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OMG Yes and Finally! Can Courtney Milan Put an End...

Over at the Smart Bitches, SB Sarah blogged about the workshop that Courtney Milan is doing about wills. The workshop will take place on July 30 as part of the Beau Monde conference. This conference is in San Francisco so it fits neatly into the RWA conference schedule.

Among other things, Courtney Milan will tell you why you can’t condition the money in a will bequest on marrying another person. While this is a historical romance conference, it affects contemporary romance books as well. If I don’t see another “You must marry x person or you will not be given the millions in my estate” plot, I would be pathetically grateful.

Will related plots are possible the worst offenders of the law out there (although poorly written sports romances are right behind it). If you are thinking about writing a book featuring a will plot device, please go to this workshop and be educated.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

17 Comments

  1. Sherry Thomas
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 15:16:41

    If anyone can put an end to it, it would be Courtney. I’ve had occasion to benefit from her amazing knowledge of historical law, so I speak from experience.

  2. sallahdog
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 15:26:50

    sigh… is it wrong of me to admit that I love some of these tired plot devices? You guys are screwing with all my teen favorites, secret babies, forced marriages… whats next? fated mates? kidnapped by pirates? Is there no end to the villainy?

  3. Ann Bruce
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 15:42:07

    Sallahdog – You can rest easy. I don’t think the legions of romance writers out there who currently do it will stop. It sells too well. I used to e-mail authors when they get the computer-related details wrong…and then I see them make the same mistake in subsequent books. It’s their reality.

  4. Michelle
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 15:49:48

    Salladog:

    I bet we all have our own personal favorite “tired plot device”. For some reason, I find it easier to give a pass to a “tired plot device” if it’s how the book is started as opposed to how it ends. But, I do love history and knowing something is historically incorrect has ruined some of my teen-age, favorite “tired plot devices” – or it can really pull me out of the story.

    In contemporaries, I’m a complete sucker for the one-night stand/marry bc the heroine is pregnant plot twist – and I know lots of folks just hate it. And, I think someone event posted on dearauthor recently asking whether anybody knew anybody today who got married bc she was pregnant.

  5. Janine
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 16:03:23

    For some reason, I find it easier to give a pass to a “tired plot device” if it's how the book is started as opposed to how it ends. But, I do love history and knowing something is historically incorrect has ruined some of my teen-age, favorite “tired plot devices” – or it can really pull me out of the story.

    That’s a great observation and I think it is true for me as well. If something is part of the story’s premise, then it is easier to suspend disbelief because we know at the outset that that’s what the story is about. Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, which was published long before vampire books were all the rage they are today, begins with the line “‘I see,’ said the vampire.” When I first read the book, I accepted the premise easily because of the matter of fact way it was presented in the opening line. But if no vampires or other paranormal beings had shown up until the last quarter of the book, I might have been very annoyed, because by then my expecations would have been set for a very different kind of story.

    In contemporaries, I'm a complete sucker for the one-night stand/marry bc the heroine is pregnant plot twist – and I know lots of folks just hate it. And, I think someone event posted on dearauthor recently asking whether anybody knew anybody today who got married bc she was pregnant.

    I love almost any and all marriage of convenience stories. And amnesia — I am almost always willing to suspend disbelief for amnesia.

  6. sallahdog
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 16:58:46

    I love almost any and all marriage of convenience stories. And amnesia -‘ I am almost always willing to suspend disbelief for amnesia.

    Oh man… another one I love… amnesia… While I admitting my guilty secret of loving preposterous story lines, I will admit that I also watch for those “help a bitch out” over at SBs… If the story line is over the top crazy I am sooo there..

    I had gotten rid of all these stinkers several years(and about 3 moves) ago, and I find myself now haunting garage sales and half price book stores looking for silly plot lines and half nekkid women and men on the cover… I think my real life has gotten so serious and boring that I long for those simple days of the pirate (who is really a Duke) clubbing the chickie over the head and carrying her off to make secret babies that she won’t remember because she had amnesia, and then when he finds out she is really a lady and she finds out he is a Duke, they have a marriage of convenience till they realize they are madly in love with each other…. whats the problem?…. It could happen….

  7. Courtney Milan
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 17:26:31

    Thanks for blogging about this, Jane, and thanks for the support, Sherry!

    Sallahdog, it is not my intention to deprive authors of their tired plot devices at all, but to explain how to achieve the plot devices in a legal manner. For every example of “how not to force a marriage” I give a counterexample from a work of fiction showing that there are still many lovely ways to force marriages.

    Maybe I should have titled the workshop, “How to have your plot and eat it, too.” :)

  8. Linda Rigel
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 17:27:02

    As for marriage-by-will, I adore “Our Mutual Friend” — but that will too comes at the beginning of the book and is set out as the problem, not a convenient solution.

  9. sallahdog
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 17:30:17

    Sallahdog, it is not my intention to deprive authors of their tired plot devices at all

    Hey,deprive those dang authors all you want…as long as there are garage sales and flea markets I am sure I can find my fixes of
    ‘stupid stories I love’… Is it wrong of me to admit that one book reviewer mentioned an old book that was no longer in print that featured a guy who never washed and a secondary character who had a thing for goats….and I spent hours looking for that book?…. sigh… I feel so dirty…

  10. azteclady
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 18:00:22

    Going by the title and tone of this post… I’m going to venture a guess and say that this is one of those things that bother you a little, Jane?

  11. Michelle
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 18:35:57

    Courtney,

    I wasn’t able to post this on the SBTB site, but I’m pretty sure you’ll see it here. This may be a helpful example.

    Mary Balogh’s Courting Julia

    From her Web site: “When Julia Maynard’s step-grandfather dies, he
    leaves Julia nothing even though she has lived with him all her life and
    tended him in his last illness and loved him – and even though he
    appeared to adore her. But he does leave his precious unentailed home,
    Primrose Park, to whichever of his five nephews can win her hand within
    a month of the reading of the will.”

  12. Janine
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 18:38:58

    Come to think of it, I think there was something about a will marriage stipulation in Balogh’s Slightly Married as well.

  13. che
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 21:40:26

    I’m another one who likes the will/marry plot device. To me, romances are a work of fiction, so I don’t concern myself too much if it doesn’t follow reality. The way those devices usually work is marriage as a condition of will = forced intimacy = sexual tension = me happy.

    eta I love secret baby plots too. ::shrug:::

  14. Lynne
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 21:49:09

    Sounds like a fun workshop! I have a hard time suspending disbelief with many forced marriage plot novels, so you’re definitely providing a service to readers and authors alike, Courtney. :-)

  15. katieM
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 22:44:11

    Are you only talking about historicals? I’m reading a Harlequin Desire series about a group of siblings who are being directed by a will in order to inherit billions. The current one has a man trying to take a child from its legal guardian so that he and the child can inherit.

  16. Shreela
    Jul 21, 2008 @ 22:50:21

    Plot devices and reality, hee hee…

    I worked with someone whose marriage was arranged; she was miserable being married to an abusive man, and yearned for the man she was in love with as a teen, who BTW became much more successful in life than my coworker’s husband.

    I wouldn’t force a relative to marry any particular person to get their inheritance, but I might try not letting them at the money until they finish a degree.

    As far as someone being kidnapped by pirates, if my research into my family’s history is correct beyond the Atlantic, it seems that one of my male ancestors was actually kidnapped by pirates. It happened centuries ago, and I’m not even truly sure he was my ancestor (he’s 2 generations beyond where it gets questionable), but it still urks me, grrrr! But he kicked some pirate butts to escape, yay (even if we don’t share blood!)

    Don’t personally know of any secret babies, but did spend a bit of time with an amnesia patient (their identity was known, and it was believed the amnesia was temporary — I never found out how long it lasted).

    I always enjoyed the forced protector device, even if the heroine is fairly capable of protecting herself, because villains are devious, and can be pretty strong. Extra hands always comes in handy when in danger.

    Thanks for the laughs sallahdog 8^)

  17. Michelle
    Jul 22, 2008 @ 13:01:25

    Re: Mary Balogh’s Slightly Married

    p. 45
    “According to the will he had written shortly before his death, Morris had indeed left everything to his daughter for one year only before it was to pass to her brother or, in the event of his prior demise, to her cousin. But he had also dangled a juicy carrot before her face. She could retain her inheritance for the rest of her life if she married during that year.”

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