At the turn of the century, the Victorian upper classes live in a vibrant but strictly-ordered world that encourages gentle, intellectual pursuits. Theirs is a life of ease and elegance, but it can be snatched away from them in an instant if the rules of polite society are not followed. Gothic novelist Geoffrey Hawes has never been willing to let such restrictions hold him back, and he refuses to honor conventions for which there is no discernible value. When he spends a social season in a community created to celebrate the Arts, music, and philosophy, he is unexpectedly befriended by the daughter of the Governor, Miranda Claridge.
Bitter and disenchanted with the privileged and wealthy, Geoffrey finds his beliefs repeatedly challenged by the intelligent and vivacious Miranda. In the midst of their heated debates on the mores of the upper class, this unlikely friendship blossoms into a passionate love. He encourages her to pursue her interest in painting and gives her a new understanding of what relationships between men and women should be. Meanwhile, Miranda begins to open his eyes to all that is wonderful and beautiful and good in the world.
Geoffrey at last accepts that he has fallen in love with Miranda, but misunderstandings and lies come between them. Knowing that Miranda believes it is her duty to marry, he prepares himself to hear news of her wedding. Geoffrey attempts to escape the pain of her perceived rejection by traveling and throwing himself into his work. However, he cannot run forever. One day, he encounters Miranda again and soon discovers that she is not the same woman he left behind. Can the couple realize that they each must relinquish some of their prejudices and preconceived notions before it is too late? Can love really conquer all?
What makes an author successful in writing a story? Is it the storytelling part or the fact that they can effectively convey the emotions of each of their characters?
There are so many different schools of thought concerning what makes a successful story that I can’t hope to provide a definitive answer. However, there are some elements that I believe most contribute to the effectiveness and quality of an author’s work.
Storytelling is by far the most critical piece of the puzzle. We are all storytellers at one point or another. When you tell your friend about what happened to you at work today or you tell your spouse how the lamp got broken, you are storytelling. To properly tell a story, though, more is involved than “And THEN, she said…”
Oral storytelling is a dying art. If you have the good fortune to meet a real storyteller, sit down and listen. The rich, wonderful stories you’ll hear will play out in your mind’s eye as vividly as a movie. It’s like magic. Good written storytelling is magical, as well. Readers know that there are those books that transport them into the world of the author’s mind without ever revealing the author’s hand. These are the stories that you never want to end. They have heart and soul and breathe on the page, making you as much of a true participant as any of the characters.
Defining what makes this magic happen is a lot trickier. Emotion is certainly a crucial element, because if there is no emotion, the reader has nothing to engage with and feel. I can say, “I am sad,” but this conveys nothing to the reader. In Jane Eyre, for example, Charlotte Brontë shows us Mr. Rochester’s desperation and despair in a way that resonates like a gong in our chests. This intensity is not achieved by telling us how he feels but by crafting the story so that we can access his emotions and feel them echo in ourselves. His appearance, his conduct, his words, and his reactions convey his state of mind vividly without the author having to spell it out for us. When a story gives the reader this kind of connection to the characters’ emotions, then the words come to life.
Works of fiction deal with topics that are beautiful and joyful, but they explore the more horrible and grotesque aspects of the universe, as well. What is it about a story that will grip and enthrall the reader, no matter how unpleasant the subject matter? Setting aside mere differences in taste and preference, what we are left with is the experience that the story has given the reader. An effective storyteller allows the reader to look beyond the words printed on the page and glimpse the world of the author’s imagination. Making this world real, even if only temporarily, enables the author to communicate emotions and experiences to the reader in a way that is unique to storytelling.
When an author has successfully told a story, it shows in the way the reader responds to it. We can sit and discuss literary theory and style and techniques for a year, but it would not matter. When the words are felt, then you know that they are effective. That is the mark of the successful storyteller.
The Truth Seekers introduces us to Geoffrey Hawes, a novelist during the turn-of-the-century England. Geoffrey is set in his ways, has amusing quirks and his beliefs are very much influenced by the background he tried to ignore. Being born to a life of luxury, he felt removed from all that he’s ever known while growing up. He disliked the pretense of high society, thus immersing himself in his writing.
In one of his travels, he met the beautiful and outspoken Miranda Claridge. At first, he is unwilling to change his opinion on the people from the upper class. But the more time he spent with the interesting woman, he finds that he was mistaken about his contempt for the life the wealthy and the privileged led. At least, where Miranda is concerned.
Miranda Claridge is the daughter of the town governor and is a breath of fresh air from the rigidity of the practices of their society. Her fascination for the novelist and his work inspired the amusing banter between them. She pushes the envelope further by citing the subtle points about the author’s belief that is sprinkled throughout his published works.
Geoffrey’s character will take you for a spin as he embarked on a journey of denying his feelings for Miranda. Realizing that he has fallen in love with a woman who embodies the very nature of what he deemed unacceptable made it difficult for Geoffrey to pursue her.
Unwilling to sacrifice his scruples, Geoffrey finds himself on the verge of losing Miranda if he does not make the first step to formally court her.
To risk sounding biased, this is where I’ll say that my associations with the author gave me a glimpse of her novel during the editing period. There is no doubt in my mind that Ms. Lawrence can pull off a historical romance with flair and grace, and she delivered a wonderful period piece, surpassing my expectations.
The Truth Seekers is a mix of elegant prose, laugh out loud Victorian courtship and larger than life characters. Ms. Lawrence did not hold back on vivid descriptions, thought provoking dialogues and believable conflict. I can keep talking about the many reasons why The Truth Seekers is an excellent novel, but I urge you to read it and make your own judgment. This is not just a recommended read, it’s a must read.
Elizabeth Lawrence is the author of both contemporary and period romances. Each book incorporates its own unique blend of humor and reverence, the peculiar and the mundane. In addition to her novels, Elizabeth serves as a freelance editor. A lifelong writer and former paralegal, Elizabeth divides her free time between her husband and two sons, her three cats, her collection of cozy murder mysteries, and her mildly severe caffeine addiction. A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Elizabeth now works from her home in Cleveland, Ohio.
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