Thursday, February 14, 2008

Classics versus romance

I thought I'd share with you a quiz that I took along to the library talk the other day. It was originally passed on by Presents author, Kate Walker.

I know passages of Mills and Boons are often read out of context. One of my friends has confessed that she used to go to dinner parties where part of the evening's entertainment was to read some of the more passionate passages from an M&B to accompaniment of hilarious laughter.

I've had excerpts printed in the paper that were a tad embarrassing.

However, I think this quiz illustrates rather well how any passage of writing taken out of context can be misleading. It also shows that romantic passages in all kinds of literature are a challenge to write. And, well, I'd be interested to hear what else you think it shows...

Here's the quiz. You're welcome to have a go at guessing the answers.


1. He glared at her a moment through the dusk, and the next instant she felt his arms about her and his lips on her own lips. His kiss was like white lightning, a flash that spread and spread again, and stayed.

2. He felt her trembling as he kissed her and he held the length of her body tight to him and felt her breasts against his chest through the two khaki shirts, he felt them small and firm and he reached and undid the buttons on her shirt and bent and kissed her and she stood shivering, holding her head back, his arm behind her.

3. K's mouth sought A's this time, with passion and urgency. To her amazement, her inhibitions had been burned away in the hot flame of desire. Her fingers dug into the bunched muscles of his back, raked through his hair. She fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, frantic with the need to touch him, to feel his body against hers without any barrier.

4. And as she melted small and wonderful in his arms, she became infinitely desirable to him, all his blood-vessels seemed to scald with intense yet tender desire for her, for her softness, for the penetrating beauty of her in his arms, passing into his blood. Softly, with that marvellous swoon-like caress of his hand in pure soft desire, softly he stroked the silky slope of her loins, down between her soft warm buttocks, coming nearer and nearer to the very quick of her. And she felt him like the flame of desire, yet tender, and she felt herself melting in the flame.

5. He was pure energy, fire to her water. His love consumed her, seared her, cauterised all her past wounds and set her free. She was a bird now, rising to some dizzying peak, and she could feel but not see.

6. His chest crushed her breasts, his flanks tangled with hers in the rough bed of straw. She could feel the heat of his skin penetrating his clothes and hers, and the strong masculine scent of him in her nose and her mouth, male and intoxicating. She thought afterwards that he had intended to pull away from her. There was a world of difference between a kiss, given and received between two totally upright adults, and this totally intimate embrace.

7. How long they looked into each other's eyes, he did not know. It seemed an eternity, though in reality it was no more that three or four seconds. Their hands acted first. By some mysterious communion the fingers interlaced. Then C fell upon one knee and strained her passionately to him. Their mouths met with a violence that shocked them both; made her avert her lips. He covered her cheeks, her eyes, with kisses. His hand at last touched her hair, caressed it, felt the small head through its softness, as the thin-clad body was felt against his arms and breast. Suddenly he buried his face in her neck. We must not . . .we must not . . .this is madness.

8. She saw his head bend to hers, knew he was going to kiss her, and found herself powerless to stop him . . .unwilling to stop him. Even before his lips pressed gently on hers, she had closed her eyes in mute submission. His first kiss was like the match flame that ignites the swift conflagration of a bonfire sprinkled with petrol. For a few seconds only his mouth moved lightly on hers letting her keep her lips closed, but making them quiver with the shock of an almost forgotten sensation. Then, abruptly, the arm around her tightened, and she felt the fierce heat of desire blaze up, not only in him but also in her.
She tore her mouth free. 'No. . .no. . .'

Your choices are:

John Fowles - French Lieutenant's Woman

D.H. Lawrence - Lady Chatterly's Lover

Tracy Sinclair - Proof Positive (Silhouette 1989)

Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls

Anne Mather - Duelling Fire (M&B 1981)

Anne Weale - Passage to Paxos (M&B 1981)

Henry James - Portrait of a Lady

Lorna Read - Love's Pursuit (Sapphire 1982)

I'll post the answers later.

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