Raising The Almighty Chin!

Miss Bates is fascinated by romance writers’ use of gesture and body language in establishing character. She wrote about her preoccupation in an analysis of Heyer’s Devil’s Cub and cemented her heroine-chin obsession in her quasi-review of Lynne Graham’s The Greek’s Chosen Wife. Since then, ne’er a romance novel goes by without Miss Bates noting the romance writer’s iterations of the heroine’s lifted chin in fury, defiance, revolt, or mulishness. She indulges in a post about some of the chins she’s read in the past few months. Hope you enjoy it!

Named_Of_DragonSusanna Kearsley, wondrous writer of romance-gothic-mystery-history, raises heroine chin with élan. In Named Of the Dragon, heroine Lyn Ravenshaw raises chin at her first encounter with surly hero Gareth Gwyn Morgan:

It was the patronizing tone, I think, that set my teeth on edge. I never had liked being spoken to as if I’d only half a brain. Clenching my fists in my pockets, I lifted my chin. “Most people, Mr. Morgan, put the dog’s name on the collar, not their own, so you needn’t act so damned offended.”

His dark glance flicked me, unimpressed, and without a word he whistled for the dog and started walking round me. I felt my eyebrows rising and irrationally I looked towards the trees, seeking a witness to his rude behavior. I couldn’t hold my tongue. “And a bloody good day to you, too.”

Isn’t that delicious? Heroine-chin says, “Don’t patronize me!” Consider everything Kearsley conveys with her characters’ bodies and voices: anger, contempt, the heroine’s raised brows and “clenched fists”, the hero’s “dark glance”. Their bodies spar as much as their voices and that can only mean one thing in rom-speak, ATTRACTION!

Once_BelovedAmara Royce’s Once Beloved has one of Miss Bates’s favourite romance hero incarnations, man of the earth Daniel Lanfield. What’s better than a hero who grapples with raging waters and lost sheep? And a heroine who comes to his rescue, despite the deep animosity between them? Royce’s Victorian-set novel boasts a most unusual chin phenomenon: raised hero-chin! Daniel, however, doesn’t raise chin to Helena, but to his brother Gordon who chastises him for associating with the hussy-heroine:

“Gordon,” Daniel warned, “I shan’t tell you again to mind your manners. Mrs. Martin and her niece saw me and Hal struggling with the flock by the water. She was kind enough to bring me a warm meal, but the storm raged too strongly for her to go home safely.”

“So you slept in the barn?” Gordon said skeptically.

“Aye, so I slept in the barn,” Daniel replied, his chin up.

“And Mrs. Martin here was only being a good neighbour?”

“Aye. Watch your tone.”

Miss Bates found this exchange intriguing because the hero doesn’t raise chin in defiance, anger, or stubbornness towards the heroine. Daniel’s chin is raised in the heroine’s defense, in defiance of an older male authority. Is it feasible to surmise that heroine chin is a subtle feminist romance convention: the moment when she confronts and matches the hero’s male authority? And what does it say that the hero’s chin remains staidly lowered because he need never do so?

On a heroine-chin side-note, of the sampling Miss Bates noted in her recent reading, the greatest number of heroine chin-raising occurred in Anne Gracie’s Gallant Waif, the novel with the earliest publication date. Can we also speculate that romance chin-raising diminishes as the genre’s women’s independence, freedom, and power increase?

Innocent_On_Her_Wedding_NightMiss Bates final chin-raising example is an homage to her blogging-buddy, Shallowreader and their HP-love. Sara Craven’s Innocent On Her Wedding Night arrived in a book-loving package from Shallowreader to Miss B *blows kisses* … The HP has chin-aplenty, maybe because it’s the present-day category that most hearkens back to Old Skool romance: alpha heroes, ingenue heroines, Big Mises, and power imbalance between hero and heroine. It is the romance iteration easily ridiculed by its non-readers and in turn eliciting the deepest loyalty in its fans. Craven’s novel has the familiar hard-done-by-heroine thanks to the hero’s mistrust and judgement. Reunited husband-and-wife, complete with the heroine’s paradoxical virginity, Miss Bates loved it. Most of the novel is told in flashback. Heroine Laine reconsiders the events leading to her estrangement from Daniel, the heart of which was honeymoonus interruptus, giving rise (sorry-not-sorry for punning) to heroine chin:

He leaned back in his chair, his gaze insolent. “Not the idyll I had planned – exploring the countryside by day and each other at night – but, hey, you can’t have everything.”

She winced. “Dan – don’t, please.”

“Don’t what? Upset you with a passing reference to my former carnal intentions?” His voice had the edge of a scalpel. “Believe me, my girl, you’ve got off lightly.”

She lifted her chin. “Whether I believe you or not, the lock on my bedroom door has no key. I’d like it found.”

Don’t you love the body language: the hero “leans back,” possesses “an insolent gaze,” and scalpel “edged” voice; the heroine “winces,” initially maintaining her subservient and appeasing manner, the manner to which alphahole has been accustomed. Then, glorious CHIN is raised when he is too pushy. She asserts her right to the integrity of her body and space. This pushes the hero into greater alpha-hole feats, but it only makes his grovel, the helplessness of his feelings, and the heroine’s desirability the sweeter.

To end Miss Bates chin-post (one of many, she hopes), she leaves you, dear reader, with this marvelous chin moment from Emma Barry and Gen Turner’s Star Dust:

He dug deep then, went past the charm, the confidence, and into a deeper part of himself, the part that didn’t know what to do with her kids or her disdain. And he put that into his next: “I truly am sorry. About all of it. I was an ass. It won’t happen again.” He spoke that last so slow and distinct, each word could have been its own sentence. She remained unmoving, her stance unaccepting. His heart slowed. Then her chin came up.

A marvelous moment, a unique chin-romance moment, when the hero’s self-humbling results in the heroine’s restoration, when his apology raises her, so that she need not lift her chin in defiance, but in acknowledgement, in forgiveness. The hero has made things right. Miss Bates expected no less from two of romance’s most compelling practitioners.

Miss Bates is grateful to Sourcebooks (via Netgalley), Lyrical Press (via Netgalley), Shallowreader, Emma Barry and Gen Turner for providing the romance texts discussed in this post. She bought Devil’s Cub out of her own meager spinster means.

What of you, dear readers, read any good chin lately?

22 thoughts on “Raising The Almighty Chin!

  1. I LOVE this post. And I am a total sucker for the Chin. My favourite scene in Heyer’s Arabella when she pretends she is a great heiress, gets tipsy and intrigues Mr Beaumaris involves Chin:

    Arabella glanced at her host, and found that he had raised his quizzing-glass, which hung round his neck on a long black riband, and was surveying her through it. She put up her chin a little, for she was by no means sure that she cared for this scrutiny. ‘Indeed?’ she said.
    It was not the practice of young ladies to put up their chins in just that style if Mr Beaumaris levelled his glass at them: they were more in the habit of simpering, or of trying to appear unconscious of his regard. But Mr Beaumaris saw that there was a decidedly militant sparkle in this lady’s eye, and his interest, at first tickled, was now fairly caught. He let his glass fall, and said gravely: ‘Indeed! And you?’

    I adore it.
    Also, as I just read them recently, I noticed a lot of Dixie Browning romances have chin. But seems equally distributed between the wobbling-I-need-protection-chin and the stubborn-don’t-mess-with-me-chin:

    ‘She told him, described the scene and said she’d dragged the poor animal off the street. “I’d better call the animal control people. I d-d-don’t even know if they’re the proper ones to c-c-call. He looked hungry. I don’t think he’d been eating regularly.” Her chin wobbled, and it was all Thad could do not to reach out for her. But before he could, she turned away and hurried off in the direction of her bedroom.’
    (Single Female (reluctantly) Seeks)

    ‘Kurt shook his head, but when he saw that stubborn little chin of hers ratchet up another notch, he let it pass.’
    ***
    ‘A wattled chin wobbled indignantly. “I remember what you said. I’m not likely to forget it.”

    (Stryker’s Wife – although I am not sure what a wattled chin looks like exactly…)

    ‘Something about that wild red hair and that stubborn little chin snagged at his memory, but he couldn’t quite place her.’
    ***
    ‘She looked at him then, all big, bruised eyes and delicate, wobbling chin. “I’m not sure. I think so.”

    (Cinderella’s Midnight Kiss)

    I like your speculation that there is more chin raising where there is less independence and freedom for women. It definitely seems much more prevalent in the older (or older style) roms than the newer.
    Clearly:
    1) PEOPLE need to research this phenomenon.
    2) I think this needs to be a sub-set of the genre somewhere – because I for one WILL always read a story that has chin.
    🙂

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    • Thank you for the amazeballs comment! 🙂

      The Arabella passage is DEFINITIVE: it says defiant herone-chin in a perfect way. It’s everything heroine-chin should be. Obviously, I need to read or listen to this pronto.

      The “wobbling I need protection chin” should be part of the research because it’s a “sub-set” of chin, an important one. It usually is accompanied by lower-lip being bitten, just as defiant chin is accompanied by the eye-sparkle we read in Arabella. Now “wattled chin” brings me in mind of something “wrinkly” … this wouldn’t do for the heroine. So, off to the OED I go … Wattle: “a material for making fences, walls, etc., consisting of rods or stakes interlaced with twigs or branches.” This is really very very strange, an editorial oversight possibly. Or the heroine suffers from Criss-crossed Chin Syndrome.

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      • Oh I know the exact chin as my son used to get it (he now sports a beard so it is harder to detect) – it is a faintly dimpled ripple. Only the sharpest eyes can detect it. The chin holder is cool and stoic, their distress hidden but for the slightest crumpling of the skin on their chin.

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      • Criss-Crossed Chin Syndrome – LOL!! that is awesome. Now we just need a rom called that: Violet & the Dilemma of the Criss-Crossed Chin??? The Rake who Succumbed to the Chin? The Taming of a Chin…?

        Also: Arabella is one of my top 10 fav Heyers; it is a culmination of all that is cliche in romances but done so artfully and wryly, whilst cleverly poking fun itself that I just LOVE it to pieces.

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          • ooh – Well — (*clears throat*)
            My Favourite Heyer Regencies (I have separate lists for her others) in no particular order – because they float about depending on my mood…PLUS my reasonings… 😉

            – Frederica – best non-heroine, most excellent & most terrible sibling relations, Alverstoke is SO good and the perfect match for Frederica.

            – Devils Cub – Mary Challoner is my spirit animal

            – Sylvester – best non-heroine; perfectly ridiculous secondary characters, including a dog and a moppet who isn’t the lest bit moppishy and Sylvester (???) (*Valancy faints*) He is so proud and judgmental and fierce – it’s nice to see him taken down a peg or two.

            – Venetia – I LOVE everything about this one: the anti-hero; the beautiful heroine who doesn’t irritate; the bookish-ness; the farm/estate house setting – the scenes with Damerel – Le Sigh

            – Lady of Quality – I think the last Heyer wrote – and beautifully done. Slightly older heroine, independent and gives as good as she gets. The non-attractive, brusque and rude hero? It’s like taming of the shrew, but I like both of them SO much better. You can see them unconsciously start to care for each other – it is adorable.

            – The Nonesuch – SOOO good. I can’t even. Much more rurally Austen-like than many of her others – but with the perfect amount of Heyer-patented farcicalness.

            – The Convenient Marriage – Adorable Horry with her eyebrows and stammer; offers herself in place of her sister. She is so blunt and naive. Spends money like it’s water. Has the most insane family. And a pet monkey. Need we say more?

            – The Corinthian – many don’t like this one – but I love it. It hits all the right notes and has a splendid mystery to boot. Plus girl dressing up as a boy and running away to escape marriage? SOLD. (this always ties with The Masqueraders – brother and sister on the run who switch genders – it’s clever and Sir Anthony Fanshawe is tres cool.)

            – Friday’s Child – Cleverness personified and the best collection of beta-heroes in the world. Ever. It’s subversive and funny and every time I read it, I fall in love with all of them all over again.

            Do you have a list??? (*prepares OWN notepad*) because that would TOTALLY justify me going and reading them all. Again. 🙂

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  2. I love this post as well! Ah, the chin – maybe it’s so expressive because it’s so close to the tongue? Your commentaries on the use of body language are wonderful reminders that there are other ways to show the reader what a character is thinking, besides just telling them via the interior voice point of view. Also, body language, especially when accompanied by other physical cues for the scene, such as sights, sounds, smells, can draw the reader far deeper into the scene than mere interior monologue. Just another example of “show don’t tell,” although this is perhaps under rated, since it’s sort showing rather than telling via exposition, and all exposition, particularly in romance, seems to get a terrible rap these days. I’d like to point out that Heyer loves the manly chin as well as the female chin, although her manly chin need only exist in a firm and decisive form; no lifting of it is required to denote a hero’s strength of character 🙂 It also functions as a warning to a heroine, one very often pointed out by an older (and possibly somewhat envious lady) who tells the heroine to be wary of that chin, as it belongs to a masterful man. Naturally, fireworks ensue – with body language on the part of the heroine. We could look at Horry’s relationship with Lethbridge in the Convenient Marriage as one long body language and event laden narrative of rebellion, which in a more recent book might have been much less entertainingly rendered with a lot of rebellious thinking. Thanks for another thought provoking post Kay!

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    • You’re welcome! I loved your discussion of the chin as an opportunity to tell and show at the same time … while avoiding the tedium of exposition. I think the worst culprits are the writer who use first person narration; it’s a literary device that should only be wielded by a master!

      Heyer’s use of body language is the non-pareil!

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      • On a day when you REALLY just want to get your snark on, you could always do a post just on terrible first person romances 😉 There are so so many of them. I’ve read a few 1st person romances by authors I otherwise really enjoy which ended up in the DNF pile, or when finished were just in the “meh” category. I kind of blame “that book”, AKA FSOG, for the proliferation of this trend, and keep hoping that it will run its course

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        • Ha! That would be a lot of fun: I actually know that my snark would eviscerate Maya Banks’s Breathless series. It’s first-person awfulotica … I have no idea why I had it in the paper TBR, but when I tried to read the first one, it was ugh and DNF. If I ever read a combination of first-person narration, awfulotica, and New Adult, it may just kill me. 😉

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