Today I want to mention a couple of the challenges of writing in first person.
When I talked to Anthongy Walsh of The Cover Artisan about the cover I told him that Sarah had blonde hair and blue eyes. Then neither of us could find a picture of a blonde that we liked so we went with a brunette. After that I scoured the manuscript looking for references to Sarah's hair color so I could make sure it fit with the cover.
Guess what...I'd never mentioned the color. Now, it might be in some of the parts I deleted (and there are a lot of them), but the final copy never mentioned her hair color.
I think that's part of the challenge of first person. Does a heroine (at least not an unlikeable and vain one) say "And then my golden tresses tumbled around my shoulders"? But, in third person, the hero might thinkg "The sight of her golden tresses tumbling around her shoulders always made his heart beat faster."
Was the lack of a description a major problem? I don't think so. It gives readers the opportunity to sort of picture her how they want.
Developing the other characters.
This is a little more challenging. Way back when I first started reading Harlquin Romances they were all written in third person point of view, but always from the heroine's perspective. More recently, romances are a combination of scenes from both the hero and heroine's point of view. I think most people like to see both main characters' thougths and reactions to the developing relationship.
So when I wrote Becoming Lady Amherst in first person, developing the character of Lord Amherst was more challenging. I could only use his actions and words and then Sarah's reactions to them.
I think (if I do say so myself) that this first encounter with Lord Amherst gives us some good glimpeses of his personality. What do you think?
Later in the evening, while standing near an open window seeking fresh air, I overheard a man—I had no reason to believe him a gentleman—maligning Americans as nothing more than the bastard sons of the devil.
Well, I could hardly allow something so offensive to go unchallenged. If Father had heard him, he would have boxed the young upstart’s ears, but since the honor of my country was left to me to defend, I did my part.
I tapped the blowhard on the shoulder. “Pardon me, sir,”
When he turned, I struggled to keep my composure, as he was without a doubt the most strikingly handsome man in all of either America or England. My breath caught in my throat as his dark eyes peered down at me. The corners of his mouth turned up in a sly smile.
“How may I be of service to you, miss?” His sultry voice wafted over me until I nearly forgot my pique, but seeing the mischievous twinkle in his eye reminded me.
“You forget, sir, the Americans, who are the sons of the devil as you say, also bested your country in two wars.”
“We only sent hired soldiers to fight the bloody Americans. An army of real British soldiers would have done the job handily.”
“What a thing to say. Have you no respect for your countrymen who died at war?” I glared up at him with a bounty of Yankee scorn.
Finally, he laughed. “My, you are not afraid to speak your mind, now are you? Hardly surprising. Americans are an untamed lot who do not know how to train their women either.”
He smiled down at me. Perhaps he meant to be funny. In no mood for his humor or insults to my country, I stomped on his toe. Hard. Though my petite feet were only ensconced in dancing slippers, he winced. Whether from pain or surprise, I did not know.
Thereupon, the scoundrel took me by the arm and led me—very unceremoniously, I might add—onto the terrace.
“What are you doing?” Straining not to show my alarm, I glanced over my shoulder at the other guests, but they were engaged with the dance. No one seemed to notice us, not even the ever-vigilant Mrs. White, who, it turns out, spent more than her fair share of time sipping brandy instead of lemonade.
However, while being escorted outdoors, that woman was the least of my concerns.
This stranger, who had not even been polite enough to introduce himself, put his hand at the small of my back, guiding me to a bench on the far corner of the terrace. Unaware of his intentions, I knew being there with him, alone, was highly improper. Yet the scorch from his touch above my bottom compelled me to comply without protest.
What spell had he cast over me?
He did not answer my question, but once we reached the bench, he placed one foot upon it then bent me over his knee.
“How dare you? Unhand me!” I hissed through gritted teeth. Shouting from the rooftops would have been preferable, but drawing attention to myself or my indecorous situation was unthinkable.
“It is obvious that you, my little Yankee girl, need a lesson in manners, which is precisely what you are about to receive.” Thereupon, the brute swatted my upturned behind.
I can only be thankful for the many layers of my gown because, although shocking, the swat was not painful. “You spank like an old lady. Or a British lord. ’Tis hard to tell the difference.” Horror at the implications of my words chilled my blood. Perhaps lessons in keeping my mouth shut were not out of the question.
A rustle of fabric, and my skirts flipped up over my back and mussed my hair. I struggled against what he intended, particularly irritated over the damage to my coiffure. Two maids had spent an inordinate amount of time arranging my free-spirited locks to meet Mrs. White’s specifications. She would not be pleased to see me return to the dance floor with my hair out of place. As she liked to say in response to nearly every question, “It simply is not done.”
A cool breeze blew across the slit of my pantalets. I inhaled sharply in response to my exposure to the night air, as well as a stranger, in such a manner. His hand cracked down on my barely covered backside. I gasped with the impact.
“I bet that did not feel like a spanking from an old lady.” The cocksure gentleman adjusted my torso for a better angle and landed another swat on my bottom.
“I do not know what you people here call a spanking, but my grandmother spanks harder than that.”
Why could I never learn my lesson?
Usually, my manner was not so contrary. Of course, I did not often encounter men who excited my ire so profoundly, either.
I must have had a similar effect on the man who imprisoned me over his knee because he wrapped his arm around my waist, pulled me closer to restrain my movements, and proceeded to lay into my buttocks in a manner fit to make any grandmother proud.
I lost count of the number of times the swine’s hand landed on my upturned cheeks, but he struck it repeatedly. My delicate flesh warmed quickly under his assault. I kicked my feet in an attempt to impede his efforts, though rather than slowing him, my efforts made him laugh. “You are quite the little hellion, Yankee girl.”
“Stop calling me that.” My jaw clenched in anger and resolution.
“Since you have not told me your real name, what choice is there?” Although he exerted himself thoroughly in my punishment, which continued unabated, he spoke as calmly as if he were reading the news.
I am not proud of this, if asked directly to verify its accuracy, I may not be so honest in the future, but I shall confess it here.
While teetering across his knee, I worked up an impressive amount of saliva, which I then projected onto his shoe with both accuracy and delight.
He paused in his efforts to scorch my rump, set me on my feet—my skirts thankfully fell back into place over my throbbing bottom—then stared down at his sputum-adorned shoe.
He bit his lip. For the second time in as many minutes, my own sanity came into question.
I stood next to him, gasping for air because my position across his knee, as well as my own trepidation over the consequences of my actions, had made it difficult to fill my lungs sufficiently.
My captor’s hand rested gently on my arm, while I scanned the terrace, considering the possibility of escape. But before I could take action, a familiar voice called me.
“Miss McLean! There you are. I have been quite frantic in searching for you.” Mrs. White, red-faced from exertion coupled with brandy, huffed and puffed in my direction. She took firm hold of my arm.
“Hurry, now. You are to dance the next with Lord Amherst. He is the prize catch of the season, so you must be on your best behavior.”
Stunned she would speak so in front of the oaf who dragged me onto the terrace in the first place, I peeked around to read his reaction to her words, but he had vanished.
Had the whole thing taken place in my imagination? The burn in my tail end indicated it had been all too real.
I straightened my skirts and patted my hair in preparation for my new dance partner. The bully was gone, along with my thoughts of him.
As we approached the dance floor, the bitter widow squinted at my coiffure and tsked in dismay. “Honestly, Sarah, how did you manage to get your hair into such a frazzle already?”
There was no way to explain to her how hanging upside down over a man’s knee made it challenging to maintain one’s hairstyle, so I was grateful when she took her attention away from me to focus it on our hostess, Lady Waterford who presented my next partner. “Miss McLean, please allow me to introduce Lord Amherst. He is most eager to make your acquaintance.”
I curtsied like a trained pet, as was expected of me. Glancing up from my lowered position, I stared straight into the smirking face of…Lord Spanked My Ass.
He bowed and gave me a dimpled, devilish grin. “I am pleased to meet you, Miss McLean.”
Unsure of how to answer, yet determined not to let my irritation show, at least not to anyone other than my unwanted partner, I simply nodded in reply before he led me to the dance floor.
I waited stiffly by his side, resolved only to engage with him as mandated by the dance. He had other ideas and turned into quite the chatterbox.
“I apologize for not escorting you back inside, but I feared the reaction of your chaperone might have been unpleasant for both of us.”
“How thoughtful of you.”
“Had we been found alone together, the scandal would have been sufficient to force a marriage between us.”
“Marriage? Is it not bad enough that you manhandled me, but now you add threats?”
“Manhandled? You said I spanked like an old lady.” I would swear he smirked.
“You do, at best. I referred to the manner in which you hauled me away from polite society in an attempt to damage my reputation.”
“I believe I did put a little bit of sting to your ‘reputation.’” The bastard had the audacity to wink at me.
“Besides”—he took my small hand and enveloped it in the same hand that minutes before assaulted my derriere—“I had to attend to my blemished shoe. I certainly could not dance with the most eligible young lady at the ball with spittle on my footwear, now could I?”
Get your copy of Becoming Lady Amherst and read the rest of the story.
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Becoming Lady Amherst Blurb:
When Miss Sarah McLean causes a scandal in Boston, her father takes her to London in search of a husband.
At her first party, Sarah insults Lord Amherst who takes her over his knee to spank some manners into her. When this spanking comes to light, Sarah's father offers him a choice: Marry Sarah or send her back to America where she has no prospects for a husband.
Intrigued by the spirited Yankee Girl, Lord Amherst proposes.
Despite the circumstances of their marriage, Sarah and Jeffrey form a bond and appear headed for a bright future. That is, until Sarah pretends to be someone she's not.
Note: This books contains spanking, domestic discipline, and graphic sex.