Thanks so much to bookworm2bookworm (Melanie) for having me on the blog today as I continue the celebration of my latest release, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS!
When Melanie invited me to write a post for the blog, she suggested the topic of infidelity. Specifically, why do I write about it, as it seems that each of my currently published works (SEDUCING THE DUCHESS, ROMANCING LADY CECILY, and ROMANCING THE COUNTESS) each feature infidelity in some way.
In SEDUCING THE DUCHESS, the story starts with the Duke of Rutherford abducting his wife, Charlotte, in an attempt to woo her back to loving him. However, the story behind the story is that he married her for revenge and they’ve been leading separate lives (although still living in the same house) for three years. He had a mistress before he realized he loved her, and she’s rumored to have had at least a dozen lovers in that time period.
In ROMANCING LADY CECILY, Cecily is engaged to a man she’s never met—for an arranged marriage set up by her father—and yet she can’t stay away from Baron Sedgwick, a man who seduces her heart and teaches her about her body’s desires. As a result, she is both emotionally and physically unfaithful to her betrothed.
In ROMANCING THE COUNTESS, both Leah and Sebastian are victims of their respective spouses’ affair. Although Leah knew of the affair for nearly a year and hid it from everyone, Sebastian doesn’t find out until the night their spouses die. Their love story unfolds as they each try to move on with their lives in different ways, but still find themselves draw them together.
First, a few things you must know.
1) I have never cheated on my spouse, nor has my husband cheated on me.
2) As far as I know my parents never cheated on each other. (Thankfully on both accounts, and by which I mean to say, there is no psychological basis for writing about infidelity.)
3) What has been published so far are stories that were proposed to my publisher and accepted. I have had at least 3 other stories that had nothing to do with infidelity that were pitched but rejected. And in fact, my third book from NAL Penguin, MY LADY RIVAL (which releases 5/1/12), does not feature the topic of infidelity.
But obviously, I touched on infidelity in each of these three stories. What was the reason behind this and why do I seem to be drawn to telling such stories?
Let me say that when I began writing SEDUCING THE DUCHESS, I was a new-ish writer. Yes, I’ve read romance for many years, but only after I became published did I become aware of infidelity as a taboo subject in Romancelandia. Apparently, the topic is a sensitive one not only because it doesn’t seem to fit in well with the HEA, but also because many romance readers have themselves been the victim of infidelity in the past. When I began writing SD, I knew none of this; I was only interested in one thing: how could I redeem a man who seemed to the outside eye thoroughly unlikable? I’ve always liked challenges, and this seemed a terrific challenge. To be honest, the fact that Philip had a mistress during part of the three years (he dismissed her after he realized he was in love with Charlotte) didn’t seem that big of a deal to me.
1) He wasn’t in love with her when he had a mistress, so he wasn’t being emotionally careless;
2) Most men who could afford them had mistresses.
The subject of infidelity came up in Charlotte’s storyline because she was trying to force Philip’s hand in petitioning for a divorce, and she was certain that he wouldn’t be able to stand the embarrassment of a wife who had taken dozens of lovers. But in truth, these were just part of the story to me. The biggest concern was how Philip ruthlessly made Charlotte fall in love with him, married her, and then broke her heart by telling her the truth the day after their wedding. (Again, the story actually starts out three years after the wedding, so these aren’t really spoilers.) How could he win back the love of his wife after acting like such a bastard? And did he truly deserve her love? And how much had he changed? Would she truly be able to ever forgive him? These were the subjects of interest to me in SEDUCING THE DUCHESS.
In ROMANCING LADY CECILY (which is a digital short story of 15,000 words), I explored the heroine’s internal conflict of choosing the man she desires most and the man her father (whom she loves) has arranged for her to marry as a means of saving his reputation. Does she choose love or family? To me, the conflict wouldn’t have been as powerful if I didn’t show how strong of a hold the Baron Sedgwick actually held over her. I can tell you this, though: no matter whom she might have chosen, Cecily would never have cheated on her husband after their marriage, even if she didn’t love him. (Fortunately, she does have a splendid happy-ever-after.)
The idea for ROMANCING THE COUNTESS actually came to me at least a year before I started writing StD. And the idea didn’t so much as focus on the topic of infidelity as much as how the widow and widower of these unfaithful spouses would have their own romance, and whether they would try to be proper in their mourning or not care at all since they’d been betrayed and felt it their right to behave however they wished. I never got any further with the idea than this basic concept, though, and only three years later did I finally figure out where I wanted the story to go.
As you can see, it’s not that I wished to write about infidelity with each of these works; it’s only that infidelity became part of the background storyline. With that being said, I can tell you that I believe that writing and reading about infidelity has its place in romance novels, and here’s why: I believe in hope. And I believe that love gives us hope. One of the main reasons romance readers cite for reading romance (myself included) is that they want the escape and they want the HEAs. Some people believe that infidelity has no place in a romance novel, but in my opinion (and this is only my opinion), I think it does because I like to read and write about people whose emotions and conflicts could be real.
I DO think that a married couple that deals with infidelity can forgive and move on and have a wonderful HEA (though this isn’t really what StD is about).
I DO think that people are able to make mistakes (such as Cecily’s weakness for the baron in RLC) and are able to recover from those mistakes and have a great HEA.
I DO believe that love is powerful enough to help those who have been victims of infidelity to move on—and yes, perhaps one day forgive—so that they are able to find a new HEA with someone else (note, in RtC, the spouses of the hero and heroine died).
I could also tell you that while I believe in hope, and I believe in love, and I believe in forgiveness, I will also never write a romance where the hero or heroine is or has been in love with the other and then is unfaithful simply because they lust after someone else. Certainly, I believe this can happen in real life and I believe this, too, can be forgiven and the relationship repaired, but even in my mind this is not something I’m willing to write about. As powerful as love is, I also believe in its sanctity. If a hero or heroine pledges their love, it is not something to be dealt with lightly. Some readers have refused to read SEDUCING THE DUCHESS because they heard that the duke was unfaithful to the duchess. And while I realize I walk a thin line here, the most important part of this to me was that he didn’t love her. As soon as he realized he loved her, he dismissed his mistress and was faithful to her from that day on.
Will I write more romances that include infidelity—in one way or another—in the future? Perhaps. I don’t have any in my head right now, but it’s certainly a topic that is relevant to our culture today (unfortunately) and a topic which immediately involves a depth of emotion and conflict, which account for a huge romance fave: angst.
But the most important thing to me—always, no matter what sort of love story I write—is that in the end, love wins. As the tag on my website says: Choose to love. Hope in love. Believe in love.
I promise there is no right or wrong answer, for everyone deserves an opinion.
What place (if any) do you think infidelity has in a romance novel?
One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my newest book, ROMANCING THE COUNTESS (open internationally)! Also, find out how to win the ROMANCING THE COUNTESS Book Tour Grand Prize of 50+ romance novels by visiting www.ashleymarch.com!
Ashley, I’ve been looking forward to your visit for quite some time now, and I’m so glad you stopped by. As always, you’ve been such a Lady and I’ve been Blessed to have ‘met’ you!
Ashley March in her own words:
“I was born and raised in East Texas, moved to Colorado after getting married eight years ago, and have been craving snow-free winters ever since. I have a husband who just keeps getting better and better over time and two beautiful daughters. Life is simply…fantastic.”