Queen of Swords in paperback

On September 25, 2007, the paperback edition of Queen of Swords will be released. That is one month minus two days.

I never did open things up for questions about Queen of Swords. For a long time after I wrote it, I was too unsettled to have anwered them, anyway. It’s hard to do bad things to your characters, even when the story demands it. For example, I know many people were sad or even upset with me when a character died in Fire Along the Sky. I was pretty upset with me too, to tell the truth. Continue reading “Queen of Swords in paperback”

some good news

There had been some theorizing in various webby corners that the new Judith Ivory might be a reprint of one of her early novels. But no. No, I say. It’s a new novel, and I am thrilled.

How sad. It is a reprint (but a revised reprint) of her first novel, Starlit Surrender. Robin was the first to dash my hopes, so credit goes to her.

However, she also informs us that Ivory is working on a new novel, and there’s soon to be an interview with her on the AAR website. So Robin dashed my hopes only to raise them up again.

First, a suggestion: If you ever run across either Bliss or Dance (written under Judy Cuevas) for less than twenty dollars each, I suggest you grab them as they are out of print. Set in France in the late 1800s and early 1900s, these novels demonstrate what historical romance can be. I like Dance a little better than Bliss, and in fact while Dance is a sequel, it does stand on its own.

I intend to give away both Bliss and Dance in a drawing sometime in the next couple months. Both novels, along with the new one. Watch this space.

The information on the new book (now up at Amazon) has this little blurb:

Beautiful, level-headed Christina Bower has every reason to avoid Adrien Hunt. He is an earl while she is of common birth-he will never offer marriage. He is a man of intrigue, perhaps playing both sides in a most perilous game. Worst of all, the arrogant, lethally charming rogue revels in his reputation as libertine, unrepentant of the many bedchambers through which he’s romped and the many hearts he’s broken.

If only the blurb writers were as talented as Judith Ivory. This sounds like run of the mill historical romance, but I have no doubt she will work her usual magic. The thing about Judith Ivory is this: no fluff. Humor, yes. She does humor well. But mostly she does interesting characters. Complex, intriguing, beautifully written characters. So I’m looking forward to this newest novel of hers (out one month from today), which I am sure will be worth the wait.

Note: I had a brief look on the web for reviews of Dance, and here’s what I came up with:

Three years ago Marie DuGard fled Paris on the eve of her wedding to Sebastien de Saint Vallier’s brother. Now she has returned, slimmer, prettier, bolder and even more of a challenge to Sebastien who has never forgotten their one illicit liaison. Marie has spent the intervening years in America where she has perfected her film-making skills and received some acclaim, yet she longs for her father’s acceptance and is secretly pleased that he has sent Sebastien to meet her at the station. […]Dazzling in its subtlety, brilliant in its ability to capture the aura of the changing times and sensually alluring, “Dance” is a novel to be savored by those who enjoy a sophisticated, thought-provoking read that stretches at the boundaries of the genre. Well done, Ms. Cuevas! Muze, Inc.

A bright light at the end of a rotten day

I’m not going to give you rotten day details. Instead I’m going to annouce that Judith Ivory has a new book coming out in October. Yes. Judith Ivory. New Book. It’s called Angel in a Red Dress.

No cover up yet on Amazon, but it is listed: “Angel in a Red Dress” (Judith Ivory)

I think the world of Judith Ivory, who can write a beautiful sentence and tell a fantastic story and get the historical details right. The three goddesses of historical romance: Loretta Chase, Judith Ivory, Laura Kinsale. And Auntie Beff, don’t fuss at me about the order, cause it’s alphabetical.

Stream of (Sexual) Consciousness

This entry is part 14 of 15 in the series The Art and Craft of Writing Sex Scenes

This excerpt from Judith Ivory’s Untie My Heart is anything but a typical or generic sex scene.

The two main characters in this historical romance are Stuart Aysgarth, a viscount, and a woman called Emma Hotchiss. Emma has a very shady past but at this point in her life she is an utterly respectable and unremarkable woman who owns a sheep farm in Yorkshire. Stuart gives her cause to seek him out when he causes harm to her livestock, but after getting no satisfaction she takes matters into her own hands. Thus, he catches her in the act of robbing him (I’m simplifying this, please note). So he ties her to a chair to keep her from running off, but more importantly because this is an opportunity he had been hoping for. With her questionable connections and background, she can help him with a problem — or if she prefers, he can call the sheriff.

There is a long, interesting, complex discussion between these two while she’s tied to the chair, business negotiations and personal observations, all fraught with a great deal of sexual tension arising from strong mutual attraction. Emma is experienced and not easily frightened, but she is at a bit of a loss on how to handle Stuart, who tells her she must give up two minutes of her time to experience the personal trespass he has suffered over a longer period.

This initial confrontation, discussion and negotiation takes many pages, and eventually they get to kissing (another couple pages). Remember that Emma is still tied to the chair where this excerpt begins.

Untie My Heart. Copyright Judith Ivory.

Somewhere along the way his hand returned to her knee, light, dry, warm possessive. Just his hand on her knee. For balance. Still, for a second, she knew a tiny panic. He stroked it away. His thumb rubbed the inside of her knee, two soft, short strokes along the bend, the first reassuring, the second bringing such a shocking physical rush of blood to the core of Emma, she nearly lost her breath. Her legs … dear heaven, her legs. She felt all at once exposed … aware how close he was to… well, he could have put his hands, that thumb, those fingers anywhere.

Almost gentlemanly, sweetly, as if he read her mind, he broke away long enough to lean over sideways. With one hand, he yanked at the ties at her legs, ripping them in part, setting her right knee free first –oh, lovely!–coming back to kiss her again briefly–then stopping long enough to lean in the other direction. She lifted her free foot out, straightening her knee to stretch, as he undid her other one. Not that he was letting her free or up exactly, because as soon as her legs were freed, he came back to that astonishing kiss, having her rather trapped against the chair.

Then, the next thing she knew, his hands hooked under her knees, and he lifted her legs up as he moved forward and straddled the chair himself, sitting, while in the same movement lifting, running his hands under her legs down her calves to her ankles. He sat, taking her legs up over his. He still had to bend forward slightly, he was so much taller, but he was less awkward, more comfortable, she thought, sitting on the chair-until he moved forward and brought their bodies close, up against each other. She would have slapped him perhaps. Maybe. Difficult to say, since her hands were still held behind her. In any event, it was a shock at first to feel him — his male body up against her spraddled female one.

He bent forward, kissing her harder. One moment, his hands were at the sides of her, gripping the chair posts over her head. He curved his hips hard against her, and she knew the heady thickness of him. All so oddly familiar, yet not. The next moment, one of his hands was between them, at her waist, then the back of his hand glided down her belly, almost protective. Then he took his hand away–and nothing. Absolutely, positively nothing whatsoever was between them. Unless one counted something else she hadn’t felt in a very long time: a very capable, fully naked, and perfectly beautiful male erection.

He either knew or was inventing on the spot how to have sexual congress on a chair … they were about to…she was letting him … no, she jerked on her hands, they weren’t free in back….she was his prisoner…wasn’t she? Was she letting him? She wet her lips to say stop. The word didn’t come out. Did she want him to? Now was certainly the moment to say so. Decisions seemed to hang, demanding her attention, yet her brain couldn’t seem to keep up with her body.

She felt herself swollen, lit, as the head of his penis dropped against her. It slid down the length of her in an instant acknowledgement of how ready she was. The warm movement of his hand was there, adjusting himself into position – here was certainly the moment to protest. Did she want to?

Then it was too late to protest anything. With a swift, sure movement of hips, he thrust himself deeply, thickly inside her. Her body all but pulled him into her, swallowing him up. His arms were at either side of her again, enfolding her against the chair, against him, his chest, the spicy-warm smell of him…his strong, muscular shoulders hunched toward her, one hovering at her face till the starchiness of his shirt rose into her nostrils like steam, till she tasted it in her mouth. . . his hips under her, his presence inside her, hot and substantial, driving … intrusive, amazing . . . he lifted into her with a kind of rhythmic spasm that was so satisfying she bit down on his shirt, clenching her teeth. Seconds. It lasted seconds — perhaps three deep, solid stokes of Stuart’s body into hers. While her own contracted around his the moment of entry and simply kept contracting… tighter and tighter and tighter. . . until an explosion… or implosion, things collapsing and shoving and moving inside as she couldn’t remember in years, maybe ever, . . with both herself and Stuart making such noises, mutters, animal sounds, groans.

She came to her senses again like this, her heart pounding with him right there in her face, his body up against her, still inside her.

Two minutes. Had it taken two minutes? Feasible. It was entirely feasible.

When I read this over again I am entirely taken in by Emma’s voice, her very distinctive voice as we follow her thoughts through this scene. She’s such a down-to-earth, practical woman, unprepared but not particularly upset by Stuart’s direct approach. More upsetting to her is her own inability to produce the reactions she knows she supposed to have. She’s supposed to not want this; she should be protesting. But her body has the upper hand, and her body wants Stuart, and she goes along for the ride, amazed, dumbfounded, but absolutely able to acknowledge the pleasure it brings her. This has nothing to do with love; she never even thinks about that.

The approach here is very explicit: we see what Emma sees, and feel what she feels. Every one of Stuart’s actions is recounted, but in rather sober, vaguely surprised language. She registers things: the shock of his body against hers, the familiarity of a male body still after a long dry spell, and a very calm assessment of his body in a state of sexual arousal. What kind of woman, in this situation, thinks a very capable, fully naked, and perfectly beautiful male erection. Notice the juxtaposition of the sensible observation (capable) with the appreciative one (perfectly beautiful).

She debates with herself what she wants, and her role in this whole business. I’ve read this many times to see if I could talk myself into believing that she is being abused or raped, but I can’t see it. She knows perfectly well how to stop him, considers doing that, and doesn’t. She never makes a direct and conscious decision to go ahead and have sex with the man; it’s more of a decision she makes by letting opportunities slip by. Once the act has actually begun, she’s caught up in the physical sensations, and they are provided for us in detail: the things she smells, tastes, feels, sees.

Her final thoughts — Two minutes? Entirely feasible are completely in character, and perfectly caught.

I’ve wondered too what to make of the lack of dialog between them in these two minutes — they certainly chatter away in the first twelve or so pages of the scene, and now complete verbal silence. This experience is for Emma a fairly solitary one; if she looks into Stuart’s eyes we don’t know about it; it’s all about what’s going on inside her own head and her own body.
Has Emma changed in the course of this encounter, has the narrative shifted? That’s something you’d have to decide for yourself by reading the whole novel, but I think that this is in fact a turning point for her, and for Stuart.

I think I like this and find it to be successful because it is unique and unusual and evocative. I’m curious what y’all think.