‘Meet cute’ is a term from Hollywood that has crept into book publishing. It means that moment in a romantic comedy when the hero and the heroine first encounter one another. The implication is that the first meeting is amusing, entertaining, or charming.
Even if you’re not writing romantic comedy, the term can apply, but today I’m just using it as shorthand for the first meeting in your book. My own current works-in-progress have progressively less and less cute about them. The Bluestocking and the Barbarian comes close, with James swooping down to save a child from the path of racing curricles.
With hand, body and voice, James set Seistan at the child and dropped off the saddle, trusting to the horse to sweep past in the right place for James to hoist the child out of harm’s way.
One mighty heave, and they were back in the saddle. James’ shoulders would feel the weight of the boy for days, but Seistan had continued across the road, so close to the racers that James could feel the wind of their passing.
They didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow. In moments, they were gone.
The boy shaking in his arms, James turned Seistan with his knees, and walked the horse back to the gates of the big house. A crowd of women waited for them, but only one came forward as he dismounted.
“How can we ever thank you enough, sir?” She took the child from him, and handed him off to be scolded and hugged and wept over by a bevy of other females.
The woman lingered, and James too. He could hear his father and the others riding toward them, but he couldn’t take his eyes off hers. He was drowning in a pool of blue-gray. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit… until now.
In Revealed in Mist, David and Prue parted in anger in the Prologue, and meet again for the first time in months in the first chapter. Prue has just saved a young lady from rape.
She put the girl behind her with her free hand, then pulled the door closed. Something thrown banged against it on the other side.
“We must get you to safety,” she told the girl, a very young debutante in a torn white gown, her honey blonde hair falling from its careful coiffure, the delicate oval of her face streaked with tears.
“I cannot… I did not… Everyone will think…”
“Take the child to Lady Georgiana.” Prue started at Shadow’s voice and the girl yelped and clutched at her for protection. Fussing over the girl gave Prue time to catch the breath that had escaped at his sudden appearance. He was leaning against the next door down, half concealed in the doorway. “There’s a small sitting room along there.” He pointed down the passage towards the far end, seemingly unaffected the meeting, while Prue was torn between spitting in his face and throwing herself at his feet to beg him to forgive whatever offence she had caused. “Half way to the corner. Lady Georgiana is in there. She’ll take care of your maiden, and I shall see to the assailant. Who is it?”
And A Raging Madness has the least cute meet of all, as Ella flees confinement and abuse in her in-laws house to beg help from Alex, who she knew long, long ago.
The couch faced the fire, its back to the bed chamber door. The occupant was invisible until they stood right over it, and then there she was, lying on her back, wrapped tightly in a scruffy grey woollen blanket, heavily mired at one end with dried mud. All they could see of the woman was her head, and that was somewhat the worse for wear. Her face was far too thin, with dark patches under the eyes and bruise over bruise along her jaw, as if she had been gripped too hard time after time, week after week. She lay in a tangle of long brown hair, escaped from the plait to which it had been confined.
As they watched, she opened her eyes. For a moment, she stared at them, confused. Then she seemed to recall where she was, and sat up in one convulsive movement, clutching the blanket to her with a bare arm as it fell, but not before Alex had seen she wore nothing but her shift.
“Alex, thank God. You must help me. Please.”
“Lady Melville.” Alex bowed as well as he could, leaning heavily on his stick, hating to show weakness in front of her of all people. But her eyes did not leave his, and she displayed no signs of noticing his infirmity.
“Please,” she repeated, just as someone knocked on the door. She shot off the couch, clutching the blanket, and retreated to the wall, her eyes wide. He had seen such a stance before, people under threat finding a wall for the back, animals at bay, almost dead from fear, but still searching for escape.
“It is just the major’s breakfast, my lady,” Jonno said, soothingly. But a male voice in the hall belied his reassurance. “Knock again,” it said, loudly, authoritatively. Braxton.
“Please,” Ella begged, one more time.