I’ve been thinking lately about what is it about some writers that make their books magical for readers in ways that others aren’t.
First, a confession: I read contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and paranormals, but historical romance was my first love and remains my absolute favorite. So, with my bias fully admitted and setting aside the continuing gush of wallpaper historicals in which you can’t even tell the time period a book is supposedly set in unless the author tells you, there are some talented writers out there I’ve come to admire and who have become auto-buys for me. Still, the ones I’m watching have yet to come up with one of those scenes.
I’m talking about those hit-you-in-the-heart scenes. The kind you remember. The kind you share with other readers who very often respond “Yes!” The kind that make you feel what the characters are feeling.
I love the scene in which Bobby Tom realizes that Gracie made an “X” over his heart in Heaven, Texas. Equally, the “you are my Egypt” scene from Connie Brockway’s As You Desire has to rank as one of the greatest declarations of love in all of romance. And I’ve sighed since I was 14 over the scene in Devil’s Cub in which Mary attempts to break up hotheaded Vidal’s sword fight by stepping in the middle of the action. Vidal’s reaction makes Mary realize for the very first time that her spoiled and haughty Devil’s Cub really loves her. I felt it too and I will never forget the first time I read it.
But, for me, three scenes stand out that perfectly exemplify just what I’m talking about.
See, I love France. I love the food and the art and the cinema. I love the cobblestone streets strewn with leaves and dog poo alike, and I love the mega-stores and tiny boutiques. I appreciate their massive anal attitude towards their language, and am utterly envious of French women who all seem born with the Instant Style Gene. Whenever I go to France, the minute I step off the plane, I feel like I’ve come home.
In other words, I don’t get the semi-automatic “anti-French, anti-revolution bias” that Jennie at Dear Author says is “common to most everyone but the French”, but that, honestly, I think is really only common to English-speakers. (Stereo)typically-speaking. So I’m happy whenever I read a book that’s mainly set in France. (The temporary excursions just, somehow, don’t count.) Pre-Louis XIV is pretty thin on the grounds, but there’s always Susan Carroll’s witch series, starting with Silver Rose, and the second book of the Renaissance Lymond Chroniclesby Dorothy Dunnett. In the pre-Revolutionary 18th century there are Georgette Heyer’s classic These Old Shadesand Anne Stuart’s recent Ruthless. Turn-of-the-century, I’ve read Susan Johnson’s Forbidden and Judy Cuevas’ Beast, and heard amazing things about Bliss and Dance. All are really good books.