Sunday, December 20, 2020

What We're Writing: Book Boyfriends by Jenn McKinlay

Jenn McKinlay: I can't remember who my first book boyfriend was. Possibly Ned Nickerson from Nancy Drew, although he was about as exciting as a neutered Ken doll. Most likely, it was Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series. These two crazy kids had solid enemies to friends to lovers and second chances tropes happening a plenty and it took them four volumes to get it together. Twelve year old me was beside herself.


Anne and Gilbert

What is a book boyfriend you ask? In short, it's a male character in a book who you crush on as a reader as hard as you did that cute guy in Algebra class who didn't know you were alive. Oh, wait, was that an overshare? LOL! There are book girlfriends, too. Just ask my Hub, he's got a few.

While writing my next Library Lover's mystery, Killer Research, I decided that the crafternoon club - this is a group of friends who meet up in the library once a week to share food, discuss a book, and do a craft, thus, crafternoon -  would discuss Pride and Prejudice. Naturally, as we got to the discussion part, I remembered that Darcy is probably the most famous book boyfriend in literature, so I thought I'd work him into the discussion for the group.



Here's the snippet: KILLER RESEARCH

 “I don’t get it,” Paula said. “What is the allure of Darcy? I mean he’s kind of a jerk.”

     “Ah,” Beth gasped. The top bun of her story time hamburger costume flapped as if to emphasize her outrage. “He is Darcy! He is the perfect male.”

     “Is he, is he really though?” Paula persisted. “I mean, sure, he’s rich and all but he’s not the warmest or most likable guy, now is he?”

     Beth blinked as if she couldn’t comprehend such heresy spoken about one of her most beloved book boyfriends. The crafternoon room had gone very quiet. There was nothing that could bring out stronger emotion in their group than character loyalty. 

     “I think I’m gong to have to rethink our entire relationship,” Beth said to Paula. 

     Paula laughed and shook her head. Her eyes sparkled when she said, “Well, that answers that.”

     “What?” Nancy asked with a frown.

     “Who of the crafternooners is most in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy,” Paula said. She winked at Beth, who blushed a hot shade of pink.

     “You set me up,” she said. But then she laughed. “Yeah, it’s me. It's totally me.”

     “Can you imagine the library in Pemberley?” Lindsey asked. “Even if Darcy is flawed I could overlook a lot for a library like that.”

     Nancy laughed. “Does Sully know your head can be turned by a vast collection of books?”

     “Yes, which is why we have one ground rule in our marriage,” Lindsey said. “Books are considered an essential expense, assuming I feel the need to own a volume outside of the public library, which I frequently do.”

     “We’re getting off track,” Beth said. She wrestled her burger costume off, dumping it in the corner of the room. Underneath, she was wearing a maternity top and pants. She folded her hands on the top of her belly and said, “I’m sorry but I have to insist that when Darcy says, “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you’, he becomes the best book boyfriend of all time.”

     “Admittedly, that is a lovely sentiment,” Paula agreed. “But at that point in the book, he still thinks she’s not truly worthy of him because of her family.” 

     “Redemption,” Violet said. “His character arc needs redemption from his pride and prejudice. I agree with Beth. It's delightful to watch Elizabeth Bennett stand her ground and demand to be treated with the respect she deserves. Truly, it was a glorious take at the time the novel was written.”

     “Jane was ahead of her time,” Lindsey agreed. “Did you know that when her novels were published they didn’t use her name as the author? Her first novel was published as being by “A Lady” and her second, our selection this week, was credited as “the writer of Sense and Sensibility”. None of her novels were published under her name until after her death and then only at her brother’s insistence.”


Of course, I had to end the scene with some trivia, because...librarian. Also, I have to repeat no name attribution on her books? The cheek of those publishers! Honestly!


How about you, Reds and Readers, who was your first protagonist crush?


105 comments:

  1. That's an easy question for me. Hans Brinker of the Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates fame was my first book boyfriend. Of course, I had a Disney cover on the book, which depicted him as a dreamy blonde Dutch boy. I was in deep book love with Hans, and I imagined us skating all over a frozen pond together, even though I didn't know how to ice skate.

    Jenn, Killer Research sounds like a great read. And, I have to admit that Darcy does merit discussion from both favorable and non sides.

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    1. That's so cute Kathy, lol, I never would have thought of Hans Brinker

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    2. I love that ice skating was the lure! And, yes, Darcy’s worthiness is debatable, I think, unless he’s Colin Firth and then I’m throwing elbows. He’s mine! LOL!

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    3. I had forgotten that book, Kathy! I loved it as a kid. I used to skate all along the small river in my hometown (it was shallow and froze solid) and I would make-believe I was racing through the Dutch canals.

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    4. I read Hans Brinker too. He could meet and rise above all the challenges!

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    5. I'm so happy that you all remember Hans Brinker, too. Julia, skating along the river like that must have been such a freeing, one with the land sort of experience. I immediately thought of Joni Mitchell's song "River" and the skating images from its video. And, Jenn, all I can say if Darcy is Colin Firth is "sharpen your elbows," because I'll be throwing mine, too. Hahaha!

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    6. I think I saw the movie first....and then read the book (for shame!)

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  2. I always enjoy the scenes with the crafternooners and this one is great! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the story . . . .

    Book boyfriend? Possibly Ned Nickerson who, unexciting as he might have been, still had the opportunity to get involved in mystery-solving with Nancy. Possibly David Starr, the space ranger rocketing around the universe as Lucky Starr . . . I came to my science fiction obsessions early in life and I loved this series . . . .

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    1. I have to revisit my sci-fic reads! I remember there worth some worthy candidates!

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  3. I thought Ned was kind of boring. Maybe Frank Hardy or Rick Brant. Honestly, I crushed more on Zorro and Davy Crockett on TV at that age.

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    1. I was a Joe Hardy girl but mostly because of the TV show and Shawn Cassidy (swoon).

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    2. I’m afraid the Hardy Boys on TV was waaaay after my time!

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  4. Maybe not truly a book boyfriend but the first male protagonist that I really related to as a kid was Encyclopedia Brown. He was a nerd and bookish and used his smarts to solve mysteries. I was never really into the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew so Ned or Frank/Joe Hardy did nothing for me.

    I'm looking forward to reading KILLER RESEARCH next year!

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    1. I can totally see that! I loved the boy from A Wrinkle in Time, Calvin, who helps Meg. He was solid.

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  5. Jenn, great crafternoon scene! I love this series.

    Hands down my first book boyfriend crush was Peter Pan. I was tiny but I was in love. He was so brave and he could fly. Yeah.

    Looking forward to KILLER RESEARCH. When will it be out?

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    1. Great book! And, yes, I can see that. I think I dated a few Peter Pans in my time! LOL!

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  6. What a fun library scene, Jenn!

    Your question is making me think too hard for a person who slept in until the unheard hour of six thirty and has had only a few sips of coffee so far. I guess I'll say Almanzo from the Ingalls Wilder books. He went all that way through a blizzard to bring wheat, he had a matching pair of Morgans (I easily crushed on horses as a child), and I suppose he was described as handsome, although I can't remember. And he married Laura. Nuff said.

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    1. Edith, you DID sleep in! I was also struggling to come up with a name when I posted (without drinking any coffee). I am also a big Almanzo Wilder fan, but from the TV series. Dean Butler was dreamy but I did not feel the same way about the book version although I repeatedly read the Little House series in the 1970s when the TV series was on.

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    2. Almanzo - such a worthy choice! Well done, sleepy Edith!

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  7. Definitely Gilbert Blythe from Ann of Green Gables. And from the movies, Bud Stamper, played by Warren Beatty of course, in Splendor in the grass. My best friend and I took the bus to the Picwood movie theatre in Westwood to see Splendor in the Grass. I left besotted with Warren Beatty’s character, Bud, a sweet, sensitive, sex-starved high-school quarterback who’s madly in love with the virginal, beautiful, popular, passionate, repressed Deanie (Natalie Wood).

    He (Bud? Warren?) nailed me with those crinkly eyes, that goofy smile, and an endearing boyish awkwardness. He had the perfect inarticulate stammer and aw-shucks manner about him, a sweetened amalgam of Marlon Brando and James Dean.

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    1. Hallie, methinks you're ready to write a romance...

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    2. I agree with Roberta, Hallie. It's time to express your romantic side!

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    3. Agree with Lucy and Judy - you have romance in your soul, Hallie! Plus, you clearly love the beta male - the sweet cinnamon roll of a guy - which is my fave, too.

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  8. Crafteroon! Love the idea!! And I love how the librarian in your shines through, Jenn.

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  9. Only if you promise not to laugh. Prince Valiant from the Sunday comics. I learned to read at a very young age because my father would read me anything except the Prince Valiant comic and that looks so very exciting to me.

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    1. Kait, I never heard of Prince Valiant. I guess this comic never made it to Canadian newspapers/Sunday comics. Tell me more!

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    2. that's a great story Kait! He knew exactly how to get you reading

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    3. I liked Prince Valiant. Or maybe I just like the picture of a prince in the comics.....

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    4. The forbidden love, Kait. I totally get that.

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    5. Nothing wrong with Valiant. And he's still an alpha male though beset by family! I loved Steve Canyon. That man had adventures!

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    6. Seriously, if we are talking comics, The Phantom. He was very buff. LOL

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    7. My dad read the Sunday comics to us, including Prince Valiant. He did the voices and everything. Great memories.

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  10. What a fun topic, Jenn. Your characters are always so real, and so funny. This snippet could have actually happened yesterday.

    I had to look up his name, but the boy in My Friend Flicka was Ken McLaughlin. I read this when I was about seven or eight, so I'm sure I mispronounced his name in my head, anyway, but that book started my lifelong love of horses. I wanted to be Ken, so bad. Or be his girlfriend and hang out with Flicka and him all day. Later on, Spin and Marty came to personify Ken on TV.

    What is it about horses and little girls? Really, the boy was just an accessory, in this case.

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    1. Karen, when I was very young I watched the western series The Virginian and was in love with one of the characters who had the most beautiful horse but I can't remember his name.

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    2. I was one of those horse-crazy girls!

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    3. Me, too. Totally horse crazy. I loved westerns, the movies, the characters, the tv shows even the radio shows.

      We lived in Arizona when I was 3 - 4 for about 10 months, in Tucson. I loved the radio show Hopalong Cassidy. There was a yearly rodeo and big festival called Old Tucson Days and Hopalong Cassidy was in the parade. He stopped near our bleachers to greet fans and my "aunt" grabbed me and brought me down to meet him. The highlight was petting his stunning white horse, Topper, of course.

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    4. Horse crazy over here, too! Anybody else collect those Breyer horses, and give them adventures and personal backstories to rival Barbie and Ken?

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    5. I took riding lessons for years - complete and total horse nerd girl here! My fave was Cocoa Bar a chocolate brown mare with a black mane and tail. I looooooooved her. No boy stood a chance against her. LOL!

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  11. Almost thirty years ago, my first big crush ( book boyfriend) was Outlander's James Fraser.
    In the mystery world, my first was Robert B. Parker's Spenser: a real man, strong, witty, loyal to his own principles and attentive to his true love and to his dog.
    I love Georgia's Darcy of the Royal Spyness, so mysterious and so fun.
    I love your snippet Jenn and I'm looking forward to read the book.

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    1. Jamie Fraser was my grown-up book character crush, because my thoughts about Jamie involved a lot more than skating on the ice with Hans.

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  12. Jenn: You give your characters such lively dialogue, which this reader really loves. But I'm concerned about crumbs and sticky fingers in a library with those eating crafters. Doesn't the librarian in you cringe at that combination?

    As for book boyfriends. Hmmmm. None that I can recall. But I sure did think Catwoman on the 1960s TV series Batman was dishy (I think it must have been Julie Newmar). My true nature, unnamed by me until much later in life, was evident early on...

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    1. They have their own crafternoon meeting room - no food in the library! - so it’s all good.
      Catwoman (Julie N) was a hottie - no doubt!

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    2. I remember Eartha Kitt was Catwoman too


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  13. Ned Nickerson was a useless droid. Nancy Drew and her girl gang had all the fun. And then I met Anne Shirley's nemesis, Gilbert Blythe.

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    1. Nancy even had a cooler car than Ned. Ned was wallpaper.

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    2. I think Ned was beard, Gigi!

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    3. Poor Ned - he should have been a horse. I’d have crushed on him then.

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  14. Good morning! I am early because the newspaper thief struck again! For the first time since September the newspaper was taken on Saturday morning. Usually they take the paper during the week, not the weekend.

    And at 9 am there will be an online discussion with my writing group.


    Jenn, I think my first book boyfriend was Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. Regarding Mr. Darcy, I recall from my reading that he did apologize to Eliza and he did redeem himself. I can see why some people see him as a book boyfriend. I love the dialogue between your characters in your novels. I look forward to reading the next library mystery,

    Diana

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    1. Sorry about your paper - so rude!
      Have fun at your writing group!
      Thank you for the kind words.

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  15. Encyclopedia Brown was my first book boyfriend crush. My latest is Roarke.

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    1. I don't think Eve is going to share Roarke with any of us, Dru.

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    2. You set the bar pretty high with Roarke there, Dru. And I agree 100%

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    3. Yay, we picked the same guy, Dru!

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    4. Hey, if Peabody can drool from a distance, we can too, right?

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  16. Alec Ramsey in the Black Stallion books! And then when I was in my teens, Lord Peter Wimsey. Of course.

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    1. I knew I had a crush in the Black Stallion books but couldn't come up with a name. Probably because my real crush was the stallion!

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    2. I'm with Edith. The Stallion was crush-worthy. I didn't crush on Alec, I just wanted to have his adventures. The Stallion would have loved me best.

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    3. LOL, Gigi - you’re a reader after my own heart.

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    4. Debs, I think it's interesting and future-predicting that as a teen you crushed on Lord Peter Wimsey. No teenage boys for you, but an Englishman gentleman who was involved in serious life stuff.

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  17. My first book boyfriend was Pete Hollister, eldest of the Happy Hollisters and their eponymous mystery series. I was eight when I started reading them. I got a new one every month from a book club.

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  18. I don't know what's wrong with me - I don't seem to recall any of those guys as my book heartthrob. Actually I can't think of any at all. Maybe because it was so long ago. Thinking of Gone with the Wind, it definitely wasn't Ashley Wilkes even is Scarlett did think he was the one. But I'm not sure it was Rhett either. I won't be surprised if tomorrow or the next day I come up with one.

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    1. I'm more an Ashley fan than Rhett, too. I find alpha males exhausting.

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    2. I'm drawing a blank here as well. Someone mentioned being horse crazy. That was me! I fell in love with every horse I read about and even had my own imaginary "stable" before I got a real one! I loved reading Nancy Drew but I honestly don't think I crushed on Ned. He just seemed so MEH. Maybe that was the problem. I don't think any of the books I read as a child had male characters who were that interesting to me. However, Michael Landon in Little House....oh my! I am really looking forward to Killer Research. I do crush on Sully. And the little dog too. LOL.

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  19. I never crushed on a book character as a kid, the first I can remember was Lovejoy--from the mystery novels by Jonathan Gash (and later much reinforced by the TV series).

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  20. And Jenn, love your characters--Beth in a hamburger costume just made my day!

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  21. Spin and Marty! Both of them. Rushing, but more to come! Love this, Jenn!

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  22. Oh Spin and Marty! I forgot about them

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  23. Okay, I'm going to go way off the beaten path here. The first book character I crushed on was the enigmatic Ponyboy in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's "Season of Ponies." See? I was reading contemporary fantasy even back then.

    By high school I had wandered into even more obscure waters, falling so in love with Dr. Peter Blood, from Raphael Sabatini's "Captain Blood." Intelligent? Witty? Cynical? Noble? And a PIRATE????? I was so there.

    I still love them both, which might explain why normal men don't really earn much attention from me these days. FYI, I am currently crushing on Dev, from Maggie Robinson's Lady Adelaide series.

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    1. Love Dev! Will they or won’t they?

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    2. Oh, they will, but I'm betting Addy will be completely clumsy about it. Dev will be suave and respectful, and still completely divert her attention from Rupert no matter how many faces Rupert makes.

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    3. Gigi, I'm so glad to find someone who is a Zilpha Keatley Snyder fan. I didn't find her books until I had kids of my own, and Trespassers was a favorite of mine.

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    4. Pirates are always crush worthy!

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    5. It didn't hurt that Errol Flynn played him in the movie, Jenn.

      And Kathy! Someone else knows ZKS! My mother checked "Season of Ponies" out of the library for me one summer, when I was home with a cold. As an art teacher, she liked the cover. I've read a ton of Ms. Snyder's books since. I haven't read Trespassers, though. I'll have to look for it.

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  24. Okay, I'll have to drift back into my romantic youthful self to come up with the chain of book and tv boyfriends that turned my crank over the years. But right now, and ever since I met him (perhaps in my early 20s) it's been Barney Snaith.

    Those who know Barney will perhaps jump up and cry, Oh yes, me too! Those who have no idea...well, go and find out, and then be prepared to fall in love.

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  25. I honestly can't remember my first book boyfriend, but I have two very long-standing crushes as an adult. The first is Cork O'Conner in Kent Krueger's eponymous series. He's steady, he's sexy, he knows how to dig a car out of a snowbank - pretty much my ideal guy. The second is Ivan Vorpatril in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan novels. Ivan is tall, handsome, clueless at the beginning of the series (he's referred to as "Ivan, you idiot," by almost everyone) and we get to see him grow up to be an honorable, honest, sweetheart of a man who will do almost anything for his very extended family (while complaining the whole time.)

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    1. I always figured Ivan was smarter than he looked. Really, he only looked slow because he was standing next to Miles. I loved it when Ivan finally got his own story.

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    2. Love Cork! Am unfamiliar with Ivan - must look for him!

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  26. I've thought long and hard about this, extremely hard for someone who pushed her snooze on the alarm twice and have only had a cup and a half of coffee, so I might need to come back to this but I've come to the conclusion that I didn't always have a crush on the main character or the main character's boyfriend. I was/am more attracted to the secondary character. My problem is I can't remember the name of George's boyfriend in the Nancy Drew series. I think liked Athos and Porthos more than Aramis. I like Feeney from the In Death series and most definitely Mr. Mira. I know I did want to meet Robert Renwick from Helen McInnis' books and he is MOST definitely a main character/hero type person.

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    1. I loved Helen MacInnes's books. I'd forgotten about Renwick.

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  27. I'm finding it difficult to find a book boyfriend from my youth. I was more into the adventures than the people. Maybe by junior high I was beginning to crush on non-TV heroes in my books. Horatio Hornblower anyone? And of course that man with the horrible name, Natty Bumppo. I'm afraid that I have become quite the slut with too many book boyfriends to name for fear of offending one of them accidently. Perhaps that's what happens when you retire and have a lot of time on your hands. . . book affairs.

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    1. Pat, that is a perfect description, "book affairs." I have them all of the time when I read Jenn's books. And, I am SO in love with Duncan Kincaid, and Rhys's delectable Darcy is also a man to fantasize over. (sigh)

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    2. Ha, Judy! I'm sure Duncan would appreciate your sentiments. And I have a crush on Darcy, too.

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    3. Oh, I like that "book affairs". So good!

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  28. I think my first book boyfriend was Logan Bruno in the Babysitter's Club books. I guess I kinda sorta liked Ned Nickerson in the Nancy Drew Files series.

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    1. Ned's pretty milquetoast - definitely a kinda sorta. LOL.

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  29. I tend to pick Honey Wheeler, Trixie Belden's best friend. Then again, maybe it's because I always saw myself most in Brian, and Honey crushed on Brian, so it was easy for me.

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  30. Gilbert Blythe for sure, with Laurie from Little Women in second place.

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  31. I liked some of the boys in the books I was reading as a kid, but for most of them the feelings weren't enough to qualify them as a book boyfriend. The only exceptions for that time period are Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, and Jesse de Silva (from Meg Cabot's Mediator series). Though nowadays I would at least attempt to win a fight for either Darcy or Roarke (or if we're tossing in options from other media, Bucky Barnes).

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  32. Definitely Gilbert Blythe or Laurie from Little Women. Also Teddy from the Emily of New Moon series. Also by Montgomery.

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  33. Definitely Gilbert Blythe or Laurie from Little Women. Also Teddy from the Emily of New Moon series. Also by Montgomery.

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  34. Laurie from LW. And then Heathcliff. Who, in hindsight, was a #metoo abuser.

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  35. Lord Vidal in Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer. ***Swoon!***

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