Here’s the challenge: a novel where one of the key plotlines is the rape and subsequent pregnancy of a naïve young volunteer ambulance-driver in Belgium, 1917. Necessity dictates this pregnancy must not still be an issue by the end of the book.
Plenty of potential for harrowing scenes of emotional turmoil and physical distress. Great! My problem, however, is that my agent and I are pitching this within the romance market, since it’s a sequel to Maid of Oaklands Manor, and so the challenge is not so much writing the storyline convincingly and well, as writing it convincingly and well, but without mentioning sex, rape, pregnant or miscarriage! I have not been told specifically to steer clear of these words, but have been given guidelines that suggest certain things are not likely to be well-received within this genre, and specifically with the publisher I have in mind.
I just want to make it clear: this is not a whinge! I have chosen this path, and I’m enjoying it. I’m particularly enjoying this novel as there is plenty of action, romance and drama in it already, which is how I’m able to write these scenes without feeling the need to be more explicit. The girl in question is not my first-person narrator, so I am able to stay within the head, and consequently use the carefully chosen words, of someone who was not present at the time. The perpetrator of the rape is not the ‘leading man,’ nor anyone he knows well, (although his identity is important and has far-reaching consequences) This will hopefully mean that, with our hero unsullied by any hint of foul play, we can continue to root for him and our heroine, while seeking justice for our poor driver.
I know there are plenty of romance novels with ‘orrible stuff in them, and this one is no different, but the ‘orrible stuff in this book is confined to the results of trench warfare and not a reflection on (or of) any of the sympathetic characters. And, since this is a sequel, anyone picking it up has a right to expect a similar style.
Note: I am not saying anyone picking up a book by the same author should necessarily expect the same; if they can read a book, they can read a blurb, and should make their choice based on that. But a sequel needs to keep within the parameters already established, and in the case of this three-parter, it’s simple: action; romance; history-without-the-history-lesson; characters whose heads are fun/interesting to be in. That’s what I’m aiming for, and what I hope people are finding.
As always, comments below welcomed, or you can leave a note on the Facebook post.
Maid of Oaklands Manor: available now from Amazon. £2.99 ($4.63)