May 27, 2010
Welcome to Day #10 of JoJo's 30 Day Birthday Bash. Today we have the honor of Leanna Renee Hieber.
Leanna Renee Hieber
Thanks JoJo for allowing me the opportunity to come and talk about my favourite type of romance scene! I’m the author of the Strangely Beautiful series, a quartet of Gothic Victorian Fantasy / Paranormal novels, beginning with The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, continuing with the freshly released The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, the series will continue again this fall in A Midwinter Fantasy anthology and on into 2011.
My favourite type of romantic scenes is tied into why I write what I write and in the time period that remains my favourite time period; the Victorian Era. This was an era of great innovation, excitement and creativity, but also great trepidation, pain, aggression, misunderstanding and polarization. It was a time of grit and grandeur, a preened exterior society with a seething underbelly. A time of passion and restraint. A time when the mere touch of a hand was exotic. And so my favourite scene is all about the romantic tension, and all about the first touch.
One of the most commented upon scenes in my debut novel is the waltz scene between sweet, timid Percy and her stern professor Alexi, with whom she’s helplessly smitten, at the academy ball. I write sensual and sweet. I don’t write “hot”, and yet reviewers will assure you my books do not suffer from a lack of romance. *s*. This is a preview from what precedes that now infamous waltz scene. Because before one dances a waltz, one must be taught. My favourite part of romance is the building, the tension, and the revelation of a first touch. This is that very moment. The first touch.
From The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (Strangely Beautiful #1):
“Did I say you were dismissed?” Alexi called from his desk.
She whirled to face him across the grand office. “You said, ‘That will be all …’”
“For the first lesson.” Alexi rose and went to a shelf. “Turn the phonograph handle,” he instructed, “and place the needle on the disk.”
Miss Parker’s ghost-pale face lit. She did as instructed, and the phonograph bell crackled; the glorious sound of strings lifting sinuously into the air. Alexi moved toward the open floor of his office.
“The pleasant surprise about music and mathematics, Miss Parker, is that it’s all numbers,” he began casually. “And so is a dance.”
The music became distinguishable as a lilting waltz. Miss Parker’s eyes widened and a hand flew to her mouth. “Oh, Professor!” Joy radiated from her like a sunbeam, and for a brief moment, Alexi forgot what he was about to say.
“Hush, hush. Don’t make me regret taking the time to do this. Come here, silly girl.”
Percy darted forward, but when she stood before him, looking up, she became so frightened that the professor might read her mind that she shrank back, embarrassed and awkward.
His own composure remained cool as he offered a noble bow. “That is your cue to curtsey, Miss Parker.”
“Oh, yes, of course. How stupid of me.” She curtseyed, and the professor closed the distance between them to a decorous familiarity. She stared up at him. Her pounding heart made her mind swim. The professor placed a hand around her waist and took her right hand. When they made physical contact, Percy thought she might faint. Actual, voluntary human contact from a man she so admired … Tears rolled down her white cheeks.
“My goodness, Miss Parker, if I thought this would upset you …” Alarmed, Professor Rychman withdrew. “Of course there is an academy rule of no contact, but a dance lesson is most certainly an exception, and if you fear—”
“Oh, no, my dear professor! You must understand. In the convent, the only man I ever could call a friend was a ghost. We could never so much as take hands …”
There was a moment, as they stared at each other, where Percy thought they shared a keen understanding of loneliness. The professor’s dark eyes softened. He respectfully held her gaze until she bashfully looked away; then he held out his hand, patiently allowing her to approach when ready.
Percy wiped her eyes and stepped forward. His hand closed again over her waist. Her fingers alit upon his other palm, and he coaxed her hand into his, squeezing gently.
“Your fear of me simply must cease,” he commanded.
“It … it isn’t that I’m afraid, Professor.”
“If I’m not mistaken, Miss Parker, you quake.”
“Not out of fear, I assure you!” But after this declaration, more mottled patches burst upon Percy’s porcelain cheeks. She was terrified anew that he’d expel her on the spot.
The professor cleared his throat and simply said, “The rhythm guides us, Miss Parker. One-two-three, one-two-three.” He tapped time upon her finger. “Your feet must do the same. Place your other hand on my shoulder.”
Percy complied. Far too nervous to look at him, she instead stared at the ornate silver button that clasped his robe and held his signature scarlet cravat in place.
“I will lead with my right foot. Step back with your left.” The professor moved forward. As Percy faltered he said, “No, the other—”
“I’m so sorry!”
“Stop apologizing, Miss Parker, and move.”
Percy stepped back, obedient if rigid. The professor added, “Repeat this, following my lead, stepping back when I step forward, interchanging.” As he did so, Percy followed with hesitation but precision, and moved without stumbling. She felt a giddy rush.
“I see!” She dared a look up at him, and grinned.
“It’s rather simple once you know the steps,” he stated, and began again. “Can you feel the pulse?”
Their steps remained small and controlled. “Yes,” she breathed, shocked at her voice, which was a good deal more sensual than she intended. Their eyes locked, Percy stumbled and broke away. “I am sorry, Professor, but—”
He stepped forward and grabbed her by the hand, firmly turning her to face him again. Percy gasped. He clamped his other hand upon her waist, putting an abrupt halt to her cringing retreat. He stepped forward. She stepped back. They lifted and stepped and repeated without incident. They moved around the open spaces of the office, each turn imparting confidence. Finally, Percy could not hold back a delighted laugh as she realized she was waltzing. And Constance was watching, hovering above the professor’s desk, smiling proudly.
“I’m dancing!” Percy whispered with glee.
The professor partially smiled, his eyes sparkling for one single moment. “Indeed you are,” he replied, and Percy felt a tug upon her right hand. She allowed his pull—and twirled beneath his arm! As she spun to face him again, his hand returned to her waist. Percy nearly swooned.
The professor lowered his head in approval. “Not a bad start, Miss Parker. You see, if you pay attention to your partner, you can react without even being warned.” He smirked, displaying a mischievousness Percy had never seen—or perhaps it was merely wishful thinking.
The music ended. The disk crackled beneath the needle. The professor released his hold on Percy and stepped back, bowed, holding her gaze. Percy curtseyed in return, wishing the music had gone on indefinitely.
“Now … no more moping about that damnable gala!” he commanded, moving to the phonograph and lifting the needle.
“Oh, Professor, how can I ever thank you for this—?” She ran forward and realized with sudden horror that she had unconsciously meant to embrace him.
“Good night, Miss Parker,” he interrupted.
“Oh. Yes, of course. Good night, Professor. Thank you!” She spoke hurriedly, awkwardly gathering her things to cover her dangerous intention. “I shall see you on Saturday?”
“Perhaps you will find me in a dark corner, hiding,” he admitted, grimacing as he took to the chair behind his desk and busied himself with a cup of spiced tea.
“Well. Good night, then.” She hurried to the door, wondering if the blush upon
her cheeks would ever fade.
(End of Excerpt)
Answer the Question: Via Leanna
In books and films, do you enjoy the buildup of tension between the romantic leads as much as I do?
(please include an e-mail address so the winner can be contacted)
*Open US ONLY / Ends June 18th*