Friday, October 24, 2008

The Widow and Widower in Romance

I am toward the end of a romance that will be published in November with a heroine who is a widow of three years. Her husband was a police officer killed in the line of duty and she still misses him. She wears her wedding ring, and even wears another ring of his around her neck on a chain. She doesn’t date or think about having a future with another man because she feels she is still married.


When the hero enters the picture, she is attracted to him but fights her feelings because of her love and dedication to her deceased husband. But when she touches the hero, she literally feels the sparks between them, and this unnerves her. She fights and fights her attraction for this new man until she ends up have sex with him, and from there begins to fall in love.


Up to a certain point I loved how the author showed the heroine was still in love with her deceased husband. You don’t read that very often because usually, the first husband was an abusive jerk, and old geezer who could barely walk, or just married the heroine for money and prestige. That was not the case with this book that is until, the heroine falls for the hero. She suddenly finds faults with her deceased husband that she never found before. First that changed was the attraction she had for her husband. Their initial introduction was nice and she found him to be sweet and fun loving. We come to find out that their marriage was very much like that. I was actually fine with that part, because not all romantic relationships, even that of marriage can be full of smoldering passion or constant intense sexual loving. BUT, when the heroine and hero finally have sex, it is unlike any sexual experience she has ever had. As she is in the midst of being pleasured by the hero, while he is giving her oral sex, she tells the hero that her husband never did that act, and he was pretty unadventurous in bed. Thus cementing, at least in my mind, that the hero is some sort of love god, while her poor dead husband was a bit of a dud in bed. But she did love her dead dud, so very much so, but since the hero is now in the picture, she continues to find even more faults with the dud.


The scene where the heroine and hero have incredible sex annoyed me because of how her feelings changed about her husband, just because of this new man who came into her life. Why can’t her memories of her husband be just as strong and wonderful as her new ones with this new man? Why do authors find the need to start out the story with the heroine so in love with their deceased partner to the point of sacrificing their future and preferring to be alone? But, when the hero pops up, the heroine makes excuses why her first love was not worthy and could never compete with this new love that is oh so much more fulfilling?


Off the top of my head I can’t think of many books I have read where the first marriage for the hero/heroine is still a worthy one especially after they meet their new mate. The only book that comes to mind, mainly because I saw it sticking out of my bookcase, is Lisa Kleypas’s Where Dreams Begin. The one reason that this is one of my favorite books by her is because the heroine, Holly Taylor, has such a deep and intense love for her deceased husband that doesn’t change even when she meets her hero, Zachary Bronson. Up till the bitter end, she can’t let go of her deceased husband, even though she has found a new and exciting love with Zachary. She still very much loves her husband, but loves Zachary with so much passion because he is such the polar opposite of her first husband. She has a place for both these two men in her heart.


If only more authors would write a book like Lisa did with Where Dreams Begin. I am all for the widow heroine meeting the hero, and visa versa, but to downplay a romantic relationship such as a marriage the hero/heroine had before they meet their new mate seems wrong to me.


With that in mind, can anyone think of any books where the first marriage is still treated with respect and fondness by the hero/heroine?


Katiebabs (KB)

29 comments:

Kwana said...

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Sayuri said...

One that pops into my head was 'Sex, STraight Up'. I can't think of anytime when Daniel thought less of his first wife.

And Virgin River. Althoogh Mel's husbands bad points were disscussed it wasn't by the heroine but by the heroine's sister. And all she was doing was describing their marriage to the hero and noting that they didn't have a perfect fairytale marriage.

But I agree too much of the time the former spouse was a bastard or it was a marriage of convience etc.

Still, I'm a sucker for widowed heroes/heroines.

Amy said...

In Susan Mallery's Sweet Talk, the widowed hero was still pretty hung up on his first wife and glorifies his first marriage, which becomes a problem for the heroine. Over the course of the book, the hero comes to admit that his first marriage wasn't as perfect as he remembers or talks about but I never felt that teh character or Mallery bashed the first wife.

Jenre said...

"When He Was Wicked" by Julia Quinn is a lovely example of a widow who loved her first husband very much. She spends much of the time in the novel feeling guilty about falling in love again, especially as the hero is a friend of her dead husband. There is a poignant scene at the end of the book where she visits the grave of her 1st husband and realises that it is OK to love another man without spoiling the love she felt for her first husband. The whole scene brought tears to my eyes.

Casee said...

The only book I can think of is a SuperRomance by Janice Kay Johnson. I generally don't mind widows/widowers, but grief is different than pining away. That is what annoys me.

So can you tell us what the book is?

Ciara said...

I totally agree. Great post! I was going to add WHEN HE WAS WICKED, but someone beat me to it.

On a related note: There are way too many virgin widows in romance.

Jenre said...

I've just remembered another one I read recently. It was a m/m romance "Faith and Fidelity" by Tere Michaels. The widower loved his wife a great deal, the grief was handled really well as was the falling in love with someone else.

Carrie Lofty said...

In Chase's Lord Perfect, Bathsheba thinks about how unsecure and footloose her first husband is, by way of contrast with straight-laced Benedict, but that doesn't change her opinion about Hubby #1. And she enjoyed sex. Because of Hubby #1. That was cool.

Carrie Lofty said...

Sorry, that should be "footloose her husband was..."

AnimeJune said...

The first one that comes to mind is the Duke of Berrow from Eloisa James' Duchess by night - he wasn't perfect, but she did care for him.

However, I think I can understand why a woman's thoughts might change about her dead husband once she's with another man. Several books I've read concerning dead husbands or relatives relate how the dead tend to be idealized - once he's gone, all you remember are the good times, the lovely times, etc, so naturally after a couple of years he's just a purely positive memory. Reading Art Spiegelman's "Maus," he explains how he could never measure up to his brother who died during the Holocaust, because his dead brother is idealized in his parents' memory and never misbehaves, grows up, or disappoints his parents.

In the case of your book, it sounds like the wife idealized her dead husband, because she loved him very much and kept herself from other relationships - however, once she finds herself in the dating game and finally finds someone to compare her deceased hubby to, that's when she remembers all the faults she glossed over during her mourning.

I dunno, it makes sense to me.

Marianne McA said...

An older book - 'Madam, Will You Talk' by Mary Stewart.

I want to quote from it, but I've misplaced my copy. (If I find it later, I'll post the passage I'm recalling.)

Carolyn Jean said...

This is such a great discussion. I totally agree with everything. Why does one guy, the past husand, have to be devalued to love the new one?

I can't think of any books, but I thought of Sleepless in Seattle.

kmont said...

Katie, cannot think of any titles off the top of my mop, but I totally agree - if the widowed individual has held on as dearly as you describe above, there's no need to devalue the deceased spouse in order to "strengthen" their new found love. If anything, it seems to cheapen the widower's new feelings. MAybe it's too idealistic, but I would think the new spouse would only appreciate the widower more for having loved so deeply.

little alys said...

My most vivid memories of widow/ers in books fall outside romance genres and they usually never remarried. Love until death...literally.

jmc said...

Lavyrle Spencer's Family Blessings has a widow who moves on without demonizing her dead first husband. In fact, there's a scene in which she and the hero talk about him, and about his good and bad points.

Of course, she'd been a widow for a while, and the real conflict was the age difference (the hero was her son's friend).

Kristie (J) said...

As a widow myself, if I were to ever meet someone else, I would never change my attitude in how much I loved Ron - and nothing will ever change that.
BUT - You can still love again and love just as deeply with a second love as with a first. It's just - different - just as I love my sons. They are different as night and day and I love them different. I don't prefer one over the other, but I see and love the different qualities each has.
So for me, there is no reason for a widow or widower to denigrate the first love. In fact I'd have more respect for them if they didn't - if they continued to love the first spouse just as much.

azteclady said...

LaVyrle Spencer's Morning Glory.

Ellie's first husband was more her friend than anything else, even though he father her three children. When she falls in love with Will--and it's a lovely long process too--she doesn't suddenly find all sorts of faults with her husband; she has always known he had faults and weaknesses. Her love for him remains the same--as you say, it's a different love but not diminished by loving Will.

Casee said...

I know someone already mentioned it above, but now I'm thinking about Virgin River. Mel loved her first husband and after she lost him, thought she wouldn't be able to love anyone else. I still remember the scene where she's outside crying in the rain. Very powerful scene.

The fact that she did love her first husband so much just shows her strength in being able to take a chance on Jack.

ames said...

Count to Ten - Karen Rose

One of my favouritest books ever and I'm not a romantic suspense fan. :P

The hero is a widower.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

If you really want to know the title and author I will tell you.
Also the secondary romance is a woman who has a romance with a ghost, who happens to be the great, great etc.. of the hero. Think in the terms of The Ghost and Mrs, Muir.

Lori said...

OK, all the books I was going to mention have already been named: Virgin River, When He Was Wicked, Count to 10, and Lord Perfect. I remember even mentioning in my review of LP that I liked that Bathsheba's first marriage was a happy one. So yup, although they may be the exception, they are out there.

Tumperkin said...

I thought Black Silk by Judith Ivory was a good example of this. The heroine has been married to almost textbook bad first husband (much older, academic etc.) but it turns out not only that she loved him but that he seems to have engineered her meeting with the hero (one of my favourite ever heroes, Graham Wessit).

Great post.

Marianne McA said...

Found the book.

This is the quote I was thinking of:

'As I lifted up my dress from the case Louise had brought, I saw the silver photograph-frame underneath, Johnny's eyes smiled up at me.
....
Past and future dovetailed into this moment, and together made the pattern of my life. I would never again miss Johnny, with that deep dull aching, as if part of me had been wrenched away, and the scar left wincing with the cold; but, paradoxically enough, now that I was whole again, Johnny was nearer to me that he had ever been since the last time we had been together, the night before he went away.
....
Whatever I knew of life and loving had been Johnny's gift, and without it, _______ & I would be the poorer. We were both in his debt now and forever.
I lifted Johnny's photograph and kissed it. It was the last time I should ever do so. Then I laid it gently back in the case, and picked up my dress again.'

(Hero's name blanked, because it might be a spoiler.)

Stacy~ said...

Great topic.

"Where Dreams Begin" is my favorite Kleypas book, and I also loved "When He Was Wicked". In both books I loved how the heroine loved her first husband and didn't magically fall in love with the hero. I think in both instances, it was handled very sensitively and maturely. Not every prior relationship has to be awful and painful. I actually liked that both previous marriages were happy ones.

Kate said...

azteclady, seconding "Morning Glory." It's been ages since I've read that and now suddenly want to. Just a really lovely tender story. (And I thought I'd grown out of Lavyrle Spencer!)

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Thanks for the recs everyone! It is so good to know I am not the only one who notices this trend in romance.
Lavyrle Spencer is one author who needs to start writing and come out of retirement.

nath said...

A new book that's coming out: A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr :P Fits the bill :)

Pamela Clare said...

Fascinating post, Katiebabs. It's something I'd never thought about quite like that before.

I was going to say "Morning Glory," but I see someone already mentioned it. I'm having trouble remembering others.

I think the human heart is capable of loving more than one person over the course of a lifetime, and truly, truly loving them. I wonder if authors are just afraid that the heroine will seem cheap by loving again.

Leslie Q said...

IIRC, Carla Kelly's heroine in MRS DREW PLAYS HER HAND loved & continues to love her 1st husband.