Please welcome Author Jenna Jaxon!
Jenna explains what she learned and worked through in writing Betrothal, a historical romance.
A New Romance Language?
The exacting use of language is the writer’s major tool for expression. So what happens when that tool turns on you?
I had realized from my extensive research and reading of historical romance that people spoke differently in different historical periods. When I wrote my other historical works–set in Victorian and Georgian England–I accounted for these differences by using different syntax, fewer contractions, and scrupulous use of words and slang only available during those periods.
When I originally set out to write a medieval romance, however, I was blissfully ignorant of the perilous waters I’d be treading with regard to the language usage during the fourteenth century. Time Enough to Love was my first book and when I decided to self-publish it, several years after it was originally written, I told my editor I wanted the language to be as authentic as possible. She said okay, and about two weeks later she sent me the first five pages.
One of my favorite things about the medieval period is its use of jewel colors in clothing and stained glass. My manuscript pages were jeweled colored as well–with track changes.
Almost every word had a notification saying, “This word wasn’t used until 1533,” or “The first use of this word was in 1660.” The most appalling instance was when she informed me that the word “betrothal,” the title of the first novella in Time Enough to Love, was not used until Victorian times! When I learned this I wrote back, “The word they would probably have used is ‘espousal,’ but I don’t think that has the same ring, do you?”
My editor agreed and then said, “If you want to be authentic with the language in this book, you’re going to have to re-write this like Chaucer.”
And how many people are going to read a romance that starts out something like, “Where be he?
Lady Alyse de Courcy walketh in hir grace forth to the Grete Halle, hir cuntenance with care composed into lignes of plesaunce.”
So we’ve compromised. The language to be used in Betrothal and the other two novellas, gives the flavor of the period, using syntax, words and phrases common to the fourteenth and not readily discernable as modern. Did you know that the words “hallway” is from 1875 America and “corridor” is from 1585 and “passageway” is from 1640. So what did they call it in 1348? I couldn’t discover it, and if I had it might not be recognizable. You will therefore see both corridor and passageway, which are closest in time.
The language in Betrothal challenged me on several different fronts, but I hope in the end it evolved into an easily read historical romance that evokes the time period without sounding like a reading assignment for a senior English class. J
Blurb for Betrothal:
Lady Alyse de Courcy has fallen in love with Lord Braeton, a nobleman in King Edward III’s court and a man to whom she has barely spoken. Fate, however, has decreed her betrothal to his best friend, Sir Geoffrey Longford—a handsome and imposing knight, yet hardly the man she wants to wed.
When Sir Geoffrey is bound in betrothal by his father, he could not have expected the beautiful stranger to win his heart the moment they meet. Nevertheless, the fascinating Lady Alyse has done exactly that, and his feelings for her only grow as he learns more of her gentle yet spirited nature. But Alyse’s infatuation with his friend casts doubt on whether she can ever return his regard and their wedding day is fast approaching…
Will he have time enough to win her love?
Excerpt for Betrothal:
“What do you require of me, Majesty?” Her mouth so dry she could taste sand, Alyse fought to speak in a normal tone. With a sigh of relief, she dropped into a deep curtsy, hiding her face in the folds of her skirt. If only she could remain bowed thus before His Majesty for the remainder of the evening.
King Edward laughed. “Obedience, Lady Alyse, as I require of all my subjects. As your father requires of his daughter.”
Her heart thumped wildly in her breast. That could mean but one thing.
“Rise, my lady.”
She did so on unsteady feet. “I am ready, as always, Your Majesty, to obey my father as I would you.”
Holy Mary, let it be Lord Braeton.
King Edward lifted an eyebrow toward Alyse. “A very pretty answer, my lady. And are you ready to accept your father’s decree for your betrothal? His messenger has today reached me with the contract, as I am to stand in his stead in this matter.”
Alyse took a deep breath and hoped her voice did not tremble. “Yea, Majesty, I will obey my father.”
King Edward nodded and leaned over to whisper something to Queen Phillipa, who sat beside him, heavy with their twelfth child.
Mere seconds before she learned her fate. She could scarce affect an indifferent pose before the court when inside every inch of her quivered with anticipation of the name. His name, pray God, on the king’s lips.
In her mind, she heard the word.
The king straightened, glanced at her then at the man by her side.
“What say you then, Sir Geoffrey? Does the lady not speak fair? I vow she will make you a proper wife and a dutiful one as well.”
Alyse turned, until that moment unaware that Geoffrey Longford stood beside her. Chills coursed down her body as the king’s words echoed in her mind. The sensation of falling backward assailed her, as though she rushed away from the tall man at her side even as his figure loomed larger and larger in her sight.
Not Lord Braeton.
Her numbed brain repeated the phrase, trying to comprehend that instead he would be her husband. Geoffrey Longford.
God have mercy on me, for by the look of him, this man will not.
Fearful, she cringed as her gaze climbed higher, over his chest, over his chin, finally resting on the dark blue eyes turned toward her.
Geoffrey returned her appraisal, his gaze sweeping her figure as a smile crept over his face. “Your Majesty.” He spoke to the king but his attention remained fixed on Alyse. “When my father told me of the betrothal contract before I left his home, I resolved to play the dutiful son. Now, however, I find I do not wish to act that role after all.” His eyes held hers as he paused.
Dear God, does he mean to renounce me here before the entire court?
Alyse stared at the man beside her, willing herself to remain upright, despite the waves of ice and fire alternating through her body.
“Now I find I would rather play the ardent lover.”
An amused murmur ran through the Hall at his words. Sir Geoffrey grinned, his eyes sparkling with humor and something more. Despite the uneven light, Alyse saw an unfathomable promise in their dark depths. She took a shaky breath and looked away.
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Also available on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/307838
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance. Her historical romance, Only Scandal Will Do, the first in a series of five interconnecting novels, was released in July 2012. Her contemporary works include Hog Wild, Almost Perfect, and 7 Days of Seduction. She is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as a member of Chesapeake Romance Writers. Her medieval romance, Time Enough to Love, is being published this summer as a series of three novellas. The first book, Betrothal, released on April 19th.
Jenna has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.
Only Scandal Will Do–Historical Romance
7 Days of Seduction–Contemporary Erotic Romance
Almost Perfect–Contemporary Erotic Romance
Hog Wild–Contemporary Erotic Romance
Heart of Deception–Historical Romance
Find Jenna around the web on;
FB: https://www.facebook.com/jenna.jaxon?fref=ts Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jenna_Jaxon Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4960704.Jenna_Jaxon WordPress: http://jennajaxon.wordpress.com/