Love is a hard enough thing to figure out in real life, let alone within the confines of a three hundred page novel. In the classic historical romance, hero meets heroine, they overcome a large obstacle that either makes them a) fall in love OR b) prove their love and they live happily-ever-after with a prologue that usually involves babies.
And that's nice, and it's lovely, and it's familiar... but love isn't nice and lovely and familiar. It's hard and messy and frustrating and amazing and makes you cry almost as much as it makes you laugh.
As a writer, it's my job to weave a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Toss some headstrong characters into the mix, a plot of some sort, lots of fancy dresses, a few horses, one or two ducks (because ducks are AWESOME), a lot of emotion and WHAM - out pops a romance novel.
Except those headstrong characters don't fall in love all by themselves. They need a reason, and some chemistry (who doesn't love some good chemistry?), and often a good ol' fashioned push by moi. I just started reading a new historical romance last night (read what you write, my fellow author friends -- read what you write) and within the first chapter the hero and heroine, who had never met previously, were introduced at a ball, indulged in some witty banter, and decided they were both head-over-heels in love.
Since I still have thirty chapters to go I am assuming that problems will arise, but I have to admit I'm a little jealous at the ease with which those two came together. In the first chapter of The Duke of St. Giles West calls Emily a chit (collective gasp of oh no he didn't!) and thinks she's off her rocker. Emily, in turn, considers throwing herself out of a moving carriage just to get away from him. Suffice it to say, St. Giles is not a love-at-first-sight sort of story. But it is a love story, which means at some point Emily and West have to do the deed.
No, not that deed (although they do that too).
They have to fall in love.
For me, as both a reader and a writer, love needs to be believable.
If it happens too soon it lacks credibility. If it takes too long it gets boring. It's a constant balancing act. Too little, too much, and you tip the scales in the wrong direction. I like to think real life is like that too. At least it has been in my experience. When someone else's emotions are involved you're constantly walking a tightrope.
There's a passage in The Duke of St. Giles that I'm rather fond of. I rediscovered it last night when I was doing some edits and wanted to share it with you today. It's plucked from the middle of the novel, where West is struggling to come to terms with what he feels for Emily and how much he's willing to risk for her.
And West knew he was not good enough for her, and he knew a hundred obstacles stood in their way, and he knew there was a chance she never wanted to see him again… but bloody hell if it wasn’t worth a try. For Emily, he would risk everything. For Emily, he would lose anything. And even if all he knew was lost to him forever, he would make the same choice again if only for the chance to see her face one last time.
At least, that's the reaction I'm going for.
When people ask what I write and I tell them historical romance, there's almost always a little bit of a smirk and I know what they're thinking: You write romance? For realz? That's cute. If I were less of a lady I would pop a right hook while screaming "THAT'S RIGHT BITCHESSS" but I have a reputation to uphold here. Not to mention the thought of physical violence and yelling makes me ill. I know I'm a wimp. You don't have to tell me. My varsity basketball coach took care of that, thanks.
While to some I'm sure historical romance seems like mindless fluff, for those who write it and those who love to read it it's much more than that. It's about connecting and emotion and overcoming the odds and, ultimately, finding love with that one person in the whole entire world you just can't live without. That's a lot of feels to squeeze into one tidy package, but that's my job. One I (hopefully) do okay at.
Is love a pain the ass?
Is it worth it?
Look for The Duke of St. Giles at the end of this month at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo!