There are some books which open easily. The characters go along with whatever the initial premise is and the pieces fall into place– at least for a time. (Don’t worry; if they’re easy earlier they get tough later. It’s the way it goes.)
Others just won’t start. There’s something just… off about the opening sequence. The Garden Intrigue was one of those books. It had six or seven very different versions of the first four chapters before I finally settled into the right opening sequence.
The Lure of the Moonflower? Has decided it wants to be one of those books. So I’m going to share with you the opening that I’m not using for Pink XII– and that I held onto far longer than I ought because I was really, really enjoying the dialogue and couldn’t quite bring myself to delete it.
To set the scene, in the now deleted beginning of Pink XII, The Lure of the Moonflower, the Pink Carnation, aka Jane Wooliston, blackmails Jack Reid, aka the Moonflower, into helping her track down mad Queen Maria by informing him that she’s got her hands on the jewels of Berar and won’t return them to him until the Queen has made it to safety.
There were a lot of problems with this premise. One: it was madly out of character for Jane. Two: it was madly out of character for Jack. Three: it involved cramming in pages and pages of unnecessary back story as Jane explained to Jack exactly how she knew his father and sister/had acquired the jewels (which all came out sounding a bit like that Spaceballs sequence about the “father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate”). It all got a bit convoluted. And nothing kills an adventure story like convoluted. Not to mention the whole “wildly out of character for everyone concerned” issue.
But I did so enjoy writing that dialogue….
Here, purely for your amusement, is an excerpt from one of the deleted chapters of The Lure of the Moonflower:
“Oh, is that it, then? Blackmail on top of theft?”
“Theft?” The Pink Carnation raised a well-tended brow, the picture of polite amusement. “The Rajah of Berar might have a few words to say about that.”
Jack’s voice was flat and hard. “That was war.”
“So is this.” The Pink Carnation’s eyes met his, deadly serious. “Bonaparte has waged war against the world. Would you provide him another weapon in his arsenal?”
“Fine words from a jewel thief.”
“It would only be theft if I intended to keep it.”
“Keep it, throw it in the river, see what I care.” Jack had intended it for Lizzy. He’d never meant to use it for himself. Not that it mattered now. He jammed his hat down on the head, making for the door. “It’s all one to me.”
The Pink Carnation moved to intercept him. “You don’t really mean that.”
“You have no idea what I mean or don’t mean.” Anger, white hot, propelled him forward, step by step, forcing the Pink Carnation to fall back, the flounces of her ridiculous frock brushing against the floor, her train tangling around her feet. “Did anyone ever tell you, princess, that it’s dangerous to poke at tigers? Some of them have teeth.”
“And yet men keep them as pets.”
“I wouldn’t advise it.”
“No,” said the Carnation, taking him by surprise. “Neither would I. It’s your cooperation I want, not your subjection.”
The arrogance of the woman was breathtaking. Did she think that a bit of paper and a spot of light blackmail were designed to win his trust?
“Cooperation, princess, requires a certain amount of give. You’ve taken my jewels. What do you intend to give me in return?”
“What do you want, Mr. Reid?”
The devil if he knew. He had been running so long and so hard that it was difficult, at times, to remember what it was that he was running for. Once he had had a goal, a purpose. He had burned to see justice done. Now?
“Money, of course,” he said coolly. “I’m a sword for hire, not a wild-eyed idealist.”
I’ll be sharing more of the real version of The Lure of the Moonflower soon! Just as soon as I’ve finished writing it….