Write what is wrong if it seems true to you and hang the critics of romance who would have it otherwise.
I have not read a lot of Judith Ivory. I intend to correct that. I’ve read some (and need to re-read that) but this quote jumped out at me, and it is extremely relevant to my interests at present. While it’s been some time since I’ve spent the majority of my writing time scrawling in endless notebooks about how I can’t write, want to write, need to write, but nothing is coming, oh my word, am I all done? Well, no, obviously not, because I would not have a writing blog if I were. I would not be filling out invoices for my work sold to other markets, and I would not be working on current novel, novella and other projects. At the time, though, it felt like it, and that’s a feeling I want to remember. Not relive, but remember, because it has a job to do.
Earlier today, I finished rereading an old favorite historical romance, Call Back the Dream, by Barbara Hazard, which I’ve talked about some before, and likely will do again. This book is one of the special ones, that has stuck with me through decades of reading, held up exactly as I’d hoped it would. It reminds me why I love reading and writing historical romance, and makes me excited to read its companion book, which I have recently discovered somehow got separated from its parent and is in storage. :sulk: No matter, I’ll pick another read from the same bookcase, though I can’t say which right now. What I’m going for is the feel more than anything else, the big, thick bug-squasher historical romance steeped in the spirit of the times (Professor Facos, thank you for introducing me to zeitgeist, probably the greatest gift a professor could give a writer of historical romance.) – the characters think, believe and behave as people of their time, and that drives the plot.
I. Love. This. Book. So. Hard. It. Hurts. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know what sort of books I prefer to read, and, ideally, write, and will definitely read it again. During this particular reread, a new thought occurred to me: this book might not have made it to mainstream publication today, and if it did, there would likely be differences. Granted, there are fashions in writing, especially in genre fiction, same as there are in clothes, makeup, hairstyles, etc. It’s also true that publishing does go in cycles, so maybe some of the things that may read as dated now to the very modern reader may be all the rage next year.
Long separations aren’t common in many historical romances published today, but that doesn’t mean it takes away from the romance. Alexander and Camille are separated for fifteen years in this story, by parents who don’t take kindly to mixing classes, and both do marry other people in the interim. Reasons for and outcomes of those marriages make sense in Georgian England, and neither spouse is demonized. I liked that. When Alexander’s first wife dies, there’s pressure to seek another wife, as soon as possible, because he’s not getting any younger, and the title can only be passed down to his direct male descendant. This. Is. A. Problem. Alexander didn’t want to marry anybody but Camille in the first place, but he did his duty, and is willing to do it again. Well, to a point, that is, which I am not going to blab about here, because the scene where he Does A Thing out of strong emotion still makes my skin prickle merely thinking about it. That’s what I want to put into my books, too.
This is not a sexy book. There’s one intimate encounter between Alexander and Camille, and that not spelled out explicitly, but the strength of their love and the bond between them does perfectly fine without going into physical detail. It’s not a inspirational book, though Camille is a vicar’s daughter, her faith affects her choices, and we see her making observances of same. Her first husband is agnostic, and though it’s not gone into depth there, either, their differing views provide for stimulating conversations between the couple. Sex and faith both influence the plot but don’t dominate, though the love Camille and Alexander share, and its obstacles, do. When I read these pages, I ache for these characters and what they need to go through to achieve their HEA. I want to make that.
I love that, when Camille and Alexander do find each other after all those years, it’s not quick or easy. One of them is still married, for one thing, there’s a child involved, and both parties have huge paradigm shifts regarding things they thought they knew beyond any doubt. There’s anger. There’s betrayal. There’s an offer nice people don’t make. There’s consideration of that offer, and consideration of what acceptance of that offer would mean to other people, on an intimate and grander scale. I want to suck this in and soak in it and breathe it and learn from it and make it mine.
There are some books that we read. There are some books from which we learn. There are some books in which we see ourselves, as we are or as we would like to become. Long ago, I had the idea of starting a feature, on my previous blog (or the one before that?) to ramble about my favorite-favorite historical romance novels, but I never did it. No idea why, but no time like the present, and so I induct Call Back the Dream by Barbara Hazard as the official first member of the Order of the Golden Curtsy. Time to show respect to a mistress of the genre.