The Rec League: Your Body is My Wonderland

The Rec League I received an email from Cordy, who loved a particular element of Seize the Fire and is looking for more scenes like it: 

I just finished Laura Kinsale's book Seize the Fire ( A | BN | K), and I really liked one aspect of it so much I'm hoping to find other books with the same element: The hero loves the heroine's body.

Book Seize the Fire It isn't just vague handwaving about how she's so attractive and [insert body type] is his favorite and [hair color] is so hot to him. It was about his kind of visceral “Oh my God it's a glorious amusement park I want to live here” response, which made me realize that this is kind of lacking in a lot of the (mostly historical) romances I read….

What I liked is that he seems kind of struck dumb by her, physically – it isn't necessarily about her specific bodytype (for me as the reader; I think the hero would disagree) it's just about his kind of sensory dazedness, I think, his stunned lust.

Here are a couple of examples:

“She was so much smaller than he, in spite of her bountiful figure; and so soft, so soft, like a baby bird or a newborn lamb, when life in general was so deucededly full of hard edges. He left off kissing her and buried his face in the warm curve of her neck, holding her tightly in his arms.

[...]

…but when he'd stood in the shop, thinking about unbuttoning them [the boots he bought her] to reveal her tender ankles, his throat had gone dry at the image. So he'd laid out ten guineas for the set.

[...]

She was squeaking protest while he shaped the round curve of her thigh. He kissed her again, to keep her mouth busy, and moved his hand up until his fingers found her lovely plump belly. Excitement surged through him; he spread his hand over the luscious swell.

Book Devil in Winter I discovered Devil In Winter ( A | BN | K | ARe) from you, and I don't have any quotes rattling around in my brain, but I thought it had something similar going, with the hero going dry-mouthed and stupid because of the heroine's body. I find it, you know, charming to read. :p 

Is this too obscure of a thing? Do you by any chance have any recommendations I could check out? The heroine's body type doesn't really matter to me, it was just the hero's gleeful response to it that I found strangely charming. Thank you so much! 

 

Oooh, yes. As I said to Cordy, there's a moment in Devil in Winter where he goes brainblank at the sight of her. She's his ideal and he didn't quite know it. I do like that trope, a LOT. Especially when the hero is all, “You're gloriously hot don't change a thing.”

This is different from the more commonly found trope/cliche of He usually preferred women who were [insert attribute here] but her [opposite of his usual preference] were surprisingly perfect, which is a shorthand method of distinguishing the heroine as The Perfectly Perfect One for the hero. If he loves tall, thin women with blonde hair, and all of a sudden he's got it bad for a short, curvy brunette, maybe it's romance heroine, or maybe it's Maybelline, but it's pretty repetitive. 

Book Take Me If I'm understanding Cordy's request correctly, she's looking for the hero who is poleaxed at the sight of the heroine, all dazed with lust and desire. She's already named my brain's first suggestion, Devil in Winter. My other suggestion, if I'm remembering it correctly, is Take Me by Bella Andre ( A | BN | K | ARe), about a curvy woman who models her sister's lingerie in a fashion show and catches the eye of the dude she's been crushing on for years. 

Another suggestion that's tickling the back of my memory is Wishes by Jude Deveraux ( A | BN | K | ARe), which is about as off-the-wall as historicals get, with the guardian angel doing penance by fixing the problems of a young woman in 1890s Colorado. I can't remember if it's the hero's fixation on Nellie and his desire for her that I'm remembering, or if it's the part where said guardian angel thinks making Nellie thin will solve all her problems – which it doesn't, and the hero wants her just as much anyway. 

I agree with Cordy that the gleeful, reaction of the hero and his “sensory dazedness” makes for wonderful reading. Do you recall any books or scenes that Cordy might like? 

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  1. 1
    Vasha says:

    That’s kind of the opposite of the infamous cliché where he brushes off his desire for her as being “too long since he had a woman”, isn’t it? That comes off as insulting because, no matter what his hormones are doing, his conscious mind isn’t saying “She’s hot,” it’s saying “She’s female, anything female would do.”

  2. 2
    CG says:

    How about The Proposition by Judith Ivory? Mick is all about Edwina’s long legs.

  3. 3
    June says:

    In relation to one of your other posts this week, this kind of stuff is my “catnip” too.  And I think that’s why Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels is such a re-read for me (as are most of her books).  It’s this stuff:

    Even if he had comprehended her expression, he wouldn’t have believed it, any more than he could believe his untoward state of excitement— over a damned glove and a bit of feminine flesh. Not even one of the good bits, either—the ones a man didn’t have— but an inch or so of her wrist, plague take her.

    What makes it such a keeper is that she has the same reactions towards him.

  4. 4
    Patricia M says:

    I am currently reading Elizabeth Essex’s Almost a Scandal and the hero has a similar reaction when he sees the heroine naked.  The plot is that the heroine takes her brother’s place as a midshipmen on a royal navy ship so it is a girl in pants book which I normally don’t like since they are too unrealistic for me to suspend disbelief.  This one works for me though, and the hero is the first lieutenent who sees through the disguise but admires her competence in the role.  He finds her perfect when they get naked.

  5. 5
    June says:

    @Patricia M OK, I’m also a sucker for “girls in pants” books.  I may need to look this one up!

  6. 6
    SB Sarah says:

    @Vasha:

    That’s kind of the opposite of the infamous cliché where he brushes off his desire for her as being “too long since he had a woman”, isn’t it? That comes off as insulting because, no matter what his hormones are doing, his conscious mind isn’t saying “She’s hot,” it’s saying “She’s female, anything female would do.”

    YES. YEEESSSSSSS. I hate the “too long without a woman” line any time I see it, because of exactly what you say. It implies any warm hole will do, and that’s gross to me on many levels. And it does nothing for the hero, either. If it’s really been “too long,” leave the anonymous female out if it, get some lotion and a sock, and take care of your problems yourself.

  7. 7
    JoanneF says:

    The Dangerous Viscount.  He gets one look at her leg and he’s done for.  There are a few other instances in the book where he marvels at how she is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

  8. 8
    laj says:

    @SBSarah:
    “It implies any hole will do”

    HA! I spewed my coffee and made a spectacle of myself in front of a bunch of obnoxious interns…..thank you very much!

    @June: The audio of Lord of Scoundrels is magnificent! I can’t recommend it enough.
    The glove scene is delicious….hot, hot, hot! :)

    Mary Jo Putney’s The Rake and The Reformer (re-released as The Rake) is my suggestion.

  9. 9
    kkw says:

    Sometimes ‘it’s been too long’ makes me feel like offering the hero a bear trap to stick it in, sure, but too much obsession and cataloging of her perfect parts make me wonder what’s in his freezer in the basement. It would appear that writing a book is not an easy thing.

    Tara Jansen wrote some books that had the brains of the heroes stalling like their muscle cars when the heroines wore high heels, or combat boots, or generally passed into view. Makes you wonder how anything gets done, but might be good catnip.

    SEP’s It Had to Be You is I think the one where heroine reveals insecurities about how she looks and hero says it’s like a millionaire worrying his money is too green. The book is not for everyone, some serious trigger potential, but the hero’s delight in the heroine’s body is well done.

    And there’s a Ruthie Knox where the hero actually cannot speak around the heroine because he likes her so much. Flirting with Disaster. I love her style, but that book didn’t kill me (nor did it induce hulk smash killing rampage like Making it Last).

    Lord of Scoundrels is just a great book. I’ll endorse reading it for any cause.

    Is’t there some (Crusie?) novel where our heroine wants to know what it is about boobs that makes men so stoopid, and the hero tries to explain, but just thinking about her boobs makes him incapable of forming words and it’s funny?

    If I were capable of remembering a tiny fraction of what I read, I would have better suggestions, or at least more.

  10. 10
    chacha1 says:

    MJP’s “The Rake” (republication of The Rake and the Reformer) definitely.

    Also Jennifer Crusie’s “Bet Me,” which is explicit about body dysmorphia in a way her books often aren’t.

  11. 11
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    @kkw, what enraged you about Making it Last? I remember being vaguely dissatisfied with it, but it didn’t leave much of an impact other than to affirm my decision to be childfree. Which part made you hate it?

  12. 12
    Beatrce says:

    @laj. YESSS to Lord of Scoundrels in audiobook format. I had read it a couple of years ago and loved it to pieces. When the audiobook was released a few months ago I bought it that very minute And what a delight it was! It’s a whole different experience. The narrator nailed both Dain’s and Jessica’s characters to perfection. A recommended listen.

    @June: the heroine in Lord of Scoundrels is also deeply attracted to the hero’s body and has no qualms whatsover in acknowledging that fact. One of the best heroines ever

  13. 13
    Katie Lynn says:

    I am pretty sure that all of the heroes in Kathryn Caskie’s Featherton Sisters books have that reaction to the heriones. Especially the third book. (Sorry I can’t remember the names of any right now, other than one called ‘Lady in Waiting’)

  14. 14
    Jennifer in GA says:

    I thought about Lord of Scoundrels too, but even though he really is poleaxed with Jessica, there are several times when Dain says something along the lines of, “I had always preferred buxom blondes, but now I love this petite brunette. Who would of thunk it?!?”

  15. 15
    Stacie says:

    Caroline Linden’s Love and Other Scandal’s hero realizes his best friend’s sister is his body type. He’s amazed he never realized it.

  16. 16

    If memory serves, Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon would fit. The hero is in absolute lust over the heroine’s body; as far as he’s concerned, she’s the most beautiful woman alive, and woe to anyone who suggests otherwise!

  17. 17
    Heather S says:

    Stacie: Yes! I really liked the heroine and hero both in “Love and Other Scandals”. It was on sale recently as part of a “First In A Series” thing from Avon Books – I’d had it in paperback but I snapped up the Kindle edition for $1.99 and counted it a win. :) I just adore books where the heroine is misbehaving in a bookish kind of way – like the heroine in “Any Duchess Will Do” who wanted to open a library of naughty books in Spindle Cove, or Joan in “LaOS”, who (along with all of her friends and their mothers) were reading “Fifty Ways to Sin”. What are some more historicals with bluestocking heroines?

  18. 18

    @Heather S:

    What are some more historicals with bluestocking heroines?

    If you haven’t read it already, try Suddenly You, by Lisa Kleypas. The heroine is a novelist who decides that, since she’s going “on the shelf” there’s no reason why she shouldn’t have some fun before donning a spinster’s cap. So she talks to a local madam and asks her to send her a man… of course, things don’t go as planned. It’s a bit too angsty for me at times, but I really liked the premise.

  19. 19
    Brigit says:

    The request reminded me of Loretta Chase’s _Not Quite A Lady_, which stayed much more present in my mind than Lord Of Scoundrels for reasons unknown:

    Some quotes:

    This would describe the male MC experiencing the sense of losing himself:

    “She lifted her head then, and he found himself staring into an extraordinary world of blue that was her eyes. Everything else went away while he tried to take it in: the flawless oval face, as perfect as a cameo… the ivory skin brightening to pink along the delicately sculpted bones of her cheeks… the sultry pout of her parted lips.
    He watches the endless blue world of her eyes widen, and for a moment he forgot everything: where he was and who he was and what he was. Then he dragged a hand through hair and wondered if he’d hit his head without realizing.”

    While this would be a different kind of visceral reaction (the MCs nearly fell into a pond, getting some mud on themselves):

    “Her round backside pressed against his groin. Along with the smell of pond muck he detected a sweeter, distinctively feminine scent. He noticed a tiny spot of mud on the nape of her smooth white neck. He caught himself in the nick of time – half a heartbeat before his tongue could flick out to… groom her?”

  20. 20
    anngeewhiz says:

    So dangerous to read the comments!  I just order 8 books!!!!

  21. 21
    mel burns says:

    @HeatherS: Early Amanda Quick has some wonderful bluestocking ladies. Elizabeth Thornton wrote a few too and Elizabeth Boyle’s This Rake of Mine has a wonderful bluestocking/disgraced heiress by the name of Miranda Maberley. Spies, pirates, the mischievous Felicity Langley, a little dog and a hero named Jack. It’s all good.

  22. 22
    kkw says:

    @Dread Pirate Rachael Did we ever talk about the first book, and how the ending wasn’t wholly convincing? Anyway, I liked the other one

    But they already had a book, and thus a HEA, and one of the (many) things that made me fall in love with Ruthie Knox was the lack of epilogue. Only this dozen years later story was like the epilogue from hell, only I’m a big chunk of the way into it before I get that, cause my brain is made of swiss cheese. I know who these characters are, and supposedly they got this shit sorted already. But no. Instead of dealing with their problems and talking to each other and having hot meaningful sex like they were supposed to…

    They had these horrible children, because they’re lousy parents, and they had miserable empty lives, and crap communication and they are Not Happy. But it’s so realistic I couldn’t be all, scoff, no no, I’m living in a different universe and don’t accept your version.

    I’m so mad that no one in her big loving family is making this (fictional, I know she’s fictional) heroine get therapy, and for realz I want her to grow up and do it for herself, and that’s what I decided in my head happened after the first book. But no, turns out there has been no dealing in the past dozen years and now there is a kind of superficial fix and the understanding that they will carry on with their pathetic depressing little lives in a constant state of irrational fear and anxiety that is destroying them and also the next generation (only I can’t properly feel sorry for the kids because they’re hellacious), but wait! It’s ok, they may have to sell the house he built her and now she can go running sometimes and and. Breathe. And I did not care for it.

    So this book not only didn’t work for me, in a big way, it wrecked the first one, and makes all the rest suspect.

    On the bright side, I do feel very relieved I don’t have children, it’s true.

  23. 23
    MJ says:

    Thea Harrison’s Dragon Bound & GA Aiken’s Dragon Kin Series are good, too.

  24. 24
    PamG says:

    I recently read Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett, and I think it has that quality of wonder that Cordy seems to be looking for.  The hero is obsessed with the heroine’s freckles from the first time he sees her.  One gets the impression that the freckles are like a breadcrumb trail through the mysterious and amazing landscape of her body.  I never felt that the author was relying on tired old romance conventions, e.g. the heroine never berates herself for her homely freckles.  He loves ‘em; she’s cool with ‘em.  Way to make a physical characteristic sensuous yet not annoying.  There was always a sense that THIS man is enthralled with THIS woman.  And she, with him.

    Here.  Have a quote.

    When she introduced herself and extended her hand to shake, it drew his attention to her skin, which was pale as milk and densely covered in bronze freckles.  Not the kind you’d see smattered on the sun-kissed face of a child.

    Freckles everywhere.

    They began in a sliver of pale forehead above arched brows, gathered tightly across her nose and cheeks, lightened around her neck, then disappeared into the dipping neckline of her dress.

    Winter’s gaze raked over her breasts again—still respectable—down her dress to the jagged handkerchief hem below her knees.  He followed the path of the spotted skin around her calves, half hidden by pale stockings, to the T-bar heels on her feet.  Freckles on her legs—how about that?  For some reason, he found this wildly exciting.  Increasingly lurid thoughts ballooned inside his head after he wondered exactly what percentage of her skin was speckled.  Did freckles cover her arms?  The curving creases where her backside ended and her legs began?  Her nipples?

    I know it’s long, but such a scrumptious description….

  25. 25
    SB Sarah says:

    @PamG:

    Oh, don’t apologize. That quote made my morning!

  26. 26
    Mary Beth says:

    I recently read The Iron Duke and I thought that Rhys’ reaction to Mina was very much the same – he was completely obsessed with her.

  27. 27
    Sally says:

    I just finished Lothaire, and I have to tell you I think Kresley Cole does a fabulous joke of creating heroes that are addled with lust for their heroines. Don’t START with Lothaire—for heaven’s sake go back to the beginning, but her heroes are almost always dazzled and enchanted by their heroines both physically and mentally.

  28. 28
    Ken Houghton says:

    All right; now I want to see someone write a book where the hero thinks the heroine’s body is perfect as is and she’s desperate to change it.

    The way things are in real life, that is.

  29. 29
    PropellerBeanie says:

    I agree with all above suggestions! Great recommendations. Looking forward to reading the books i’m unfamiliar with.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read Mountain Laurel by Jude Deveraux, but I seem to remember the hero was thoroughly wild for the opera singer heroine’s “lush curves.” So much so that when they finally got it on in a mountain cabin they didn’t emerge for several days.

    I’ve since found authors I enjoy reading more, but JD was one of the first romance writers I discovered way back when, and I really have a soft spot for her books.

  30. 30
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    @kkw,

    But they already had a book, and thus a HEA, and one of the (many) things that made me fall in love with Ruthie Knox was the lack of epilogue.

    *SPOILERS FOLLOW*

    Ah, see, I never read the first book. I was reading this as a stand-alone, so while I was aware that the couple had a full-length book, I never got that feeling of having their love story destroyed. I mostly just didn’t care for it because I wasn’t convinced that their little conversation was going to solve their major problems. Especially since it seemed like the hero was really never going to learn to respect the heroine’s autonomy. Things like turning off the water when he decided she’d been in the shower long enough,* changing her flight without telling her first,** and even the whole setup for the book all showed how little the other characters respected the heroine’s agency, and I never got the feeling that that problem was remedied.

    *Note: I may have had such a strong reaction to this because I fucking love my showers, and if somebody messes mine up, there will be hell to pay.
    **Note the second: I understand that a sick child is a legitimate reason to change vacation plans (one of the reasons I’m CF). I just think it would have been worth the thirty seconds it took to pop his head into the bathroom and say, “Our child is sick, so I’m going to reschedule our return flights so we can be with him.”

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