A book is a relationship between the reader and the words. It’s got nothing to do with the author. Plenty of readers of Six Weeks will enjoy it as a marriage of convenience story with an untrusting heroine and an arrogant hero. Whatever a reader’s opinion is, it is valid. The author is not the arbiter of what a book is or what it means – that’s readers.
Therefore I’m hesitant about putting this out there. But in the end, a writer writes to be heard in some way. Some reviewers have picked up some of these themes, but I wanted to say, somewhere, what Six Weeks means to me. So, laid bare, here are the themes I had in mind when writing by debut historical romance, Six Weeks with a Lord.
Necessarily there are some small spoilers for the first half of the book in this post. So be warned – here be spoilers.
Trust is the basis of love. At their core, I believe romance stories are stories of developing trust. The reader trusts that the author will give us the emotionally satisfying happy ending we want. The characters come to trust their love interest with their heart and happiness. These are huge acts of trust. Allowing someone into your heart when it’s been damaged before is probably the single most important act of trust a human can perform.
Grace, the heroine in Six Weeks, has every reason to distrust aristocrats, because of [spoilers]. In her experience, they’re all out for themselves and tread down everyone else as they go.
Everett believes he’s doing the right thing trying to save his tenant farmers from financial ruin caused by a cattle disease outbreak. He’s willing to do anything to make up for the poor management of his predecessors. And ‘anything’ includes con Grace to get the money.
Grace can’t trust Everett, and she shouldn’t. Everett doesn’t trust Grace, and if he had, they would never have married. But a historical marriage of convenience is all about trust – they trust each other at the beginning not to abuse the role of spouse. It’s a huge leap of faith that ties them together.
They come to trust each other over the story (well, except for [spoilers], that’s a bit of problem, until [spoilers]). When Grace trusts Everett to take her sailing, that’s love developing. When she trusts him with her body to… [spoilers], that’s love. The trust they have in each other is essential to me believing in their HEA. Love is the giving and receiving of trust.
Women’s work and their place in the world
Grace’s mother ran Alnott Stores, and Grace ran it after her death. Although Mr. Alnott took all the credit, this was a business run by women, for women (the women buying food to provide for themselves and their families). Not only that, Alnott Stores employed women to work in their stores – a very unusual thing in the 1860s. The question of where women belong, what they should be doing, and what they are capable of, is a line throughout the book.
Everett begins the book dismissive of Grace because he thinks (understandably) that she doesn’t know anything and doesn’t care about things (people) she ought to. His mother has issues with internalised misogeny and an overinflated sense of the importance of class. He thinks his mother has nothing to offer him, she’s just another duty to discharge and warning of what he must avoid being. In the early parts of the book, he is struggling to understand what a woman’s place is. He’s a decent man, but he thinks (like many men) that he has to deal with everything, on his own, and if he needs help, it will be from a man like him.
Everett’s mother has the power of truth – the denial or admission of it. So the question of women’s power comes in.
Ultimately, it’s the power of women, both [spoiler] and Grace’s knowledge and experience, that saves the day and ensures the HEA. Let’s not forget that 1865 was part of the era of one of the most powerful women ever – Queen Empress Victoria. A woman’s power is not restricted to the giving or withholding of sex or love, as it is portrayed in many stories.
Everett’s eventual deference to women’s, and particularly Grace’s, power is the key endpoint of his development. In short, he really trusts her.
Power and Privilege
Grace’s father wants her to marry a lord. He wants it so much, he writes it into the conditions of his will. If she wants a dowry, she has to marry a peer. This is because he understands how much privilege comes with being a peer, through personal experience. He had a bit of a crisis after Grace’s mother died and came to think women working was part of the problem. He’s also became a little entranced with the aristocracy and rather manipulated by Lord Rayner. He didn’t see the power he was wielding over Grace, just what he thought was the righteous end point of it.
Grace doesn’t want anything to do with aristocrats. She’s seen not just the privilege but the potential for abuse of power of the aristocracy. Aristocratic privilege is basically White privilege in hulk mode. We have all these lovely historical romances featuring dukes, because they were powerful, and that is attractive for many readers. Dukes were the billionaires of their time. But just like present day billionaires, they were very liable to abuse their power and often don’t face any consequences. This makes Grace angry. And it’s utterly impotent anger. There is nothing she can do about it and I don’t sugar coat this – there’s no perfect utopia at the end of the book. There is just two people who love each other, working as hard as they can to help others.
For all Everett’s, privilege, there are somethings he can’t do. He can’t control or seduce Grace, because their bargain. For all his influence, strength, and fighting skill, he can’t fix the issue of Grace’s brother being with Lord Rayner. (I know many writers would have just had Everett and/or Grace go and kidnap Henry, but that is not the way I roll. Not only to I suck at writing action sequences, I also think brute force is rarely a good solution.) Everett is holding up his cloak of privilege for others, but there is never enough people under it.
This is one of the things I love about writing about the Victorian era. It’s very similar to now. But the imbalance of power, wealth and status is so much more exaggerated. It’s a time of huge social, economic, and environmental changes. At the centre of all of those changes is power and there are no simple solutions.
Grace comes to accept her power as a Countess. At the end of the book, they are both powerful and privileged. But I hope that I’ve crafted the story and characters in such a way as to ensure you believe that they will use both for as much good as they can. Imbalances in power haven’t gone away, not by a long shot, but the least people with power can do is reach out.
Come on Eve, wrap it up.
This blog is now almost as long as the actual book and I’m aware I’m just rambling. But hopefully this has been an interesting peek into the largest of the themes wrapped into Six Weeks with a Lord. There are others that play a smaller part, like consent, truth, family, and duty. Consent is quite a big theme, actually, because of the bargain between Grace and Everett. But this is already an essay, four themes doesn’t have the same ring to it, and consent is laced between privilege, women’s roles, and trust.
I haven’t got any neat conclusions here. Sorry. I have messy issues that I tried to weave into this story, and I hope you enjoy Six Weeks with a Lord because or despite these.