Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Favorite Secrets

I write historicals rather than romantic suspense, but I’ve yet to write a book that didn’t have a secret somewhere at its core. The soul of fiction is character in conflict. Secrets make a wonderful hook to hang that conflict on, whether your protagonist is keeping a secret from her lover, trying to solve a mystery or conspiracy, or about to discover something hidden in her own past that turns her life upside down.

In my debut book, The Sergeant’s Lady, the hero and heroine do their best to keep their relationship secret because of the dire consequences both would suffer if their affair was known. The British Army of 1811 was NOT a place where the love between an ordinary sergeant and an aristocratic officer’s widow would have been understood and condoned, and my characters love each other too much to want to see their beloved become an outcast in his or her own world. When they do decide to make a public commitment, they do so with their eyes wide open, having counted the cost and decided what they’ll gain matters more than what they’ve lost.

Right now I have two works-in-progress. In one, a novella about a couple forced into a quick wartime marriage of necessity, the heroine conceals from her new husband that she’s using herbal birth control (such things were around during my story’s 1812 setting, if not widely known). Mostly, she doesn’t want to get pregnant until peace is restored, but she’s also got grave doubts about whether her husband is EVER going to be the serious, stable father she wants her children to have. As you can imagine, he’s less than pleased once the secret comes out.

In my second WIP, a historical fantasy, my heroine learns early on that the paternal grandfather who raised her deliberately concealed and lied about her mother’s family and the inheritance, both financial and genetic, that awaits her with them. Learning that she’s not who she thought she was and uncovering the secrets of her past sets her hero’s journey in motion.

And the plot of A Marriage of Inconvenience, my upcoming Carina release and a prequel to The Sergeant’s Lady, is driven by a secret from the very first chapter. The heroine, Lucy, agrees to a secret engagement with her cousin Sebastian, whom she’s loved from childhood. But the consequences of keeping that secret even after the engagement falls apart go deeper than she could’ve imagined possible and nearly wreck her marriage to James, the hero and a man far superior to Sebastian.

Please comment and tell me your favorite secret in a story not obviously about mystery or suspense. To get you started, I’ll hint that Jane Austen’s books are FULL of secrets, and they’re more important than you’d first think in The Chronicles of Narnia. One commenter wins a Kindle edition of The Sergeant’s Lady now and another gets A Marriage of Inconvenience once it releases on April 11.


Wynter Daniels said...

I love a good secret and I almost always use at least one in my stories. One of my favorite books, The Great Gatsby is chock full of juicy secrets - affairs, past relationships. Love it!

growlycub said...

I wanted to say I don't like secrets, but once I thought about it, I realized that my favorite historical romance has a big one, Mary Jo Putney's The Rake and the Reformer. :)

Barbara said...

I LOVED LOVED LOVED The Sergeant's Lady. I've recommended it to oh, everyone I know. Even tried to get my husband to read it (he's a total mil history freak!) but he declined. I may wear him down yet...Can't wait for James and Lucy's story!

Anyway, as for secrets...hmmmmm...I'm re-reading Pride and Prejudice so how about Mr. Darcy and his true feelings for Elizabeth and his apparent ability to make them known without being insulting! And also Victoria Dahl's Talk Me Down where the big secret is Molly writes erotica! I love that Ben keeps trying to guess what the secret of her job is and he keeps coming up with ideas that are so much worse than the reality!

Jillian said...

These all sound great. Love the covers, too. I'm intrigued by herbal remedies, etc. Was your heroine using tansy for birth control?

A book with a secret? hmmm? Since you mention Austen, I'll go with Sense and Sensibility and Willoughby's secret- He had several- And, in a lot of ways, I feel sorry for him. He was a cad but he was also a victim of the times-

Susanna Fraser said...

She's using pennyroyal, Jillian--though since it's still in the draft stage I could always change it to tansy if it seems more appropriate or likely to be available for her.

Jillian said...

Susanna- I believe they were both in use during that time period- 1811. Pennyroyal and Queen Anne's Lace has been used since ancient Greece- Tansy has been used for thousands of years as well so either is fine. Tansy tea is the way most used it as it is a toxic plant- needs to be mixed with something. I'd stick to the Pennyroyal since you're already using it.

Stephanie said...

I love Pride and Prejudice and it is interesting to see the little cues of affection that the characters have but do not truly express until the end.

smccar1 at hotmail dot com

Danielle Gorman said...

I like secrets but to a certain extent. I hate when it's such a drawn out secret. Or if it's not even a signifigant secret.


Katie Reus said...

Thanks for joining my blog, Susanna! I know a few people have said it but I'm going to have to go with Pride & Prejudice too. Such a classic :)

Susanna Fraser said...

Thank you to everyone who stopped by and commented! The winner of THE SERGEANT'S LADY now is Danielle Gorman, and the winner of A MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE once it's released is growlycub.

Danielle, since you included your email address I'll go ahead and send you the book. growlycub, let me know what address you'd like me to use and I'll get the book to you when it releases April 11.