Please, miss, may I have some more of that romance?

In honor of Valentine's Day, here is a story of thwarted romantic reading. It's about one of those books where the romance creeps up on little cat feet, until with a sizzle the sparks start flying and the reader is overcome with gleefulness...for about two paragraphs. And that's it.

Here, taken from page 218 of The Cygnet and the Firebird, by Patricia McKillip (1993), is the fictional romance that frustrates me most, because I can't stand that there isn't any more of it. The first speaker is a prince caught by an enchantment that transforms him each day into a firebird. The second speaker is the heir to her own holding, a young woman with the most insatiably curious mind for magic of any heroine I know, who is determined to break the spell.

"You used to look like a mage."

"What does a mage look like?"

"Like a closed book full of strange and marvellous things. Like the closed door to a room full of peculiar noises, lights that seep out under the door. Like a beautiful jar made of thick, colored glass that holds something glowing inside that you can't quite see, no matter how you turn the jar."

"And now?" she whispered. He came close; the light at their feet cast hollows of shadow across his eyes, drew the precise lines of his mouth clear.

"Now," he said softly, "you aren't closed. You're letting me see."

He slid his hand beneath her hair, around her neck. She watched light tremble in a drop of water near the corner of his mouth. He bent his head. The light leaped from star to star across his face, and then vanished. She closed her eyes and he was gone..."

Oh, I was so hopeful when this book, and its prequel (The Sorceress and the Cygnet), were recently republished as one volume (entitled Cygnet). It must, I told myself, mean that a third book is coming out, and they will actually get their kiss....but no joy yet.

Anyone else have a favorite frustrating fictional romance?


  1. My favorite fictional but definitely frustrating relationship is Sam and Jack on Stargate SG-1. Their love is undeniable, forbidden though it may be. But only in episodes with alternate realities and time line chaos (eps like Window of Opportunity) does this love come through and kissing happens ;)

  2. For me, pretty much all of Jane Austen falls into the frustrating romance category. When I first read them as a young teen, I was so maddened by the way the books screeched to a halt as soon as the main characters had declared themselves. Probably one of the reasons Emma is one of my favorites is that it is the only one where you get to see (a very little bit) of the happy couple actually talking about their relationship.

  3. At least they are getting something, Becky!

    And Emile, I think Pride and Prejudice offers quite a lot. There are three sections I can think of off the top of my head that I read repeatedly and with great satisfaction. I think I need to re-read Emma--I don't remember that bit at all!

  4. Oh -- now I'm afraid I've mixed up the endings of P&P and Emma. I do remember now Elizabeth teasing Darcy at the end. But that was the very first one I read, and not being familiar with Austen or the experience of reading a novel written so long ago, the little bit we saw seemed entirely inadequate to my teen self.


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