Heroes Old and New: Looking For Charlotte by Jennifer Young (@jynovelist)
Looking For Charlotte is, at heart, a romantic novel in that it’s a novel about love. But that comes with qualifications, because it isn’t just about romantic love, or about sexual love. It’s about all sorts of love — sex and romance come into it, but so does the love of a mother for her children, of one human being for another when they’re strangers to one another.
But although it may trip out of one genre and into another when the time is right, Looking For Charlotte has the things that all romantic novels have — a hero and a heroine. In fact, reader, aren’t you lucky, because you have not one but two of each, a lead and a support.
It’s the heroes I’m talking about today. Let me introduce our main man first up. He isn’t your typical hero. His name is Philip. He’s in his fifties, a solicitor with the driest sense of humour, handsome (in a mid-fifties kind of way). He loves our heroine, Flora — but there’s a problem and that’s his wife. And the problem is that although he loves Flora he loves his wife, too, and his wife has been dead for twenty years.
Enter our supporting hero, the appropriately-named Archie Fortune. Archie is also a solicitor, though a couple of decades younger than Philip and without the emotional baggage. He’s much more of a conventional hero but he has problems of his own, because he falls in love with our supporting heroine, Suzanne and she is the one with the baggage. More specifically, Suzanne’s recent past involves a dead husband and the daughter he murdered before his suicide — so how can she ever love again?
So there are two love stories going on here; Flora and Philip, Suzanne and Archie. There’s an old love story (if I may call it that) and a young love story. Because young people aren’t the only ones to fall in love and (as someone once said) not all heroes wear capes.
I wonder sometimes if there’s a risk involved in writing love stories that are a little out of the ordinary; but I don’t regret it in the least. Most of my romantic plots are about first love, or at least first real love; but in Looking For Charlotte all but one of the main protagonists have long and/or never-to-be-forgotten stories behind them.
Can Philip put his saintly, beloved, dead wife, Joanne, behind him or will she come between him and Flora, whose obsessive search for little lost Charlotte frustrates and unnerves him? And is Archie, unencumbered by the traumas of any serious relationship that’s failed, sufficiently sensitive to overcome Suzanne’s suspicions and teach her to trust again?
Two heroes, then, one traditional (“Well, there was no question that she’d picked the handsome one”), one less so (“He hadn’t always been old-fashioned. Time moved on and some people stayed behind. Sometimes it suited them”). They both face a challenge. Will they both succeed?
‘I was married in June. It’s supposed to be lucky, June. We had the full works. Marquee, ceilidh band, the lot.’ Over the years she’d tried to forget about it, but suddenly it surged up in her mind — dappled sunshine, rose-petal confetti, flower girls, laughter. Lucky horseshoes.
‘Jo and I married in a church on Loch Lomondside. Reception in a local hotel. We even had the view down to the water, just like this. It had snowed the day before. And there was a moon. Gorgeous. ’
She could see that he was just as reluctant to recall the details. Their weddings had been a long time ago. ‘How we must both have changed.’
‘Change happens to everyone in the end. It’s just that it comes to some of us sooner than others.’
‘Yes. Think of poor Suzanne Beauchamp.’
The silence persisted. They moved along the terrace a little way, isolating themselves from the clustered smokers, breath and cigarette-smoke mingling to make a fog of the night air.
‘Actually,’ said Philip, after a moment, ‘I wanted to talk to you about that.’
‘Suzanne Beauchamp. Though I know this isn’t the time or the place. But you mentioned it.’
‘Go on.’ Of course it was the right time, the right place. It was because of the drink and because of the memories and because it showed he cared.
‘You aren’t going to find that girl.’
‘I might. Charlotte.’ She has a name. She narrowed her lips, her eyes, not in a scowl but in determination.
‘Flora, she’s dead. She could be buried anywhere. You’re chasing some ridiculous shadow for reasons of your own. You’re letting it take over your life.’
‘You are. I never see you. You’re always out. You’re always tired. It’s making you unhappy.’
‘It isn’t.’ No, it isn’t that.
‘And at the end of the day you won’t find her.’
‘She has to be somewhere.’
‘She does, but you don’t know where. And you won’t find out. How can you? We don’t even know if the clues on his letter were right. He could just have dumped her in a loch somewhere and made up the rest.’
‘He might. Or he might not.’ Flora stared out at the nearest thing to stare at, a few straggly shrub branches, iced and still. If you want to see me you could come with me when I look. He would laugh if she said that, or worse, shrug his shoulders and look away.
‘I think you should drop it before you make a fool of yourself.’ Then, after the silence he said, ‘Sorry. Wrong time, wrong place.’
Divorced and lonely, Flora Wilson is distraught when she hears news of the death of little Charlotte Anderson. Charlotte’s father killed her and then himself, and although he left a letter with clues to her grave, his two-year-old daughter still hasn’t been found. Convinced that she failed her own children, now grown up and seldom at home, Flora embarks on a quest to find Charlotte’s body to give the child’s mother closure, believing that by doing so she can somehow atone for her own failings.
As she hunts in winter through the remote moors of the Scottish Highlands, her obsession comes to challenge the very fabric of her life — her job, her friendship with her colleague Philip Metcalfe, and her relationships with her three children.
Tirgearr Publishing: http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Young_Jennifer/looking-for-charlotte.htm
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1D7pNY6
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1JmAwBR
I live in Edinburgh and I write romance and contemporary women’s fiction. I’ve been writing all my life and my first book was published in February 2014, though I’ve had short stories published before then. The thing that runs through all my writing is an interest in the world around me. I love travel and geography and the locations of my stories is always important to me. And of course I love reading — anything and everything.
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