When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree
was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom,
she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband,
who was with her, and he ate it.
-- Genesis 3:6
Okay, I’d like to go on record right now and admit that I’m not an easy person to live with. Yeah, yeah, I know—big surprise. But the truth is that I am afflicted with MSS—otherwise know as Martha Stewart Syndrome. Many of you already know that yes, I actually have piped dinner guests’ initials into their twice-baked potatoes, made lemon napkin-holders out of real lemons to hold lemon green beans and have actually drawn blueprints of dinner plates to ensure the most attractive placement of food. However, you will be happy to know that I am currently in therapy.
Since I’ve been banned from dinner parties by my husband, I have now transferred my perfectionist tendencies to other things such as revising manuscripts (at least 60 times on A Passion Most Pure alone) or pinning every earring or Christmas pin collected over a forty-year span on my sweater for a Seeker blog (When It Comes To Writing, Sometimes Less is More). Or driving my artist husband crazy when he designs my newsletter, which those of you who receive it know is pretty darn impressive, almost solely because of him.
Such was the case one day recently when I stood over his shoulder while he worked on my most recent newsletter, which, by the way, will be out this week, so if you are not signed up, you can do so here:
“Wow, babe, it’s absolutely perfect!” I said, excitement bubbling in my voice. “Uh, except for a few tiny things … Would you mind tilting those pictures a little bit more? Oh, and the excerpt from A Heart Revealed needs to be indented, and yeah, all book titles italicized. Not sure I’m crazy about that font—can we change it? And those dingbats gotta go—maybe little squiggles instead? Ooops … forgot some pictures of my reader friends, and for the love of Photoshop—my double chin in that picture just has to go!” Sigh … and that was only the first go-round. However, you will be happy to know that my husband is currently in therapy.
What’s my point besides that sharp thing on my head? Well, my point is that after hours of putting my husband through the paces, I was more than a little curious as to just why he puts up with a CDQ like me (caffeinated drama queen), so I hugged him in the kitchen, eyes misty with love. “I don’t deserve you, babe,” I say for the millionth time. “I know,” he says with a quirk of a smile and a tease in his tone. “And I don’t deserve you either.” I laugh and caress his stubbled chin with my thumb. “Why do you do it?” I ask, suddenly serious, not sure if he was a glutton for punishment, short on brain cells or both. “I don’t know,” he says, giving me a quick kiss on the lips. “I guess I’m just stupid in love.”
And there you have it—“stupid in love.” The very thing every woman craves for herself and one of the biggest reasons that romance sells like it does. Women want to be cherished. To be made to feel they are beautiful, sexy, the most important person in the world to the man that they love. A man strong enough to be worthy of them, but gentle enough to make them feel cherished. In short, a man so “stupid in love” that he’s willing to relent, to give of himself for the woman he loves. Few things are more irresistible to women than that, and few things are more irresistible to romance readers than a hero who’s “stupid in love.”
To me, seeing a strong, male type like Rhett Butler “who wasn’t the marrying kind” give in and marry Scarlett because he loved her and wanted to cherish her, spoke volumes to me. Even as a little girl, I sensed that was what romance was all about—finding a man who couldn’t do without you and to whom you were the most important woman in the world. It wasn’t until I gave my heart to the Lord that I learned it was a foreshadow of how God sees romance in Ephesians 5:25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Now I am not saying that Rhett Butler typified the kind of love Christ had in mind, but he wanted Scarlett so badly, he was willing to give of himself to get her. No other woman alive could do that to him, only her. Now to me, that’s romance!
When a man is “stupid in love,” he is so gaga over a woman that he will do anything for her, even if it’s out of character or against his will (like Rhett marrying Scarlett). If you think about it, it’s a kind of a good “control” that women exercise over men, being so loved by a man that he will sacrifice for her, defend her, do things he doesn’t want to do or even stop doing things he does want to do, solely for her sake.
Now women have been vying for control ever since Adam and Eve frolicked in the Garden, where God put Adam in charge of everything—as caretaker, protector, provider. Unfortunately for all of us, Adam abdicated this God-ordained “control” to Eve when he took a bite of that apple against God’s wishes. Talk about the ultimate “stupid in love”! Consequently, women have been striving for “control” over men ever since.
But in Ephesians 5, God remedies all of that when he tells women to respect their husbands (i.e. returning the headship to him that he abdicated in the Garden), but more importantly for our subject today, He tells men to “cherish” their wives, which I believe is the true essence of romance. Women want to be cherished, which, if you think about it, is kind of like a “good control” where a man loves her so much, he gives of himself to her and her alone because LOVE controls him. Thus the heart of romance novels.
So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, instead of a lesson plan on writing, I thought it would be fun to show some of the ways I like to depict heroes who are “stupid in love” without sacrificing their strength or masculinity.
1.) A Hero Who Can Admit When He’s Wrong. In this scene from A Passion Denied, Patrick O’Connor comes to his senses after months of sleeping at the Herald following a horrendous argument with his wife.
He stared at the empty door, unable to comprehend the love he’d just seen. His pulse droned in his ears as he slumped in the chair, body buzzing and mind numb.
She’d forgiven in the face of her anger. He dropped his head in his hands.
In total obedience to God. Unlike him. And total love for the man who spurned her.
Wetness welled in his eyes and he choked on a sob. An aching realization stabbed within, but its pain was kind, unlike the agony of guilt. Conviction lifted the blindness from his eyes, and he knew he had failed. He’d turned his back on God as well as his wife. And for what? Wounded pride that had yielded nothing but his demise. And hers.
Two souls for the price of one sin.
He thought of Marcy, and for the first time in weeks, he could see her clearly, unscathed by his anger. A woman, pure of heart and strong of character, loving God while loving him. He thought of the damage he’d done, and his heart fisted in grief. Oh, God, forgive me—I don’t deserve her.
He leapt to his feet, sin no longer weighting him down, and bounded the steps, two at a time. The hall was dark, but his step was light, and he prayed for mercy as never before. He neared their room and could hear her weeping, muffled and wrenching his heart like it should. He stopped in the doorway, staggered by what he’d done, and watched as their bed shivered with her grief. She didn’t hear him until he knelt by her side, and when he spoke, she jerked in surprise. “Marcy …”
The hitch of her breath was harsh in the dark.
He pressed a hand to her wet cheek, sick inside at the pain he’d caused. “God knows I don’t deserve it, but can you … will you … forgive me for being a fool?”
2.) A Hero Who Will Defend The Heroine’s Honor: In this scene from Steven O’Connor’s story, A Trust Restored (working title), Steven O’Connor is a prohibition agent who defends the heroine’s honor from his partner and best friend.
Barely outside the door, Joe spun around and pushed Steven back. “What the devil is wrong with you? You’re acting like a jackass.”
Steven shoved back, and several couples scattered away from the railing where sparks of moonlight glittered on the water … not unlike the anger in Joe’s eyes. “Yeah, well at least I’m not acting like Brubaker, trying to take advantage of a kid.”
Joe propped his arms on his hips. “She’s almost eighteen, Steven, two years past Massachusetts law of consent.” He paused, eyes sharp as if gauging Steven’s reaction to what he was about to say. A faint smile flickered on his lips. “Besides, one look at that sweater she’s wearing will tell you she’s not a kid.
Steven hit him so fast, Joe never saw it coming. He staggered back with a hand to his jaw, eyes blazing. “I knew it! You have a thing for her, don’t you?”
3.) A Hero Who Stops When He Doesn’t Want To: Here’s a scene from A Passion Most Pure where womanizer Collin McGuire, who never says no to his lust, finally does so with the woman he loves.
She started to protest when his mouth met hers, warm and sweet as he kissed her, and the heat that coursed made her dizzy in his arms. His kiss remained gentle and lingering, so unlike his kisses of the past, and she found herself returning it with a vehemence that shocked them both. He drew back, lips parted in surprise, and in the catch of his breath, the gray eyes heated like molten lava. With a low groan, his mouth took hers once again, evoking a soft moan from her lips. She could feel his breath, warm against her skin, and a jolt of heat seared unlike anything she had ever felt, except with him.
Suddenly he wrenched away, eyes filled with longing. Inhaling sharply, he shoved the hair in his eyes away from his face, and the trademark smile returned with a vengeance. “Yep, we still got it,” he whispered, exhaling again while his fingers threaded his hair.
Her mouth slacked open. “You stopped!”
He eyed her, his brow slanted in surprise. “Give me a little credit, will you? A guy has to learn a lot of restraint living in a trench.”
4.) A Hero Who Doesn’t Stop When He Does Want To: In this scene from A Passion Denied, the last thing hero John Brady wants to do is kiss the heroine Lizzie O’Connor, but his true feelings win out:
“Beth, are we okay?” He ducked his head to search her eyes, then brushed her hair back from her face. A smile shadowed his lips. “Still friends?”
Friends. A deadly plague only a kiss could cure. Resolve stiffened her spine. “Sure, Brady … friends.”
He smiled and tucked a finger under her chin. “That’s my girl. Now what do you say we pray about some of these things?” He leaned close with another quick kiss to her brow, and in a desperate beat of her heart, she lunged, uniting her mouth with his. She felt the shock of her action in the jolt of his body, and she gripped him close to deepen the kiss. Waves of warmth shuddered through her at the taste of him, and the essence of peppermint was sweet in her mouth.
“No!” He wrenched back from her hold with disbelief in his eyes.
Too late. She had never felt like this before. Years of seeking romance from flat parchment pages had not prepared her for this. This rush, this desire … her body suddenly alive, and every nerve pulsing with need. All shyness melted away in the heat of her longing, and she pounced again, merging her mouth with his. John Brady, I love you!
A fraction of a second became eons as she awaited his rejection. His body was stiff with shock, but no resistance came. And in a sharp catch of her breath, he drew her to him with such force, she gasped, the sound silenced by the weight of his mouth against hers. He groaned and cupped the back of her head as if to delve in her soul, a man possessed. His lips broke free to wander her throat, and shivers of heat coursed through her veins. In ragged harmony, their shallow breathing billowed into the night while his arms possessed her, molding her body to his.
5.) A Hero Who Is Caring: In this scene from A Hope Undaunted, Luke McGee fishes a Life Saver out of tipsy Katie O’Connor’s mouth after putting her to bed before her father finds out she’s been drinking.
Her chest rose and fell with the rhythm of sleep. Luke leaned close and squinted. He sighed. Sleep was good. But not with a Life Saver lodged in her throat. “Katie,” he whispered, “Did you finish the candy?”
“Mmmm …” Her eyelids fluttered open before closing once again.
With a weary release of breath, he bent to pry a finger into her mouth and swiped her tongue. Reaching for his handkerchief, he pocketed the half-dissolved disk of candy that adhered to his finger, then leaned to press a gentle kiss to her cheek.
At his touch, her lips tilted into a dreamy smile. “Mmmm … I love you, Luke McGee,” she whispered, and then rolled to her side with a soft, little snort.
He rose to his feet and stared, his heart comatose in his chest. Drawing in a deep breath, he bent to tuck the sheet tightly to her chin, finally exhaling shaky air. What he wouldn’t give to make it so. But he knew better. His lips tightened. Alcohol had a way of distorting the truth.
He bent to graze her cheek with his fingers one last time, then slowly lumbered to his feet. “I love you, too, Katie Rose,” he whispered.
And he was stone-cold sober.
6.) A Hero Who Does Something Out of Character For Heroine’s Sake: Sean O’Connor is a gentle, easy-going man, but in this scene from A Heart Revealed, he becomes a no-nonsense bully when Emma’s life is at stake:
He turned, hands loose on his hips and gaze slatted enough to know she had a fight on her hands. “I mean I’m not leaving you here so that lowlife can hurt you again. You’ll stay with us for the foreseeable future, until I feel it’s safe to come back.”
“With you? At your house?” Her voice edged toward shrill.
His lips cemented into a hard line. “There or at Charity’s, take your pick. But either way, Emma, you’re not staying here, and that’s final.”
“But I can’t! Mrs. Peep needs me … and my cats.”
“Mrs. Peep loves you and wants you to be safe. She’ll watch your cats, she already told me so.” The blue of his eyes steeled to gray as he peered at her, the flicker of a dormant temper glinting in his eyes. “I won’t stand here and argue with you, Emma. I’m not usually a volatile man, and you know that, but this is too important. Trust me on this—I will take you by force if I have to. So I suggest you pack your bags while I warm up the soup.” He turned away, disappearing down the hall where sunlight streamed into her kitchen.
7.) A Hero Who’s Pushed to Dominance: In A Hope Undaunted, Luke McGee is in love with Katie O’Connor, but she only wants to be friends after leading him to believe there could be more, a situation that drives Luke to the breaking point:
“Wait!” She ran to grasp his arm in a death hold, fingers clenched as tight as her stomach. “Don’t do this, please—don’t just walk away. I care about you, Luke, and I need your friendship. And you need mine.”
His gaze fixed on her hand where Jack’s diamond glittered in the lamplight, then slowly rose to her face, his blue eyes almost black. “No, Katie,” he whispered with a thread of pain in his voice, “I need your love.”
Her heart crashed to a stop. She removed her hand and lowered her eyes, her gaze fused to the fringed tongue of his brown leather shoe. “I … care about you, Luke, I do.” Her voice trailed off, fragile and reedy with regret. “But please … why can’t we just be friends?”
Taut fingers gripped her chin and jerked it up, the dominance of his hold matched by the anger in his eyes. “Because it will be lovers or nothing, Katie Rose. The choice is yours.”
8.) A Hero Who’s Driven to the Edge: In A Passion Redeemed, Charity O’Connor literally drives Mitch Dennehy to drink with the pull she has over him.
He felt the whiskey dulling his senses, and he took another swig, his body relaxing into the sofa. All at once, Kathleen’s sweet face distorted into Charity’s sensual body. Heat jolted through him that had nothing to do with the alcohol in his bloodstream. A curse slurred from his lips. Just one flash of a thought, and the want was so strong it made him dizzier than the drink in his hand. He drained the whiskey and dropped the empty glass by his side, his hand falling limp on the couch. Images swam in his mind: the loving granddaughter, the hard-working clerk, the innocent little girl, the flirt. Sometimes shy, often nervous, always seductive.
“She’s an enigma, our Charity. A real puzzlement,” Mima had said.
Mitch groaned through the fog in his brain. She was, indeed. A puzzle he had no inclination to solve. Friendship or no.
9.) A Hero Who Can’t Stop Thinking About Her: In A Passion Most Pure, Faith O’Connor so gets under Collin McGuire’s skin that he can’t get her out of his mind.
Collin had never felt like this, and it scared him. She scared him, and he didn't want anything to do with her. From that moment in the park when he kissed her, it was like he’d been possessed, cursed to dream of her, think of her, want her. He’d known woman far more beautiful, far more accommodating, far more easy to control. But this! Two encounters and she traveled his system like poison, the very same poison that had killed his father. It was moments like this he almost wished he believed in her God so he could pray to be rid of her. Yes, if truth be told, his soul craved to love a woman like that, to the depth of his being. But the risk was too high. That kind of all-consuming love could destroy him. She could destroy him. Better a love restrained than a love that controlled. Like his for Charity.
So now it’s your turn. How do you do it—what ways do YOU show a hero SO in love that the reader FEELS the pull the heroine has over him? I’d love to hear your scenarios or just leave a comment and you’ll be entered into a giveaway for your choice of my latest book, A Hope Undaunted or a 5-page critique.
NOTE: Blogger has eaten my response comments six times this morning already, so WORD OF WARNING -- COPY YOUR COMMENT BEFORE YOU HIT THE PUBLISH BUTTON. That way if you lose it (i.e. I keep getting the error message "Bad Request"), you can try again and just repaste in your copied comment. It should go through on the second time.
And may all our heroes—fictional and real—be so “stupid in love,” they’re downright smart!