I recently wrote an article on the romance genre for The Editorial Eye, a newsletter for people fascinated by the minutae of words, English usage, and grammar. My point was that just because romances are popular, prolific, and have silly covers, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they have no literary merit. Part of the article was this quiz. Can you identify the romance excerpt? And, for extra credit, can you identify any of the writers or books? Answers will be posted in a day or so.
1. She began to go out along the rocks, very fast, holding her arms wide to balance herself, half-running, half-striding. He went after her. Another tall wave bowed, jarred, cracked and whispered at her feet. She turned to him a face he had never seen, blindly smiling, wild, white and wet.
2. Since she was not winning strikingly, the next best thing was to lose strikingly. She controlled her muscles, and showed no trembling of mouth or hands. Each time her stake was swept off she doubled it. Many were now watching her, but the sole observation she was conscious of was [hero’s], who, though she never looked towards him, she was sure had not moved away.
3. He deemed me born under his star; he seemed to have spread over me its beam like a banner. Once—unknown and unloved, I held him harsh and strange; the low stature, the wiry make, the angles, the darkness, the manner, displeased me.
4. Black pearls popped and flew everywhere. They bounced well; they bounced high. They rolled magnificently across the deck in every direction, as well as off the deck and down onto the next—a quick, nacreous spill swallowed up into the wet night, the roll and clatter smothered almost instantly by the hiss of the ocean.
I could guess that they are all romance excerpts. The second sounds most definitely like a romance excerpt to me because it could fit into a Regency…but I wouldn’t stake my life on picking the right one!
I happen to love excerpts 3 and 4. They have that rhythm, that poetry that I love, that wonderful and surprising use of words. Number one has merit…but I had to hesitate to picture a wave bowing, jarring, cracking and whispering…somehow it seems a bit rough. (Maybe the jarring part doesn’t fit?). But I’m not finding fault, just being picky.
I can’t name an author. But no. 4 has a familiar ring…the style seems one I’ve read before. So no extra points for me!
Hmm…and I like excerpt 1 the best! 🙂
These are great choices, Janet. I’m guessing 2 is the regency, which I haven’t read, but would like to . . .
Very interested to find out what’s what, and thanks for paying attention to language — which too often is seen as adornment rather than substance.
Is your essay online?
1 reminds me of the feeling of a Louisa May Alcott serial story I once read called A LONG FATAL LOVE CHASE (a very different departure from LITTLE WOMEN). But I couldn’t swear to it!
2 certainly makes me think of a romance novel. The sentence structures are unusual. Overall it feels like it ought to ring a bell but doesn’t.
3 reminds me of Charlotte Bronte but I wouldn’t stake anything on that either.
I love some of the wordsmithing in 3. It reminds me of one of my critique partners, but as she is not published in fiction (yet) that can’t be right.
Looking forward to hearing the answers!
Elena, clueless but intrigued 🙂
Is #2 your own, Cara? 🙂
I know I’ve read the “pearl” one, but can’t think where. As for the rest–I’m stumped!
No, it’s not mine, Amanda! 🙂 To be honest, I find excerpt #2 slightly awkward — though perhaps in context, it would not be so… (Now I hope it doesn’t turn out to be by someone I really admire, or I’ll be terribly embarrassed!)
I am such a dunce. I can’t tell which is which, but I would venture to say most books have an element of romance in them, so they’re all romance excerpts. Except if they’re not.
I’m nearly 100% that #4 is Judith Ivory, and it’s an excerpt from The Beast. Ivory is one of my favorite authors, and the scene with the broken strand of pearls is a memorable one!