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beauty&beast-vintageCan we talk about #tropes? Romance fiction is full of them, and some are specific to Regency romance. Do you have favorite tropes that always draw you to a story? Or some that guarantee you won’t pick up a book? I got a poor Amazon review for my book An Unlikely Hero mostly because it was a “house party” story and the reader was sick of those. I do wonder why she bought it!

Elena talked about a few she dislikes back in January here when she was judging Rita books –and oh, boy, that task is coming up again all too soon! But the reason tropes are on my mind today is because in my “other” little Regency author group, the Bluestocking League, we are working on a website where we intend to include what may amount to a small encyclopedia of Regency romance tropes –a list, with descriptions of each and perhaps a few words about their appeal– and we have been compiling the list to start with. Not as easy as you might think, despite the existing lists already out there!

Want a peek at our list-in-progress? Have any you think we should add? Here it is in no particular order:

Loveable Rogue/Rogues in love

Agents of the Crown secret-agent-man

Childhood Friend Romance

Protectors

Dukes

Scandal

Beauty & the Beast

Ugly Duckling/Makeoveri_love_being_estranged_mug-re330ccf88ac348ad8b2b7575bfeb37a8_x7jsm_8byvr_324

Estranged Lovers reunited

Friends to Lovers

Marriage of Convenience

Compromised

Governesses Governess

(other) Boss/Employee

Rakes

Mistaken Identity

(kidnapping) –almost always mistaken identity?

Rags to Riches

Wounded Hero/Caretaker Heroine

House Party Chatsworth-House

Masquerades (including Secret/Hidden Identity)

Road Trip/Runaways

Amnesia

Wagers/bets

my-guardian-angel-85701 Ghosts/guardian angels/magic locket–i.e. Something paranormal outside of self influencing the romance.

Soldier

Thief/highwayman/con artist  (are there any gypsy Regencies–and if so, would they fit here or as own trope?)

Hidden treasure

Murder(s)

Spies (not just Agents of the Crown–could be a soldier, a French spy, etc.)

Wills (tricky provisions and/or inheritances that play a major role in the plot)

Marrying out of one’s class (not sure how to say that more simply)

Demi-monde/light skirts

Spinsters

Widows/Widowers

InventorsMusicians 1817

Artists/Musicians/Writers

Heroes who have a profession

Naval/Sea faring

Smuggling

Politics/Parliament

Handicapped (could be hero or heroine or secondary character whose handicap is an issue)

Social Issues (including slavery, abuse of children, etc.)

Farming/Raising Horses/Animals?

Waterloo (since this seems of particular interest to some readers)

Christmas (and perhaps other  holidays)

India/Other foreign travel?

Children (stories where a child or children play a significant role in bringing the hero and heroine together)

Lots of books include more than one, and some overlap. Which books that you’ve read (or written), leap to mind when you look at these tropes?

We could talk about which favorite tropes appear in which favorite authors’ books. Or we could get into a discussion about where some of these tropes originated (besides the history of the period itself) –Austen? Heyer? Some of the early Regency writers like Cartland?

Sadly, I’ll have to leave that to you in the comments –I am really short on time this week! But I would love to hear what you all have to say about some of these tropes, or even about the list itself!

indexRevisiting an old story intent on revising it can be a scary journey full of rocks and potholes. I’m deep in the throes of revising my old Signet Regency, The Magnificent Marquess, and I have to tell you, the process isn’t pretty! It’s not just the mess of annotated pages scattered over my dining room table and all the handwritten notes that are keyed to them, but also my precarious state of mind.

What do you think about “new and improved” versions of older books? Have you ever picked up a new version of an old favorite and read it to see if you liked it better? And did you? If you write, have you gone back to previously published work and significantly changed it? I’m not talking about just a minor tweak or correction here or there. Were you pleased with the result? Please let me know in the comments!writers-block21

While I am firmly convinced this original book can be greatly improved, I am also terrified I may make it worse rather than better.

There seem to be two schools of thought about reissuing backlist books. One is that old books are like old friends and should just be sent back out again in the same lovable form they originally presented to the world. The other is that reissuing them offers an opportunity to improve them –to fix mistakes, enliven the writing, or even indulge in the deeper surgeries (or expansions) required to improve plot, character, or motivations. What’s your experience with this, as a reader, or a writer, or both?

writing_as_professionalMost of my old Signets packed a lot of plot into a relatively short book format –the length was a requirement of the publisher’s line. I believe that by expanding The Magnificent Marquess, I can tell the story more effectively. Too much had to be left out of the original version. But one of many dangers then becomes losing the pacing, not to mention the challenge of keeping the writing tight. All the same problems of writing any original version!

I just keep reminding myself that even though these characters and their story are old friends of mine, for readers who never read the first version, this revised one will be brand new. I’ll let you know when it’s ready!! happy reading 2 peeps

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conker Did you know that in Britain, the second Sunday in October is “National Conkers Day”?? Yes, yesterday you should have pulled out your best hardened-up horse chestnut on a string and challenged some other conker player to a match. What, you didn’t know? Well, I confess I didn’t either until I ran across this factoid while doing research for my current revisions.

So, this time it started because my heroine needed to climb a tree. Not just any tree, but a big old one, tall with spreading branches that would be stout enough for the job –not to mention that earlier in the story a cheetah needed to perch on one of said stout branches of the same tree.  horse-chestnut-tree-4  (I do know that cheetahs don’t climb trees. You’ll need to read the story –The Magnificent Marquess wasn’t originally and in the new version still won’t be your standard Regency romance.)

I thought a horse chestnut ought to do the trick, and they are common in Great Britain in modern times, but –I was pretty sure they aren’t native to Britain. So first thing to check: when were they introduced? Second thing to check: how big can they grow?

I’ve learned that in doing research, assumptions are the biggest stumbling-block (and often the hardest thing to recognize!). That’s where the conkers come back in. I found the info I needed (trees introduced from Persia/Turkey/the Balkans in the 16th century, can grow to 100 feet high). I thought about having children in the story engage in playing conkers since the tree was there.

 

Have you ever played conkers? I haven’t –but my husband says he did in his youth. I was aware of it as a thing people (mostly boys) used to do, and I assumed that conkers was a game well-venerated through the ages, human nature being what it is. And actually, it is. Just not with horse chestnuts.

2014-world-conkers-cred-jez-shimell

2014 World Conkers, photo courtesy Jez Shimell

It seems, at least according to the sources I saw, that in earlier times conkers was played with snail shells, cobnuts, even stones, but conkers with horse chestnuts (they claim) is 20th century. I also saw the date 1848 given in several sources as the year of the first recorded conkers game, on the Isle of Wight. Victorian, and not with horse chestnuts, apparently. Now the World Conker Championships are held in Northamptonshire on the second Sunday in October every year.

1200px-stringing_conkersIt would take some more digging to verify if the sources I saw were actually correct. I did not take the time to look further. Too many rabbit holes out there, and time is always short. Who could prove they were the first person ever to put a horse chestnut on a string? I am not convinced that it was not being done during the Regency, or earlier, but it was also not important for my story. The point is the surprise. So often things I assume are old enough to be Regency turn out not to be. This is just one example.

I love doing research, and I do a lot of it. I like to think my stories “could have happened” even though I made them up. But the hardest part of doing story research isn’t finding the information –it’s figuring out what bits you need to check!

Of course, in the end, the story is what matters most. And all of us story-tellers hope that when the reader is engaged deeply enough, any glitches we missed won’t matter. What research pitfalls have you encountered, as a writer or a reader? If I had tripped over this one, would you have known, or cared?

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