I have to give this one a lot of thought, as romance isn't high on my list of topics I enjoy or pursue in novels. In fact, a forced romantic link can often ruin a story for me. But romance done well is often delightful.
Out of several possible WG prompts, I decided to answer just one: "Do you have a favorite romantic scene in a book?"
One of the most sensuous scenes I've ever read was in Crescent by Diana Abu Jaber. Sirine works in her father's restaurant; Han frequents the restaurant, and soon the sparks begin to fly. This scene takes place while they're having a conversation about Han returning to his homeland of Iraq:
There’s time for baklava if they make it together.
And while Sirine has never known how to dance, always stiffening and trying to lead while her partner murmurs relax, relax – and while there are very few people who know how to cook and move with her in the kitchen – it seems that she and Han know how to make baklava together. She’s startled to find that she seems to feel his presence in her shoulders, running through her arms and wrists, into her hands. Her senses feel bunched together like fingers around a bouquet, her skin sensitive to the touch. She feels light-headed. She watches the fluid movement in his legs, arms, and neck, the dark fringe of his eyes. He transports the sheets and she sweeps the pastry brush, losing herself in the rocking movement. She takes in the powerful curve of his neck and shoulders; his skin is silkily brown. There’s just a touch of insomnia in his eyes, an inward, solitary air.
He smoothes another sheet. Sirine butters it, then pours a thick filling of ground walnuts, sugar, and spices over the layers. She strokes her palm over the top to level it.
"My mother told me that if I knew how to make good baklava I would be irresistible to any woman,” he says.
“Ah, so she taught you how to make baklava,” Sirine observes.
“No. So she refused to teach me.”
Sirine laughs. “But somehow you learned how to make it anyway. Lucky for me.”
“Actually, I’m learning how right this second.”
Another layer. Butter. She glances at him, then back at the baklava.
Distracted, she lowers the brush and accidentally swipes his fingers with butter. She blushes and quickly wipes his hand off with her apron. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she says.
His hand is warm and his fingers fumble through hers. “You may butter my fingers anytime,” he says, then coughs and looks abashed.
Ooo la la. Butter me some baklava! Food and eating lend themselves well to romantic and/or sensuous scenes (who can forget the fruit eating scene in Tom Jones?).
One thing that gets under my skin (and not in a good way!) is the use of "afterward" as a euphemism for "they had sex." I come across this more often than I think I should in good contemporary literature. He woos her; she responds; they flirt; they touch; they kiss; AFTERWARD they go see a movie. Why not just say "yada yada yada?" It's just as creative.
Have a wonderful Valentine's Day - and Happy Asian New Year, the Year of the Tiger!