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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

13 April 2010

The Charmed Circle


I’m always fascinated by which books stand the test of time. Sometimes they embed themselves so deeply into the collective consciousness that later generations write sequels or remake them for their own era’s concerns.

Three of the most long-lived romances are PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, and LITTLE WOMEN. All of them focus on a family whose center is a charming, multigenerational group of women. Sometimes the foundation is the mother (as in LITTLE WOMEN) and sometimes it’s a daughter (in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY).

All three charmed circles have witty mothers who are always loyal to their daughters, even when bemused by their doings. The girls have a variety of temperaments but are never boring. All of them are vividly real, so much so that I frequently want to have dinner with any or all of them.

The hero longs to join this charmed circle and proves his worth to the heroine by protecting and enhancing it. Colonel Brandon reestablishes the family circle when he brings Mrs. Dashwood to Marianne’s bedside after her near-drowning. Professor Baer celebrates the March family circle for the ages when he shepherds Jo’s book about them into publication, in LITTLE WOMEN. Darcy coaches Bingley in how to propose to Jane, to strengthen the Bennet family circle in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

But the romance’s goal is always to have the female circle reaffirmed by society. First, it’s financially threatened by Mr. Dashwood’s death, then re-established by Marianne’s advantageous marriage to Colonel Brandon. Mr. Darcy salvages the Bennet name (and by extension, the other Bennet girls’ reputation and hopes of making a good match) when he forces Wickham to marry Lydia, in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Professor Baer’s academic credentials and experience help his new wife Jo build a school to take her family’s values into the next generation, at LITTLE WOMEN’s conclusion.

While discussing why to have a group blog, one of my writers’ chapters asked what did we get out of it? Most of the answers came back in all sorts of standard marketing terms – build up website traffic, increase name recognition, etc.

My answer for the HISTORY HOYDENS blog, my only group blog, is that I’m very happy to be part of this charmed circle. I love chatting about research with this group of women, whether online or offline. I’ll rearrange my schedule to hang out with fellow Hoydens in person. (Y’all have saved my ass more than once – and given me more than one great idea. Yes, Janet, THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS’ housekeeper owes much to you.) We’ve shared good covers and bad, changed home addresses, editors, and agents, and held hands through illness and death.

Coming together to the breeze about books I have known and loved, like today’s blog, feels like sitting down in the Bennet’s parlor to do some tatting. Or maybe have Marmee read a book to me, or listen to Marianne play the piano. I’m a small link in the charmed circle, just for this generation.

What charmed circles have you known, whether in fiction or life? Do you think the hero’s character growth is more sympathetic when he fights to protect family life, rather than something more tangible like kill an enemy?

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3 Comments:

Blogger Katharine Ashe said...

Oh, Diane, what a lovely post. My four sisters and brother comprise my most cherished charmed circle. Together we learn, live and love, and I am so grateful for them. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to think on that today. :)

I adore a hero who gets the bad guy. But a hero who gets the bad guy AND protects family life... well, he is ideal. Mostly I love a romance where the hero and heroine recognize that they together create a charmed circle. Er- or, a charmed line, I suppose... for a time, that is. What I mean is that a meeting of minds and bodies is terrific in a story, but a meeting of spirits and souls (along with minds and bodies) transports me into the characters' relationship. It makes me a member of their charmed connection, and ideally brings other characters in the book into their circle as well.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

what a smart, sweet post.I never thought of it that way, but I think you're surely right about LITTLE WOMEN.

And yes, one of the things I tell my non-romance savvy friends is how much I value the circle of romance writers around me.

7:57 PM  
Blogger librarypat said...

The fight with the enemy has more adventure and action and makes for an exciting book. The quiet heroism exhibited by the heroes of the books you have mentions is more powerful. In the long run, it often is more valuable and has a longer lasting effect. These heroes are more real to us because they are most like the people we deal with every day.

8:44 PM  

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