Tragic Characters in Classic Lit
It’s release day for my contribution to the Tragic Characters in Classic Literature Series, a retelling of Macbeth. If you’re unfamiliar with this project, a group of Regency romance authors are taking tragic characters from literature, setting their stories in Georgian England, and giving them the required Happy-Ever-After.
Last year I blogged about the real Macbeth, who had a fairly successful (though of course, bloody) reign in eleventh century Scotland, even making a pilgrimage to Rome.
But the Macbeth most of us think of is the fictional one created along with his lady by Shakespeare. The Bard’s two sad characters are truly unfit to star in a Regency romance novel. Not only do they not have a Happy-Ever-After, they both die!
What’s a Romance Author to do?
I decided to follow Shakespeare’s example of adding and discarding facts and characters as required. As I plunged into planning, I quickly decided that the action would begin after Macbeth’s and his lady’s quest for title and power and their “demises”.
And so, with the complete artistic license and abundance of hubris we series authors are claiming, I set about bringing Lord and Lady Macbeth back from the dead and setting them in Regency England.
Fated Hearts takes place twenty years after the failure of a disastrous lawsuit, allegations of infidelity, and a divorce that sent Macbeth off to fight in the war with France, and his wife into a hole of depression that has taken years to climb out of.
With Napoleon vanquished, Macbeth is on half-pay in London, seeking employment. His ex-wife has traveled there also, on the chance of confronting him and introducing him to the daughter he disavowed. Meanwhile, an old villain has also appeared to plague them. Older and wiser, they meet again in London in March 1815 during the worst of the Corn Riots, in a week that ends with the arrival of news that Bonaparte has escaped from Elba.
While the hero and heroine were easy to identify, lining up the rest of the characters for my retelling was harder. I’ve taken the liberty of reversing characterizations (after all, Foul is Fair, and Fair is Foul). I decided to dispense with Duncan’s second son, as well as the entire MacDuff family, and, to lighten the tone, I added the characters of their daughter Lucie, and Macbeth’s servant.
Writing this, I often had to wrest my hero back from the darkness of his story. Or, as my editor gently suggested, I had to “moderate his fatalism”.
The Main Characters
Major Finnley Macbeth, Baron of Calder, late of the Highland Regiment that served in the Peninsular War.
Greer Douglas, the former Greer Macbeth, Baroness of Calder. The real Lady Macbeth’s name was believed to be Gruoch.
Lucie Macbeth, their feisty daughter. The real Macbeth had a stepson named Lulach.
Duncan, in my story, is the late Earl of Menteith who Macbeth sued unsuccessfully twenty years earlier. His son, Malcolm, now holds the title, and is being threatened by the villain.
Giles Banquo, is a cousin to both Duncan and Macbeth.
What about the witches?
Shakespeare’s Scottish play revolves around the characters’ bloody thirst for power incited by the strong paranormal element, the prophesying of the witches. A Romance Hero wouldn’t go about killing people to get his hands on a title—so I decided to give that task over to the villain.
To add in the paranormal element, the backstory includes a “witch” whose prophecy incites the villain. Plus, our hero has enough of the Sight to sense when the people he loves are in danger.
Those Men in Kilts and other Scottish Issues
Developing the story required research into the deployment of the Highland regiments and uniforms, an enjoyable rabbit hole with men in kilts! Here’s a link to my blog post on this subject. In short, it seems that in Wellington’s Peninsular campaign, the rank-and-file wore kilts but the officers wore trousers.
In my first draft, I referred to the hero and heroine as “lord and lady”. But, I stumbled across some information about the Lord Lyon and Scottish titles that led to another rabbit hole of research. And that led to a bit of revising. But on the plus side, the ways in which Scottish baronial titles can be conveyed worked very well into the story. Wikimedia has a fascinating article on this subject.
Plagued by hellish memories and rattling visions of battle to come, a Scottish Baron returning from two decades at war meets the daughter he denied was his, and the wife he divorced, and learns that everything he’d believed to be true was a lie. What he can’t deny is that she’s the only woman he’s ever loved. They’re not the young lovers they once were, but when passion flares, it burns more hotly than ever it did in their youth.
They soon discover, it wasn’t fate that drove them apart, but a jealous enemy, who played on his youthful arrogance and her vulnerability. Now that old enemy has resurfaced, more treacherous than ever. When his lady falls into a trap, can he reach her in time to rescue this love that never died?
You can find Fated Hearts at all the major eBook vendors, and in print at Amazon.
Universal link: https://books2read.com/u/bQdyPP
And if you’re following the books in the Tragic Characters in Lit Project, here’s the list of titles:
- The Monster Within, The Monster Without, by Lindsay Downs (Frankenstein)
- I Shot the Sheriff, by Regina Jeffers (Robin Hood)
- The Colonel’s Spinster, by Audrey Harrison (Pride and Prejudice)
- The Redemption of Heathcliff, by Alanna Lucas (Wuthering Heights) release day 1/1/21
- The Company She Keeps, by Nancy Lawrence (Madame Bovary) release day 1/11/21
- Captain Stanwick’s Bride, by Regina Jeffers (The Courtship of Miles Standish) release day 2/19/21
- Glorious Obsession, by Louisa Cornell (Orpheus and Eurydice) release day 2/26/21
Is there a tragic character you’d like to see reformed into a romance hero or heroine? Let me know in the comments!