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Fun Friday–The Bonneterre New Year’s Eve Masked Ball

Friday, December 12, 2008

As I mentioned in the Holiday Story Challenge post, I’ve explored many of the social aspects of my fictional city of Bonneterre throughout the years, and especially in the first complete manuscript I wrote, What Matters Most. Since the Christmas scene from that one is way too long to share in a blog post, I thought I’d share part of the New Year’s Eve Masked Ball scene—especially since Menu for Romance opens at said event several years later . . .


Andrew had never seen anything like this in his life. It was like a scene out of a movie: the women wore glamorous evening dresses with elegant masks that ranged from those that barely covered the eyes to the elaborate ones with feather plumes standing a foot or two high; the men were dressed in every imaginable style of tuxedo with masks that ran the gamut from simple to unbelievable.

Why had Bekka thought he’d be a good date to this thing? He could dance, sort of. But this was only the second time in his life he’d ever worn a tux… the first had been at his wedding. The uncomfortable feeling that invaded him was the same that had kept him from going to prom or homecoming dances in school.

Of course, they’d been here for over an hour and hadn’t yet made it close enough to the dance floor for Bekka to even hint that she wanted to dance. Not that Andrew didn’t want to dance with her… she looked incredible. The cream colored dress was off-the-shoulder, and even though she wore a sheer wrap, Andrew could still see the faint hint of freckles across her shoulders through the fabric. When he’d first seen her, he’d been tempted to reach out and touch the curls that rested against the curve of her neck.

“I hope you won’t be offended,” she told him in the car on the way to the ULa campus, “if I have spend a lot of time talking to other people. Between my family and my job, there are going to be a lot of people there who want to talk to me.”

Once they’d arrived, Andrew found that there were several people who recognized him – either from church or from the clinic – who stopped to speak to him, as well.

After speaking to Mayor McCord for a few minutes, Bekka turned to Andrew and said, “I am so thirsty – let’s find something to drink.”

Andrew offered Bekka his arm – as he’d done for most of the evening – and they walked toward the bar set up at the back end of the room. He was surprised to find that the only beverages offered were non-alcoholic and that champagne and other sparkling wines were served from a quarter of midnight until a few minutes afterward for people to toast the new year.

Bekka stood a few feet away while Andrew got water for both of them. When he turned to join her, he noticed a beautiful woman with dark hair in a black dress that had a see-through top with a fur collar, and a straight skirt slit up the side almost to her hip. At her side was a dark-haired man in a plain tuxedo with a simple black mask like Andrew’s.

“Here you are,” Bekka said when he gained her side. He noticed her voice sounded tight, strained. “Andrew, this is Tiffany Jones and Marco Nicholetti.”

Andrew immediately recognized the name of the gossip reporter from Channel Three. He held his right hand out toward her. “It’s nice to meet you.” He shook hands with Marco, as well, wondering how the man was related to Hank Nicholetti.

“Andrew? Would that be Andrew Blakeley, the veterinarian?” Tiffany asked.

Andrew didn’t like the tone in Tiffany’s voice when she asked the question. “Yes, that’s right.”

Tiffany nodded as if she’d just caught on to something. “Interesting. How do you two know each other?”

“On or off the record?” Bekka asked. She was smiling but her voice had a chilly tone to it.

Tiffany laughed and reached out to touch Bekka’s arm. “Oh, Bekka, that whole scandal is yesterday’s news. I was just wondering – you know, one old school mate to the other.”

“Andrew is a friend of the family. He’s the veterinary specialist for CD Stables.” Bekka turned to look up at Andrew. “Tiffany and I were in Journalism school together,” she explained.

“Oh, yes, J-School. Bekka was always at the top of the class – got all of the awards and special recognition. She even got the best internship position in town… of course, since her father is a partial owner of the station…”

Listening to the antagonism in Tiffany’s voice, Andrew was surprised that the woman hadn’t done everything she could to cast a black mark on Bekka’s reputation when she’d had the chance. Maybe the woman had some ethics.

Bekka managed to get away from Tiffany and slipped her arm through Andrew’s to propel him away and across the room.

“I thought she’d never shut up,” Bekka said with a sigh.

“Rebekka, Andrew, why aren’t you dancing?”

They both turned to see Bekka’s grandparents approaching.

“Gram, you know I can’t dance,” Bekka said as her grandmother kissed her on the cheek. “I wouldn’t want to embarrass Andrew – or worse yet, injure him by breaking his toes.”

Andrew laughed along with Bekka’s grandparents. So that was why she’d kept busy speaking to people and stayed clear of the dance floor.

“Well, you can’t be wallflowers all night. I’m sure Andrew would like to have at least a dance or two before midnight,” Chris d’Arcement said, resting his hand on Andrew’ shoulder.

They were still talking with Bekka’s grandparents when the service staff started to circulate through the crowd with glasses of champagne on large trays.

Bekka looked up at Andrew. “I really can’t dance, but if you want to try..”

Andrew heard the beginning strains of a waltz. That was one dance he could do with relative confidence. He held his hand out to Bekka.

He smiled as they moved across the dance floor. Bekka was right – she wasn’t a good dancer. For all of her athleticism, she had no rhythm.

They were laughing at the end of the dance and joined Bekka’s girlfriends at their table. The girls teased Bekka about her lack of grace and congratulated Andrew on being able to make her look like she could dance.

A few minutes later, the music was interrupted in the middle of a dance and everyone in the room stood and migrated toward the dance floor.

As a server passed with a tray of filled glasses, Bekka reached for two. “Non-alcoholic,” she said as she handed one to Andrew. “Unless you want the real stuff.”

“Not if I’m going to drive you home,” he said. The smile she gave him sent a bolt of lightning through him.

They joined the crowd to listen to Mayor McCord’s and Senator Kyler’s speeches. Andrew had never seen the state senator before and was surprised to find that he looked Native American. He was a good speaker and timed his speech to end just when the clock ticked down to one minute before midnight.

“Get ready to take your mask off.” Bekka had to stand on tip-toe to whisper in Andrew’s ear. “It’s tradition to have an unmasking at midnight.”

The crowd counted down the last ten seconds to midnight and at the stroke of twelve, balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling and the lights dimmed as the band played “Auld Lang Syne.”

Caught in the excitement of the moment, when Bekka turned to face him, Andrew pulled her into his arms and kissed her. It felt so right – having her in his arms, her lips soft and full under his.

He broke off the kiss abruptly. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

Bekka’s cheeks were pink, but she was smiling. “Don’t be sorry.” She reached up and rubbed her thumb across his bottom lip. “Lipstick,” she said, pulling her hand away. “It looks better on me than on you.”

  1. Austin Field permalink
    Friday, December 12, 2008 12:48 pm

    Am I emasculating myself by saying that I like the lipstick thing at the end? lol

    Do you have some kind of holiday scene in every novel you write?


  2. Friday, December 12, 2008 2:59 pm

    Hey Austin! I’m so glad you’re safely back from wherever it is you were over there in the Middle East. 😉

    To answer your second question (as I’m not even going to think about the first one!), I don’t set out to have a holiday scene in each of my stories, but there are so many major holidays celebrated in the U.S. that with my contemporary novels, it’s hard to have the story take place over a span of time when there isn’t a holiday.

    However, in my historical series, I don’t have any holiday celebrations. Not only did the Georgian Britons not celebrate holidays with the same abandon and everything-stops kind of mentality that we do now, I’d have to put so much explanation into the whys-and-wherefores of the traditions that it would take away from the storyline. So I’ve taken a page from Jane Austen’s book(s) on that one—it might be mentioned, but just in passing and as something that takes place off page (like the mentions of Michaelmas in S&S and Persuasion).


  3. Allyson permalink
    Friday, December 12, 2008 6:16 pm

    I have a question and as a new writer I’m not sure I should even be asking this but I’ve been reading along with your different submissions each week and there are lots of times when I read it and think about some of the things you’ve talked about on this blog, like show don’t tell, don’t use ‘was’ a lot, have more dialog than exposition, ect.

    But I see a lot of breaking those rules in what you’ve posted. Is that because you’ve been writing long enough that you’re allowed to break the rules or what?


  4. Friday, December 12, 2008 6:23 pm

    Hi, Allyson! I’m so glad you asked that question.

    With the exception of the excerpted “unused prologue” from Ransome’s Honor, pretty much all the writing excerpts I’ve put up here have been things I wrote before I really started studying and applying the so-called rules of good writing. (To coopt a line from Pirates of the Caribbean: they’re more “guidelines” than “rules.”) That’s why, for me, it’s really been an exercise in humility for me to post these without completely revising them so that they do abide by all the good-writing guidelines—because I know they don’t.

    What I hope to do through this is exactly what you mentioned—show something that makes you realize it doesn’t comply with the fundamentals of good writing, because that means those fundamentals are now so ingrained in you that you can pick out what isn’t well-written.


  5. Sunday, December 14, 2008 10:25 pm

    Hey, Kaye!

    First of all, cute holiday story! I wanted to write one for the contest but with schedule don’t know if that’s going to work out…

    On a totally different note…is it just me? I’ve been really cracking down on my writing…done so much revising on my manuscript…and have studied so much about writing style, show vs. tell, etc., that now I can’t read/listen to a book without picking apart the writing in my mind. It’s becoming more and more difficult to read books that a year ago I really liked.

    “Gasp. They really “told” that sentence.”

    “He really butchered that point of view!”

    “He used the bad “felt” word!!!”

    On the same note, if you’re a big name author can you get away w/breaking the rules? A lot of big name CBA authors (whose names I won’t mention) publish several books a year and are breaking multiple rules all the time. It gets on my nerves a little. To steal a line from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”,

    “Why, oh why can’t I?” 😉


  6. Sunday, December 14, 2008 11:51 pm

    Yes, “big-name” authors can get away with a lot more rule-breaking than those of us just starting out—for two main reasons:

    1. They started writing/getting published before writing styles changed and editors really started looking for stronger, more active, tighter writing (more showing, less telling, etc.), and therefore the authors are grandfathered-in. Although, I do have to say that some of these types of authors who’ve basically refused to change with the times are seeing their book sales drop as readers become more aware of what’s good writing and what’s weak/lazy writing.

    2. Their books sell based on their brand-name as best-selling authors. People who love John Grisham or Tom Clancy are going to buy their latest titles without even giving a thought to what the story is about or whether it’ll be well-written or not. These authors established themselves not through the strength of their craft, but by the strength of their storytelling. So it all goes back to what every editor panel at every writing conference says they’re looking for: a great story (and they’re really like it to be well written with strong attention paid to the craft).


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