Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Regency Plot that I Forgot

If you've read either of my novels, you know that medieval historical fiction is the genre where I hang my hat. But while both my published works take place between the 11th and 14th centuries, that's not the only time period I have an affinity for. Believe it or not, I have a couple partially written Regency romances in the drawer just waiting for me to finish what I started.

There's one piece in particular that I'd like to turn into a novella or a full length novel. Right now it's only at 6,000 words and it doesn't have a title yet, but here's the set-up:

Mrs. Ellsworth sighed wearily. She propped herself up against the striped satin cushions to make her final appeal. “You, sir, are his uncle! How can you be so unfeeling toward his plight?”
Lord Pearlton gave an affected yawn and adjusted his sleeve cuffs with minute precision. “My dear sister, the blessed state of bachelorhood is hardly a plight which one need be feeling towards. Your Harry is unmarried—let him count himself fortunate. The beast matrimony will savage him soon enough.”
“Your personal distaste of matrimony is wholly irrelevant to the issue,” replied Mrs. Ellsworth coldly. It was a sore point between them that Lord Pearlton had never married. She, a dozen years his senior, had never failed in offering her admonitions on the subject. He, a wealthy bachelor of the first stare, had never failed in disregarding them. When he had turned thirty last spring, she had pronounced him incorrigible and had disappointedly given up all projects for his future. Now, however, there was another project to be managed. Young Henry Ellsworth had reached the hallowed age of twenty-one, and his mother was determined that he would marry an heiress. But first, his uncle must introduce him into the proper society.
“Camilla,” said Pearlton languidly, “you do understand that fortune hunters are not looked upon favorably in society, do you not?”
Mrs. Ellsworth took offence. “Harry is not a fortune hunter!”
“Oh, I beg your pardon. Perhaps there is a better phrase to designate impecunious gentlemen desiring to entrap wealthy females.”
“Upon my word, Lindsey! You are completely odious.”
“Regrettably, yes.”
“I knew how it would be when I resolved to ask you, but no amount of effrontery will deter me from seeking the good of my child. Will you, or will you not, do your duty by your nephew?”
“I was not aware that my duty consisted of throwing him in the way of wealthy young women.” 

Naturally, Lord Pearlton is prevailed upon to acquiesce to his sister's request. He bring's Harry to London and sets about finding him a bride. A dinner party and some social visits narrow down the field to Anna Marchmount, an heiress with an invalid mother who does not spend much time in Town. Pearlton connives to get an invitation out to the Marchmounts' country estate and brings Harry there to woo the fair damsel. In the process, Pearlton realizes that he's fallen for Anna himself.

The trouble is, it's been so long since I first started this piece that I can't remember what is keeping Pearlton and Anna apart. What's the obstacle that must be overcome (other than the fact that she was supposed to be Harry's in the first place)? There's a scene a few thousand words in that sets up a mystery in Pearlton's past:

 Without mincing words, Pearlton outlined the commission entrusted to him by his anxious sister, namely, to promote his nephew’s interest with a lady of quality and money. “And the long and short of the matter is that I agreed to it, and now I have the wretched lad in tow.”
Wilmington whistled thoughtfully. “That does beat all. Don’t envy you. Wouldn’t like it if it was me. Is he up to snuff?”
“Regrettably, no. He’s the veriest gudgeon I’ve ever laid eyes upon. He has no sense of address, no charm, no virtues at all that I can discover, unless they be his staunch sobriety and adherence to familial duty. But be this as it may, I am determined to carry it off. I view this undertaking in the light of a challenge, and I cannot fail.”
“Can’t fail, eh?” said Wilmington with a mischievous shine in his eye. “Let’s hope this challenge ain’t like that one with Featherby because if it is, you ain’t--”
“Good God, George!” interrupted Pearlton. “Will you never let me live that down?” He ran a hand through his brown curls and begged his friend to give up his constant allusions to that unfortunate incident now ten years past.
The Earl of Wilmington chuckled. “If it was me, you’d never let me forget it. They all said that you were the sure thing, and that Featherby couldn’t hold a candle to you--”
“Enough!” pleaded Pearlton.
“And I laid out a hundred pounds on you. I had such faith--”
“My good man,"--Pearlton's voice was jovial but an experienced listener might have noticed a hard edge to it--"if you continue on in this vein, I really must take my leave of you. My amour propre cannot survive this constant assault.”
“Oh, very well then,” said Wilmington, but the smile did not leave his face.
“Very well then,” repeated Pearlton severely, as if the subject had been definitively closed.

I'm certain that this bet involving "Featherby" that happened ten years ago is a crucial piece to the plot and will come into play later as Pearlton tries to win the girl. But I can't, for the life of me, remember what that bet was. Perhaps I never knew in the first place, even when I wrote that scene.

Yesterday, while I was musing on Regency romances (yes, they've been on my brain a lot lately--I'll tell you why in a minute), I came up with a brilliant solution to the "Featherby problem". I now know what happened ten years ago in the challenge that Pearlton lost. I now know why he doesn't want to talk about it. And I now know how it is going to create conflict in the story when he finally woos the girl. But I never said I'd tell you what I came up with--you'll just have to wait till I finish the story. (And since it's number 3 or 4 on my list of WIP, you may be waiting a while. Sorry.)


The thing I did want to tell you is why Regency romances have been a topic of such keen interest to me of late. This summer I've been busy editing a Regency romance for our publishing company, Madison Street Publishing. It's the debut novel of Philippa Jane Keyworth and we've just set the release date and revealed the cover. The story is delightful and the cover's a beauty too. So while you'll probably have to exercise the patience of Job before I get a Regency of my own ready for publication, you won't have to wait long at all to get your hands on this gem. Available online in e-book and paperback December 1--


By Philippa Jane Keyworth

A penniless young widow with an indomitable spirit. A wealthy viscount with an unsavory reputation.

London, 1815: After her husband’s untimely death, Letty Burton comes up from the country with her domineering mother-in-law. Hiding a past she wishes to forget and facing an uncertain future, all she wants is to navigate London Society as a silent companion.

A chance meeting with London’s most eligible bachelor sets in motion a series of events that will bring her quiet life under the unfriendly scrutiny of the ton. With the net of scandal, debts, and rivals closing in, will she let her dark past dictate her life forever? Will she learn to trust again? And most importantly, will she allow herself to love?

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