All the same, tread carefully. You want the reader realizing that, in spite of appearances, the pair are perfect for one another.
Recognize that there are hurdles that your reader won’t be able to cross. Character defects that are distasteful—compulsive lying, say, or sleeping around or a malicious temper—are not “forgivable” sins in a Romcom hero or heroine. Your reader already knows too many real life people like this, and while they say they’ll reform, they usually do not. So choose your prejudices carefully. Foibles, misunderstandings, incorrect first impressions, okay?
Pride—and its cousin, stubbornness—can be delightfully entertaining. As with prejudice, it’s up to you to keep things light. Readers love banter and sparring. Livid anger and purposeful, ugly insults, not so much.
Today’s excerpt is a fun exchange between Elizabeth and two competing suitors. Which does she favor? And will she be able to overcome her earlier prejudices against him to find true love?
Elizabeth felt her heart turn over in her chest. She mustn’t give in! He had kissed her once before, just like this. She pushed against his chest, fighting with all her strength. He did not seem to mind.
And then Elizabeth felt a tapping on her shoulder. “Pardon me,” said a man’s voice.
McGillvary’s eyes never left Elizabeth’s. “Go away, Ronan,” he said. “Not now.”
“I am not Ronan.”
At that Elizabeth turned her head. From the shadows her cousin’s face leered. “Mr Elliot!” she cried. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing!” he said wrathfully. “I go to the trouble to escort you home, and what do I find? You, being compromised!” Mr Elliot puffed out his chest. “Unhand my cousin, sir!”
“I never asked you to come for me!” objected Elizabeth. “I am perfectly able to take care of myself!”
“As I see. I suppose you enjoy being mauled by this…person?” Mr Elliot addressed McGillvary. “I should call you out for this!”
Admiral McGillvary laughed. “Please do!” he said. “Swords or pistols?”
Elizabeth extracted herself from McGillvary’s embrace. “Don’t be ridiculous!” she told Mr Elliot. “Duelling is undignified. And illegal.”
“It is well that I am a law-abiding man, Cousin, or I certainly would.”
She noticed Admiral McGillvary looking over Mr Elliot’s shoulder. “Where is the carriage, Elliot?” he said.
Mr Elliot lifted his chin. His eyes shifted.
“You did bring a carriage, did you not?” demanded Elizabeth. She caught sight of the porters. “Upon my word!” she cried. “You don’t mean to convey me home in a sedan chair!”
“There were no carriages available,” Mr Elliot complained. “Under the circumstances I did the best I could.”
“Well of all the shabby things!” said Elizabeth. “I never take a chair! Who knows what filthy invalid has been in it? And my dress will be quite ruined by the rain.”
“It already is.” This was from Patrick McGillvary.
“Oh!” she cried, stamping her foot at him. “I’ll not be conveyed home by either of you!”
Mr Elliot’s face was dark with anger. “I don’t know why I put up with you!”
Elizabeth returned the glare. “You take too much upon yourself, sir!”
“Easy,” Admiral McGillvary warned. “We have an audience.” He took hold of Elizabeth’s hand. “Smile, Elliot,” he said. “You are being closely observed.”
Elizabeth glanced behind. A small crowd had gathered.
McGillvary waited a moment and then nodded. “I present to you your cousin, ma’am,” he said, speaking crisply. He gave Elizabeth’s hand to William Elliot and made a bow. “My carriage is at your disposal.” he indicated the door with a sweep of his arm.
“What?” said Elizabeth blankly.
“It is undignified to fight like cats in the rain,” McGillvary murmured. “Especially before this crowd.”
“You wish me to go with him?”
“Indeed he does!” said Mr Elliot. “Now get inside! God only knows what you’ll say next!”
“You heard the man,” said McGillvary, smiling. “Inside.” He lowered his voice. “No worries, my dear.”
Elizabeth looked at him uncertainly, resting a hand on the doorsash. “Admiral,,” she said, “I really do not think…”
“Just do as you’re told!” snapped mr Elliot, giving her a nudge. “I’d like to get out of the rain.”
Up for Saturday, crafting the “I Quit” moment.
[excerpt from Mercy’s Embrace: The Lady Must Decide by Laura Hile, 2010]