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Friday, June 6, 2014

Dear Jeannie: Medieval Courting and Mistaken Twin

Dear Jeannie,

Arianne grew up in a very restricted convent until family obligations dragged her back to the real world to get married. And though her education was wholesome and chaste, her family's history is full of intrigue and manipulation. Arianne can hold her own with the best of them. She is fortunate enough to have some say about whom she chooses to marry. When he finds out the extent of the skeletons in her closet, he leaves. Arianne has no second choice in mind, nor any interest in managing her family without her chosen spouse at her side, but wishing and waiting won't get him back. For her to chase him down and court him will break a lot of their medieval social taboos. How can this convent-bred girl romance a man who already knows the worst thing she's ever done?

Hunting in Hoosierville

Dear Hunting,

Arianne would need to show a side of herself that he's never seen. Something about herself that would throw the "worse thing she's ever done" into sharp relief, making this new side almost be unbelievable. People have both good and bad in them. Yin and yang. She's more than the sum of her family's background of manipulation. However, she might end up turning to a bit of manipulation to land him back in her arms, which could be the heralding of your black moment toward the end of the book. Romance can look very different, depending on the giver and the recipient. She'd need to know what melts his heart, and whether she held any sway over him (and how) prior to him finding out the extent of her skeletons. You didn't mention whether they stayed married after he left, as I'd imagine that would also be a blow to her convent-bred ways. Did he leave b/c he was overwhelmed? B/c he couldn't see them being together?  B/c of moral opposition to what her family had done? Did he love her at all? Answers to these questions would definitely enlighten how she'd go about wooing him back. Thanks for writing in!

Dear Jeannie,

Twin girls are born into a family, only there is no punchline to this joke's beginning. Alyssa and Eva are fraternal twins but can be VERY hard to tell apart. Growing up, Alyssa never minded that Eva went left every time Alyssa chose right. They were different people, what was wrong with that? So Alyssa stayed calm in the face of Eva's many tantrums and rebellions. Until one of Eva's wild friends mistook Alyssa for her sister, attacking her and abandoning the family to cope with an unplanned pregnancy. The family's response is to send Alyssa away to have the baby, so some of their love and grace towards Alyssa is tempered by rejection. She hadn't exactly crafted her identity around being the opposite of her troubled sister, but she had taken some confidence and pride in being wholesome and obedient where Eva was not. I would love to have her counseled all through the pregnancy and return home reasonably healed, but I'm not sure that's plausible. (This is set in either the mid-80's or early 90's, if that matters/helps.) What is her recovery going to look like? I'd rather have her actually healed than pasting together a facade that will hide internal fractures, but I'm afraid that, in her hurry to get back to normal, Alyssa will do just that. Is her identity going to have a massive overhaul? What is healthy going to look like for Alyssa after this?

Exiled in Exeter 

Dear Exiled,

Oooo.  Really like Alyssa's backstory here. The bitterness she'd feel toward her sister would be enormous, I'd think. I mean, she'd never have been attacked if she hadn't had a wild, crazy sister. And I bet she does have the "good sister" identity, more than you'd think. Twins often pride themselves on individual differences, or being polar opposites. Uniqueness in the midst of such great uniformity is treasured. So to have her be sent off, like Alyssa is the "bad sister," would be more of a rejection to her than the social ostracism and unwanted pregnancy. Healing for her would have to include some sort of acknowledgement of the loss of her innocence, the unfairness or being attacked instead of her sister, the anger she probably has toward Eva as a result, the shame of being sent away, and the feelings she has around her baby (whether she keeps the infant or not). I figure she's got about 7 1/2 months to "heal," as girls usually find out they are pregnant in the 6-8 week range. That's quite a bit of time to try to "return to normal," since you really do have a time line where she can't be reunited with her family, etc. A lot of therapy could do a world of good during that much time. Not sure I'm answering what you wanted, so feel free to ask additional questions below. Good luck!


Maybe I've got answers. And I promise that I'm going to do better with the blog. I've had a lot going on personally, and computer/internet time has definitely suffered as a result. Perhaps one of these days I'll share a bit more. In the meantime, leave your questions below anonymously, using monikers like Sleepless in Seattle. I'll post my answers in future Dear Jeannie columns.