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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Crazy Love #BlogABookScene by Sarah J. McNeal

Since Valentines Day is coming up, I thought I would look up some famous couples in real history and literature to talk about. Some worked out happily, and some not so much, but all of them were interesting to me.
Real Historical couples:

Churchill and Clementine
Honestly, I have to say I have never thought of Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II as the romantic sort, but I would have been wrong in deed.
When Winston met Clementine Hozier briefly at a ball in 1904, he was immediately taken by her. Clementine, however, was unimpressed. They would not meet again for four years.
They met again in 1908 and Winston invited Clementine to visit his birthplace at Blenheim Palace. A rain storm came up and they took shelter in an ornamental Greek temple during their walk where he proposed to her. This account  made me think of the latest rendition of  Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Darsey met up with Elizabeth Bennett and proposed. Things worked out a little better for Winston Churchill though because Clementine accepted his proposal and they married on September 12.
It seems that Winston was practically engaged to Violet Asquith prior to his proposal to Clementine which left the poor woman somewhat devastated. ..a casualty of love.
It is said that Winston could be alternately charming and contrary. He had a definite presence and a reputation that few men could stand up against. But the one strong-willed who had no problem voicing her opinion or opposition was his wife, Clementine. Maybe that is why he loved her so.
Whenever they were apart and even when they were together in the same house, they wrote notes and letters to one another in which they communicated their important feelings.
It may be hard for me to imagine, but theirs was a great romance and Winston relied heavily on Clementine’s sage advice and support.
Churchill famously told Clementine: “I do not love and never will love any woman in the world but you.”

Now that is a sweet romance.

Victoria and Albert
Now here is a romance many of us have read about and, in fact, the TV series is presently available on Netflix. I binge watched the entire series until I was bleary-eyed and tired, but it was a wonderful series.
Queen Victoria married her German first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, at St James’s Palace on 10 February 1840. It was the first wedding of a reigning queen in England since 1554. I had not known previously that they were first cousins, so I found that factoid rather interesting. They were married for seventeen years before Albert died. During that time, they had nine children: four boys and five girls.
All was not bliss in the royal household, however. As time went by, Albert took over more and more of Victoria’s duties while Victoria was busy having all those babies. A real power struggle ensued arguments, loud confrontations and Victoria’s rather terrifying temper tantrums. Though she liked his ideas, she was unhappy to have her power taken from her by her husband.
Power struggles aside, Victoria never recovered from Albert’s death. It is said that every morning she had the valet lay out Albert’s clothing for the day as if she expected him Albert to dress and come to breakfast.

Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Well, here is one match most of us do know about—the Brownings of Victorian literary fame for their poetry and devotion to one another. They are as famous for their love of one another as they are of the poetry and letters that they wrote. Between them, they wrote over 11,601 letters. I don’t think I have written that many letters in my entire lifetime.
There is speculation that Elizabeth was sick a great deal and some seem to believe she may have been a hypochondriac. Be that as it may, Robert was completely devoted to her as their letters and poetry clearly demonstrated.
Just an aside: the New York Browning Society saved the apartment in Florence, Italy, where the Brownings lived from 1847 to 1861, from being converted into office space. Restored and authentically furnished, the eight-room suite, christened Casa Guidi by its famous occupants, has been owned by Eton College of Windsor, England, since 1993, and maintained as a museum for the last twenty years.
Elizabeth was born into a wealthy family in 1806 near Durham, England and was raised in a twenty bedroom mansion. Even though she had “weak lungs”, she already enjoyed success and respect for her poems and associated with Wadsworth and other renowned poets.
Robert, on the other hand, was the son of a bank clerk, studied at the University of London and continued to read and write poetry extensively while at his parents’ home. Unlike Elizabeth, Robert’s first published work was harshly criticized. He tried his hand at play writing and found he had an aptitude for dramatic monologue.
Elizabeth defended his work in the face of continued criticism leading Robert to write a note to her thanking her for her praise and asked to meet her. Though she hesitated, she agreed. Her father disliked him and considered him unreliable. So, they held their courtship in secret and, on September 12, 1846, when her family was out, Elizabeth Barrett sneaked out of the house and met Browning at St. Marylebone Parish Church, where they were married. She returned home for a week, keeping the marriage a secret, then fled with Browning to Italy. She never saw her father again.
The Brownings lived happily in Italy for 15 years. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s weak health improved dramatically, and the couple had a son in 1849. She published her best-known work, Sonnets from the Portuguese, in 1850. The sonnets chronicled the couple’s courtship and marriage. In 1857, her blank-verse novel Aurora Leigh became a bestseller, despite being rejected by critics. During her lifetime, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s reputation as a poet overshadowed that of her spouse, who was sometimes referred to as “Mrs. Browning’s husband,” but his work later gained recognition by critics. Elizabeth died in her husband’s arms in 1861. He returned to England with their son, where he became an avid socialite. In 1868, he published The Ring and the Book, a 12-volume poem about a real 17th-century murder trial in Rome. Browning died in 1889.

Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane:
Well, this one will be short and sweet. Though often paired as a couple so much in love, the sorry truth of the matter is, the romance was entirely in Calamity Jane’s imagination. In fact, she irritated Wild Bill greatly. He married the woman he truly loved and Calamity drank herself to death. She wanted to be buried beside Bill who had died before her and, as a joke, his friends did, indeed, bury her beside him. Jane had married at some point and had a daughter. She and her husband did not live happily ever after. Her heart still belonged to Wild Bill.

Literary Romances:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte:
Seldom do movies reveal the happy ending in this rather gloomy tale of love gone all wrong. Some see Heathcliff, the Gypsy child that grows into the bitter man determined to have Catherine Earnshaw Linton for himself—no matter who gets hurt or maimed along the way as a uniquely villainous hero. Maybe he just wants what he wants. But then there is Catherine who, by most accounts is the pitiful doomed heroine who is lost in her love for Heathcliff. She’s not the sweetest heroine who ever lived, that’s for certain. She plots a marriage to the wealthy Linton so she can elevate Heathcliff in society. She’s jealous and mean to her sister-in-law, who is naively drawn to Heathcliff who marries her to revenge himself on Catherine. It’s a story more about obsession than love.
But there is a happy ending no one seems to pay much attention to and that is between Hearton Earnshaw and Catherine Linton (daughter of Catherine and Linton). They inherit Withering Heights and the Grange and, God knows, they certainly deserve it for all that neither of them has been treated very kindly by anyone in the previous generation. Now there’s the love story in this classic novel of obsessive love and dysfunctional families.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:
Now here is a love story about two people who certainly suffer and struggle before they get their happily ever after.
Jane Eyre is hated by her guardian after her missionary parents die. She is sent to a school for girls run by an overzealous religious fruit loop who, apparently, is missing an actual heart. After the abuse she suffers there, she manages to grow up and takes a position as a governess to a little French girl who is mysteriously placed in Mr. Rochester’s care. At first it seems Mr. Rochester is a villain, but he seems to think the world of Jane. She falls madly in love with him and they are to be married. Only problem is there seems to be a crazy person living in the attic. Just in case you haven’t read this classic novel, I won’t tell the reason for Jane running away to end up half dead on the doorstep of a vicar and his two sisters. After some tragic events take place, Jane falls into a great fortune, most of which she gives away to the vicar and his sisters. She returns to Rochester who has also undergone some upheaval, but at last, they get their happy ending.

By the way, I have to add here that the Bronte family was odd and as interesting as the novels the sisters wrote. They lived in isolation with their father and alcoholic brother and neither of them ever married.

Othello and Desdemona by William Shakespeare:
Naturally, no list of romantic classics can be near complete without some Shakespeare.
Desdemona and Othello married. Othello is, as most of you know, a dark skinned Moor. He is betrayed by a man he believes is his friend into thinking that Desdemona is cheating on him with his friend, which is not really true. In a jealous rage he murders his beloved wife by choking her to death. Domestic violence being a jealous husband’s first approach to spousal discord in those days—and sometimes today as well. At any rate, there certainly wasn’t any marriage counseling going on in this tragic story of mistrust. My favorite line from this play is when Othello chokes Desdemona and says, “Put out the light, and then put out the light.” At least he was heartbroken about killing his wife, right?

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare:
No Valentine Day list of classic romances can be made without including this play, probably the most famous of all Shakespeare’s plays, and certainly the most tragic. It has been played in so many ways over all these many years even including modern day interpretations like the movie with Claire Danes and Leonardo Dicaprio with guns and cars, but using the same Elizabethan manner of speaking as the original play. My sister and I loved this interpretation, but my niece and great niece were so enthusiastic. They wanted swords and pantaloons.
The Capulets and Montagues have been feuding for years. The Prince has had enough of their brawls in public streets and declares the next offender will be banished. In the meantime, Romeo, a Montague, and his teenage friends attend a masquerade ball given by the Capulets. There he meets and immediately falls in love with Juliet.
Now at the ripe old age of fourteen, Juliet is expected to get married. Since she hasn’t found anyone to her liking, Daddy has contracted her to marry Paris. By all accounts, Paris is a handsome, charming young man from a wealthy family. Juliet, contrary to her parents’ wishes, falls for Romeo and they are secretly wed.
Right after they are married and before they even share a single night of wedded bliss trouble erupts once again between Tibolt (a Capulet) and Mercucio (a relative of the Prince and friend of Romeo’s). Tibolt kills Mercucio (who is my favorite character in this play). Romeo has tried to stop the fight, but when Mercucio is killed, like most hot-heated teenage guys, Romeo goes after Tibolt. They have a sword fight and Romeo kills Tibolt.
All hell breaks out. The Montagues really hate each other now and the Prince  brings down the hammer by banishing Romeo. Before Romeo leaves for parts unknown, he and Juliet get their night of happiness. Romeo leaves in the morning and Juliet’s father, unaware that Juliet has married, demands she marry Paris the next day.
The friar cooks up a plan we all know is bound to fail and gives Juliet the potion that will make her seem dead for several hours. Meanwhile he sends a messenger to tell Romeo of the situation so he will come back and take Juliet with him when she wakes. (Have you ever wondered why Romeo didn’t take her with him in the first place?)
Romeo doesn’t get the message from the friar before his friend races to him with the news that Juliet is dead. Romeo races home stopping only long enough to purchase some poison to kill himself. He sees Juliet in her tomb, believes she is dead and takes the poison. Only moments late, Juliet awakens, sees her dead Romeo, takes his knife, and stabs herself.
The last scene is of the funeral where a very somber crowd have gathered to listen to the Prince tell them what a mess the two families have made of things with their feud. The families kiss and makeup and that’s the sad ending.

I should write cliff notes.
I am a romance writer. I love what I do, but I do not like unhappy endings. Like most of my fellow romance authors, I promise a happy ending to every story. That doesn’t mean I don’t give the hero and heroine a rough time before I reward them with happiness though. My recent release, IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE, forces the couple to really reach for their happy ending.

June believed Kit loved her…until she married him

Beautiful June Wingate’s perfect marriage is in shambles—and she hasn’t even left the wedding reception! When she overhears two gossips discussing the real reason Kit Wilding married her, June believes there must be some truth to it—after all, things have happened just the way they said. Is her marriage only make believe? Trust is hard for June to accept, and now, her faith in her husband has been broken—along with her fragile heart.

Kit Wilding has loved June since the moment he laid eyes on her—a vision in pink that he couldn’t get out of his mind. Now that he’s married her, he can’t understand the changes that have suddenly turned her secretive and distant. How can he make things right between them when he doesn’t know what he’s up against?

But the tables are turned when June’s father, a pillar of the community, is accused of a crime that brings shame on the Wingate family—along with prison time. Kit Wilding’s not the kind of man to give up easily, but with his budding political career at stake, will he be able to hold his marriage together? Or will he be forced to admit IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE…

A loud slap echoed through the house. June’s hand stung as she placed it back in the pocket of her dressing gown, part of her vast trousseau paid for by her parents.
Kit stepped back and rubbed his reddened cheek with his left hand while Snort, Kit’s dog, barked. June couldn’t help but notice the flash of his golden wedding band in the light of the dressing room. Her heart clenched at the sight of it. They’d been married only a few hours and now this…
“Hush that barking, Snort.” The dog quieted, but kept a sharp eye on June just in case. Kit glanced from the dog to June. “What the hell was that for, June? Did I do something wrong by trying to kiss my wife?”
“You bet you did. I thought you loved me and now…” She wasn’t quite sure how to say it to him now that she knew the truth. Honestly, she could barely believe what she had overheard at their wedding reception. How could she explain to him what she heard and express the doubts she had about his love because of it? Well, best to find a way because it seemed quite evident to her that he wasn’t about to leave her be until she did.
“You’d best tell me what this is all about, June, because I’m beginning to have doubts about your sanity and beginning to wonder about my own.” He cocked his head and narrowed his blue eyes at her.  If this is one of your cockamamie jokes, it isn’t funny—and please don’t tell me you married me just to spite your parents. I’m fairly certain your mother doesn’t think I’m good enough for you. She’s only spoken to me about four times in all the years I’ve known you. It’s a little late for second thoughts, June.” Snort began to pace between June and Kit as if to decide whose side he should take.
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Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author who writes diverse stories filled with heart. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press and Sundown Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. Ah, love. What a contary thing it can be. Thank you for the look back at some 'epic' love. Plus, I loved the excerpt of what looks to be a brilliant read. Doris

    1. Doris, I loved doing this research. What fun!
      Thank you for your kind comment and for dropping by. You are so supportive of everyone.

  2. Wow..this has the makings of a great story! Keep us posted...I'll need to read this one! Oh, those, Wildings. What a great family tree to keep pulling down stories. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Celia. This is next to the last Wilding story. I recently submitted the last of the Wilding series, Kyle's story. I'm now on the threshold of something new and feeling rather scared. I'm certain you know how that feels. I don't exactly know what I want to do next. In the meantime, I'm revising a fantasy trilogy that was at Rebecca's until she retired. It's some of my first work and needs heaps of work--like a rewrite. LOL

  3. Love your stories, Sarah. Now I know you're sad about seeing the Wildings coming to an end but you have a lot of stories left in you, girl! Right now it sounds like you and I are both in re-write he--uh, heaven. Yeah, rewrite heaven. (NOT!) LOL Love the post and all the examples you gave and of course, your own excerpt! I love those Wildings, too!

    1. Thank you for loving my Wildings, Cheryl.

      You are so right about the rewrite nightmare. I had gotten all the way to chapter 5 on the first book when I realized everything was passive voice and the characters weren't telling the story--no deep POV. So, today I'm going back to chapter one and starting all over. I wish my Word on my computer did the side by side documents so I could just look at the previous edition while I rewrite it in the document beside it. I'm not giving up though, but I sure do want to pull my hair out. Also, these stories are paranormal and completely different that historical western. It takes adjusting my mind set. I'm working on music to get me in that mindset. Mostly I want to stand on the roof and holler.

      Only another writer can really understand what it's like to leave characters you've grown to love. Thanks for being such a support for me while I process this big change in my writing and allowing me the creative freedom to write what I want to write. And thank you for taking time out of your hectic day to visit my blog.

      All good things to your corner of the universe.

  4. Sarah, I so very much enjoyed rehashing all the old romances--and what a lovely journey it was. I too have to agree I do not like unhappy endings and prefer to write romance with some tragedies and of course ups and downs but in the end--happiness and true love shines. Thanks so much for this blog. I also delighted in It's Only Make Believe. Loved the dog. Nice job. I'll be sorry to see the Wildings go, but know what you have around the corner will be superb. Go for it girl. Keep those stories coming.

    1. Beverly, oh yes, we do have to get these couples into some deep problems and make them work their way out. But in the end, a romance better have a happy ending or some author is gonna be in trouble. LOL
      Thank you for all your kind words and support. And thank you so much for visiting my blog.

  5. Sarah,

    Loved your excerpt and loved your literary couples summaries. I know what you mean about adding that deep POV to a story. Like you, I've gone back through a story more than once to corral all the passiveness I wrote in the first time through. *grin*

    I'm going to add that Benedict and Beatrice in Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing" are my favorite of his couples. The Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson movie version is my favorite. They were married in real life at the time of the movie, and their on-screen chemistry is fabulous.

  6. Kaye, I did not know that Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh were married. I want to watch that movie again.
    I am so glad you liked my excerpt for IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE. Well, this couple certainly have a few issues to work through.

    I went back to the beginning of that book today and starting revising it--again. I'm working on all it's problems, and there are a lot of them, one line at a time. But I think I'm ready to give this challenge a try.

    Thank you so much for coming, Kaye. It's always a pleasure to read what you have to say.