I like to think of myself as a trope-buster (doesn’t every author?). As a historical romance writer, I see myself as someone who creates unusual characters with genuine scars and iconoclastic histories, who are uniquely placed to overcome self-imposed barriers. In the world of romantic fiction, however, the trope is not only alluring, but if you break it utterly, you do so at your peril.
La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess was a trope-buster from the start: an edgy Regency romance in which the heroine is an Indian courtesan, her best friend a gay man, three villains, two heroes, and an interracial marriage. No Dukes or debutantes.
But a trope is a trope, and a romance novel is a romance novel, and given the enormous number of story elements to sort through at TV Tropes, you can be sure LDN did not make it through the analysis unscathed. (Rather the opposite, I’m afraid, which made me question—momentarily—my own originality.)
Introducing the Tropes of La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, by Mariana Gabrielle
Date Published: June 10, 2015
Genre: Historical romance, multicultural romance
Word Count: 60,000 words
Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.
When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.
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Underpinning the entire book is the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, for our heroine has every reason to believe the worst of her prospects, no reason to believe help will be forthcoming, and no faith in her own power. Her situation, too, gives rise to distrust and doubt. One cannot live among people who have had hard lives, without encountering more nihilism than optimism. On the flip side, however, are the experiences of men of influence in her life, for whom life comes easily, who have every right to assume the world’s vagaries will fall in their favor.
Our heroine, Kali Matai, is the queen bee of a Honey Trap, (which is to say, stuck fast in a duty she did not choose), who has known all her life that Love is a Weakness. Not only has she been trained from childhood to act as skilled concubine to one powerful man or another, the only time she ever indulged in a romantic entanglement, it ended in heartbreak and taught her the firm limits of her own power.
Against her will, she acts as a tool for political espionage and blackmail, controlled by a Bitch in Sheep’s Clothing who Would Hurt a Child, a man who showed and convinced her of a dangerously false face. The man’s threats to her, and to her family, are the blackest imaginable, including Blackmail of her best friend, Solomon, an Armoured Closet Gay who, in 1816 England, risked a death sentence to carry on his illegal relationship.
In part to further his political ends, and in part to control Kali, her tormentor threatens Solomon and his lover, the Last Straw for Kali, who reaches a Rage Breaking Point with one of her friends and a Tears Breaking Point with another, but finally acts to regain her power and control of her own life.
Twice in her life, Kali falls In Love with the Mark, and twice they fall in love with her. This leads, during the crisis point, to two Big Damn Heroes rushing to save the day for her, doing everything in their considerable power to give her the Karmic Twist Ending she (and the rest of the cast) deserves.
Broaching the subject of her renown while playing Hazard at White’s, he heard from one gentleman who knew another who had it on good authority she was the disgraced widow of a sub-continental native prince. Then another man spoke of another who said she had been the favorite concubine of a maharaja.
No, one more man argued, everyone knew she had been mistress to Napoleon before he had set out to conquer the world, and had barely escaped France when war broke out. Yes, came a voice from across the room, it was common knowledge—among anyone important enough to know—that she had worked tirelessly for the foreign office, providing intelligence on the Little Corporal’s preferences in bed.
“Nearly a duel between Neville and Ambrose, before cooler heads prevailed. One just doesn’t threaten a succession over a lightskirt.”
“Picks and chooses who she takes to bed, but accepts jewels from anyone.”
“Lord Devlin’s second son buried at the crossroads for unrequited love of her.”
“Josston said it cost him less to take an Earl’s daughter to wife than keep La Déesse Noire for a half-year.”
Unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo fell from all sides, piling at his feet, and it seemed every man in the building had seen her show. Every man in the building had an opinion about the virtues and vices of the Black Goddess. One thing was agreed in all quarters: she did things in the bedchamber that might change everything a man knew about the intimate act. And every man in the building would do nearly anything to be thus altered.
Mariana Gabrielle is a pseudonym of Mari Christie, a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience. Published in dozens of nonfiction and poetry periodicals since 1989, she began writing mainstream historical fiction in 2009 and Regency romance in 2013. In all genres, she creates deeply scarred characters in uncommon circumstances who overcome self-imposed barriers to reach their full potential. She is a member of the Bluestocking Belles, the Writing Wenches, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014.
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