Secondary characters are a menace! That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But it’s true. You go along planning out a story with a perfectly lovely hero and heroine and then when you start actually writing it those so-and-sos who were just there to provide a little background colour start developing all kinds of endearing characteristics and demanding centre stage. It’s extremely frustrating and more than a little bit cheeky.
Actually in my newest novel, Counterfeit Viscountess, I’ve mostly been able to keep them under control. First of all, there’s my hero’s older sister, Eleanor, a widow quite in the habit of bossing poor Christopher around. Fortunately, he doesn’t mind, but I was surprised at how opinionated Eleanor turned out to be.
Then there’s her son, Michael, whose shenanigans are indirectly responsible for the predicament Christopher and my heroine, Caroline, find themselves in. He wasn’t necessarily going to appear in the story at all and yet somehow he ended up saving the day – or at least that’s what he’ll tell you he did.
Both of them may have a story of their own someday. Michael has to grow up a bit, but Eleanor could do with a little romance in her life as soon as possible.
Finally, there’s Mrs. Winthrop. She was supposed to be quite a cranky old busybody, but she ended up quite delightful, at least in my opinion. Thank heavens she isn’t pestering me for a book of her own though. I’m not sure I could take it. And her puerile granddaughters would be horrified. Hmmm, it might almost be worth it just for that reason. They’re both very annoying young women.
Of course it’s not only the characters themselves who start demanding a starring role. When my daughter read my WWII romance, Not2Nite, she told me the story was fine, but I really ought to write one about Charlotte. Charlotte, a fairly minor character, was an aviatrix delivering planes to various air force bases across England and my heroine, Molly’s, cousin and flatmate. I shrugged if off until one of my very first reviews on Amazon said something along the line of ‘I want to read a story about Charlotte!’. I’m still mulling that one over. Charlotte, with her red lipstick and penchant for dancing the night away, is pretty cool. I just need to invent a hero worthy of her insouciance.
Actually, I guess I shouldn’t complain about them. Some of my favourite people are minor characters. They add depth to a story and convey information that’s often crucial for moving the plot along. Maybe I’m just worried about what kinds of monstrous secondary characters would appear in their stories if I ever let them take centre stage. I may lose control completely. It almost doesn’t bear thinking of. But what do I know? I’m just the author.
What happens when they both start wanting a real marriage?
Practical Caroline Saxon must travel to London for the season, when all she really wants is to stay in Ireland and breed horses. But a carriage accident leaves her unchaperoned at a posting inn.
Dashing Christopher Hawking just wants a bed for the night. He didn't expect to find it occupied by a beautiful woman or to be caught sneaking out of her room. In the light of day, a London-bound member of the ton finds them together.
Attraction flares between the two in spite of themselves. But how will they save Caroline's reputation and calm the storm of the ton's gossip?
When they were alone again and the tea distributed, Christopher and Caroline did their best to explain to Eleanor the events of the morning and the evening before.
Eleanor listened without interruption, contenting herself with the occasional raised eyebrow as her only commentary on the convoluted tale. When they had finished she turned to Christopher and remarked, "I must say, it seems quite foolish to have allowed Annabelle Winthrop of all people to discover you. She's a complete pea goose and she won't take kindly to Miss Saxon's appearance on the scene. She's been setting her cap at you forever."
"I didn't exactly do it on purpose," Christopher was stung to reply.
"On purpose or not, it's got you into a great deal of difficulty which could have been avoided if you had taken more care."
Recognizing the signs of temper on Christopher’s face, Caroline interjected quickly. "Indeed, Lord Saxon did everything he could. If not for his quick thinking, we would have already come to ruin. You really cannot blame him for the presence of Miss Winthrop in the same inn where we were staying."
"Nonsense, I can blame him for anything I wish. I've been doing it since he was a baby and very handy it's been as well. It's one of the only advantages of having a younger sibling."
The fond smile she bestowed on her brother precluded any sting Caroline, less used to the ways of siblings, might have imagined such a comment implied, as did Christopher’s bland acceptance of her outrageous assertion. Though she had watched, and frequently envied, the comfortable, if often fractious, interaction between the brothers and sisters she’d played with as a child, she clearly had much to learn about family relationships when adulthood was achieved.
“However, I suppose there’s nothing we can do about it now,” Eleanor conceded, magnanimously. “But mind, Christopher, I’ll expect you to take a great deal more care the next time you break into a respectable woman’s bedroom.”
Barbara Burke’s peripatetic life means she’s lived everywhere from a suburban house in a small town to a funky apartment in a big city, and from an architecturally designed estate deep in the forest to a cedar shack on the edge of the ocean. Everywhere she’s gone she’s been accompanied by her husband, her animals and her books. For the last ten years she’s worked as a freelance journalist and has won several awards. She was a fan of Jane Austen long before that lady was discovered by revisionists and zombie lovers and thinks Georgette Heyer was one of the great writers of the twentieth century. She lives by the philosophy that one should never turn down the opportunity to get on a plane no matter where it’s going, but deep down inside wishes she could travel everywhere by train. Ironically she now lives on an island that doesn’t have any trains at all.
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