So I decided to talk about my favorite scenes involving romance, kissing, or romantic subplots. As a title, it was too long, but don’t let the actual title of the post mislead you, because not *all* of these scenes are actually romantic – that’s just who I am. After all, nothing amuses me as much as reading about horrible people making bad decisions.
They’ll be in chronological order (the order I read them in), just because.
The Winter Fete Kiss
in Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The first time I read this series, I had just turned 16, and I inhaled it in less than a week, for mainly one reason: I didn’t know that one could write a fantasy book in which the heroine got to passionately make out with the villain – and since it was clearly possible, why weren’t more people doing that? I had spent a whole life making that sort of thing up for myself in the fantasy stories I read. To this day, this is obviously one of the most memorable kiss scenes I’ve ever read – it helps that it’s set in the most atmospheric and magical part of the book – and I still think writers don’t go there often enough. If the characters aren’t making the worst possible choices in their romantic lives, why am I even here?
The Night Kiss
in Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
In this book, Night is as much as a character as it is an entity and a time between sunset and sunrise. Yes, Vassa in the Night is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read, and in it every Night (as in the time) gets longer and longer, because Night (as in the entity) has been trapped by a witch, and… the main character Vassa actually gets to kiss the Night? More books in which the main character ends up kissing an abstract entity, please. It’s would be one of the most memorable kiss scenes I’ve ever read just because of the imagery, just because of how beautiful it is – after all this is the book where Night lands on the main character’s arms “like a pair of star-flecked falcons and enfolds both hands up to the wrists”. The book of Night sees you, Vassa. It speaks to me on a level I can’t explain and do I need to reread it.
The Kiss in the Tree
in The End of Love by Nina LaCour, short story in Summer Days & Summer Nights
Another thing I didn’t think people could or would do: have queer girls be the main characters of something. This is the first time I ever saw a story center an f/f pairing, and it was… life-changing? It’s a story about two girls finding each other during the summer, while the main character Flora’s parents are separating, and I didn’t know just how much a summer romance short story could do, how much Flora and Mimi would stay with me. They kiss! After climbing on a tree! And they were happy and they were the main characters and it was 2016, when I couldn’t find much of that at all.
in The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
Combining two of the previous entries! 2017, when books about queer female main characters were starting to become more common, but still mostly limited to contemporary, until I tried and looked into adult sci-fi, and… well. What’s better than a antiheroine/villainess post-arranged marriage sex scene in the context of an F/F/F love triangle (or all-female love square depending on interpretation)? It was horrible and it was everything and I’ve never been happier to know that a book got translated into my country as I was when I saw this one (Il destino della legione, and yes, I bought it just to support it
and reread that scene in my first language). This is usually a dynamic that is limited to heterosexual pairings when it is there at all, which is boring.
The Comb Scene on the “Beneath the Orchid”
in Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
I mean, pretty much every scene set on the Beneath the Orchid could fit this because Brezan/Tseya is one of my favorite romances ever, being an antagonistic-but-not-really-or-maybe-so relationship between a soldier and a spy who are on a secret mission together but have very different values (…and possibly, aims). But the comb scene? “I’m clearly not distracting enough”? AAAAAAA. I love Tseya so much and I’ve never felt this strongly about the lead up to a sex scene.
Dancing in the Estate
in The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz
In this contemporary fantasy book, the Red Mangrove Estate is a building with its own very specific brand of magic. The main character Mercedes finally dances and kisses her best friend and crush Victoria in its red room, her room, and everything is perfect, like a moment suspended in a teardrop of amber – and you know what they say about perfection and its disagreements with reality: things come crashing down. This is one of the most emotional things I’ve ever read and really personal to me as well. The yearning! As I said many times, this is the happiest sad book I’ve ever read. This sequence of scenes is the best example of why.
The First Thuan/Asmodeus Kiss
in House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard
Is it even a romance if they don’t want to kill each other? This is one of the most explosive moments in a plotline that is basically an m/m enemies-to-lovers arranged marriage between a shapeshifting dragon prince and a fallen angel, and the sexual tension was absolutely off the charts. Still surprised that there are so many fantasy romantic plotlines that, unlike this one, do not in any way involve stabbing. Sometimes authors are no fun.
A lot of things (and especially Unbound by Naomi Salman)
in Twisted Romance, edited by Alex de Campi
Would it be cheating to point out a whole story? Or a whole collection, really, because Twisted Romance is all about the many forms romance can take – all its beautiful weirdness and lack of care for norms. It’s really queer and polyamorous, and the story Unbound was what stood out the most. It’s only a few scenes long, and it’s a contemporary among a lot of paranormal and fantasy, but it’s about queer outcasts finding each other, and I loved it for how… not sensational it felt? It’s about having survived homelessness, and it’s about kink as something some people do and not “something weird and freaky I wanted to include in my book to be edgy”, which was just really nice to see. Also, being able to establish a romance in barely three scenes takes serious skill. This romance-focused collection of short stories and short comics convinced me that I really could like both comics and romance, so it’s really important to me.
The Kiss on the “I Rise From Ancestral Night”
in Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
Apart from this being the moment in which the very repressed lesbian main character ends up kissing the evil & very hot space pirate lady, which of course is everything I want from a sci-fi book (I have priorities), it’s also really important for character development reasons! Do I love when something I’ve been waiting for a whole book to happen finally happens and ends up having a pivotal role in the main character’s arc in a way that isn’t even tied to a romantic plotline (this is very much not a romance book).
The Bonfire (and many other scenes)
in The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos
And after a whole post of me mostly pointing out villain romances and related plotlines, I’m ending on a nicer note, because Ruby/Dov might be the first time a very sweet romance actually has made a lasting impact on me.
It was just… how much these two enjoy each other’s company, more than anything. How Dov is really understanding of Ruby’s jagged edges, how Ruby believes she doesn’t deserve it but just feels so happy when he’s around – they have so much chemistry that I still remember their scenes vividly, and the bonfire was probably my favorite. They have just the slightest awkwardness, so everything feels true, but I never got a whisper of secondhand embarrassment. The author’s attention to detail also helped; I could always see their surroundings very clearly, and she managed to make their scenes dynamic – they interact not only with each other but with their environment as well. How often in kiss scenes characters just… stand there and internally purple-prose-monologue about what’s happening? The kiss after the bonfire is the opposite of that, and that’s why the romantic scenes in this book are actually engaging. Everything felt so real in a way that hit me.
Do you also have favorite scenes in romantic subplots more than favorite couples? Have you read any of these?