Digging deeper into The Test of Devotion always brings rewards, as I found when I returned to the first draft last year. It has such a great plot, in which interlocking characters pursue separate journeys with one goal in mind—what to do about beautiful, possibly out-of-her-depth, rebellious Arabella. It has POV characters for both sides of the plot, and we switch back and forth between them pretty systematically. Outside of Devotion, the only other novel where I've used multiple POV is Harrisons, but its function is merely practical for incidents that the narrators (Betty or Letty) might not be able to show if I used just one of them. In Devotion the two plots frame each other and head towards one conclusion, swirling around Arabella, as we follow two teenagers who are approaching the same story from different angles.
Viajero is a boy who is born and raised into the outlaw lifestyle, since his father is an outlaw. He also likes it pretty well and views it as a dashing role in society, which causes him embarrassment gradually as he meets new people while finding Arabella and he learns that becoming a criminal is not really an admired life decision. After he is hired by Arabella’s boyfriend to help him navigate an unfamiliar western landscape in search of her, we follow Viajero’s view on the adventure instead of Trevalyn’s.
Jenny, similarly, is a girl who is viewed as a helpful figure around Arabella and balances the Viajero/Trevalyn chapters with feminine situations in a hotel where she spends time with Arabella as a companion/assistant/friend. Her father, who runs the hotel where Arabella is staying, isn’t very popular and Jenny is self-conscious about her role in society, unlike Viajero. Although not formally hired as an attendant, she rapidly becomes one and we follow her efforts to help the attractive protagonist get out of danger.
And there will be more updates.
I almost forgot when I planned this post (1st post of the month will be in the Central Five Series) that it goes out to many of you on the 4th. Independence Day in the US! And that's actually great because the book for this week is a western and that's about as American as it gets.
The Test of Devotion is a story about danger and deception. The setting of the American West during the 1850s was perfect for telling this story of tough people, but behind the general surface of action-adventure are some subtle layers. It’s a surprisingly nuanced book. The Test of Devotion wasn’t the story it seemed to be several years ago and a lot of that goes right back to the people it is about. Its characters rise to the surface in unexpected ways, because in this story about deception most of its protagonists aren’t what they seem to be when you first see them.
So, the Central Five Characters that bring focus to this book are:
Arabella plays a big role in generating the entire plot. A brave and independent girl, she isn’t afraid to head out into the unknown. Although she is pretty and charismatic enough for the job, she finds she’s not quite heroine material just yet. Marrying a man who doesn’t wish her well puts her in danger of betrayal. But she comes through it all and earns the right to be the book’s protagonist.
Benito is an orphan with a delightful bad attitude. All spunk and spines, he takes care of himself although he has no money and no family except one negligent, adopted older brother (Viajero.) Benito always, repeat always, stands up for himself, whether you were challenging him or not, and he can singlehandedly start a rescue.
Governor Wallace achieved much in his past life before coming out to Texas to become a successful rancher. A wise mentor and a good friend, he’s viewed as invulnerable and noble by the young people in the story. He contributes little to the action since the others do so much for themselves, but pitches in when his authority is needed.
Jenny is the daughter of a missionary who bought a hotel in southern Texas. She’s a practical person who is up to dealing with anyone—even criminals like the sinister Hawk who shadows Arabella. She’d probably describe herself as nothing much, just a girl working in a hot, dusty place. And she’d be right—until she got involved in an adventure.
Lanmont brings all the intrigue to the story. As a smart man he is a natural for working in government and he’s a fast learner and takes quick action in everything he does. But he gets a little arrogant, a little full of himself, and starts a situation he can’t handle. Looking for an easy way out is rarely a good strategy—but it makes for a lot of twists and turns.
And there will be more updates.
It didn’t begin this way in the initial drafts, but by the time The Test of Devotion was completed it had grown into a celebration of old-fashioned storytelling. In fact, I thought it was going to be rather a modern story, a genre-market oriented short western romance (think the now defunct Love Inspired Historical.) Since that didn’t work out, the story drifted for a long while until I was seized with a new idea for it. And I love new ideas because they tend to mean a new audience. I was pleased there might be a new direction for this forgotten story and the rewrite moved pretty far towards describing that new concept—the “Why Don’t They Make Them Like They Used To?” feeling in so many of us.
You’ve read and seen it many times in reviews for classic vintage and retro products, in back-cover copy for classic TV shows, in casual conversations with friends. Someone always laments that “they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.” Stories we grew up watching and reading from when we were kids—stories we were raised on by our parents and grandparents. It’s not a feeling of nostalgia, which is rooted in the past, but a respect for something you’d like to continue into the present day. To reboot, to bring again. You regret that new generations can’t be exposed to these classics.
For The Test of Devotion two such “good, old-fashioned” ideas merged into one. The vintage television western, like Roy Rogers or Bonanza, with its family-values tone that didn’t scrimp on the action-packed adventure angle. And the classic novels that so many kids find on library shelves alongside modern bestsellers like The Lightning Thief. Tucked into any kids or young adult section of the library you’ll find older stories like Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer, and Ivanhoe—and, in the case of influences for this book, Kenilworth by the same author as Ivanhoe. Books that certainly inspired me to read and write more when I was growing up.
Why don’t they make them like they used to? Well, the answer is simple. Because they DO make them. The minute someone says that, it means they’d like to see something old-fashioned repeated again. People have been saying that since the dawn of time, harking back to a perennial yearning for Eden. And once they express that wish, a new old-fashioned story pops up again.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
I write stories about human emotions--about the journey of life. Every step of it can be meaningfully great or simply terrible and you can only reach the end after experiencing many kinds of things that make you grow. Emotional travels are the travels of life and the road of living is not one planned out in notebooks or organized in Scrivener. It is felt in love, hope, and fear and developed through an understanding of why humans go through these. And, on top of that, my stories are adventure stories. History, fantasy, and daily modern situations are all adventures as long as you don't know for sure what's going to happen when you wake up each day. Because that would be like repeating the same day over and over again and who wants to do that?
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