A kiss is just a kiss,
A sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply …
As time goes by.
— As Time Goes By"
music and words by Herman Hupfeld
I’m sorry, but let’s be serious here. A funny scene makes you laugh. A sad scene makes you cry. A scary scene freezes the blood in your head. And a love scene? Oh, honey, it should make you sigh. And in the case of great love scenes, I respectfully beg to differ with Herman Hupfield —a sigh is not just a sigh nor is a kiss just a kiss. No, ma’am, a kiss should make you tingle to the tips of your curled toes … just like in the movies.
So … as a romance writer who is quite fond of a toe curling AND in honor of Valentine’s Month … I just couldn’t resist talking about what I like to talk about (and read/write about) the most—KISSES!!
Of course, there are all kinds of kisses, but it’s the romantic ones that pucker my lips every single time. Blame it on being one of 13 kids starved for attention or an obsession with Gone With the Wind at the age of twelve, or even all those romantic movies I used to sneak downstairs and watch from the age of eight when my parents were in bed. Sigh … wonderful movies called Kisses for Breakfast, Pillow to Post, Susan Slept Here. Now why would a little girl (who is now an “old girl”) be so preoccupied with kisses, you ask?
Now, every romance writer has his/her own style as to what makes a kiss more than “just a kiss,” and frankly, I love them ALL. BUT … I really love kisses that have drama, tension, edginess and above all, lots and lots of desire, so that’s why I write kissing scenes like I do. Now I will be the first to admit that my style of kisses are certainly NOT everyone’s pucker preference, but for we “kissaholics,” the more pulse palpitations and toe curling going on, the better. That said, please humor me today as I share some of my favorite kisses from “The Daughters of Boston” series AND my new series, “Winds of Change,” along with a few tips as to how I like to crank up the “toe-curling” effect.
DISCLAIMER: Before I dive in to the actual scenes, I’d like to briefly share some basic things I’ve learned about writing romantically charged scenes. Please keep in mind that this is the way I write a love scene, but certainly not the only way to do so nor even the best way to do so. Frankly, I take my hat off to those authors who can write a toe-curling love scene without accelerated breathing and neck nuzzling, because to be honest, that is true talent, in my opinion. A contest judge once told me that the best authors are those who can say the most in the least amount of words. Well, I will go one step further and say the best romance writers are those who can elicit the most sighs with the least amount of body parts and action, making the most of an innocent look, smile, or word. I envy them because trust me—that ain’t me! So, if “edgy” offends you, step away from the blog …
B.) Utilize a healthy mix of “beats” (or character action … especially dramatic action) with dialogue like this scene from A Hope Undaunted:
Her hand flew back to slap his face, but he locked her wrist mid-air with a painful grip. “Is that all this was between us then? A little fun while your rich boyfriend was off limits?”
She jerked her hand free. “I never started any of this, and you know it. It was you.”
His fingers dug into her arms as he pressed her to the counter. “No, but you sure finished it, didn’t you?”
Massive palms slowly grazed the side of her arms, as if he thought she might be chilled, but the heat they generated made her feel anything but. In fluid motion, they moved to her waist, the gentle caress of his thumbs all but stealing her air. His blue eyes deepened in intensity as he leaned in, and his husky voice made her mouth go dry. “Let’s face it, Katie Rose,” he whispered, “I don’t want ice, I don’t want water and I definitely don’t want chocolate.” She caught her breath when his words melted warm in her ear. “I want you …”
D.) NEVER forget it’s all about the chase! Women not only want to be desired, they want to be pursued, so keep the pursuit going to the end. I’ve read books where the pursuit ends ¾ through and for me, the story drops off a cliff. I like to keep the emotional and romantic tension building right up until the “happily ever after.”
E.) Use emotionally charged words to enhance the mood of the scene like those underlined below in which I wanted to convey the hero’s anger manifested in dominance in this scene from A Hope Undaunted:
In a catch of her breath, he took her mouth by force, his late-day beard rough against her skin. A faint moan escaped her lips and all resistance fled, burned away by the heat of his touch, leaving her weak and wanting. His mouth roamed at will, no longer gentle as he devoured her, ravenous against the smooth curve of her throat, the soft flesh of her ear. With a guttural groan, he jerked her close with powerful arms, consuming her mouth with a kiss surely driven by the sheer will to ravage.
GENERAL WAYS I WRITE AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED LOVE SCENE:
1.) I LIKE TO WRITE IT FROM THE MALE POINT OF VIEW: I think one of the best ways to write a great kiss is to write it from the male point of view. For me, getting inside the male head during “the kiss” intensifies the “desire” factor. You can show his strength, his dominance, his angst at falling in love with a woman he wants but can’t have, which always enhances the “WOW” factor. Like Rhett with Scarlett in Gone With the Wind or … ahem … Collin with Faith in A Passion Most Pure. Here is a scene from A Passion Most Pure (and the first love scene I ever wrote), which looks at a first kiss through the eyes of the bad-boy hero, Collin McGuire:
"Don't ever say that again," he whispered, his jaw hard as rock. Fury pulsed in his temple. He tightened his grip. "Too good for the likes of me, is she now? Well then, what about you, Faith O’Connor? Are you too good for the likes of me?"
She caught her breath just before his lips found hers, and he felt the fight within her as he locked her in his arms. The taste of her mouth was so heady to his senses, a hoarse moan escaped his lips at the shock of it. She shivered before she went weak in his arms, and instinctively, he softened his hold.
She lunged back and clipped the edge of his jaw with a tight-fisted punch, her breath coming in ragged gasps. “How dare you—” she sputtered, the green eyes full of heat.
He grinned and silenced her with his mouth. She made a weak attempt to push him away, but he only drew her back with a force that made her shudder. He felt her pulse racing as his lips wandered her throat. The scent of her drove him mad. He kissed her with renewed urgency, the taste of her making him dizzy. And then, before she could catch her breath, he shoved her away, his heart thundering and his mind paralyzed.
2.) I LIKE TO WRITE IN AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE FOR BOTH THE HERO AND HEROINE: Surprise is always fun, but never more so than in a love scene. I like to shock my hero and heroine with a kiss neither expects, because let’s face it, catching a guy (and a gal) off-guard with a kiss provides top-notch romantic tension, in my humble opinion. Here is an example of a surprise kiss from A Passion Redeemed (and one of my favorites, so I’ve used it before), where the hero has already made it clear to Charity in the prior scene that he wants nothing more than friendship.
Dear God, what was happening? It was as if he had no control over his hand as it strayed from the towel to the soft curve of her neck. A tilt of her head, the blush of her cheeks, and suddenly he was two different men. One whose every muscle, thought and desire strained toward wanting her. The other, a distant voice of conscience and memory, quickly fading with every throb of his renegade pulse. Curse the effect of the wine! What else could explain this driving insanity pulsing through him right now? His fingers burned as they lingered, slowly tracing to the hollow of her throat. Against his will, he fixated on her lips, lush and full, staggered at the heat they generated. What was he doing? He didn’t want this.
Yes … he did.
All night he’d felt it mounting, a desire in his belly that grew tight at the sound of her laughter, the lift of her chin, the light in her eyes. A woman with cool confidence around everyone but him. Call it the wine. Or the fact he hadn’t been this close to a woman for well over a year. Or the intoxicating awareness that his very presence seemed to unnerve her. Whatever name it bore, it had him by the throat, taking him places he’d vowed he’d never be.
She blinked up at him, eyes wide and wondering. He was taking her by surprise and knew it. But no more so than him. He stared at her lips, feeling the draw and unwilling to fight it. His fingers moved up her throat to gently cup her chin, his eyes burning with intent. Slowly, carefully, he leaned forward, his mouth finally reaching hers, his breathing ragged as he tasted her lips.
A soft mew left her throat, and the sound ignited him. He pulled her close, his mouth demanding hers. She moaned while he pressed her to the counter, holding her there as he deepened the kiss. With a deep groan, his arms swallowed her up, drawing her small frame tightly against his. He pressed his lips to her hair, allowing her scent to flood his senses … to consume him.
Just like before.
His heart seized. What was he doing? The more he touched, the more he wanted. But she had ruined his life. Dashed his hopes. Destroyed his dreams. Dear God in Heaven, he wanted her … but he didn’t want her.
3.) I LIKE TO EXPOSE DESIRE IN AN UNWILLING CHARACTER: There is something so emotionally charged about a person whose romantic vulnerabilities are exposed (i.e the concept of still waters running deep). Dormant desire is a human condition we all relate to and when it’s brought to the surface, sparks can fly. Here is a kissing scene I just wrote a few days ago for book 2 of the “Winds of Change” series, A Heart Revealed. It involves Sean O’Connor, a confirmed bachelor whose only love affair is with sports and who has NO intention of getting romantically involved. Keep in mind that although he is a moral man, his relationship with God is not very deep at this point in the book, thus his response when he finds himself smack dab in the middle of this kissing scene.
If I were you, I’d consider yourself lucky, Miss Kelly. You don’t want a man like me who has no time for a woman, even one that I like.”
Her lips quivered, dislodging a tear that had settled in the corner of her mouth. Hope glimmered in her eyes. “You like me?” she whispered.
Lie, O’Connor, and get out of this car … now!
He dropped her hand like it was a Lefty Grove fastball stinging his bare palm. “Yes, Rose, but not that way.” He gripped the door handle so hard, it gouged into the calluses on his sweaty palm. “I gotta go.”
The heaving whimper that rose in the air fused his trousers to the seat as surely as if they were hand-stitched to the leather of her father’s Cadillac Victoria. She began to sob, hands to her face, and the whites of his eyes expanded in shock. “Rose, please—”
A wailing moan finished him off, and his blood froze as he watched her weep against the back of the Moroccan leather seat. God help him, he had way too much compassion for his own good, a trait he could obviously blame on his parents. With an agonizing sigh, he dropped his head in his hands and gave up the ghost, finally pulling her to his chest and patting her on the back. “Rose, please—don’t cry, please! It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard—I can’t handle it.”
Her body continued to jolt with heaves, and he stroked her hair, rocking her with a gentle motion as he whispered in her ear. “It’s okay, Rose, you’re going to be fine, I promise. You’ll find the right man for you … it just isn’t me.”
Her sobs grew, obliterating any thoughts but those for her welfare. “Rose, Rose,” he said, absently kissing her hair like he would with any of his sisters. He closed his eyes, and her scent aroused his senses, a heady meld of Breck shampoo with Chanel No. 5, warming his blood while he warmed her arms with the buff of his hands.
Her travail rose in volume and he panicked. He wove his fingers into her hair at the side of her head to cup her face in his hands. “Rose, shhh … it’s okay … it’s okay …”
Like he’d done a million times with Gabby or Katie or any of his nieces or nephews, he pressed his lips to her cheek, and her moist lashes lifted, spiky with tears and swollen eyes awash with surprise.
His breath caught in his throat at the tremble of her lips, parted and wet, the innocence of her face, mottled with weeping, and a once-familiar heat singed through his body like an electric shock. He could hear her breathing, husky and shallow like his, filling the silence between them with something other than grief. His gaze settled on her lips and his mouth went as dry as cotton, confirming that this kiss on the cheek was something far more dangerous and far more compelling.
He jerked away. “Rose, I need to go …”
“Sean, no, please …” Her voice was nasal and husky, drawing him back as surely as the hands she circled around his neck. Before he could retreat, she captured his mouth with her own, paralyzing him to the spot.
It was a brisk October night, but the taste of her lips made it feel like a blistering day in June, melting his resolve and fogging the windows as much as his mind. The woman may as well been made of magnetite, because her lips drew his with a pull he hadn’t felt since Clare. His eyelids weighted closed, heavy with need as his mouth devoured hers. He wrenched her close while their ragged breathing merged into one. Glazed with desire, he gripped the nape of her neck and deepened the kiss, a low moan trapped in his mouth as he pressed her to the seat.
Dear God, what I am doing?
But his body didn’t seem to care. She was like putty in his hands, warm and willing, and God help him, he hadn’t felt like this in such a long, long time. A soft moan left her lips, and he groaned again, lost in the taste of her mouth, the scent of her skin, the feel of her body clinging to his.
“Sean, I think I love you,” she whispered, and his body froze, colder than October frost on her father’s steel bumper.
He jerked away, his mind in a stupor. “Rose, no … you can’t …” Shame surged within, cooling the heat of her kiss. “Forgive me, please, I was wrong …”
“No, Sean, you weren’t! We’re attracted to each other—why do you fight it?”
He stared at her, his chest rising and falling with tortuous breaths and his body still humming from the heat of their kiss. Why? Because he’d only felt like this one time before, and that had ended in the most excruciating pain of his life. A fatal attraction, pulsing with passion and little else, starting fast and finishing faster …
Like this would … tonight.
He put his hand to the latch of the door. “Rose, I need to go …”
Need and want were two different things, apparently, at least to Rose Kelly. She sidled close and placed a gentle hand on his thigh, sending his pulse into overdrive faster than her daddy’s apple-red caddy. Reaching up to nuzzle his neck, she feathered his ear with her mouth, tempting him with words that were warm and husky. “Stay with me, please? Just for a while?”
He was a responsible man, moral to a fault and loathe to hurt anyone’s feelings. He needed to end this before he got in too deep and someone got hurt. And he would. He closed his eyes and drew her close as the blood throbbed in his veins.
Right after the next kiss.
Okay now ... SO, I don’t know about you, but I repeat—a kiss is not just a kiss! So, come on—don’t let me hog the mike here. It’s Valentine’s Month, for Cupid’s sake, and I’d like to see more kissing scenes, so show us what you got. Anyone who leaves a comment will be entered in a contest for winner’s choice of a signed copy of one of the Daughters of Boston books OR a signed copy of my next book when it comes out in September, A Hope Undaunted.
EXTRA BONUS: There will be a second giveaway for those who sign up for my newsletter today at http://www.julielessman.com/sign-up-for-newsletter/ OR if you signed up last week. Simply indicate that in your comment today, and I will send you my current newsletter. It features a glimpse of my preliminary cover for A Hope Undaunted, a sneak peek at a love scene from the book AND a new contest where you can win signed copies of A Hope Undaunted before it hits the stores in September.
And remember, a kiss is not just a kiss—it’s chocolate to a woman’s soul!
P.S. And, oh my, if any of you kissaholics missed the “Love Story” YouTube link from Tina’s Contest Update last Wednesday, you may want to check it out here. Very cool!