Achy, Breaky Heart

Why do we love romance so much? Some of us–ahem!–have a hard time returning to the literary fiction that gave us that degree. Literary fiction can be so incredibly depressing, and I’ve found that I need a frequent application of HEAs to keep my leisure time happy. I haven’t given up literary fiction, but I have given up thinking I will be satisfied at the end–more like stirred up and sad, although that has its place, too.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all kisses and witty banter in romance; the romances that resonate the most with me are those that have at least one ‘ohmygod-how are they going to overcome this–don’t leave yet, he’ll be here soon with an explanation–she did it because she loves you, you moron’ moments. Some of Mary Balogh‘s books (The First Snowdrop, The Secret Pearl, The Last Waltz) do this spectacularly well. You can feel your heart in your throat as you start reading the penultimate scene. Carla Kelly is a master of it, especially in Reforming Lord Ragsdale, where the h/h almost don’t get together, and you have to let go of a long-held breath at the last moment.

These moments are particularly heart-wrenching in films–think about when Anne reads Captain Wentworth’s letter in Persuasion, and dashes out to make sure he knows to be at the gathering that evening. Thank goodness she runs into him on the street! Notorious–quite possibly the most perfect movie ever–does this moment so incredibly well, with Hitchcock building the suspense until you almost can’t stand it. Beauty And The Beast has it, as does The Philadelphia Story, and my latest obsession, Elizabeth Gaskell‘s North And South.

What are your favorite heart-in-throat moments, from either film or book?


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Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Books like these are often my very favorites–or at least the ones I remember longest. If anyone figures out the trick to writing them well, be sure and let me know! 🙂

And I totally agree on the end of N&S–I was actually crying and saying “Noooo! Don’t leave! Don’t get back on hat London train!”

Georgie Lee
14 years ago

I’m getting the last two hours of North and South this weekend through Netflix. My husband was watching hour two with me and I hadn’t made clear it was a mini-series. I didn’t realize he was really watching until the credits rolled and he sat up and said “What? That can’t be it!” He was relieved when I told him there are two more hours.

One book I read recently that really got to me was “Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants”. Tibby’s guinea pig dies and you realize the guinea pig represents childhood. I was crying my eyes out.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

DAVE, which is one of my top-five all-time favoritest movies ever. The bit where he decides to fake the stroke so the VP can take over, and then at the end she shows up in his little campaign office and…mmm.

BULL DURHAM, another from my top five, though I’m not sure where the exact heart-in-throat moment is. But the whole will-they won’t-they dance between Crash and Annie is just so perfect, practically the entire movie is quotable, and that extended love scene is swoon-inducing.

Hm. We’re caucusing tomorrow and pitchers and catchers report next week. I think some seasonal rewatching is in order…

(The rest of my top five, in case anyone is curious, is THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, GLORY, and FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. None of which have romantic heart-in-throat moments, but grab me by the throat in other ways.)

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Glad to see so many fans of N&S. That last scene. OMG! Also that first almost-kiss in the 2005 P&P.

14 years ago

I LOVE to read books like this. One of my all time favorites is by Rexanne Bechnel – Dangerous to Love. After everything the hero and heroine go through she says she is leaving him and this is almost at the end of the book and while you understand why she feels that way you think “Oh how can you do it? He needs you so.” The author waits to the last minute for him to go and beg her to stay. It was just so heartbreakingly beautiful.

I have to say Anna C’s two books both have endings that could very easily have ended another way.

And how about the Divine Ms. G’s THE MYSTERIOUS MISS M ? I mean our hero HAS to marry someone other than the heroine for them all to survive. It goes down to the last minute when he just refuses to live without her that makes you close the book on the last page and sigh!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

How nice of you, O Doggy One, to mention The Mysterious Miss M. I did pull that one off, didn’t I?

14 years ago

In the Emma Thompson S&S, Marianne is gravely ill and Alan Rickman, er, Colonel Brandon leans against the wall for support and begs Elinor to give him an occupation or he’ll go mad.

Gets me every time.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“Alan Rickman, er, Colonel Brandon leans against the wall for support and begs Elinor to give him an occupation or he’ll go mad.”

Oh, I LOVE that one!!