Back in 2000 or 2001, when I wrote the original short story that, many years later, becamse The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover, I had a different idea of the main characters than I later developed.
I quote myself, from an email to a friend: Henri–He never stops objectifying the Duchess. First she’s an icon, then she is generic flesh, indistinguishable from someone disguised as a Duchess; she never becomes an individual to him. Of course, I don’t think he’s an individual to her, either.
When I thought that, the story consisted solely of the duchess summoning her stableboy because she needed to get pregnant. The story ended in a cliffhanger just after their sexual encounter. For that story and its tone, my darker presentation of the characters worked. Years later, when I began work on turning the story into a novel, that interpretation was no longer viable.
I didn’t want to write an entire novel about two people who saw each other as objects. I edited the chapter that originated as the short story over and over again, gradually making both characters more sympathetic, and giving them a wider range of emotions and conflicts. Rather than leaving the reader hanging at the end of their encounter, I added a conversation, in which Henri expresses worry over the duchess’ fate, and offers his assistance to her if she should need to escape.
In the new first chapter, I laid in some background; they’d known each other since he was a young boy, and she chose him to be given advanced equestrain training; she trusts him because he cares for her beloved horses. In a chapter following their first sexual encounter, I emphasized Henri’s dedication to the duchess and his longtime crush on her, feelings he never thought would be reciprocated.
Though the duchess never mentions it, throughout the novel she thinks of Henri as someone whom she trusts and with whom she wants to be together. Rather than objectifying Henri, by the novel’s end she thinks of him as someone in whom she can confide, and shows her feelings for him by giving him the gift he most desires. And Henri has begun to break through to the duchess emotionally.
It’s not a standard Happily-Ever-After, but I feel it suits the story and characters.
I’m a guest today at The Naughty Girls Next Door, on “Sneaking in Historical Detail.”
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