First Draft Completed

Having gotten past the first novel hurdle, which seems like an endless string of worry looking back, I finished the first draft of Proper Secrets in two and a half months.  My first drafts tend to be shorter than the finished product because I favor brevity, which often gets me lots and lots of dialogue and interaction, and not so much of other things.

Now I let it sit, and wait for time and distance to take me away so I can objectively slash and hack up my precious manuscript here in a few weeks.

One of the founding ideas behind this book is that I wanted to satisfy my Jane Austen craving.  I shortly discovered that I wanted things going on in this book that didn’t fit Regency England, and so what I’ve turned out is a faux historical romance set in an alternate Europe.  I explain this at the beginning of the novel with the following letter:

“If there is anything I know, it’s that historical fiction readers do not like having the facts tampered with.  This is the chief reason why I decided not to write a historically accurate Regency romance.  The book you are reading now is set in an alternate Europe, and none of it is to be taken as more than fiction.  I love history–it was my major in college, and when I see it misrepresented, I cringe and fume for days.  It would break my heart for such an error to spring out of my book.
On that note, I did write this with modern readers in mind.  Language has changed, and I am hard-wired to write a certain way, being both of the late 1900’s and American.  I cannot replicate Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters, and hope that my personal style can be enjoyed for what it is, as character-driven fiction.
In the appendix, I’ve included some helpful information about the world I’ve created.  Endland is the country in which the story takes place, and I didn’t plan on it sounding quite so much like England, but it stuck.  It is the country at the “end” of the continent, and shares a land border with Sypass.  These two countries have been engaged in a border war for decades.  If you read no more of the background I’ve provided, this information will get you through the novel.  If, however, you wish to know more about the history and customs of Endland before joining Miss Worthing on her quest for truth, a map and other reference can be found in the aforementioned appendix.  
Happy Reading,

Perhaps I’m being paranoid, but after seeing several authors skewered to the wall for inaccurate historical portrayals, I didn’t want anyone to think that’s what I was trying to accomplish.

On to the fun part!  PROPER SECRETS has been the working title so far, but I think I’m changing it to LIES LIKE PARADISE, a phrase that hit me during the first write-through and just spilled out of the main character’s mouth.  The story follows Emily Worthing, the eldest daughter of a wealthy country family.  She is fiercely loyal to her family, and cautious of strangers, especially Mr. Wingrave who moves into the area just before the Worthings throw their annual ball.  He brings with him his siblings, Mary and Jonah, and two friends, Mr. Sheridan, and Miss Woodward.

Immediately, Mr. Wingrave pays Emily every attention, and yet something about him makes her suspicious.  His background doesn’t seem to fit together as one would expect, and his blatant attempt to gain her favor draws whispers.  As their friendship spirals toward romance, and Emily’s older brother Peter falls for Mary Wingrave, it becomes apparent that the Wingraves will not allow others close enough to find out their secrets.

Here is a scene from early on in the book, a dinner party at Reddester, Mr. Wingrave’s estate.

Dinner at Reddester

The night continued to go poorly for Emily when she found herself seated next to Mr. Wingrave at dinner.  Mr. Worthing sat at the other end of the table with Genevieve and Mary whom he entertained with his special brand of storytelling.
“How was the rose bush, Miss Worthing?” said Mr. Wingrave.
“Quite pretty,” she said.  
“Told her it was nothing to her beauty,” hiccuped Mr. Sheridan, who had, upon sitting, swallowed his wine and asked for another.
“I’m sure,” said Mr. Wingrave.
“I’d not want to be compared to a flower,” said Miss Woodward to Emily’s right hand.
“Oh, and why is that?” inquired Mr. Wingrave.
“It’s delicate, and at times, thorny,” said Miss Woodward.  
Feeling the pointed end of this remark, Emily said, “Thorns are a defense against the stupid and unwary.  And no matter the cold weather, flowers always return.”  Miss Woodward sniffed and twisted to Jonah on her other side.  Mr. Wingrave cleared his throat behind a napkin in what Emily would have called a veiled chuckle if it had not been completely unsupportable to laugh.
“To the rose of Charlton!” said Mr. Sheridan.  He held up his glass in a toast.
“I would share the honor with my sisters, if you don’t mind.  To the roses of Charlton,” corrected Emily.  Everyone smiled and drank.  The dinner went on, as most do, until Genevieve rose from her seat unexpectedly and went to Emily.
“Em, I am ill,” she said.  Emily rose immediately, took her by the shoulders, and made way to the restroom.
“Please, hold it in until we get there,” whispered Emily.  Genevieve nodded.  She did wait until Emily could get her over a wash basin.
“You are fine, my dear, just fine.  Too much wine for one not used to it.  We’ll clean you up and you will feel ten times better,” Emily soothed her.  She rubbed the poor girl’s back until it was over, then entreated a nearby maid for some water.
“Oh Emily, how can I face the Wingraves?” said Genevieve as her sister put her hair back in place.
“Darling, you are young.  They will understand,” said Emily.  The water arrived and Genevieve was put to rights.  
“No more wine, tonight,” said Emily.
“No caution needed,” said Genevieve.  
“Put on your best pitiable smile, it will stave off any cruelty,” Emily assured her.  Genevieve practiced until they entered the dining room.
“Miss Genevieve, are you in need of a doctor?” said Mary.
“No, thank you Miss Wingrave, I…” Genevieve broke off, embarrassed.
“Genevieve is not allowed wine at our house.  It overcame her for a moment,” said Emily, releasing the girl to her chair.
“Oh, that’s all right.  We have fresh juice from this morning,” said Mary.  Emily gave thanks and regained her seat.
“It must be difficult, mothering your sister,” said Miss Woodward.  Genevieve’s face fell with shame and Mary frowned at the horrid manners of her friend.
“Not at all, Miss Woodward.  She is a joy to our family.  What you call mothering, I call caring,” said Emily.
“Surely the added responsibility must keep you from pursuing the priorities of a young lady, marriage for example,” said Miss Woodward.  Mr. Worthing and Mr. Wingrave shifted with unease in their chairs.
“I assure you that I devote just as much time to that as it deserves,” said Emily.  Miss Woodward smiled at Mr. Wingrave, the glint of triumph in her eyes.

~ by Rachel Francis on September 13, 2012.

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