Moment of Insightful Brilliance

From Charlie All Night by Jennifer Crusie:

“Listen to me,” Charlie said and the intensity in his voice stopped her in midsentence. “One of the biggest problems this country has is that people think a law is only a law if they agree with it. And if they don’t it’s all right to kick [gays] like Joe out of the service and bomb abortion clinics because there’s a higher law at work. And that’s garbage…. The law is the law. If you don’t like it, change it. But don’t break it and then start whining when there are consequences.”

I love it when a character says or does something in a romance novel that makes me stop still and go, “Well, damn hell, that was freaking brilliant.” I’m frequently charmed by the clever reworking of traditional romance structure, and I’m always a sucker for a good, long attraction stage between the hero and the heroine, but when a character or plot development does more than just develop the romance, and makes me think differently about things completely unrelated to my own fictional escape, I am just so impressed, with both the author for the intelligent insight, and myself, well, for reading romance.

What are some moments of brilliance in romance novels you’ve read, beyond plot and character?

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    fiveandfour says:

    Going back to a book I’ve commented on before, Anne Mather’s Snowfire, there’s a moment where the hero is talking about why he thinks taking drugs seems an attractive option to some kids.  He says something along the lines of younger people see things on tv that gives them the expectation that normality is having a nice, big house and the expensive accroutrements to go along with it and they lose hope.  They know they’ll never achieve those kinds of riches and feel like “what’s the point?”

    It’s kind of an obvious statement, but that thought of “losing hope” was a revelation for me and made me look at shows like MTV’s Cribs or the Fabulous Life Of [insert random star name here] series in a whole new way.  What message is it sending our youth when having a large house and several cars in the driveway is glorified in this way?  How can a kid who knows his life will be spent at menial labor jobs not feel left by the way-side of life, if not worthless?

    It’s caused me to amend my viewing habits when my daughter is around – I don’t want to give her the message consciously or unconsciously that the hoarding of possessions is the path to a happy life.  In fact, I try to point out when I can just how many people live a life of chaos when the focus of their life is money and not more important things.

    I’m pretty amazed when I realize that this change in my habits was all inspired by a Harlequin romance book.

  2. 2
    Wendy says:

    This is from a category romance – Contract Bride by Susan Fox (a Harlequin Romance).  A secondary character says this to the hero:

    “A jealous man gets jealous because he knows he’s done wrong, so he uses jealousy to cover his guilt. That way, it’s the woman’s fault, not his.”

    I’d never heard jealousy quite described like that before, and I thought it was most appropriate.

  3. 3

    This isn’t in a romance novel.  It’s in Terry Pratchett’s brilliant GUARDS! GUARDS! and may be the most romantic passage I’ve ever read, ‘cause it’s what about what really matters:

    “She smiled at him.
    And then it arose and struck Vimes that, in her own special category, she was quite beautiful; this was the category of all the women, in his entire life, who had ever thought he was worth smiling at.  She couldn’t do worse, but then, he couldn’t do better. So maybe it balanced out.”

  4. 4
    Roseread says:

    That’s one of the reasons I like Suzanne Brockmann’s books so much, because they not only make terrorists into people, but also point out that they’re also terrorists, and therefore terribly misguided and just plain wrong.  Political ideologies aside, she exposes some of the realities of terrorist thinking and the thinking of people who protect us against them in ways I would never think of myself.

    And I have to add that I credit romances as a whole with my fabulous relationship with my husband.  They taught me both the importance of communication in a relationship, and—somehow more important—how to go about doing all that important communication.  And I’ll tell you what, Tom Clancy or John Grisham couldn’t have taught me that.

    They’ve also taught me a lot about sex, but that’s different!  ;)

  5. 5
    Becca says:

    Does Lois McMaster Bujold count?

    “I don’t confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is… the higher achievement.… In fact, since no one is perfect, it follows that all great deeds have been accomplished out of imperfection. Yet they were accomplished, somehow, all the same.” from Mirror Dance.

    or “Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.” – Aral Vorkosigan, in A Civil Campaign (which, I suppose could be argued as being a romance novel)

    both of these hit me at very important and key points of my life, and made me re-think and change direction.

  6. 6

    In this passage from Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman nails why we love to read romance novels:

    “Because of this, Sally and Gillian had learned things most children their age had not: that it was always wise to collect fingernail clippings that had once been the living tissue of your beloved, just in case he should take it into his head to stray; that a woman could want a man so much she might vomit in the kitchen sink or cry so fiercely blood would form in the corners of her eyes.”

    We all long for this feeling but we don’t want the messes that come with it. So we read romances in the safety of our beds. :)

  7. 7
    Susan K says:

    I don’t have the book in front of me so can’t give the exact quote, but it’s from another Crusie novel, “Anyone But You”.  Alex is talking to his older brother Max about the woman he’s fallen in love with:  “the thing about Nina is that when I’m with her, I forget everything but her, so I can’t pretend to be somebody else.  The only person I can be with Nina is me.”  For whatever reason that struck me as an incredible statement about the nature of true love, as opposed to lust or trophy spouses or any other lesser forms of romantic attachment.

  8. 8
    Beth says:

    I’ve had millions of those moments, but the one that comes to mind is in John Irving’s Cider House Rules, when he notes that (paraphrasing, but not by much) it is a truth of growing older that the people who once meant so much to us can one day be wrapped up in parentheses.

  9. 9
    Jennifer says:

    Becca —you have posted my absolute favorite quotes from Lois McMaster Bujold.  Every time I reread LMB, I am impressed again with the snippets of wisdom that come from her characters mouths, particularly Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan.

    From “The Dedicated Villian” by Patricia Veryan:  Roland is having regrets about his past, having truly been a villain, and quotes a French philosopher or writer (Jean de la Bruyere?), who once wrote that most men spend the first part of their lives making the second part miserable.  At the time, I was still a teenager, and it hadn’t really struck me yet how seemingly trivial mistakes and choices could have a significant impact later.

    Jennifer

  10. 10
    Gail says:

    Oh, the Bujold quote from Civil Campaign—one of my favorites. I also like this one, when Ekaterin has gone to tell Miles she can’t see him any more:

      “I have this Thing about oaths[”, she said. “]When you became an Imperian Auditor, you took oath again. Even though you were forsworn once. How could you bear to?”
      “Oh,” he said, looking around a little vaguely. “What, when they issued you your honor, didn’t they give you the model with the reset button? Mine’s right here.” He pointed to the general vicinity of his navel.

    It’s all about forgiving yourself—just because you screwed up once, you don’t have to screw up again. I like that…

    And this one—I wasn’t all that impressed with the book: ANGEL FALLS by Kristen Hannah—but I loved this quote. It’s about why Men think something like BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY was so great.

      The perfect male fantasy: a few days of passionate, reckless sex that didn’t change your life, then ripened into a bittersweet regret. Sure, you’d lost that one true love, but there was something inestimably romantic in loss. And why not? That love hadn’t been tested by time or boredom or infidelity. It remained caught in a shining web of timelessness, and as the years went on, it grew brighter and brighter.

  11. 11

    Here’s another Bujold favorite, from
    Shards of Honor:

    “He wanted to know what I saw in you.  I told him…” he paused again, and then continued almost shyly, “that you poured out honor like a fountain, all around you.”

    “That’s weird.  I don’t feel full of honor, or anything else, except maybe confusion.”

    “Naturally not.  Fountains keep nothing for themselves.”

    In our house we’re all big Bujold fans.  “Ivan, you idiot!” is a catch phrase when things go wrong.  That and, “Shopping.  Want to see what I bought?”[g]

  12. 12
    Becca says:

    Bujold fans and someone who reads Veryan too – I’ve found sisters!

    I have a whole booklet of quotes I’ve collected from Bujold, with some from Elizabeth peters as well. I’ve just added one from HP6 – the first one I’ve taken from that series.

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