Guest Post - Ilona Andrews

The Moment of Gratuitous Coolness

When I was a teenager, I inhaled the works of Alexander Dumas, one of which was  MARGUERITE DE VALOIS.  The story centers around King Henry of Navarre, a protestant, and his unwilling wife, Marguerite.  Henry rules Navarre, a large province, and is technically a king in his own right, but he owes his allegiance to France.  Unfortunately he is trapped at the French court at the time of St. Valentine’s day massacre, during which Catholics mass-murdered French protestants.

Henry’s wife, Marguerite, is a part of a large Catholic family that rules France.  She is the daughter of Catherine de Medici and sister to Charles, the monarch of France.  Catherine de Medici deeply hates Henry, both because he is a Protestant and because of some past business with his mother and she is continuously scheming to murder him somehow, in such a way as to not cause a war with the powerful province of Navarre.  Catherine de Medici is a deeply evil character.  She poisons, she schemes, she uses her children as pawns.  She is this unstoppable malevolent force and she stalks the palace like a panther waiting to pounce.

In the novel, Henry and Marguerite are married against their wishes.  They do not consummate the marriage, but out of sheer self-defense, they form a secret political alliance with each other.  Henry is seduced by Madame de Sauve, one of Catherine’s maids of honor.  He makes nightly pilgrimages to her bedroom.  One night, Marguerite sends him a note asking him to come to her bedroom instead of that of his mistress.  Henry arrives in her bedchamber, where they discuss strategy, but before they can get anywhere, they receive word that Catherine de Medici has left her rooms and is heading to Marguerite’s chamber.  Quickly Henry strips and dives into the bed, behind the curtains.  Marguerite cuts the laces of her gown, rips off her hair dress, and jumps into her bed next to her husband.

Catherine de Medici enters this bedchamber.  Marguerite springs out of her bed, terribly surprised, kisses her hand and bats her eye lashes.  Catherine sits down and proceeds to make her case for Henry’s demise.  She is trying to blatantly manipulate Marguerite in helping her destroy Henry, arguing that he is obviously not suited to be the husband of the Princess of France.  Why, everyone knows that Henry and Marguerite haven’t slept together and what’s more, Henry is clearly slapping Marguerite in the face with this terrible affair with his mistress.  Catherine is simply heartsick over seeing her daughter so badly treated by that boorish ruffian.  At this point Marguerite raises her hand and says, “Shh, mother, please not so loud.” Catherine de Medici asks why she should be quiet.    Marguerite rises, pulls back the bed curtains and says, “Because you’ll wake my husband.”

Catherine looks inside and there is Henry, half dressed, his hair tousled, asleep on the bed.

Oh snap!

Catherine stands there, stares at Henry for a long minute, as if she’d seen Gorgon Medusa’s head with snakes instead of hair, and marches out of the chamber, seething.

It is a moment of pure gratuitous coolness. There were other scenes in the novel, heartbreaking, poignant, tragic, romantic, but years later this is the scene I remember best.  It is a magic instance of complete surprise, half ingenuity, half coincidence, with the stars aligning just right so the protagonists could for a moment triumph against an overpowering foe in a battle they had no chance of winning.

I love these moments.  They are my absolute favorite part of reading.  Such moments give you a little thrill and you tend to remember them forever. It’s the moment of Jessica Trent shooting Sebastian Ballister in LORD OF SCOUNDRELS.  It’s the moment that makes you go, “Ha!” and “Oh my God!”

I’d like to read about your favorite moment of gratuitous coolness.  It can be from books or movies, from any genre.  Comment on this post and one of the comment authors will get a set of signed books from our Edge Series: ON THE EDGE and BAYOU MOON.


Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. “Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Oregon with their two children, three dogs and a cat. They have co-authored two series, the bestselling urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge.

  • Cecilia

    Great post and a great topic had never really thought about the concept of gratuitous coolness before certainly got me thinking. For me my favourite moment would have to be the gift the Fairy Lucinda bestows on Ella’s parents in Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. The idea of a child who must always obey sounds like a pretty nifty gift to most parents I’m sure but as we see in Ella’s case it can cause all sorts of mishaps- even if it does lead you to your very own Prince Charming. A whole lot of fun and the character Lucinda is an absolute scream- one fairy godmother you don’t want to get stuck with.

  • Demetra Politis

    Gratuitous coolness? That would be in Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora. Spoilers spoilers: Towards the end of the novel, after he has pulled off an elaborate con and stolen a ton of money from some rich nobles, he discovers a plot to kill a lot of people. How will he stop it? There’s not enough time and even if there was, he’ll be arrested. So this easygoing thief, chops off a bunch of fingers of his mage enemy to get the information he needs. Everyone knows to kill a mage will bring the wrath of the entire community of mages on your head.

    It’s a huge shock because he has never done anything so ruthless or violent throughout the entire novel. Then after he gets the info, he cuts out the guy’s tongue so he can never use magic again. Because the mage participated in this plot and the thief wanted revenge. So he doesn’t care he’ll be hunted by all these other mages, as long as this mage gets what’s coming to him. It’s pretty much a bring on your army moment, you’ll never cast magic again. You don’t mess with the thief. Epic.

  • Calliope

    Ooooh! I love those moments! It’s like in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End when the Flying Dutchmen resurfaces after Will assumes Davy Jones’ place as captain. It’s just like, when the ship snaps back down on the waves and makes for the Beckett’s forces, Jack’s plan just snaps into place and BAM! everything peaks.

    In books…Michelle Rowen has two. In BITTEN & SMITTEN, her heroine gives this inspiring speech little speech to a room full a vamps just before she’s supposed to meekly accept death at the hands of a vamp hunter. She ends up rallying the vamps into standing up for themselves against the hunters…and then has to run off to keep her would-be boyfriend from jumping off a cliff. In SOMETHING WICKED, the main character faces down the Devil to get her demon back. It was epic.

    And Carolyn Crane’s DOUBLE CROSS ends with the bad guy having an OMFGWTFHOWCOULDHEGETAWAYWITHTHAT moment that was just…the best cliffhanger ever.

  • The bullet dodging scene in the Matrix.
    Best fashion of the era, best acting Keanu ever did and special effects to make you say wow.
    It was even cooler on the big screen.

    UJust hope they don’t consider redoing the films in 3D. I hear post production 3D conversion is an epic fail.

  • Tiffaney

    Mine is from Lord of Scoundrels too, but my favorite is when Dain and Jessica meet in Champtois’s store and Dain is making a scathing comment about how women are graspy and greedy and then Jessica comes back with an even more scathing response that “men are brutes”. LOVE IT. A close second, also from the same book, is at the end when Dain tells Vawtry “Bet you’re glad she didn’t have a gun” after Jessica has trounced him. I think I’ll be reading this book again very soon, lol.

  • Serena

    Hmmmmm. Mine has got to be from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry FINALLY confronts Voldemort in the end. He just seems to know everything and Voldemort is terrified by his knowledge. That was a moment of gratuitous coolness.

    Thx for the post, Ilona. Love your books!


  • evening-green

    I think a favorite moment of gratuitous coolness of mine would be in “Ronia the Robber’s Daughter” which I read as a child, when Ronia’s friend (who is the son of the rivaling band of robber’s chief) is held prisoner by her own people and she ensures his safety by jumping over an abyss to be captured by her family’s enemies who then can exchange her for him and both go free. I still remember this scene vividly and I think it will stick with me for a long time.


davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 





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