Thursday, June 29, 2006

The ultimate romance novel

Eric asked me to post my list of my personal "transcendent" romances, to quote Lydia Joyce. I'm not sure a personal list of one person really counts, and one thing that's becoming obvious from the responses on the listserv is that no one's list is even close to being the same. While I believe that I'm posting romances that anyone could agree are "transcendent," am I choosing SEP's It Had to Be You because it's truly a great romance, with great characters and all the requirements of a "true" romance, whatever that might be (although Pam seems to have a better idea than most of us), or did I choose it because I personally really identify with Phoebe Summerville and her body-image issues?

So, instead, I will ask the question: Do you have ONE ultimate romance? One romance that is the absolute perfect, most transcendent romance?

Mine is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

The perfect heroine who learns and improves, the perfect hero who learns and improves, a little bit of tension over whether they'll get together, perfect relationship foils in Elizabeth's sisters' relationships (Jane and Lydia), both internal and external plot movement, and a truly satisfying ending.

But I know a lot of my own personal love for the novel is because of my own personal feelings, both academic and fangirly, for Mr. Darcy.

So, anyone else willing to commit to just ONE book?


  1. I would have to say "The Scarlet Pimpernel." I love "Pride and Prejudice" and it is a better piece of literature, but I adore Sir Percy.

  2. My favourite is Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels.


  3. To Have and to Hold by Patricia Gaffney.


  4. If I had to commit to one book, it would be Pride and Prejudice, partly because I love the humour and find it a page-turning read, as well as loving Mr Darcy, but also because it created the basic template for the historical romance genre. Most writers today follow the same template to a greater or lesser extent, because it works so well:

    Man and woman meet and don't get along

    Man and woman are thrown into each other's company and start to develop an interest in each other

    A Big Misunderstanding drives them apart

    They resolve the big misunderstanding, but just as a reconciliation seems possible, something separates them, either geographically or emotionally, and a subplot kicks in

    The subplot is resolved but a lack of understanding of the other's emotions causes tension

    Everything is resolved and they can admit their feelings, leading to the HEA

    I'm also struck by P&P's modernity. The book hits the ground running, with the plot getting going in the first sentence - something today's editors are looking for.

    There is a high percentage of dialogue, which, again, today's editors and readers are looking for.

    If any book can be called the perfect novel, I think it's Pride and Prejudice.

  5. Sarah, I've just read your profile and see you have some forthcoming publications about Austen. I'm sure you know about Austenblog, but, in case you don't, you can find it at
    The blog disseminates Austen information, so it's worth sending them details.

  6. Ooh, I like the Scarlet Pimpernel suggestion. I just reread it a year ago and there's no more powerful scene than watching Percy kiss those steps after Marguerite leaves him.

    And Amanda--thank you for the suggestion. I do read AustenBlog, but never thought to send my own publications in. When they come out, I will! Thanks.

  7. There are way too many transcendental romances in my library, everything from the Austens and Brontes (and the baroness, thank you for the Pimpernel memory!) to Margaret Mitchell (and as much as I despised Scarlett, you have to admit GWTW set the bar for everything that followed), Mary Stewart's gothics, up to and including Woodiwiss, Crusie, SEP, Putney... No way could I begin to choose, but great topic anyway!

    Patricia Rice -- historical authors with an attitude

  8. Off the top of my head, it would have to be something by Judy Cuevas (Judith Ivory). I'm still ranking Dance right up there with the very best. Although Austen and the Brontes, whom I haven't read in years, certainly tugged at my heartstrings with varying degrees of gusto.