Ask any romantic fiction author for the name of the fictional man they’d most like to invite to an intimate dinner for two, and I bet the majority would say Mr. Darcy. That, too, would be my knee-jerk response – if I were thinking of Mr. Darcy in the films of Pride and Prejudice, and not in the book.

My battered, much-read copy of Pride and Prejudice

I'm sure that no words are needed. Thank you, Wikipedia, for reminding us of this moment

Pride and Prejudice - Lizzy and Darcy. A scene frrom the TV mini-series, courtesy of Wikipedia

Upon reflection, however, if I concentrate on Mr. Darcy as he appears in the novel and not in the film or TV mini-series, I’m not sure that I would like to spend an evening with him.

He doesn’t have the greatest sense of humour, and I think humour in a man is very attractive. And I don’t see him as a great conversationalist. Whilst I’m not averse to delivering the odd monolgue or three, I’m not sure that I want to be too hoarse to whisper a response to the sweet nothings at the end of the evening.

Thinking about it, much of Mr. Darcy’s attraction is his wealth – yes, I’m getting that out of the way at the start

Lyme Park, Cheshire, served as the exterior of Mr. Darcy's Pemberley. Courtesy of Wikipedia

– and then there’s his ability to take control in a difficult situation and act in a positive manner for all concerned. Plus, Lizzy loves him, and we like Lizzy.

The sense of being safe and protected by him is one of his most attractive features. And this, more than wealth, I suspect is the characteristic that attracts us most strongly to a man. Wealth is very nice, but as we’re all going to win the lottery before too long, it isn’t essential.

I thought around for an extremely attractive male fictional character who is quite poor. It didn’t take long. Dr. Fortunati in The Nun’s Story, by Kathryn Hulme, instantly sprang to mind.

Another much-loved book from my shelves

Like so many books that are made into films, the book was much better than the film. I read it years ago, and for a while was set on being a nun – provided that I looked like Audrey Hepburn in a wimple and was sent to a Congo hospital to work under Dr. Fortunati. (I ignored the teeny problem that I faint whenever I see a hypodermic syringe)

Dr. Fortunati was poor in terms of wealth, but he was hard-working and caring of others. He had character, a sense of humour and he would have have been able to cope in any situation. The fact that he was ruggedly good-looking didn’t hurt, either!

Peter Finch in I Thank a Fool, courtesy of Wikipedia

I think that at heart, we all want to be protected by, and to feel safe in the care of, the person we’re with. This means more than a man owning vast, probably chilly estates. For this reason, I’d invite Dr. Fortunati to join me for dinner, not Mr. Darcy.

So with whom would you like to have an intimate dinner?