12.29.2005

#47 Crapometer

Category: historical romance

THE SERGEANT'S LADY
SYNOPSIS

Highborn heiress Anna Arrington cannot grieve when her cruel husband, a captain in Wellington's army, dies in Spain in the summer of 1811. All she wants is to return to her family's castle in the Highlands and put her disastrous marriage behind her.

why the hell is Anna in Spain in the middle of a war?

Jack Wilcox, son of an innkeeper, is a sergeant without grand ambitions. He wants to survive the war, go home, purchase a small farm, and settle down.

how did he get into the Army?

They meet under unusual circumstances, helping a camp follower give birth along a roadside while the army is on the march. The shared trial draws them together in friendship and attraction, though neither expects to see the other again. After all, they come from different
worlds, and Anna intends to sail for home as soon as she can.

what does Jack show or offer to Anna that makes her see past his much lower rank. More specifics (instead of friendship and attraction) will help us understand what makes this plot work.

Her chance arrives in the form of a convoy carrying wounded to Lisbon to recuperate. When she discovers Jack among the soldiers assigned to escort the convoy she is delighted, hoping that their friendship will make the long, rigorous journey pass more pleasantly.

Several days into their journey, the convoy is surprised and captured by a larger French force. When the colonel commanding the French regiment attempts to rape Anna, Jack comes to her rescue. Realizing that Jack will be executed and Anna will remain under threat from the
colonel if they stay, they flee the camp and escape under cover of darkness.

Once the immediate danger of capture has passed, their mutual attraction asserts itself. Jack is determined to resist it. He knows there is no future for two people so disparate in rank, and he reckons the best way to avoid heartbreak is to follow the rules and stay apart. Anna, however, believes that their days alone together are a gift from the fates. Bitter and wounded from her failed marriage, she uses their passion to prove herself a worthy, desirable woman. She prevails, and on the night before they return to the British army, they become lovers.



Though they intend to go their separate ways after their one night, it's too late for that. They have fallen deeply in love, and they cannot bear to be apart. Over the next month, they have a desperate affair, sneaking whatever privacy they can find in the crowded camp, knowing that every moment is stolen and a future together is impossible.

An impoverished young officer in Jack's regiment discovers their affair and sees in it an opportunity to make Anna's substantial fortune his own. He confronts her alone in her room late one night, threatening to take advantage of the smoke and confusion of battle to murder Jack unless she agrees to marry him. As they argue, she holds him at bay with a pistol. When he attempts to disarm her, the gun goes off, killing him. Anna flees for home to avoid discovery and the scandal of a trial.

cause no one will notice a dead officer in her room?

After leaving the army behind she realizes she is pregnant, which stuns her, because she'd believed herself barren. She decides to act as if the child were her husband's, conceived just before his death. She goes to her brother's home and there gives birth to a healthy son.

Meanwhile, Jack is discharged from the army after receiving severe wounds in battle. Shortly thereafter he learns that Anna has had a baby. He seeks her out upon his return to Britain to find out if the child is his and why she didn't tell him about her pregnancy.

When they make peace about their son, they realize they are still in love. However, Jack believes there is no way for them to be together. He slips away at dawn without saying goodbye, leaving behind a note asking that she keep him informed about their son's progress.

But Anna knows now that home is no longer her beloved Scottish castle--it's wherever Jack is. She pursues him and asks him to marry her. Yet simply knowing they must be together does not make such an unequal match easy. Together they must find the courage to sacrifice
the lives they thought they wanted and meet in the middle.

Ultimately they establish a home of their own and find a shared mission in using Anna's fortune and Jack's expertise to help other wounded soldiers rebuild their lives.


This is pretty good. You’re missing critical details that give us a sense of why things happen. I’d also be looking for a very compelling sense of place; as though the locations are almost characters in the novel too. And of course, fresh insights into what life was like in 1811 would help get this past the tried and true plot of boy meets girl, travails ensue, happily ever after.

8 comments:

Dave Kuzminski said...

I think this one just plain jumped the Snark.

Susan said...

Thanks, Miss Snark! After seeing your comments on previous synopses, I had a feeling you'd say I needed more specifics about characterization and what drives the relationship. And I get so steeped in my research sometimes that I forget that not everyone is familiar with details like the fact women sometimes followed their husbands to war in my era. At least I know what I need to work on now.

Trix said...

Anyone familiar with the Sharpe series (Bernard Cornwell) would immediately feel at home and comfortable with why Anna's in Spain, how Jack got into the army, etc. My problem with the synopsis is that it wasn't different enough from the Sharpe series. What makes it unique?

Susan said...

Well, I hope what makes it sufficiently different from the Sharpe series is the fact it's a romance novel! As I wrote it I was trying to combine what I enjoy about romance--a love story, a focus on women's role in history--with the kind of grit and realism you see in military historical fiction but very rarely these days in historical romance.

Stephen said...

The Regency period is a very well established setting for historical romance, so there is a ready market, but it can be a demanding one in terms of accuracy. Allowing for a certain degree of implausibility (eg the escape from the French, and presumably Jack comes along and hides the body in the room?), which is not totally out of place in this sort of story, the only thing that really doesn't ring true to me is the very end. If Anna is a wealthy widow, why can't they put their feet up and live off her fortune? If they want their son to prosper in society, the less unconventional they are the better for him. Giving them a rather worthy HEA is potentially applying a 21st Century sensibility to the hero and heroine.

Trix said...

Susan, your comment answered my question, but your synopsis didn't. Instead of starting your synopsis with what sounds like a stock character in a stock situation, why not start with: "THE SERGEANT'S LADY combines romance--a love story, a focus on women's role in history--with the kind of grit and realism you see in military historical fiction but very rarely in historical romance."

Now *that* would grab me and make me want to read more.

Susan said...

I like that, Trix--I might try that phrasing in my query letters, actually. I certainly don't *FEEL* like I have stock characters in a stock situation, since from my perspective I've written the kind of story I wish I could read, but am just not finding on the shelves in romance.

Anonymous said...

Susan, you might like 'The Lady Soldier' by Jennifer Lindsay, published in the UK by Robert Hale. It's also a romance set in Napoleonic-era Spain but with more action and story than you normally get in a category romance.
I had no problem with why Anna was in Spain or how Jack got into the army, but then I've read 'Sharpe'. BTW, I thought immediately that this differed from 'Sharpe' and the other military historicals in having a woman as a major character.