When I wrote about licking sweat and how it wasn’t sexy, Silver Button Books (whose blog you can check out here) brought up another ubiquitous romance phrase: “he slanted his mouth across hers,” noting that it was weird and always made her think of toddlers smearing their faces across a glass window.
If you think about it, this is kind of a weird way to describe kissing. All we really have in this description is an angle – the “slant.”
And if we go to my trusty Merriam-Webster, the predominant synonym is “slope.” Unless we’re talking about “slant” in a metaphorical sense, in which case synonymous words distort, falsify, pervert, etc. I think it’s safe to assume that romance writers who use this phrase are talking about a literal slant, not a metaphorical one.
I decided some further investigating was in order.
This phrase most commonly appears in historical romance, so I turn to some classic (and maybe less classic) clinch covers to help illuminate exactly what kind of kisses are happening here. Also, this is an excellent excuse to look at romance novel covers because they are an art form that deserve to be talked about all the time.
The first thing I learned is that…a lot of clinch covers, even the really steamy ones, don’t actually involve locked lips.
The next step seems to be gentle kisses. These mouths aren’t slanting!
Definitely not. What is going on with her neck?
(I have been thinking about making a Pinterest board for a while now, and I think I’ve found my first theme: “Ma’am, are you getting a neck cramp?”)
We’re getting closer!
And a rare reverse gender sighting!
Based on this extremely scientific survey of romance kisses, I think the mouth slant must include the following:
- That head tilt at that perfect angle
- Height difference
- There is a kisser and a kissee – one person is leading, rather than full mutuality. This may be because the mouth slant appears so often in bodice rippers.
But what about these kisses?
We’ve got the head tilt and the steam and the height different creating a greater angle between them, but these kisses feel less about a display of power to me. So are these captured moments ones where “he slanted his lips over hers” or not? Is lip slanting about power, or only about proper angles? Let me know your thoughts!
PS: If you have a favorite clinch cover, I want to know what it is! Bonus points if it includes neck cramps.