So there I was, minding my own tiddlywinks, procrastibrowsing on the Daily Telegraph website, when Dan Stevens -- or, more precisely, his fathomless blue eyes -- caught my attention like a squirrel to a hunting dog.
My fellow Downton Abbey addicts know whereof I speak. Dan Stevens plays Matthew Crawley on the soapy British period drama, and those fathomless blue eyes could lure me to click on a pop-up advertisement for a Nigerian penile implant lottery. In this case, praise the Lord, the link proved much more benign: Dan Stevens had written a guest article for the Telegraph, in which he discussed the long list selection for the Booker Prize -- the United Kingdom's premier literary award -- of which he is a judge.
My next recollection is of Mr. Gray patting my cheeks and administering the smelling salts.
Dan Stevens, Booker Prize judge.
As if the fathomless blue eyes weren't enough. As if the lush golden hair and disarming smile were mere trifles. As if he didn't have us already at What ho! No, Dan Stevens is also bloody brilliant.
You see, I have a soft spot for bloody brilliant. I think brains are the sexiest thing ever. Lock me with a fiercely intelligent gaze, boys, and I am yours. (Well, metaphorically. I am a happily married woman, after all.)
So when I set about creating my first romance hero, I knew I had to make him a genius. And not just any kind of genius: a creative genius, someone good with numbers but also with ideas and -- ahem -- mechanical know-how. Someone whose inventive brain and clever fingers would keep my bossy heroine up all night, screaming with pleasure.
Someone like Phineas Burke.
Finn is ginger haired and green eyed, and stands six and a half feet tall in his stockings. In the year 1890, he's a pioneer in the development of automobiles. He can design and build an engine and career it around the streets of Rome, and he can break up an after-race brawl with a few well-placed swings of his fist. He's no libertine, but in the spirit of scientific inquiry, he's learned all a man needs to know about the female body and its natural responses to stimuli. He's upright and honorable, and all he wants is a little peace and quiet to perfect his automotive creation.
Peace and quiet is not what he finds in Alexandra, Lady Morley. If Finn's the king of the automotive workshop, Alexandra is queen of the London drawing room. She's witty and handsome, she's resourceful and lion-hearted, and she's flat broke.
(Oh, did I mention Finn's made a fortune from his previous inventions? Another side benefit of genius.)
Naturally, the sparks fly (and I mean that literally -- Finn's automobile runs on an electric battery) as two active brains spar in the age-old battle of courtship. Finn discovers just how distracting an alluring assistant can be, and as for Alexandra? She learns that the sexiest characteristic of a lover isn't his title, or his money, or his fathomless eyes: it's the content of the gray matter that counts.
Look, I'm not going to tell you that the Brad Pitts and Matthew McConaugheys of the world don't have their uses. And who would kick Ryan Gosling out of bed for eating Ritz crackers with Cheez Whiz? But if you really want to make me swoon, send a little Dan Stevens or Benedict Cumberbatch or Paul Bettany my way, thank you very much with whipped cream and a cherry.
And don't even get me started on Hugh Laurie.
Juliana Gray is the author of A LADY NEVER LIES, winner of the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence for August. She'd love to hear what you think about geniuses between the covers (er, books and beds!).