Earlier today, May reviewed Unforgivable by Joanna Chambers. Joanna has stopped by to talk about forgiveness….
To err is human, to forgive, divine
You may not be surprised to learn that my novel, Unforgivable, is about, amongst other things, forgiveness, so Alexander Pope’s famous quote, To err is human, to forgive divine, couldn’t be more apt.
The quote comes from Pope’s Essay on Criticism (which despite its title is, in fact, a poem). But while Pope was talking about the qualities a critic should have (yup, seems like writers have been putting their tuppence in about that for centuries!) in my novel, the quote crops up in the context of marital misbehaviour. Infidelity, lies and betrayal.
Pope’s words are so simple, yet so profound, reminding us how difficult granting forgiveness can be, particularly when neither party has behaved well and both are burning with resentment at their treatment at the other’s hands.
And I don’t just need my H/H to forgive each other. I need the reader to forgive them too! That sort of forgiveness is way harder to earn. Readers are adept at instinctively and subtly balancing the deeds and misdeeds of the protagonists of romance novels (I know this because I am a reader first and an author second and a very judgmental reader at that). For this reader, the scales need to broadly balance at the end of the novel for true readerly satisfaction to be achieved. Having said that, as in life, charisma can buy a character a degree of undeserved forgiveness…
What romance character have you found it easiest, or hardest, to forgive? Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Unforgivable.
And finally, here’s an excerpt from Unforgivable. Rose and Gil are angry at each other while Rose is musing on Pope’s famous phrase…
She rested her head against the carriage window. To err is human, to forgive divine. She should tell Gil that. Give him something to chew on. Was that Shakespeare? Or Bacon? Or Pope? The trouble with detesting poetry was that one could never ascribe quotations properly. And in any event, she didn’t think Gil would be impressed by the sentiment. So she left the words unsaid and instead watched a raindrop meander down the carriage window, tracking its halting descent with bored fascination, ignoring the black, velvety night beyond the glass.
It was annoying, she reflected, how even when she was staring at her raindrop with rapt attention, she was still fully aware of the shape and presence of Gil occupying the opposite seat of the carriage; still aware of every tiny movement of his big body.
She watched her small, innocent raindrop and wondered whether he intended to come to her bedchamber tonight. Part of her wanted him to. At night, it was almost possible to pretend everything was all right. Almost. But tonight, the other part of her resented the thought of him following her to her room; resented that he would sit here now, practically vibrating with tension, then calmly appear in her bedchamber later to take his pleasure of her body. She swallowed hard.
She was beginning to realise she couldn’t just live for the nights, as good as they were. She’d planned to stay quiet and patient for as long as it took for him to get over her betrayal—forever if necessary, she’d naïvely thought. Now she realised it wasn’t in her to do it. Here she was after just three weeks, and already she felt rebellious and angry with him. Already it was an effort to bite back the sarcastic comments her tongue longed to utter.
“Are you aware of Grayson’s reputation?”
She was so deeply sunk in her own thoughts that she jumped at the sound of his voice, her hand going to her throat. She turned to face him and made herself smile politely, refusing to acknowledge his belligerent tone.
“I believe he’s accounted something of a rogue,” she replied lightly.
“You underestimate him,” Gil said flatly. “He is a scoundrel. I don’t want you associating with him.”
She stared at him for a moment before she spoke. “Sir Neville is a friend of my family. I’ve known him since I was a child. Good Lord, I only stopped calling him Uncle Nev a few years ago! I am not going to refuse to see him!”
“He’s been embroiled in numerous scandals. Duels, even. It is rumored that he killed a man in France.”
Rose shrugged. “And that is all it is. Rumour. He is accepted by polite society.”
“He’s a roué. A despoiler of women and a—a libertine.”
She would have laughed if she hadn’t been so angry. Coming from Gil, this was rich!
“Well,” she said tightly, “it takes one to know one.”
Gil glared at her. “I am not like him, Rose.”
She stared at him in sheer disbelief.
Today, Joanna is giving away an e-book of Unforgivable. Open to all through January 18.