The Hero In The Library

800px-Old_book_bindings
Susanna here.

Nearly a full decade ago, whilst puddling about on the internet when I should have been writing, I happened upon a lighthearted post by Lynne Connolly at the Historical and Regency Romance UK blog titled: “Create Your Own Regency Romance”, listing various scenarios and options for the would-be writer.

While some of the options were more inspired than others, I confess it was the fifth option for where the hero and heroine might first make love that I found most amusing:

“In his library where she has gone in the middle of the night, barefoot, in search of a book to read. He is already there in his shirtsleeves, drinking.”

Even while smiling, I couldn’t help wanting to read that scene. Heck, I suspected I’d written that scene. Maybe not in the Regency, but even so…

Because I have a weakness for heroes who read.

And heroes in libraries frequently find their way into my books.


It began with my first timeslip novel, Mariana, in which books and the lending and sharing of them became a point of connection between the hero and the heroine:

 

He pushed open a heavy, creaking door and led me into another passage, where the air was heavy with the glorious scent of leather. I had often dreamt of rooms filled with nothing but books, but I had never actually seen one, and so the first sight of Richard de Mornay’s library left me momentarily speechless.

‘These are all yours?’ I asked in wonder, my eyes raking row upon row of the handsomely bound volumes, and he laughed at the unbridled envy on my face.

‘Ay. One day I will build a larger room for them, but for now this must suffice. You may borrow whatever you like.’

 

In my later novel, The Winter Sea, a library again connected heroine and hero, this time when they were apart from one another:

 

Her appetite was small but still she ate, and after eating sought a warmly sunlit corner of the library, to pass the morning reading.

She could draw some sense of shared communion, sitting here where Moray had so often sought escape from his forced inactivity at Slains, and feeling in her hands the smooth expensive leather bindings of the books he had so loved to read.

And one book, out of all of them, could draw her to a stronger feeling of connection to him, as though Moray’s voice were speaking out the words. It was a newer volume, plainly bound, of Dryden’s King Arthur, or the British Worthy. The pages were so slightly used she doubted whether anyone but Moray and herself had read the lines, and she was only sure that he had read them because in the letter he had left her—in that simple letter, with its sentiments so strong and sure that every night, on reading them, they banished all her worries—he had quoted from this very work of Dryden’s, and the verse, writ in his own bold hand, stayed with her as though he himself had spoken it:

‘Where’e’er I go, my Soul shall stay with thee:
’Tis but my Shadow that I take away;’

She read it over now, and touched the book’s page with her fingers as though somehow that could bring him close.

 

Young Man Reading by Isidore Alexandre Augustin Pils

Young Man Reading, by Isidore Pils

Sometimes, it doesn’t even require a full library. In A Desperate Fortune, a room with one small bookcase in it was enough to make my heroine view the hero in a different light:

 

Mr. MacPherson appeared as content as a man of his nature could be with his solitude, because when Mary had taken Frisque briefly outdoors and come in again, passing the door to the drawing room on her way up to her chamber, she noticed the Scotsman had settled himself in the chair she’d abandoned, his pipe laid aside and a book in his hand.

He remained in that chair throughout most of the next day.

She found it distinctly unnerving, him sitting there reading. At first she had found it amusing to see he’d been reading the book she had set down herself when she’d started to listen to Thomson: Madame d’Aulnoy’s Hippolytus, with its sensational string of adventures, professions of love, and a hero who wore his emotion so openly when with the heroine that in the space of a few pages he’d gone from “bathing her cheeks with his tears” to embracing her, to—when their parting was imminent—throwing himself at her feet. Mary tried to imagine Mr. MacPherson throwing himself at any woman’s feet, and failed.

And yet, he seemed to find the novel passable enough, for when he’d finished it just after breakfast he had set it down where he had found it, risen briefly from his chair to search the bookshelf by the fireplace, and resumed his seat with Madame d’Aulnoy’s Travels into Spain, ignoring everything and everyone within the drawing room…

He looked less fearsome, reading. With his gaze turned downward it had not the piercing steadiness that hardened all his features; and his mouth, although still crooked and uneven at its corners, was not set into its stricter lines. He looked almost . . . approachable, she thought.

 

So I suppose I’ll always be in sympathy with heroines who wander into libraries in novels in the middle of the night. Because, even without the drink, there’s definitely something about heroes sitting in their shirtsleeves, reading.

 

What do you think? Do you have any favourite scenes—lovemaking or otherwise—that happen in libraries? Any favourite book-loving heroes?

 

55 thoughts on “The Hero In The Library”

  1. +++“In his library where she has gone in the middle of the night, barefoot, in search of a book to read. He is already there in his shirtsleeves, drinking.”++
    LOL! I’m with you, Susanna–I like that scene and have written versions of it myself. (Once the hero is the one discovering the heroine, though she hasn’t been drinking.) Of course readers and writers love libraries and think them sexy! What could be more natural?

    Reply
  2. +++“In his library where she has gone in the middle of the night, barefoot, in search of a book to read. He is already there in his shirtsleeves, drinking.”++
    LOL! I’m with you, Susanna–I like that scene and have written versions of it myself. (Once the hero is the one discovering the heroine, though she hasn’t been drinking.) Of course readers and writers love libraries and think them sexy! What could be more natural?

    Reply
  3. +++“In his library where she has gone in the middle of the night, barefoot, in search of a book to read. He is already there in his shirtsleeves, drinking.”++
    LOL! I’m with you, Susanna–I like that scene and have written versions of it myself. (Once the hero is the one discovering the heroine, though she hasn’t been drinking.) Of course readers and writers love libraries and think them sexy! What could be more natural?

    Reply
  4. +++“In his library where she has gone in the middle of the night, barefoot, in search of a book to read. He is already there in his shirtsleeves, drinking.”++
    LOL! I’m with you, Susanna–I like that scene and have written versions of it myself. (Once the hero is the one discovering the heroine, though she hasn’t been drinking.) Of course readers and writers love libraries and think them sexy! What could be more natural?

    Reply
  5. +++“In his library where she has gone in the middle of the night, barefoot, in search of a book to read. He is already there in his shirtsleeves, drinking.”++
    LOL! I’m with you, Susanna–I like that scene and have written versions of it myself. (Once the hero is the one discovering the heroine, though she hasn’t been drinking.) Of course readers and writers love libraries and think them sexy! What could be more natural?

    Reply
  6. Loving the Historical Romance genre as I do, I think I’ve read the “barefoot, middle of the night” scene many times. However, the first one that came to my mind was from a book by Mary Balogh (MORE THAN A MISTRESS), and I believe it was a music room rather than a library. Got my pulse going (smile). Great post Susanna.

    Reply
  7. Loving the Historical Romance genre as I do, I think I’ve read the “barefoot, middle of the night” scene many times. However, the first one that came to my mind was from a book by Mary Balogh (MORE THAN A MISTRESS), and I believe it was a music room rather than a library. Got my pulse going (smile). Great post Susanna.

    Reply
  8. Loving the Historical Romance genre as I do, I think I’ve read the “barefoot, middle of the night” scene many times. However, the first one that came to my mind was from a book by Mary Balogh (MORE THAN A MISTRESS), and I believe it was a music room rather than a library. Got my pulse going (smile). Great post Susanna.

    Reply
  9. Loving the Historical Romance genre as I do, I think I’ve read the “barefoot, middle of the night” scene many times. However, the first one that came to my mind was from a book by Mary Balogh (MORE THAN A MISTRESS), and I believe it was a music room rather than a library. Got my pulse going (smile). Great post Susanna.

    Reply
  10. Loving the Historical Romance genre as I do, I think I’ve read the “barefoot, middle of the night” scene many times. However, the first one that came to my mind was from a book by Mary Balogh (MORE THAN A MISTRESS), and I believe it was a music room rather than a library. Got my pulse going (smile). Great post Susanna.

    Reply
  11. As Mary Jo said, what (compulsive) reader doesn’t respond to a character’s enjoyment of reading.
    So specific scenes come directly to my mind (I think they just feel natural to me), but I know that I do enjoy them.
    After all, my husband and I merged libraries when we married and it too more than 10 years (and the advent ot the hard drive) before we were able to weed out the duplicates!
    A very interesting post indeed.

    Reply
  12. As Mary Jo said, what (compulsive) reader doesn’t respond to a character’s enjoyment of reading.
    So specific scenes come directly to my mind (I think they just feel natural to me), but I know that I do enjoy them.
    After all, my husband and I merged libraries when we married and it too more than 10 years (and the advent ot the hard drive) before we were able to weed out the duplicates!
    A very interesting post indeed.

    Reply
  13. As Mary Jo said, what (compulsive) reader doesn’t respond to a character’s enjoyment of reading.
    So specific scenes come directly to my mind (I think they just feel natural to me), but I know that I do enjoy them.
    After all, my husband and I merged libraries when we married and it too more than 10 years (and the advent ot the hard drive) before we were able to weed out the duplicates!
    A very interesting post indeed.

    Reply
  14. As Mary Jo said, what (compulsive) reader doesn’t respond to a character’s enjoyment of reading.
    So specific scenes come directly to my mind (I think they just feel natural to me), but I know that I do enjoy them.
    After all, my husband and I merged libraries when we married and it too more than 10 years (and the advent ot the hard drive) before we were able to weed out the duplicates!
    A very interesting post indeed.

    Reply
  15. As Mary Jo said, what (compulsive) reader doesn’t respond to a character’s enjoyment of reading.
    So specific scenes come directly to my mind (I think they just feel natural to me), but I know that I do enjoy them.
    After all, my husband and I merged libraries when we married and it too more than 10 years (and the advent ot the hard drive) before we were able to weed out the duplicates!
    A very interesting post indeed.

    Reply
  16. Caught sneaking into the library immediately brought to my mind Maisy Dobbs. She’s young, so romance has to wait, but charming nonetheless.

    Reply
  17. Caught sneaking into the library immediately brought to my mind Maisy Dobbs. She’s young, so romance has to wait, but charming nonetheless.

    Reply
  18. Caught sneaking into the library immediately brought to my mind Maisy Dobbs. She’s young, so romance has to wait, but charming nonetheless.

    Reply
  19. Caught sneaking into the library immediately brought to my mind Maisy Dobbs. She’s young, so romance has to wait, but charming nonetheless.

    Reply
  20. Caught sneaking into the library immediately brought to my mind Maisy Dobbs. She’s young, so romance has to wait, but charming nonetheless.

    Reply
  21. I adore libraries and men that read. I love my husband, but he equates reading with tooth extraction. Shocking that I married him huh? LOL 😉 I can spend hours and hours in libraries and reading. I love the scene “trope” that you mentioned. Quite the favorite!

    Reply
  22. I adore libraries and men that read. I love my husband, but he equates reading with tooth extraction. Shocking that I married him huh? LOL 😉 I can spend hours and hours in libraries and reading. I love the scene “trope” that you mentioned. Quite the favorite!

    Reply
  23. I adore libraries and men that read. I love my husband, but he equates reading with tooth extraction. Shocking that I married him huh? LOL 😉 I can spend hours and hours in libraries and reading. I love the scene “trope” that you mentioned. Quite the favorite!

    Reply
  24. I adore libraries and men that read. I love my husband, but he equates reading with tooth extraction. Shocking that I married him huh? LOL 😉 I can spend hours and hours in libraries and reading. I love the scene “trope” that you mentioned. Quite the favorite!

    Reply
  25. I adore libraries and men that read. I love my husband, but he equates reading with tooth extraction. Shocking that I married him huh? LOL 😉 I can spend hours and hours in libraries and reading. I love the scene “trope” that you mentioned. Quite the favorite!

    Reply
  26. This is always a wonderful scene for me. A male who actually reads and understands books is admirable. His appreciation for the written word is a very sexy characteristic. I like brains.

    Reply
  27. This is always a wonderful scene for me. A male who actually reads and understands books is admirable. His appreciation for the written word is a very sexy characteristic. I like brains.

    Reply
  28. This is always a wonderful scene for me. A male who actually reads and understands books is admirable. His appreciation for the written word is a very sexy characteristic. I like brains.

    Reply
  29. This is always a wonderful scene for me. A male who actually reads and understands books is admirable. His appreciation for the written word is a very sexy characteristic. I like brains.

    Reply
  30. This is always a wonderful scene for me. A male who actually reads and understands books is admirable. His appreciation for the written word is a very sexy characteristic. I like brains.

    Reply
  31. Ha! I’ve read similar scenes so often they all blur together because I tend to forget details after a short time. Makes rereading soooo pleasurable. You can’t go barefooted in the middle of the night but it makes me think of the many book shop (sneaking behind the rows of bookcases) scenes I’ve read too. I never get tired of the library late at night…drinking and bare feet not required. And now I must go attack that TBR pile where I have the above mentioned books yet to read…but those darn rereads keep calling my name.

    Reply
  32. Ha! I’ve read similar scenes so often they all blur together because I tend to forget details after a short time. Makes rereading soooo pleasurable. You can’t go barefooted in the middle of the night but it makes me think of the many book shop (sneaking behind the rows of bookcases) scenes I’ve read too. I never get tired of the library late at night…drinking and bare feet not required. And now I must go attack that TBR pile where I have the above mentioned books yet to read…but those darn rereads keep calling my name.

    Reply
  33. Ha! I’ve read similar scenes so often they all blur together because I tend to forget details after a short time. Makes rereading soooo pleasurable. You can’t go barefooted in the middle of the night but it makes me think of the many book shop (sneaking behind the rows of bookcases) scenes I’ve read too. I never get tired of the library late at night…drinking and bare feet not required. And now I must go attack that TBR pile where I have the above mentioned books yet to read…but those darn rereads keep calling my name.

    Reply
  34. Ha! I’ve read similar scenes so often they all blur together because I tend to forget details after a short time. Makes rereading soooo pleasurable. You can’t go barefooted in the middle of the night but it makes me think of the many book shop (sneaking behind the rows of bookcases) scenes I’ve read too. I never get tired of the library late at night…drinking and bare feet not required. And now I must go attack that TBR pile where I have the above mentioned books yet to read…but those darn rereads keep calling my name.

    Reply
  35. Ha! I’ve read similar scenes so often they all blur together because I tend to forget details after a short time. Makes rereading soooo pleasurable. You can’t go barefooted in the middle of the night but it makes me think of the many book shop (sneaking behind the rows of bookcases) scenes I’ve read too. I never get tired of the library late at night…drinking and bare feet not required. And now I must go attack that TBR pile where I have the above mentioned books yet to read…but those darn rereads keep calling my name.

    Reply
  36. I’ve read I don’t know how many versions of that scene over the years — some credible, some not so much 🙂 I’ve made fun of it with friends many times. We speculate on many things, such as why does a woman get an overwhelming urge to read in the middle of the night; don’t any of them have slippers? and is it true that men have to be fully loaded on brandy to Do It?
    They’re fun scenes and I don’t believe a one of them 🙂

    Reply
  37. I’ve read I don’t know how many versions of that scene over the years — some credible, some not so much 🙂 I’ve made fun of it with friends many times. We speculate on many things, such as why does a woman get an overwhelming urge to read in the middle of the night; don’t any of them have slippers? and is it true that men have to be fully loaded on brandy to Do It?
    They’re fun scenes and I don’t believe a one of them 🙂

    Reply
  38. I’ve read I don’t know how many versions of that scene over the years — some credible, some not so much 🙂 I’ve made fun of it with friends many times. We speculate on many things, such as why does a woman get an overwhelming urge to read in the middle of the night; don’t any of them have slippers? and is it true that men have to be fully loaded on brandy to Do It?
    They’re fun scenes and I don’t believe a one of them 🙂

    Reply
  39. I’ve read I don’t know how many versions of that scene over the years — some credible, some not so much 🙂 I’ve made fun of it with friends many times. We speculate on many things, such as why does a woman get an overwhelming urge to read in the middle of the night; don’t any of them have slippers? and is it true that men have to be fully loaded on brandy to Do It?
    They’re fun scenes and I don’t believe a one of them 🙂

    Reply
  40. I’ve read I don’t know how many versions of that scene over the years — some credible, some not so much 🙂 I’ve made fun of it with friends many times. We speculate on many things, such as why does a woman get an overwhelming urge to read in the middle of the night; don’t any of them have slippers? and is it true that men have to be fully loaded on brandy to Do It?
    They’re fun scenes and I don’t believe a one of them 🙂

    Reply
  41. Reading aloud was a very important skill in the Regency. A new book was a communal treat, to be read and enjoyed together over several evenings in much the same way as a television or radio serial later. Scenes where someone reads aloud can present the person who reads in a new light, generate a new intimacy between two characters or give rise to general discussions that progress the plot.

    Reply
  42. Reading aloud was a very important skill in the Regency. A new book was a communal treat, to be read and enjoyed together over several evenings in much the same way as a television or radio serial later. Scenes where someone reads aloud can present the person who reads in a new light, generate a new intimacy between two characters or give rise to general discussions that progress the plot.

    Reply
  43. Reading aloud was a very important skill in the Regency. A new book was a communal treat, to be read and enjoyed together over several evenings in much the same way as a television or radio serial later. Scenes where someone reads aloud can present the person who reads in a new light, generate a new intimacy between two characters or give rise to general discussions that progress the plot.

    Reply
  44. Reading aloud was a very important skill in the Regency. A new book was a communal treat, to be read and enjoyed together over several evenings in much the same way as a television or radio serial later. Scenes where someone reads aloud can present the person who reads in a new light, generate a new intimacy between two characters or give rise to general discussions that progress the plot.

    Reply
  45. Reading aloud was a very important skill in the Regency. A new book was a communal treat, to be read and enjoyed together over several evenings in much the same way as a television or radio serial later. Scenes where someone reads aloud can present the person who reads in a new light, generate a new intimacy between two characters or give rise to general discussions that progress the plot.

    Reply

Leave a Comment