Posts Tagged ‘romance’

Favorite Willig so far

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig; page count 385

I’ve been slowly (very slowly) reading my way through the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig. Generally, unless the series is uber-compelling I’ll let some time go by before reading the next book in a series. (To date there have only been two series which I read straight through: Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Sorry, but my bar is pretty high.)

This fourth addition to the Napoleonic spy/romance series follows the cynical Lothario, Lord Sebastian Vaughn and the cynical temptress Mary Alsworthy as they trade barbs while attempting to track down a deadly French spy, the Black Tulip. There’s also several chapters devoted to a PhD history candidate Eloise, who is attempting a dissertation on the Pink Carnation as well as attempting to snag a particular man, Colin.

This is by far my favorite because of the two main characters. Miss Alsworthy and Lord Vaughn are fantastic together! These two do not mince words and spare no one’s feelings. I love Vaughn’s clever cuts and Alsworthy’s witty retorts. They do tend more toward the gooey side near the end of the book, but generally they stay true to their shrewd ways. It’s like reading a slightly more cut-throat Cary Grant zing and be zinged effortlessly by his main squeeze. (It’s reminiscent of this scene from His Girl Friday.)

Also, I figured out why I don’t like the modern part of the book: I don’t like Eloise. Don’t get me wrong, if she existed as a real live human being, we might be friends, but I don’t like being in her head. The Eloise parts are written in a stream-of-consciousness style. She’s meant to be an intelligent woman abroad, but she comes across much more ditzy than intelligent. Yes, I understand that intelligent women can have some seriously dingy moments. However, I do not particularly like reading a blow-by-blow of her inner-head ditziness. I find it difficult to believe that a woman who is working on a dissertation from an Ivy League school would mistake a marble statue of Hercules for a museum attendant. (Yeah. That happened.)

I would still recommend these books whole-heartedly to others despite my distaste for the Eloise bits. It’s a fluffy, no-brainer, rom-com of a book series, but that’s nice now and again, isn’t it?

My library has the audio of the next book, and after Indigo’s review, I might just give that a shot.

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Here’s a quicky review of a quicky book I read for the challenge. Quickies are good every now again. Sometimes you just need a little light-hearted, no pressure release. This book delivered.

A Midsummer Night’s Sin by Kasey Michaels; page count 384
The book is actually the second in a trilogy, Blackthorn Brothers, which I did not realize until I began reading it. It is by no means required to read the first book before proceeding, but I did get a bit tired of the characters referring unneccesarily to events from the previous book.
A Midsummer Night's SinThis second book focuses on the third and youngest Blackthorn brother, Robin “Puck” Goodfellow Blackthorn, as well as, Regina Hackett, daughter of a wealthy merchant. They meet at a scandelous masqurade from which Regina’s best friend and cousin is kidnapped. As with most romance stories, Puck is so taken with Regina that he agrees to put himself in danger in order to help find the snatched lady.
Overall the book is not bad. The plot was well-paced, the steamier scenes were not too chaste, (although, I could have had a little more oomph) and I enjoyed the characters. If I do happen across the other two books and it’s not too much trouble, I might read them, as well. All points to the positive, I probably would not outright recommend this book for its own sake. If someone aksed me very specifically, “What do you have in regency fiction romance that’s good?” then I would suggest this Michaels trilogy. However if someone just wanted a “good book,” I probably wouldn’t mention it.

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The Taming of Jessi Rose by Beverly Jenkins, page count: 375
I wanted to read a saucier book than normal, but did not feel like reading complete drivel. To that end, I checked over with the awesome ladies at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for an author recomendation. I only looked at the books which made an A grade, then I narrowed down to a couple of authors in the historical fiction genre. I went to my local library with author names in hand. Lo and behold, there were several books by both authors. I decided on The Taming of Jessi Rose by Beverly Jenkins soley because of the hunky piece of man-meat on the front. (That’s right. I’m shallow. Sue me. And while I’m making confessions, the only reason I did not finish this book before now was because I *had* to finish that ballet book first.)
The Taming of Jessi Rose

mmmmmmm......hunky man meat

Griffin Blake, that’s hunky piece of man-meat to you and me, is a train robber turned US Marshall to help out a boy in need. Jessi Rose Clayton is that boy-in-need’s aunt. Jessi is trying to save her family ranch from being sold for to railroad line, and she is often forced to resort to gunfire to protect her property from those who would purchase it.

I must say, I was delighted! The writing was good, the characters were wonderfully mulitdementional, and the history was accurate, insofar as I am aware of African American history of Texas. I am sorry to report that the steamy scenes did not quite live up to my expectations. The scenes were not bad and were tastefully handled, just not quite as steamy as I’d like. (The rare times when I go for that sort of book, I expect results.) I especially enjoyed the banter between the two main characters. They were both cute and realistic, a feat apparently difficult for many authors to achieve. They reminded me of some of my favorite real-life couples.
Honestly, I do not normally go for Westerns, but this book was good. I can see why the aptly named Smart Bitches gave Jenkins an A. I would, too, if we did that sort of thing. We don’t, though. So I’ll just say that I enjoyed the book very much, and would in turn recommend it to others. I’m sure I’ll borrow another Jenkins book in the furture.

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Happy 31st!

One of the cutest love stories I know is that of my parents, who were married 31 years ago today. I’m not going to splash about the details all over the internet (at least not this year,) but suffice to say that my Dad stole my Mom’s heart. Oh yes, he is a sly one my dear Dad. They are still very happily married.

True LoveI’m so glad I have parents who are often embarrassing to be around in public. Happy Anniversary you two!

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Warning, I’m about to have a little pity party here. And a push for Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Like Sapphire so eloquently put it a while back, technology brings along its own special brand of problems, along with incredible advantages. Take Facebook for example. It’s made keeping in touch with my high school, study abroad and college friends so easy. If I were to rely solely on the phone could I plan weekend trips to Vegas with people who all live in different states? Could I easily figure out who on my college swim team is also interested in sharing a room when I go to another swimmer’s wedding in September? Probably not, because frankly, I’m not the greatest at keeping in touch with the traditional methods. I hate talking on the phone and I will send out letters or emails but not on a regular basis. Facebook and Twitter is an (almost) instantaneous way to keep in touch, even if I don’t actually speak or write to a person–their status updates or other wall posts update me just as much as a quick text message or phone call.

The other reason to see this movie, and the reason why I'm going to read The Help.

So what’s the problem? You know too much. At least I have this problem. For example, several friends from high school who I didn’t really keep in touch with through college got engaged this past year, one yesterday. Suddenly, seeing everything on the Internet and seeing their excitement makes me so incredibly jealous.I know that’s mean-spirited of me and I know their happiness wouldn’t bother me as much if I didn’t have access to pictures etc. I guess at this point in my life I figured I’d at least have a boyfriend. The two most meaningful relationships I’ve had were either one-sided (mine) or a glorified friends with benefits.

Seeing what seems like the majority of my high school classmates finding happiness of some kind is just depressing and highlights my lack. At least while I was still technically in grad school I could pretend I had the career part of my life figured out, but now that I’m officially an MS and unemployed there’s no covering up my lack of career. Sure my contemporaries probably don’t have their careers figured out either (except one and she’s also engaged, so part of me kind of hates her, but not really), but at least they have love figured out. They have someone besides their mothers to rely on and cry to when job interviews turn up nothing.

Oh, Ryan

The other thing that totally bums me out, is that every single one of these girls I mentioned met their fiances in college. Do you know how incredibly hard it is to meet guys outside of college? Sapphire and I just got back from watching Crazy, Stupid, Love and Ryan Gosling plays a womanizer. During the montages of him seducing the ladies I have to wonder, what self-respecting woman goes home with the random, albeit HOT, smooth talker? Not that all men in bars do that, but at least in the bars I’ve been, getting the girl to go home with you seems like their ultimate priority.  And if you don’t meet in bars where do you meet? Given that I’ll probably move to some strange new state I won’t have friends I can mingle with and meet new people.

Actually, scratch meeting guys, where on earth do you make girlfriends? I can’t say I’ve ever made friends outside of a school setting. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I just pray I won’t become a crazy dog lady (I’d say cats but they make me sneeze). Actually, I probably won’t even be able to become a crazy insert-animal-here lady because I won’t be able to afford the upkeep–hello student loans!

So, I’m sorry for my pity party, but I feel like I have nothing going for me now. I’ll be moving in with my brother for goodness sakes. And go see Crazy, Stupid, Love. Not only is Ryan Gosling über attractive, but the clothes made my friend E melt into a puddle of fashion inspired mush.

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Yesterday at work, I took a break with my coworker to have a snack. The night before, I had bought some fried rice at my neighborhood Chinese restaurant and hadn’t eaten the fortune cookies yet. So, because sharing is caring, I offered Sarah a cookie and took the other for myself.

"Help, I'm being held prisoner in a Chinese cookie factory!" Lucky Numbers: 30, 47, 29, 24, 18, 11

I’ve always loved reading the fortunes in cookies. Sometimes they are inspirational, sometimes they are funny, and sometimes they don’t make any sense at all. That is the fun of fortune cookies. They say complimentary things like “You are admired by everyone for your talent and ability,” philosophical things like “Alas! The onion you are eating is someone else’s water lily,” and ridiculous things like “You are not a ghost,” which is why I usually enjoy the end of a meal in a Chinese restaurant.

Not Yesterday.

I got the worst fortune that I think I’ve ever heard of. Fortunes, even the enigmatic ones, are usually positive in some way and honestly, I’ve never heard of a negative fortune before. “You are ugly and will have bad luck” or “Everyone hates your guts” hardly inspire good digestion and encourage you to come back to the restaurant the fortune came from. While these are fictional examples, the following is what came out of my cookie yesterday, in all its bitter glory:

You will experience small success, especially in romance.”

At first glance, it doesn’t seem all that mean-spirited, but really, the fortune is a bit passive aggressive. Yes, I kid you not, a cookie actually told me that not only will I never be successful in my career, family relationships, and finances, but out of all of the portions of my life, I will have next to no success in romance. Thanks cookie, I hope you have an unfulfilling, less than average, lonely life too!

I really didn’t need a cookie to tell me that I have no prospects at the moment and haven’t had much luck with Cupid. Like most predictive statements, I have to take the cookie’s zinger with a grain of salt. After all, it’s a mass produced confection with a randomly placed piece of paper in it. One of the writers might have been having a bad day at the factory and his sour mood leaked into his work. It happens in every profession, so why not in the cookie making business? It is also stupid to take credence with the advice or insights of a cookie that other people have also received. But, being a person who believes that everything happens for a reason and that we are fated to meet people and do things that define our lives, I have to be upset with this fortune. What are the odds that out of all the Chinese cookie factories, the one with the negative fortune supplies Chef Chow’s House? What are the odds that that surly fortune cookie was the one that was given to me with my fried rice? And finally, why didn’t I choose the other of the two cookies when Sarah and I were eating our snack at work? Through some cosmic working, I ended up with that specific fortune. Why? Asian gods of chance and romance, why me?

I know I’m usually an optimistic person, but this fortune cookie really put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. It took the wind out of my sails. In a juvenile way, I was actually mad at a cookie.

At the same time though, I think I was madder at the possible truth in what the cookie told me. What if I never do have success in romance? Am I destined to be alone for the rest of my life? I’ve never been the kind of woman who needs to be with a man to feel fulfilled or worthy of happiness, but facing the prospect of being unsuccessful in relationships upsets me. No one wants to be alone forever and everyone at least wants companionship and comfort that a romantic relationship provides.

I didn’t need a cookie to tell me, to remind me in fact, that I have no luck in the man department. The cookie was further demeaning me by reinforcing my bad luck so far at securing a date. The tiny piece of paper was like a slap in the face that startled me into reality. Yes, I am romantically challenged, stunted in my flirting skills, and awkward in social situations with men, but I didn’t really want a blatant assessment of my track record in this part of my life with my coffee at work.

Why cookie, why? You ruined my afternoon, my sunny disposition on the first day in about a month that it didn’t rain, my cheerful sugary bonding moment with a new coworker, and my outlook on the dating scene in Boston.

I know I have to just forget about the cookie, otherwise, the fortune will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but doesn’t the tone of it just get you down?

I’ll keep looking out for Mr. Right, but I can’t help thinking about ye curséd cookie. I’ll have to proceed with caution the next time I order Chinese food and never again will I complain about a fortune as silly as “Next time you have the opportunity, go on a rollercoaster.”

On the positive side, at least I learned how to say “bus” in Chinese.

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Let Your Love Show

My new favorite iPhone app is TuneIn Radio. With a touch of my finger, I can connect to my hometown radio station, 200 miles away, and listen to the station I grew up listening to while I get ready in the morning. This morning, the radio DJ had a segment about free romantic gestures. He wanted to know from female listeners what they thought were the most romantic things men could do, without spending money, and shared a few responses. It got me thinking about other people’s responses and my own. Among them were men remembering their significant other’s middle name, not flirting with other women, and cooking breakfast for a girlfriend. I have to say that while the simple things all add up and truly make a difference, some of these responses had me feeling sorry for the women of today and got me angry at men. Remembering my middle name, while admittedly being romantic in say, the proposal context, seems like a basic requirement for dating someone. “Hello, this is what’s her name, my girlfriend.” I’d hope my boyfriend would remember my middle name, even though I don’t use it that often.

Ten times worse is a man not flirting with other women. Well, I would hope that a man is with you because he wants to be and isn’t so bored in your company that he has to chat up other women.

The breakfast cooking was the only winner in my opinion in the list provided.

Here are a list of some of my top romantic gestures. Some of them are old fashioned, some are simple, but all are the little details that tell her you care.

  1. Open sesame! Open the door, baby. It’s the age old measure of a true gentleman. The last man who opened a door for me at a Crate & Barrel literally left me speechless. Luckily I came to my senses in time to thank him.
  2. Remember significant other’s significant others A simple acknowledgment of a mother, sibling, friend, or pet goes a long way. Remembering a birthday of a friend, tossing a ball around with the dog, having a long chat with grandma, or playing up to the six year old cousins makes us know that you care about the people/furry friends that are important to us.
  3. Compliments At the risk of sounding vain, I put this one in because who doesn’t like to be told they look nice, made a good dinner, or had a perfect choice for the Friday night movie once in a while? A man at a bar (WAY too old for me and wearing a Red Sox shirt) told me he liked my earrings last night. It didn’t lead to anything, obviously, but it put a smile on my face. It doesn’t all have to be about looks though. Every so often, it’s just nice to hear a compliment to keep things positive. (This gesture goes both ways too. Men need to receive a compliment too.)
  4. Mind your Ps and Qs Manners matter. A thank you lets us know our actions are appreciated and that you respect us. Plus, manners make you seem civilized and sophisticated, and who’s not turned on by a Jane Austen-y gentleman?
  5. Chicken soup is for lovers Take care of us when we are sick. There is no other time when I feel less beautiful, put-together, in-control, and more miserable than when I am sick. Bring us some chicken soup (even if it comes in a can), buy some tissues from CVS (the nice soft lotion ones I like for extra points), and coddle us just a smidgen. If you can stand the sight of me with a red nose and watery eyes you’re a keeper. Also, caring for us on the sickbed shows your kind and nurturing side; life isn’t always peachy and it’s nice to know you’ll be there even in the rough patches.
  6. Order’s up Know our food likes and dislikes. Details let us know you both know our quirks and pay attention to us. Also, we know we can trust you to order for us when we have to run to the ladies room, inconveniently and inevitably at the exact moment the waitress comes over to the table. Three simple must haves for memorization: our complicated drink of choice, one odd food preference, and one dislike. For instance: gin and soda with Sapphire gin, two limes, extra ice, mustard on my french fries, and please for God’s sake no cucumbers on my salad!
  7. Lend a hand, forearm, elbow, and shoulder Put your arm around us when we’re sitting next to each other at a table, or in other appropriate settings. There is something proprietary about the gesture that makes us feel safe and secure and lets other people know that we’re a couple (read: creepy guy protection and slutty girl deterrent)
  8. Mail call Write us a letter. Love letters are romantic, old fashioned, and a lovely alternative to bills and catalogs that have survived the digital conversion of written communication.

These are just a few of my favorites. What do you think are the most romantic gestures?

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The Zsa Zsa Zsu

I read a Glamour blog post recently, and I can’t remember for the life of me what it was about, but in the comments section women wrote about their boyfriends and how some weren’t initially attracted to them.  I can see this happening in a friends-first kind of relationship, but how does this work in a regular dating situation?  How important is physical attraction in a relationship? How long do you go out with a guy you’re not attracted to hoping some magic will happen before you decide it’s cruel?

Recently, I joined Match.com and met a promising sounding guy.  We’ll call him med student.  As you probably figured, he’s a med student, and since intelligence is very high on my list, I agreed to meet him.  He’s a very nice guy, and I can’t quite pinpoint what was lacking.  Except for the zsa zsa zsu.

“is a relationship a relationship without the zsa zsa zsu?”

carrie bradshaw, Sex and the City

Now, maybe I’m just covering up my lack of attraction with talk of spark  (and we certainly weren’t in a relationship), but it got me thinking.  What exactly goes into attraction?  On the surface, he seems like a great guy for me–smart, attentive, courteous.  All are things that are attractive.  But when I think about it, we didn’t have anything in common.  Granted med school is hard (I’ve never been in med school but I surely hope the people to whom I entrust my health go through strenuous education), but he had no other discernible hobbies; which, I think is very important.  Nor did he seem very physically active.

Yet, when I told him that the spark just wasn’t there, he told me, and I quote:

“I personally think it’s hard to find a ‘spark’ with somebody you don’t know very long… you are fun, smart, and very pretty…so I hope we can spend more time together.”

One part of me is thinking, “well, duh.  I’m awesome, so of course he likes me” but the other part of me is thinking, “but what is the draw?  Exactly what makes you really like me?”  Given that he complimented my looks more than my other attributes, I have to assume it’s based on physical attraction.  I’m not the smartest girl and I assume that he met plenty of much smarter girls in college (Ivy League!) and in med school.  And, I was completely honest when I said I was hungover at work on a Friday, even though he’s not a drinker.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me either.  I hope I don’t sound cocky or conceited, but there are a handful of times where I’ve met a guy or gone out with him and continually heard, “you’re so pretty.”  Flattering the first time.  The next ten effusions are slightly uncomfortable.

I guess med student has a point, though. When I think about the three guys who had the strongest romantic impact on me, all started out as “enemies,” not even friends. The zsa zsa zsu was clearly not there.  Initially.   Boy from Home annoyed me as a freshman in high school, before we both got over our 9th grade insecurities.  Then we became friends.  Assisi terrified me the first few weeks I knew him—yelling at swimmers for not putting in the effort or coming on a regular basis—“hey there,” I thought, “we’re a club team not some Varsity swim team.”  A guy I met studying abroad is also included in the aforementioned three, but honestly, I don’t remember the first few weeks of my studying abroad.

My favorite literary couples also follow this course (both hatred and friendship):  Elizabeth Bennet hated Mr. Darcy initially.  Jemima Emerson hated John Reid.  Scarlett O’Hara hated Rhett Butler.  Same goes for Lily Evans and James Potter.  Anne Shirley hated Gilbert Blythe and then they became friends (then lovers).  Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightly were friends far before romance was involved.  As were Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.

So, I wonder, does physical attraction play a larger role in man’s initial relationship investment than in a woman’s?  How long exactly can you drag out the pre-relationship process, before you decide if you’re attracted to him or not?  Same goes for finding the spark, or zsa zsa zsu.  Or are they basically the same thing—the spark being an entity we invented to avoid saying, “I’m not attracted to you.”

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To end Valentine’s Week with a bang, we’re celebrating our favorite literary couples!

Cornflower: I do love Valentine’s Day (yes, despite being single) if for no other reason than I usually get valentines from my friends! I love getting mail! Plus, I am a romantic sucker at heart. When Indigo suggested we compose a valentine’s post about our favorite literary couples, I thought it was brilliant! So without further ado, here are our favorite couples from some of our favorite books.

Pride and PrejudiceElizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The ultimate couple in great literary couples. The standard for all (or at least a whole lot of) romantically entangled couples in literature. There is electricity between these two from the start, even if they mistake that charge for disdain. Even after Darcy professes his love for her, Lizzie stands by her convictions (A smidge misguided though those convictions may be. It’s not her fault someone lied!) When they finally get together it’s magical!

death in viennaGabriel and Chiara from the Gabriel Allon books, starting with A Death in Vienna by Daniel Silva

I love these two together! Not only do the books supply my need for action, adventure and espionage, but the couple is great, too! They are complete equals. Both are intelligent, have strong personalities and can do serious damage. Also, for a spy, Gabriel can be surprisingly gentle and loving, which makes me love him even more.

Indigo: As I’m the resident YA reader here (I’m declaring myself this, so Sapphire and Indigo, feel free to disagree) I thought I’d focus my favorites on YA historical fiction.  Drum roll please…

Jemima Emerson and John Reid from Time Enough for Drums by Ann Rinaldi

I first discovered this book in the 7th grade in my middle school’s library loved it immediately.  First Jemima hates John but then she discovers his secret and begins to fall in love with him.  Their secret romance set against Revolutionary War America never fails to make me swoon.

After checking the book out multiple times from the library I began my quest to buy it, but unfortunately it was out of print.  I then began scouring the used bookstores and the used book section of my public library, I even sweet talked the middle school librarian into giving me their copy.  Then, I saw it in Barnes and Noble and nearly peed my pants, although the new cover does not paint a very pretty picture of John Reid.  John would not sport a fluffy, queue that looks like on giant dreadlock.  No, John Reid is dignified, strong and stands up for his beliefs, even if it causes him harm.

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery

The wonderful thing about the Anne books is that they grow with you.  Every time you read them there is something you can relate to, no matter what your age.  There is young, teasing love.  Then there is friendship.  Then comes college and love triangles and romantic realizations.  Later there is marriage and newly wedded bliss.  Followed by maternal love.

Anne is the girl who made me long for red hair (I still do) and after reading Anne of the Island I was convinced I needed to be dying of a life threatening illness in order for my true love to realize his feelings (fortunately I no longer feel that way, although it does have a certain morbid romance).

Sapphire: I admit that I am kind of worn out after my week of Valentine’s Day posts, so without preamble, here are my favorite literary couples:

Jane Eyre CoverJane Eyre and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

This by far is my favorite book, and the growth of Jane from an unloved child to a wise woman has a lot to do with my interest in the story. But, it is Jane and Rochester’s growth together that make this story great. They start off on rocky ground, end up becoming friends, and fall in love. Jane is plain, but Rochester sees her intelligence, kindness, and spirit as her true beauty and loves her because of those attributes. In a way they heal each other, and have a relationship based on mutual respect and admiration. They are separated for a while (crazy wife in the attic and all), but reunite at the end in one of the most romantic scenes ever written, which never fails to make me cry. Together they build a life filled with love that they both had been searching for.

The Love Poems of Elizabeth and Robert BrowningElizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

So, I realize that this couple isn’t from a fictional work, but since they were both poets, I am going to call them a “literary couple.” I love poetry, and count these two poets among my favorites, but it is the real-life love story that makes their works even more moving to read. Elizabeth was ill all of her life, and spent her time indoors writing poetry. Robert was an admirer of her poems and began corresponding with her via letters, which eventually became the medium of their courtship. Elizabeth’s father was controlling and disapproved of the match, so the poets were married in secret in 1846 and moved to Italy where Elizabeth’s health vastly improved. They both had a prolific writing career, exchanging or dedicating many poems with or to each other. They were known by friends to be very much in love, and Elizabeth literally died in her husband’s arms.

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On the sixth day of Valentines Week, my true love gave to me…

The passionate sting of Cupid’s arrow.

We’ve all been the victim of Cupid’s bow whether we like it or not, and whether that first wound of love turns into something more lasting or heals and is forgotten. But, this chubby little cherub that has become the emblem of Valentine’s Day and companion to red hearts and chocolates has his origins in times older than the holiday itself. Cupid, or Eros, in his ancient Greek incarnation, was far from the rosy cheeked infant with fluttering wings that we think of today. So, without further ado, here is an insight into one of my most passionate interests: Greek mythology and culture.

 Red-Figure Lekythos Showing Eros in the Role of Archer

Attributed to Brygos Painter, Greek (active c. 490–470 B.C.), Red-Figure Lekythos Showing Eros in the Role of Archer, Kimbell Art Museum

In ancient Greek cosmology, Hesiod only mentions Eros as an attendant at Aphrodite’s birth, primarily as a symbol of the process of sexual union and procreation. He does not appear in Homer as a god at all. Although his presence is missing in major works early on, Eros was still a popular allegorical figure for love. Eros, as the son of Aphrodite and Ares, gods of love and war, respectively, became the most popular version of the god as time when on. His identity as the progeny of two opposite forces may be a byproduct of the popularity of Aphrodite and Ares as a couple. In fact, there are several amusing stories about the two lovers, including a tryst in which both were caught in flagrante delicto, literally in a netted trap forged by Hephaestus, Aphrodite’s husband.

In later literature of Anakeron, Eros is the “playful tempter to love, the role that later becomes his stock-in-trade.”* This role as instigator is the main characteristic that stuck with Eros through time and into his form as a cherubic archer.

Interestingly, his accoutrements of bows and arrows do not appear until the late fifth century in Euripides’ Medeia as “weapons of love”. Cupid’s iconic set was not the first tool to be used for inciting feelings of love though; in early fifth century art, Eros is sometimes portrayed with an ax, whip, or a pair of sandals instead. I’m sure it would be less romantic to be beaten into loving someone with a pair of shoes, but to each his own.

As for Eros’ appearance, he is usually depicted in ancient Greek works as an adolescent boy with wings or a hovering, small, and naked winged figure, which may be where the cherubic infant image originated. Only later in the 2nd century AD does he appear in literature as an adult male.

For example, Eros is seen as an adult male in the story of Eros and Psyche, a love story in and of itself. Eros began a love affair with Psyche under the condition that she never see who he is. While they conduct a passionate affair in the dark, Psyche’s jealous sisters prod her to steal a look at her lover. Suggesting that he could be a serpent who would devour her, her sisters eventually tear down Psyche’s resolve, and one night she attempts to see Eros’s face. Holding an oil lamp for light, Psyche leans over, dripping oil on Eros in the process and waking him. She sees that her lover is Eros, but he flies away. Trials and tribulations ensue, but eventually the two are reunited, Psyche is made immortal, and a marriage between then is blessed by Zeus.

Through time, cupid, the god of sexual love and beauty, has become a cute symbolic figure of love and romance on greeting cards, but few remember his beginnings as a primordial god of desire and erotic love. Personally, I’d rather be struck with an arrow from this god of old.

So Eros, hit me with your best shot!


* Gantz, Timothy. Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Vol. 1, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. p 3-4.

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