Gaudy Night: A Different Kind of Love Story

By Jennifer Hallmark

For any of you that know me at all, it’s no secret that the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction” is one of my favorite genres to read. I think it has something to do with my dad and I watching PBS together on a little black and white television, timeless stories about Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Lord Peter Wimsey.

But what does that have to do with our month of love stories? For crying out loud,  it’s Valentine’s Day. The perfect time for an epic romance. I understand. And for a book to be extra-special to me, there has to be an element of romance. I need the hero and heroine to feel the spark between them, for them to agree and disagree, fight and love. Add to that, the main characters working together to solve a mystery and it can’t get any better.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers combines all of the above and more. Our hero, slash crime solver, Lord Peter Wimsey, loves Harriet Vane, a woman he saved from being falsely accused of the murder of her lover. Harriet is sick of all men and won’t even pretend to love Lord Peter. But he never gives up pursuing her. (I love that!)

In this tenth book by Dorothy Sayers, the third to involve Miss Vane, Harriet goes back to her old Alma Mater, Shrewsbury All-Female college as part of a journey of self-discovery. She raises all the questions: Who am I? Why have I struggled? What do I really want to do in my career? Who do I love?

Harriet’s bravery to attempt this inner journey while trying to solve a mystery at the college creates a wonderful story. Peter’s ability to let Harriet find her own way without his help is masterfully written and makes me enjoy his character even more.

To me, what makes this novel work is the chemistry between Harriet and Peter. They both are learning about themselves and each other and the world they live in that is moving toward World War II. Dorothy Sayers dives deeply into their inner thoughts and makes it all so real I feel like I know them. That’s great writing.

And the perfect ending with all the ooh’s and aah’s, the romance, the kiss. I’ve read the book countless times, sometimes just skipping around to my favorite parts. It might just be time to read it again.

If you have time, read all of Sayer’s books starting with Whose Body? and you’ll find the experience of reading Gaudy Night even richer.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Click to tweet: Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. Mystery or romance or both? @InspiredPrompt #amwritingromance #ValentinesDay

Do you like mystery and romance combined better than romance alone? I’d love for you to share a favorite mystery/romance with our readers. 

Love Stories and Why They Work

By Jennifer Hallmark

Who doesn’t have a favorite love story? I mean a book or movie that can be brought out on any given day to cause a happy sigh of contentment, one that can be viewed or read over and over?

Our culture loves romance and great stories and happy endings. What makes a good romance work and how can we as writers tap into this mystery? During February, we’ll look at many books that the Crew at Inspired Prompt enjoy and discuss them. Books like Jane Eyre, Lorna Doone, and Gaudy Night.

What? You’ve never heard of Gaudy Night?  Author Dorothy Sayers combines romance, mystery, and a journey of self-discovery, three great storylines to me. So, don’t miss my personal post on Valentine’s Day. It could be a new favorite for you.

Enjoy the discussion this month and please stop by and leave a comment. We want to know what books you like and also the kind of story you are currently writing. We hope to share ideas in crafting your work-in-progress that could one day become a classic love story…

Click to tweet: Our culture loves romance and great stories and happy endings. How can writers tap into the mystery of a classic love story? #WritingCommunity #amwriting

To kick off the month, share your favorite love story, book or movie, in the comments below…

 

Golden Age of Detective Fiction

Sherlock By Jennifer HallmarkThis month, in honor of the topic, Favorite Historical Time Period, I’m writing to you as a reader. Reading is like breathing to me. I always have three or four books going at the same time; both fiction and non-fiction.  Though I enjoy reading and writing Southern fiction and fantasy, my personal favorite novels to unwind with are British mysteries from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.

Authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Sherlock Holmes], Margery Allingham [Albert Campion], Agatha Christie [Poirot, Miss Marple], Ngaio Marsh [Inspector Alleyn], and Dorothy Sayers [Lord Peter Wimsey] enjoyed great success predominantly during the 1920’s and 1930’s. With the exception of Doyle, most of their novels take place after World War I through the early 1950s.

Blue_plaque_re_Dorothy_L_Sayers_on_23_and_24_Gt__James_Street,_WC1_-_geograph_org_uk_-_1237429I love reading about the detectives during these years and the way their work intermingled with the war. Albert Campion, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Inspector Alleyn all worked in the war effort as spies, ambassadors, or agents. The characters are imperfect, real, honest, and wonderfully created. I could go on and on about them all but for lack of space, I’ll just mention Lord Peter Death Brendon Wimsey.

“Lord Peter” as he is referred to by most of the other characters in the book, is described as being of average height, with straw-colored hair, a beaked nose, and a vaguely foolish face. Behind the foolish face, however, lie keen analytical skill, athletic prowess, and unmatched persistence. He uses his royal stature, the son of the Duke and Dowager Duchess of Denver, as an aid to gathering information and gaining access to help him solve cases that puzzle the local police and Scotland Yard.

This character is endearing to me, a real hero, for several reasons. He has weaknesses, but keeps moving forward in spite of them. During his time as a young man in service during World War I, he suffers shell shock or what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. When Lord Peter is overworked or tired, he struggles with relapses from the war in the form of nightmares and physical ailments. This only makes me want to cheer for him more.

Another reason is his love for Harriet Vane. After taking up her case where she’s been falsely accused, he proves her innocent of the crime of murdering her ex-boyfriend. Lord Peter saves her from the gallows, but she believes that gratitude is not a good foundation for marriage, and politely but firmly declines his frequent proposals. After solving several cases together over a period of several years, they finally reach the point where she must make a decision in the novel, Gaudy Night, a personal favorite.

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My Sayers and Allingham novels

I’ve bought and read the majority of the books by Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham. I’m now in the process of collecting Ngaio Marsh’s well-written mysteries with Inspector Roderick Alleyn. I’ve just finished book 15.

 

If you find yourself in need of something different to read, I’d highly recommend the mysteries of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction.
Tweet: #Reading is like breathing to me. http://ctt.ec/JcmU1+ #fiction

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My newest detective books

Writing Prompt: I glanced at my bookcase, brimming over with detective stories. Which one should I read tonight? Suddenly…