Recently there haven’t been as many family feud stories in the romance novel, which is a shame, because there is so much potential for it.
But when the muse strikes, it strikes and there wasn’t much I could do about it. That, and the resurgence of the more angsty historical romance gave me a chance to write about something that’s fascinated me for most of my life. Along with writing about passion, tempestuous relationships and people falling in love, that is.
My stories are based in Georgian England, just before the Regency period, so to do some research, recently I went to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace to research the Jacobites. Culloden, the ‘forty-five, Bonnie Prince Charlie and all that. They have a great display of maps and portraits, letters and even a copy of an order to spies. Then it struck me. The Jacobites were the enemies of the Hanoverians, and they were the ancestors of the current generation. The Queen is a Hanoverian. And she has loads of stuff on the rebellion and the Jacobites. So why would their enemy treasure and preserve all that material?
Because it was a family feud. The Queen has Stuart ancestry too. So the Jacobite rebellion could be seen as one big family feud.
I hope the Queen forgives the whoop I gave when I realized that, because my series, “The Emperors of London,” is about two warring families, and the trouble they cause. The Dankworths are for the Stuarts and the heroes of this series, nicknamed the Emperors of London, want to keep the status quo.
Moreover (don’t you love that word?) I set it in the 1750’s, a time of turmoil for Britain, with an ageing king, an underage heir and lots of unrest at home and in Europe.
But romances aren’t about all that. They’re about how individuals cope, and how they cope when they fall in love with the most inconvenient people! So I had fun creating a Deep Dark Secret that could mean the safety of the country is at stake. It’s only hinted at in the first book, “Rogue in Red Velvet,” but the feud is there, and the ramifications for the two lovers at the heart of the story.
Still about the romance, but I’m having such fun with the family feud! Some of the books are lighter on the feud than others, because I didn’t want to shoehorn a trope into the stories. And my other love, making the past come to life, shared by that brilliant eccentric, Dennis Severs, whose house I also went to see (don’t you love research?)
When you start to look, there are family feuds all over the place. “Romeo and Juliet” is probably the most straightforward one. I wept buckets over the Zefferelli movie when we went to see it at school, and I guess that was the time I started to get Shakespeare. Then there’s the massively popular “Game of Thrones,” but that one isn’t exactly a romance, is it?
It’s got built-in tension, but it would be easy to make it a one-note series, so I decided to draw from the backstory as needed. New revelations in each book, but the real emphasis is on people falling in love under adversity.
When it comes down to basics, everything is personal. Bonnie Prince Charlie lost his campaign as much through personal failures as political. He was personable, a charming man, but feckless, not very bright and even by the ‘forty-five, when he was regarded as a romantic hero, he was a drunk, if not an alcoholic. By the 1750’s, he’d put on weight, gained a florid complexion and any hope he had of remaining romantic had gone. But then, the Georges were hardly the romantic type. Except they had deep, dark family secrets, too, such as the wife George I kept locked up in a tower because she’d taken a lover. A real-life Rapunzel, though I don’t know how long her hair was. And the secret baby Princess Amelia, daughter of George II, was rumored to have had by a member of her household. A lifelong spinster, if rumor was correct, she wasn’t a lifelong virgin!
Secrets and families. Such rich material for a romantic suspense! So do you enjoy the trope? And can you think of some that really worked for you?