Jun 12 2012
****This is a sticky post*****Scroll down one to see the latest content or join us for a discussion of Sherry Thomas’ Beguiling the Beauty.
Our awkwardly announced Dear Author Book Club is restarting with a weeklong discussion of “Beguiling the Beauty” by Sherry Thomas. Members of the DA review crew nominated a book for the book club and the readership voted on which book to read. The winning book was “Beguiling the Beast”. Based on recommendations from the readers, we are going to explore themes for the book club. Next month is Friends to Lovers. In the sidebar, you can see a poll. Vote on which book you’d like for the July book club discussion (yes, we are skipping a month to allow more reading time.).
Onward with the Q&A. Sherry Thomas agreed, graciously, to answer a number of questions to jump start the discussion. She will not be hovering about and so feel free to discuss. I can pass along questions that might need direct answers from Thomas. If you are interested in a review, I wrote one here. You can buy the book from one of these retailers: ( A | BN | K | S )
1) What was the genesis for this book?
Judith Ivory’s BEAST, a major milestone in my romance education. It features a shipboard romance between an engaged couple who have never met. The hero, Charles, seduces the heroine, Louise, because Louise wants an adventure before she settles down with her much older fiancé and Charles would rather her adventure be him than some other man.
And Louise never sees Charles’s while they were having this affair.
I enjoy taking a plot or plot element that has worked well in a different book, then give it a different spin. One of the easiest ways to turn a romantic plot on its head is to switch the genders of the two people involved. So BEGUILING THE BEAUTY’s shipboard romance has a woman in disguise, out to seduce a man.
2) Were there any themes you wanted readers to interpret?
I don’t write with themes in mind and all I want my readers to derive from my books is enjoyment.
That said, I do sometimes feel like a researcher conducting an experiment under controlled circumstances, when it comes to my plots and characters. So, here is a man who has been in love with a woman because of her beauty, and who is probably unable to fall for anyone else because they do not look like her, what would happen if he is given an opportunity to get really close to a woman without her physical appearance exerting any kind of influence on him?
That’s what I decided to find out.
3) Because this is a disguise story, I struggled with the concept of the hero being truly in love with the Baronness or Venetia. How did you feel it played out?
I can’t say I struggled with it. I really like how it played out. I feel that if a man is crazy about a woman’s looks, and equally crazy about said woman’s personality when he can’t see her face, that combines into just about the most perfect love I can cook up in my little romance laboratory.
4) What do you feel about revenge? Is there a moral layer to the characters actions? If so, what morality measurement should we be using? and 5) What was Venetia’s view about revenge?
I am going to combine these two questions.
There are vengeances that take over a person’s life, like in the Count of Monte Cristo. I remember finding it a little difficult to accept that the author just gave him a happy ending and voila, that’s it. To me that sort of consuming, calculating vengeance, taking years to plan and orchestrate, once completed, beyond the initial thrill, would lead the hero into a deep depression.
In BEGUILING THE BEAUTY, there is nothing remotely comparable. Venetia is furious. She is doing what many of us do when we are furious: striking back while in a state of anger and turmoil.
And while in that state, she believes herself capable of a far crueler strike than she can actually execute. I think rare is the person who has not at least once in his/her life imagined a devastating scheme against someone. Most of us don’t ever put that scheme into action. Venetia, however, does take the first step in her plan, but no more than that, before she realizes the inapplicability of her original plan.
6) The set up for the second book seemed integral to this book? How do you feel the Millie/Fitz storyline added to the romance of the first characters?
Frankly I can’t say that Millie/Fitz’s storyline (their book is RAVISHING THE HEIRESS) adds to the Christian’s and Venetia’s romance. What it does is weaving all three books of the trilogy into a tighter overall larger story.
7) The ending was a concern for some readers. What effect were you achieving with the ending you chose?
I wanted a Gift of the Magi kind of ending. (For readers who might not be familiar with the O Henry short story, Gift of the Magi is about a poor young couple who love each tremendously. Come Christmas, she sells her hair to buy him a platinum fob for his watch, and he sells his watch to buy her a set of expensive combs for her hair.)
So both Christian and Venetia have something they find difficult to share with other people. In Christian’s case, it is that he has been in love with Venetia ever since the very beginning. For Venetia, it is her role on the ship. So he confesses his part to the gossips—who fear no one, by the way, since the best gossips deal in truth, not falsehoods—to try to save her from being hurt. And she confesses her scheme to save him from his secret becoming widely disseminated.
The parallel is not exact, but that’s what I wanted to achieve.
8) What would you do differently, if anything, in the story?
I’m not sure. At the very tail end of revisions, I switched around some aspects of the ending, in the hope of greater tension leading up to it. In doing so, I got rid of a couple of scenes. At times I wonder whether had I kept those scenes, fewer readers would feel the ending was rushed. But then again, those scenes never did do much for me, and I don’t personally miss them.
So, at the moment, I don’t have any concrete ideas on how the ending could have been different. Down the road, who knows?
9) Generally speaking, do you think craft or storytelling is more important for an author? What can you do to increase one’s skill in either?
For genre works, definitely storytelling. Craft is mean to enhance storytelling. It is the interior decorating to the structure that is storytelling. When the structure sucks, the best interior decorating can’t save it from sucking. When the structure is sound, even if you have very little to the interior, well, the structure is still sound and you can make use of it.
Of course, the absolute best-case scenario is sound structure accompanied by fabulous interior decorating. But if I have to err, I will err on the side of storytelling.
As to what you can do to increase your skill in either, I say just read. Read the best books you can find, of any kind of subject matter/genre/whatnot that you enjoy. In fact you want to read books so good that they make you throw yourself to the ground in despair. You need to know where the bar is before you can aim for it.
Over to you DA readers.