Well, looking back there are a LOT of things I thought I’d never do and ended up doing. But that’s another story. Because I’ve been thinking recently about the things I thought I would and wouldn’t do when I started out writing. And, fortunately, experience has made me re-assess those dos and don’ts.
Tropes was one thing that I had a set of very definite ideas about. I reckoned I’d never do a fake engagement – I’ve read a lot of wonderful fake engagement stories, but I couldn’t think of an original situation in which a modern woman might need to fake an engagement. Amnesia was another that I didn’t feel that I could do well. And a prince for a hero – well I love a hero prince as much as the next girl. I just felt a little unequal to the challenge of writing one.
But, of course, I lived and I learnt. And one of the things that I learned was that limiting myself to a set of rules, which were largely based on what I thought I could and couldn’t achieve, wasn’t a terribly good idea.
My first foray into the world of ‘forbidden’ tropes was The Doctor she couldn’t Forget. As you can probably gather from the title, this was an amnesia story, and I’m showing you the cover from the US because I love it so much.
My actress heroine hasn’t forgotten everything – she’s suffered a traumatic head injury and as a result of this she’s unable to retain some memories. There’s no rhyme or reason to what does and doesn’t remember, and she’s struggling to live a normal life, making endless lists and always stressed out by the knowledge that she may have forgotten something important. So my hero doctor has to deal with a woman who’s fast getting a name for being a bit of a diva and is about to ruin her own career with the tantrums she throws, to cover up when she hasn’t remembered something. And unfortunately (particularly for a romance), one of the things she has difficulty remembering is the hero’s first name. So for much of the book she resorts to calling him ‘Dr Taylor’.
Having broken my self-imposed rules once, and really enjoying the process, I threw everything out of the window for Doctor to Princess? Not only do I have a hero prince, who I adored, but a fake engagement. Nell, my heroine, is doctor to Prince Hugo deLeon. A doctor himself, Hugo is having some difficulty in admitting that he needs medical care too, and it’s Nell’s job to keep him in line. Her constant presence at his side, provokes press speculation that she is his latest girlfriend.
But when her ex-boss, who hounded Nell out of her last job because she rejected his advances, sees the stories he contacts the papers with a spiteful story of his own. Hugo’s family have negotiated an agreement with the press that children under eighteen and engaged couples are shielded from articles that haven’t been vetted and agreed with the Royal Family. So the only way that Hugo can stop her ex-bosses lies from ruining Nell’s career is to fake an engagement…
So – I guess that I’ve learned. The new rule is Never Say Never, because one of the great things about writing is that there are so many possibilities, and it would be wholly wrong to arbitrarily forbid myself from doing anything without first trying it.
And… this isn’t really breaking my rule about not writing about countries I haven’t visited, because the book’s not set in Iceland. But I love both the cover and the fact that I now have three books which have been translated into Icelandic! So I’ll include this edition of Saving Baby Amy anyway.
And come to think of it – an Icelandic heroine, who’s lost her memory and finds herself in a fake engagement with a prince…? I’m starting to like the idea. (And hoping my editor isn’t reading this!)
Writers – are there some tropes you’d never try? And readers – are there some tropes you just wouldn’t read? Or are you happy to try anything – because in the end it’s all in the way that it’s written.