Aug 10 2014 2:00pm

Can Family Feuds Work in Romance Novels?

Rogue in Red Velvet by Lynne ConnollyToday we welcome author Lynne Connolly to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Lynne's Rogue in Red Velvet is the first book in the new Georgian-set series the Emperors of London. Rogue in Red Velvet has a country widow ending up in a brothel, of all places, and the man whose heart she broke is the only one who can save her reputation. Lynne's research into history reveals some intriguing scandals, including a few family feuds, which she discusses today. Thanks, Lynne!

Recently there haven’t been as many family feud stories in the romance novel. I read a lot of category romance—devour them, in fact, and while the marriage of convenience and the reignited romance have proved continually popular, the family feud has somewhat faded.

But when the muse strikes, it strikes and there wasn’t much I could do about it. That, and the resurgence of the more angsty historical romance, gave me a chance to write about something that’s fascinated me for most of my life. Along with writing about passion, tempestuous relationships and people falling in love, that is.

King James II and family portrait by Pierre Mignard (photo by Lynne Connolly)My stories are based in Georgian England, just before the Regency period, so to do some research, recently I went to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace to research the Jacobites, Culloden, the '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and all that. They have a great display of maps and portraits, letters and even a copy of an order to spies. Then it struck me. The Jacobites were the enemies of the Hanoverians, and they were the ancestors of the current generation. The Queen is a Hanoverian. And she has loads of stuff on the rebellion and the Jacobites. So why would their enemy treasure and preserve all that material?

Because it was a family feud. The Queen has Stuart ancestry too. So the Jacobite rebellion could be seen as one big family feud.

I hope the Queen forgives the whoop I gave when I realized that, because my new series, “The Emperors of London,” is about two warring families—the Dankworths are for the Stuarts and the heroes of this series, nicknamed the Emperors of London, want to keep the status quo. 

Moreover (don’t you love that word?) it's set in the 1750’s, a time of turmoil for Britain, with an ageing king, an underage heir and lots of unrest at home and in Europe.

When you start to look, there are family feuds all over the place. Romeo and Juliet is probably the most straightforward one. I wept buckets over the Zefferelli movie when we went to see it at school, and I guess that was the time I started to get Shakespeare. Then there’s the massively popular Game of Thrones, but that one isn’t exactly a romance, is it?

That trope has built-in tension, but the real emphasis in a romance is on people falling in love under adversity, overcoming personal drama. And when it comes down to basics, everything is personal. Bonnie Prince Charlie lost his campaign as much through personal failures as political. He was personable, a charming man, but feckless, not very bright and even by the '45, when he was regarded as a romantic hero, he was a drunk, if not an alcoholic. By the 1750’s, he’d put on weight, gained a florid complexion and any hope he had of remaining romantic had gone. But then, the Georges were hardly the romantic type. Except they had deep, dark family secrets, too, such as the wife George I kept locked up in a tower because she’d taken a lover. A real-life Rapunzel, though I don’t know how long her hair was. And the secret baby Princess Amelia, daughter of George II, was rumored to have had by a member of her household. A lifelong spinster, if rumor was correct, she wasn’t a lifelong virgin!

Secrets and families. Such rich material for a romance series! So do you enjoy the trope? And can you think of some that really worked for you?

Image credit: Photo by Lynne Connolly of a portrait by Pierre Mignard of King James II and family at the Queen's Gallery in London

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Best-selling author Lynne Connolly is a daughter of England, but she fell in love with the USA during her first visit in 2007. Her twin passions of history and romance led to the publication of her first novel, Yorkshire, and ever since she’s remained true to the Georgian era. There is always something new to learn and to write about. She lives in the UK with her family and her mews, a black cat called Jack, near Manchester.

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