Settle in. Today we’re talking angst. You know the scene that knocks your heart into your throat and solidly lodges it there? The scene that makes your eyes scour the page faster as you worry for the characters? The scene you can read again and again and still be drawn in every last time? Yeah, that scene.
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE me some angst. And my absolute favorite angsty scene OF ALL TIME is the scene in Judith McNaught’s classic Whitney, My Love when Whitney takes a chance and (unannounced) visits Clayton at his estate in an attempt to win him back. When Clay finally arrives, he’s got another woman with him!
Clayton’s brother, Stephen, convinces Whitney to stay. At one point, their mother even gets involved, squeezing Whitney’s hand under the table to demonstrate her support. This is all done in multiple POVs, I might add (and all the better for it, in my opinion. But don’t get me started on POVs…)
That one scene *may* be the sole reason why I’m an avid romance reader. I’ve read it probably 100 times and it NEVER gets old. Whitney’s sitting there, with her heart on her sleeve, wanting to tell Clay she loves him and wants him back, but his snotty lady friend, Vanessa Standfield, is sitting there sniping at Whitney and making her feel miserable. Meanwhile, Clayton’s still angry with Whitney and not about to give an inch. Okay, that sort of makes it sound bad, but believe me, if you haven’t read it, go READ it. Aside from the rape controversy, I personally think Whitney, My Love is a masterpiece, and I absolutely adore McNaught. Once And Always is my favorite romance novel of all time, in fact.
But that scene—my favorite scene—from Whitney, My Love is just so darn…good. I can read it again and again and still be drawn into the emotion of it. I freakin’ KNOW what’s going to happen. Heck, by this point, I could probably even recite it, but it still gets me. Every. Single. Time.
And the dialogue, oh, the dialogue! Check this out. They’re all at dinner together (awkward!) and Clayton and Whitney are having this animated conversation full of subtext and a hint o’ good, old-fashioned passive-aggression. Vanessa sort of senses that Whitney is her rival for Clayton’s affection, but she doesn’t know the whole history between them, of course. In order to get her claws in, Vanessa not-so-subtly tells Whitney that she and Clayton are engaged. Cue Clayton’s mother squeezing Whitney’s hand and convincing her to stay. And then, this…
Whitney couldn’t bear to think of Clayton married to such a haughty beauty—not when she herself loved him so much, and had come this far, in this embarrassing fashion to tell him so. She thought of Clayton holding Vanessa in his arms and kissing her in that intimate way of his, and that made Whitney angry and jealous enough to stay.
Vanessa put her hand on Clayton’s arm. “I hope you aren’t angry with me for blurting out our secret in front of a stranger.”
“I’m certain he isn’t the least angry, Miss Standfield,” Whitney said quietly, but her eyes were on Clayton. “We all do foolish things when we’re in love. Don’t we, your grace?” [Did I mention he’s a super hot duke?]
“Do we?” Clayton countered repressively. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Then you either have a very short memory,” Whitney challenged softly, “or a very convenient one. Or perhaps you’ve never been in love, after all.”
Clayton’s wineglass slammed on the table. “Precisely what is that supposed to mean?”
The goading continues for three more pages before they finally have it out and then the real fun begins when they leave the room together, Clayton calling for Whitney’s coach to be brought round immediately. She only has five minutes to convince the man she loves to take her back.
Oh, the agony!
We’re told that readers read to experience tension and that scene exemplifies this to me. Some readers love sexual tension, others love fight scenes, or big battles, or wry humor, but give me a standing-in-the-rain knowing-the-love-of-your-life-is-walking-away-forever angsty scene any day.
So, tell me, do you love angst, too? And if so, what’s the angsty scene that you can read again and again? I’m always looking for more angst, so please do share.