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Scenes that make us swoon…. (Part One)

I asked the AAR staff to share the scenes from novels they found the most romantic. And, boy, did they come up with some exquisite scenes. Be prepared to swoon….


This scene is from the novella Paris for One from Jojo Moyes’ Paris for One. Nell and Fabien sit on the ledge. A half-drunk bottle of wine sits beside them. He is reading to her, his voice halting as he translates into English. Her head rests on his shoulder.

Because she knew already that this would be the thing that would end them. And that in the deepest part of her, she had known it from the beginning, like someone stubbornly ignoring a weed growing until it blocked out the light.’”

“You can’t stop,” says Nell when he does.

“The other pages are missing. Anyway — like I said, it’s no good.”

“But you can’t stop. You have to remember what you wrote, all the changes you lost, and send it off to a publisher. It’s really good. You have to be a writer.  Well, you are a writer. Just not a published one yet.”

He shakes his head.

“You are. It’s…it’s lovely. I think it’s…the way you write about the woman. About how she feels, the way she sees things. I saw myself in her. She’s…”

He looks at her, surprised. Almost without knowing what she is doing, she leans forward, takes his face in her hands, and kisses him. She is in Paris, in the apartment of a man she does not know, and she has never done anything that felt less risky in her life. His arms close around her, and she feels herself being pulled into him.

“You are…magnifique, Nell.”

Why I like this scene: Even on short acquaintanceship, there’s this deep connection between them that is forged on the belief in each other’s wonderfulness. I find that very romantic.


This scene is from Nobody’s Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Cal and Jane got married after she became pregnant from two hookups. The two have a marriage of convenience but after an evening of fooling around, Cal jumps into his car and takes off. Jane, angry he abandoned her on date night,  sabotages his beloved Lucky Charms by taking all the marshmallows out and putting them all over the front seat of his truck.

“If you were pissed off about the way I took off last night, why didn’t you just say so?”

“I prefer docudrama.”

“I can’t believe anybody could be so damned immature!”

“I could have been a lot more immature— emptying the marshmallows in your underwear drawer, for example— but I believe revenge should be subtle.”

“Subtle! You ruined five perfectly good boxes of Lucky Charms and spoiled my whole day in the process.”

“What a pity.”

“I ought to . . . I swear I’m . . .” Damned if he wasn’t carrying her upstairs right now and making love to her until she begged his forgiveness.

“Don’t mess with me, Calvin. You’ll only get hurt.”

Seriously. He was seriously going to kill her. He regarded her through narrowed eyes. “Maybe you’d better explain why you got upset enough to do this. It’s not like anything really important happened last night, is it? You yourself said it was— How did you put it? Oh, yeah. You said it was quite pleasant. Now to my way of thinking, pleasant doesn’t add up to important.”

He regarded her closely. “But maybe it was more than pleasant for you. Maybe it was more important than you want to let on.” Was it his imagination or did something flicker in the depths of those melted shamrock eyes.

“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s your lack of courtesy I found offensive. It would merely have been good manners on your part to have stayed around instead of running off like a teenager hurrying to tell his buddies he’d scored.”

“Manners? Is that what five boxes of mutilated Lucky Charms is all about?”


Just one good shot. He was already late for his meeting, but he couldn’t leave until he got off one good shot. “You’re about the lowest breed of human being there is.”


“Right up there with the Boston Strangler and the Son of Sam.”

 “Don’t you think that’s a little extreme?”

“Not hardly.” He shook his head and regarded her with disgust. “I married a damned cereal killer.”

There are so many reasons I love this scene: The comedic writing. The subject matter. But what makes it romantic is the way it captures the essence of Cal and Jane’s relationship. Cal needed a woman who could stand up to him but he also needed someone who didn’t turn their home into a war zone. With her zany humor and cool intelligence, Jane was that perfect woman. Cal, for her, was the one person she could really be herself with – an awarding winning physicist who messed with breakfast cereal when someone ticked her off. They “got” each other in a way few others would ever get them.


This one is from from Katharine Ashe’s The Rogue(I mentioned it in my review!)

Her birthday came and went without fanfare. She requested no celebration, only that Eliza accompany her to the bank to see to the transfer of her mother’s fortune into her father’s account, as they had agreed. Upon her return she found in her bedchamber a package of considerable size. Unwrapping it, she discovered a magnificent bow fashioned of polished wood that shone like a mirror. Twined about its string was a single white rose.

The rose is what made this stick in my memory. Constance had a bouquet of white roses at her wedding to Saint – but their marriage so far is rocky, and while it’s clear he’s fully committed, she’s skittish and he’s trying to give her what she needs to work things out in her head. The fact the gives her a bow shows how well he knows her in that he has given her a gift he knows she will appreciate more than anything else.  Taken on its own, that quote isn’t all that romantic, but taken in the context of the rest of the story, it’s a beautifully romantic gesture.


 In Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase Dressmaker Marcelline Noirot has just realized she is deeply in love with the Duke of Clevedon but knows they have no future together, and they must say goodbye after tonight. She decides to show him how she feels and also seize a moment for herself.
She slowly and sensually seduces him without any pretenses or reservations, and it is both beautiful and heartbreaking to witness her abandon the natural instinct to protect herself to claim this one night knowing her heart will be irrevocably broken in the morning. Marcelline is unfiltered and defenseless as she lives in the present moment without consideration of the past or future, and her bravery will take your breath away.

What a joke.

She’d fallen in love.

And he was saying goodbye, in the time-honored fashion of men of his kind, with an extravagant gift.

“Noirot, are you unwell? It’s been a very long day, and we’re both overwrought, I daresay. It’s no small strain, even for you, trying to do the impossible—all this racing from one place to the next, buying, frantically buying. And I—shopping with a woman—it’s possible my sensibilities will never recover from the shock.”

She looked up at him.

They had no future.

Given who he was and what he was, she couldn’t be anything to him but a mistress. And that she couldn’t be. It wasn’t because of moral scruples. She barely understood what those were. It was for business reasons, for the business that supported her family, the business she loved, the great passion of her life.

She could keep her feelings to herself. She could suffer in silence. She could say thank you and goodbye, and really, there was nothing else to do.

The trouble was, being who she was and what she was, noble sacrifice was out of the question.

And the real trouble was, she loved him.

And so she made her plan, quickly. She saw it all at once in her mind’s eye, the way she saw all of her plans. She saw what she needed to do, the only thing to do.

She stood and walked to the bed and pointed. “I want you to sit there,” she said.

“Don’t be stupid,” he said.

She untied her bonnet ribbons.

“Noirot, maybe you failed to understand why I was in so great a hurry to have you out of my house,” he said. “I don’t care about talk, if it concerns only me. But you know the talk will hurt someone else.”

“You’re a man,” she said. “Men are readily forgiven what women are not.”

“I’ve promised myself I won’t do anything I’ll need to be forgiven for,” he said.

“You won’t be the first man to break a promise,” she said.

Still holding the bonnet by the strings, she looked at him, capturing his gaze. She hid nothing. All her heart was in her eyes and she didn’t care if he saw it.

She’d fallen in love, and she’d love for once, openly, without disguise or guile. That was the one last gift she’d give him, and herself.

He came to the bed and sat, his face taut.

She let the ribbons slide through her fingers. The bonnet dropped gently to the rug he’d chosen for her bedroom.

He watched it drop. “Damn you,” he said.

“It’s all right,” she said. “This is goodbye.”


She set her index finger over his lips. “I thank you for all you’ve done,” she said. “I thank you from the very bottom of my cold, black heart. There are some things I can repay but more that I can never repay. I want my gratitude—its depth and breadth—to be clear, perfectly clear . . . because after tonight, you must never come back here. You must never come to my shop. When your lady wife or your mistress comes to Maison Noirot, you’ll stay far away. You will not speak to me in the street or anywhere else. After this night, you become the man I always meant you to be, the man whose purse I plunder—and no more than that man. Do you understand?”

His eyes darkened, and she saw heat there: anger and disappointment and who knew what else? He started to rise.

“But for this night,” she said, “I love you.”

Maria Rose:

When asked to come up with the most romantic scene I’ve read, my thoughts went to Laura Florand’s writing for her sensual prose and heart melting scenes. One of my favorites is from The Chocolate Kiss, which details the Parisian romance (enemies to lovers style) between Philippe, a renowned pastry chef, and Magalie, owner of a small chocolate cafe.  A key part of the story involves St. Valentine’s day, which is celebrated in France much as it is in North America. While Philippe’s team is busy preparing for the onslaught of boyfriends and husbands looking for special treats for their partners, Philippe is consumed with making something for Magalie that will show her the depth of his feelings for her. Here’s a part of that scene.

As the ganache cooled, he prowled the fillings they had made the day before, until a deep, intense red on one of the shelves of his cold-storage rooms caught his eye. Raspberry gelee. Normally intended to be tucked in tiny heart shapes in one of his dark chocolate macarons, for Valentine’s day, but he wouldn’t offer Magalie chocolate. Her life was full of chocolate. The gelee was as intense in color, heart’s-blood red, as the meringue had been before it baked to a soft, deceptively gentle pink. One small square, the exact size of his thumb on her pulse, on her breasts, on her mouth, on her…

He tucked it inside, nestled in the heart of the creamy pale ganache, hid it under the pink shell.

And stood back, uneasy. It looked so…naked. Vulnerable. The pink shells filled with pale cream. He couldn’t do that to her. Maybe he couldn’t do that to himself. What was inside this macaron deserved protection.

He bit into a raspberry from the flat shipped up fresh from his greenhouse grower in Spain. Sweet, tender, so fragile before his teeth, so perfect on his tongue. From those raspberries he made armor around the vulnerable edge of the ganache, nestled between two shells, hiding it from the world.

I picked this scene for two reasons. The first is the descriptive quality that lets you picture Philippe working in his kitchen. The second is the thought behind it – that Philippe is basically putting his heart on the line for Magalie by making something so exquisite for her, while at the same time recognizing that she may not be ready to admit she has feelings for him in return. But it doesn’t stop him from doing it anyway. That’s romance.


Spoiler Alert! The following excerpt comes from the third book (Voyager) in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. It contains spoilers, and should not be read before the other books.

I stretched out my hand and touched the black letters of the name. A. Malcolm. Alexander Malcolm. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Perhaps.

Another minute, and I would lose my nerve. I shoved open the door and walked in.

There was a broad counter across the front of the room, with an open flap in it, and a rack to one side that held several trays of type. Posters and notices of all sorts were tacked up on the opposite wall; samples, no doubt.

The door into the back room was open, showing the bulky angular frame of a printing press. Bent over it, his back turned to me, was Jamie.

“Is that you, Geordie?” he asked, not turning around. He was dressed in shirt and breeches, and had a small tool of some kind in his hand, with which he was doing something to the innards of the press. “Took ye long enough. Did ye get the—”

“It isn’t Geordie,” I said. My voice was higher than usual. “It’s me,” I said. “Claire.”

He straightened up very slowly. He wore his hair long; a thick tail of a deep, rich auburn sparked with copper. I had time to see that the neat ribbon that tied it back was green, and then he turned around.

He stared at me without speaking. A tremor ran down the muscular throat as he swallowed, but still he didn’t say anything.

It was the same broad, good-humored face, dark blue eyes aslant the high, flat cheekbones of a Viking, long mouth curling at the ends as though always on the verge of smiling. The lines surrounding eyes and mouth were deeper, of course. The nose had changed just a bit. The knife-edge bridge was slightly thickened near the base by the ridge of an old, healed fracture. It made him look fiercer, I thought, but lessened that air of aloof reserve, and lent his appearance a new rough charm.

I walked through the flap in the counter, seeing nothing but that unblinking stare. I cleared my throat.

“When did you break your nose?”

The corners of the wide mouth lifted slightly.

“About three minutes after I last saw ye—Sassenach.”

There was a hesitation, almost a question in the name. There was no more than a foot between us. I reached out tentatively and touched the tiny line of the break, where the bone pressed white against the bronze of his skin.

He flinched backward as though an electric spark had arced between us, and the calm expression shattered.

“You’re real,” he whispered. I had thought him pale already. Now all vestiges of color drained from his face. His eyes rolled up and he slumped to the floor in a shower of papers and oddments that had been sitting on the press—he fell rather gracefully for such a large man, I thought abstractedly.

This scene is not the longest. It does not contain the most profuse declarations of love. In fact, the dialogue here is pretty sparse. And yet I’ve reread it countless times. Sometimes I just jump right to it—because this is one of my favorite moments in the Outlander series. But I find it packs the biggest punch when it comes after 2.5 books of delicious build-up.

Why do I keep coming back to this moment time and again? It’s not just the beautiful writing—though Ms. Gabaldon’s evocative prose builds an atmosphere unlike any other. And it’s not just the drama inherent in Claire’s traveling back in time in the hope that her husband still wants her after 20 years’ separation. It’s the characters themselves which draw me, which make this scene one of the most romantic I know. A scene could be wonderful in theory, but without characters you care about, it will fall flat. This moment between Claire and Jamie is built on thousands of pages of falling in love with the characters themselves, so that by the time you reach this reunion, you sigh and smile to see them finally happy. True romance isn’t built on gestures, but on the people who make them.


My pick is from A Gentleman’s Position by KJ Charles.

…’You carry burdens for all your friends, my lord. Someone has to do it for you now and again.’

Lord Richard’s lips parted slightly. He was a big man, absurdly wealthy and infinitely privileged, but at that moment, his expression was so painfully vulnerable that David’s heart contracted with the urge to make all well.

He began to say, ‘My Lord,’ raising his hand open-palmed. Lord Richard started to speak at the same time, turning toward him and gesturing as well, and their hands collided in the air.

David couldn’t move away, couldn’t beg his lord’s pardon for his clumsiness. Could do nothing but stand and feel the pressure of Lord Richard’s fingers against his, because his master wasn’t moving either. They should have pulled away, one or both of them, but neither did, and every tick of the clock as they stood and stared at each other, hand to hand, was a hammer blow that nailed the unspoken thing irrevocably into place between them.

The unspoken thing, the forbidden hope, the one point that made David’s service feel like servitude because he could not even ask. But Lord Richard still wasn’t moving, his deep blue eyes locked on David’s and wide with shock, and now they knew. Now they both knew, and there was no pretending otherwise.

David could feel the blood thumping in the ends of Lord Richard’s fingers, unless that was his own pulse.

‘My lord? He cursed himself that it came out as a question.

‘Cyprian.’ Lord Richard’s arm shook a little, but his fingers didn’t move. ‘Cyprian – I – …

Here’s why I love this extract: This passage is full of the sexual tension that I love, but more than that – without direct speech it expresses adoration and deep emotion. I have read so many romances and romantic tracts but this one I immediately remember when asked for an example.

I think because classic examples for me would be from Jane Austen, or a Bronte, this use of repression of love and feelings in a KJ Charles’ modern work feels so familiar and nuanced, it has stayed with me.


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02/15/2017 12:19 am

I’ve just spent the evening browsing some of my favorite romance novels and I came up with a couple of other favorite swoonworthy scenes:

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan when Sebastian gives the lecture about violets (for Violet). It’s so clever and wonderfully romantic at the same time.

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas when Evie convinces the doctor not to bloodlet Sebastian while he’s sick. Maybe it’s not the ideal setting for “romance” but by this point in the book, they have such a strong bond. And when she jokes with him:

“You stubborn ass,” she said, her eyes wet. “We‘ve just managed to drive off one of the most renowned doctors in London. Anyone else we find is going to want to bleed you as well. Who should I send for now? A white witch? A shaman? A Covent Garden fortune-teller?”

Using the last of his strength, Sebastian managed to drag her hand up to his mouth. “You,” he whispered, holding her fingers to his lips. “Just you.”


What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long when they’re playing the parlor game with the blindfold. Genevieve is embarrassed when Harry doesn’t recognize her. And then Alex offers to play and catches her immediately. It’s so deliberate, if that makes sense.

Someone Like You by Lauren Layne was probably my favorite romance of 2016. It’s an exquisite and poignant burn romance. I loved this scene between Lincoln and Daisy (slight spoiler):

“I’m not broken,” she repeated, looking down as she clasped her hands together and put them between her knees. “I got help right away, and that was huge. Just a little cracked sometimes, that’s all. Trying to figure out how to fill those cracks has been harder than I thought.”

“We’re all a little cracked, honey,” Lincoln said.

“You ever wonder?” she said, tilting her head up and looking at the late-afternoon sunshine.

“Wonder what?”

“What will fill your cracks? How to get better.”

“All the damn time.”

“Any ideas you’d like to share? I could use a few.”

“Right now, I’ve only got one, and I’m worried you might not like it, but I’m wondering if you’ll trust me.”

She looked at him, took in the stubborn line of his jaw, the strength of his solid build, and most of all, the sheer goodness in his eyes.

“I trust you,” she whispered.

Gratification flared in his eyes, and then he nodded once before shifting his weight, easing ever closer to her “on the cement step until they were hip to hip. Giving her time, she realized—giving her time to adjust to the feeling of being touched by a man, more than a casual hand hold.

Daisy waited for the flare of panic, but there was none. And when he slowly wrapped his left arm around her, she found herself curling into him, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Her chest rested against his heartbeat as his other arm came around her, holding her close.

Just holding her.

That was all.

It wasn’t a precursor to anything. It was a moment in its entirety, separate from the moment before and the moment after.

A small, perfect heartbeat in time.

OK I’m done, I promise

02/14/2017 11:28 pm

Oh, yeah . . . another favorite scene for me is between Jules Cassidy and Robin Chadwick in Suzanne Brockmann’s Force of Nature: the limo scene in Force of Nature, when Jules finally breaks and gives in to Robin’s pursuit. The song “Hooked on a Feeling” is playing in the background; Robin promises not to break Jules heart and Jules tells Robin, “oh sweetie, you already have”.

02/14/2017 10:53 pm

Great choices! I, too, love the Voyager scene. I haven’t reread the books but that scene has been skimmed more than once. The fact that Claire and Jamie are “mature” characters at this point in the story makes it particularly poignant for me.

SEP’s Nobody’s Baby is one of my guilty pleasures. The whole set up of the story is so unbelievable (usually an issue for me with many novels) but if one can get past that and just go with the flow of it all, Cal and Jane are two of my favorite characters. The cereal killer scene still makes me laugh.

02/14/2017 1:27 pm

I love that scene from Silk is for Seduction. I recognized it instantly.

NBBM is one of my least favorite SEP books because I can’t stand either protagonist. But I love the difference of opinions here at AAR! Some books work for some people but not others and that’s great.

I have to think about which one is my favorite… the first thing that comes to mind is the “you are my country” speech from As You Desire by Connie Brockway.

Reply to  Amanda
02/14/2017 1:32 pm

Just checked and turns out Connie Brockway has the scene I’m talking about as an excerpt on her website! It’s the first one in the link below. Not surprised because I know it’s a fan favorite. For anyone who hasn’t read this book:


Keira Soleore
Keira Soleore
Reply to  Amanda
02/14/2017 2:19 pm

I adore that book. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

Reply to  Amanda
02/14/2017 6:06 pm

Oh, yes, the “you are my country” speech from Brockway’s _As You Desire_ is right up there for me too!

Maria Rose
Maria Rose
02/14/2017 11:23 am

OMG the printshop scene!! Hands down favorite of any Outlander series lover. I’ve reread it countless times.

02/14/2017 10:06 am

Oh, these are all great. Be still my heart!
The scene from Voyager has always been my absolute favorite in the entire LONG series. I have it keyed up on my Audible app and will play it occasionally to remind me of my love for the books and audiobooks.

02/14/2017 9:47 am

Love them all! Great choices.

Em Wittmann
Em Wittmann
02/14/2017 7:57 am

Be still my heart.

I love each and every one of these – I think I’ve read (and loved) them all. Such good picks!

02/14/2017 5:07 am

Great choices! I thought the reunion between Claire and Jaime lived up to its hype in the passage above from _Voyager_. I especially liked though the passage from _Silk is for Seduction_, as Loretta Chase did such a lovely job creating a vulnerable and brave heroine in Marcelline.

I think my personal favorite romantic scene is the marriage proposal at the end of Judith Ivory’s _Untie My Heart_, which is still after all these years, one of my very favorite romances.

Ann Stephens
Ann Stephens
02/14/2017 2:37 am

Lovely excerpts . . . except for the ‘cereal killer’, LOL! It’s just me, but I could never have a book boyfriend that said that phrase out loud. ;)

Reply to  Ann Stephens
02/14/2017 2:49 pm

I love the zaniness of the scene. Cal and Jane are hardworking people who take their jobs seriously, They don’t trust many people enough to let their vulnerable, playful sides show. This moment, when Jane seeks her subtle revenge through cereal and Cal comes back with zingers showcases just how much they’ve started to let each other in. In the book it’s a turning point, a moment when the relationship pivots from maybe to “it’s on” and I love that it’s not roses and romances but Lucky Charms that brings these two to that point. :-)