Uncertain love on WIP Wednesday

Unrequited love.

He loves me, he loves me not. It’s not just a rhyme to chant while picking petals off a daisy or counting cherry stones; it’s an essential tool of the romance writer’s arsenal. We love to give our hero or heroine a bit of uncertainty to raise the stakes, and if each doubts the feelings of the other, all the better.

Do you have an extract to share in the comments where your hero or heroine thinks about or expresses their uncertainty? Or perhaps another character loves the hero or the heroine, and is doomed to disappointment? My expert is from A Raging Madness.

He was very tempted to kiss her but feared to change their relationship. Change it more. They were friends again, as they hadn’t been since she was a young girl and he a cheeky subaltern missing his home and his family.

But she loved him. One should not treat those one loves. That’s what she’d said. Those one loves. Loved how, though? As a friend? As a—Heaven forfend—as a brother?

Even if her love included the large measure of lust that coloured his for her, she had never been available for dalliance. If he tried a kiss, he would be lucky to get away with a slapped face. At worst, she would assume he was courting her. How he wished he could! For the first time in his life, he was experiencing the joys of that happy state, all but the physical intimacies, and he wanted them to go on forever.

But he had no place asking Ella to wed him. All he could offer was a broken crock of a man, made ugly with scars, subject to nightmares, prone to shedding splinters and lumps of metal from his leg.

A bored and useless man, at that. He had been a career officer. What was he now? He had investigated the Chirbury estates as a favour to his cousin, removing the land agents in two of them and buttressing the third with an assistant. But for all it proved to be necessary, the task had started as make-work, and his pride would not let him accept more.

He had no idea what to do with himself, and he certainly would not inflict himself on someone he was fast coming to love.

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2 thoughts on “Uncertain love on WIP Wednesday

  1. That’s beautiful. Poor Alex. His doubts are wonderfully evoked there.

    A little more from my own WIP (although I’m working at it so slowly I probably need to write more before I end up sharing everything I’ve written so far!). Mine’s slightly different, in that John and Mary are secure in their love for each other — they’re coming up to their twenty-third wedding anniversary, after all. But uncertainty in love doesn’t have to mean John questioning whether Mary loves him. There are other things that can turn his life upside down and make him question the things he takes most for granted.

    ___

    As he had half-expected, she was asleep in her darkened dressing room. He and Mary had rarely slept apart since their wedding day; they were now heading towards their fifth month of living in separate apartments. John sat by her sofa for a while, holding Mary’s hand. Her chest rose and fell rhythmically in her deep, dark, opiate-induced slumber. She looked at peace, but her eye sockets were deeply bruised and her skin was too pale for health.

    Georgiana was in the hall when he came out of the dressing-room. She looked like he had caught her going from one room to another, but he suspected she had been waiting for him. Something about the set of her lips, and the sight of her clenched hands half-concealed in her skirts, warned him this was not going to be a pleasant conversation.

    ‘She still sleeps?’ Georgiana asked, and John nodded. ‘I am glad. She had need of the rest.’

    There was an unspoken reproach in that. ‘She wanted very much to be at Mrs Pringle’s wedding.’

    ‘She did,’ Georgiana admitted, but added, ‘She does not at present know what she is capable of doing.’

    *And neither do you.* John heard the words as loudly as though they had been spoken aloud. He took in his sister-in-law’s brittle but defiant expression, the upwards tilt of her chin. ‘Dr Vaughan says the best thing for her is to live as normal.’

    Even as he spoke he realised the words were an acknowledgment that things were *not* normal, but Georgiana did not challenge him. Perhaps she thought it not worth mentioning, as though she realised John knew it as well as she did. ‘You will let her rest now? It is what she needs more than anything else.’

    ‘I will let her sleep as long as necessary, of course.’

    Georgiana’s mouth tightened. ‘That is not what I meant.’

    ‘We cannot remain shut up here for ever,’ John said. ‘It is not good for Mary. She needs air. She needs diversion, and she needs society.’ Georgiana tilted her chin higher. John finished desperately, ‘Dr Vaughan said so. She is no longer ill, Georgiana. She is quite well.’

    Georgiana nodded, but kept her arms crossed, as though guarding herself against John’s clumsy justifications. John saw his own doubts reflected in her expression, as though he were looking into a mirror – the fear that Vaughan might be wrong, that Mary was not better, that her terrible illness had not gone but merely changed into a different, equally dangerous, form.

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