Is It Getting HOT in Here? A Steamy Kiss Blog Hop

I’m participating in the Is It Getting HOT In Here? Blog Hop in honor of Valentine’s Day. The object is to share a kiss from either a favorite story, from our own experience, or from our own work. I decided to share a scene from my current time travel romance MUST LOVE BREECHES. It’s the first time things get a little heated between them.

In this scene, the heroine, Isabelle (from modern day), is in a carriage with the hero, Lord Montagu (19th century man). She’s just rigged a hasty bandage on his arm from an injury he sustained. She wants to know what happened:

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“What I don’t understand,” she said, pausing as his eyes snapped back open, “is how you met with the business end of an iron rose trellis.” She grabbed the last remaining bit of linen and used it to clean the blood off her hands and the seat. She took the lamp and replaced it on its hook by her head. Not knowing what to do with the bloodied linen, she dropped it onto the floor. She pulled her gloves back on, afraid she’d forget them.

“As you are determined to know, the offending object was directly beneath the window and appeared to be an ideal perch for me to make my descent. Unfortunately, I lost my footing and slid down the side of it. My fall was marginally slowed when I went over the edge and one of its points ripped through my coat sleeve to produce this scratch.”

“Scratch? You call that a scratch?”

He shrugged.

“Gah. Men!” She thwacked him in the chest with her small purse.

The hand of his uninjured arm shot out, captured her wrist in his strong fingers and pulled her slightly forward. “Miss Rochon, why do you suddenly have the compulsion to strike me repeatedly?”

“Sorry, habit.”

“Peculiar habit.”

Isabelle’s trapped hand absorbed her whole attention, the small purse dangling in a small arc, the meager light from the lamp setting the sewn-in jewels sparkling. Her wrist moved upward, pulled by Lord Montagu, and she followed its ascent transfixed. Lord Montagu slowly turned her wrist and brushed the underside, right at the pulse point, with his lips. Isabelle shivered despite the barrier of her glove. His well shaped lips, moving just oh so slightly to her wrist; the scar below his lip stretching.

Without thinking, she snatched her wrist out of his grasp.

Her mind caught up to her action. Why, oh why did she always do stupid stuff like that with guys she found attractive? They caused a strange flight response—her curse. What scared her? Someone give me a Rewind button.

Lord Montagu gave a low chuckle.

“Why’d you do that?” Oh my God, had she just asked him that? Could a black hole open below her and suck her in? Please?

“Why do you surmise, Miss Rochon?” His eyes stared straight into hers, awaiting an answer, searching.

“I, uh…” Oh man, black hole? You there?

“My apologies, I have caused you discomfort. That was not my intention.” His eyes shuttered and his shoulders stiffened.

You idiot Isabelle, what does it matter? Here was a chance to let go, without any consequences. Strange that she’d pulled away, though. Usually she was more at ease, more flirtatious, around men when she traveled—they posed no real threat to her, to her life. So, why not in this situation? Also, strange that she recognized what she was doing in time to change it.

She could push past her fear, against her instincts, use this as a ‘teaching moment,’ as her mother used to say. As long as she could keep her own feelings in check and not hurt him.

And besides this wasn’t her real life. Maybe this was a good time to get in some practice. He still looked at her, but he did not appear angry or hurt. Maybe a little confused.

“You took me by surprise is all.” She let her gaze linger over his strong cheekbones and then down to his lips and the scar. Okay, just do it. Her hand reached up to touch his scar. Man, they shook a little bit, but too late to turn back now.

His eyes darkened, his gaze became more intent. The space between them seemed so large, the time it took for her hand to reach him embarrassingly slow. Oh, lord, and she was leaning at an awkward angle toward him. To remain steady, she put her left hand down to support herself.

Finally, the gloved finger of her right hand reached his chin and traced a path over to the cleft in his chin, a feature on any man that made her want to go ‘Rowr!’

He was not doing a thing. He only stared at her. God, where was that black hole? So much for trying to take control, pushing past her fear.

She closed her eyes and let her hand drop. Her breath hitched—his hand had grazed her upper arm. His fingers paused for only a moment as they delicately passed by the inner part of her elbow.

Shivers flitted through her body, erupting as goose bumps on her skin. When had that part of her body become so sensitive?

The light touch of his fingers brushed down her gloved arm and slowly enfolded her hand in his. He turned it slightly, so that her palm faced up, exposing the soft part of her arm. When the warmth of his lips met the tips of her fingers, her eyes snapped open.

Somehow she’d moved closer to him on the seat and as she gazed at his lips, transfixed, he moved his head lower and kissed her palm. His head moved a fraction and he placed another soft, tender kiss on her wrist.

Oh God, she was having trouble finding her breath.

No one had ever done this to her in her life.

And it was so, so, well, so erotic. Who knew?

She couldn’t tear her gaze away as his delectable mouth moved up her arm with soft kisses until it reached the end of the glove, right below her elbow. He paused, his breath caressing her skin. What would he do next? Then his lips touched her bare flesh for the first time, just on the inside of her arm.

Heat seared around her chest and speared downward. Where had all the air in the carriage gone? Her head felt fizzy. The sound of their breathing filled the coach, heightened, joining, wondering. She had the overwhelming urge to push him back against the seat and jump his bones.

Slowly he raised his head. What would those painstakingly tender lips feel like against her own? She moistened her lips with her tongue. It seemed like forever since he’d placed that last kiss on her arm.

The carriage clattered to a stop, jolting her forward slightly. His strong hands grasped her waist, steadying her.

“Miss Rochon?”

She still couldn’t catch her breath, but he seemed calm enough, the bastard. She pushed back to her side of the seat and took deep breaths though her nose, trying hard to look like she was doing nothing like that at all.

Evidently they’d reached Mrs. Somerville’s house.

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As always, I welcome helpful feedback! What did you think? Be sure to visit the other participants.

Eric and Sookie – Why So Steamy? Writing Sexual Tension…

Sorry, no Firefly post today!* Instead I’m going to take an excerpt from True Blood to illustrate/discuss writing sexual tension and the stages of intimacy. Monday I featured Alexander Skarsgård as the Monday Hunk Who Reads, and I’ve had today’s post in mind for a while now, so I thought I would round off the week with True Blood to stick with the Skarsgård theme.

One of the greatest tools I found for anyone writing romance, either as the main plot or as a subplot in a non-romance book, is the 12 Stages to Physical Intimacy developed by Linda Howard from Desmond Morris’ book Intimate Behavior: A Zoologist’s Classic Study of Human Intimacy. I first heard about this in an online class this past summer, “From Slow Burn to Fast Sizzle: Making Sexual Tension Work For You,” from the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter of RWA given by romance writers Kira Sinclair and Lynn Raye Harris (thank you!)

In a nutshell, in order to make the sexual tension between two people believable, a writer should show the characters progressing through these 12 steps:

  1. Eye to body
  2. Eye to eye
  3. Voice to voice
  4. Hand to hand (or arm)
  5. Arm to shoulder
  6. Arm to waist, or back
  7. Mouth to mouth
  8. Hand to head
  9. Hand to body
  10. Mouth to breast
  11. Hand to genitals
  12. Genitals to genitals

To learn more details about these steps, and how to use them and switch them up, see Jenny Hansen’s post Using The 12 Stages of Physical Intimacy To Build Tension In Your Novel and Terry Odell’s 12 Steps to Intimacy.

Okay, studied up? Let’s see it in action! For non-fans of True Blood, this kiss scene between Viking vampire Eric Northman and Sookie Stackhouse had been a long time coming. They’d kissed before, but never initiated by Sookie and always through some kind of trick or manipulation by Eric. This is the first kiss initiated by Sookie. Up until now, there’d been a lot of stage 1 through 3, especially 1 & 2 by Eric. He can’t get enough of looking at Sookie and I wonder if that’s what makes him so sexy, is the way he looks at her?

Alexander’s Skarsgård’s character Eric has just basically told Anna Paquin’s character that he doesn’t dare be around her any more since all he does is cause trouble for her and he doesn’t dare risk hurting her or getting her killed. He’s walking away. So here, let’s see how many stages we see (don’t worry if you’re at work, it only goes up to 9):

Okay, confession time for me. When I first saw this I literally had chills running up and down my whole body. Yes, even to my toes! I kid you not! After I had this very physical response (I think I also said “Whoa” out loud), the writer in me had to ask WHY? Certainly I don’t have this reaction anytime I see people kiss on screen. Especially when Alexander Skarsgård’s character here is looking so dorky in gym clothes. (Though he IS certainly adorkable here!) I’ve seen some great actors give me chills and then other times, not a one (for the same actor). And it’s not because “they’re hot” as I’ve seen some dull kisses from actors that I find “hot.”

WHAT about this scene did this for me? I don’t really know the answer, but I wondered if it was because of these stages? Do you know why? I’ve always wondered about chemistry between actors and how and why that translates onto the screen… Watch it again (go ahead, you know you want to). Here’s what I observed on rewatching.

  1. Notice his eyes when he first hears her calling his name. They snap up and track around to stare at her. (Chills are already starting again. Or maybe I just need to get Central Heat?) Anyway, it’s dang sexy…
  2. Camera switches back to her and more eye to eye contact. Intense eye to eye contact. And then her confession.
  3. His slow walk back maintaining constant eye contact. I think the constant part of this is essential here.
  4. Her arms go out for some hand to arm and hand to shoulder action. Her arms outstretched also symbolize her acceptance of him
  5. Then, oh then, frames 1:30 to 1:35. One hand draws in her hair on the back of her head. The the other hand does the sexy back-of-the-fingers swipe to the nape of her neck. They’ve skipped a couple of stages with him touching her this way (step 8: hand to head). This is a very intimate move and they haven’t even kissed yet. Look closely at these frames and see the emotions play across his face as he does this move. He almost winces and I think even just being this close to her is more than he’d ever hoped for. Also, this is a very vulnerable position for her since he’s a vampire. She’s trusting him. Having his mouth near her neck like that is very intimate/sensual, even if he wasn’t a vampire. I think it’s implied that he’s drawing in her scent here too.
  6. Her eyes open and she brushes by his ear
  7. He holds back, letting her initiate
  8. She looks him in the eye and they maintain eye contact
  9. She kisses him, but frames his face first in her hands, while maintaining eye contact
  10. He responds (le sigh)
  11. And the kiss escalates from there with his hands moving in her hair, etc.

The musical score was perfect for this scene too, but we can’t rely on music in our novel writing…

I’ve been really trying to figure out what makes some scenes in books so intense and others not so much, and I’m becoming more and more convinced that eye contact is the key. Or maybe it’s that the flat ones skipped some steps and it felt forced? I’ll have to study some more (dang)…

All kidding aside, there are reasons why some scenes where all they do is look at each other

(or just touch hands)

are loaded with tons more tension than a full-on sex scene. And I think it’s the same reasons why one sex scene can be sexy as hell and another is a yawner. Stepping your reader through the stages will help, as well as making sure you’ve laid the emotional foundation.

What else did you notice from the clip? Are you a True Blood fan? What did you think when you first saw this scene? What are some elements that help make scenes in books or movies sizzle? Why do some things fall flat?

*Normally on Fridays I take a writing lesson and illustrate it with clips from the TV show Firefly. I think I’m going to only do this when I come up with a good example instead of religiously doing one every Friday. If you have an idea for a Firefly Friday and would like to guest post, let me know!