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All right, Romance Junkies, grab your No. 2 pencils. Time to test your true RJ mettle. Listed below are ten locations, each the spot where a fictional couple had their first kiss. Can you name the book?
1. Over a Krispy Kreme doughnut
2. On the stroke of a stormy midnight, in view of the housekeeper
3. In a cell of an asylum
4. Behind a hedge, within earshot of the heroine’s big brother
5. In a cave, with cameras everywhere
6. Under a Paris lamp post during a thunderstorm
7. In a Highlands chapel, before the priest who is marrying them
8. Beside the heroine’s beater of a truck
9. In a room full of deadly weapons
10. Under an umbrella and over an armload of parcels
Whether or not you know all the answers, isn’t it fun to see the variety in that list? I’m struck, too, by how so many of these first kiss situations echo themes in the couple’s relationship: a doughnut signals permission to enjoy life and be oneself, release from physical chains foreshadows healing from psychological trauma.
Almost as if the authors planned it that way! No doubt some of them did, while others might be very surprised to have the parallels pointed out to them. I’m in the latter camp. Betsey and John, the heroine and hero in The Typewriter Girl, have their first kiss in a camera obscura on pier, and what was my deep, thoughtful reason for choosing it?
Because camera obscuras (or camerae obscurae, if we want to get all Latiny about it) are nifty.
Most of The Typewriter Girl occurs in a Victorian seaside town, so my research included the amusements and tourist attractions typical of that setting. When I came across an advertisement for a seaside camera obscura, which uses an optical lens to project an image inside a dark room, I knew there had to be one in Idensea. I loved the quaint wording of the advertisement, how it emphasized colorful and moving “views of life.” It served as a reminder that a moving picture was an exciting novelty at the turn of the century.
The romantic potential of a camera obscura was obvious. A dark room, close quarters. Plus, it allowed John, with his mechanical knowledge, to strut his stuff a bit, while Betsey gets a fresh, new experience, a running motif in the story.
Here’s a peek of them inside the camera obscura at the height of summer:
She brought the lens to rest on the pavilion at the head of the pier, then looked up from the table, eye to eye with him. The sea rolling on the tabletop shimmered in her pupils.
“Will I be the first girl you’ve kissed in here?”
Yes, he nearly answered. Here at the small of her back, her tweed jacket felt damp. He wanted to snake his fingers under the hem, under everything, dip his fingers in the pool at the base of her spine.
He dropped his arm to his side. His thumb touched along each damp pad of his fingers.
“I’ll not kiss you, Elisabeth.” His whisper penetrated the commotion on the pier, just beyond the walls of the camera. “Kiss you back, that’s what.”
And then some other stuff happens. I was delighted when my editor wrote, “Whew! Scorching!” at the end of it. But was the camera obscura more than just a nifty location? Did it echo something about Betsey and John’s relationship? Thanks to the serendipitous work of my subconscious, yes, and it has to do with the two of them trying to contain their relationship, keep it separate and secret. But the outside world seeps in anyway.
Now, let’s see how you did on that quiz: 1. Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie; 2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë; 3. Flowers From the Storm, Laura Kinsale; 4. The Duke and I, Julia Quinn; 5. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins; 6. Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase; 7. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon; 8. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer; 9. Naked in Death, J.D. Robb; 10. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott.
Thanks for having me, Romance Junkies! Readers, if you’d like to share the quiz, or have suggestions for more questions, find it on Pinterest and Goodreads.
By Alison Atlee
“Atlee’s outstanding debut unflinchingly explores the harrowing difficulties faced by an indigent young woman trying to support herself in the harsh and unforgiving man’s world of Victorian England…” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Readers should like Betsey, a feisty heroine who stands up for herself.” –Booklist
“The central relationship sweeps readers to a satisfying conclusion. Fans of Victorian-era romances will enjoy this seaside diversion.” –Library Journal
In Alison Atlee’s historical debut novel, THE TYPEWRITER GIRL (Gallery Books; on-sale January 29th, 2013; Trade Paperback Orignal; $15.00), a young woman in turn-of-the-century England struggles to be viewed on her own merits—but in a man’s world, that’s the unforgivable sin.
When Betsey disembarks from the London train in the seaside resort of Indensea, motivated to make a better life for herself, all she owns is a small valise and a canary in a cage. After attempting to forge a letter of reference she knew would be denied her, Betsey has been fired from the typing pool of her previous employer. Her vigorous protests and strong will left one man wounded, another jilted, and her character permanently besmirched.
But her life is about to change… because a young Welshman on the railroad quay, waiting for another woman, is the one man willing to believe in her.
Mr. Jones is inept in matters of love, but a genius at things mechanical. In Idensea, he has constructed a glittering pier that astounds the wealthy and tourists. An in Betsey, he recognizes the ideal tour manager for the Idensea Pier & Pleasure Building Company.
After a lifetime of guarding her secrets and breaking the rules, Betsey becomes a force to be reckoned with. Now she faces a challenge of another sort: keeping her independence and identity, while still surrendering to the reckless tides of love.
THE TYPEWRITER GIRL expertly navigates readers through the struggles of finding love, independence and strength in life. With a strong female character in a classic setting, THE TYPEWRITER GIRL speaks to women, personal growth, and ambition at any age. With an elegant style and compelling storyline, Atlee manages to capture the charm in this period piece that is as passionate as the time period that inspired it.
About the author: Alison Atlee spent her childhood fashioning nineteenth-century wardrobes for her dolls. As an adult, she has a master’s degree from Bread Loaf School of English, multiple editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and a bull for a next-door neighbor. She lives in Kentucky. Vist her at www.alisonatlee.com.