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.