Recently I received the proof copy of my first novel, Lacey Took a Holiday, from the good people at Second Wind Publishing. This is one of the great things about Second Wind (or 2W as the writers have come to call it): the authors are all much more involved in the creative process, including the editing and creating the covers if we want. I’ve found some little changes I wanted to make and they’re willing to let me.
Now that the book has been accepted and published, I can go ahead and express a concern I had long before Starr Ambrose—one of the eventual winners of the Gather “First Chapters Romance”—voiced it during our competition. The problem is that Lacey is an atypical romance. Since anyone who reads it is going to find out anyway, I might as well confess that Lacey Grady, the main character of the novel, is in her own words “a woman of leisure.” This does not mean the book is full of sex. And her “romantic interest” in the story—Andy Warren—actually kidnaps her out of the brothel where he meets her.
Well, let me fill in a few more blanks: Andy is actually a WWI veteran (the story takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northwestern North Carolina in the mid 1920’s) whose wife and only son both died during childbirth. Eventually the reader discovers that nearly everyone Andy has loved throughout his life has died tragically. He’s really a bitter and jaded fellow. He kidnaps Lacey on impulse because—well, okay, not only is she a prostitute, but an alcoholic. Andy recognizes that she is drinking herself to death. In a perverse sort of rescue attempt, he takes her out of “Curly’s” the bordello where she works and spirits her away to his mountaintop.
The problem with the story is this: who ever heard of a romance where the two main characters were so flawed, so downright “sinful.” On the other hand, the love that develops between them is so sweet. Not to give away too much, the romance that emerges becomes the one pure, innocent part of their lives. Of course, there are some dangerous and difficult complications. I’m not promising that they live happily ever after.
So can Lacey find a home in the midst of the other romance novels of 2W and on the bookshelves of Amazon and other places? Is it too realistic to be a romance novel? Does love redeem even people as abused and used as Lacey and Andy? I suppose only time will tell. –Laz Barnhill