Okay, any of you ladies who have dealt with an injured or sick man knows that the last thing they are is sexy. I recently nursed my hubby through the flu and a minor broken bone. Not very stirring in the erotica department. So why is hurt/comfort so appealing in fiction? And it's not just in romance fiction. Many a romance in literature was derived from a woman dutifully nursing a heroic character. I think I've figured it out. For this week, the trivia contest will not involve a question but a task. Name me an example of hurt/comfort in a novel or a film. The first one to respond with a good example will win a pdf copy of 'The Gift of Surrender.' That book has hurt/comfort as well, but there is a twist to that, too.
The heroes in hurt comfort stories are usually emotionally inaccessible. They are he macho alpha male who will not let anyone see past his bravado or he is the silent type who cannot open up and share his feelings. The hurt makes this character vulnerable. They are stripped of all defenses by the injury. Even if they don't vocalize their emotions, they are there on the surface for the heroine to clearly see. They are equalized physically making it easier for the heroine to physically interact with the muscular and usually naked man. The other advantage to caring for the prone hero is that is socially acceptable to spend time alone with him and to touch him. This injury gives the couple needed time to get to know each other and even to bond physically without engaging in THE ACT.
Armas is a very strong man and a much feared warrior. He is also not one to openly share his emotions. Had he made it to his brother's kingdom unharmed, I think the reconciliation would have been a lot harder to pull off and be true to who the characters are.
Here's an excerpt from The Price of Surrender, in which the very fierce Prince Armas is felled by assassins arrows and ends up in the care of Princess Laurila. More thoughts after the following.
Armas woke in confusion. He was not in his camp. He was warm in a very comfortable bed. He was also clean. His hair was unbound, damp and spread all about his head. Most confusing of all was that he was naked. Then the pain and the memory slammed his body robbing him of breath for an instant. But before he could rise, a cool, soft hand pressed firmly against his uninjured shoulder.
“Be still, Prince Armas,” a soft voice said. Another cool hand stroked his brow. “You must not jar your wounds.”
Armas opened his eyes to find Laurila’s lovely face above his. In the setting sunlight, he could see flecks of green and gold in her large amber eyes. They were very beautiful eyes that were full of kindness and concern.
“Laurila…” he murmured. “You are safe.”
“Yes, and I thank you,” she replied. Her voice had a lilting tone that was pleasant to his ears. “Were it not for my panic, you may have gone uninjured.”
“Nay. ‘Twas me they were after. I would have had to face them,” he replied in a near whisper. “You are not a warrior. No one would expect you to respond as one.”
He could not stop a sudden spasm of pain from making him moan. Laurila quickly moved to fill a large cup with water from a pitcher near him. She then gently lifted his head.
“Drink slowly, but drink all of it,” she said softly. “It will ease your pain.”
Armas obeyed her. The liquid was pleasant in taste and was quite cool. The ordeal had left Him very thirsty. He finished the cup with a sigh. Immediately, he felt the pain ebbing away. Laurila eased his head back on to the pillow then took the cup.
“Thank you, Princess,” he said with a sigh. “Where is Niku?”
“Sarianna has taken him to rest. The healing drained of much of his strength,” Laurila replied.
“Will he recover?” Armas asked with concern.
“Aye. He was very fatigued, ‘tis all,” Laurila replied reassuringly. “I expect him to look in on you before the night has waned.”
“You would stay with me through the night?” Armas asked with a raise of his brow.
“’Tis a small thing I am pleased to do,” she said with a shy smile.
“I thank you again, Princess.”
She smiled at him. Her lovely face became even lovelier. “How did you remember me? We saw each other so long ago, and I have changed.”
“Aye, you have indeed changed,” he smiled at her enjoying the beautiful blush that graced elegant cheeks dappled lightly with freckles. “But I could not forget the color of your hair. It is so much like this sunset… gold kissed with warmest red.”
He reached up to capture a curl hanging down near his face. But then his hand would not work. It fell back to the bed as his eyelids grew heavier.
“Let the water do its work, Prince Armas,” she said gently. “You need a great deal of rest. You are safe.”
“…and welcome and well cared for…” he whispered sluggishly.
“Aye, you are…” were the last sweet words Armas heard as slipped into sleep.
The other wonderful thing about writing and reading hurt/comfort is the slow building of sexual tension. It's great fun to have the attractive couple near each other with the attraction growing ever stronger as the hero does. And then one day, something just has to give. See the following excerpt:
Armas was dreaming, it seemed. He was warm and his body did not ache. A feminine voice was humming pleasantly and his scalp was being pleasantly stroked with soft bristles. He soon realized that there were no scents in his dreams. There was the scent of the herb tea nearby. He could smell the salve smoothed under his bandages. And then there was the mix of flowers and spices that was Laurila’s own.
Upon opening his eyes, Armas found the beautiful Princess brushing his hair with an intent yet serene expression as she hummed softly.
Laurila shifted those amber-gold eyes to his with a soft smile. “Do not tease or scold me, Prince Armas. Your hair was not drying. I did not wish you to catch a chill.”
Armas found he did not wish to tease in the presence of such kind beauty. “I shall not tease, Princess. I thank you for your kindness.”
She smiled at him then turned to put away the brush. Her hair brushed his face then gifting him with that lovely scent. Armas closed his eyes for a moment to savor it.
“Are you in pain?” Laurila asked.
Armas opened his eyes to her concerned face. “Nay. I am given pause in the face of your beauty.”
Laurila eyed him carefully looking for a false compliment. When she found none, her lovely cheeks blushed once again. “I hardly know what to believe from you. In one breath you gift me with sweet words. In another you will try to send me away.”
“I do not try hard enough, Princess. Your presence at my side is a danger to us both,” Armas managed even as he was captivated by her lush lips.
“You speak in riddles. How am I a danger to Ritvala’s most fierce some warrior?”
“Laurila,” Armas sighed. “You have no idea of your power over a man. Such a fair face and such innocence and sweetness is irresistible.”
“I have done nothing to provoke you. I wish only to give comfort.”
“Beautiful Princess, you merely have to be to provoke a man,” he murmured. “And I have no status to offer a Princess. I do not wish to offend your grandparents and bring problems to my kin.”
Laurila’s lovely brow knitted in consternation. “I do not understand how my watching over you or tending to you could cause any provocation.”
Armas knew he should let her words pass unchallenged, but for her own sake, he was moved to speak. “Laurila, you are seated upon my bed whilst I lay unclothed. You lure me to yield to great temptation.”
“Please, Prince Armas. Tell me what I am doing so that I may know,” she replied softly. “I must know.”
“Such is the punishment for my indiscretions,” he muttered before falling into her golden gaze. “Your nearness, your scent and your beauty drive me to distraction, to want and nearly to madness…”
Before Armas could give thought to his actions, he had set his lips against hers. And then the Fates further conspired against him when Laurila gasped giving him access to her sweet mouth. The lure was too much to resist. Armas delved into that hot sweetness with his tongue. The Princess pulled back startled.
“Laurila, I…” Armas began not knowing how to excuse his actions, but wanting to try. His words were swallowed though when Laurila covered his mouth with hers. Gentle fingers carded through his hair while a shy tongue sought his.
It took all of the will Armas possessed to grasp Laurila’s slender arms and keep her from pressing against him while the Princess innocently ravaged his mouth. Never had the Prince felt such torture. Even when Taraasta bound his limbs to keep her taste and touch from him, there was not such torment. With the Queen, Armas knew that no matter how long his torment, he would get to taste fully. He would find his release. There was no such hope with Laurila to have more that her sweet taste and the innocent exploration that was pushing him to the edge of reason.
The Fates who were so gleeful in their torment, took pity upon him by bringing back the pain. The first moan was not from the wounds, but the sound caused the Princess alarm. She pulled away once again. Her face was beautifully flushed. Her hair was mussed and her eyes were a little wild. A strong wave of longing swept through him to see the beautiful Princess in the throes of passion. Then a wave of intense pain surged through him taking his breath.
Now remember, this is a great device in stories. I do not advocate taking a hammer to that cute delivery boy and nursing him back to health I'll try to be on time next week..