Gil Truman has eyes only for the beautiful Tilly—until he is forced to marry plain, sickly Rose Davenport to reclaim the lands his father foolishly gambled away. After a disastrous wedding night tainted with his bitterness, he deposits Rose at his remote Northumbrian estate, soothing his guilt with the thought that she need never lay eyes on him again.
Five years after the mortifying wedding night that destroyed all her romantic fantasies, Rose is fed up with hearing second- and third-hand reports of Gil’s philandering ways. She is no longer the shy, homely girl he left behind, but a strong, confident woman who knows how to run an estate. And knows what she wants—her husband, back in their marriage bed.
Gil doesn’t recognize the bold, flirtatious woman he meets at a ball, with or without her mask. Yet he is bewitched and besotted, and their night together is the most passionate he has ever known.
But when he confesses his sins to the beautiful stranger, the truth rips open the old wounds of their blighted history. Threatening any hope of a future together.
Harry: The third time we met, we became friends.
Sally: We were friends for a long time.
Harry: And then we weren’t.
Sally: And then we fell in love.
Sally: Three months later we got married.
Harry: Yeah, it only took three months.
Sally: [Pause]Twelve years and three months.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Unforgivable took a very long time and a very short time to write. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say it was written twice. The first complete draft took me almost two years to write and was a whopping twenty thousand words longer than the final published version. In fact, the final published version shares very few words with that initial draft.
The point in my life when I started writing Unforgivable was a crucial point for me as a writer. I’d already completed two other manuscripts only to stick them in a dusty drawer when I had a Damascene moment and realised that those manuscripts were fundamentally flawed. Why? Because I didn’t write them with the sincerity which I’ve now realised is the only way to write (for me anyway).
Unforgivable 1.0 was my first leap over the waterfall, and I threw everything at it, which is why it ended up being so long. I kind of knew the final draft wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, so after sending it to just a couple of agents and despite getting some positive comments with the rejections, I decided to stick it into the dusty drawer with the other two and start again. My next venture became The Lady’s Secret, my debut novel.
The Lady’s Secret was out and I was in the middle of a new project when I decided to revisit Unforgivable 1.0. The distance of a bit of time – maybe 18 months at this point – was invaluable. I put the manuscript on my e-reader and read it while on holiday in Spain. Suddenly, it was as though I could see the real, true shape of the story and where I’d gone wrong.
The core of the story remained unchanged (H/H marry young. They have a disastrous wedding night and part. Years later, when the heroine confronts the hero and realises he doesn’t recognise her, she gives into the temptation of pretending to be someone else). But aside from that core, a lot changed. In fact, I completely rewrote 80% of the story, and did so very quickly – within 3 months. When I was finished, the hero’s character had done a 180, some characters had been cut, others added and there had been major plot changes. I cut twenty thousand words (always hard and I loved some of the passages I cut) but when I was done, it was leaner and fitter.
This time, I didn’t feel any hesitation in sending it off. I was eager to do so. And it wasn’t long before I heard back from the lovely Linda Ingmanson at Samhain offering me a contract. Woot! Happy daze!
So while Unforgivable 1.0 took several years to produce, Unforgivable 2.0 took just three months. And I’m so happy to see it coming out at last, this book of my heart. This first story in which I abandoned myself and just let go of all writerly fear.
You can read an excerpt of Unforgivable here.
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Twitter – @ChambersJoanna