Monthly Archives: February 2011

7 Kiss Scenes to Heat Up…Your Writing

Stumped on how to write a moving kissing scene? Here are 7 types to get the juices flowing. Just don’t end up drooling on your own hand while, ahem, “practicing”! And remember, one of the best parts about writing is involving one’s partner (or if dealing with a lack thereof, an unassuming friend, a random and willing stranger, hell, maybe even your neighbor’s garden gnome) in research. Hey, honey . . .

The Kisses

1.  The angsty, “I’ve loved you so long, but wanted you longer,” kiss.  Also known as, “You might be dating my brother, but in another life I was dating you, and damn, I think I just stopped caring.”

2.  What do you get when you combine a fragile, doe-eyed girl human with a boy-rock-band-bodied vamp?  The “I don’t want to hurt you, I want to eat you, but no! we can’t . . . can’t . . . can’t . . . oh, yes!” kiss.  P.S. Ms. Meyer, I know you’re writing for teens, but I can’t help it.  When Bella and Edward’s sexual tension explodes and you fade to black, I’m holding that against you.  Kinky creatures that they are, I don’t think vampires would approve and I don’t either!

3.  In short, ugly girl Penelope becomes a swan, but Scottish guy already thought she was beautiful, pig nose and all.  Ah, sweet.  No, spicy!  I could be wrong here, but I think James McAvoy can kiss with the best of them. 

 4.  The “I’m drenched, you’re drenched, and we’re so mercurial together, the weather’s mimicking our mood” kiss.  Pride and Prejudice, you get the award for the hottest kiss that wasn’t. 

5. The passionately angry, long time coming kiss.  Summarized as:

Allie:    “I waited for seven years! Now it’s too late.”

Noah:   “It wasn’t over.   It’s still not over.” 

Me: Swoon

Click to watch video

6.  The fated and mated kiss.  Who would’ve thought animations could be hot?

7.  The slightly subversive meets secret yearnings kiss. As somebody wrote on the youtube comments, “Why can’t that be my leg?!”  Bittersweet, tender, and yet sizzling.  Now that’s my style.

Know of any scintillating kiss scenes that set the bar high? Do share! I’d love to hear about which ones you find memorable and romantic.

Amedee-Francois Frezier and The Chilean Strawberry

How a Chilean Strawberry, a French Explorer, Queen Marie Antoinette, and the Contemporary Sparkling Wine, Fresita, are Mysteriously Intertwined

First, a history lesson . . .

Fraise:  French for strawberry. 

Frezier:  the evolved surname of the Frazer family whose ancester, Julius de Berry, was knighted in 916 by Charles the Simple for bearing a fistful of strawberries when visiting the king of France.  King Simple, enchanted by the sweet gift, bestowed the family with a coat of arms showing three fraises.  Fast forward to a chance discovery of Chilean strawberries 796 years later and we have a family steeped in berry tradtion. 

Allow me to introduce you to this bold-eyebrowed fellow, Amédée-François Frézier

As an explorer, a military engineer, mathematician, pyrotechnic enthusiast and reputed spy, Frezier was one busy fellow.  Among his lengthy contributions to society, however, he is most noted for introducing five new and lovely varieties of Chilean strawberries to 18th century France.  Familiar with the native woodland strawberry, which was small and delicate, the French were destined to go crazy over the large, though if not as superbly flavored, fruit for Frezier returned to the royal court in 1714 and showed Marie Antoinette his favorite way of consuming it.  A fashionable libation was thus born.      

Strawberry and Champagne by Velo Steve, Flikr

As a wise Frenchman once said, “You say no to champagne, you say no to life.”  Well, Frezier might have refined this as, “You say no to strawberries and champagne and you must be a Spanish pig-dog.”  You see, in the aims of increasing France’s importance in the New World, Frezier was sent on a mission two years earlier in 1712.  The then lieutenant-colonel sailed for Chile on a mission of the upmost importance: reconnaisance.  Traveling by way of a merchant ship, he posed as a merchant captain and set to work visiting Concepcion’s military fortifications where he conceived nefarious plans such as which ports to use to best mount an attack, where to store arms, and how to escape by secret route. Fortunately for French gourmands, part of his extensive work included recording the flora and fauna of the region, among them the Fragaria Chilenosis.  Or Chilean strawberry.

In carrying on his family’s tradition, Frezier inspired something we can enjoy today and although I’ve yet to try Fresita wine, I can just imagine myself as Marie Antoinette, delighted by a strawberry floating in a flute of champagne.


The Little Rose Princess: Alexandra Pavlovna

Pavlovna dressed in kokoshnik and sarafan, 1790s.

Bethrothed to the King Gustav IV of Sweden, the sweet, young  Alexandra Pavlovna fell madly in love with her intended upon their first meeting.  The union was a political one, meant to shore up fraught ties with Sweden, but for everyone involved, it seemed a match made in heaven.  By universal account, Alexandra was utterly charming, “the prettiest, sweetest and most innocent of the available princesses in Europe.” 

A passage from Royal Favorite, Volume 2 offers this description:

Painted shortly before her betrothal.  Portrait by Vladimir Borovikovsky, 1796. Gatchina Palace Museum, St Petersburg, Russia

Her intended, Gustav, couldn’t agree more.   After a debate over the potential princesses he might take as wife, he ended his deliberation at once.  Finally he had met his equal:

Arrangements for the upcoming nuptials were promptly formalized, but Alexandra’s great happiness foundered when King Gustav observed that by Swedish Law he was obligated to marry a Lutheran wife.  Alexandra was Russian Orthodox.  Empress Catherine II, who orchestrated the engagement, maintained religion posed no impediment to the marriage but when the contract was placed before Gustav for final consideration, he refused to extend his hand in good faith.  His declaration echoed down the halls: he would have a Lutheran queen for his people or no queen. 

 The Story of  a Throne gives us a glimpse of Alexandra’s disappointment:

After her death, Joseph remained a widower for fourteen years.  Purportedly he loved her, but he couldn’t protect her.  Surrounded by an envious Viennese court and loathed by her mother-in-law,  Empress Maria Theresa, Alexandra’s life in Austria was difficult.  One story tells of how the empress forbade her to wear her legendary tiara, an item from her substantial dowry.  Alexandra improvised, crowning her golden hair with flowers, and gained admiration for her fresh style.  Needless to say, the empress was livid.  Alexandra’s beauty, luxurious jewelry collection, and stark resemblance to Elizabeth of Wurttenberg–her maternal aunt and the Emperor of Austria’s first wife–were eternal marks against her. 

In addition, religious bigotry continued to threaten her future.  The Austrian royals, catholic to their core, refused her the basic rights of her faith.  After dying of puerperal fever in 1801, she was denied burial in the mausoleum her husband, Archduke Joseph, had dedicated to her.  Stories claim her coffin was instead placed above ground in the palace basement until the Russian sovereigns intervened and buried her in Hungary, as Joseph was Palatine of Hungary.  Her grave was robbed during World War I, the heirlooms buried with her, stolen.  Today, at last, she is interred in the Palatinal crypt in the Royal Palace of Budapest.

The Gainsborough Hat

As you may have noticed, 18th century fashions exist in direct opposition to the sleek chic of Coco Chanel who said, “When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on.”  Far be it from Georgian fashionistas to heed this advice, I will revise on their behalf, “When accessorizing, always pile on twice what you intended to put on.” 

Fortunately for us aesthetically inclined history geeks, this means hats–hats with plumes, hats with high floating ships á la Belle Poule, hats with hamsters (okay, maybe they were foxtails).

Millinery in this century was a glorious affair and being a hat girl myself, I find myself  lamenting they went out of style because really, who doesn’t look more glamorous with a bit of shadowed brow?

The Gainsborough

This namesake hat’s fame relies on two well-known 18th century figures, the first being the English painter Thomas Gainsborough, the royal family’s favorite portrait artist.  In 1783 he painted Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, wearing a hat designed by the lady herself and much like Georgiana’s other trends, this one exploded.  Stylized the “Picture Hat” after the portrait’s wildly admired exhibition at the Royal Academy, ladies flocked to milliners, requesting a large hat with a curved brim, colored black and complemented with a wide ribbon and a profusion of plumes.  Many of Gainsborough’s subsequent works feature this hat, as the ton adored being painted wearing it.  Later, in the Victorian period up until the dawn of World War I, its popularity gained favor among the sartorial crowd, though the hat  often took on a slightly smaller and less festooned appearance.  Around the 1900’s, the Gainsborough was referrred to as the Merry Widow, a name taken from an operetta by Franz Lehar where Hanna, the heroine, sported an imitation of Georgiana’s original “Picture Hat.”

Lily Elsie, actress in The Merry Widow, London 1907