This month marks the release of an unusual book for me - my contribution to the Harlequin Presents 'Chatsfield' series. Unusual for a couple of reasons - it's part of a continuity so the original idea for the characters came from editors (though what happens in the book is all mine). Because it's my first real reunion novel. It also has the hero believing for quite some time that the heroine was unfaithful to him - a definite first for me.
It struck me recently that this story abounds in romantic tropes. Orsino, my hero is wealthy and therefore has power. Poppy, his estranged wife is beautiful (in fact she's a model - another first for me). Orsino is scarred, so badly injured in the beginning his vision is even affected. Most of the action takes place in the fairytale setting of the Loire Valley in France with its fabulous chateaux. In fact, Poppy and Orsino are holed up in a romantic tower. This one to be precise. I visited Chateau Chenonceau a few years ago and thought this tower, just in front of the huge Chateau, utterly romantic. When it came time to find a spot for my couple to stay while he recuperated and she worked on a fashion shoot, it seemed the logical place.
As I wrote I'm sure I channelled Beauty and the Beast, given Orsino's scarred body and psyche, not to mention his beastly behaviour. Then there was Rapunzel, for it seemed to me Poppy was trapped in this tower, unable to escape (you'd have to read the book to find out why). I even felt that there was a touch of Rumpelstiltskin in this story - that the characters were stuck, labouring hard, till they discovered the magic words that would set them free. In this case, not a goblin's name but words to express their fears and feelings. If there's one thing this couple don't do well in the beginning, it's communicate!
Plus there were touches of things I'd read as a little kid poring over a book of fairy tales - fabulous treasure (the film shoot features wonderful antique and modern jewellery), gorgeous ball gowns (yes, there's an old fashioned ball so maybe the Twelve Dancing Princesses story came in there too). There's a villain, though I can't really blame him for the mess this pair find themselves in. There's even a fairy godfather who helps them escape the tower for long enough to take a long hard look at themselves.
But several things became abundantly clear as I wrote. This was no fairy tale. It's not a story where the damsel needs to be rescued from her tower by the handsome prince. Poppy wasn't hanging about waiting for any man to rescue her. In fact, rather like Belle in Beauty in the Beast, she's responsible for rescuing Orsino by making him face a few home truths. Just as he makes her face things she'd avoided for years.
It's not a story where outside intervention clears the path for a happy ending. Poppy and Orsino have to work on that together. The enchanted location might be pretty but far from being idyllic, it's proof that the problems this pair need to overcome are deeply ingrained, not imposed from the outside.
I loved working with so many threads that wound back to those enchanted childhood tales. But just as much, I enjoyed turning those themes on their head so if there was a sleeping beauty needing to be woken it was my hero, not my heroine. He was the one cut off from reality, or at least from the truth. Then there was the sexual sizzle between my couple. I don't remember that in any of those old stories and if there was I'm sure the heroine would have been passive. Ha! One thing Poppy isn't and that's passive. So in the end I've decided that this book is a different take on the old romance tropes of captivity and rescue, and definitely on the idea of an active hero and a passive heroine. In fact, how many of those are being written now?
Do you have fond memories of fairy tales? Which was your favourite? Which would you like to see or have you seen in a modern romance?
You can read about Rebel's Bargain at my website or, better by far, snaffle yourself a copy from these links:
This post is so true about this story and I have to say how much I loved this one from the first page it pulled me in :)
One of my most favourite fairy tales is Cinderella and I have seen that in many a romance that I have read over the years
Ah, Helen, I'm a Cinderella fan too. I'm sure I've written some of those in my time, though my Cinderellas tend to do a bit more to achieve their happy ending than the traditional one. I wonder if it's the idea of winning the unattainable, or the transformation or the worthy underdog coming out on top. All of those appeal to me so much.Delete
So glad you liked the blog, and the book!!
Fascinating post, Annie. I definitely noticed the fairytale quality of the story - something that the setting really helps to reinforce. But I never realised quite how strong the fairytale influence was. But now you point it out... I think Orsino and Poppy are two of your most complex and interesting characters - they've definitely lingered in my memory since I read your wonderful story!ReplyDelete
Ah, thanks, Anna. I thought I knew this pair but as I wrote I kept finding more and more about them and why they'd behaved as they did. They certainly FELT complex.ReplyDelete
As for the fairy tale elements - would you believe that I didn't notice that as I wrote? Well, apart from the setting, but that was just because they needed to be somewhere alone and what better place than a tower? It was only after I finished, and more specifically, when I wrote this post, that I realised what I'd tapped into. It's great looking back after the book and seeing the influences.
Annie, your book sounds fascinating and a wonderful read. I will add it to my tbr pile!ReplyDelete
I always adored fairytales when I was growing up- snow white, cinderella, the ugly duckling etc- I guess most of them have been used in romances in one way or another. I used to have a collection of hard back books that my mum bought and we'd read them together- gosh, that brings back memories. Right now I could do with a shop full of elves to do all my housework while I sleep like in The Elves and The Shoemaker- not quite a romantic fairytale, but a lovely fantasy!
Hi Louisa! I'm chuffed you like the sound of Rebel's Bargain. Hope you enjoy it.ReplyDelete
Oh, the Elves and the Shoemaker. Yes, please! I could do with some of those elves around here. Wonder if they'd be too small to tackle my overgrown garden? Would that be terrific? Sigh. If only we had fairy godmothers. I wonder how many of us would choose pumpkin coaches over home help?
I really can't wait to dive into Orsino and Poppy's story, Annie. It sounds so multilayered and fascinating. :-) I love modern retellings of fairy tales…and in a lot of ways I think that's what today's romances are -- love stories that feature heroines who demand to be the subject of their story rather than an object of male desire, and heroes who are completely turned on by such powerful women. :-)ReplyDelete
Rumpelstiltskin was one of my favourites when I was growing up. Even now I'd love to be able to spin straw into gold. It'd certainly help pay the bills…and a cook, cleaner and gardener too, I expect. ;-)
Hi Michelle. Well, I can tell you Orsino is definitely turned on my Poppy and her defiantly independent attitude, even when he doesn't want to be.Delete
Ha - Rumpelstiltskin! That would be handy, wouldn't it? Though I think having the elves to clean up would be excellent.
Annie, what a wonderful post! I love teasing out the threads that shape a story and I cannot wait to read this one. You write such deep characters, and that Sunday Smooch was fabulous in showing just how much they will have to work through. I love the modern takes on the old fairytales; after all, even Shakespeare's works are being re-presented in modern settings (although the tower for Orsino and Poppy sounds appropriate, as though their pasts are holding them captive). I love their names too - bear and sleep associations! Wow! Just - wow!ReplyDelete
Susanne, thanks for being so enthusiastic about the book! Gee, I do hope you enjoy it when you get to it. Yes, it's interesting how old themes keep reoccurring in new guises. As for Shakespeare, I understand that some of his stories were old ones reshaped. Such fun to discover those ancient resonances.Delete
I do enjoy fairytales, and it's fun to see new takes on classics! One of my favorites is Beauty and the Beast or the Ugly Duckling--I guess I really like those stories where it's what's underneath that really matters :)ReplyDelete
Oh, yes! I was just 10 minutes ago thinking about a particular character that everyone thinks is a beast (because of looks and behaviour) but who has a hidden side. So intriguing.
Wow Annie, this story sounds amazing!ReplyDelete
I think my favourite fairytale was Cinderella!! I loved a bit of fairy godmother magic!
Jennifer, that's great to hear.ReplyDelete
Yep, I'm a Cinderella girl too. It's such a fabulous story.