Monday, November 1, 2010

About Romance, Then . . .

** The giveaway winners are (ta-ran-ta-ra!):

The Heir of Night: Lea U.
Thornspell: Cath's Chatter

Congratulations to you both--& thank you everyone for participating with such fun insightful comments!

[Cath, I have your email & will be in touch ; LeaU, if you could email me via contact[at] with your postal address for Heir, that would be grand.]

Yesterday being October 31, I blogged on “ … Anything Really” about my favorite Halloween story, which is Tam Lin—and in particular the re-telling that appears as a Halloween story in Rosemary Sutcliff’s kids’ book, The Armorer’s House (Oxford Children’s Library, 1951.) This story is clearly a romantic as well as a supernatural tale–and the retelling in the Sutcliff version is no less romantic (in my opinion, anyway) for being told in a way that is suitable for younger readers. (The Armorer’s House is definitely junior, not teen fiction.) And this got me thinking about what does make a story romantic—and satisfyingly romantic at that!

Although I had been thinking about it anyway, in a low key, background kind of way, ever since Worldcon as a result of my reading there. Each author had a thirty minute reading slot, which is a good amount of time, so in addition to some of the more action-orientated sequences from both Thornspell and The Heir of Night, I also read from the chapter titled Woman of Winter. This chapter is told from the point of view of Rowan Birchmoon, the Earl of Night’s lover, and includes a brief account of the beginning of their love—I’ll include just a brief excerpt of the excerpt here, to give you the ‘feel’ of it:

… It had happened that quickly. Between one moment and the next, between the silence and the spoken word, she was in love and recognized that he loved her in return. Yet for all its strength and intensity, the wonder and the joy, Rowan had assumed in her heart that theirs was a winter love: light and warmth for the months of snow and dark that would dissipate with the returning spring. But when spring finally came and the Derai prepared to depart, the Earl had asked her to go with him.

They had walked together in woods that were faintly misted with green, the first shy flowers peeping above the snowdrifts. He had stood, bare headed beneath the birch buds, dragging his leather gloves through his hands, and asked her to leave her home and her kin and her beloved Winter Country. He had not spared her the truth of what a Derai keep was, or the Wall and the surrounding Gray Lands in all their grimness, but he had still asked that she come and live with him there.

And she—she had stood in the midst of her own world and looked up into the infinite layers of the sky and wondered if she could bear to leave, or bear to forgo his love, one or the other …”

There was more (I had those thirty minutes to fill, after all)—but what happened after the reading was that one of the audience members said (as best I can recall): “That was one of the most romantic things I’ve ever heard; I had tears in my eyes listening to it.”

Initially I was really pleased—what author wouldn’t be?—but then I grew a little worried, because after all, The Heir of Night is epic fantasy, and epic fantasy is very much the tradition of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings—which as we all know, is practically “romance free.” (Okay, there’s Faramir and Eowyn and I do think theirs is a romance, but it is a very small part of a large book.) Had I broken with tradition, I wondered? And if I had, was that ok? Clearly, at least one listener thought that it was, but still . . . tradition!

And then of course I forgot all about it until Halloween and the Rosemary Sutcliff retelling of Tam Lin very much got me thinking about what actually makes a story romantic. Knowing that November 1 was also my Supernatural Underground day, I also wondered what you all thought—what makes a story truly romantic for you? What is the X-factor that makes you sigh and reach for the tissues, or the chocolates, or the champagne? I am really interested to know!


It’s still only a month from the release of The Heir of Night in the USA/Canada so I have another copy to give away—for readers from anywhere this time!

And because it is a retelling of
Sleeping Beauty—which must at least give some pretensions to romantic elements!—I’m also including a copy of Thornspell as a separate giveaway. (Also for readers ‘from anywhere’—although as writer of fantasy-scifi I’m tempted to add, “with a postal service, of course!”)

So just add a comment on what makes a story truly romantic for you to this post. As always, you can earn points (i.e. the number of times your name goes into the draw) by:

+1 Posting in the comments section
+1 Linking to this post on Twitter
+1 Linking to this post on Facebook
+1 Linking to the Supernatural Underground blog or Helen Lowe on Anything Really on your own blog/website.

Just post the total number of points that you’ve earned in your comment. Eligibility will close at midnight, 1 November,
US EST. (Do remember to check back after, or to post your email with your comment so that I can get in touch.)


Cath's Chatter said...

To honour and defend

"A lady’s honour is a precious thing, and it must be protected at every opportunity......."

I love it when a man will defend the honour of a lady. Whether its a verbal slur or a physical attack, the 'hero' comes along to save the day (usually at his own peril)......swwooooonn

That whole knight in shining armour thing gets me every time, even when the knight is a vamp, a pirate, a shifter, or any other sexy rugged rogue!!!!!

another great blog, thanks

Cath's Chatter said... carried away!!!!

just one entry for commenting

Helen Lowe said...

Cath--I love your carried away ... and I agree, there's definitely something about the "honorable defender"--and aren't even the rogues most lovable when their nefarious ways are put to the defence of the one they love ...

Sable Grace said...

Sometimes, for me, the best romantic story is a look, a touch, the knowing that even though there's no 'on screne' action, these two people are meant to be together. It's not always the physical that makes a book a great romance, sometimes, it's simply the thoughts--the characters and mine. ~L

SandyG265 said...

I think that the best romantic stories let you use your imagination.

Lea U. said...

A story is truly romantic, when it makes me wish that I´d be the heroine :-) The chemistry between the couple has to be visible.
That´s the most important thing for me, apart from the fact, that the hero and heroine are just meant to be with each other. Fate does the trick for me.

Melissa said...

For me the romantic X factor is that there were obstacles that could keep the two apart but it does not stop the couple. They overcome what ever was thrown in front of them and ended up together.

Just one entry for the post.

Sharon S. said...

(don't enter me cause I already won these most awesome books :)

sacrifice makes for a romantic storyline. Especially is one party doesn't realize the other is doing so.

Helen Lowe said...

Wow, it's great to get so many interesting ideas coming through on that romantic x-factor, especially the power of 'suggestion'--but also the idea of barriers between the lovers that have to be overcome: Shakesepare's 'star-crossed", which also picks up the notion of "fated love."

Sullivan McPig said...

For me it's when two people love each other even though they are aware of both the good and the negative character traits of the other, but still they accept the other as he/she is and are willing to fight for their love.

(4 points)

throuthehaze said...

I believe the obstacle the couple is willing to overcome to be together is what makes a story romantic.

1 entry

throuthehaze at gmail dot com

Helen Lowe said...

Yes--I think the Tam Lin story picks up both those elements: the acceptance of each other and fighting to overcome both personal and external barriers to being together.

Giada M said...

To be willing to sacrifice anything to protect the person you love.
And....too much tradition is boring! It's good to break with it sometimes. :P
Great post Helen!

1 entry

Helen Lowe said...

Yes to self-sacrifice & putting the beloved first--and to those qualities cutting both ways!

(And I agree--moderation in all things, even tradition!)

tsalvatore said...

I think the romantic x factor is when the man will go all out to prove he really loves his women.

Rachel C said...

I would have to say it's forbidden love that does it for me. Breaking the rules and going for what you want, not caring if its right or wrong. I love for my characters to take that risk to be in love!

1 point

nymfaux said...

Congrats to the winners!!! I'm sorry I missed the contest!--I just wanted to say, I love that you mentioned Tam Lin--It's a story that has stuck with me since I first read it (only a few years ago, but still). Definitely agree it's the perfect time of year for reading it!!!