Nowadays we kind of expect romantic novels to have happy ever after endings. After lots of disagreements and misunderstandings our hero and heroine disappear into the sunset to live a life of harmonic bliss. Jane Austen's novels certainly did. Think Darcy and Elizabeth, Emma and Mr Knightly, the Dashwood girlls and...well, I'm sure you get the picture.
But one of my favourite authors of historical fiction, Daphne duMaurier, had other ideas. I suppose we can't consider Mary Anne, the biography of her relation who was mistress to the Duke of York, in that category because she was telling a true story. Even so, it was never going to end well. Mary Anne Clark was a bit of a gal. Always short of cash, she made ends meet by selling promotions in the army. Quite easy for her to do since her lover was commander in chief. She didn't do anything as crass as discussing these matter with him but simply pinned a list of names and promotions required above their bed. In the morning it was gone. It couldn't last, of course, and eventually the duke was tried in the House of Lords by a jury of his peers. Mary Anne gave evidence and, by all accounts, made quite a stir. The affair couldn't survive the scandal but the duke was supposed to have said on his death bed that he'd never found another as good as Mary Anne. His grand passion?
I know what you're thinking. Daphne duMaurier. She's going to bang on about Rebecca. You wound me! I'd never do that to you. Personally I have no time for the second Mrs deWinter, creeping about Mandalay like a mouse, hiding behind doors and being afraid of the admittedly formidable housekeeper. Her predecessor, Rebecca, sounds like she was much more fun. There, that's all I have to say about Rebecca.
But Frenchman's Creek...well, how long have you got? A bored socialite escapes London with her children and runs off to her husband's estate in Cornwall. A French pirate is terrorizing the area, sailing into a hidden creek in a stonking great big boat with billowed sails but none of the local worthies are smart enough to catch him. Glossing over that disparaging fact, our pirate naturally meets the lady of the manor and there's an immediate connection between them.
It can't last, of course, and when her pirate is captured Donna must decide between effecting a daring rescue, knowing she'll never see him again if she does, or leaving him to hang. Obviously she doesn't hesitate, content to return to her routine life with her family afterwards. She's had her grand passion, it will have to last her the rest of her life. But at least she'll be able to tell her grandchildren in years to come that she kept a dozen or more gentleman at dinner for hours in order to save the man she loved.
So what does it for you? Happy ever after or a short, blissful grand passions?