares a simple bowl of rice and sauce, perfectly tailored for his pre-transition stomach.

There's actually a lot of great friends-and-family moments in that series, but that's the first scene that comes to mind.
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