10 great openings to romantic novels – and can you place them all?

From Helena Fairfax:

How important is the first line in a romantic novel?  In these days of “Click to look inside!”,  if the book you’re thinking of buying doesn’t have an immediately arresting opening, does that make you put it back on the cyber-shelf?  If you can get a free sample download for your e-reader, is the opening passage more important than ever, before you commit to buy?

I’ve been wrestling with this dilemma for what seems like forever, since I’m just putting the finishing touches to my contemporary romance.

. . . .

I’m happy with the rest of the book, pretty much, but just struggling with the first page and stressing that people will look at the first paragraphs and put it straight back down.

So that got me thinking about great openings to romantic novels, and how others have succeeded where I am singularly failing.  Below is a list of ten great openings to a romantic novel – and note, all of these were written in the days before the internet.  The pressure of an eye-catching start wasn’t even on for these authors, but to masters of the pen like these it was all part of their craftsmanship.

Can you place all ten novels?  Some are easier than others.  You’ll find the answers below!

1.      Dr Iannis had enjoyed a satisfactory day in which none of his patients had died or got any worse.  He had attended a surprisingly easy calving, lanced one abscess, extracted a molar, dosed one lady of easy virtue with Salvarsan, performed an unpleasant but spectacularly fruitful enema, and had produced a miracle by a feat of medical prestidigitation.

2.      I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.  That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and a tea-cosy.

3.      Ennis del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminium door and window frames.  The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft.  He gets up, scratching the grey wedge of belly and pubic hair, shuffles to the gas burner, pours leftover coffee in a chipped enamel pan; the flame swathes it in blue…he is suffused with a sense of pleasure because Jack Twist had been in his dream.

4.  On they went, singing ‘Eternal Memory’, and whenever they stopped, the sound of their feet, the horses and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.  Passers-by made way for the procession, counted the wreaths and crossed themselves.  Some joined in out of curiosity and asked, ‘Who is being buried?’

Link to the rest, including the answers, at Helena Fairfax

1 thought on “10 great openings to romantic novels – and can you place them all?”

  1. The writer describes herself as a “romance author” but it is clear from the full list of titles that “Romantic” means something different from “Romance”. What I can’t work out though is how she might define “romantic”, at least in a way that includes both “Our Mutual Friend” and “The Princess Bride” as well as the other eight books.

    More to the point, few or none of these openings would inspire me to buy the book (even though I actually own five of them) – so it’s probably a good thing that I read rather further into a sample before rejecting the work.

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