Saturday, July 30, 2011

Odd Research

Book two has taken me down a very odd path in the way of research thanks to Philippe's character. I'll give you a slight spoiler over where I've taken him on a short trip--Antigua in the British West Indies.

As usual, if you're going to write about a subject in historical fiction, you need to research the background to make it authentic. I hate making things up, so I dive into the Internet or purchase books, as I did for my first volume. When I was in grade school, I hated history. Now that I am a writer, I enjoy taking the deep dive into period times.

Why Antigua you ask? Well, the picture to the left is that of a sugar plantation in Antigua in the West Indies in 1823 by William Clark, which he made while a resident on the island. I will confess that I had to get Philippe out of the picture for a while to move the story in the direction of Robert and Suzette. Since Philippe was in the shipping business, I've played off the fact that due to a business deal, he needed to travel to the West Indies to procure an important account that would save his sinking company.

How he gets there and who sent him, I'll leave for you to read. However, I also tied into the story the sad fact that slave trading was a practice by the British in the 1700's. Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1808, and all existing slaves were emancipated in 1834. Prior to that time, however, the treatment of slaves on sugar plantations was appalling to say the least. There is no romance in the ill treatment of humans by fellow beings.

Also, book two has really caused me to dig into the character of Philippe and flesh out who this man truly is. Though he married Suzette and unconditionally accepted Robert's son as his own, I'm finding that he's pretty much an empty shell in my mind. I've been diligently working on his character, as well as Jacquelyn, who is Robert's wife. How they move through book two in their relationships with Suzette and Robert will be a huge focus. Remember, I have marriages to split, conflict to create, hearts to break, and hearts to weave back together. I'm finding this book to be a huge challenge and not as easy as I first thought, but I am thoroughly enjoying the adventure of writing it.

So much for my odd research as I continue to write book two. I'm 60 percent toward my goal of 80,000 words, but I have a sneaking suspicion the book may go a bit longer. That's it for now! I am off to write Chapter 17.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marriage, Morals & Divorce in 19th Century

I've been writing with feverish intent to bring Suzette and Robert back together in The Price of Deception. It took me two chapters to set up the reunion after five years of being apart. Frankly, I was surprised at how emotional I became writing the scenes, but found myself struggling how to undo the web of deception I've created in this story.After taking two lovers and marrying each to different spouses, I did not think much about my plan originally. However, since I've been a stickler on historical accuracy, I've been actively reading up on marriage and divorce and finding myself in a pickle. It's fascinating reading, of course, taking all that romance out of the equation once again so we can check back into reality. Let's just say, marriage and divorce was nothing like it is today.

Marriages in the Victorian era were described as being three kinds: those contracted for convenience, those produced by sympathy or love, and those entered into from duty. The aristocracy put great importance on the antiquity and nobility of the families they married, as well as marrying for money. Though love in marriage might be ideal, it was not a practical reality, and people were told not to expect too much from marriage. If you found an ounce of happiness in your union, be thankful.

What about unhappy marriages? Divorce was not easily obtained. Extramarital sexual relations were a normal feature of life. After marriage, adultery was almost inevitable. Adultery, believe it or not, was preferred to divorce, mainly because it was difficult and expensive to obtain. The fact of the matter was that most men had sex with their wives for children, and bedded their mistresses for love and pleasure. A wife had the duty to obey her husband and produce heirs, and in return for her obedience, the husband owed her protection and security.

Divorce in England and France evolved over the years, coupled with Catholic and Anglican restrictions. Since Suzette is a married French woman, her cause for divorce can only be if Philippe is an adulterer and is coupled with other unpleasant circumstances such as physical cruelty, etc. Adultery alone was not grounds for divorce for a woman. However, Philippe could divorce Suzette for adultery and no other cause. To file for divorce, a petition had to be brought before the president of the chambers, and there had to be two attempts before the court to reconcile the marriage. If the marriage failed to reconcile, then court proceedings would continue. Upon the divorce, the children would go to the custody of the husband in 1884, but by 1886 it was left at the discretion of the court. The wife had to take back her maiden name and was forbidden to keep her husband's name. The husband could remarry at once, but the wife had to wait 10 months after divorce before she was allowed to marry again.

As for Robert and marriages in Victorian England, the rules were similar. "The husband could obtain a divorce for adultery, the wife could obtain a divorce for adultery coupled with cruelty or desertion for two or more years, and also for incestuous or bigamous adultery, or rape, or unnatural offenses." (Encyclopedia Britannica) Divorce could be a lengthy and costly procedure that only the rich could usually afford.

So where does that leave my characters? With quite a few obstacles, frankly, that I need to ingeniously work around without killing anyone in the process by relying upon the "until death do us part" promises. If I was really brave, I could just take creative liberty with my story and do as I please; but where is the challenge in that?

Stay tuned as I unhook these four individuals from one another. It could get pretty nasty while I try, so be prepared for a lot of conflict in volume two.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Character Building for Book Two

Part of the fun of book two, The Price of Deception, is the opportunity to develop characters. As you know, Suzette was the main focus in book one, The Price of Innocence. The story focused on her struggle for survival. Book two, however, is going to be Robert's story and his search for truth and love. There will be further character development with his wife, Lady Jacquelyn Spencer, along with Philippe Moreau, Suzette's husband. I thought I'd give you a quick peek into each of their characters and my thoughts for where I will take their lives.

Robert, of course, is a man of remorse. He did at the bidding of Philippe's demands what was honorable. He gave up Suzette as his mistress, but realized upon her departure how much she meant to him. Once gone, he ached for the woman he loved, but found himself trapped in marriage.

His father has passed away, and the duties and responsibilities of Dukedom have passed onto his shoulders. The life of obligation he shunned earlier has now forced him to put away his roguish ways. In doing so, a part of him regrets having wasted his earlier years on frivolous pursuits, because he missed the opportunity to find a wife on his own terms. Instead, he accepted his parents' wishes to marry Lady Jacquelyn Spencer and is quite miserable in the match with a woman he finds cold in bed and overly emotional.

I'm looking forward to developing Robert further in book two. He will be the protagonist in the story, as I focus upon his life and the surprising outcome of his search for love and truth. Has he changed much as far as sharing the bed of prostitutes? Perhaps in London, but when he visits Paris, an old acquaintance will be the one to bring him comfort in times of need until a shocking discovery comes his way. He lives with the knowledge that he has lost everything, but when he finds out it's a web of deception that is keeping him from everything he wishes for in life, he goes through a drastic change.

Lady Jacquelyn Spencer was lightly touched upon in book one. However, her character in book two will be much more involved and a key element to moving the story ahead into the third book in the series.

Jacquelyn is a woman of deep despair. She has become a Duchess and wife to Robert, who she knows only married her for convenience. Like any woman, she hoped for love, but their personalities are far different and her moods are often unpredictable. She suffers from mental anguish over the fact that she is unloved and her womb has been barren for five years. Robert wishes for an heir, but she cannot become pregnant. She longs for a child herself and is obsessed with the desire to have children. However, each month her menses return, it drags her deeper into a pit of hopelessness.

As the story progresses, she'll play out a key role setting the stage for what is to transpire in the years ahead. The old adage, "there is no fury like a woman scorned" will take on life through Jacquelyn. It will be interesting to see how she touches readers as a character. Will she be pitied or despised? Every story needs conflict, and this woman is going to be the source of it. She is quite beautiful in appearance outwardly, but inwardly her pain has turned her into an undesirable woman in Robert's eyes.

Philippe Moreau, of course, is the man of honor who married Suzette. You'll learn more of Philippe and his five-year marriage with the woman who he believes he rescued from the hand of a despicable rouge.

Though he grants to Suzette unconditional love in spite of what occurred in the past and the child she bore Robert, Philippe nurses within him a hatred toward the Duke. He deems him his rival for her deep affections that linger. Even though Suzette never articulates them, it's obvious they are very much a part of her heart. How could they not be? The resemblance that five-year old little Robert carries of his real father is uncanny. Philippe has accepted the child as his own and is determined to keep him and Suzette hidden from Robert at all costs. He is a good father to the boy, and little Robert has bonded to Philippe as the only father he knows in life.

Unfortunately, life has a way of ruining our best intentions, and a chance meeting with his nemesis puts his plans to the test setting a course of change for all involved.

In addition to Philippe's struggles to keep his marriage together, he'll be faced with difficult problems in his shipping business. At the door of bankruptcy, he fears he will lose everything, and you'll watch him struggle to keep his livelihood afloat. He despairs as the threat of loss raises old fears within Suzette of homelessness once again.

What of little Robert? Well, certain personality quirks in his tiny life will be played upon that will carry the story into the future in book three. What's in store for book three? Sorry, my lips are sealed. The pictures on the cover are a clue, but at this point I can assure you until you read book two, you'll have no clue.

Other former characters will make cameo appearances once again too, such as Nadine and Madame Laurent. Also, Robert's Dowager mother will be in the picture a bit too, as well as his sister.

The story will be filled with deception on everyone's part, which will lead to a shocking conclusion rearranging lives in the mix. I hope you'll enjoy what's ahead! Of course, whether Robert and Suzette finally get together again in the end is up to my fingertips that choose the letters on my keyboard. You'll just have to wait to find out! I suppose, however, if I know what's best for me, I better work toward that end.

Regards,

Vicki