Friday Feature: Favorite Words I Read This Week

Photo by Piotr Makowski on Unsplash

Yes, this is the same book as last Friday. I’m a slow reader with a day job, so it’s more Kinsale!

The good news is, there’s an embarrassment of “good words” riches to choose from with this novel. Here’s just one sample, that the heroine (Melanthe) says to the hero (Ruck) after they’ve finally gotten together. For the moment.

“If I say to thee” – Melanthe’s voice was unsteady – “that I cherish and love thee, but that I am frightened at the weight of it – wouldst thou understand me?”

For My Lady’s Heart, Laura Kinsale, 1993.

This line stopped me in my tracks because it goes right ahead and makes text what is one of the most important subtexts of romance novel conflict: a character is in love, but is afraid of what that means.

This sentence is in some ways astonishingly plain. A lot of characters understandably bury the reality of “I love you but I’m scared” under misdirection and self-preservation. There are all kinds of interesting forms this conflict can take, too, which is part of how we get such a range of plots and character arcs in romance. But in this case, Melanthe just goes ahead and lays bare the fundamental conflict of falling in love.

In other ways, though, the sentence respects and reflects that recognizing this conflict is not the same as solving it. Melanthe structures her observation with a conditional and a question (if I told you/would you understand?), and the narrator interrupts it to remind us of the unsteadiness of her voice. She still needs, and seeks, recognition of her feelings from Ruck.

It’s a beautiful moment where we see both that she understands herself, her own mind, and her emotions; and that she’s still at a point of negotiating that understanding in the context of a relationship with a partner.

2 thoughts on “Friday Feature: Favorite Words I Read This Week

  1. This is exceptional close reading work.

    I am half inspired to start paying closer attention when I read romance, because you’re right – some of the writing is really rich and beautiful, and there are moments where there’s so much meaning in a single sentence. And half like, ugh, I am still recovering from doing close reading in grad school…which I left 5 years ago.

    Until I make up my mind about whether I’m inspired to follow your lead (at least a teensy bit), I’m going to keep enjoying your work.

    Like

    • Thanks so much for reading! As a fellow grad school survivor, I definitely hesitated about turning the reading I do for pleasure into anything vaguely resembling what I did in grad school! So far the blogging medium (and most of all being able to discuss with people who are reading these books because they *love* them) has kept it fun 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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