When I first started reading romance (around age 13), I pretty much read whatever I could get my hands on. Slowly, I began gravitating to certain story lines – a bluestocking Regency heroine facing her debut in the Ton? Coworkers struggling to keep things professional (bonus points if the set up was boss/secretary)?
Later, I’d learn these recognizable situations and characters are called tropes. Writers use them deliberately and readers have favorites. At the time, all I knew was some story lines worked for me (down on her luck, plucky heroine overcomes all odds, especially the curve balls deliberately thrown at her by the brooding hero) and some didn’t (secret babies).
I’m in the middle of reading Nalini Singh’s Rock Addiction and it occurred to me – this is the virgin librarian trope! If you’d asked me last week whether I’m a fan of this trope, I’d have probably said, “Nope.”
But turning the pages of Rock Addiction started me thinking.
Remember The Music Man? Marian the (virgin) Librarian. I dig that story. I like how Mariann goes toe to toe with Professor Harry Hill and redeems him without changing her character – or his, really (he’s still a rascal at the end). I dare you to watch him seducing her in the library and not get a little flustered yourself.
And then there’s Open Season, by Linda Howard (Daisy isn’t technically a virgin, but her sexual experience is close to nil at the start of the book, so I’m including it). Treat yourself and read this book. The scene where Daisy buys condoms to show her small town she’s “on the market” is straight up hilarious – as is the way the hero spikes her guns.
And what about Kristen Ashley’s Breathe? This one fetishizes the virginity angle a bit more than is my taste, but it’s another good example of an experienced man finding inner peace through the love of a smart woman.
Apparently, *I DO* like this trope.
What about it gets me? In part it’s the experience/innocence dynamic – and how each partner in the relationship has something to teach the other. Sometimes that’s about sex (I mean, we are talking about virgin librarians after all), but often the lessons are about something with more emotional depth – learning how to dare, to dream big, to forgive oneself. At heart, because they’re romances, the heroine and hero teach each other how to love.
It’s the initial seeming imbalance of power the reels me in. And, for me, the best examples of this trope show the lovers evening the playing field between them, so the power differential of experience/innocence disappears and the lovers become equal partners.
Tell me – does the virgin librarian trope do it for you?