All of the above are sweet and romantic moments. We see them in books we read and in movies we watch. They make us ooh and aah, and cry. Yeah, I’m a crier at sappy moments, but what stays with me after I close the book, after I drive home from the theater, is when the hero steps outside his comfort zone because the heroine needs him. I don’t know about you, but I find such scenes unforgettable, and I love writing them.
Think about Richard Gere (Pretty Woman above) climbing up a fire escape, a rose between his teeth, to give Julia Roberts her ‘moment’ when he was scared of heights. That’s what I’m talking about.
To make a scene like that work, you have to set the stage, so it doesn’t come across as contrived. In Pretty Woman, Julia dreamed of a hero rescuing her from the attic after her mother locked her there for being naughty. That sets up the stage for the scene later. Then there’s the hero’s part. He already mentioned the fact that he hated heights, yet he crawled up that fire escape to reach her.
In every book I write, I always make my hero and heroine do a selfless act. You know, do something that makes them uncomfortable, but they do it anyway because they need to step up and be there for each other. Those are the most memorable moments in a book.
In SLOW BURN (the first book of the Fitzgeralds), there’s this scene when Ashley has worked herself into a state because Ron is coming to her place to pose for her, yet as soon as she opens the door, she notices how tired and tense he looks. She assumes he’s been out partying…actually, he more or less hints at it when in actual fact he caught the red-eye to make it to their appointment. Instead of getting irritated, Ashley offers to relax him with a massage.
Sweet!!! (As Shawn and Gus would say)
The there’s the scene at the hospital. Ron hates hospitals. The few times he stepped inside one, someone he loved died. Yet when Ashley needs him, he braves a panic attack to be by her side. Poor Ron was sweating and hyperventilating, the walls closing in on him. Ashley, clueless about what he was going through, just assumed he was in a crappy mood, until he blurted out how much he hated hospitals.
In MINE UNTIL DAWN, Vince steps up when Jade needs her during her cousin’s bachelorette party. Even though he hates what he’s doing, he does it anyway because she needs him. I agonized about adding that scene in the book, but I just couldn’t get rid of it.
Later, there’s the scene at the club, after Vince and Jade had their fight, and she thinks he’s hurt and goes in search of him. She does this not because of the plans they had that night, but because she thought he might be hurt. Then she gets an arrhythmia attack.
HERE’S THE SNIPPET FROM THE COUNTRY CLUB SCENE in MINE UNTIL DAWN:
Her eyes wide, she slumped against the wall.
“I didn’t mean to scare you.” Vince offered her his hand, but she cringed, confirming what he already knew. With his bruised face and bloodied shirt, he reasoned he must look a sight. Angling his head so his injuries weren’t visible to her, he scowled, noting the helpless, cornered look in her eyes. She appeared to have trouble breathing. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine.” Her words were disjointed, barely audible. “It won’t last long.”
What wouldn’t last? She took in a mouthful of air, held it until her eyes swum with tears. Was she having a panic attack? His mother’s face floated in his mind, eyes rolling in the back of her head, body jerking, and limps twitching. The years he’d spent blocking the past melted into nothing. Horror, huge and powerful, pulled at him, sucking him straight into a place so dark and scary he couldn’t think or breathe.
Stop it. It is not the same.
Vince’s heart beat hard and uneven, his face damp. His gaze found Jade, and reason returned. She was conscious, on her feet, even managing a word or two. Not lying on the ground, thrashing about. This was just a panic attack, and he wasn’t a child anymore. He needed to be strong, not relive a crippling past that was best forgotten. He took another deep breath, put his own demons aside, and concentrated on Jade.
Vince ignored the way she stiffened when he gripped her shoulders and peered into her eyes. “What can I do to help?”
She wiggled her shoulder, trying to dislodge his hands, and it dawned on him. She was still angry.
“I’m sorry for what I said earlier, baby. Okay? Just tell me what to do—”
“Privacy,” she cut him off, her voice low and strained. “Go.”
Vince knew the right thing to do was turn around and let her be, but he couldn’t leave. He didn’t want to. The haunted look in her eyes called to him, told him that she needed him. Just like his mother had needed him before every attack. He pushed the thought aside.
Their eyes locked in a duel of sort, Jade’s flashing with anger, his apologetic yet reassuring, he hoped. He felt so inept. Doing nothing went against his nature. Every gulp of air she took squeezed his heart, caused his chest to ache. He held his breath, waiting anxiously until she exhaled before he did.
Watching her struggle, so brave but vulnerable, a realization hit Vince hard in the plexus. He would willingly put his life on the line to protect this woman.
He let her go long enough to unbutton his bloodied shirt, shrug it off, and let it drop on the floor, leaving him in his white cotton undershirt. He reached for Jade and hauled her into his arms, wincing at his throbbing bruises. He ignored his own pain and concentrated on her.
She was stiff and unyielding, but he didn’t care. Later, she could kick him from here to hell and back, or refuse to have anything to do with him. But he’d be nuts if he let her deal with this alone.
Tucking her head under his chin, he rubbed her back and murmured soothing words. He added apologies—for scaring her, being a jerk, involving her in his investigation, accusing her mother of stealing his statue. He couldn’t believe she came upstairs to look for him after what he’d said, but was happy she did.
SO WHAT IS THE MOST ROMANTIC SCENE YOU’VE EVER READ OR WATCHED? WHY DID IT STAY WITH YOU?