Happy Valentine’s Day!
…All right, now that we have that nonsense out of the way— Oh, wait. Hmm. It’s Valentine’s Day. A day of flowers and chocolates, champagne and Hallmark cards, proposals and kisses and hand-holding, and a truly horrifying abundance of red and pink. I can hear the long-forgotten sounds of safety scissors chomping through construction paper, in an attempt to create the perfect heart-shaped classroom decoration.
You know what the best part is, right? It’s when you’re celebrating it for the first time with someone you really, really like, and you haven’t yet said those three little-big words. And maybe you’re a titch scared of saying it to this could-be special someone, but the pressure’s on because it’s freakin’ Valentine’s Day. The best part—and I mean this in all sincerity—is that you actually are forced to consider, “Do I love him?” or “Could I be falling for her?” and then realizing you do. You already love him. It’s terrifying and wonderful, and if it doesn’t put your stomach in knots you’re not doing it right.
So, of course, the happy medium is to blush and stammer and hold out a baby-pink carnation with a card attached that says, “I heart you.” Because we all know that “heart” is the step-process equivalent to “I’m totally head over heels for you, but I don’t have the steel vagina necessary to tell you at this point.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that my favorite moments to both write and read in romance novels are the declarations of love. Yes, the build-up is where all the fun and sexytimes happen, and yes, the internal realizations are always a high point for readers and authors alike. But a declaration well-done, in my opinion, is like Valentine’s Day: terrifying and wonderful and stomach-knotting all over the place.
The best I-love-yous I’ve ever read have been wonky. Perhaps it’s because the characters are so unique. Or perhaps it’s because when a wonktastic woman falls in love with her atypical hero, I believe it; I believe in the weirdness. And the declaration I’ve “hearted” the most, ever since reading it (and rereading it…and rereading it again), is the less-than-brilliant Rupert’s calmly delivered reveal to Daphne, a certifiable genius, in Loretta Chase‘s Mr. Impossible (and for those of you who haven’t read this amazing adventure-historical and don’t want to ruin this moment for when you do, I suggest you scroll down while averting your eyes):
Her green gaze met his. “Feelings,” she repeated.
“I meant to wait,” he said. “Until I was better. Because I didn’t want pity to influence you”
“Pity,” she said.
“On account of my wound,” he said.
“Don’t be absurd,” she said. “I shouldn’t pity you on account of a nick in the belly.”
“In any event, I can’t wait,” he said. “And I had better warn you that I don’t mean to be in the least sporting. If I have to go on my knees, and start bleeding again—”
“I can think of no reason for you to go on your knees,” she said severely.
“Then you’re not thinking clearly,” he said. “It’s the usual way these things are done.”
“These things,” she said, a degree less severely.
“I should have done it that way the first time, but I hardly knew what I was doing,” he said. “You said it was better to marry than to burn, and I was in a state of eternal conflagration, it seemed—but that wasn’t what it was at all.”
She shifted up onto her knees. “Perhaps you ought to take some wine,” she said.
“My strength is up to this,” he said. “I only hope my brain is, too. I want to explain first. Because you aren’t to think it’s completely on account of lust. Lust is a part, yes. A large part.”
She sank back onto her heels and regarded her hands.
“But I liked you from the moment I first heard your voice,” he said, “when I had no idea what you looked like. I thought it delicious, the way you bargained for me, as though I were an old rug. Then I loved the way you ordered me about. I loved your patient and impatient ways of explaining things to me. I love the sound of your voice and the way you move. I love your courage and your kindness and your generosity and your obstinacy and your passion.” He paused. “You’re the genius. What do you think that means?”
She threw him a sidelong glance. “I think you’re insane,” she said. “Perhaps you have developed an infection which has gone directly to your head.”
“I am not insane,” he said. “A woman of your highly advanced intellect ought to be able to perceive that I am in love. With you. I wish you had told me. It was deuced embarrassing to find it out from your brother.”
Oh, feelings. See? Terrifying and wonderful and butterflies-in-the-stomach. Just the way it should be.
If I were the type to read romances on Valentine’s Day (which I tend not to do—I like to spread the love around to the non-greeting-card-holiday days of the year), I could not pick a better, or more surprisingly wonky, romance. Because there’s Rupert, a physical alpha who willingly turns beta in the face of his lover’s intellect…and there’s Daphne, who is too smart for anyone’s good, much less her own…and they’re traipsing across Egypt in 1821, on a treasure hunt (of sorts). And what really makes me love them is knowing, by their cameo appearances in later works of Ms. Chase’s, they kept adventuring together for decades, never having children of their own. Mr. Impossible is wonky, indeed, if you know what you’re looking for while you read.
But the fact remains that it’s Valentine’s Day, a holiday to which many—even the happily-ever-after’d of us—feel a strict aversion. Not that we can be blamed, as those construction-paper hearts are deadly to the soul (and our fingertips). It’s a holiday that often leaves a bitter aftertaste in one’s mouth, and so it’s important that we remember why we’re going all crazy over candy and roses in the first place:
Because we had that moment, once upon a time, that first Valentine’s Day with our lover where we were lucky enough to think, “Wow. I’m in love with him. How crazy is that?” And it was scary. It was amazing. And everything inside just warmed and tingled, and it was perfect.
Happy Valentine’s Day.