Isn’t it interesting that in most books, independently of the genre, we come across romantic elements? Sure, a hero can save the day against all odds, and people can fight against evil and for the freedom of future generations, the mysteries of the past can be revealed and horrible monsters can be sent back to where they came from, but if there is nobody falling in love in the process…well, what’s the point, right?
I guess romance is there to give us something entertaining to read and show us a vulnerable and sensitive side of the characters. And don’t you just love it when you’ve been through thick and thin with the protagonists and know them inside out and firmly believe they should get together because…they MUST. They are just perfect for each other. Their fictional lives would be so much better if they could only stop being so blind!!!
And then – it happens. The moment when everything becomes clear (to us at least). Our hearts tremble as if we were the ones just realizing we are hopelessly, deeply, terribly, IN LOVE.
I live for such moments in books, even though they are sometimes only the beginning of torment and the book characters require a couple of sequels to finally follow their feelings. It becomes even worse when I know that a happy end is not guaranteed. However, that’s what makes me want to read on, no matter how many pages more. How about you?
Here are some romantic book moments that remained etched in my memory forever.
My first favorite romantic moment is from the book “The Tombs of Atuan” by Ursula Le Guin, happening between Tenar and Ged. Tenar’s young life has been spent serving dark, ancient, and utterly evil gods, which she abandons to help Ged retrieve a talisman that will bring peace to their world. Ged is a wizard – and as such he seeks only power, not love. So, it will take these two souls another two decades (and two more books) to find their way to each other. And it all starts with this innocent sentence:
“She watched him, and never could she have said what was in her heart as she watched him, in the firelight, in the mountain dusk.”
My heart just bleeds for her, even now, after I know how the story ends, it still does. It sucks to be young, lost, and in love with a wizard.
“All that lay ahead of her was unknown. She knew nothing but the desert and the Tombs. What good was that? She knew the turning of a ruined maze, she knew the dances danced before a fallen altar. She knew nothing of forests, or cities, or the hearts of men.”
Ursula Le Guin was a master of such subtleties and I will be forever grateful to her for making Tenar so amazing – Tenar goes on to live a life without Ged, but according to her rules, and many years later, when in her forties, she meets with him again. And yes, women (and men) in their forties can find true love. It’s not reserved for young people only.
The second favorite romantic moment chosen for you out of my library is from the book “The Dark Volume” by Gordon Dahlquist. It’s the second book in the series “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters” that is an action/mystery/suspense mixture with a taste of steampunk, taking place in a Victorian London of sorts (but in a parallel universe more or less). We follow the fates of Miss Temple, a headstrong heiress, and Cardinal Chang, a thug, as they try to thwart the mysterious plot of a sinister cabal. And almost a thousand pages into the book 2, at last, there comes this paragraph:
“Miss Temple looked up at him, her hands held tight, and saw with a piercing despair the beauty of his jaw, the broad grace of his shoulders, and his especially elegant throat, bound as it was by a filthy neck cloth. Then with a swallow she looked into Chang’s eyes, visible past the skewed black lenses…squinting and damaged…confusing and hideous…and she realized that this man was the exact image of everything that had gone so horribly wrong, of so much she had lost and could never recover.
Like a striking snake Miss Temple stabbed her face up to his, her lips finding the rough stubble of his cheek and then his mouth, which was so much softer than she ever expected.”
In the next moment, Cardinal Chang is stabbed to death (or so it seems), and I had to wait a whole year for the next sequel, which seriously affected my health (but I was ten years younger then, so I survived). Although the last sequel of the book series had some points I would have liked resolved differently (and the things were starting to confuse me at that stage), the romance part played out well.
And finally, I’ll end this post with one of my favorite book endings of all time. And yes, it has something to do with romance – a love gone wrong, where people hurt each other and were never given a second chance to correct their mistakes. At least, not until the main protagonist Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the intelligent ocean that covers its surface. But it turns out there are no real second chances – not for this man and not in this universe. “Solaris” by Stanisław Lem.
“On the surface, I was calm: in secret, without really admitting it, I was waiting for something. Her return? How could I have been waiting for that? We all know that we are material creatures, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and not even the power of all our feelings combined can defeat those laws. All we can do is detest them. The age-old faith of lovers and poets in the power of love, stronger than death, that finis vitae sed non amoris, is a lie, useless and not even funny. So must one be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going? Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition? That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should repeat itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox…
Must I go on living here then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.”