At the beginning of lockdown, I thought it was about time I got down to writing a best-seller, make my fortune whilst stuck indoors in Huddersfield instead of drifting about the Med on the old yacht, like what I usually do.
But what sort of bestseller? Nothing that requires too much research (it’s not been a good year to learn how to scuba dive, fly a helicopter or train a racehorse, so I guess it had better be a hysterical, oops, no, a historical romance. They’re very popular, what with Bridgerton steaming up the telly a while back, and that bloke in the triangular hat glowering over those cliffs in Cornwall in endless repeats…
Right, we’ll need a heroine (not too drippy), a handsome hero carved from solid gold cardboard, lots of galloping in top-boots, an elopement (more galloping), smugglers or possibly highwaymen (and more with the gee-gees…) a fair bit of wuthering, the odd mad wife in the attic and a Wicked Sir Somebody who’s after the young heiress who is this very minute shinning down the ivy… And top it off with a duel, our hero or preferably heroine galloping up at the last moment to prevent tragedy (the horse must be pretty weary by now…). OK, that’s enough clichés, just need to nail them into a plot…
Our lovely young heroine, Emily Moor, fears that her wicked Uncle Cartworth (whom her trusting father made her guardian ‘ere he expired just before Chapter One) intends to force her into marriage with her nasty cousin Crossland to get his paws on her inheritance, so she wildly seeks her escape…
A bit of fleeing through a tempest should fit in here, with assorted cliffs, shipwrecks and one-legged chaps in odd hats going “ Aharrrr!”, before she falls into the arms of a jolly nice (but a bit too boring to make hero material) chap who carries her home. where his mother Lady Woodhouse at once realises she is a distant cousin. Nice chap’s older brother, a rather serious Lord (nice top-boots, big black horse, matching black Faithful Hound) frequently tells her off for being frivolous because she likes dancing and bonnets, so she naturally finds him odious.
Anyway, next thing you know, she’s being Introduced ‘Into Society’ (Who Is That Pretty Girl?/Mothers of girls desperate for husbands cut her something shocking/handsome young noblemen are all over her like a very well upholstered rash whilst Serious Lord looks down his nose…).
After a fair bit of gowns and bonnets and balls, her heart becomes set on the dashingly handsome but feckless Kirk Burton. She is on the point of an unwise elopement which we all know will ‘Lead To Her Ruin’ when Nice Chap rushes in to say that Serious Lord has been kidnapped by highwaymen. Faithful Hound has returned with the ransom note in his teeth whilst coal-black steed last seen pawing the air and neighing like Billyo gallops back through the night to lay his foaming head upon the shoulder of Emily, who is out the back about to leap into a carriage with young Kirk, with little more than a change of reticule….(gasp for breath…).
As soon as our heroine grasps what has happened, with a throbbing cry of “I must go to him!!!” she throws aside her astonished suitor (who sulks), seizes top boots, pistol and foaming steed, and hurtles forth into the night.
Showing abilities and knowledge not previously hinted at, she traces the highwaymen to their lair, lures them forth, lobs a surplus pistol to astonished Lord (who has instantly and inexplicably got free), he leaps up behind her, and with a volley in the general direction of the gormless baddies, they vanish into the night.
You may add any number of asterisks here, to taste (crashing waves upon the shore, moon vanishing behind a cloud at the appropriate moment – you get the drift…).
They arrive home through, of course, the morning dew, embracing and leading the knackered horse, and everyone thinks they must have run off to get married & the highwaymen were but a ‘Ruse’… gazing into one another’s eyes, they say “Well?…” and “It sounds like a jolly good idea…” and everyone bursts into joyous laughter.
Cue rose petals, bells, general rejoicing apart from all the hopeful daughters and mamas, Dopey Nice Chap having decided to be very happy for them (assisted by the daughter of a Hopeful Mama, who thinks younger brother of a lord is possibly not a bad prospect…)
And more *** under the stars…and a lot of dot-dot-dots.
Well, just a bit of fleshing out and tidying up, I think we could get a 600-page paperback out of that… possibly a mini-series, post-watershed unless they edit the asterisks. And I see a sequel, their daughter, eager young Emily Woodhouse, sailing the Atlantic aboard the schooner Birkby Lass captained by the famed explorer Norman Park, where she will found a couple of handy dynasties of bold Yorkshire farmers and miners, which will culminate in the two feudin’ families of Clayton West the Cattle Baron and Farnley Tyas the Oil Baron constantly a’feudin’ and a’fightin’ all over Texas…. Until the offspring of them both, once they get together as they sure as hell will, end up in Hollywood…
I’ll start on that script if we ever end up in another Lockdown!
So just hope you never find yourself reading it.