Scandal and gossip on WIP Wednesday

VFS109732 Ladies Gossiping at the Opera (oil on canvas) by Barnard, Frederick (1846-1896) (attr. to) oil on canvas 39.3x37.4 Private Collection English, out of copyright

Ladies Gossiping at the Opera (oil on canvas) by Barnard, Frederick (1846-1896) 

One useful trope in the historic romance writer’s arsenal is scandal. In the highly structured societies many of us write about, social censure was a powerful sanction. It could ruin lives—not just the lives of the women gossiped about, and occasionally even the men, but also those of their families.

Have you used scandal, or the threat of scandal, as a plot point? Share a bit with us, if you would, in the comments.

Here’s mine, from A Raging Madness.

When Alex finished, Lord Henry turned to Ella. “You have shown exemplary courage, Lady Melville. Thank you for what you did for Alex. This family owes you more that we can ever repay. What are your plans? You may call on our help for anything you need. ”

Ella blushed. “Alex helped me first, my lord. He saved my life, I believe, and certainly my sanity. But I would be deeply grateful for help. I must work for my living, and I thought perhaps Susan might advise me on how to find an employer? I thought I could nurse, perhaps, or be a companion to someone elderly, as I have been these five years.”

“Oh, but…” Susan began, then fell quiet, her eyes sliding to Alex.

Lord Henry frowned. “There may be a more immediate problem, Ella. May I call you ‘Ella’, as my children do? You saved my son’s life and so I quite feel you are part of the family, my dear.”

Ella nodded her agreement, lost for words. The man was the son of an earl, and a brigadier general, and he wanted to include her in his family?

“I have met your brother-in-law, I am sorry to say. He is here in London, and he called on me to demand that I tell him the whereabouts of my son.”

“Edwin is here?” Ella said at the same time as Alex said, his mouth curving in a predatory grin, “I would be delighted to meet with Braxton, the hell-spawned bastard.”

At Lord Henry’s raised eyebrow, he muttered an apology, which Susan ignored, saying, “Braxton? You are Braxton’s mad sister!” She patted Ella’s hand again. “Not that you are, of course, I do not mean that. I mean Braxton and his wife have been spouting that story all over town. That their sister is not in her right mind, and that she has been abducted by a…” She trailed off. “Oh dear.”

“Yes,” Lord Henry murmured. “That is the problem.”

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