If you have visited my Web site you’ve seen that tag line. But, what’s the greatest risk?
Risk can refer to physical risk. Romantic suspense thrives on it. Common Regency tropes associated with physical jeopardy include kidnapped heroines, pirate capture, War (Peninsula or Waterloo usually), or basic assassination attempts by villainous characters. We all love heroes—and sometimes heroines—who face up to these challenges and come out winners, especially the ones that get a little beaten up in the process.
Risk can refer to social risk. The regency subgenre was built on dangers to women in particular if they challenged societal expectations or broke social mores. Common tropes of this kind include the young girl led astray to trap her into marriage, the family hounded from London in disgrace, the deb tricked into disgrace by a vicious rival, and, one of my favorites, the older woman in a small town with A Scandalous Past. The risk to the men? Always—shudder—the parson’s mousetrap. We all love the heroines who take a chance by thumbing their nose at convention and get away with it.
The greatest risks of all, however, are the dangers to the human heart, the most vulnerable of organs. Heroes and heroines might take physical and social risks, but still guard their souls and emotions closely. The ones who find it difficult to trust their hearts to another make for the most satisfying reading.
Lily Thornton, the heroine, is an intrepid young lady. As the daughter of a diplomat she has grown up in the great cities of Europe, speaks six languages, and socializes with gentlemen of all ranks and ethnicities. She is confident and independent. At one point in the story she even finds employment as a teacher in the Sultan’s Seraglio. The girl has spunk. She fears little, at least she didn’t until she made a colossal blunder in Saint Petersburg and almost succumbed to the charms of a weasel, one that follows her back to England.
When Lily finds herself thrown in with the hero, who is investigating her tormenter, and she succumbs to his lovemaking too quickly, she pulls back in panic. She can’t possibly trust him, especially since she knows he has no intention of marrying beneath him. When he subjects her to an insulting marriage proposal, she refuses to accept him. She will not trust her heart to a man who will step on it, hide her away in the country, and push her aside as an embarrassment. She would rather make her own way as a single mother. The risk to her heart is greater than social disgrace.
Richard Hayden, the Marquess of Glenaire has no fears. He manages his life in an orderly manner, at least until he meets Lily. His never puts a foot out of line socially, at least until he meets Lily. He plans a secure future with a socially correct and perfectly safe wife who will leave him to his work and be a proper duchess when he inherits. He knows the dangers the wide world presents because he works night and day to keep England and its interests safe. Therefore, he knows better than anyone what kind of danger Lily puts herself in when she disappears from London in the direction of the Mediterranean.
Richard doesn’t hesitate for a second—he sets out after the fool woman who has led him a merry dance, thrown proposals back in his face, and refuses to behave, as she ought. The Pirates that take them may be dangerous, but he manages them fearlessly. It is more terrifying for him to admit to Lily that he loves her. He doesn’t want a duchess, he wants a wife to love and protect. What if she says no again?
Love is worth all those risks, but especially that of opening your hearts, as Lily and Richard finally find the courage to do.