I just sat down and wrote over 6000 words in four hours. I think it’s because I’ve reached the steamy part of the book where the hero, Clive, (I know kind of obvious given my Clive Owen obsession but I can’t think of another name right now) starts to appreciate the attractions of Edith, the heroine. It’s a long story but he’s sort of kidnapped her and installed her in the apartment that his last mistress occupied. His motives are not sexual at first. He wants her to help him summon the spirit of his dead wife. He’s obsessed with spiritualism and believes he has finally found a genuine medium so he starts rearranging her life to suit his needs.
I’m reading Judith Ivory’s Black Silk right now. She treats the hero’s awakening realization of the heroine’s unique appeal so perfectly.
This passage occurs 158 pages into the book:
Her mouth pursed. She was glaring at him. Her eyes looked dark and bright against their peculiar little feathering of short lashes. For a moment, these eyes stared over his hand, in open rebellion against attempted mastery, even this small one over a jawbone. She abruptly made a high arch, a display of long, white throat; she took her shin away.
“You are so –” He was going to say “pretty” or “beautiful” or –what? –“Winsome”? Did a man tell a woman she was winsome? This woman was, but it didn’t matter. He suspected that if he told her there were some universally pleasing quality to her looks, she would only deny it outright. And not without grounds. He stared at her, as if to anatomize his own attraction to her. Her eyes were too large for her face. Her nose was narrow, her chin pointed. Her skin was washed out except for its smattering of pale freckles. He found himself staring at her mouth, her lips as plump and pink and soft as a baby’s. She wet them and looked down. He watched the color rise in her cheeks. Her skin was ivory, he decided, not washed out. And her eyes, behind their canopy of thick lashes, were a changeable, mysterious blue. She was plain one moment, pretty the next. He couldn’t figure her out.
“You are devastating,” he said honestly.
I tend to like romances where the hero and heroine are not initially attracted to each other and then the sexual tension heats up with each encounter, but when I started writing Heart of Shadow I imagined Clive finding Edith alluring at first but fighting against that impulse because he thinks she is trying to trick him into believing she is a true spirit medium.
From chapter one (remember this is still in NaNoWriMo rough draft form!):
She had a stillness about her that made him feel awkward. Her heavily fringed dark eyes were too big for a little heart-shaped face with a pointed chin and a prim rosebud of a mouth. Her pale skin glowed like a pearl necklace held up to firelight. She must work hard to achieve that consumptive pallor, the mysterious, otherworldly air.
In her high-necked black silk she appeared painfully thin. Perhaps her look was not studied so much as necessitated by real hunger. He had a sudden urge to rush back outside into the rain and buy a pigeon pie from the nearby pub. He might grasp her by one tiny bird bone wrist and lead her into a dark room somewhere and feed her bites of steaming pastry. She would lick flakes of crust from his fingers with a deft darting tongue. Maybe even take a bit of meat from his lips with her sharp little teeth, her hungry mouth asking for more.
She caught him staring and narrowed her eyes. Someone had asked a question.
“Shall I go?” Denny asked.
“Of course,” muttered Clive, ashamed of the lustful bent of his thoughts. She was just a jaded charlatan like all the rest. Trained to lure men into parting with money. Her slenderness and pallor were obviously calculated to appeal to men’s protective impulses. She knew her trade. He’d fallen straight into her pretty snare of twigs and temptation.
So I may have to rewrite that scene because now, in chapter six, I have Clive realizing for the first time that Edith is attractive.
How clever of Pruett to arrange Miss Crowe’s hair like that, as if one judicious tug would send the whole mass of rich chocolate curls tumbling down past her bum. And that black velvet ribbon about her neck. Camilla had always worn flashing opals and heavy gold. The simple, girlish ribbon was pure genius, making him think about the pressure of it around her neck and the pulse that beat beneath it. Had it merely been the armor of her severe black dresses that made her look meager and unappealing? Now her pointy little chin above the black velvet ribbon lent her an air of provocative stubbornness.
Clive did his best to project avuncular warmth and solicitude, but the charade proved difficult to sustain as the evening wore on and brandy softened the edge of his resolve. He sank down beside her on the settee and placed a rare volume of D.D. Hume’s collected works in her lap. She ran a slender finger over the gilt letters embossed in the red leather cover.
“I’m afraid you have overestimated my power,” she said softly. “I cannot control it at will like your Mr. Hume.” She opened the book reverently.
He gazed at her solemn little face, those huge eyes haunted by visions of failure. His fingers reached out before he could stop them and captured one end of the velvet ribbon that fell down her back. She didn’t seem to notice. He stroked its softness between his thumb and forefinger while he watched her read.
That’s what happens when you let your writing come out in an unexpurgated nanorimo rush. Suddenly, in chapter six, your characters start doing things you hadn’t planned for. I’m not going to get too worked up about it. I have the whole month of December to edit my book because I don’t have grad classes during that time.
In your WIP, is your hero immediately attracted to your heroine or does it take time for him to see her beauty?