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Why good stories never end

By On Dec 7 2012, 10:55 am

Fool Me Twice by Kate DonovanIn a couple of weeks, the last of my mail-order bride books for Retro Romance will be re-released, and I’m having the same feelings I had the first time around when I saw the series coming to a close.

One of the best things about this concept was the infinite choice I could give myself for setting and characters. Since the only common thread was the matchmaker, and he usually dealt with prospective brides and grooms by mail, I was able to set the first book in the Sierras, the second on a ship in the Caribbean, the third in Chicago, the fourth in a small town in Northern California, and the fifth on a cattle ranch. Usually, either the bride or the groom was dead set against marriage, or about to marry the wrong person, and then matchmaker Russell Braddock intervened, coaxing and sometimes manipulating them into seeing that he had found the right mate for each of them.

In other words, the books were basically unlinked except for using the same marriage broker. But as time went on, I realized the brides and grooms had something else in common – they were so grateful to Russell Braddock for bringing them together, he almost became an honorary member of each new family.

Did I mention Braddock is a widower? You can probably see where I’m going with this, because by the end of the fourth book, I was pretty sure those brides would all get together at some point and turn the tables by finding a match for the matchmaker. Not that he was looking, of course, since he clearly had (and lost) the great love of his life already. But I had confidence in the brides that they’d find him another great love.

I never did write that story down on paper, although in my head I know exactly who Braddock ends up marrying. The funny thing is, I’ve gotten so many emails and letters over the years where readers have taken it upon themselves to match him up too! Most of those readers suggested that Braddock should end up with Abigail (the interfering mother-in-law in CARRIED AWAY) and a few wanted him with Mrs. Blake – the widow who owned the boarding house in NIGHT AFTER NIGHT.

If I had it to do over again, I would have planted eligible women in each book as potential brides for Braddock, but it honestly didn’t occur to me until most of the stories were already written. And actually, in my imagination, I don’t see him with any of the widows. If I were to write Braddock’s romance, I’d have him tangle with a competing matchmaker – a woman in a neighboring city who is getting a reputation that almost rivals his own. They’d compete to find the perfect mate for a client, and in the process, they’d fall in love.

Anyway, this is one of the best parts of being a writer. The story never really has to end. Even if it seems to have the perfect ending, those characters still wake up the next day with new adventures in store for them, and I love knowing that, in addition to my own daydreams about what happens next, my readers are continuing to daydream too, taking care of loose ends like Russell Braddock.


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