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Orwellian Romance

It's been forever since I've actually remembered my day for this blog! Many apologies.

When I read 1984 by George Orwell, I loved the second half of the book, but the first half kind of bored me. Recently, I figured out why - it's because it's a love story, but written by a guy who isn't all that great at writing romance. That forbidden love between the two characters who are forced to meet in secret wasn't handled all that well, for me. The torture and 'rehabilitation' of Winston to Party ideals was great, though.

I started to think about writing an Orwellian world, though to a lesser extent - maybe something partway between the world that we recognise and Orwell's world. And so Hidden Heat was born! I decided to give my protagonist (Holly) a defective brain, so that her sexual urges couldn't be suppressed the way all medical students lawfully needed to be, and to give her a family connection help her to fool the authorities into thinking her procedure had been successful.

Okay, world-building kinda complete - on to the sex! Holly finds it difficult to hide her sexual urges, and when a gorgeous guy named Scott, who should also be sexually suppressed, hits on her, she's sure it's a trap to test her. When she finds out she's not the only one faking it, and that a whole resistance exists, she and Scott have the same kind of secret affair as Winston and Julia have in 1984 - well, with more threesomes and masquerade balls. ;)

Here's a little excerpt (still unedited, so bear with me!):

“I’m sorry, I really am. I overslept. Won’t happen again.”

That, at least, was still common amongst post-suppression students. If it wasn’t, I’d be seriously freaked out.

The tutor sighed. “Take a seat.”

The chair beside mine pulled away from the desk, and the latecomer sat down. As the tutor started up again, I chanced a glance across at him.

The first things I noticed were the tattooed bands around his wrists, the ones that marked him as suppressed. The second was his identity: the guy I’d been seeing around, the one I was thinking about last night when I'd…

Oh, shit. It had to be him, and it had to be today?

I’d be lucky to get through the morning without being hauled into the suppression clinic.

I tried to focus on what the tutor was saying – and make notes that were actually relevant – but every time I breathed in, I could smell his understated cologne and an underlying, faint musk that was just him. I wanted to bury my face in his neck and let his scent take over my senses, but somehow I doubted that was acceptable behaviour, even amongst the menials.

The tutor told us to pair up and discuss the relative pros and cons of a good bedside manner. Immediately, the boy beside me turned and offered his hand. “Scott Thorne.”

I couldn’t refuse it without seeming rude. It was just a handshake, after all. “Holly Trent.”

His shake was perfunctory, but there was a warmth in his gaze I hadn't been expecting. Trying not to make too much of it, I withdrew my hand and picked up my notepad and pen. “So… pros of a good bedside manner.”

The tutor approached us to eavesdrop, and Scott began counting them off on his fingers, perfectly innocent. “Your patients don’t hate you, and less stress means they’ll heal faster.”

“Good point.” I’m amused by his words, though I’m not sure how much of that is down to my infatuation with him. “Ummm… It makes your working relationships easier.”

“Always one of my priorities.” Did he just wink at me? Thank god I’d never been the blushing type. I’d be found out for sure.

The tutor began to move on, and I waited until he was paying attention to another pair of students before giving Scott a proper once-over. His tattoos were real, all right – exactly the same shade and design as mine. Had he escaped the suppression, too? How? And could I trust him with my secret?

“Relax.” His voice was softer now; more intimate. “You’re too tense. If you keep this up, they’ll start to ask themselves why.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I tried to follow his advice, even though I resented it. Hadn’t I made it through six months of feigned post-suppression just fine?

“Sure you don’t. Then we can just pretend we’re both suppressed and completely focused on the question at hand. Got any more pros of a good bedside manner, or shall we move on to cons?”

Making sure my face was tilted away from the rest of the group, I scowled at him. “A good bedside manner means you’re more open to how patients are feeling. It can help with diagnosis.” Lowering my voice, I hissed, “What do you want from me?”

Scott smiled, and the lustful, objectifying part of my brain sighed happily. He was more attractive than I remembered last night, especially wearing that half-grin. “Good one.” He made a note in his notepad before lowering his voice enough to answer my question. “You haven’t been trained to hide it properly. I can help.”

“Cons,” I said decisively, underlining the word in my notepad with a hand that trembled a little. Was I that close to discovery? “What are you suggesting?” I whispered at Scott, trying my best to keep my composure.

“You can get too invested in a particular patient,” he said, giving a disadvantage to having a good bedside manner and writing something down. Tearing it out of the notepad, he passed it to me surreptitiously, and my skin tingled as his fingers brushed my palm.

“That’s true.” I stared down at the words written in a scrawl that was almost as bad as mine. We were training to be doctors – it came with the territory.

We should talk after class. More than talk, if you want it.

Hidden Heat is out on 26th March. Watch out for more details/excerpts on my blog!

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