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Tuesday, April 13, 2010:
The lure of the Intellectual romance
Yes, according to my calculations, there is definitely such a thing as the "intellectual" romance. These are stories written from a more cerebral point of view, engaging the brain, the intellect of the reader. These stories are clever, subtle, and tend to engage my mind more than my heart. And yes, there is definitely a time and a place for the intellectual romance in my reading life.

I thought of this as I read Courtney Milan's "Proof of Seduction". Right away I could tell this would not be the type of romance that I normally read. Courtney's story was smart and intriguing, and appealed to me on a different level than what I am used to. Yes it involved two characters falling in love with each other, but we also saw beyond their physical attraction to the workings of their mind, and how they circled each other and related to one another on an intellectual level.

That being said, it doesn't mean there isn't passion and attraction between the characters, because there is, and it simmers deliciously under the surface most of the time. But the main focus of stories like this are the verbal exchanges, the mental engagement between two well-matched individuals. They do not fall in love lightly or spontaneously. Even when they give in to passion, they still retain their sense of self to a great degree. Individuals like this must fall in love with more than their hearts.

What I like about stories like this is that they do engage my brain, and I have to focus on the story from a perspective that tends to get rusty from time to time, but it's invigorating to stretch those reading muscles. When I read a story like this, I know the author is trying to challenge me, and it's up to me to discover whether or not I am up to that challenge. It's not my normal reading mode, and while it's not outside my comfort zone, it's not a place where I exist on auto-pilot as a reader. I know I have to pay more attention, I have to watch for clues and hints and watch as they unfold before me on the pages.

Courtney Milan is just one example of this type of writer. Another that comes to mind, especially after reading Courtney's book, is Sherry Thomas. I was reminded several times of her novel "Delicious" - not because it had a similar plot - because of the intellectual element of the story. It's like watching a BBC movie rather than a stylized Hollywood version. Both are wonderful to experience, but each has a time and place when it works best. Some days I want the glitzy, all-out extravaganza, while others I long for the softer, less obvious adaptation.

Oh, how fortunate we are as readers to be offered so many different choices.

Are you a fan of the intellectual romance?

What authors come to mind that write similar stories?



  1. I love intellectual romances! Didn't someone once say sex it 90 cerebral? Great post.

  2. Great topic!

    She's an oldie but a goodie: Laura Kinsale.

    I also adored Isolde Martyn's Medievals. I wish she'd write more of them.

    Jo Goodman is also a more intellectual romance author than most, although I know her style isn't every reader's cup of tea.

  3. Love intellectual romances! I can think of four authors who write what I consider to be romance for smart chicks:

    Meljean Brook
    Meredith Duran
    Joanna Bourne
    Sherry Thomas

  4. Intellectial romances are probably my favorite sort. Turning on the mind can be the best turn-on of all.

    I definitely second the recs here and would add Carla Kelly and Jo Beverley. I also consider some of Patricia Gaffney's earlier books intelligent romance, especially the Wyckerley trilogy.

  5. Aargh - that would be "intellectual". The hand/eye coordination isn't up to snuff this morning.

  6. Great post Stacy! I definitely agree with Courtney Milan and had similar thoughts as I read it. I love that side of romance.

    I agree with the Meredith Duran rec! And I have to add in Josh Lanyon.

  7. I've never read either of the authors you mentioned! I'll be sure to check them out!

  8. I love them, too--and have Milan's book in the TBR pile. Also have Duran on the pile, too, thanks to Meljean's recommendation.

    Let's see--like others here, I think Meljean Brook, Laura Kinsale and would add Loretta Chase. Huh. There MUST be more, I love smart heroes and heroines who aren't ashamed of their smarts.

  9. I have read many intellectual romances and enjoyed them. Judith Ivory, Laura Kinsale come to mind.

    I find that while I enjoy an intellectual romance and know that I am reading a well-written book, sometimes when it's too cerebral it lacks emotional intensity. When I need a swift kick to my emotional jugular I rarely, if ever, reach for Ivory/Kinsale, etc.

  10. Noelle, you make a good point. It's very true that it starts in the brain. So why not focus on the cerebral. Smart IS sexy.

    Sarah, I hang my head in shame because I think I've maybe read one Kinsale and I didn't care much for it, but that was years ago. I keep hearing her name and should give her another try.

    Kati, I never got past Demon Angel. But I am going to triumph over Meljean's books because they sound phenomenal. One day...

    Lynn, I admit I am a more simple reader, so I need to be in the mood to read intellectual romance, but I do enjoy them very much when I am up for them. I can see why they would exite other readers so much. Women who read romance are incredibly intelligent.

    Mandi, I have yet to read Josh's books, but I intend to. Just so much catching up to do...

    Mollie, I promise you won't be disappointed!

    Megan, Lord of Scoundrels is definitely one of the top romances EVER written, and she not only writes smart stories, she writes about smart heroines. I do so love that.

    Scorpio, I've heard a lot about Judith Ivory. Any recs on her books?

  11. Stacy,

    The Proposition, Sleeping Beauty, Untie My Heart are my favorites, in that order.

    If you can find Bliss or Dance written under Ivory's other name: Judy Cuevas, GRAB them! They are superb. They are OOP & HTF.

  12. I haven't read this book but from the review, I'd second (or third?) the rec for Meredith Duran as being similar. I hadn't thought of them as intellectual reads before but you're right - they do engage the brain in a different way. I think of them as more of a rich dessert - something that needs to be savoured and that you take some time with to get the most out of whereas others can be scarfed down with glee. And, just like with dessert, you have to be in the right mood.
    But isn't it those awesome desserts that stick on one's memory?

  13. Great post, Stacy! I think Pride & Prejudice is a great example of an "intellectual" romance, actually--where the h/h feel like intellectual equals and want to appeal to each other on that level and not just based on physical attraction.

    I think for books that really works because we can't see the characters. For readers, just physical attraction doesn't usually make sense; but intellectual attraction does. If that makes sense.

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