What if more than one couple demands their own HEA in your novel? Author Regan Walker shares her experience with The Write Way Café.
We all know that romance novels involve a hero and a heroine, an intricate plot that presents obstacles to their love and a story in which the obstacles are overcome so that the reader gets that longed-for happily ever after. Right? But what happens when more than one couple shows up and demands their own HEAs?
When I began writing my newest novel, Rebel Warrior, set in Scotland in the late 11th century, I never thought there would be more than my hero, Steinar of Talisand and his heroine, Catrìona of the Vale of Leven—two lost souls recovering from devastating crises. But then there was this mysterious Welsh bard, Rhodri ap Bleddyn from The Red Wolf’s Prize, (book 1 in my series) who had come to Scotland with Steinar. The bard was a very handsome poet and a master of the bow and who caught the attention of Fia, the heroine’s cousin who just happened to be the daughter of a powerful nobleman. Fia’s father would never wed her to a mere bard, but what does love know of that? And who was that mysterious bard anyway?
Then, of course, there was the King of Scots himself, Malcolm Canmore, and his devout Saxon bride, Margaret of Wessex. How could I tell a story set in their court without telling of the love of the rough warrior king for his pious queen? Despite my better intentions, they kept injecting their noble selves and providing the reader with endearing love scenes. My heroine was quite envious of the love the two royals shared. Hundreds of hours of research were devoted to this couple, but in the end, I do believe I got it right.
My heroine, Catrìona, thought nothing of having a tendre for Steinar, the golden-haired exile from England, even though he was so badly wounded he could only serve the unlettered King of Scots as a scribe. As she was falling in love with the scribe, the king was planning to give her hand to the captain of his guard, Colbán of Moray, a gruff warrior who had an eye for the redheaded vixen and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I just had to find a ladylove for him because he was getting in Steinar’s way. Enter gentle Audra, daughter of Duff, the powerful Mormaer of Fife whose mother and younger siblings had been murdered by Mac Bethad of Moray. Ah, the plot thickens.
So now I had four—count ‘em—four romances and I wasn’t done yet!
Those who read Rogue Knight, book 2 in the series, will recall Maerleswein, the former Sheriff of Lincolnshire, who defected to Scotland when the Conqueror brutally devastated Yorkshire. A real historic figure, Maerleswein was due a reward from the King of Scots. And so one of the queen’s ladies found herself betrothed to this older, but still quite virile, nobleman.
In the end I had five couples to worry about and five HEA’s to deliver to my readers. It was like cooking up dinner on the stove, hoping all the dishes would be hot when it’s time to serve them up. I was a very busy person. But, eventually, all the threads came together. Whew!
And along the way, I’d learned some lessons that might help other authors.
1. When weaving multiple love stories into a single novel, it’s important to make each pair likeable. I really wanted my readers to care that all five should find their happy ending.
2. To help readers become involved in the different love stories, it’s important to give each couple stage time, even before they become a pair, which might not happen until the end of the story.
3. While you are doing all that, you must keep the one, special lead romance in the foreground.
For me, there is the added task of weaving in real history and real historic figures. After all, William the Conqueror invaded Scotland in the year of my story.
I think my tale set in Scotland is richer for all those love stories. See if you don’t agree.
When your destiny lies far from where you began…
The Norman Conqueror robbed Steinar of Talisand of his noble father and his lands, forcing him to flee to Scotland while still recovering from a devastating wound. At the court of Malcolm Canmore, Steinar becomes scribe to the unlettered king while secretly regaining his skill with a sword.
The first time Steinar glimpses the flame-haired maiden, Catrìona of the Vale of Leven, he is drawn to her spirited beauty. She does not fit among the ladies who serve the devout queen. Not pious, not obedient and not given to stitchery, the firebrand flies a falcon! And while she captures Steinar’s attention, he is only a scribe and she is promised to another.
Catrìona’s home was viciously attacked by Northmen who slayed her parents and her people. But that was not all she would suffer. At King Malcolm’s court the man she once thought to wed betrays her.
When all is lost, what hope is there for love? Can a broken heart be mended? Can a damaged soul be healed?
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Regan Walker is an award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romances. She has six times been featured on USA TODAY's HEA blog and four times nominated for the prestigious RONE award (her novel, The Red Wolf's Prize won Best Historical Novel for 2015 in the medieval category). Regan writes historically authentic novels where history is a character and her readers experience adventure as well as love.