VOICES is another Top Pick from Romantic Times, but I didn’t get out in time to get a copy, so I have no idea what it says. If someone could email me at reyesuelanew atyahoodotcom, I’d really, really appreciate it.
There really aren’t any spoilers in it, either, so feel free to read. Here are a few excerpts:
“[The] description on page one was the first clue I was reading something truly different. Here was a London not often seen in the romance genre, a tough, sooty metropolis in which the weak often perish and even the strong don’t easily survive.”
This was The Most Fun Thing about the book, period. I loved that London, and I’m returning to it now in Book 6, tentatively titled JEWELS OF THE NIGHT (and, astonishingly, jewels are actuall IN this book, so I have a prayer of keeping the title straight–I have no idea how my readers don’t end up confused).
“If I’ve read one book with an impoverished heroine who protects orphans I have read a dozen. But Maggie’s relationship with her “chavies” does not feel clichéd, in large part because she can’t fully protect them from harsh realities. One of them is a prostitute, another a teenaged mother addicted to gin, and a third is a violent young man who desires Maggie. And Maggie herself is hardly a long-lost heiress or fallen-on-hard-times gentlewoman. She literally grew up on the streets, with an education from the school of hard knocks, and she views strangers with wariness.”
This was my main thought when I was writing this book. I was a bit scared that people wouldn’t like it for this reason, but I think it works, and it keeps everything from being so NICE. You know, there really isn’t anything NICE about desperate poverty–nothing cute or sweet about it. And I wanted to show that, making all my characters thoroughly messed up *g* but still the kind of people you’ll root for.
Longtime readers will recognized the prostitute, Sally, as Sarah Connolly from MUSIC. By the time the main part of the book begins, she’s really an ex-prostitute and works as a plain seamstress taking in piecework, if I remember correctly. You’ll see the violent young man later, probably five books from now. He’ll be a bit less violent and a bit more respectable. But only sort of.
The gin-addicted teenage mother is actually brewing in the back of my mind, too, no pun intended. *g* But I’m not sure what’s going to happen with her.
“Neither rakish nor altruistic, Charles begins the book burdened by the legacy of the previous profligate Barons Edgington even as he is used to a life of privilege. He loves but doesn’t actually like his peevish mother and spoiled sister, and his relationship with them is strained. The meaninglessness of high society life troubles him, but he’s not quite ready to upset his well-ordered world.”
I love writing about messed up families. Probably because mine is so boring.
“But this book is not a retread of My Fair Lady. Rather than focusing on a charming transformation, Voices of the Night gets its power from its attention to the gulf between Charles and Maggie, the perceptiveness with which they view one another, and the way each is fascinated by the glimpse the other presents of a world than is so different than their own. There is a wonderful scene in which Charles visits Maggie’s flat and seeing the poverty in which she and her friends live both embarrasses and fascinates him. His invasion of Maggie’s space is in some ways a more intimate kind of penetration than sex.”
This was an iffy scene for me. Made me nervous to write! See, her flat isn’t your typical neat-as-a-pin, looks-like-a-gentlewoman-down-on-her-luck kind of place. I wanted to make it the home of people who are really trying to get along but who are truly from the class they appear to be. I’m afraid that some readers will go “eeew!”
The decorations on the walls were put up by Sally, of course. *g* She longs for beautiful things.
There’s a definite hint of macabre interest in one another at the beginning of the story. That made me nervous, too.
I’m glad she liked the first sex scene. The first three versions of it sucked. Made me hate the book until I got it right–and trust me, no one can hate a book like the author of it can.
“Your writing feels suppler and more relaxed in this book than it has in the past, as well as atmospheric and rich. The characterization is nuanced and layered. The first half, in which Maggie and Charles negotiate the terrain of their very different social classes, was difficult to stop reading. Most of the second half, in which the focus shifts to whether Maggie can evade what Danny O’Sullivan wants of her and pull off her masquerade in polite company, was quite good as well, the impersonation scenes wonderfully fraught with tension.”
Here, I am cackling insanely. “Your writing feels suppler and more relaxed in this book than it has in the past.” Relaxed. Yeah. This is the book I almost wanted to SHRED WITH MY TEETH. Do you have any idea how HARD it is to make a HOUSE PARTY Gothicky? Let me tell you. It’s HARD. I am never, ever, ever, ever writing a Gothicky house party again. It’s also incredibly hard to make a bland middle class neighborhood spooky-ish, though I could do it a lot better now.
I nearly lost it writing this book. Really.
“But as the book nears its end, it wobbles. The threat presented by Danny becomes the main obstacle to Charles and Maggie’s happiness, and this is not as compelling a conflict as the difference in their backgrounds. Some things come to light about Danny that raise more questions than they answer and make his character seem improbable to me. The scene in which Maggie agrees to marry Charles feels predictable and standard, in a book that is so unconventional otherwise. Finally, even after reading the epilogue a few times, I’m still confused about how Maggie and Charles decide to deal with her background when they marry.”
Danny has a long, complicated, and involved background, but the only person who know is in the book (can’t tell you ‘cuz it’d be a huge spoiler) isn’t a POV character and isn’t talking. You’ll find out all the details round about seven books from now, but there’s no appropriate place for it in this book. He’s really as horrible a person as he appears, but even the most horrible people justify their actions to themselves, and he does a very good job of that. There’s just no room for it here. Maggie doesn’t give a damn why he is the way he is, and no one else is in a position to ask. Janine may be right. It may weaken the book. It probably does, in fact. Including it, though, would definitely bloat it, and it’d be…fake. I don’t know any other way to put it than that! It’d just be contrived. And I wanted to steer clear of that. That was my least favorite–maybe second least favorite, after the shitty epilogue–thing about MUSIC. Didn’t seem to bother readers one tenth as much as it bothered me, though.
I have a habit–a bad habit?–of raising questions that I never answer in my books. I dunno. Maybe I’m not good at wrapping up things in a package. I *like* some messiness to my books. One thing that bothered me about MUSIC is that it seemed way too neat. I loved the ending of VEIL. Some readers agreed. Some, including a friend of mine, wanted to bop me on the head. *g*
Maggie and Charles actually don’t “do” anything about Maggie’s background, which is why she couldn’t find anything about it in the book. It just isn’t there. Charles is an Edgington–Edgingtons are scandalous and have done far worse than marry an unknown person. Maggie’s masquerade has just become rather permanent. Though it’s somewhat transparent, over time, people just don’t look at it too closely because it’s Not Polite–I was setting that up with the whole poor relation subplot. High society wasn’t so much about behaving correctly as it was pretending not to see when people didn’t. There’s gossip, but again, he’s an Edgington. He just doesn’t care. And Maggie isn’t really a part of society–never truly will be in her own mind–so hasn’t got anything major at stake, either. She’s half intimidated and half scornful of the upper classes, but she won’t be ashamed if she’s cut, for example. Pissed, yes. *g* Ashamed, no. The issue is usually at stake in romance between a highly respected fixture of society and a repectable-ish poor girl in most romances, but neither Maggie nor Charles is respectable.
I did actually think “This is where you typically address the class difference thing in a wider social context.” But I didn’t put it in. WHISPERS hadn’t yet come out, so I hadn’t gotten a taste of HOW strong reader expectations can be and how they shape the reading of book. (I don’t read that way. I just…don’t. In some ways, it sets me up for failure again and again–when I’m confronted with a charmingly disheveled heroine on p. 5, I don’t head for the hills instantly and am frustrated every time when she turns out to be a permament slattern and airhead.) If I were writing it now, I probably would put something in to satify that question even though it’s one that’s pretty external to the book. Something in the scene where Charles first asks Maggie to marry him, in which he says something about bein a scandalous Edgington and she say something about not giving a damn about society or scandal but caring only about whether it will work between them (which she’s guardedly prepared to risk–she’s not so sure it’ll work out, but she’d be an idiot to not grab on for cynical reasons with both hands and hope for the best–which is why either Charles or Danny MUST be the only thing stopping the marriage) and whether it’s possible because of external threats (which she doesn’t think it is).
Actually, Maggie’s cynicism is a BIG reason that the typical no-one-will-accept-me thing doesn’t work here as any sort of barrier at all. If Charles strode up to her and proved that he was a baron and asked her to marry him at the very first scene, she would have agreed and would have *then* tried to figure out if he was a pervert or a woman-abuser. Anything more positive between them would only have made her more willing. I guess I could have had Charles grossly misunderstand her hesitation, though–that would have worked fine, even if SHE would never hesitate for the typical romance-y reasons. *g*
It really changes the story when your heroine wouldn’t hesitate to be a gold-digger.
Good grief. I just wrote a romance about a cynical gold-digger!