So, this week was pretty pants. Although I’ll be posting this on Monday, I’m writing the post now – hence me speaking about a pants week (it wouldn’t make sense if I said it on a Monday at the beginning of the week – it’d be a pretty negative and fortune-telling way of thinking of the future).
I’ll not go into why it was pants, but I will say it was one of those weeks where you catch yourself gazing out of the window, having stopped mid-activity, thinking and feeling nothing, if not slightly ‘blurgh’ and then, realising you’re wasting time, you sigh a big gusty breath and resume your day.
Sometimes it’s something specific and large which sends you down into the dumps with a resounding thump. Sometimes it’s a slow process with various stimuli taking you down a gradual slope into those picturesque surroundings of that bland land.
When thinking about writing this post (which, to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to) I knew I was going to include something from my new book and that was at least a persuasion for me to write it. If you can remember, I announced that I wanted to do a new blog series now called ‘Making Use of Reviews’. This will be the first of those posts using ideas from the reviews of my debut novel to shape my new book, Miss Rotherham, as I revise the manuscript.
From some reviews I had on my debut novel, readers suggested that they like to see a hero and heroine meet early-on in a novel. Interestingly, I had already written my next novel before reading these ideas. When writing my new book, I wanted to create depth in my characters as I did in The Widow’s Redeemer, but instead of doing this before the characters meet, I wanted to do it afterwards. This was a more challenging way of writing for me as I needed to weave the hero and heroine’s personal histories, feelings and character traits into the narrative whilst they were interacting and the story was moving forward. One positive from trying this, however, is that it allowed the main characters to meet earlier in the book and have more time together.
In Miss Rotherham, I have my new hero, Wolversley, and heroine, Miss Rotherham, meeting in the first chapter. I thought that particular scene would be great to share today, not only to show you how I have used my reviews to help me shape my next novel, but also because Miss Julia Rotherham finds herself transported to the dumps with a great big thump when she meets the hero:
‘ At the moment that Julia Rotherham saw Lucius Wolversley her jaw shot downwards, she dropped her fan and stumbled backwards in quite an unladylike fashion. She blinked, but rather than the Earl’s presence being a trick of the mind, as it so often had been, he remained. She felt her fan pressed back into her hand by one of the servants but her eyes could not be shaken from the man who had just entered. She prayed that the priceless crystal chandelier would fall down and break a hole in the ballroom floor through which she could be swallowed. She awaited the event, knowing that she would be the happiest woman alive when the ground closed over her. Unfortunately, said event did not come to pass. Truly, Julia wondered if going to church all her life was ever going to be worth it.
She retracted her eyes from the chandelier she had been willing to displace, and looked again for Wolversely. She could see he had almost fully descended the stairs and knew at any moment, according to decorum, he would come to greet the hostess, her mother. She looked about her in a panicked way. She was standing in line with her parents near the foot of the stairs, helping to greet the guests as they arrived to celebrate the beautiful Annabelle’s launching into Society. He was closing in on her.
How could she escape speaking to him? Her rapidly darting eyes saw a path through the crowds, perhaps if she ran now. She glanced back at her parents and knew in an instant her escape was not to be. Her mother, who had spotted and recognized the Earl of Hungtindon, was sending her eldest daughter excited looks. But of course, it did not matter what had happened before, her mother would quite happily forget it in the hopes her daughter had another chance with this man. Well, one thing Julia knew for sure was that he would definitely not have any of her.
With the knowledge that her mother’s matchmaking mind was already at work, the formation of another escape plan was essential. Julia decided that if she managed an athletic leap, she might dive under the seats that were lined up against the wall just to the side of her. No, wait, that would be no good. Even if she managed to fit through the chair legs she would most probably hurt her hips, and she couldn’t be certain of not upsetting the occupants of said chairs. Botheration! Why was it so difficult to form a devious, last-minute departure plan in the midst of a ball? One would think, owing to the large amounts of people, that it would be easier to dissolve into the melee. Not for Julia Rotherham it seemed. There was a rather spacious gap between the Rotherham welcoming party and their guests, and her mother’s roving eyes would catch and put a stop to her flight in seconds. Julia glanced at the chairs next to her again and decided, to own the truth, she would not have minded upsetting at least one of the occupants.
Miss Lily Merriweather, a young woman who had seated herself third along the row and who looked as though she was preening her feathers behind that prettily moving fan, was not a friend of Julia’s. If ever there was a beautiful girl of fortune who knew it, it was Miss Merriweather who had come back for her second Season in London. It must have been a tremendous shock for the self-assured young miss, not to have secured a matrimonial partner in her first Season, and she was back this year with a vengeance and an unswerving determination to catch a husband.
The problem, if you could call it so, with Miss Merriweather, and the reason that so many of her sex chose either to avoid her or to fawn upon her, was her waspish character. Miss Rotherham took the former position when it came to the young woman but sometimes that particular tact was unsuccessful, tonight being one of those occasions. Not failing in her predisposition for evil tendancies, when Julia had failed to avoid her, Lily Merriweather had commented on the outmodish look of her adversary’s dress. Said in such sweet syrupy tones after greeting the Rotherham party, Julia had again almost missed the barbed comment. When she had realized the insult, she was quick to shut her fan and even quicker to stop her desire to clock Lily Merriweather over the head with it. It seemed that the prickly young lady would never forgive Julia for stealing her prize conquest last Season.
That was the one thing that did console Julia, the fact that not only had she stolen one of the richest bachelors in London from under Miss Merriweather’s nose, but she had not even married him. Peter Highsmith was a dear friend, but he certainly wasn’t the husband for Julia. She had told him so herself and thanks to some careful glossing, she had managed to keep the offer from her parent’s knowledge. Who knows what bricks would come tumbling off the Rotherham’s house if they found out the truth? Peter was still single this Season, and not in any danger of touching Miss Merriweather, even with a rather large barge pole. Since hearing her treatment of Julia he had decided that perhaps her pretty face was not worth the venom that lurked beneath.
Now where was Julia’s mind racing off to? It was just like her overactive and quite underused brain to jump from subject to subject without the least care to the present predicament she was in. At any moment she was to meet the man who had broken her heart and here she was thinking of Lily Merriweather. Fiddlesticks! If only she had worn a better dress. She had not wanted to steal attention from her sister this evening, as though she could steal attention from her beautiful and innocent younger sister, but the determination not to do so had led her to wearing a plain evening gown of a non-descript colour with very little decoration. If only she had taken up her mama’s offer to buy her a new dress, she could have chosen a ravishing one, had it made up in green silk to pick up her eyes and set off her brown hair. She could have asked Madam Trilluex to cut it daringly low. Oh, the preparations she would have made if she had known of Lucius Wolversley’s attendance. She could have looked so entrancing that the Earl of Huntingdon would have fallen on his knees and begged for her to take him back.
Ridiculous! She reprimanded herself mentally and even shook her shoulders and head a little just to be sure she had rid herself of the ludicrous notions her panicked mind was incubating. With so much to occupy her and her eyes being engaged in staring off in quite the opposite direction, she was taken aback when another much larger hand took her own. Before she could swing her head around quickly enough, she felt the briefest press of lips on her silk glove.
“Your servant, Miss Rotherham.”
She looked down upon the face which rose steadily before her, the eyes it held evading her own. Her hand was frozen into position so it was just as well that the Earl let go, for she would not have taken it back consciously. Her lips were uncompromising in their pursed position, her eyes wide with shock. It took all her will power to keep her hand down by her side where she had finally placed it, and not bringing it up to lay a stinging slap across Wolversley’s superficially smiling face.’