Today I started reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s love letters to the woman he would eventually wed, Sophie Peabody. I was really curious to see what his words would be like when he wasn’t story-telling and his intentions weren’t publication but rather to win the heart of a woman the letters suggested he greatly admired. I think what I found truly charming was where he suggested she was stronger in spirit than him, and while he wished her physical health better strength, he hoped the same would not apply to her spirit or she might outpace him.
That’s not the type of focus you see in modern romance novels. It rarely seems to be about admiring another person’s character. The hero will often go on about how beautiful the heroine is and how he can’t live without her or the heroine will comment on the hero’s physical strength, and how he makes her feel safe, but you typically won’t hear them praising each other’s strength of spirit. It’s sad, really. Modern romance is more about lust and less about love, but I think this is in response to popular demand – hence the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey. People just don’t value strength of spirit the way they used to.
Not that physical attraction isn’t important, we have to acknowledge our physical inclinations when choosing a mate, but if you’re going to spend the rest of your life with that person, it should certainly be about more than just that. We all age and beauty fades.
Here’s my excerpt for the day, a little something from The Enemy of my Enemy: Masters & Renegades #6. I like this relationship because this couple truly does strengthen each other’s character. Logan starts off selfish, ego-centric and insecure, and Angellica is cynical, overburdened by choice, and fighting alcoholism, but they bring out the best in each other, partially because they recognize the best in each other where others don’t, and in the process they come to conquer these flaws:
Knowing that there would be no one else around, the Master mage wandered into the seating area and sat with a sigh, staring at the empty stage. He still wished that Clayton had never compelled him to make this trip, and longed for Anthis and the Academy. That was when he noticed the occasional shifting shadow in Angellica’s loft over the stage.
Logan was curious. Angellica was likely up there, considering that she had made few appearances anywhere else during the course of the day, but he could not help but wonder at the movement. Even from where he sat at the highest point at the rear of the rows of seats, he could only occasionally see the top of her head in the dim light of the loft. He glanced behind him at the only spot in the theatre that would give him a better vantage point, the technician’s booth. Acting on impulse – not a thing that Logan was prone to do – he rose from his seat and quietly walked over to the ladder leading up into the booth.
The Master mage clambered up the ladder and settled into place behind the open window of the booth, now having a much clearer view of Angellica in the loft. The acoustics of the building also worked in his favour there, and he was able to hear the gentle notes from the colourful music box that lay open on the chair next to her bed, despite the distance between them. He also understood the reason for her movement. Angellica was dancing.
It was nothing like the wild gyrating she and Shasta had performed the night before around the bonfire, spinning and leaping to the drumbeat. This was delicate, and refined, filled with passion. Logan was not sure he had ever seen anything more beautiful. It was also, however, filled with sadness, and the Master mage could swear it looked like she was actually dancing with somebody, even though no one else was there.
The ghost, he thought. Shasta had mentioned something about competing with a ghost, someone by the name of Sammy. That was with whom Angellica was dancing. He felt as if he could sit there and watch her for hours.
That was when Logan realized, shamefully, that Shasta might have been right about something else. Maybe he truly was one of Angellica’s so-called strays. He had already done a few things, since meeting her, which he never would have imagined himself doing before now. The thing he was doing at that very moment was but one example. Normally, he would have considered this kind of spying unethical and invasive. Instead, he found it strangely acceptable and highly rewarding. As opposed to chastising himself and leaving Angellica to what appeared to be some sort of ritual to deal with unpleasant emotions, the Master mage stayed where he was and continued to observe, wondering how often this Harv, who had been returned to the FFP the day before, had sat there and watched her go through similar motions.
Eventually, after winding up the music box several times, Angellica finally exhausted herself and allowed herself to collapse onto her bed. The dancing had not seemed to help her state of mind, however, Logan noted. She looked crushed – defeated. He found it difficult to see her look that way. Once again, impulse took over.
He clambered onto the ladder again, half sliding, half jumping back into the seating area, and silently jogged down the centre aisle. Defying her instructions as he had before, the Master mage scaled the ladder to her loft, something he figured that Harv had never had the nerve to do. Arriving at the top, he climbed into the loft and stared at her, not sure exactly what to say first. Angellica noticed him there before he could say anything. She barely lifted her head to look at him.
“Go away,” she muttered, and then let her head drop back down on the bed. This helped to propel him to speak.
“I think you owe me a dance,” Logan said softly.
He expected her to resist, maybe to even get angry with him, but he could not hold himself back. Instead she sat up with little energy, as if the fire had gone from her. She perched on the edge of the bed, with her hands in her lap and her shoulders sagging.
“I don’t dance – except at parties,” Angellica claimed, staring at the floor.
“And now you owe me a dance, and the truth,” he insisted.
“The truth?” she laughed half-heartedly. “The truth is, this place is going to burn down, and there’s nothing that I can do to prevent it. The truth is, everyone here expects me to come up with a solution, a way to save us all, and I have nothing. The truth is, I’m just as scared as the rest of them, but I’m not allowed to show it.”
Logan drew closer. He hated seeing her this way. He had to offer a solution.
“We’re going to find a way to handle this. We’ll come up with a plan, tactics to deal with the Jadorans, and the Redsuns and the dogs, when they get here. We’ll set out ways for everyone to escape, when the time comes. Shasta can help – you know that she’s more than capable. Clayton and I will do everything within our power to assist Emrys in getting that law overturned, and when the moment arrives that this place does go up in flames, we’ll retreat, we’ll rejoin and then we’ll rebuild,” he assured her. “It’s not over yet, Angellica.”
“We? Why would you say we? You don’t owe us anything. You don’t need to be here. When you’ve done whatever you promised the prince that you would do, you can just go home.”
“If it were only that simple. A few days ago, I would have agreed with you. I don’t think I can do that anymore.” The words slipped out of the Master mage’s mouth before he could stop them. This was not the kind of thing that he would have been saying a week ago.
Angelica got to her feet and faced him, wearing an expression of confusion.
“So that was the truth,” he murmured. “How about allowing me that dance, then?”
She crouched and wound up the music box, setting it back on the chair afterwards. Without any reluctance, she strode over to Logan and took his hands in her own, glancing up at him expectantly. He was frowning slightly, and did not move at first.
“It’s kind of hard to dance while you’re standing still,” she suggested, smiling.
“Wait,” he responded.
Logan released her hands and walked over to the music box. At that point, he made use of a novice spell that he had learned many years before. He cast the incantation and the melody from the music box changed completely.
“There,” he whispered. “That’s better.”
Angellica glanced back at her keepsake, a gift from Sammy. She turned her gaze to Logan, puzzled.
“Why did you do that?” she asked him.
“Because I want you to dance with me, not Sammy,” he answered honestly. “No more dancing with ghosts.”
This time when he returned to her, he did start moving with her, enjoying the subtle harmonies of this new music. He welcomed her interest in dancing with him this time. In fact, he revelled in it, and found that it stirred something in him that nothing else had ever awakened before.