Justine: The Easy Answer is Often Hard to Find

magnifying glassSo, just a warning for you…this post is deliberately short. I’m sorry to disappoint in case you were hankering for a thousand-worder, but I have a point to make and it won’t take long to do it. My point?

Sometimes the EASY answer is HARD to FIND!

An example: I have been stressing for months now that my book is WRONG in the eyes of the Historical Police. No matter how much I wish it otherwise, Susannah could not marry Nate (for real or pretend) without it being null and void from the get-go. And everyone would know it.

Here’s why: In 1815, anyone under the age of 21, which she is, must have the written permission of his or her parent or guardian in order to marry, whether by special license, bishop’s license (check this out to learn more), or if they read the banns. Of course, Susannah’s guardian is her uncle, who definitely WON’T give permission, so even trying to pass off a pretend Nate-and-Susannah union would make her uncle shrug his shoulders and say, “Whatever…you’re lying, ’cause I didn’t say she could.”

This was stressing me out. Nate had to be able to marry Susannah for pretend, both to save her derriere (so she wasn’t forced to marry her uncle’s toady and could turn 21 still single, and thereby claim her inheritance, then sail to Jamaica and save her sis from a nasty marriage) and to help Nate get into her uncle’s house so he could find the missing codex and prove her uncle a traitor.

Fortunately, fellow Eight Lady Jeanne was in Phoenix this past weekend. She invited me to join her and her friend for a day of writing in their hotel room. It was great to have several hours to devote to my story, but also horrible, because I spent a few of those hours scouring the Internet for some magic something-or-other that would allow the two of them to marry for pretend without me having to send them to Gretna Green. ‘Cause that’s the complete and total opposite direction of where I need her to be, which is in Rye, on the southern coast, near Dover.

I asked Jeanne if she could spare some time for brainstorming (Yay! She could!). So we started talking through this problem. I’m trying to remember, but I think she said she reads historicals some, but not all the time, and I explained a few things to her about this detail and that law. We walked through various scenarios and options, and it seemed to me that I was destined to have a Gretna Green marriage.


Then, out of the clear blue, it came to me. And it was SO SIMPLE, I started laughing. The solution? Make the age at which she inherits 25 and make Susannah 21…or 23 or 24 or whatever, but OLD ENOUGH TO MARRY WITHOUT PERMISSION.


How could something so complex and stressful be such an easy fix!?! And why did it take me over a year to figure it out!?! I had even consulted the wise women of The Beau Monde, the Georgian/Regency special interest chapter of RWA. These ladies know their history, but changing her age never came up as a possible solution.

Jeanne can tell you, ’cause she probably saw it, but a HUGE wave of relief washed over me. Tsunami-sized. I hadn’t realized how much this problem had been stressing me out. I think it’s part of the reason I haven’t been writing as much. (Yes, I’ve been working a lot at my kids’ school, but perhaps I’d have pushed some of that off if I’d had good motivation at home to work on this book.)

So, ladies and gentlemen who are working on books but are stuck, have faith. An easy answer is out there. It may take some brainstorming and teeth gnashing and paper ripping and hair pulling, but you’ll find it. ‘Cause it’s there. Just waiting for you!

9 thoughts on “Justine: The Easy Answer is Often Hard to Find

  1. Sometmes you have to walk through your scenario out loud in front of someone who’s unfamiliar with it. The act of explaining and putting everything in context really helps you take a step back.

    So glad you’re back on the path again!

  2. Congratulations on finding your solution! That’s wonderful news. Sometimes it’s embarrassing to realize that the answer to our problem has been under our nose the whole time, but at least, unlike Dorothy, we didn’t have to go to Oz and kill the wicked witch to get back to Kansas. Woot!

  3. Hoorah! A lot of times it’s impossible to see something that’s staring you in the face. For me, I know I’ve rejected a lot of “obvious” possibilities because they just don’t seem to fit into the character.

    I know in the Heyers, I’ve always enjoyed the heroines who are “on the shelf” (often they are self-shelved). They seem just a bit more mature and practical and ready to grasp their agency and do something with it. The younger heroines seem to be rushing around getting into problems, and it takes an older protagonist to get them out.

  4. I’m glad you found your solution. Plus, at 21, your heroine can believably be more aggressive/assertive than, say, an 18-year-old. I am trying to figure out how Finch’s mother died. She died before the story started. Finch’s recollection is that it was an accident, but it was actually suicide due to drug use because of a chronic pain disorder. The problem – I haven’t figured out the disorder or the method of suicide that also gave Finch a facial scar. Maybe a simple solution will drop into my lap (but hopefully not after a year of keyboard head banging).

    • Does it have to be a suicide? Could it be a miscalculation of the drug? Because, for example, she’d never get in a car with her child only to pass out at the wheel (causing an accident, which caused Finch’s scar), would she? Or was she that short-sighted that she wanted to take her children out of this cold, cruel world as well? (There are many ancient stories of Japanese mothers taking their children with them into the ocean rather than leave them to the untender mercies of the MIL or father who was making life hell.)

      Or, maybe Finch was a bit of a naughty boy, was told he couldn’t go with his mother, but snuck in the back seat of the car anyway, and was injured slightly when she passed out and ran into a telephone pole (or other thematic obstacle).

    • For the pain disorder, could it be MS? A friend has it pretty severely and she’s in quite a bit of pain most of the time. She had to quit her job. Plus, 20-30 years ago, they wouldn’t have had the meds they do now. I think that messes with your head a bit, too.

  5. Congratulations, Justine, on solving your big problem. Not to make light of a year’s worth of headaches, but I bet you got some useful ideas out of the experience that will help with this book or future ones. A question: does making Susannah old enough to marry legally reduce the wicked uncle’s leverage – his plan is to force her to marry his evil sidekick, right? Uncle is a nasty piece of work, so I guess he has lots of other tricks up his sleeve.

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