Making Use of Context
(September 10, 1997)
I recently had the chance to read All Through the Night by Connie Brockway and found it to be both riveting and gripping. Particularly enjoyable was Connie’s use in this regency-era historical of the political and economic context of the time. After having read probably 100 such historicals, I realized only a handful actually made use of the unrest and turmoil of England toward the end of this period.
I asked Connie, whose last book, As You Desire, was much lighter in tone than All Through the Night, about doing such a different type of romance this time around, of using some meaty background for her story, and of writing an ending that fit the tone of the book.
Here is what Connie had to say:
All Through the Night was definitely a different book for me, especially on the heels of As You Desire, but after Harry and Dizzy I needed to do a couple with some real issues and I worked hard to make those characters as gutsy, complex and honest as I could. I’m so thankful when I think the hardwork paid off and of course, letters like yours let me know that it did.
I’m preparing for a trip to Scotland to research a late Victorian book. I love the late Victorian period but prefer setting it in unusual locales (i.e. As You Desire) and late Victorian in Scotland was a completely different kettle of fish (mostly salmon) from the more traditional medieval Highland, Rob Roy, Dueling Lairds, Bony Prince Charlie type of romances. All of which sort of leads into your question about the historical context of All Through the Night. . .
The late regency era in England was an incredibly volatile time socially, economically and politically. Soldiers and sailors returning from the Napoleonic wars found high levels of unemployment and were provided virtually no pension. The cost of bread became prohibitive after the 1815 Corn Law which were enacted by Parliament to protect the British landholder and maintain the high cost of wheat by restricting imports. The resultant high cost of bread, coupled with unemployment, led to nationwide dissent.
Which in turn led to. . .
The Coercion Acts of 1817. These extended the 1798 act “against seditious meetings, temporarily suspended the right of habeas corpus, renewed an act punishing attempts to undermine the allegiance of soldiers and sailors, and gave the prince regent the same safeguards against treason as the king himself.” (The People’s Chronology is licensed from Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Copyright © 1995, 1996 by James Trager. All rights reserved.)
Which in turn led to:
Things came to a head in 1819 at a rally at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester – called the Peterloo Massacre. Several people were killed and hundreds hurt when soldiers marched on the crowd with the intention of arresting the speaker who was agitating for reform and repeal of the Corn Laws. Afterwards the incident led to Parliament’s passing the Six Acts a heavily restrictive set of acts that further limited public meeting, forbade anyone being trained in the use of firearms, allowed for searcha nd seizure of arms, sped up trials relating to misdemanors, increased the penalties for libel and penalizes small (i.e radical) press by imposing a newspaper stamp duty on any periodical that contained “news.”
On The Sorta, Maybe, Kinda Happy Ending:
As I’ve said before, I’m adamant in believing the ending should suit the story. As a romance writer I feel I need to provide my hero/heroines with the potential for a happily ever after. In some cases, I simply cannot guarntee that future. T o do so would be to be belittling the pain and sacrifice they’ve made in their “journey” towards redemption. And that is what I think the darker romances are. . . character journeys from darkness into light, from a place where they can see no happiness to a place where their potential for a happiness is restored.
Let’s face it, Jack Seward is not ever going to be anyone’s ideal neighbor. He’s not going to settle down, have a bunch of kids, and join the PTA. It would be ridiculous to even suggest such a future for him. Likewise Anne. She’s had the “happily ever after” except it nearly destroyed her. These are very troubled people who’ve, though they’ve endured trials and suffering and endless midnights, have fought their way through to morning. I don’t know where they end up. I don’t need to know. I only need to know they go there together.
Now, on the other side, a light book demands that glimpse into the future, that assurance to the audience that the fun, exciting, spirited relationship the hero and heroine developed over the course of the book wasn’t just a fluke of courtship and that it really does last a lifetime.
- My Dearest Enemy
- All Through the Night
- As You Desire
- A Dangerous Man
- Anything for Love
- Promise Me Heaven
This snippet by Connie is taken from The HEA Ending – part deux:
“I think the romance author’s job is to return the hero and heroine to a place where the potential for happiness is restored, where they are on their way to creating not a happily-ever-after, but a happier tomorrow.
“I don’t care for an ending where everyone except the villian is sitting around with an author-generated smile plastered on his face. That sort of ending belittles the sacrifices that our characters make during the course of the book.
“Too, I do not want to suggest that all problems can simply dissolve with the right combination of acts (like self-sacrificial ones) and words (like “I love you”) leaving behind a shiny fairytale castle perched on a mountain top simply because our characters deserve the fairytale castle. While I love the idea of decency and love being rewarded, sometimes it isn’t.
“Sometimes the best place to leave our characters isn’t at the castle door, but at the base of the mountain. Because the castle wasn’t ever the point, the road was.”
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