“Love Continuance and Increasing” – Women in M/M/F Historicals
Today I’m handing over to Julian Griffith, my fellow age of sail fan, so that she can talk about her new novel Love Continuance and Increasing, which I have just downloaded onto my ereader because it sounds fabulous. And isn’t that cover amazing?
We have a giveaway to give away 🙂 If you comment on this post (wherever it appears) you’ll be entered into the hat to win a digital copy of Love Continuance and Increasing in their preferred format (Mobi, ePub, PDF, or LIT). That will run through the 11th, so it’ll end 11:59 pm US Eastern Time on Sunday, August 11th. That way, everyone has the entire weekend to enter. Comment with your email address so we can get back to you if you win! Anyway, enough from me and over to Julian.
Hi, Alex, and thanks for having me on your blog! It’s so exciting for me to be here, since I’ve been a fan of yours for quite a while, and you encouraged me when I was still unpublished. And now I’m here with my first novel, Love Continuance and Increasing, which is a historical M/M/F ménage romance set in England during the Napoleonic Wars. And it’s that M/M/F aspect, and especially the role that my heroine, Caroline, plays in the story, that I want to talk about today.
There are a lot of M/M romances set in the Age of Sail, but not very many M/M/F ones that I’ve seen. It’s all too common for female characters in M/M romance to serve the purpose of being an obstacle to the men’s happiness together, rather than having a story of their own.
I could have written that plot easily enough. Caroline is an obstacle for Lieutenant Thorne and Lord Rockingham’s relationship, or at least the idea of her is. Rockingham, who’s an army major as well as a viscount, isn’t married when he and Thorne meet. But just days after the start of their affair, Thorne gets to hear Rockingham’s grandmother badger him to find a girl to marry, as he’s not getting any younger and the cousin next in line for the estate is a ne’er-do-well. Once they’re alone, they talk about it frankly—one of the things I can’t stand in romance is the sort of problem that would be cleared up if the characters would only talk to each other for five minutes—and Rockingham makes it clear that it’s not a dislike of women that’s kept him unmarried, but the hope that someday he’ll find a woman who likes him at least as much as she likes his title. He even asks if Thorne would still be his lover if he found himself in a loveless marriage, but Thorne’s a man of strict principles, and he tells Rockingham no. So it’s right there from the start: Rockingham has to marry, and when he does, their love affair will have to end.
Naturally, Rockingham does marry, and this is where, if the story were like so many others, the woman would turn out to be a harpy so that Thorne would take pity on Rockingham. Perhaps she would cheat on her marriage so that turnabout would seem “fair” or possibly so that Rockingham would divorce her. Another typical outcome would have her die in childbirth (delivering a healthy son, of course, so that Rockingham wouldn’t have to marry again). One way or another, she would somehow get shuffled out of the plot so that the men could be together.
I didn’t want to write that story. I wanted to write one where Rockingham’s wife was just as deserving of love and loyalty as Thorne was, and find a way where the men’s happiness didn’t come at the woman’s expense. That’s how Caroline came to be.
Caroline has the advantage of being exactly the sort of girl that Rockingham ought to marry. She’s the granddaughter of a baronet, so her birth is sufficiently respectable; she’s no great heiress, but she’s not penniless, either. She’s been brought up all her life to run a household well and to have the proper ladylike accomplishments and graceful manners to be a good hostess. And, of course, Caroline’s young enough to have plenty of years to provide Rockingham with a son—she’s just out in society, only eighteen to Rockingham’s thirty-five.
But there’s more than that to her. For one thing, Caroline’s aware of the world around her beyond fashion and gossip—she knows that the 43rd is at Shorncliffe to do more than provide a supply of officers to dance with the local girls, and she asks intelligent questions about military matters. For another, she has courage—she loves to ride, and she really does throw her heart over the fences, even in a sidesaddle. What’s more, she’s lighthearted and merry. She laughs easily, and she makes Rockingham laugh. And she genuinely seems to like him. In short, Caroline’s exactly the girl Rockingham was looking for. I worked hard to make her appealing enough that readers would believe that Rockingham cared for her, even though it meant the end of his romantic relationship with Thorne, and that they would care for her, and about her, as well.
Then there was the challenge of showing how Thorne fell in love with Caroline over the space of only a couple of days. It actually helped that he started out expecting to resent her because then, when she was kind and gracious to him, he was thrown off balance. Caroline’s looks didn’t hurt, either; Thorne’s first sight of her was as she came into the drawing room before dinner, in an elegant gown and with pearls threaded through her hair. Thorne spent most of his life at sea, and he just wasn’t used to women like that; she was so far out of his experience that she seemed like a creature out of Fairyland, not part of the real world. And, at dinner, when Thorne describes his part in the action at Trafalgar, Caroline’s grandfather, Sir Ralph, makes a comment that shows so little understanding of the principles of war that it borders on offensive. Caroline immediately jumps in to correct him, and from that moment, Thorne is smitten.
It was easier to show how Caroline fell in love with Thorne. She was still just shy of twenty, and even though she was married and a mother, that wasn’t enough for most men, who subscribed to the common notion of women as lacking in intellect, to treat her seriously. Thorne did. That, combined with the intensity of his attention to her, was enough.
This is the point where a story would usually play the situation as a love triangle, with Caroline faced with an impossible choice between two good men, and the prospect of betrayal and misery until one or the other of the men showed himself unworthy, and the final couple then goes off into what we’re told will be a happily-ever-after.
I didn’t want to write that story either. Frankly, I’ve never been able to believe in the happy ending in a situation like that; it’s always seemed more likely that it will end up like Arthur and Guinevere and Lancelot, with nobody happy. And yet, that story always bothered me, too. Why should Guinevere have to choose? Why should two men, the closest and dearest of friends, let that bond be broken because they both love the same woman? Why shouldn’t they all be able to love each other, happily ever after?
Since this was my story, I decided that they could. And so Caroline, instead of being an obstacle, became the character who linked the men back together in a way that would have been impossible for the two of them alone.
The excerpt below is from that fateful dinner party. As I’ve already described its importance, I thought you might enjoy seeing how it played out. Thanks for having me here, Alex! I hope everyone will take a look at Love Continuance and Increasing, which is now available from Storm Moon Press in ebook and print!
Thorne could not have said, later, what had been served at dinner, though he knew it had been lavish; for all the attention he paid it, it might just as well have been ship’s biscuit and dried peas. He found himself sitting directly across the table from Marcus, with Rockingham’s mother at his right and Mrs.-Filmer-the-aunt at his left, and only Lord Brackley between her and Lady Rockingham, who sat at the head of the table as hostess. She was so poised as to make the conversation seem effortless. At first, she engaged her sister-in-law on a discussion of her children, and brought her aunt and mother-in-law in to contribute their wisdom, all in such a way that Mrs. Pennington never once took offence; but it was later, when she was encouraging Lord Brackley and her grandfather to attend to what details he and Marcus could give of the recent battle, that she earned his undying admiration. She asked such questions as to give shape to what, in truth, had been hours of sheer chaos, and Marcus was describing how the Percy had come to the assistance of the Prince, to rescue the French seamen who had leapt from the burning Achille, and he was contributing a word or two on how the boats had barely avoided destruction when the Achille‘s still-loaded guns had exploded in the heat, when Sir Ralph said something that silenced them both.
“Nearly destroyed, you say? You’d have done better to leave the Frogs in the water, and let ’em boil or drown.”
Lord Brackley raised his glass to him. “Well said, sir.”
Marcus just sat there, plainly shocked. Thorne could never understand how such a bold commander could be such an innocent by land, but there it was; he was amazed that anyone could suggest such a thing. He’d long since given up himself on expecting landsmen, especially civilians, to have any sense of conduct in battle, but he couldn’t think of how to answer without giving offence to a marquess and a baronet, both his seniors in age as well as rank. Lady Rockingham, though, had no such fear.
“Grandpapa, for shame!” she said. “Captain Birtwhistle told us of how the Achille caught fire, and how her men were abandoning ship. That is very nearly a surrender, is it not, Captain?”
Marcus swallowed. “Yes, my lady, you might put it that way.” Thorne wasn’t so sure, but after the Defiance and the Dreadnought had shot away most of the Achille‘s rigging, though they had a flag, they might not have possessed the means to lower it, and by the time she caught fire, their quarterdeck had been so pounded that she probably hadn’t an officer left who could surrender, so it was a moot point.
“And it is dishonourable in the extreme to continue fighting after a surrender. Any men left alive then are properly prisoners. Why should it matter whether they are on their deck or in the sea?”
“Well, when you put it that way, my dear…” her grandfather said.
Lord Brackley coughed. “I had not understood it entirely, my lady. I beg your pardon for my earlier remark.”
“I am not offended, my lord,” Lady Rockingham said. “I am sure you had no intention of suggesting that Captain Birtwhistle or Lieutenant Thorne would ever conduct themselves in a dishonourable fashion. A misapprehension, that is all.” She gave him a disarming smile. “May I offer you some more of this orange cream?”
Lieutenant William Thorne, of His Majesty’s Navy, is a man of humble origins. He knows that his affair with Major Anthony Rockingham of the 43rd Infantry can’t last forever, not only because the war against Napoleon has sent him on blockade duty in the English Channel while the major’s regiment trained ashore, but because Rockingham is a viscount, and viscounts must marry. When Rockingham’s letter reaches him, saying that he’d chosen Miss Caroline Filmer as his bride, it is no more than Thorne had expected.
What he does not expect, when he returns home after the Battle of Trafalgar, is to find an invitation to the christening of Rockingham’s son. He does not expect, when he meets the young viscountess, that he would fall instantly and passionately in love with her. And he certainly does not expect that Caroline would fall just as desperately in love with him. Thorne is sure that their feelings for each other can only lead to disaster, even more so as his love for Rockingham has never gone away. While the war with France continues, Thorne finds himself fighting a war within his own heart.
Love Continuance and Increasing by Julian Griffith – Now Available from Storm Moon Press for $6.99 (ebook) or $13.99 (paperback)