Let me tell you about the single riskiest book I’ve ever read…
1. The gently-bred, down-on-her-luck-heroine decides, quite matter-of-factly, that she is going to become a prostitute in order to support herself. There is very little angst about this decision. No theatrics. No OH GOD ANYTHING BUT SEX FOR MONEH.
2. The hero visits his usual prostitute in his usual brothel, but she’s unavailable. Instead, there’s a new girl. Here’s a dilemma, because our guy does not like change. On the other hand, one girl is as good as another. Okay, he’ll see her.
3. The heroine is definitely not a virgin when they get together. The sex is not particularly magical. He does not decide, in a jealous pique, that no other man may touch her. No, he leaves and makes an appointment for next Thursday.
4. The heroine is cool with the hero because he doesn’t really make difficult or unsavory demands. The hero is cool with the heroine because she lies very still while he does his business.
5. The hero is dull. I mean this in pretty much every aspect. His appearance, his personality, his intelligence. This is not a feint or something that can be changed. He is not especially noble nor does he have any special redeeming qualities that make up for this. Words cannot express how much I loved and hated this aspect of the plot.
6. The heroine is pretty, educated, smart, talented at the piano, basically above him in every way, except that she’s completely subjugated to him.
THERE IS NO WAY THIS SHOULD WORK AS A ROMANCE.
In fact, the author agrees. Mary Balogh said, “A Precious Jewel is that book of mine that insisted upon being written even though I knew it was quite impossible to write.”
I have always felt that there is magic in Balogh’s writing. In other books, The Secret Pearl, Dark Angel, she makes difficult plot points work simply, cleanly, with a sparsity of drama, but none so huge as in this one. And it does work. A Precious Jewel was published in 1993 by Signet and was named a Desert Island Keeper by All About Romance.
Not only that, but she WROTE THIS BOOK IN TWO WEEKS.
Today is the first day National Novel Writing Month. I’m participating. But whether you are or you aren’t, I hope you won’t let a little thing like a tight schedule keep you from taking risks. In fact, maybe speed can keep you from overthinking and second-guessing. But most of all, write the book you love. Do it well and someone will want to read it.
“The only advice I would ever give a writer is to write.” – Mary Balogh