I’m Always a Sucker for This One

1818dandRike’s post yesterday on plotlines that could use a break got me thinking.   I’ve got plenty of kvetches, believe me – many of them mentioned already by Rike – but, to put a Pollyanna spin on things (and, okay, so I am not often Pollyanna-ish, but let’s just run with it) there is at least one plot device that works for me always every time.  Put an uptight brainiac seriously in need of having some pins pricked in his or her pretentions together with a casual, laid back type who knows how to deliver a zinger and I’m done for.  Totally done for.

A friend of mine says I like “goofball” heroes and, to some degree, I think she’s right.  But humor takes fierce intelligence (Jon Stewart, anyone?) and I find it incredibly attractive when someone is confident enough in himself that he doesn’t need to hit others in the face with his brains. It’s fun (not to mention sexually exciting) to discover that someone you initially underestimated is w-a-a-a-a-y smarter than you thought, right?

So, forthwith and with no more verbal diarrhea, here are my fave brainiac/goofball romances:

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase:  Rupert and Daphne.  (Insert sigh here.)  The verbal fencing in this book is off the charts fabulous.  The reasons I love this one are legion and, hey, if you love it, too, you know why. It is a perfect confection composed of romance and laughter in equal parts. I’ve read others on the Internet say that they don’t think Rupert is as intelligent as Daphne.  I disagree.  Completely.  And, I’d venture to say, Daphne does, too.

Bridal Favors by Connie Brockway:  I think this one is a bit neglected in the pantheon of greatness that is the author’s backlist and, though I loved Bridal Season and My Dearest Enemy and All Through the Night is my favorite historical romance of all time, this is the book I’ve sighed over in multiple rereads.  Not only is it laugh out loud funny with both verbal sparring and situational humor, it’s also incredibly romantic. Funny people feel and the author makes you believe it.

Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Hero Bobby Tom Denton is an ex-professional football player, but I think his primary talent really lies in being a professional goofball.  Bobby Tom is always underestimated.  Bobby Tom always pays.  And Bobby Tom is always affable when he’s working his way through numerous accommodating groupies.  Gracie is uptight.  Make that way, way, way uptight.  Not to mention the sexual omega to Bobby Tom’s alpha. They are true opposites in almost every sense and their chemistry is combustible.  Heaven, Texas is deliciously funny and…well, just plain flat out completely delicious.

Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh:  Of my four favorites, this is the only one in which the roles are reversed, with heroine Christine the prick-er and Wulf the prick-ee.  The book (which incredibly and tragically does not seem to be currently available at Amazon) is not especially funny and strikes an altogether different tone than my other three favorites, but it is heartbreakingly romantic and emotionally real.  As the author’s homage to Pride and Prejudice (the original brainiac/goofball romance?), it is my favorite of all books by this prolific – and incredible – author.  Unlike P&P, the author allows us inside Wulf’s head as he stumbles into love and those are the passages that I’ve reread many, many times.  They feel special in a way I don’t really think I can articulate.

So, what do you think?  Is the brainiac/goofball a favorite plot device of yours?  Is there another plot for which you are always a sucker?

-Sandy AAR

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20 Responses to “I’m Always a Sucker for This One”

  1. marcella says:

    Totally agree on Mr. Impossible.

    He wouldn’t qualify as goofball, but he sure is laid-back and underestimated: Tucker Longstreet from Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts. He’s in my personal hero top 10.

  2. marcella says:

    O, and if it’s well done, I like Mistaken Identity plots

  3. katyco says:

    Marcella – Tucker Longstreet is exactly who I was thinking of when I read Sandy’s article. When I first started this book I thought “How can this man be the hero? He’s lazy and dumb.” I love the way Nora Roberts developed his character and made him a hero in every sense of the word.

  4. Janet W says:

    Me too! A total Tucker Longstreet fangrrrrrl. Who would I choose if Phin or Tucker were offered up on a silver platter? Sigh … and great blog: thanks!

  5. Lucé lo says:

    Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips in which the heroine is a genius and wants to have a baby fathered by someone with below average intelligence. It turns out she chooses a football player who turns out to be extremely intelligent too. A winner!

    Stephen Colbert is brilliant and brilliantly funny. Sexy even if his looks are nothing out of the ordinary. I prefer him to any empty headed hunk.

  6. Magdalen says:

    Not really a brainiac/goofball — more an absentminded professor/sweet & simple — but I recently re-read Dr. Hunk, a Harlequin Temptation by Glenda Sanders. Hero is an entomologist; heroine is a rural mail carrier. She doesn’t make him laugh so much as charm him by her outside-the-ivory-tower perspective on life. Very nicely done as he evolves (geddit?) to fit in more in the real world.

    And for the other side of the trope — the laugh-out-loud romance, I’d have to recommend two by Joan Smith: Imprudent Lady and Talk of the Town.

  7. Victoria S says:

    As soon as I finished reading this post, I went tearing through my bookshelves and drawers reacquainting myself with some oldies but goodies. Sandy you were spot on with the ones you chose; I too have enjoyed those books, and for all the reasons you mentioned. And Marcella, Tucker Longstreet is so smokin’ hot and turned out to be a great guy to boot. well that said, here’s my two cents to add to the pot:
    Amanda quick/ Jayne Ann Krentz has written 3 of my goofball faves:
    Deception–bookish Olympia Wingate and Jared Chillhurst are perfect together.
    Dangerous– The Original of the Season Prudence Merryweather and the Roguish Earl of Angelstone made me laugh the entire book.
    Absolutely, Positively–this is a book I just discovered this year and immediately went in my keeper pile. I have already re-read it twice!
    The Sinner–by Madeline Hunter Dante Duclaric is not only smokin’ hot but he turns out to be exactly the husband Fleur needs despite his reputation.
    Sandy. I too like goofball heroes and heroines. It does indeed take guts to fly in the face of convention. And when they are written right, as all of the books mentioned in this blog are, they are just delightful to read.

  8. Trish says:

    Bobby Tom Denton is one of my all time fave heroes! All I have to do is think of him or see his name in print and I smile. Just can’t help it. I think perhaps SEP is the queen of this type of hero – she also created (as a prior posted pointed out) Cal Bonner (NOBODY’S BABY BUT MINE) along with Kenny Traveler (LADY BE GOOD).

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think of Zack from Crusie’s GETTING RID OF BRADLEY as kind of a goofball, too.

    Rupert from MR IMPOSSIBLE is another great idiot hero. The hero of Tessa Dare’s A LADY OF PERSUASION, Toby, is mildly goofy.

    It looks as if Sherry Thomas’ upcoming book, HIS AT NIGHT (May, ’10) will feature an “idiot” hero. From the author’s website:

    “Lord Vere was, in other words, an idiot. Not a raving one, for his sanity was rarely questioned. And not so moronic that he could not see to his daily needs. Rather, he was an amusing idiot, as ignorant and puffed up as a pillow, silly to the extreme, but sweet, harmless, and very well liked among the Upper Ten Thousand for the diversion he provided—and for his inability to remember anything told him that did not affect his meals, his nightly beauty rest, or the pride and joy that resided in his underlinen.

    Such an extraordinary idiot he had been in the thirteen years since his unfortunate “riding accident,” no one not privy to his more clandestine activities had ever remarked his proximity to some of the most sensational criminal cases of the upper crust, shortly before the cases were solved and the culprits brought to justice.”

    Can’t wait . . .

  9. AAR Sandy says:

    marcella, it’s been years since I read Carnal Innocence and I think it’s time for a reread.

    Victoria S, JAK/Amanda Quick is a comfort read for me and you named quite a few of my favorites.

    Trish, LOVE Sherry Thomas books and I hadn’t seen the description you quoted. Whoa, I can’t wait either.

    Luce Io, totally agree about Stephen Colbert, but I’m more of a Jon Stewart fan.

  10. mingqi says:

    this is also one of my fave plotlines too-especially if the goofball is a guy. There are too many enigmatic heroes out there who are serious and just have to show off how slick and intelligent. Some of them don’t seem to have much of a sense of humor. Yes, the book may be humorous, but it’s because the author is humorous, not because the hero consciously strives to entertain or be humorous.

    Bridal Favors is my favorite Connie Brockway book (with All Through the Night, so very different from it, being a close second). It’s sort of sad that it’s been so neglected. The humor is on par with Loretta Chase’s Mr.Impossible, and at times, even funnier. And the Bubo Formosa Plurimus. *pause* Minor! I’m so glad you brought this book up!

  11. AndyR says:

    The Sherry Thomas book sounds a lot like The Scarlet Pimpernel. I can’t wait.

  12. June says:

    Julie Garwood did a few goofball heroines in her historicals. Sara from The Gift comes to mind first. She’s a clueless kind of goofball.

  13. Lynn Spencer says:

    There are all kinds of plot devices that draw me in, but the two that come to mind right away are friends-into-lovers and reunions. I know a lot of people don’t like there to be separations in a romance, but I am a sucker for a good reunion scene.

  14. Susan/DC says:

    I actually prefer Brockway’s Bridal Season because I love watching Elliot come unstuck at the mere sight of Letty. The proposal at the end is a total fairy tale. I loved the book from beginning to end.

    I think “Miss Wonderful”, the first of Chase’s Carsington books, is another good example of this plot (although it did have a somewhat saggy middle). Mirabel has a decent life: she has friends, a loving father, and is respected in her community. It’s not until Alistair Carsington appears on her doorstep that she realizes how much of life she’s let pass her by. Alistair loves clothes and loves women, but he is content to live on the surface and doesn’t mind his reputation as a flirt and flibbertygibbet until his father confronts him with the Episodes of Stupidity. Classic Loretta Chase.

    I agree with Lynn Spencer and also love friends to lovers plots, although with the caveats mentioned in the thread on this subject on the Potpourri Board.

  15. Terese says:

    How about Midsummer Madness by Laura Kinsale. That was laugh out loud funny to me. Merlin is a typical brilliant but absent-minded professer type and the Duke was so staid and rigid.

  16. MB says:

    Another that comes under this category and well worth a mention is the combo of Min the Actuary and Cal the dyslexic in Jennifer Cruisie’s “Bet Me”

  17. Julie P. says:

    Which character is the goofball in Pride & Prejudice?

    In a way, I can see Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey) as a goofball, but Catherine Morland isn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, so she wouldn’t qualify as the brains of this pairing. But Pride & Prejudice? Unless you mean Bingley? But he’s not the hero.

    That’s a real head-scratcher.

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