Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Oh, yes! Please. I love flattery. I don't believe a word of it, I hoard up every word. I won't be swayed by it, I can't help thinking well of someone who flatters me.

Come on, be honest, don't we all love compliments? Tell us how good we look, how charming our house is, how clever our children and pets are, and we melt.

We're charmed when we're told how effortlessly we did that wonderful thing! The strongest male beams when he's told how strong he is, just like the weakest one does. And who doesn't like to be told how much fun there is to be had in our company? The ways in which we can be flattered are endless.

But flattery's a tricky thing. Too much, and the effect is ruined. Too little is damning. It takes a master to use it well. And even a master can be tripped up.

I know I look good tonight. But don't tell me I'm the best looking woman in the room. I'll start wondering if you should get your eyes checked or if you want to borrow money - or if you want to lure me into a dark and solitary place because you're an ax murderer. Wonderful that you enjoyed my book! Less so, if you tell me it's the best one you ever read. Flattery, like any pungent spice, must be used sparingly. It has to be aimed carefully too.

But bring it on! It's a lovesome thing, if done right. The trick is to be sincere. There's nothing wrong with flattery unless its laced with its evil twin: the lie direct. A lie in a compliment is like what happens when a singer hits the wrong note in a lovely song. We wince, so embarrassed for the singer we forget the song.

The best Romantic heroes never flatter aimlessly or too soon. They heap on the praise when they're ready for a major declaration, not before. I hope that's how mine behave. If you can find one of mind who flatters too much, or who praises prematurely, please let me know.

(As in: "I hesitate to mention this, Ms. Layton, because as everyone knows, you are such a rare and graceful writer, so diverting and such a pleasure to read, but still, in the matter of heroes who flatter too early and too often, perhaps, rare as it may be, you failed to notice that ...."

Tell me it that way, and you and tell me anything!)

* There's a scene with teasing mutual flattery going on in "THE CHOICE", because Gilly just hates being praised and is trying to show Damon how it feels to be buttered up to the ears. And for a look at a fellow who has a miserable time phrasing compliments but does just fine when his heart is in it, see Rafe, in "THE CHANCE."

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