Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Perversity

Note: being perverse is not the same as being a pervert...or at least not inherently.  I'm using the following definition: "willfully determined or disposed to go counter to what is expected or desired; contrary" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/perverse) Being perverse also isn't the same as being rebellious. I'm fond of following rules, especially if they are reasonable; what I find intriguing is the effort to exceed and expand expectations, not just oppose them.

So, after some revisions based on my agent's feedback, I submitted the synopsis of Book 2 (tentatively entitled ALWAYS A STRANGER) to my editor last week!

Reflecting on the heroines of both NEVER TOO LATE and ALWAYS A STRANGER, I realize that both female characters reveal a lot about my streak of perversity. While the settings for these novels grew out of my interest in Victorian England in general and the Great Exhibition of 1851 in specific, these heroines grew out of thinking about what we don't often see in Regency and Victorian historical romances.

While widows are fairly common in Victorian historical romances, Mrs. Honoria Duchamp's age is what makes her unusual. She's 40, which is almost unheard of, and she's a middle-class businesswoman. Many heroines in this genre are young women in their late teens and early twenties--primarily because they are of marriageable age. In Regencies, they also tend to be young ladies of the ton, either newly introduced to society or "on the shelf," meaning they've gone through a few London seasons and are almost considered unmarriageable. Please keep in mind that there are plenty of exceptions too (Joanna Bourne's Black Hawk, for instance, involves a dual bildungsroman where we get to see the mature hero and heroine after all they've been through...probably in their 30s, maybe 40s). My point is that there are some common, and very enjoyable and entertaining, tropes about Regency and Victorian romance heroines, and Honoria was perversely created to run counter to those tropes. Yes, she's much older than the usual heroine. And, yes, she runs her own business with moderate success.  And, yes, here's another perverse twist--she finds herself in a romantic relationship with a man in his twenties. This might seem unbelievable to some readers, but nothing about Honoria is historically unrealistic. Unusual, perhaps. Potentially scandalous in their time, maybe. But not out of the realm of possibility. And I suppose my point in creating her was to stretch common tropes and to explore other possibilities.

Miss Sumaki, the heroine of ALWAYS A STRANGER, grew out of my observation that Regency and Victorian romances occasionally lack cultural diversity...and, in fact, I can probably count on both hands the non-Caucasian heroes and heroines I've read in these genres.  Two of my favorite historical romances featuring non-Caucasian main characters are Meredith Duran's Duke of Shadows (a half-Indian hero) and Mary Jo Putney's Angel Rogue (a half-Native American heroine) in her Fallen Angels series. They're rare.  (I greatly enjoy the cultural diversity in Zoe Archer's Blades of the Rose series, but that's historical paranormal romance, which I see as a distinct genre.) And so, as I considered the international emphasis of the Great Exhibition, it made sense to highlight a non-Caucausian character--in this case, a linguistically talented half-Asian woman.  Miss Sumaki also suited other elements of the plot that echo our modern society without being historically inaccurate.

At heart, I suppose, like most other writers, I write what I'd like to see more of, and I'm very fond of these two heroines, both strong and intelligent women who are somewhat outside the "norm." I don't know that I'll always feature characters who challenge convention, but I find it enertaining to consider what's not being done and try to do it.

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