I am so excited to welcome Anna Belfrage to the blog today. She is the author of "Serpents in the Garden" which is the fifth book in the Graham Saga (one of my new favorite series!).
First of all, may I extend a warm thank you (and a virtual hug – I am a hugging person) to Denise for being generous enough to host me today. It is people like you, Denise, who make up the life-support system all authors need to thrive and go on writing.
Anyway; today’s post is about love. I have a thing about love – in all its forms and guises. Not that I believe myself to be unique in this; most people I know have a thing about love.
Love hurts, they say. I guess most of us would agree, having at some point or other experienced just how much it can hurt. Like when gorgeous Scott in 9th grade stared through you the Monday after the party, and yet he’d been anything but distant when you danced to “Stairway to Heaven” – or when pretty Amanda tossed her hair and told Marc it was over, she was with Steven now, and besides, she’d only been with Marc because she wanted to make Steven jealous – no one in their right mind really wanted to be with Marc! (Young people can be very cruel)
To be discarded like a faulty toy is painful – and even more so when there is an element of betrayal in it. In general, relationships where one of the parties cheat are already over long before the cuckolded party realises it. Once again, I imagine most of us have experienced just how difficult it is to be the one who no longer loves when the other is still burning for you – whether it be puppy love or the more mature version. How does one let someone down gently?
Quick answer nr 1: You can’t.
Quick answer nr 2: But you have to try, because otherwise you’re compounding the damage.
In Serpents in the Garden, one of my protagonists, Ian Graham, discovers his wife is sleeping with Patrick, the field hand. Humiliated and hurt, he is also beset by vivid images in which his adulterous wife is laughing at him while enjoying her lover’s caresses.
He sent wood chips flying; he chopped and chopped, venting anger and humiliation on the length of timber at his feet. He choked on his rage, a hard knot working itself up and down his gullet. God, how gullible she must have found him! He drove the axe head into the wood, and worked until his shirt stuck to his back.
It helped to gouge his way through the log. With each stroke, the red anger inside of him receded, the heat that threatened to boil over cooled, until he was left with a controlled, icy rage that lay like a lid across the angry whipping thing in his guts.
Ian and Jenny live in 17th century Maryland. Adultery could potentially lead to death (although it rarely did) and definitely to public humiliation. Not a sufficient deterrent for Jenny - she burns for the other man. Does she still love Ian? Yes, Jenny would have answered – at least initially. (This is before Ian has found out)
When Ian returned late, Jenny was waiting for him, newly bathed and in her best embroidered shift; nothing else.
“Malcolm?” he asked when she wound her arms round his neck.
“Asleep, and tomorrow is Sunday.”
“So it is,” he nodded, and the shift was already on the floor. He carried her over to their bed and made love to her until the candles guttered one by one.
In the dark, Jenny lay awake beside his sleeping shape and held on very hard to his hand. She loved this man, the way his hazel eyes shifted with his moods, the way his hands were warm and soft on her skin – of course she loved him. So, why was it Patrick she saw while they were making love? Why was it Patrick she wanted to hold her, take her?
She rolled over to face Ian and traced his sleeping profile. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “Oh God, Ian, I am that sorry.” And she knew that she wouldn’t put a stop to it – at least not yet.
Falling out of love is a much more gradual process than the tumultuous experience of falling in love. Bit by bit, love is downgraded to affection, to indifference, and where once life without the other was impossible to even consider, one day one wakes and thinks life without the other would be quite okay – quite nice actually.
I don’t think Jenny in Serpents in the Garden ever reaches the indifference level. Instead, she is swimming in guilt, further burdened by the heavy-handed morality of the times. A woman who strayed was per definition a fallen woman, a sinful creature risking censure and ostracism. (A man who strayed was merely displaying normal male behaviour – unapproved of, but forgivable) As Jenny discovers, the adulterous woman in the 17th century had no rights – especially when it came to her children. So why does Jenny risk everything? Anyone who has been in love knows the answer; she can’t help herself.
Wounds to the heart can take a long time to heal, and in Serpents in the Garden several of my characters suffer devastating blows, the kind that bring you to your knees while you promise yourself that never, ever again will you gamble the well-fare of your heart on another human being. Fortunately, the heart is a resilient organ. Despite being badly bruised, at times even broken, it heals. The more daring among us will therefore set our heart at risk over and over again – hoping that one day we’ll find the love of our life. And many of us do. So yes; love hurts. But it also carries us through the darkest of days, it gives us wings to fly with, just when we need it the most. That, I believe, is one of the central messages in all my books: love rules, people. Without it, we would be but husks.
Anna Belfrage is the author of The Graham Saga – so far five of the total eight books have been published. Set in seventeenth century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, The Graham Saga tell the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him.
Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.