Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, boy loves girl, trouble, boy gets girl. That’s how it always goes, doesn’t it? Not in real life of course, but in almost every single romance the ending is pretty formulaic. Now, I love a good happy ever after ending as much as the next person, but as a romance writer sometimes writing that perfect last chapter rings a little hollow. Because when boy gets girl, there’s often a third person in the story who doesn’t get their happy ending – and often by definition, because they are not the hero or the heroine. They are not allowed their happy ending.
For those of us who read and write romances all the time, this starts to become the norm and it is hard to pull it out as a negative trope. Of course there’s only one happy ending – and the hero and heroine were made for each other. How could you drag them apart? But just as in fiction as in real life, things are rarely as clean up as that. Some people can fall in love twice; others never have their affection returned; some meet their perfect partner and discover that they are already married. This is the complexity that I love to pour into my books.
I used this device in particular in one of my latest Regency romance novellas, A June Wedding, but the more that I thought about Hestia Royce, my girl who didn’t get the boy, the more I realised that the next story that I wanted to tell was hers. What happens when you don’t get the boy, and he goes off into the sunset with the other girl, the girl that he loved more than you?
This is the story of A Harvest Passion. During the Regency period, the idea of a girl returning to her home town unmarried about her own wedding was a deep source of shame, and the speculation about exactly why her intended had decided in the end not to marry her would have been rife. Gossip and intrigue were two of the most essential facets of good society during that time, and so poor Hestia Royce was thrown into the deep end somewhat when she returned home.
Being able to hold up a mirror to this strange world of tittle tattle was my aim with another character, Leo Tyndale. After spending five years in India, Leo has a much more different approach to the people of the town, and as the two outsiders in the community, neither one fitting the expectations of their society, they cannot help but be drawn to each other. I found exploring Regency era India far more exciting than I could have imagined, and I can’t help but feel as though I will return to it before long.
Exploring the slightly darker and sadder side of a romance has been a fascinating experience for me as an author, and it’s certainly made me think twice about how I leave/abandon my secondary characters in future novels! Sadly though, there is only ever one happy ending to go around, and so far Hestia Royce hasn’t found hers.
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About the Author
Emily Murdoch is a medieval historian and writer. Throughout her career so far she has examined a codex and transcribed medieval sermons at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, designed part of an exhibition for the Yorkshire Museum, worked as a researcher for a BBC documentary presented by Ian Hislop, and worked at Polesden Lacey with the National Trust. She has a degree in History and English, and a Masters in Medieval Studies, both from the University of York. Emily has a medieval series and a Regency novella series published, and is currently working on several new projects. You can follow her on twitter and instagram @emilyekmurdoch, find her on Facebook and read her blog at www.emilyekmurdoch.blogspot.co.uk.