So toss him the ukelele and let him sing. Or give him a baby to hold. Or a couple of nephews to run toy trains with. Or a ridiculous situation to work to his advantage. Women like a man who is adaptable and fun.
Here’s the thing about revealing your hero’s goofy side: he’s got to be crackerjack smart too. There’s a world of difference between the intelligent, playful fellow and the dufus couch potato who laughs at every joke, belches, and pops open another beer. That guy is nobody’s fantasy man! So keep the twinkle in your hero’s eye and don’t check his brains at the door.
For today’s excerpt, we’re going back to the tearoom. This is the first part of a scene I showcased for Banter, and now we’re seeing it from Elizabeth’s point of view. He’s not at all what she’s accustomed to, and therefore rather fascinating—a thing she’d never admit.
“Miss Elliot!” a voice called. Elizabeth pretended not to hear. There was no one she knew in this rabble. Besides, it was a man’s voice.
The woman in the mobcap looked hard at Elizabeth. “Patrons only, ma’am,” she repeated.
A hand touched Elizabeth’s elbow. Reluctantly she turned. It was the freckled clerk from Mr Lonk’s. “Over here!” he insisted.
When seen at close quarters, he was even worse than she remembered. She nodded politely and turned away, but his fingers kept hold of her elbow. “I have a chair for you! Come quickly before the Gorgon returns!”
Elizabeth hesitated. “I thank you, sir,” she began to say, but the door opened, and a fresh wave of people trooped in. Rain lashed at the windows; thunder made the china dance. Somewhere a child began to cry. “Oh, very well,” she said. She allowed him to lead her to a table by the window.
“It’s Mr…Gill, is it not? From the counting house?” she said, as he held the chair for her—his own, it seemed. That she had taken the only chair did not seem to trouble him; he simply found another.
“Please,” he said, sitting down, “share my tea.” He hailed the serving girl, and before Elizabeth had time to refuse, a fresh cup and plate were being placed. She removed her damp gloves and her ruined hat. She could think of no place to put them but the floor.
Meanwhile, Mr Gill filled her cup and passed the plate of sandwiches. “Beastly rainstorm,” he remarked, with a nod at the window.
“Er, yes.” She took a sip of tea. Politeness forced her to make conversation with this scruffy man, so she must think of something. At least he spoke clear, comprehensible English! But what sort of things did a clerk converse about?
Fortunately, Mr Gill began to talk—about rain in different parts of the world, of all things. Apparently he had traveled, for he spoke of hurricanes at sea and of the tropics, where the rainfall was unusually intense. Elizabeth smiled and nodded at what she hoped were the appropriate moments. Really, it was too much. The sandwiches, however, were delicious. She helped herself to another.
This Mr Gill could never be called handsome, of course, not with freckles and ruddy hair. For some reason the skin above his upper lip was paler than the rest of his face; she hoped he did not have a disease! But for the most part, he was passable. His chin was well shaped, and when he smiled his cheek showed a dimple. He was smiling now.
His hair was wild, and his clothing was no better. But that was to be expected, even without the rainstorm, for a clerk wouldn’t have a manservant to look after his clothes. He probably lived in the lower city, poor creature. Elizabeth looked away. But soon she was back to studying him. His eyes held an alert, intelligent look. Were they blue—or were they green?
And then Mr Gill did an odd thing; he tapped a biscuit sharply against the tabletop. Her gasp must have been audible, for he quickly apologized. “Old habit,” he said, grinning. “This reminds me of a nibby.”
Elizabeth looked at him with narrowed eyes. He’d apologized, but he did not appear to be at all sorry. In fact, his eyes were twinkling. “A what?” she said.
“A sea biscuit. Navy issue.”
Next up, V is for Villain!
[excerpt from Mercy’s Embrace: So Rough a Course by Laura Hile, 2009]