The Appeal of the Mundane

that-old-black-magic I’m an enthusiastic lover of romance. I love the action and adventure, the sweeping sagas, the old school and new alike. But lately I’ve come to appreciate yet another facet of my favorite novels, the scenes of quiet domesticity. Sure, these aren’t the ones that typically grab your attention and make your heart pound. They usually aren’t even the ones you will remember after you close the book. But I believe they plan an important role in the development of the romance and give the reader a deeper understanding of the book’s characters.

A few weeks ago I was reading Alpha Instinct, a werewolf book by Katie Reus, for review. The few scenes I enjoyed in this book were the ones in which the main characters interacted with their families in a domestic setting. In one memorable scene, the heroine Ana is in the kitchen making polvorones, Mexican shortbread cookies (think Pecan Sandies with a licorice kick), with Vivian, the young jaguar-shifter for whom she has been caring. I found a couple of things appealing about the scene. For one, it highlighted Ana’s heritage, granting a little more depth to her character. It was also a nice break from the action and when Ana’s mate Connor entered the scene, it allowed the reader a glimpse into the main characters’ everyday lives. The scene could have been cut from the book entirely without affecting the story, but its inclusion gave the reader a sort of reference point for what married life would be like for them.

Another of my favorite scenes that I’ve recently read is the opening scene from Michelle Rowen’s That Old Black Magic. Darrak, a demon from Hell, is sitting at the breakfast table and reminds his girlfriend Eden that they are out of peanut butter. There were no explosions or villains bursting into the scene. It was just a simple, day-in-the-life-of kind of scene. And it worked for me.

So what could be the appeal of the seemingly mundane? I would say that it takes the larger-than-life characters and makes them more human, more relatable. I believe these scenes also reinforce the HEA by showing that once the unusual circumstances of the plot are resolved, the hero and heroine will be able to settle into domestic bliss. Somehow it is reassuring that the hero gives his heroine a foot massage after a long day or that the couple will read together in bed before going to sleep and that they will stay together.

How about you? Do you enjoy the quieter scenes in romances? Or do they bore you? What are some of your favorites?

– Heather S.

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4 Responses to “The Appeal of the Mundane”

  1. farmwifetwo says:

    It makes the story “possible”. Yes, it’s fantasy and isn’t real but I like my psychics, shapeshifters, magic…. reasonable, realistic and possible.

    Katherine Kurtz – the Adept series
    Mercedes Lackey – Valdemar
    Kay Hooper – although she can go “out there” at times
    Nalini Singh

    for some examples.

  2. Leigh says:

    I think one of my favorites is by Sharon Shinn in Trouble Waters. She even talks about it too on her web page. Quoting her:

    “My favorite scene: The one where Zoe helps a man draw blessings for his newborn twin girls. It doesn’t do anything to advance the plot, but it’s just so sweet, and it really illustrates the power of the blessings.”

    And I have to agree – it is a very sweet scene.

  3. maggie b. says:

    I think these scenes work best in paranormals cause they add normal to the abnormal. And it wasn’t any one scene but I loved Bella cooking in the Twilight books. It was an ongoing act that she performed in the midst of being chased by vampires and threatened by werewolves. It was truly a symbol of the end of normal when she couldn’t eat the fried chicken in book four.

  4. Hannah says:

    It’s not just in paranormals that everyday life scenes can have an effect. In the Bronze Horseman, seeing Tatiana and Alexander enjoying quiet domesticity heightens the emotion for when it is gone. In the first book, they get a honeymoon period away from the war which is romantic and lovely. However, I always think that The Summer Garden, book three, which is mostly about their normal everyday lives after wartime, is the hardest to read because we see what happens long-term after the HEA. What happens is mundane and we can relate to that and, while at first it’s nice to see this couple getting to this point, it can also be uncomfortable and sad to read at times. In that book, when war and drama intrude again, it’s almost a relief.