It can’t be smooth sailing, hearts, and rainbows all of the time. A story worth reading and investing in has to have challenges, heartbreak, and times when it would be easier for your character to give up than to carry on. And the characters that fill the pages of The Ghost Writer can’t all be decent, upstanding, and loveable. Enter my unsavory character, Lord Patrick deDunbar.
There’s a lot going on here, so I’ll try and cut him a little slack. It’s the 14th century, a time when women were considered little more than property, even in elevated social settings. Young women married early (15) and were expected to immediately start producing offspring/heirs. Lord deDunbar is being pressured to marry; he needs to carry on the family line, and he needs to marry someone of the same (if not higher) social standing than his.
A peek from Sophia’s perspective. First of all, she’s 17 years old, past the age that most young women marry and start producing children. She hates being bound by the times (she’s strong willed and independent), but much of that is out of her control. She doesn’t want to be a spinster and a disappointment to her parents, but she wants to marry for love. Is that too much to ask? In the 14th century, perhaps.
Her parents want to elevate their financial and political status. Sir Robert deKeith is a Great Marshall of Scotland and a friend/ally of King Robert the Bruce. In fact, it was King Robert who gifted Robert deKeith the land that Dunnottar Castle sits on. He’s already in a good social standing, but in those times such things are tenuous and never guaranteed. At this point, he can afford to be a bit choosy about who his daughter marries. Lord Patrick deDunbar is a cousin to King Robert, and a marriage between deDunbar and Sophia will bolster Robert deKeith’s standing, financially and politically. Love has nothing to do with it.
So… our unsavory character, Lord Patrick deDunbar. Initially pro-English, it seems he likes playing both sides of the fence, although he comes to land in support of the Scots in the timeline of the story. This will benefit him and Robert deKeith, so a deal is struck. It’s a contract, not a commitment. Lord Patrick has led a life of indulgence and pursuit of his selfish interests, and he is not about to give that up – nor would he have to in the 14th century. He can have his wife and mistresses, too. He’s rude, drinks heavily, and feels entitled to get what he wants when he wants it. So when a pretty, young virgin like Sophia is offered to him, he can’t help but accept. He’ll take her, and whatever else comes with the deal.
Here’s what he has to say when Sophia rebuffs his advances after the engagement dinner: “You’ll belong to me soon enough, and you’ll learn to enjoy it. If not, you’ll still be mine to do with as I please.” He leaned in, inches from her face. “I look forward to breaking you in.”
Until next time …