One of the more challenging tasks when writing a historical romance is creating a sympathetic best friend for the hero or heroine. Conflict is much easier to sustain if the protagonists don't have a sensible sounding board ready to tell them the blunt truth. I believe this is also why so many romance heroes and heroines are orphans. Not only does their lack of parental figures create an angst-ridden backstory, but they'll rarely be privy to sage words of advice from sympathetic elders.
Now don't get me wrong--I'm not criticizing this tried-and-true literary device. I've used it often, and so did renowned masters through the ages. If you haven't see the trio of "Sassy Gay Friend" videos that take Shakespeare to task for his treatment of Desdemona http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKttq6EUqbE Ophelia http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnvgq8STMGM and Juliet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwnFE_NpMsE, you really must!
But I was determined to try something a little different for SONG OF SEDUCTION http://www.carrielofty.com/Song.html. Yes, Mathilda is a widow and an orphan, and Arie is a stranger in town, but the two are rescued from complete confusion by the sympathetic friends in their lives.
Mathilda relies on Lady Ingrid Venner, a salt-trader's daughter who married very well. Ingrid keeps Mathilda from losing perspective, goading her when the situation requires and offering her a hug when her world starts to collapse. I was surprised by how freeing Ingrid was to create. Amidst all the angst and tribulations, she became a sunny, comedic bright spot, showing by example that life could be fantastic--if one proved brave enough.
In this excerpt, Ingrid drags Mathilda out of bed after Arie de Voss has left town.
"I don't want to wake up."
"Nonsense," Ingrid said. "Get up, Tilda. This is my house, and I will have you forced from it bodily if I must."
"Does Venner know you call it your house?"
"I chose the wallpaper. It's mine." She stepped away from the bed and opened the drapes, ushering midday sunshine into the dolor of Mathilda's room. "Now get up before someone sees us. They'll mistake me for your lady's maid, and my place in society will be ruined."
I also provided Arie with a confidant of sorts in the form of Salzburg's real-life Kapellmeister, Michael Haydn. When Arie's confidence fails or, as a Dutchman living in Austria, when his confusion about life in Salzburg becomes too much, he turns to Haydn.
Dark eyes regarded him with a paternal sort of scrutiny. "Arie, I have never been so impressed with a composition of yours, nor with your skills as a conductor. I want you to understand how highly I hold your progress these last few months."
Arie swallowed hard. "Thank you, sir."
"You're quite welcome. I believe my decision to invite you to Salzburg has proven a solid one. Now, how goes your current work?"
Arie marveled at the composer's subtle, adept manners. Experience and leadership had taught him how to negotiate any number of personalities, even a jumbled recluse like him. "I am nearly finished with a second cantata," he said. " And I have three new students."
He wondered at the simplicity of including Mathilda in that number, so inconsequential. For all of her sudden impact on his life, she was only a student. For now.
"And the symphony?" Haydn asked.
Arie winced, almost regretting his decision to reveal his grandest ambition. He did not like reminders about his stalled progress, nagged well enough by his own tick-tock impatience. But if one individual was most like a friend to him, Michael Haydn was that man. When the compulsion to write a symphony finally overcame his hesitations, he had needed to tell someone.
"I am through the second movement. Otherwise nothing."
"Ah, it will come," Haydn said. "The good ones take some time."
But even with such sensible companions, Arie and Mathilda proved up to the task of remaining at cross-purposes until finding their happy ending!
What do you think about sympathetic friend characters in romances? Can you name favorites who helped liven and deepen books on your keeper shelves? I'd love examples!