Meet-cute on WIP Wednesday

passerbyThere’s a discussion going on over on Facebook about whether the hero and heroine should meet in the first few pages in a romance novel, and I’m having my usual reaction to the ‘should’ word. But at least I have my topic for work-in-progress Wednesday!

How did your hero and heroine meet? Give me a few lines from your work-in-progress, and I’ll give you mine from Hand-Turned Tales, which comes out next week. (First meet in your work-in-progress. It’s okay if they’ve met before.)

Hand-Turned Tales has four stories in it: three short and a novella, so here are my meetings.

First, The Raven’s Lady.

The lady Felix was supposedly here to consider as a wife was pretty enough, he supposed, if one liked milk-and-water misses who never looked up from their plates, and who answered every conversational sally with a monosyllable or a giggle.

She had, sadly, changed from the lively child he remembered. But that was long ago, almost another life. She had been nine, and he fourteen, the last time they parted.

The only interesting thing about her now, as far as he could see, was the raven she kept as a pet.

Then All That Glisters.

She stumbled and would have landed in the mud, if firm hands had not suddenly caught her. As it was, in putting her hands out to break the expected fall, she had dropped her burdens. The shopping basket fell sideways, tumbling fruit, vegetables, and the wrapped parcel of meat into a waiting puddle. The bundle from the haberdashers that she carried on her other arm, thankfully, stayed intact and landed on a relatively dry spot.

She took all this in at a glance, most of her attention on her rescuer. A craggy face bronzed by the sun, amused brown eyes under thick, level brows, a mouth that looked made for laughter. He was bundled against the cold wind in a greatcoat, muffler, and cloth cap.

Kidnapped to Freedom.

There! Someone was coming. He straightened in anticipation. Yes, it was her—twelve years older and a mature women, rather than the girl he remembered, but even in the moonlight, he couldn’t mistake her.

She wasn’t alone. He couldn’t take a herd of children with him! What was she thinking?

He stepped out from the sheltering trees. The mask would hide his face, and his voice had never been the same since the last time he had been close enough to Phoebe to speak, when Chan tried to strangle him for the presumption.

And finally, The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle

The earl held out his hand, and Madeline reached for it. Even through her gloves and his, she could feel the strength in his hand, and he made no allowance for the difference in their sizes, so that she had to lean back against the weight of him as he pulled himself up. He was tall, this new husband of hers who couldn’t wait to abandon her at the altar. Tall, lean, and handsome. But very young.

“Thank you, Miss, ah, Countess. What is your name again? I am sorry. I was not listening.”

Madeline had been listening. He was Rupert Frederick George Arthur John Fleming, 7th Earl of Penworth, and Viscount of Clearwater.

“Madeline,” said Graviton, helpfully. “The family calls her Mad.”

Graviton called her Mad. Her mother, who had been all the family to love her, called her Linnie, and she had been Miss Graviton to the rest of the world. No more. Mother was dead, and Miss Graviton was gone, too, wiped out by a few words and her signature on the marriage register.

Your turn.

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20 thoughts on “Meet-cute on WIP Wednesday

  1. Hmm, I’d like the see those earlier first meetings as children. Where’s the short pants and inkwells?

    I’m writing SF/F, so the romance chars’ meeting is lower key. And that’s also my answer for the first question, I like a little more before they meet.. Stories that are other genres need to establish a bit more about the period or world first. I also think establishing historical settings first is a good idea, I really hate when a historical starts with such a generic description of the environment and culture that the story is a generic ‘before cars’ setting.though 1890 is very different than 1690.

    • For me, when they meet depends on the story. In my shorter fiction, they’re together in the first few pages, but both novels so far have had a delayed first meet – to chapter five in Farewell to Kindness, and all the way to the middle of the book in A Baron for Becky. The two novels both have a first meet in the first chapter, but in both cases, they have a prior acquaintance (in David and Prue’s case, more than an acquaintance).

  2. She let go of the vase, and he took it from her.
    “I wouldn’t advise smashing that pot over me. I believe it’s a genuine Ming dynasty and it would be a shame for it to be sacrificed just because you’re out of temper with me.”

  3. This comment is from Jacqueline Reiter, who had problems posting it. So I’m doing so on her behalf, and — much though I’m looking forward to her non-fiction book The Late Lord — this makes me more than ever want her to get back to her fictional account of John’s life.

    Jacqui says: I can’t resist posting the bit in my not-exactly-WIP, The Long Shadow, where your acquaintances John and Mary meet for the first time in the book. It’s not their first meeting in “real life”, of course — they played together when they were small — but it’s the first time John sees Mary as something other than a child.

    ——

    The creak of the tall French door warned him he was not alone. Townshend must have sent a footman down to see if he needed any assistance. He turned to dismiss the man and found himself unexpectedly face to face with Miss Mary Townshend. She still wore the pink satin gown she had worn at dinner, but she had pulled on a fur-lined pelisse on top of it. She said nothing, but blinked to adjust her eyes to the darkness.

    John did not feel like making conversation, particularly when the topic was likely to be his brother. ‘Should you not be in the drawing room with your mother?’

    ‘I saw you here and thought you might need some company.’ She jerked her head up at one of the windows on the first floor. ‘If it’s my reputation you fear for, my mother is just above us and can see you as well as I could.’

    She stepped out onto the balcony and came towards him. She stumbled on one of the steps down to the balustrade and he thrust out his arm to steady her. ‘I can be so clumsy,’ she said with a shy smile, but her fingers dug into his upper arm for support. A memory came to him from his youth of Mrs Townshend writing for herbs from Hayes’ kitchen garden to make compresses for little Mary’s hip and knee. He could not recall if she had had a childhood accident or not, but now that he thought about it he could see she walked with a noticeable limp.

    She leaned next to him on the balustrade and drew in a few long breaths. A few strands of her hair had come loose and danced in the breeze. He had vague recollections of her as a slim, pale child with dark hair and solemn blue eyes, practising dance sequences or playing blindman’s buff. A glance at the curve of her hips and swell of her breasts, just visible under the pelisse, was enough to show John she was no longer a child. How old was she now? Seventeen? Eighteen? She glanced up and he became aware he was staring. He blushed and looked down

      • We are discussing tropes today in one of the Facebook groups. I think I’ll add childhood sweethearts.

        I actually have been toying with a revisioning of Little Red Riding Hood, and the hook finally came to me the other day, and it will involve sweethearts torn apart and now reunited.

      • Undoubtedly history has examples of every trope — virgin widow, forced marriage, reformed rake, runaway heiress, man dressed as woman or woman dressed as man. And no, I wouln’t think they’re tropes when they’re someone’s real life story.

      • Laura, John is Lord Chatham, the second Earl of Chatham and brother to William Pitt the Younger. Jacqui is writing his biography, and has put the fictional account of his life to one side while she does that. John and Mary in their fictional form often appear in the Bookshop.

  4. Oh, I love Wednesdays! I love the snippets. Sadly, that ‘should’ is one I am all too familiar with. The rules do help us new (or hopeful, as is my case) authors figure it all out, but I like guidelines more than concrete rules.

    My current couple Major Rupert Clarion first meets Miss Frances Clarence when he arrives on her doorstep, expecting to deliver the news of a father’s death to a lad named Frankie.

    Let me try to share a bit here, on my phone.
    (I hope it isn’t too much of a share.)

    A cacophony of noise erupted from within, and he wondered just how many dogs could be housed within such confined quarters. Someone called for the dogs to calm down, and they immediately obeyed. A most feminine someone, if his battle weary ears did not deceive him.

    He frowned, holding back the accompanying groan. This situation only needed histrionics from some weak-willed woman. Had Clarence ever mentioned a female, he wondered, racking his memories. No, the man had only ever mentioned Frankie, his pride and joy – never a daughter.

    This would be the maid, then, he realized, releasing the pent up breath he had not been aware of holding.

    “What is taking so bloody long,” he muttered, raising his fist to rap on the door a second time, only to be met by the brightest blue eyes he had ever seen – Clarence’s eyes, to be sure.

    “Heavens, sir,” cried a female, ducking from his raised fist, though just a breath too late.

    His fist had made no connection with her fair skin, but the damage would be done, none the less. One more ignominy added to the list.

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