Scene: (Pitch session between writer and reader). I want you to imagine a book. A Regency. It's a story of girl meets boy, but when she meets the boy she is dressed as a boy.
Reader: What? That sounds ridiculous.
Writer: It is. It is utterly ridiculous and that is why the story was irresistible to me. I wanted to write a book with a cross-dressing heroine. I wanted her to have a completely valid and era-appropriate reason to be wearing men's clothing. I wanted her motivations to be pure even if her activity was scandalous – for the era. I also wanted my heroine to be strong, resilient, practical, quick thinking and fun!
Reader: Okay, so...
Writer: I have my heroine, Millicent, taking over the identity of her cousin, Mr. North, in order to financially provide for her family. A perfectly sympathetic and understandable crime.
Reader: Ahha. Yes.
Writer: In the Regency era they might not call it identity theft but Millicent has indeed stolen her cousin's identity and worse, his fortune! A crime for which, if she is found, out she will be hung by the neck until dead.
Writer: And I wanted her to fall in love. I provide her with a perfect man, a duke even, but I have a very good reason for her not to confide in the duke and reveal that she is a woman.
Writer: Now the challenge is to bring these two people together and therein is the utterly ridiculous hi-jinks and adventures of the Regency novel – Ridiculous!
Excerpt from Ridiculous!
© DL Carter
“I see nothing wrong,” said Millicent spreading her hands. “I am myself, most sincerely.”
“What in the world does that mean?” demanded Mrs. Fleming.
Inspiration struck Millicent with the force of lightning. She had not considered how she would respond to direct curiosity should she ever be questioned regarding an action or error of her appearance and now she had the most brilliant idea. A piece of nonsense that she had made up to amuse her younger sisters years ago would serve very well.
“It means, I decided long ago to live as if I were a cat. After all, as the old saying goes, a cat may look at a king.”
“Fool,” said Mrs. Fleming.
Lady Beth sat up and for the first time met Millicent's eyes. “I do not understand. What does that mean?”
“It means that of all God's creatures a cat is at all times himself. When in the presence of a king, mere mortal man must bow and lady, curtsy. A dog, well trained, will grovel and beg. Horses wait patiently in the rain upon his pleasure. But a cat cares but for himself. He will walk into any room and stare you in the eye, be you king or clown and he will hold his own opinion of you. He will turn his back on you if you displease him, stand, sit, or walk away as is his will. And a king will tolerate this from a cat, but from no one else, since to protest would be the veriest waste of time.”
“How very odd,” said Lady Beth with a giggle. “I have never thought of that.”
“And so I model myself on a cat, disdaining fashion to dress comfortably and pleasing myself with my manners.”
“Of which you have none,” came the slurred voice of the chaperone.
“How much brandy did you give her?” whispered Millicent.
“Just enough,” Lady Beth whispered back and a faint smile turned the corners of her mouth.
“Excellent,” said Millicent, as a snore arose from the blankets covering Mrs. Fleming. “Lady Beth, pray tell me, what sort of cat would you like to be?”
“I hardly know,” said the girl uncertainly, glancing toward her brother.
The man shifted on the seat and his soaking wet thigh came into burning contact with Millicent's leg. She was so shocked by her own body's melting reaction that it took her fully five seconds to pull herself away. She stared at the floor as she tried to bring her breathing back under control. How could it be that such a casual touch could so disconcert her? She had ridden in post carriages with men on both sides, even while dressed as a woman, and felt nothing – except fatigue, but the slightest touch of this man's flesh and she was afire.
She concentrated on his rumbling voice to try and gather her scattered wits, but it so warmed her flesh she was surprised steam did not rise from her clothing.
“Now I think on it,” said Shoffer, entirely unaware of her discomfort. “I should like to be the big black bully of a tomcat who, back in my father's time when guests visited, would appear in the front hall to examine them. It really was quite amazing how he would sniff their boots, walking around each and every person and growling deep in his throat if they should move away before he completed his examination. It was as if he thought our house his. In good weather, he would position himself on the very top of the statue of a lion that guards the main steps and gaze out over his domain. I was quite in awe of him as a child. That cat was the only being my father treated as an equal. That tom would seat himself on a bookshelf in my father’s study and my father would greet him with respect each morning.”
Both Millicent and Beth laughed, Millicent being careful to keep her voice deep and laugh with her mouth open instead of giggling.
“Now you, my dear Beth,” continued Shoffer.
“Well, I do remember on a charity visit I saw an old woman sitting beside the fire. The cat in her lap was a tiny golden kitten so curled up that I could not see her ears or her tail, but just a little bundle of fur. When the old woman stroked her, the purr was so loud the house shook with it.” Lady Beth smiled at her brother. “I should like to be that safe and happy.”
“And so you shall,” replied her brother.
“But is that the only cat you wish to be?” pressed Millicent.
Seeming startled at the thought she could be two, the girl considered.
“Well, I did see a cat once that I admired riding a horse.”
“Do you tell me so? I cannot believe it,” cried Millicent. “A cat? Riding a horse?”
“Oh, yes.” Now animation came to Lady Beth's face and color to her pinched white lips and cheeks. She leaned forward to punctuate her tale with waving hands. “The horses were out in the field when a tiger-striped cat jumped onto the back of the lead stallion and dug in her claws. Well, he was so surprised he reared up and I was most certain that the cat would be tossed off and killed. But no, she dug her claws in and when the stallion took off across the field as fast as he could; she rode him all the way. And when she passed me, I swear, I saw such a grin on the cat's face as I have never seen before.”
DL Carter is hosting a another cool contest for all of you subscribers!! For a chance to win, please visit her publisher's website and find the answer to this question:
What are the magics of the Empire?
Then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your answer and mark the subject heading as Ridiculous! Be sure to include your full name and mailing address. Please note, responses sent to any other email address will be disregarded.
Contest deadline - July 25th, 2012.
1st prize: A $50.00 gift certificate from Amazon.
2nd prize: A $30.00 gift certificate from Amazon.
3rd prize: A $10.00 gift certificate from Amazon.
4th prize: A $10.00 gift certificate from Amazon.