A GUEST BLOG BY VICTORIA VANE
As an author of historical fiction it is my belief that to truly understand a given era one must study the popular culture of the times, and nowhere is the mindset of the people more clearly demonstrated than on the stage. It was while reading Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem, one of the most popular of late Georgian era plays, that I was inspired to write A BREACH OF PROMISE.
While The Belle’s Stratagem juxtaposes two different story lines, the essential theme concerns men learning to respect the women in their lives both before and after marriage. This theme of respect is closely mirrored in my historical romance novella, A BREACH OF PROMISE.
Like Cowley’s play, the premise of my story is an engagement contracted by the hero and heroine’s parents when they were very young. Also similar is that my own hero, Marcus, like Cowley’s Doricourt, has been many years travelling abroad and has recently returned to England a handsome, fashionable, and much sought after bachelor, but one who has learned to appreciate continental beauty and manners far above those of his own countrywomen.
Cowley’s Leticia is smitten by her erstwhile finance but dismayed by his apparent indifference to her charms and vows to “win his heart or never be his wife.” The unusual stratagem employed to win him over is based on the belief that it is “easier to convert a sentiment into its opposite than to transform indifference into tender passion.” These circumstance and sentiments closely match those of my own heroine, Lydia Trent in A BREACH OF PROMISE.
Lady Russell was aghast. “You mean to tell me you have not laid eyes on Marcus for six years?”
“Indeed so. He only came once after our betrothal to pay his respects to my father, although to be fair, they did maintain an ongoing, if somewhat sporadic correspondence. I have heard nothing more from him before these last few months.”
The elder woman patted her hand. “Then it’s no surprise you would feel as you do. But now you are here, Marcus shall soon make amends.”
“I’m afraid you misapprehend my purpose, Philomena. Though it pains me for your sake to say so, I no longer have any wish to marry Marcus. I have come to London only to request an end to our betrothal.”
“But my dear, you act in such haste!”
“Six years is hardly haste, ma’am,” Lydia remarked wryly.
“You should hear him out before coming to such an irrevocable decision. In truth, I take much blame upon myself for not prodding Marcus. Yet he was so single-minded to establish himself with the diplomatic service that I feared pressuring him to marry would only have caused resentment.”
“No doubt!” Lydia agreed. “He expressed as much the night of our engagement, but I was moonstruck. Marcus has never shown me more than polite indifference. I now realize that is not enough for me. In truth, I would almost rather he despised me than merely tolerated my existence.”
Lady Russell puckered her brow. “You would have a future husband despise you? How extraordinary!”
“Indeed, my lady! For antipathy is at least a form of passion! Even negative emotion can sometimes be turned around, but what can be done when no feeling exists at all? I will not wed a man only to live as indifferently as strangers.”
“My dear, given sufficient time…” Lydia sighed. “For nearly six years I clung to that foolish hope but time appears to have only been my enemy. He truly doesn’t want me. He never did.”
“But my dear, you do not know men,” Lady Russell consoled.
“They are undeniably obtuse. The daft creatures never know what they want until it’s placed under their very noses.” She smiled and clasped the young woman’s hand with a conspiratorial look. “You have now come to town, Lydia. Ergo, he will want you.”
“I fear it is not so simple as that. My feelings toward him are no longer engaged.”
“Is that truly so?” Lady Russell broke into a dubious smile. “Then my dear, it must be my son’s onus to re-engage them.”