Monday, February 28, 2011

The Little Things That Say So Much

by: Leah Hultenschmidt, Senior Editor


I think people sometimes get so caught up in certain scenes—and you know the ones I mean—when it comes to romance that they forget that the love story itself is so much more. An amazing romance goes way beyond acrobatics in the bedroom (or kitchen or car or forest or…). It’s the small tender moments that, to me, really demonstrate a deep and abiding love that make the characters so memorable.

One of my favorite examples comes from IN FOR A PENNY by Rose Lerner (and I hope Rose won’t be upset with me for a small spoiler):

The most touching scene to me in this book had nothing to do with actual romance. To briefly set up: Nev & Penelope have been trying to make work a marriage of convenience—he’s an aristocrat in need of money and worries that he’s not smart/admirable enough, and she’s from the wealthy merchant class but never feels as though she truly fits in High Society. They truly care for each other, but they’ve quarreled and are at a ball. He gets her a plate of food and when he brings it back, she sees all the morsels are cut into tiny pieces--because he knows she’s incredibly self-conscious about eating in public. And that small act said way more to me than an apology could. It said he knows her so well and cares enough to do something that might not mean much to anyone else but spoke volumes to her. It made my heart melt.

That’s what I look for when I’m reading a romance and when I edit one. Where are the little in-between moments that make the reader truly believe this couple is meant for each other, that their love will last an age?

It’s so meaningful because that’s what we have in real life, right? We hear “I love you,” but we actually see it in the full tank of gas that wasn’t there last time we had the car, the cup of coffee made just the way we like it, a surprise gift (even if it’s merely a new keychain because he knows yours broke) because he was “thinking of you.”

So what are your favorite little moments—either in real life or in fiction? I have two copies each of WICKEDLY CHARMING by Kristine Grayson and SEALED FOREVER by Mary Margret Daughtridge to give away to two random commenters.

28 comments:

  1. One of my favorite fictional "little moments" appears in J.D. Robb's "Naked in Death." Rich, hawt Roarke pockets a button that falls off Eve Dallas's ugly gray funeral suit. He then carries it throughout the series as a personal talisman.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Leah,
    I am a romance girl all the way. I agree with you that it's the little things between the hero and heroine and a whole lot of anticiaption along the way that make a book a romance.
    Amelia

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well said! I love a hot sex scene but it's the small gestures that tug at the heartstrings. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good Morning- Great post..and I agree it's the little things that mean so much...someone already mentioned the "button" scene with Roarke from the "In Death" series by JD Robb...so I'm going to go with what many will see as a strange scene but it's in one of the later books in the Anita Blake series ...Anita, Micah, Nathaniel, Richard and a few others are in the kitchen and Anita realizes that Nathaniel shows his love for her by taking care of the house- getting new dishes when they are needed, cooking meals ...in a way being her "wife" ...it was a great scene...though the book title escapes me at the moment:(

    ReplyDelete
  5. Tamara--So true that La Nora nails it every time. That's a great moment indeed!

    Amelia--Yes, must have that anticipation! Mmm... It's what makes those little moments all the more special.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks, Carolyn & Sarah!

    Maria--truly, does it get sexier than a guy washing dishes for you? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. One of the things I love about my hubby is that he does those little things. For our Anniversary he always gets the gift that pertains to that year. And they are always well thought out gifts.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Maybe it's because I have Colin Firth on the brain (and who doesn't today, right?), but I remember that scene in Pride and Prejudice where Darcy and Elizabeth are finally confessing their love, and he quotes from the letter she wrote him--"had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner." The fact that he memorized those words and was obviously moved and perhaps changed by them is one of those little things that say so much for me.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We read to get away from real life, yet we place little nuances in our writing to immitate real life, such as; after Sara's locket is damaged, Austin asks her for it so he can have it fixed.
    In my home, my guy does laundry, dishes, cooks, vacuums and does windows. I am so loved.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love romance and its like you say its the little things that mean so much. Even if its something like opening a door for someone or cooking a meal, it means a lot for someone to think about doing those little things.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Cindy--that's incredibly sweet. Sometimes it's fun to see how creative you can get with those themed anniversary gifts. But that's what makes them so special.

    Shana--Darcy = Perfect example!

    Marleen--which book is that? Sounds like a good one.

    Virginia--I totally agree with you, especially for cooking. The nights the DH takes over--even if it's just to order in--are fantastic. But it's not even that he's doing it, so much as he's recognizing that it's a night where me not having it to do it makes a significant difference.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The little moment I love in real life is when I come home and the dishes are done. Thanks for the great post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. My husband is out of town a lot. When he is home he makes sure to get up early in the morning to let the dog out. That way I can sleep in a little more. I never get to do that when he is away.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Coming home from work and planning on cleaning, but when I get home the floor is vacuumed the kitchen is dirty dish free and my husband is finishing up wiping down the counter. That is my favorite thing my husband does for me.

    ebertkristina@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Innocence to Love, a manuscript you requested and I sent to you on February 5th.

    ReplyDelete
  16. i agree it's the little moment like while i wash dish my guy drys them. just him getting something from the top shelf for me makes me love him more.

    quimbayai@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. You are so right. It is the little things. My husband letting me take in another stray kitten, cleaning the car after a snow storm, making a trip to the grocery store, buying me a book! - oh so many. I will take those over grand gestures any day.

    ReplyDelete
  18. To see someone realize and understand what is important to you is truly special, even if it is something trivial as what chocolate you eat when you're depressed or what books you like to read. To see that in a book, to know the writer took the time to create something so intricate, makes me appreciate their talent all the more.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm in the middle of reading Robin Kaye's "Yours for the Taking" (great book) and Ben stops to get dog food for the puppy he doesn't even want, but Gina does. How can you not love a guy who thinks about your dog?

    ReplyDelete
  20. You're so right, Leah, and it's the little things that keep a relationship going strong through tough times...IMHO. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  21. my favorite moments are ususally when my guy does something for me that he knows I don't want to deal with just because it makes things a little easier for me. :-)

    Larena

    ReplyDelete
  22. My favorite real life moments were when the kids were young, I was exhausted and my husband would come home from work see that I had had a tough day and roll up his sleeves and cook dinner.

    ReplyDelete
  23. In this household, my husband does all the monthly grocery shopping. Why is a long story but it goes back a long time ago when I just didn't have the time and he did.

    Since he first started doing it, he always comes back from the stores with a small gift for me.

    A pair of cameo socks, a new novelty car air freshener, a bar of a new variety of chocolate or some new candy.

    To me these small gifts say he really does love me and care about me.

    Carol T

    If the giveaway is open worldwide, please enter me.

    Thanks.

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great post, those types of scenes I love and notice, part of what makes me "see" the romance more than those hot sexy ones. I remember that scene in Rose's book.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Very true - it is the small things. Anyone can guess at the big things in the another person's life, but ti takes someone to know you really well to understand the small things.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Leah, I love those little moments! The things that make you stop and think, "Wow, he really cares about her," or "She takes such care of him." Those are the things that really convey the love story.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I think this quality is what makes you such a fantastic editor, Leah! Great post!

    ReplyDelete