Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Remember When . . . You Weren't the Only Wife?

(Note: I'm telling our wedding story today at Shannon Vannatter's blog, and will be sharing a romantic excerpt from A Stray Drop of Blood on Friday. Comment on either day for a chance to win a copy of my book!)

One of the most interesting aspects of my work in progress is the fact that my heroine is a member of a harem. She's the favorite wife, and in many respects that makes her relationship with her husband much like any monogamous marriage.

But in other ways--wow. A lot different.

I have no firsthand experience with this sort of thing (thank the good Lord!), but trying to put myself into her shoes, into her mind and heart . . . it's really intriguing.

For instance, she's a concubine. Now, so far as I can dig up, historians aren't totally sure what the legal differences were between a full wife and concubine, but they think it has to do with the provisions included in the marriage contract and would be decided by whether or not a woman brings a dowry to the marraige. If so, you're a wife. If not, only a concubine. I'm taking a wild guess (okay, an educated guess) and stating in my book that what you're given either at divorce or your husband's death is determined by whether you're a wife or concubine.

Kasia arrives at the palace poor and doesn't much care whether she leaves it in the same state--she loves Xerxes, that's all. And since when she arrives there's already a slew of other wives and concubines well above her in seniority and rank, she adopts a place of humility, even though her husband would have raised her up. It takes a lot of prayer, but she manages to avoid jealousy for years . . . until the part I'm about to write.

See, she's cool with the other wives. (Mostly.) But when her husband continues his habit of seducing other men's wives, she loses it. Makes sense to us, right? But she's married to a king, and kings do this all the time.

So how to strike the balance between realism and romance? How to lead her through the hardships and into forgiveness without making her a doormat?

And some people might think writing novels is easy. ;-)


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