So now I’m wondering if I need to tweak the personality of one of the women my Confederate soldier falls in love with in my novel Blessed Shadows Dark & Deep.
Here’s why. One of my reviewers thinks the two women in Bill Stamford’s life are too similar, especially when it comes to sex. The reviewer wrote: It’s easier for me to swallow a single female character that seems uncharacteristically forward, but two in a row just starts to feel contrived. Especially during this era, women who are this forward would be scandalized by a moralistic society. Both Fanny and Becky are upper-class girls who would have been taught they’d burn in hell for fornication and adultery – they’d believe that their virtue was their most valuable possession, once lost they’d be worthless. So, to have Becky seduce Bill, then to have Fanny lure Bill into a closet and propose that they have sex, it just feels uncharacteristic for the era despite our modern lens.”
So I’m debating… do I need to tweak Becky’s personality, make her more prudish to set her off from Franny and her more aggressive ways. There are two flirtation scenes in the novel’s early chapters. In the first scene, Bill and Becky are at a church picnic where they walk hand in hand past folks playing croquet, then slip into a grove of trees where they share kisses. A bit daring, yet not shameful, not with a war being fought. The reviewer remembers the second scene as one where Becky seduces Bill. That’s a faulty memory… she sneaks into his bed, but they go no further than some kissing and fondling.
I’m going to leave the picnic scene alone. Its innocence doesn’t need tweaked. The fondling bed scene… that one I’m going to revise. Nervy Becky, fearing her straitlaced father might hear them, will stop the proceedings and flee to her room.
I’ve profiled both girls to be George Sands rebels, avant-garde females suffocating under the constraints of Victorian times. That’s why Bill is attracted to them. The devastating losses in the Civil War, though, relaxed those constraints as many soldiers and their girls willingly broke the rules, knowing the war could cut short lives. In Wilmington, North Carolina, one of the settings in my novel, the war casualty lists not only grew, but a Yellow Fever epidemic also claimed hundreds of civilian lives. When life was so cheap, why not ignore the stern stares of old biddies and seek out private spots to make love?
Bill’s girls will differ on how they cope with the war’s mounting destruction and losses. Becky will wilt and choose to sail to England to flee the war’s misery. Franny stays, nurses the wounded, and decides whatever the war’s outcome her life will be lived in America. Frankly, I think those differences in the two girls are strong enough to keep readers’ interest to the end of the novel.
It took a world war in the early 20th century and millions of dead to topple the Victorian Age. No more ankle-hugging, bosom-covering dresses. No more elaborately chaperoned dates. No more “sorry, young lady, you can’t be trusted with the vote.” Welcome to the Flapper Age, the Roaring Twenties, the Age of Jazz. I’ve always wondered why the Civil War didn’t shatter the Victorian Age. Maybe all the nation could handle was Emancipation, and even now that’s not finished, as the turmoil in 21st Century America shows.
So that’s how this column ends… a tweak to Becky, Franny survives unscathed.
So what do you think? Will readers accept my rebellious Southern belles, one a bit demure, the other unruly?
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Ready for more ready enjoyment? Three of my novels have been published by a small ebook publisher. A fantasy trilogy, they’re titled The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. Intrigued? They can be purchased at the websites of Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.