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!
Susanna 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!
Amara 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?
Miss 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?