What is this thing called love?

Cat_243_dover By Mary Jo

I once read an article that asked how many of your friends’ husbands you could imagine yourself with.  It was an interesting question, because I realized the answer is “practically none.”  Don’t get me wrong—my friends have great husbands, men who I enjoy and respect and value.  But can I imagine myself with them?  Mostly, no.  And I’m sure the reverse is also true—they might like me, but see me as a mate?  Not hardly.

So what is love?  What is going to make one man the person we want to spend our lives with?  What combination of personality, physical appeal, and position in life is going to make a potential mate irresistible?  (Note: Though I’m aiming this toward females, of course the pronouns can all be changed.) 

As mature adults, we tend to have a good idea of what works for us or what doesn’t, whether it’s clothing choices or potential partners.  When we’re young, things aren’t so clear.  A chicklit novel that I particularly enjoyed played with this as the heroine meets a variety of eligible men, and each one is at least briefly considered.  Is this The One? 

By the end of the book, the heroine has found her keeper, but in the course of the story, she meets a variety of possible mates.  Pairing off with any one of them would take her along a different path. 

When we’re young, life is full of possibilities.  Just choosing a college can take you in unknown directions.  I chose my university because everyone in the family went Syracuseuniversitystairwaytohl there (and they offered a full tuition scholarship.)  I didn’t know that in my junior year, I’d discover industrial design, change my major from English, and end up becoming a professionala designer.  Few colleges have industrial design programs, so going somewhere else would have changed my career path for sure. (I still might hand ended up a writer, but many, many other things, including my romantic life, would have been different.) 

Which college you  go to makes a huge difference romantically because you’re meeting a whole different pool of potential partners.  Go to State and maybe you’llWoods_hole_lab  meet and marry a clever, banjo playing biology grad student and spend your summers at the laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. (This is not a bad direction. <g>)

Go to a small religious run school and maybe you’ll end up a minister, or a minister’s Church wife, and spend a life oriented to spirit and service.  (And have whole congregations judging your housekeeping and your childrearing.)  Go to law school, and you may collect a lawyer as well as a law degree.  (This can mean a great house in a great neighborhood, but also some fiercely analytical arguments for the rest of your days!) 

In early adulthood, the mating instinct is tremendously strong and absorbs huge amounts of time and mental energy.  The hunt may manifest as going to bars and Wedding_ring trolling for sex, or trying to sit next to that cute bearded guy in Victorian lit, or endlessly analyzing a boyfriend’s potential while knitting late at night with one’s girlfriends.  The search for a lasting mate is one of the enduring aspects of life, and fiction.   

I mustn’t forget the pheromones, those hormones that ring our chimes.  There are some people who really appeal, and a lot more who don’t.  I think back to college, Holding_hands when the mating hunt was at its height,  There were so many unrequited passions where one person wanted another who didn’t want them as much (or at all) that it amazes me that any two people ever manage to get married. <G> 

Of course, historically marriage was a clearly defined social contract designed for the survival of one’s self and progeny.  I once read of a late Victorian working class woman who said that she had a good marriage because “’e give me ‘is paycheck every week and ‘e don’t beat me.”  And he’d probably say he had a good wife because she fed him well, raised their kids, and maintained a comfortable household.  The criteria were clearer in those days!

Now we want it all—a partner who is sexy, affectionate, a great companion, loyal and Chihuahua_bride_groom300 reliable, and a reasonably good provider.  No wonder the divorce rate is high! 

This may all seem a wee bit digressive <g>, but it’s leading me toward the heart of the romance genre: writing characters who seem utterly right for each other.  I don’t find books where the romance is purely hormonal to be terribly satisfying.  It’s all very well to see someone across a crowded room and think, “That woman there.  I must have her!”

This can happen in real life in real life, of course.  It even happened to me once—a man did indeed see me across a crowded room and decide he had to meet me.  The subsequent relationship was brief, but it was fun while it lasted, and it’s nice to know that at least once, a man reacted to my rather average appearance that way. <G>

In the romance genre, pheromones are very important, producing many stunned meetings where someone, usually the hero, is entranced by his first sight of the heroine.  This is great fun to read, and female readers like to feel that feminine power of being able to generate fierce attraction in a man.  But four hundred pages of  “He/she is so hot!  I gotta jump his/her bones RIGHT NOW” is limited, to say the least. 

Venetia_sml Attraction is just the beginning of the romance.  Next comes the hard part.  How do these people talk to each other?  Even though they might seem very different, are they on the same verbal wavelength?  Do they share a sense of humor?  (Kissing might not last, but laughter can.)  Humor is essential in Georgette Heyer romances—look at Venetia, Black Sheep, Faro’s Daughter, just for starters.  ( http://georgetteheyer.com/ )  In all of those stories, humor (or rather, humour <g>) is the unexpected bridge that connects to disparate people who on the face of it aren’t at all right for each other. 

Beyond humor, what about this hero is unique and utterly captivating?  What Pride_and_prejudice distinguishes him from every other tall, dark, cranky duke?  What about this heroine makes her stand out from all the other feisty maidens with kissable lips and heaving bodices? (That’s Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy to the right, in case you haven’t seen this version of Pride and Prejudice.  I love the tenderness of that image.)   

I could pick up books by any of the Wenches and show passages where true love is demonstrated beyond all doubt.  (That’s why we’re all romance writers, after all. <g>)  In my book Uncommon Vows, which I think of as my ‘subversion of the captivity  fantasy’, it becomes clear that the obsessive, possessive hero truly loves Uncommon_vowsoriginal the heroine when he allows her to leave him because he recognizes that if she won’t stay of her own free will, she’ll never truly be his. 

I remember a romance where the heroine was a mining engineer, and the hero loves her blunt nails and work hardened hands because they illustrate the kind of smart, competent woman she is.  Or Jennifer Crusie’s delightful Bet Me, where the hero loves to eat and encourages the heroine to enjoy food rather than try to force herself to be skinnier than nature intended.  Betme ( http://www.jennycrusie.com/ )

It’s the particular that makes a romance memorable—the uniqueness of the characters, the specifics of their relationship.  What romances do you love because the characters seem so utterly right for each other?  What kinds of details make them seem in harmony, capable of bonding forever and beyond?  Or what makes you think they’ll split up ten minutes after the book ends?!  I’d love to know!

Dscn0899_2 Mary Jo, showing two lovers from the San Diego zoo.  (If you have a moment, click on the image to enlarge it.  They’re really sweet.)

60 thoughts on “What is this thing called love?”

  1. I have a thing for people not just accepting the quirks or faults of their partner, but celebrating them. Finding that they are indispensable to the uniqueness of the person that they love. Loving what no one else ever could or would, THAT makes for perfect mates.

    Reply
  2. I have a thing for people not just accepting the quirks or faults of their partner, but celebrating them. Finding that they are indispensable to the uniqueness of the person that they love. Loving what no one else ever could or would, THAT makes for perfect mates.

    Reply
  3. I have a thing for people not just accepting the quirks or faults of their partner, but celebrating them. Finding that they are indispensable to the uniqueness of the person that they love. Loving what no one else ever could or would, THAT makes for perfect mates.

    Reply
  4. I have a thing for people not just accepting the quirks or faults of their partner, but celebrating them. Finding that they are indispensable to the uniqueness of the person that they love. Loving what no one else ever could or would, THAT makes for perfect mates.

    Reply
  5. Love is very odd, and the laws of attraction are even odder. My husband and I were set up, he was actually working in a store I was shopping in, and he was “sent over to check me out”. What attracted him? My short hair – he thought low maintenance would be nice. But I digress. What makes me think they’ll last – I think it goes beyond the physical attraction, and is mostly found in the enjoyment they find in each others presence – the jokes, the camaradarie, comfortablishness. I guess nothing that makes for a great story, unfortunately. Some I can never really accept – although right now I can’t think of one that comes to mind – probably i put down the book and just refused to read anymore of it.

    Reply
  6. Love is very odd, and the laws of attraction are even odder. My husband and I were set up, he was actually working in a store I was shopping in, and he was “sent over to check me out”. What attracted him? My short hair – he thought low maintenance would be nice. But I digress. What makes me think they’ll last – I think it goes beyond the physical attraction, and is mostly found in the enjoyment they find in each others presence – the jokes, the camaradarie, comfortablishness. I guess nothing that makes for a great story, unfortunately. Some I can never really accept – although right now I can’t think of one that comes to mind – probably i put down the book and just refused to read anymore of it.

    Reply
  7. Love is very odd, and the laws of attraction are even odder. My husband and I were set up, he was actually working in a store I was shopping in, and he was “sent over to check me out”. What attracted him? My short hair – he thought low maintenance would be nice. But I digress. What makes me think they’ll last – I think it goes beyond the physical attraction, and is mostly found in the enjoyment they find in each others presence – the jokes, the camaradarie, comfortablishness. I guess nothing that makes for a great story, unfortunately. Some I can never really accept – although right now I can’t think of one that comes to mind – probably i put down the book and just refused to read anymore of it.

    Reply
  8. Love is very odd, and the laws of attraction are even odder. My husband and I were set up, he was actually working in a store I was shopping in, and he was “sent over to check me out”. What attracted him? My short hair – he thought low maintenance would be nice. But I digress. What makes me think they’ll last – I think it goes beyond the physical attraction, and is mostly found in the enjoyment they find in each others presence – the jokes, the camaradarie, comfortablishness. I guess nothing that makes for a great story, unfortunately. Some I can never really accept – although right now I can’t think of one that comes to mind – probably i put down the book and just refused to read anymore of it.

    Reply
  9. Hi Mary Jo,
    By the nature of my profession I am often challenged to think deeply about issues of love, relationships, and meaning. Here are a couple of stray thoughts your marvelous post sparked for me.
    First, that we live in a time when we think of romantic love as a necessity and not a luxury in relationships. Historically that hasn’t been so–probably mostly because if you don’t have enough to eat, a roof over your head, or a way to make a secure living,you don’t have time to muse and ponder over romance–you’re too busy trying to survive, and those ephemeral romantic feelings aren’t nearly as important as other qualities more closely linked to survival.
    Second, I think life partners are most effectively chosen not with the heart alone but with the head as well. Sure, you’re in love, but can you live with your partner’s professional choices? (i.e., a doctor’s partner has to put up with a lot of absence and that constantly ringing cell phone; a minister’s spouse has to live with Never Having Sunday Off, etc.) Do you share the same values and goals for your life together? Does your prospective life partne have a philosophy of life that you can understand or at least live with? Do you like (or can you at least not hate) his/her family?
    Love is the flame that ignites the engine, but what is the fuel that will keep the engine running?
    As to your question about fictional couples, I do have one example–Laura Kinsale’s Duke of Jervaulx (sp?) and Quaker Maddy. I LOVED that novel, it was BEAUTIFULLY and masterfully written, and I think that they are one of the most compelling couples ever — deservedly called a “romance classic.” I will admit,though, that when I closed the book I did so with a sigh and thought, “That relationship will never work.” I guess I just thought they were from worlds too different for success over the long term. (someone disagree with me, please!)
    Once again I have veered off into sermon length, ouch. Thanks for letting me ramble and thanks for the fun topic.
    Melinda

    Reply
  10. Hi Mary Jo,
    By the nature of my profession I am often challenged to think deeply about issues of love, relationships, and meaning. Here are a couple of stray thoughts your marvelous post sparked for me.
    First, that we live in a time when we think of romantic love as a necessity and not a luxury in relationships. Historically that hasn’t been so–probably mostly because if you don’t have enough to eat, a roof over your head, or a way to make a secure living,you don’t have time to muse and ponder over romance–you’re too busy trying to survive, and those ephemeral romantic feelings aren’t nearly as important as other qualities more closely linked to survival.
    Second, I think life partners are most effectively chosen not with the heart alone but with the head as well. Sure, you’re in love, but can you live with your partner’s professional choices? (i.e., a doctor’s partner has to put up with a lot of absence and that constantly ringing cell phone; a minister’s spouse has to live with Never Having Sunday Off, etc.) Do you share the same values and goals for your life together? Does your prospective life partne have a philosophy of life that you can understand or at least live with? Do you like (or can you at least not hate) his/her family?
    Love is the flame that ignites the engine, but what is the fuel that will keep the engine running?
    As to your question about fictional couples, I do have one example–Laura Kinsale’s Duke of Jervaulx (sp?) and Quaker Maddy. I LOVED that novel, it was BEAUTIFULLY and masterfully written, and I think that they are one of the most compelling couples ever — deservedly called a “romance classic.” I will admit,though, that when I closed the book I did so with a sigh and thought, “That relationship will never work.” I guess I just thought they were from worlds too different for success over the long term. (someone disagree with me, please!)
    Once again I have veered off into sermon length, ouch. Thanks for letting me ramble and thanks for the fun topic.
    Melinda

    Reply
  11. Hi Mary Jo,
    By the nature of my profession I am often challenged to think deeply about issues of love, relationships, and meaning. Here are a couple of stray thoughts your marvelous post sparked for me.
    First, that we live in a time when we think of romantic love as a necessity and not a luxury in relationships. Historically that hasn’t been so–probably mostly because if you don’t have enough to eat, a roof over your head, or a way to make a secure living,you don’t have time to muse and ponder over romance–you’re too busy trying to survive, and those ephemeral romantic feelings aren’t nearly as important as other qualities more closely linked to survival.
    Second, I think life partners are most effectively chosen not with the heart alone but with the head as well. Sure, you’re in love, but can you live with your partner’s professional choices? (i.e., a doctor’s partner has to put up with a lot of absence and that constantly ringing cell phone; a minister’s spouse has to live with Never Having Sunday Off, etc.) Do you share the same values and goals for your life together? Does your prospective life partne have a philosophy of life that you can understand or at least live with? Do you like (or can you at least not hate) his/her family?
    Love is the flame that ignites the engine, but what is the fuel that will keep the engine running?
    As to your question about fictional couples, I do have one example–Laura Kinsale’s Duke of Jervaulx (sp?) and Quaker Maddy. I LOVED that novel, it was BEAUTIFULLY and masterfully written, and I think that they are one of the most compelling couples ever — deservedly called a “romance classic.” I will admit,though, that when I closed the book I did so with a sigh and thought, “That relationship will never work.” I guess I just thought they were from worlds too different for success over the long term. (someone disagree with me, please!)
    Once again I have veered off into sermon length, ouch. Thanks for letting me ramble and thanks for the fun topic.
    Melinda

    Reply
  12. Hi Mary Jo,
    By the nature of my profession I am often challenged to think deeply about issues of love, relationships, and meaning. Here are a couple of stray thoughts your marvelous post sparked for me.
    First, that we live in a time when we think of romantic love as a necessity and not a luxury in relationships. Historically that hasn’t been so–probably mostly because if you don’t have enough to eat, a roof over your head, or a way to make a secure living,you don’t have time to muse and ponder over romance–you’re too busy trying to survive, and those ephemeral romantic feelings aren’t nearly as important as other qualities more closely linked to survival.
    Second, I think life partners are most effectively chosen not with the heart alone but with the head as well. Sure, you’re in love, but can you live with your partner’s professional choices? (i.e., a doctor’s partner has to put up with a lot of absence and that constantly ringing cell phone; a minister’s spouse has to live with Never Having Sunday Off, etc.) Do you share the same values and goals for your life together? Does your prospective life partne have a philosophy of life that you can understand or at least live with? Do you like (or can you at least not hate) his/her family?
    Love is the flame that ignites the engine, but what is the fuel that will keep the engine running?
    As to your question about fictional couples, I do have one example–Laura Kinsale’s Duke of Jervaulx (sp?) and Quaker Maddy. I LOVED that novel, it was BEAUTIFULLY and masterfully written, and I think that they are one of the most compelling couples ever — deservedly called a “romance classic.” I will admit,though, that when I closed the book I did so with a sigh and thought, “That relationship will never work.” I guess I just thought they were from worlds too different for success over the long term. (someone disagree with me, please!)
    Once again I have veered off into sermon length, ouch. Thanks for letting me ramble and thanks for the fun topic.
    Melinda

    Reply
  13. I fell in love with my husband not at first sight, but at first conversation. We were both part of a program that placed 18 to 25-year-olds in year-long volunteer positions with churches and nonprofits around the UK, and we met at the international volunteer welcome conference. And our first conversation lasted over an hour, until we had to go to the next activity. Then that night, jetlagged as we both were, we sat in the dormitory stairwell until 2:00 a.m., still talking. The next day, after talking to him all through breakfast and maneuvering to be in the same group with him for all the activities, I remembered thinking how very much I liked him, despite his not being my usual physical type. I liked ’em lithe and wiry and not too tall–think Ichiro Suzuki–while my now-husband is 6’0″ and burly. And I swear I heard a voice in my head saying, “Get used to it, because that’s the one you’re going to marry.” And I knew, the day after I met him, but even if he *had* been an Ichiro lookalike the physical chemistry wouldn’t have been enough without those long conversations.
    And that’s largely what I look for to believe in a HEA–the couple should talk, a lot. It doesn’t have to be witty banter, but it has to convince me that they understand and enjoy each other on a soul-deep level.

    Reply
  14. I fell in love with my husband not at first sight, but at first conversation. We were both part of a program that placed 18 to 25-year-olds in year-long volunteer positions with churches and nonprofits around the UK, and we met at the international volunteer welcome conference. And our first conversation lasted over an hour, until we had to go to the next activity. Then that night, jetlagged as we both were, we sat in the dormitory stairwell until 2:00 a.m., still talking. The next day, after talking to him all through breakfast and maneuvering to be in the same group with him for all the activities, I remembered thinking how very much I liked him, despite his not being my usual physical type. I liked ’em lithe and wiry and not too tall–think Ichiro Suzuki–while my now-husband is 6’0″ and burly. And I swear I heard a voice in my head saying, “Get used to it, because that’s the one you’re going to marry.” And I knew, the day after I met him, but even if he *had* been an Ichiro lookalike the physical chemistry wouldn’t have been enough without those long conversations.
    And that’s largely what I look for to believe in a HEA–the couple should talk, a lot. It doesn’t have to be witty banter, but it has to convince me that they understand and enjoy each other on a soul-deep level.

    Reply
  15. I fell in love with my husband not at first sight, but at first conversation. We were both part of a program that placed 18 to 25-year-olds in year-long volunteer positions with churches and nonprofits around the UK, and we met at the international volunteer welcome conference. And our first conversation lasted over an hour, until we had to go to the next activity. Then that night, jetlagged as we both were, we sat in the dormitory stairwell until 2:00 a.m., still talking. The next day, after talking to him all through breakfast and maneuvering to be in the same group with him for all the activities, I remembered thinking how very much I liked him, despite his not being my usual physical type. I liked ’em lithe and wiry and not too tall–think Ichiro Suzuki–while my now-husband is 6’0″ and burly. And I swear I heard a voice in my head saying, “Get used to it, because that’s the one you’re going to marry.” And I knew, the day after I met him, but even if he *had* been an Ichiro lookalike the physical chemistry wouldn’t have been enough without those long conversations.
    And that’s largely what I look for to believe in a HEA–the couple should talk, a lot. It doesn’t have to be witty banter, but it has to convince me that they understand and enjoy each other on a soul-deep level.

    Reply
  16. I fell in love with my husband not at first sight, but at first conversation. We were both part of a program that placed 18 to 25-year-olds in year-long volunteer positions with churches and nonprofits around the UK, and we met at the international volunteer welcome conference. And our first conversation lasted over an hour, until we had to go to the next activity. Then that night, jetlagged as we both were, we sat in the dormitory stairwell until 2:00 a.m., still talking. The next day, after talking to him all through breakfast and maneuvering to be in the same group with him for all the activities, I remembered thinking how very much I liked him, despite his not being my usual physical type. I liked ’em lithe and wiry and not too tall–think Ichiro Suzuki–while my now-husband is 6’0″ and burly. And I swear I heard a voice in my head saying, “Get used to it, because that’s the one you’re going to marry.” And I knew, the day after I met him, but even if he *had* been an Ichiro lookalike the physical chemistry wouldn’t have been enough without those long conversations.
    And that’s largely what I look for to believe in a HEA–the couple should talk, a lot. It doesn’t have to be witty banter, but it has to convince me that they understand and enjoy each other on a soul-deep level.

    Reply
  17. Pheromones are probably the inspiration for that “check him out” opportunity, but I’d like to think there’s some physical chemistry at work to trigger that reaction. Or at least a guardian angel or two. And it would be nice if that chemistry leads to discussion and discovery of similar values, goals, philosophies, etc, the bones that make a relationship real.
    But because my experience is that even with similar values and goals, that relationships work best if each person brings different, sometimes opposite, characteristics to the mix, that’s the way I prefer to write my characters. I enjoy exploring how people can find love in opposites they may have never considered had circumstances been different. And once characters have explored each other’s differences and discovered how well they can make those differences work together, then I’m satisfied that a couple can make it all work out.

    Reply
  18. Pheromones are probably the inspiration for that “check him out” opportunity, but I’d like to think there’s some physical chemistry at work to trigger that reaction. Or at least a guardian angel or two. And it would be nice if that chemistry leads to discussion and discovery of similar values, goals, philosophies, etc, the bones that make a relationship real.
    But because my experience is that even with similar values and goals, that relationships work best if each person brings different, sometimes opposite, characteristics to the mix, that’s the way I prefer to write my characters. I enjoy exploring how people can find love in opposites they may have never considered had circumstances been different. And once characters have explored each other’s differences and discovered how well they can make those differences work together, then I’m satisfied that a couple can make it all work out.

    Reply
  19. Pheromones are probably the inspiration for that “check him out” opportunity, but I’d like to think there’s some physical chemistry at work to trigger that reaction. Or at least a guardian angel or two. And it would be nice if that chemistry leads to discussion and discovery of similar values, goals, philosophies, etc, the bones that make a relationship real.
    But because my experience is that even with similar values and goals, that relationships work best if each person brings different, sometimes opposite, characteristics to the mix, that’s the way I prefer to write my characters. I enjoy exploring how people can find love in opposites they may have never considered had circumstances been different. And once characters have explored each other’s differences and discovered how well they can make those differences work together, then I’m satisfied that a couple can make it all work out.

    Reply
  20. Pheromones are probably the inspiration for that “check him out” opportunity, but I’d like to think there’s some physical chemistry at work to trigger that reaction. Or at least a guardian angel or two. And it would be nice if that chemistry leads to discussion and discovery of similar values, goals, philosophies, etc, the bones that make a relationship real.
    But because my experience is that even with similar values and goals, that relationships work best if each person brings different, sometimes opposite, characteristics to the mix, that’s the way I prefer to write my characters. I enjoy exploring how people can find love in opposites they may have never considered had circumstances been different. And once characters have explored each other’s differences and discovered how well they can make those differences work together, then I’m satisfied that a couple can make it all work out.

    Reply
  21. From MJP:
    What a lovely collection of comments! RevMelinda, I agree with you that choosing a mate should involve both the heart and the head. Love is loverly, but one needs to live with someone whose requirements aren’t wildly incompatible with one’s own. We adapt to each other to some extent, but there are limits.
    I disagree about Flowers from the Storm. Such is Laura Kinsale’s brilliance that I believe that they’ve changed enough to find lasting common ground. He gives her passion and fidelity, she gives him a soul. He is not the man he was before the stroke–he needs her loving heart and spiritual centeredness more than he needs the glittering material world he swam in before the stroke. And as Maddy says, she is only good enough to be his duchess. 🙂
    That’s romance–when an author can convince me of such improbabilities!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  22. From MJP:
    What a lovely collection of comments! RevMelinda, I agree with you that choosing a mate should involve both the heart and the head. Love is loverly, but one needs to live with someone whose requirements aren’t wildly incompatible with one’s own. We adapt to each other to some extent, but there are limits.
    I disagree about Flowers from the Storm. Such is Laura Kinsale’s brilliance that I believe that they’ve changed enough to find lasting common ground. He gives her passion and fidelity, she gives him a soul. He is not the man he was before the stroke–he needs her loving heart and spiritual centeredness more than he needs the glittering material world he swam in before the stroke. And as Maddy says, she is only good enough to be his duchess. 🙂
    That’s romance–when an author can convince me of such improbabilities!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  23. From MJP:
    What a lovely collection of comments! RevMelinda, I agree with you that choosing a mate should involve both the heart and the head. Love is loverly, but one needs to live with someone whose requirements aren’t wildly incompatible with one’s own. We adapt to each other to some extent, but there are limits.
    I disagree about Flowers from the Storm. Such is Laura Kinsale’s brilliance that I believe that they’ve changed enough to find lasting common ground. He gives her passion and fidelity, she gives him a soul. He is not the man he was before the stroke–he needs her loving heart and spiritual centeredness more than he needs the glittering material world he swam in before the stroke. And as Maddy says, she is only good enough to be his duchess. 🙂
    That’s romance–when an author can convince me of such improbabilities!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  24. From MJP:
    What a lovely collection of comments! RevMelinda, I agree with you that choosing a mate should involve both the heart and the head. Love is loverly, but one needs to live with someone whose requirements aren’t wildly incompatible with one’s own. We adapt to each other to some extent, but there are limits.
    I disagree about Flowers from the Storm. Such is Laura Kinsale’s brilliance that I believe that they’ve changed enough to find lasting common ground. He gives her passion and fidelity, she gives him a soul. He is not the man he was before the stroke–he needs her loving heart and spiritual centeredness more than he needs the glittering material world he swam in before the stroke. And as Maddy says, she is only good enough to be his duchess. 🙂
    That’s romance–when an author can convince me of such improbabilities!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  25. From Sherrie:
    Wonderful post, Mary Jo. Love the sweet hippo picture.
    I knew a guy who was attracted to a woman because of her self-assured independence. He’d been married once to one of those “helpless females,” so he found this independent woman alluring. Unfortunately, it was that same independence that caused our (did I say “our”? *g*) breakup, because it turned out the only way he felt loved was if the woman clung to him like a helpless female. Which the independent woman wouldn’t do.
    What absolutely turns my knees to jelly is if the hero or heroine in a novel make a great sacrifice for the sake of the other. That spells LOVE in capital letters. I’m not talking about martyrs, either. I’m talking about genuine unselfish love that causes one partner to set aside his ego (maybe even his personal happiness) for the one he loves, and doesn’t go around tooting his own horn afterwards.
    The best example I can think of is Mr. Darcy locating Wickham and Lydia in London, arranging their “respectable” marriage, and buying Wickham a commission–all because of his love for Elizabeth. And he did it at great personal sacrifice to himself, thinking Elizabeth would never know what he’d done because he made everyone promise to keep his involvement a secret. His motivation was a deep love for Elizabeth and a desire to save her from social ruin after the thoughtless acts of her stupid younger sister.

    Reply
  26. From Sherrie:
    Wonderful post, Mary Jo. Love the sweet hippo picture.
    I knew a guy who was attracted to a woman because of her self-assured independence. He’d been married once to one of those “helpless females,” so he found this independent woman alluring. Unfortunately, it was that same independence that caused our (did I say “our”? *g*) breakup, because it turned out the only way he felt loved was if the woman clung to him like a helpless female. Which the independent woman wouldn’t do.
    What absolutely turns my knees to jelly is if the hero or heroine in a novel make a great sacrifice for the sake of the other. That spells LOVE in capital letters. I’m not talking about martyrs, either. I’m talking about genuine unselfish love that causes one partner to set aside his ego (maybe even his personal happiness) for the one he loves, and doesn’t go around tooting his own horn afterwards.
    The best example I can think of is Mr. Darcy locating Wickham and Lydia in London, arranging their “respectable” marriage, and buying Wickham a commission–all because of his love for Elizabeth. And he did it at great personal sacrifice to himself, thinking Elizabeth would never know what he’d done because he made everyone promise to keep his involvement a secret. His motivation was a deep love for Elizabeth and a desire to save her from social ruin after the thoughtless acts of her stupid younger sister.

    Reply
  27. From Sherrie:
    Wonderful post, Mary Jo. Love the sweet hippo picture.
    I knew a guy who was attracted to a woman because of her self-assured independence. He’d been married once to one of those “helpless females,” so he found this independent woman alluring. Unfortunately, it was that same independence that caused our (did I say “our”? *g*) breakup, because it turned out the only way he felt loved was if the woman clung to him like a helpless female. Which the independent woman wouldn’t do.
    What absolutely turns my knees to jelly is if the hero or heroine in a novel make a great sacrifice for the sake of the other. That spells LOVE in capital letters. I’m not talking about martyrs, either. I’m talking about genuine unselfish love that causes one partner to set aside his ego (maybe even his personal happiness) for the one he loves, and doesn’t go around tooting his own horn afterwards.
    The best example I can think of is Mr. Darcy locating Wickham and Lydia in London, arranging their “respectable” marriage, and buying Wickham a commission–all because of his love for Elizabeth. And he did it at great personal sacrifice to himself, thinking Elizabeth would never know what he’d done because he made everyone promise to keep his involvement a secret. His motivation was a deep love for Elizabeth and a desire to save her from social ruin after the thoughtless acts of her stupid younger sister.

    Reply
  28. From Sherrie:
    Wonderful post, Mary Jo. Love the sweet hippo picture.
    I knew a guy who was attracted to a woman because of her self-assured independence. He’d been married once to one of those “helpless females,” so he found this independent woman alluring. Unfortunately, it was that same independence that caused our (did I say “our”? *g*) breakup, because it turned out the only way he felt loved was if the woman clung to him like a helpless female. Which the independent woman wouldn’t do.
    What absolutely turns my knees to jelly is if the hero or heroine in a novel make a great sacrifice for the sake of the other. That spells LOVE in capital letters. I’m not talking about martyrs, either. I’m talking about genuine unselfish love that causes one partner to set aside his ego (maybe even his personal happiness) for the one he loves, and doesn’t go around tooting his own horn afterwards.
    The best example I can think of is Mr. Darcy locating Wickham and Lydia in London, arranging their “respectable” marriage, and buying Wickham a commission–all because of his love for Elizabeth. And he did it at great personal sacrifice to himself, thinking Elizabeth would never know what he’d done because he made everyone promise to keep his involvement a secret. His motivation was a deep love for Elizabeth and a desire to save her from social ruin after the thoughtless acts of her stupid younger sister.

    Reply
  29. Great discussion, Mary Jo.
    There’s so much science to it, and more coming out all the time, that I do think a lot of it is senses and hormones, which is why the head part isn’t the most reliable, in my opinion. We just don’t choose the most obviously “ideal” parter. We choose on vibes, emotional reactions and sometimes straight lust — though it’s nice if we discover some other features, too.*G*
    For example, you probably know this, but women choose a lot by smell and we’re very sensitive to effects that we can’t consciously detect. Apparently the pill alters our sense of smell, and so if we choose a partner while already on the pill then go off it — to get pregnant, perhaps — we can then find we’ve lost whatever that zing was. At a very unfortunate moment in life!
    Women are also really good at picking out their mate’s smell — far better than men. I think this is why we write about smell in romances, “that special smell”, but because we’re not all that conscious of it in real life some readers will say, “I don’t want a smelly man!”
    To me, a romance novel is about testing that initial attraction, which is where conflict comes in. Make things difficult, show the characters at their worst as well as their best, see what they’ll accept and forgive, where they’ll compromise, and what they’re willing to sacrifice for the beloved, and then I believe the triumphant ending.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  30. Great discussion, Mary Jo.
    There’s so much science to it, and more coming out all the time, that I do think a lot of it is senses and hormones, which is why the head part isn’t the most reliable, in my opinion. We just don’t choose the most obviously “ideal” parter. We choose on vibes, emotional reactions and sometimes straight lust — though it’s nice if we discover some other features, too.*G*
    For example, you probably know this, but women choose a lot by smell and we’re very sensitive to effects that we can’t consciously detect. Apparently the pill alters our sense of smell, and so if we choose a partner while already on the pill then go off it — to get pregnant, perhaps — we can then find we’ve lost whatever that zing was. At a very unfortunate moment in life!
    Women are also really good at picking out their mate’s smell — far better than men. I think this is why we write about smell in romances, “that special smell”, but because we’re not all that conscious of it in real life some readers will say, “I don’t want a smelly man!”
    To me, a romance novel is about testing that initial attraction, which is where conflict comes in. Make things difficult, show the characters at their worst as well as their best, see what they’ll accept and forgive, where they’ll compromise, and what they’re willing to sacrifice for the beloved, and then I believe the triumphant ending.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  31. Great discussion, Mary Jo.
    There’s so much science to it, and more coming out all the time, that I do think a lot of it is senses and hormones, which is why the head part isn’t the most reliable, in my opinion. We just don’t choose the most obviously “ideal” parter. We choose on vibes, emotional reactions and sometimes straight lust — though it’s nice if we discover some other features, too.*G*
    For example, you probably know this, but women choose a lot by smell and we’re very sensitive to effects that we can’t consciously detect. Apparently the pill alters our sense of smell, and so if we choose a partner while already on the pill then go off it — to get pregnant, perhaps — we can then find we’ve lost whatever that zing was. At a very unfortunate moment in life!
    Women are also really good at picking out their mate’s smell — far better than men. I think this is why we write about smell in romances, “that special smell”, but because we’re not all that conscious of it in real life some readers will say, “I don’t want a smelly man!”
    To me, a romance novel is about testing that initial attraction, which is where conflict comes in. Make things difficult, show the characters at their worst as well as their best, see what they’ll accept and forgive, where they’ll compromise, and what they’re willing to sacrifice for the beloved, and then I believe the triumphant ending.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  32. Great discussion, Mary Jo.
    There’s so much science to it, and more coming out all the time, that I do think a lot of it is senses and hormones, which is why the head part isn’t the most reliable, in my opinion. We just don’t choose the most obviously “ideal” parter. We choose on vibes, emotional reactions and sometimes straight lust — though it’s nice if we discover some other features, too.*G*
    For example, you probably know this, but women choose a lot by smell and we’re very sensitive to effects that we can’t consciously detect. Apparently the pill alters our sense of smell, and so if we choose a partner while already on the pill then go off it — to get pregnant, perhaps — we can then find we’ve lost whatever that zing was. At a very unfortunate moment in life!
    Women are also really good at picking out their mate’s smell — far better than men. I think this is why we write about smell in romances, “that special smell”, but because we’re not all that conscious of it in real life some readers will say, “I don’t want a smelly man!”
    To me, a romance novel is about testing that initial attraction, which is where conflict comes in. Make things difficult, show the characters at their worst as well as their best, see what they’ll accept and forgive, where they’ll compromise, and what they’re willing to sacrifice for the beloved, and then I believe the triumphant ending.
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  33. About women and the power of smell:
    One of the most powerful scenes on film has got to be in American Beauty, where Annette Bening, after her estranged husband, Kevin Spacey, has been shot to death, throws herself against all his clothes in the closet, inhaling them, sobbing.

    Reply
  34. About women and the power of smell:
    One of the most powerful scenes on film has got to be in American Beauty, where Annette Bening, after her estranged husband, Kevin Spacey, has been shot to death, throws herself against all his clothes in the closet, inhaling them, sobbing.

    Reply
  35. About women and the power of smell:
    One of the most powerful scenes on film has got to be in American Beauty, where Annette Bening, after her estranged husband, Kevin Spacey, has been shot to death, throws herself against all his clothes in the closet, inhaling them, sobbing.

    Reply
  36. About women and the power of smell:
    One of the most powerful scenes on film has got to be in American Beauty, where Annette Bening, after her estranged husband, Kevin Spacey, has been shot to death, throws herself against all his clothes in the closet, inhaling them, sobbing.

    Reply
  37. Great topic, Mary Jo – both in real life and fiction.
    Melinda, I agree with you about needing to engage the head as well as the heart, but is it possible to overthink this? Couldn’t someone walk away from The One if they were overly concerned with the demands of that person’s career or some other factor like the care of a disabled family member? At what point is the person’s career – or other choices – a signficant part of the person and at what point can you separate them? (I’m thinking about comments Suzanne Brockmann has made about her Navy SEAL characters and how being a SEAL largely defines these fictional men.)
    Sherrie mentioned great sacrifice. Earlier this week over at Romancing the Blog, there was a post about women who “give up” their careers to be with their love interest. The case in point was a PhD walking away from her career to be with a military man. Where’s the line between sacrifice and compromise? The comments at RTB firmly pointed to the idea that THE WHOLE PICTURE had to fit. Were the decisions germane to other aspects of the character as he/she was presented by the author?
    Piper raised an issue that makes for a great question for you very talented authors. She said:
    I think it goes beyond the physical attraction, and is mostly found in the enjoyment they find in each others presence – the jokes, the camaradarie, comfortablishness. I guess nothing that makes for a great story, unfortunately.
    How does an author show two decent normal pleasant people who enjoy each other falling in love without boring the reader? Even throwing in some internal and external conflict I think it would be hard to convey the “comfortablishness” in a page turning manner.
    D.

    Reply
  38. Great topic, Mary Jo – both in real life and fiction.
    Melinda, I agree with you about needing to engage the head as well as the heart, but is it possible to overthink this? Couldn’t someone walk away from The One if they were overly concerned with the demands of that person’s career or some other factor like the care of a disabled family member? At what point is the person’s career – or other choices – a signficant part of the person and at what point can you separate them? (I’m thinking about comments Suzanne Brockmann has made about her Navy SEAL characters and how being a SEAL largely defines these fictional men.)
    Sherrie mentioned great sacrifice. Earlier this week over at Romancing the Blog, there was a post about women who “give up” their careers to be with their love interest. The case in point was a PhD walking away from her career to be with a military man. Where’s the line between sacrifice and compromise? The comments at RTB firmly pointed to the idea that THE WHOLE PICTURE had to fit. Were the decisions germane to other aspects of the character as he/she was presented by the author?
    Piper raised an issue that makes for a great question for you very talented authors. She said:
    I think it goes beyond the physical attraction, and is mostly found in the enjoyment they find in each others presence – the jokes, the camaradarie, comfortablishness. I guess nothing that makes for a great story, unfortunately.
    How does an author show two decent normal pleasant people who enjoy each other falling in love without boring the reader? Even throwing in some internal and external conflict I think it would be hard to convey the “comfortablishness” in a page turning manner.
    D.

    Reply
  39. Great topic, Mary Jo – both in real life and fiction.
    Melinda, I agree with you about needing to engage the head as well as the heart, but is it possible to overthink this? Couldn’t someone walk away from The One if they were overly concerned with the demands of that person’s career or some other factor like the care of a disabled family member? At what point is the person’s career – or other choices – a signficant part of the person and at what point can you separate them? (I’m thinking about comments Suzanne Brockmann has made about her Navy SEAL characters and how being a SEAL largely defines these fictional men.)
    Sherrie mentioned great sacrifice. Earlier this week over at Romancing the Blog, there was a post about women who “give up” their careers to be with their love interest. The case in point was a PhD walking away from her career to be with a military man. Where’s the line between sacrifice and compromise? The comments at RTB firmly pointed to the idea that THE WHOLE PICTURE had to fit. Were the decisions germane to other aspects of the character as he/she was presented by the author?
    Piper raised an issue that makes for a great question for you very talented authors. She said:
    I think it goes beyond the physical attraction, and is mostly found in the enjoyment they find in each others presence – the jokes, the camaradarie, comfortablishness. I guess nothing that makes for a great story, unfortunately.
    How does an author show two decent normal pleasant people who enjoy each other falling in love without boring the reader? Even throwing in some internal and external conflict I think it would be hard to convey the “comfortablishness” in a page turning manner.
    D.

    Reply
  40. Great topic, Mary Jo – both in real life and fiction.
    Melinda, I agree with you about needing to engage the head as well as the heart, but is it possible to overthink this? Couldn’t someone walk away from The One if they were overly concerned with the demands of that person’s career or some other factor like the care of a disabled family member? At what point is the person’s career – or other choices – a signficant part of the person and at what point can you separate them? (I’m thinking about comments Suzanne Brockmann has made about her Navy SEAL characters and how being a SEAL largely defines these fictional men.)
    Sherrie mentioned great sacrifice. Earlier this week over at Romancing the Blog, there was a post about women who “give up” their careers to be with their love interest. The case in point was a PhD walking away from her career to be with a military man. Where’s the line between sacrifice and compromise? The comments at RTB firmly pointed to the idea that THE WHOLE PICTURE had to fit. Were the decisions germane to other aspects of the character as he/she was presented by the author?
    Piper raised an issue that makes for a great question for you very talented authors. She said:
    I think it goes beyond the physical attraction, and is mostly found in the enjoyment they find in each others presence – the jokes, the camaradarie, comfortablishness. I guess nothing that makes for a great story, unfortunately.
    How does an author show two decent normal pleasant people who enjoy each other falling in love without boring the reader? Even throwing in some internal and external conflict I think it would be hard to convey the “comfortablishness” in a page turning manner.
    D.

    Reply
  41. It is wonderful to be in a (virtual) room with all these thoughtful people! Although love itself is universal, I suppose there’s no “universal” way of experiencing it–we’re each going to have our own preferences, our own philosophies, our own moments of “zing” (or “thud”)–and our own reasons for those preferences and experiences. The different perspectives you Wenches/writers bring to the “what is love” question, and the way those are played out in your characters and novels, illuminate facets of the same gem and highlight its depth and beauty.
    I’m a Gemini–by turns pragmatic and romantic. Passion, romance, pheromones, yes, I am so there! But I also think experiencing a mutual love relationship is a different question than setting up a permanent and stable household. Kind of like real life is a different from novels. There are heroes I find desperately romantic and erotic and delicious and I greatly enjoy imagining myself as their beloved for a golden hour or two–but I wouldn’t want to have them in my real house or in my real life!
    And although the whole “love at first sight” thing happened to me, I don’t really believe in the concept of “The Only One”–I think there are many potential partners (I’m going to check out my friends’ husbands, Mary Jo, LOL) out there for each person, and that there’s always another opportunity to find love, and sometimes it’s sweeter the second (or third!) time around.
    It’s been a privilege to read everybody’s comments! Thank you Mary Jo!

    Reply
  42. It is wonderful to be in a (virtual) room with all these thoughtful people! Although love itself is universal, I suppose there’s no “universal” way of experiencing it–we’re each going to have our own preferences, our own philosophies, our own moments of “zing” (or “thud”)–and our own reasons for those preferences and experiences. The different perspectives you Wenches/writers bring to the “what is love” question, and the way those are played out in your characters and novels, illuminate facets of the same gem and highlight its depth and beauty.
    I’m a Gemini–by turns pragmatic and romantic. Passion, romance, pheromones, yes, I am so there! But I also think experiencing a mutual love relationship is a different question than setting up a permanent and stable household. Kind of like real life is a different from novels. There are heroes I find desperately romantic and erotic and delicious and I greatly enjoy imagining myself as their beloved for a golden hour or two–but I wouldn’t want to have them in my real house or in my real life!
    And although the whole “love at first sight” thing happened to me, I don’t really believe in the concept of “The Only One”–I think there are many potential partners (I’m going to check out my friends’ husbands, Mary Jo, LOL) out there for each person, and that there’s always another opportunity to find love, and sometimes it’s sweeter the second (or third!) time around.
    It’s been a privilege to read everybody’s comments! Thank you Mary Jo!

    Reply
  43. It is wonderful to be in a (virtual) room with all these thoughtful people! Although love itself is universal, I suppose there’s no “universal” way of experiencing it–we’re each going to have our own preferences, our own philosophies, our own moments of “zing” (or “thud”)–and our own reasons for those preferences and experiences. The different perspectives you Wenches/writers bring to the “what is love” question, and the way those are played out in your characters and novels, illuminate facets of the same gem and highlight its depth and beauty.
    I’m a Gemini–by turns pragmatic and romantic. Passion, romance, pheromones, yes, I am so there! But I also think experiencing a mutual love relationship is a different question than setting up a permanent and stable household. Kind of like real life is a different from novels. There are heroes I find desperately romantic and erotic and delicious and I greatly enjoy imagining myself as their beloved for a golden hour or two–but I wouldn’t want to have them in my real house or in my real life!
    And although the whole “love at first sight” thing happened to me, I don’t really believe in the concept of “The Only One”–I think there are many potential partners (I’m going to check out my friends’ husbands, Mary Jo, LOL) out there for each person, and that there’s always another opportunity to find love, and sometimes it’s sweeter the second (or third!) time around.
    It’s been a privilege to read everybody’s comments! Thank you Mary Jo!

    Reply
  44. It is wonderful to be in a (virtual) room with all these thoughtful people! Although love itself is universal, I suppose there’s no “universal” way of experiencing it–we’re each going to have our own preferences, our own philosophies, our own moments of “zing” (or “thud”)–and our own reasons for those preferences and experiences. The different perspectives you Wenches/writers bring to the “what is love” question, and the way those are played out in your characters and novels, illuminate facets of the same gem and highlight its depth and beauty.
    I’m a Gemini–by turns pragmatic and romantic. Passion, romance, pheromones, yes, I am so there! But I also think experiencing a mutual love relationship is a different question than setting up a permanent and stable household. Kind of like real life is a different from novels. There are heroes I find desperately romantic and erotic and delicious and I greatly enjoy imagining myself as their beloved for a golden hour or two–but I wouldn’t want to have them in my real house or in my real life!
    And although the whole “love at first sight” thing happened to me, I don’t really believe in the concept of “The Only One”–I think there are many potential partners (I’m going to check out my friends’ husbands, Mary Jo, LOL) out there for each person, and that there’s always another opportunity to find love, and sometimes it’s sweeter the second (or third!) time around.
    It’s been a privilege to read everybody’s comments! Thank you Mary Jo!

    Reply
  45. From MJP:
    Diantha, I agree that one can overthink potential mates, and also be way too picky. I hear that can be a problem with mature single professionals looking for that perfect mate. Perfect is in short supply! But “pretty darned good” is possible. 🙂
    I’m glad people enjoyed this topic!
    Mary Jo, intrigued by what Jo said about scent, and thinking of all those books with ‘clean masculine scent,’ which is kind of a contradition in terms. 🙂

    Reply
  46. From MJP:
    Diantha, I agree that one can overthink potential mates, and also be way too picky. I hear that can be a problem with mature single professionals looking for that perfect mate. Perfect is in short supply! But “pretty darned good” is possible. 🙂
    I’m glad people enjoyed this topic!
    Mary Jo, intrigued by what Jo said about scent, and thinking of all those books with ‘clean masculine scent,’ which is kind of a contradition in terms. 🙂

    Reply
  47. From MJP:
    Diantha, I agree that one can overthink potential mates, and also be way too picky. I hear that can be a problem with mature single professionals looking for that perfect mate. Perfect is in short supply! But “pretty darned good” is possible. 🙂
    I’m glad people enjoyed this topic!
    Mary Jo, intrigued by what Jo said about scent, and thinking of all those books with ‘clean masculine scent,’ which is kind of a contradition in terms. 🙂

    Reply
  48. From MJP:
    Diantha, I agree that one can overthink potential mates, and also be way too picky. I hear that can be a problem with mature single professionals looking for that perfect mate. Perfect is in short supply! But “pretty darned good” is possible. 🙂
    I’m glad people enjoyed this topic!
    Mary Jo, intrigued by what Jo said about scent, and thinking of all those books with ‘clean masculine scent,’ which is kind of a contradition in terms. 🙂

    Reply
  49. “How does an author show two decent normal pleasant people who enjoy each other falling in love without boring the reader? Even throwing in some internal and external conflict I think it would be hard to convey the “comfortablishness” in a page turning manner.”
    It must be hard because you don’t see it often, but Ruth Wind (Barbara Samuel) springs to mind as a master of “comfortable” romance. I haven’t managed to get all of her backlist yet, but Jezebel’s Blues is my favorite so far. The thing is – when I first came across this book I never finished it because I thought it was too tame. I tried it again recently and now I think it’s great. Maybe most readers are looking for more exciting reads. I think I’m appreciating subtlety more as I get older.

    Reply
  50. “How does an author show two decent normal pleasant people who enjoy each other falling in love without boring the reader? Even throwing in some internal and external conflict I think it would be hard to convey the “comfortablishness” in a page turning manner.”
    It must be hard because you don’t see it often, but Ruth Wind (Barbara Samuel) springs to mind as a master of “comfortable” romance. I haven’t managed to get all of her backlist yet, but Jezebel’s Blues is my favorite so far. The thing is – when I first came across this book I never finished it because I thought it was too tame. I tried it again recently and now I think it’s great. Maybe most readers are looking for more exciting reads. I think I’m appreciating subtlety more as I get older.

    Reply
  51. “How does an author show two decent normal pleasant people who enjoy each other falling in love without boring the reader? Even throwing in some internal and external conflict I think it would be hard to convey the “comfortablishness” in a page turning manner.”
    It must be hard because you don’t see it often, but Ruth Wind (Barbara Samuel) springs to mind as a master of “comfortable” romance. I haven’t managed to get all of her backlist yet, but Jezebel’s Blues is my favorite so far. The thing is – when I first came across this book I never finished it because I thought it was too tame. I tried it again recently and now I think it’s great. Maybe most readers are looking for more exciting reads. I think I’m appreciating subtlety more as I get older.

    Reply
  52. “How does an author show two decent normal pleasant people who enjoy each other falling in love without boring the reader? Even throwing in some internal and external conflict I think it would be hard to convey the “comfortablishness” in a page turning manner.”
    It must be hard because you don’t see it often, but Ruth Wind (Barbara Samuel) springs to mind as a master of “comfortable” romance. I haven’t managed to get all of her backlist yet, but Jezebel’s Blues is my favorite so far. The thing is – when I first came across this book I never finished it because I thought it was too tame. I tried it again recently and now I think it’s great. Maybe most readers are looking for more exciting reads. I think I’m appreciating subtlety more as I get older.

    Reply
  53. I agree with what Sherrie said, about great, quiet, deliberate sacrifice (but not of the tedious martyr kind) for the sake of the other being a convincing demonstration of love in a novel.
    Additionally… people often say that marriage is about love, but I totally DISagree. Marriage is undoubtedly =much= more fulfilling with love, but it’s not ABOUT love.
    Marriage is ABOUT things like: where will we live; how will we handle money; how will we divvy up the chores and responsibilities of our household and our child-rearing; what sort of mutual support and mutual sacrifices can we agree on in pursuing our various ambitions or dealing with our various problems; will we have the same friends, or not; what time will we habitually get up, eat, and go to sleep; what sort of leisure time/activities will we share, or not share; where will we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas; and so on. THAT’S what marriage is about.
    Since virtually all romance novels drive towards marriage, a convincing romance to me is one in which I don’t =just= see the heat and passion between the characters, but one which, over the course of the book, convinces me the two characters can and will successfully–and, for the most part, ENJOYABLY–“do” marriage together, on the above basis.
    A good romance (such as romances by the various Wenches!) convinces me of that. But romances that primarily focus on hormones? No. Romances that have a pattern of “conflict, clinch, conflict, clinch, conflict, final-clinch”? No. There =have= to be places in a romance novel where I see evidence that in addition to having hot sex or a few good laughs, this couple is well-suited to “doing” marriage together (and over the long-haul); or else I just don’t buy the happy ending–more than that, I find it silly and flat.
    MJ suggested I come read this topic after I was just telling her today about a charming Bollywood movie (I’m a big fan of the genre) I watched last night, called RANGEELA, in which the couple–who don’t yet really know they’re in love–perfectly demonstrate this, by the way they care for and look after each other in the ordinary daily things of life… even at times when they’re feeling very annoyed with each other! There are numerous moments in the story where you feel they HAVE to wind up together (and they do) because you can see that, in addition to the passion igniting between them, this couple will “do” marriage together very, very well.
    Laura Resnick,
    Honorary Wench

    Reply
  54. I agree with what Sherrie said, about great, quiet, deliberate sacrifice (but not of the tedious martyr kind) for the sake of the other being a convincing demonstration of love in a novel.
    Additionally… people often say that marriage is about love, but I totally DISagree. Marriage is undoubtedly =much= more fulfilling with love, but it’s not ABOUT love.
    Marriage is ABOUT things like: where will we live; how will we handle money; how will we divvy up the chores and responsibilities of our household and our child-rearing; what sort of mutual support and mutual sacrifices can we agree on in pursuing our various ambitions or dealing with our various problems; will we have the same friends, or not; what time will we habitually get up, eat, and go to sleep; what sort of leisure time/activities will we share, or not share; where will we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas; and so on. THAT’S what marriage is about.
    Since virtually all romance novels drive towards marriage, a convincing romance to me is one in which I don’t =just= see the heat and passion between the characters, but one which, over the course of the book, convinces me the two characters can and will successfully–and, for the most part, ENJOYABLY–“do” marriage together, on the above basis.
    A good romance (such as romances by the various Wenches!) convinces me of that. But romances that primarily focus on hormones? No. Romances that have a pattern of “conflict, clinch, conflict, clinch, conflict, final-clinch”? No. There =have= to be places in a romance novel where I see evidence that in addition to having hot sex or a few good laughs, this couple is well-suited to “doing” marriage together (and over the long-haul); or else I just don’t buy the happy ending–more than that, I find it silly and flat.
    MJ suggested I come read this topic after I was just telling her today about a charming Bollywood movie (I’m a big fan of the genre) I watched last night, called RANGEELA, in which the couple–who don’t yet really know they’re in love–perfectly demonstrate this, by the way they care for and look after each other in the ordinary daily things of life… even at times when they’re feeling very annoyed with each other! There are numerous moments in the story where you feel they HAVE to wind up together (and they do) because you can see that, in addition to the passion igniting between them, this couple will “do” marriage together very, very well.
    Laura Resnick,
    Honorary Wench

    Reply
  55. I agree with what Sherrie said, about great, quiet, deliberate sacrifice (but not of the tedious martyr kind) for the sake of the other being a convincing demonstration of love in a novel.
    Additionally… people often say that marriage is about love, but I totally DISagree. Marriage is undoubtedly =much= more fulfilling with love, but it’s not ABOUT love.
    Marriage is ABOUT things like: where will we live; how will we handle money; how will we divvy up the chores and responsibilities of our household and our child-rearing; what sort of mutual support and mutual sacrifices can we agree on in pursuing our various ambitions or dealing with our various problems; will we have the same friends, or not; what time will we habitually get up, eat, and go to sleep; what sort of leisure time/activities will we share, or not share; where will we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas; and so on. THAT’S what marriage is about.
    Since virtually all romance novels drive towards marriage, a convincing romance to me is one in which I don’t =just= see the heat and passion between the characters, but one which, over the course of the book, convinces me the two characters can and will successfully–and, for the most part, ENJOYABLY–“do” marriage together, on the above basis.
    A good romance (such as romances by the various Wenches!) convinces me of that. But romances that primarily focus on hormones? No. Romances that have a pattern of “conflict, clinch, conflict, clinch, conflict, final-clinch”? No. There =have= to be places in a romance novel where I see evidence that in addition to having hot sex or a few good laughs, this couple is well-suited to “doing” marriage together (and over the long-haul); or else I just don’t buy the happy ending–more than that, I find it silly and flat.
    MJ suggested I come read this topic after I was just telling her today about a charming Bollywood movie (I’m a big fan of the genre) I watched last night, called RANGEELA, in which the couple–who don’t yet really know they’re in love–perfectly demonstrate this, by the way they care for and look after each other in the ordinary daily things of life… even at times when they’re feeling very annoyed with each other! There are numerous moments in the story where you feel they HAVE to wind up together (and they do) because you can see that, in addition to the passion igniting between them, this couple will “do” marriage together very, very well.
    Laura Resnick,
    Honorary Wench

    Reply
  56. I agree with what Sherrie said, about great, quiet, deliberate sacrifice (but not of the tedious martyr kind) for the sake of the other being a convincing demonstration of love in a novel.
    Additionally… people often say that marriage is about love, but I totally DISagree. Marriage is undoubtedly =much= more fulfilling with love, but it’s not ABOUT love.
    Marriage is ABOUT things like: where will we live; how will we handle money; how will we divvy up the chores and responsibilities of our household and our child-rearing; what sort of mutual support and mutual sacrifices can we agree on in pursuing our various ambitions or dealing with our various problems; will we have the same friends, or not; what time will we habitually get up, eat, and go to sleep; what sort of leisure time/activities will we share, or not share; where will we spend Thanksgiving and Christmas; and so on. THAT’S what marriage is about.
    Since virtually all romance novels drive towards marriage, a convincing romance to me is one in which I don’t =just= see the heat and passion between the characters, but one which, over the course of the book, convinces me the two characters can and will successfully–and, for the most part, ENJOYABLY–“do” marriage together, on the above basis.
    A good romance (such as romances by the various Wenches!) convinces me of that. But romances that primarily focus on hormones? No. Romances that have a pattern of “conflict, clinch, conflict, clinch, conflict, final-clinch”? No. There =have= to be places in a romance novel where I see evidence that in addition to having hot sex or a few good laughs, this couple is well-suited to “doing” marriage together (and over the long-haul); or else I just don’t buy the happy ending–more than that, I find it silly and flat.
    MJ suggested I come read this topic after I was just telling her today about a charming Bollywood movie (I’m a big fan of the genre) I watched last night, called RANGEELA, in which the couple–who don’t yet really know they’re in love–perfectly demonstrate this, by the way they care for and look after each other in the ordinary daily things of life… even at times when they’re feeling very annoyed with each other! There are numerous moments in the story where you feel they HAVE to wind up together (and they do) because you can see that, in addition to the passion igniting between them, this couple will “do” marriage together very, very well.
    Laura Resnick,
    Honorary Wench

    Reply

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