In praise of the idiot

You read that right.

I wrote a post over on It’s Not Chick porn, wherein I confessed to finding Frye’s love for Leela deeply moving. Sure, he’s an idiot and never does anything right, but he’s loyal and devoted and sometimes…yes, even… heroic.

There, I said it. Like that episode where Bender falls in love with the AI that runs the Planet Express ship (voiced by Sigourney Weaver) and they end up having to disable the crazed AI manually because the ship has turned off their oxygen. Leela is busily saving the day while Frye tries to warn her that her tank is empty. But she won’t listen. Why? Because he’s an idiot. So he quietly connects her hose to his and …yes, nearly dies for her. You’d have to watch the show to understand why his devotion is so moving, but if you’ve never watched Futurama, I’ll say this much: she rejects him constantly, and yet he still loves her. That, too, probably makes him an idiot, but such a sweet one.

So I had that post percolating in the back of my mind this weekend when I took up one of the Loretta Chase books I bought at Romance World when I was in San Diego hanging out with the lovely Laura Bradford, my agent. It was called LORD PERFECT. I read the first few pages and marveled at the wonderful writing. Then two lines jumped out at me:

“Even Rupert draws better than that, and Rupert is an idiot.”

Rupert laughed.

I have to tell you, every nerve tingled to life. An idiot, you say? I was immediately intrigued. I quickly surmised that LORD PERFECT wasn’t Rupert’s book. He was already calling a woman named Daphne ‘my love’, which made me think he had a book. What’s this? An author who shares my penchant for the lovely lunkhead?

Nothing would do but for me to track down Rupert’s book. I quickly discovered I needed to read MISS WONDERFUL first, and then MR. IMPOSSIBLE. That meant buying the ebooks and getting them on my PDA, which I did post-haste. I tore through the first book and I enjoyed it, but I knew somehow that the real treat was yet to come.

I cannot express how deeply I fell in love with Rupert Carsington, a big dumb lout — so unmanageable his father sent him off to Egypt to be rid of him. And yet…I do not think I have ever been so singularly charmed by a hero. He was…perfect, not impossible.

He provoked the heroine, so she wouldn’t be afraid. He acted dumber than he actually was, so she would gain confidence by solving their problems. She was an incredibly learned and brainy woman, who was socially unsure. Backward. He had no angst, not much in the way of deep thought (which rung so true, as he was a creature of highly developed instincts), but dear Heaven, he was stupendous. For instance:

“But it isn’t simply your looks,” he went on, his gaze elsewhere, reflective. “It’s the enthusiasm. The love of what you do. You make it interesting because you love it. You may talk of the driest stuff, yet I feel like Whatshisname, listening to Scheherazade.”

All he thought about was the heroine, basically, from the time he met her. In simple and varying ways. There was an utterly breathtaking moment where he tells Daphne:

“When I don’t understand what you’re talking about, I pretend I’m in a picture gallery and you are all the pictures.”

There is a wrenching sweetness in the simplicity of his character. In reading MR. IMPOSSIBLE I ache to be Daphne, to have this wonderful, maddening man focused on me. It doesn’t matter if he’s a bit dim sometimes, though not so much as he pretends. He is loyal, strong, and true. And the best part? He has absolutely no guile.

At the end, when her brother says to him, “My God, you are in love with Daphne,” Rupert turns his face upward and says, “Huh, so that’s what it is.” And then he gently chides Daphne for not telling him. “I can’t believe you let me find out from your brother.”

It’s just impossibly, stupidly sweet and I want to cry just thinking about it.

As luck would have it, i received two boxes of books from Amazon today. One of them contained a new-to-me author named Tamara Lejeune. I’ve never heard of her, but I proceeded to devour her book, SIMPLY SCANDALOUS. You know why?

Her hero was an idiot. A good-natured, ugly, well-intentioned, hot-headed idiot. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun with historical romances in years. This book didn’t have the adventure of MR. IMPOSSIBLE, rather it was more a Heyer style comedy of manners with the ensemble cast of hilarious characters, but it was updated for today.

I thought Julie and Ginger were simply brilliant. He’s a redhead, you see, and she nick-names him Ginger to incense him. Eventually he comes to get used to it. I’ve never seen a couple fall in love in such a way. It’s hilarious and delightful, the way they torment each other. Shaven heads, dead rats, newts, wheels of cheese, carriage accidents… it’s… wonderful. And the hero is… make no mistake, an idiot. He has no idea how to go on, is clueless about women, and is so homely he’s never slept with a woman he didn’t pay. Half the time, the heroine is making sport of him, and he will simply do whatever asinine thing she says because he doesn’t know any better. And it’s …charming. He wins her heart because he’s a big, clumsy oafish puppy, and she wants to pet him forever.

I realize I’m probably quite perverse, but this is my latest thing. You can keep your devilish rogues, your wounded soldiers and your brooding angsty heroes with a Past. I’m off in search of more endearing dunces, for I can’t seem to get enough of them.

PS – If you can think of anymore books where the hero fits the bill, please tell me in comments. I’m off to the States on Thursday and I’ll pick up whatever is recommended in this vein.