Guest Author Smugglivus

Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press and Pene Henson: It’s All in the Kiss

A kiss can lead to so many unexpected things…especially one that takes place under the mistletoe. Join authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles as they explore the most tantalizing literary kisses and their lasting impact in books in this new series, Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press. Every day from December 4th to December 8th, HEA USA Today, The Book Smugglers, LGBTQ Reads, All About Romance, and The Mary Sue will feature a new article from each author of the LGBTQ+ holiday themed collection, If the Fates Allow (out now from Interlude Press).

Today is our turn and we are pleased to host Pene Henson!

It’s All in the Kiss by Pene Henson

I grew up as a bit of a baby penguin about romance. “The Kiss” used to feel like the end of the story; like there was only a “happily ever after” to come.

At 16 and 17, I’d walk to our local library to “study”. I’d pull stealthy Mills & Boon and Harlequin novels from the romance racks and hide them among my Chemistry notes. I devoured friends to lovers, couples pushed together by adventure, people forced to pretend they were married. The world went on around me, but I was trapped in a bubble of will they-or-won’t-they. All I wanted was to read that perfect kiss.

At home I tucked myself under the covers and read Georgette Heyer regency romances over and over by torchlight. I still do, though now I’m allowed to stay up as late as I want. I knew everything was okay once some eligible gentleman kissed the hand of an equally eligible lady and declared that his heart was hers.

And then as I got older I read fanfic after fanfic. I started with X-Files then West Wing, Farscape then Glee and every single women’s sports movie I could find. In every fandom I waited to see the same couple tumble headlong into love and kiss for the first time all over again.

Obviously real love stories don’t end with the kiss. All sorts of kisses can be tangled into the story. I love adventures where there’s just time to grab a kiss before one lover is dropped into a vat of burning oil (or sharks). I love stories where the first kiss adds to the complicated workings of a collection of housemates or friends. I love romances that respect building a friendship, developing a shared life or fighting for a future together as much as that first sparkly kiss.

When I write, the kiss makes everything slow down. The lovers see the tiniest details of the world, all their most human fears and joys are amplified.

So here are three very different favourite kisses.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

I relish the careful romance of the regency novelists. I’m a huge proponent of stories where love is captured in declarations and careful looks rather than blinding passion. The Scarlet Pimpernel is all romance behind the swashbuckling. It’s a sweeping story of two people in love who are kept apart by politics and pride and fear. It’s outrageous, really. And it’s the tiny details of two people in love that make even outrageous romance work. This silent “kiss” moment caught my imagination as a kid, and still sits with me.

Had she but turned back then, and looked out once more on to the rose-lit garden, she would have seen that which would have made her own sufferings seem but light and easy to bear–a strong man, overwhelmed with his own passion and despair. Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love and as soon as her light footstep had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade, where her tiny hand had rested last.

Hold by Rachel Davidson Leigh

Luke is grieving his sister, he’s discovered the ability to pause time, and he’s on a real live date with his adorable crush of a best friend.

First kisses are rarely perfect, but they are extraordinary and beautiful and too much for a young heart to take. I love this kiss because everything just spills over in an unstoppably awkward wave. It’s so ordinary and human and it’s a *kiss*. It’s new and amazing.

“I—” I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing. “I—” Luke said, and Marcos closed the gap.
It was just closed lips to closed lips, and the pressure landed like a finger on his pulse. [Luke] turned his head, but their noses smashed together anyway, and he couldn’t figure out when to breathe.

Olympia Knife by Alysia Constantine

Sometimes kissing is not about new romance but is about warm bright moments of freedom. I love the way couples become slowly comfortable with one another, and new love turns into something steady. It might be less immediately overwhelming, but it’s just as sweet for that. This kiss makes an everyday moment into something that stretches into the past and the future.

Olympia’s heart squeezed hard when Diamond sat back and wiped a sweaty arm across her cheek, leaving it streaked with dirt. Olympia did not hesitate to wipe gently at the smear and push Diamond’s hair back from her face and she was, without a second’s thought, able to say, “I love you.” The sun was a warm hand on her neck and a pollen-heavy breeze ruffled the short hair on the back of her head; everything smelled of the soap they were using to wash the clothes: sharp and clean. It was a fragrant, golden moment, and so strange to say those words outside, in the sunlight and air, not hidden in the dark of the mildewing trailer. She quickly kissed the tip of Diamond’s nose.

There were other kisses I wanted to talk about. Kisses where two lovers reconnect, already knowing that this kiss is momentous. Kisses where two friends are terrified of the future, and hopeful the risk is worth it. Almost-kisses where the act of stepping away is as important as the act of the kiss.

However a kiss comes, it’s a pivotal part of a romance novel. Every too long gaze, every brush of one hand against another – it all builds to that climactic kiss. And with every kiss the world changes, even in a tiny way.

About If Fates Allow, out now from Interlude Press: During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles share their stories about the magic of the season.

About Pene Henson’s story, True North: Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.

About the author: Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Her first novel Into the Blue (Interlude Press, 2016) received a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance. Her second novel, Storm Season, was published by Interlude Press in 2017.

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