Dina Belenko Photography/Getty Images
Dina Belenko Photography/Getty Images
It is a truth universally acknowledged that no one is more of an expert in love than romance authors. Whether it's a dream date, the most seductive way to show affection or the most dramatic way to declare your feelings, romance novelists know how to set the scene for a truly authentic and emotional moment to make us all swoon. So in honor of Valentine's Day, I asked some of my fellow authors to share the scenes that defined romance for them. The best part: There's nothing here you can't try at home.
Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author.
Better at Weddings Than You
The romance of a simple back rub
There's a scene in Mina Esguerra's Better at Weddings Than You where the hero gives the heroine a back rub. Back rubs are typically romantic, but what makes this one amazing is that Daphne, the wedding-planner heroine, has just saved a ceremony from disaster, and she's exhausted. Aaron, the hero, asks what he can do to help, and when she says she needs a back rub, he gives her exactly what she asks for. He thinks about all the ways that she has worked herself that day, and what he can do to make it better — and he does that and nothing more. It's beautiful because he's laser-focused on her and her needs.
— Courtney Milan, author of Hold Me
The romance of emojis (really)
One of my favorite romantic moments is from Courtney Milan's contemporary romance, Hold Me. The romance itself is an amazingly crafted story: Chemistry professor Jay and apocalypse blogger Maria meet and instantly (and believably) dislike each other. Jay is being a jerk, and Maria has a very low jerk tolerance. But Jay and Maria have online personas, Actual Physicist and Em, and those personas chat constantly and like each other very much — maybe too much for either of them to handle. After Jay and Maria, as their online selves, open up to one another about past trauma, Jay responds to Maria with emojis of things he has learned she loves over the course of their online relationship:
"I send her an emoji string: a heart, a bowl of soup, and heels.
Sorry, I append. Bad at words.
No, she types. I'm pretty sure that's emoji for 'hold me.'"
There is something super romantic about two people trying to figure out themselves and each other, and Jay figuring out the exact right thing to say in that moment, even if he doesn't have the words. Technology and text messaging are often seen as cold and divisive, pulling people away from "real" interactions, but this is such a tender and revelatory moment for these characters — and one that couldn't have taken place face to face for them.
— Alyssa Cole, author of A Princess in Theory
The Year We Fell Down
The romance of ice hockey (and other perfectly personal dates)
I recommend a scene from The Year We Fell Down, by Sarina Bowen. The heroine, Corey, is a star hockey player before she injures her spine and is left in a wheelchair. The hero, Adam, is STILL a star hockey player with his sights on the NHL. Corey will never skate again, but there's a scene where Adam engineers a way to take her back onto the ice. They laugh, they act crazy, they play a little makeshift hockey, and it means more to Corey than anything else. Your heart will heave and sigh with love.
— Caroline Linden, author of My Once and Future Duke
That romantic thing both fictional and real life heroes do
I love the scene in Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins when the hero, Rhine Fontaine, brings trays of food to the sick, recovering-from-a-near-death experience Eddy Carmichael. She's a stranger to Rhine, but there he's caring enough to bring breakfast prepared by the best cook in town, a New York hotel-trained chef, to the wan and weak woman in bed. To me that's very romantic, maybe more so as I get over my horrible head cold, waiting for dear hubby to bring my tray.
— Vanessa Riley, author of The Bittersweet Bride
The Remaking of Corbin Wale
The romance of cuddling up in cold weather
In The Remaking of Corbin Wale, by Roan Parrish, I struggled to pick one scene that I found most romantic. She tends to ground the reader in the environment with descriptions that activate all your senses, while also creating magical scenes that make you want to be there.
Ultimately, I went with a moment where Alex and Corbin wake up, curled together on a snowy morning. It's low on heat but full of the kind of affection people often want in their relationships. The fact that the romance is between Alex, a former jock turned baker, and Corbin, the town outcast and loner, makes it all the better. They're two very different people who are trying to figure out how to have a relationship, and this scene is the start of that important conversation. It helps that they do it while snuggled together in bed on a snowy day.
— Santino Hassell, author of Down by Contact
The Bookshop on the Corner
The romance of just declaring your feelings
I love the scene in The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan when Nina Redmond, a literary matchmaker who sells books from her travelling van in the Highlands, Scotland, finally declares her love to her sexy (but slightly tortured) neighbor, Lennox. Happily, he loves her, too.
— Bella Andre, author of the Sullivans series