I have a confession to make. Sometimes I love my secondary characters just as much as my two main leads.
This was not the case in THE SPINSTER BRIDE. Oh, I certainly adored George, my heroine’s odd and beloved younger brother. But about half way through writing the book I realized I had a big problem. I loathed Marjorie’ mother, Dorothea. She was mean, nasty, and wholly unlikeable. And yet my heroine, her daughter, loved her. Why? Was Majorie stupid? Blind? And why was Dorothea such a miserable person?
I realized I had created a cartoonish villain and I don’t write cartoonish villains. For one, I rarely actually have villains in my book, and when I do I try to insert a bit of humanity into them. Because even a villain has something good in them (I’m the eternal optimist).
I didn’t want to make her a rotten person. I wanted to understand her. And so, I gave her a story, one that began when she was a young, hopeful girl madly in love with a man so far out of her league it was heartbreaking. I loved that young, hopeful girl. My heart ached for her. I could relate to the young girl even if I could not relate to the older, bitter one.
This scene with Dorothea and her mother neatly speaks to why she became the woman she did:
“Your Aunt Frances is getting on in years. The last time she was here, we talked about perhaps having you live with her. Keep her company. She’s so isolated out there in Ipswich.”
Dread fell heavy and hard on Dorothea’s stomach. Going to live with a widowed aunt was tantamount to completely giving up on any hope of securing a husband.
“But Ascot’s only two weeks away. I did so want to attend this year. And it’s the middle of the season. I cannot possibly go now, Mother.”
Her mother looked away, giving her head a subtle shake. “I do not mean to be cruel, Dorothea, but I believe that particular ship has sailed. You are twenty-eight years old, my dear. It is time you come to accept that you will never marry. You haven’t had a single prospect in ten years. To continue as you have been is to deny your circumstances.”
Dorothea swallowed heavily. It was true. No man had ever courted her, even though she had a sizeable dowry. It was not so unusual to be passed by, but Dorothea had never truly thought it would happen to her. “Lord Smythe—”
“For goodness sake, Dorothea, Lord Smythe has no more interest in marrying you than he would one of his hunting dogs.”
Tears flooded Dorothea’s eyes, and her throat hurt so much it felt as if someone were squeezing it. “That was cruel, Mother.”
Her mother’s eyes softened. “No, my dear, it’s the truth. And it’s high time you understood that. You are a good girl, kind and generous. But not every kind and generous girl finds a husband.” She picked up her fork. “You should probably begin packing tomorrow.”
Dorothea’s story is a vital part of THE SPINSTER BRIDE. Without it, I think it would be more difficult for the reader to relate to Marjorie, my heroine. I truly believe that giving secondary characters (not just the ones that will appear in a planned sequel) a bit more stage time (so to speak) can make a huge difference in the reading experience.
If you read THE SPINSTER BRIDE, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Dorothea. Do you still hate her? Or did she manage to get into your heart just a bit?
‘The Spinster Bride’
For he has the unfortunate habit of falling for each Season’s loveliest debutante, only to have his heart broken when she weds another. Surely Lady Marjorie Penwhistle can help him. She’s sensible, clever, knows the ton, and must marry a peer, which he is not. Since she’s decidedly out of his reach, Charles is free to enjoy her refreshing honesty—and her unexpectedly enticing kisses…
Lady Marjorie Penwhistle doesn’t want a husband…
At least not the titled-but-unbearable suitors her mother is determined she wed. She’d rather stay unmarried and look after her eccentric brother. Still, advising Mr. Norris is a most exciting secret diversion. After all, how hard will it be to match-make someone so forthright, honorable, and downright handsome? It’s not as if she’s in danger of finding Charles all-too-irresistible herself…
AUTHOR BIO: I grew up in western Massachusetts and have lived most my adult life in New England. Thanks to my adventurous husband, I’ve also done brief stints in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Naples, Italy. Although I’ve written four contemporary romances under the name Jane Blackwood, my first love is historical romances set in Victorian times. I’ve written 13 of those with more on the way.
I have three kids, one in college, one a great drummer, and one an artist. I love the Red Sox and the New England Patriots. I work full time, have an editing business, and in my free time write like a fanatic.
Above the desk in my office is this sign: “And They All Lived Happily Ever After.” It may not be reality, but it’s real nice to think about…