The stack of romance novels next to my nightstand is pretty high right now and even though I know I should expand my fictional horizon, I don’t have plans to start anytime soon. (I’m particularly obsessed with the new Fifth Avenue series, and cannot wait for book three to be released this summer!) I mean, as soon as that first kiss happens, I am ALL IN. The first kiss holds all the cards the author has to play. You need that first kiss to be everything in order to keep reading. If you read about an awkward, dud-extreme initial smooch, where do you go from there? That’s it. Romance = dead. Story – over.
But fictional first kisses are not usually like real-life first kisses. It wouldn’t be a fantasy without a passionate kiss occurring in the middle of the apocalypse, or seconds before a tsunami, or as a plane is going down. That’s the kind of intensity that fictional first kisses require. It has to feel like the only thing happening in the universe. The only thing that matters is these two characters confirming their feelings with this romantic action. And there’s almost a formula to the build up. Most writers will use some (or all) of the following tricks to pull out the perfect first kiss that’ll have us (the readers) manically turning the pages, begging for more.
The element of surprise…sort of
If you’re reading a romance novel, then it doesn’t take much to sense passion afoot. You know it’s coming, and as the build up gets heavier, you know you’re getting closer to that key moment when it all comes together. So when one of the characters (or the narrator) is surprised by the kiss, it’s exciting that they were caught off guard, because spontaneity is super sexy, but it’s also kinda like, “really? You guys have been dancing around this for days now. OF COURSE this kiss was about to happen.” But that also makes these moments so relatable because we’ve all experienced scenarios where we wanted something to happen so badly that when it finally does happen, it’s hard to believe it’s real.
When Austin first kisses Katy in Avenge Me (book one), she goes through this thought process of, is this really happening? And it’s all kinds of sweet/adorable/relatable/intoxicating.
Miserable weather or a very chaotic setting
As mentioned above, fictional kisses occur at the craziest times. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the hallway at a holiday office party where anyone can catch you (like Austin and Katy in Avenge Me), surrounded by watching eyes at a restaurant (like Hunter and Zoe in book two, Scandalize Me) or in the middle of a snowstorm, erupting volcano, or while skydiving. An unrealistic setting is what gives the passion in the first kiss the boost it needs to keep you interested. Because the second, third, and fourth kisses are never like that. The setting is less hectic, but the passion remains.
Well it wouldn’t be a very interesting read if everybody was on the same page at all times, now would it? The beginnings of a romance always seem to include a toxic mix of assumptions, miscommunications and serious doubt. Is this a bad idea? Who was that other woman he was whispering to? Is he married? Was she flirting with that bartender? Is there a history there that she didn’t share with me? He’s so out of my league, this can’t possibly be happening. Is this some sort of cruel game? Would this cause a conflict in my current family/career/friend life?
This kind of second-guessing is CLASSIC in romance novels and it can happen in real life too. And that first kiss immediately eliminates ALL of it. In that moment, there’s no doubt, there’s nobody else, and nothing threatens the chemistry that explodes the moment the characters kiss for the first time.
And speaking of threats…
A third-party threat
Someone in the way of two people attracted to each other is really the best thing to grow the attraction. Like when your dad told you that you could NEVER go out on a date with that hunky dude who rocked a lip ring and it made you want to see him even more, even though he was kinda douche-y and wrong for you. It becomes a challenge.
Or when there’s a love triangle (even if it’s only real in the mind of the jealous party), an obstacle makes someone want to work harder to prove their devotion to the object of their desire. Because if there comes a time when this person has to make a choice, we’d all want to be the obvious choice. A kiss is usually the thing that confirms the choice has been made. It tells the un-chosen that they best get to steppin’, and it tells the chosen individual that nothing else will ever get in their way. It’s now these two people against the world.
In all three books in the Fifth Avenue series, the third party threat is the sleazy and dangerous Jason Treffen. Every single lead character in this series is working to take him down and avenge the tragic death of their friend, Sarah Michaels, a victim of his torment for years leading up to her suicide. In every intense moment of attraction, the characters try to shove it aside so they can focus on the task at hand – destroying Jason. I won’t ruin it for you, because it’s a seriously addicting series, but the determination runs deep in this shared goal and the way their worlds collide around it is pretty outstanding.
The entire Fifth Avenue series will be available this August so make sure you start reading the first book now! OR you can enter our giveaway below and you might score free copies of the prequel, Take Me!
*Only entries from residents of US and Canada will be considered.
All images via Shutterstock