Damned Good Romances VII – The Moment of Ultimate Vulnerability

This post is part of a series.

Part 1: Damn Good Romances
Part II: Romantic Tension
Part III: Romantic Conflict
Part IV: Emotional Intensity
Part V: Heart-Stopping Moments
Part VI: Uncertainty of Outcome
Part VII: Moment of Ultimate Vulnerability
Part VIII: Happy Ever After…For Now

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The Moment of Ultimate Vulnerability

I think I fell in love with romance novels because of these moments.

Moments of ultimate vulnerability are absolutely and purely hero moments.  They were once the domain of big, strapping alpha heroes who would spend the entire novel being remote and chisel-chinned, steely-eyed and all-powerful, driving the heroine insane with sexual need (or emotional distress, depending on which era and which line you’re thinking about), while the reader flipped pages faster and faster to find out when the BIG moment happens.

A lot of that tension and waiting, years ago, got to happen because way back when, romance novels were all written purely from the heroine’s point of view.  So the hero got to be as remote and cypher-like as the writer cared to make him.  Alpha heroes could be genuinely difficult to interpret for both the reader and the heroine, and big misunderstanding plots played out with much more authenticity when the reader only had the heroine’s point of view through which to sift for clues as to what the hero was really feeling or thinking.

But around the same time that scenes from the hero’s point of view came into vogue, so did the beta hero, with genuine emotional empathy and an ability to be hurt or touched by emotions at any time, and The Big Moment lost some of its power.

What was The Big Moment?

Way back when, it was that moment when the formerly remote and sometimes even harsh hero turned around and admitted that he loves the heroine.  Often he confessed he has loved her “all along” (“you silly darling”). Oy!

I confess I have read more than my share of short contemporaries that varied only a little in these moments of confession.  There was a reason that Mills and Boon was called “Bilge and Swoon” by its detractors in the seventies and eighties.  But dammit, I loved it!  I read them just to read these moments.  My heart would race, I would hold my breath, and I would be enthralled by the idea that this all-powerful, rich, sexy, potent man had been brought to his knees by love.

I write romances just to recreate similar moments for my readers, albeit more sophisticated and — the gods help me — cliche free moments.

These days, The Big Moment comes in all sorts of disguises.  It’s no longer an outright confession of love.  Because we get to see inside the hero’s head now, we also get to see his growing feelings for the heroine all along.  So we get a series of “moments” rather than one Big moment when he reveals All.  We get his realization that he’s into something serious, and his building feelings.  Then the realization that he’s in love.  Then the Moment when he opens his mouth and admits how he feels…and sometimes, these days he doesn’t even tell the heroine directly.  I’ve seen novels where he eludes to his feelings to his best mate, but the heroine only gets to figure it out by the fact that he’s betrayed king and country to save her life that he really loves her….

What used to be Big Moments that spread for pages and pages of dissecting and analysing every lie and cover-up the hero had used for the length of the novel in order to hide his growing emotional attachment to the heroine (while the reader lapped up the hero’s fall into the heroine’s arms), these days The Big Moment is much quieter, smaller and genuine…but no less intense for being more real and character-driven.

I wanted to add a few of those big moments here in this post, but to do so would provide the ultimate spoiler from any romance, so I won’t.

Yes, I will.  I can’t resist.

Here’s one.  Just one.

~~~~major MAJOR Spoiler Alert!!!! ~~~~~

If you don’t want to read one of the juiciest parts of  The Royal Talisman, stop now!

An Excerpt From: THE ROYAL TALISMAN
Copyright © TRACY COOPER-POSEY, 2012
All Rights Reserved

She settled back into her corner of the bench and spoke quietly to her driver, who stood patiently at the door. “The townhouse.”

“No,” Stuart said sharply, as he sat beside her. He gave the driver an address that she recognized.

“Your house?” she said. “My reputation would not withstand the impact if I were seen entering it without a chaperone.”

“I suspect your reputation has survived far more than a peccadillo of this magnitude,” Stuart said, with a piercing glance at her.

She bit her lip, then nodded to her driver, who tugged at his hat brim and shut the door.

As the carriage jogged into motion, Stuart swivelled so that he was facing her, his long legs taking up most of the bench. “Who are you?” he said.

“I am Bian,” she said honestly.

“A mystery princess with the highest connections in the land,” he said. He laid his arm to rest along the back of the seat. It was a casual movement but the fingers curled into a tight fist. “You haven’t been home for three days.” His blue gaze pinned her to the seat, giving her no quarter. “When your carriage turned up this morning, I followed it. You know where it led me.”

The tension emanating from him was so harsh the air between them seemed to vibrate with it. “Patrick’s townhouse,” she answered. His tension was affecting her. She could feel a tightening in her own gut and the hurried beat of her heart. Longing swept through her. He was so close…all she wanted was for him to take her in his arms. To take her, utterly and completely. She was moist in her woman’s place, ready for him.

He nodded at her answer. “Patrick is another good friend, then?”

“Of a sort,” she agreed. “We do not share a bed,” she added.

“Or a sofa?” he returned swiftly.

“Patrick does not own a sofa.”

His gaze drilled into her. “And how did you know that the address I just gave your driver was mine, just now?”

She held her face steady and managed not to give a guilty start. “You gave my maid your card, when you called.” Her heart was really hammering, now.

He stared at her for a very long moment. Did he weigh up her answer? Finally, he released her and turned his gaze to a loose stitch in the upholstery of the bench, that he picked at with his fingers. Again, it was meant to be a casual movement but the coiled, tightly contained energy in him made his hand shake, even as it kept the rest of his body as poised and still as a snake ready to strike.

She swallowed and her throat clicked with dryness. “You’ve grown tired of being the hunted already, Stuart?”

He made an impatient movement and pushed his hand through his pale blond hair. Now she understood why it looked so ruffled.

“This is no hunt, Bian. You must surely know that. In five days you have…” He looked out the window, as if he was suddenly unsure of the wisdom of what he was about to say. Then he turned back to face her and the blue eyes blazed with an emotion she could barely name. “You have carved your way into here—” and he pressed his fist against his chest. “And here.” This time, he pressed the tips of his fingers against his temples. “And the pain is unlike anything I have ever suffered before. You are my doom, Bian.”

Understanding flared in Bian, as she recognized the same pain as that in herself. It was the agony of knowing she was completely at the mercy of the most unexpected, overwhelming…the most dangerous emotion in the world.

“Love,” Stuart whispered and looked back out the window, as if it were too difficult for him to look at her directly.

Her sigh blurred as tears filled her eyes. They were the same hot and achingly hard tears that she had shed while sitting on Patrick’s parquet floor three nights before. At that time, she had not recognized them for what they were.

But recognizing them did not relieve them. Her chest locked with the anguish building in her. Her tears slid down her face and her vision cleared.

Stuart still gazed out the window, as if he were afraid to see her reaction to his confession. “Why can I not stop thinking about you?”

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Big Moments or just big moments…they’re still one of the major reasons we read romances.  They’re delicious, they’re thrilling.   They’re addictive.  They’re the thing in most movies that make us sigh when the hero gets the girl, and that look in his eye (it’s the reason I started writing romance, after Han got that look in his eye when he told Leia “I know”).

(PS: check out this clip of That Moment on YouTube…and the absolutely hilarious comment underneath it, too!)

(PPS:  Greedo did not shoot first.  He didn’t even fire in the original edition.  I remember.  I saw the original edition umptee-upmth times.  Too many times to count.)

Next: The HEA/HFN Ending.

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