Monthly Archives: February 2014

What’s the Best Love Story of All Time, Camilla?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! (Otherwise known as the day we finally settled the immortal question of just what is the best love story ever told.)

All this week we’ve been giving Darley’s angels a chance to vote for the love story that they think should win the title of Best Love Story of All Time.

Emma, Andrea, Sheila, Vicki and Clare have all nominated their favourites and now agent Camilla Wray has the final word:

Camilla, what is the best love story of all time?

The question of which is my favourite love story is something that has been tucked into my pocket and carried around all week. There are definitely the greatest love stories of all; Love Story, Romeo & Juliet, The Time Traveller’s Wife to name only a few. Tales where One Great Love smashes through a life leaving everyone dizzy and breathless. But with these stories there is also the greatest sadness.

Tragedy is One Great Love’s best friend and as a loveaholic the danger of our addiction is the gut-wrenching catastrophic effect death has on love.

So with my Valentine’s heart on my sleeve I’m unable to cope with considering the thought of such sadness. This is why my answer is turning to what I call the Quiet Love Stories. A love not without history, drama or disaster, but it is grown from hope, kindness and a calmness that allows you just to be, together, forever.

For me a book that has this in every way is Jilly Cooper’s The Man Who Made Husband’s Jealous.

It doesn’t have the intensity, plotting or perhaps epic proportions of the great love stories, but it is the Queen and King partnership of Quiet Love and it really touched my heart.

Lysander Hawkley is a beautiful, lost and misjudged man. He’s a son that craves attention from his father and a human that just wants to belong. When he meets Kitty, the plump, average wife of tyrant Rannaldini, they start an unlikely courtship; one full of the laughter,
support and gentleness neither have ever been allowed before. And it is through these moments of being that a Quiet Love is born.

Alongside this wonderful love story is also that of the infamous Rupert Campbell-Black and Taggie O’Hara. All Jilly Cooper fans will have an opinion on ravishing Rupert and in the series he’s a dark character with his demons and danger a plenty. As the series progresses though we have flashes of an unexpected man and our defences are broken down. He is a man of honour and loyalty, yet he’s also a child at heart and someone craving a love that will quietly hold him up until he can believe in himself.

Taggie O’Hara is his Quiet Love. A coltish beauty who sufferers from terrible shyness and dyslexia she represents to him everything he isn’t, and it is Rupert recognising this in Taggie that makes him a better man.

Quiet love

Quiet love

What do you think? Is The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous the best love story ever told? Did you side with any of the other angels instead? Or perhaps you think we’re all crackers and completely failed to mention the obvious winner?

Cast your vote in the comments below.

What’s the Best Love Story of All Time, Clare?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! (Otherwise known as the day where people seem to be carrying around a lot more flowers than is usual.)

It’s time for us to decide once and for all what the best love story of all time is.

All this week we’ve been posting a new answer each day from one of Darley’s angels. But because today is the big day of love itself we’re giving you two answers for the price of one from two of our top agents nonetheless.

Let’s get the day off to a LOVEly start with our Head of Rights and Associate Agent, Clare Wallace:

Clare, what is the best love story of all time?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Read it before the film comes out later this year

Read it before the film comes out later this year

Okay, so this probably isn’t the ‘best’ love story of all time. But when Vicki asked us to write a Valentine’s article for the blog this was the first title I thought of.

For those of you who haven’t already read The Fault in Our Stars (and if you haven’t go and start reading it, like, now) it’s about a teenage girl, Hazel, who has terminal lung cancer and is encouraged by her parents to attend a cancer support group. Here she meets the charming, witty, gorgeous, and in remission, Augustus Waters.

This book is about a lot of things besides cancer, and love is one of them. The two main characters are beautifully drawn; they are bright, funny, courageous, and warm. They are exceptional people in exceptional circumstances. They are also two angsty teenagers falling in love.

At times I found this book difficult to read. The reality of a serious illness doesn’t make for light escapism. But I couldn’t put it down. I smiled and winced and laughed and cried (on the tube) and was absorbed in every word of Hazel’s story, right to its breathtaking, heartbreaking, star-crossed conclusion.

*breaks down sobbing*

*breaks down sobbing*

What do you think? Is The Fault in Our Stars the best love story of all time? Let us know in the comments.

What’s the Best Love Story of All Time, Vicki?

Well, it’s that time of year again. The week of love is here (otherwise known as the week when people everywhere in brand new relationships find themselves wishing that the rules were clearer as they wildly fluctuate between buying a gift which involves more than one diamond or tweeting their new significant other a picture of a giraffe in a bowtie).

We’ve been getting into the Valentine’s Day spirit here at the agency and we thought it was about time we asked Darley’s angels to decide once and for all what the best love story of all time is.

We’ll be posting a new answer every day this week and today our Agency Editor, Vicki Le Feuvre, tells us which she would choose:

Vicki, what is the best love story of all time?

The story goes that Gilbert Ryle was once asked if he ever read any novels and he replied, “oh yes. All six, every year.” Any of those six novels he was referring to, the lot of them written by Miss Jane Austen, might happily qualify as the greatest love story of all time.

But the one for me is Persuasion.

Gilbert Ryle - philosopher of Oxford, reader of Austen, sitter of deckchairs

Gilbert Ryle – philosopher of Oxford, reader of Austen, sitter of deckchairs

Anne Elliot, has always been overlooked by most everyone in her life, “her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way – she was only Anne.” So much so that when she falls for the only man she will ever love, Captain Frederick Wentworth, and has the good fortune to find him returning her feelings she ends up being persuaded that the match is not in her or his best interests, the latter being all that concerns her.

Eight years of regret later and Anne is all of seven and twenty and it is generally agreed by anyone in her circle who cares to notice her that she has quite lost any bloom of youth she may have once had. When several twists of fate conspire to bring Captain Wentworth back into her life she finds herself just as in love with him as ever but he, it seems, cannot forgive her for allowing herself to bend to persuasion all those years ago.

Reading this novel with an autobiographical eye makes it all the more poignant with its strong focus on missed opportunities and the pain that can come from leaving only a few words unspoken.

Indeed, Anne says so little throughout the course of the novel that adaptions have often struggled to bring this story to life. All of Anne’s intelligence and kindness are shown in her reflections and actions which are ignored by those around her and even side-lined within the structure of the novel itself in favour of the trivial chatterings of all the supporting characters. Only Austen’s flare for satire could make this technique work so well and keep the reader so resolutely on the side of the shy, retiring (occasional doormat) Anne.

One of my favourite elements of this love story is how beautifully Austen captures Anne’s sensations of being in love. I don’t know about anyone else but when I’m around someone I’ve fallen for it feels like coming down with the flu combined with a prolonged panic attack. Not everyone feels like this but it was immensely comforting for me to see Anne’s sensibilities reacting in much the same way and she is such a sensible character (especially in contrast to those around her) that it didn’t make her or her feelings seem ridiculous.

I love too that it’s not simple, as it never is. A reader can simultaneously see that Captain Wentworth’s anger is entirely understandable, justified even, at the same time as knowing that he’s got it all wrong. Each character, no matter how preposterous, makes perfect sense and each have excellent depth which makes the whole easily correctable situation seem not only real but utterly insurmountable.

Every time I re-read this book, though I know what will happen, I can never quite believe that the solution really will come. Given that it could so easily go wrong at the beginning, that the chances to correct it are so fleeting and so much needs to be explained, it hardly seems possible that, “a word, a look, will be enough,” to put it right.

The Penguin Classic - for when all the other covers have sappy girls in silly hats on them

The Penguin Classic – for when all the other covers have sappy girls in silly hats on them

What do you think? Is Persuasion the best love story ever told? Let us know in the comments.

What’s the Best Love Story of All Time, Sheila?

Well, it’s that time of year again. The week of love is here (otherwise known as the week of sympathetically tilting your head to the side whenever you ask a single person what they’re doing this Friday).

We’ve been getting into the Valentine’s Day spirit here at the agency and we thought it was about time we asked Darley’s angels to decide once and for all what the best love story of all time is.

We’ll be posting a new answer every day this week and today it is the turn of our Dramatic Rights Agent, Sheila David:

Sheila, what is the best love story of all time?

My vote goes to Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek.

Set in 17th Century England, the plot sees a frustrated society beauty, running from her meaningless life in London, to try to find some peace and contentment in her house on the Cornish coast.

She finds something else, discovering French smugglers have been using a hidden creek on her land to conceal their ship and evade English justice. The pirate captain is an enigmatic man; artist and adventuring thief, and to whom she becomes both muse and fellow daredevil. They fall in love and go on swashbuckling exploits.

Perhaps not the best fare for Valentine ’s Day unless you hold with the ‘better to have loved and lost’ line of thought. For those who love romance or Cornwall or both.

This is the bleakly demure classic book cover

This is the bleakly demure classic book cover

This is what Hollywood went with

This is what Hollywood went with

What do you think? Is Frenchman’s Creek the best love story of all time? Let us know in the comments.

What’s the Best Love Story of All Time, Andrea?

Well, it’s that time of year again. The week of love is here (otherwise known as the week of desperately trying to find a card that doesn’t look like you picked it up last minute at the supermarket round the corner).

We’ve been getting into the Valentine’s Day spirit here at the agency and we thought it was about time we asked Darley’s angels to decide once and for all what the best love story of all time is.

We’ll be posting a new answer every day this week and today we are asking PA to Darley himself and our Office Manager, Andrea Messent:

Andrea, what is the best love story of all time?

The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller.

This is the true story of photographer Robert Kincaid who has a chance encounter with housewife Francesca Johnson while passing through Iowa and they fall in love.

I could not put this beautiful, mesmerising book down and it stayed with me a long time after I’d put it down. It was a touching and also passionate story about two star-crossed lovers and I cried my eyes out!

The film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood is worth a look too. After the book, of course.

The film starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood is worth a look too. After the book, of course.

What do you think? Is The Bridges of Madison County the best love story of all time? Let us know in the comments.

What’s the Best Love Story of All Time, Emma?

Well, it’s that time of year again. The week of love is here (otherwise known as the week of chocolate and things shaped like hearts culminating in a lot of heart-shaped chocolates).

We’ve been getting into the Valentine’s Day spirit here at the agency and we thought it was about time we asked Darley’s angels to decide once and for all what the best love story of all time is.

We’ll be posting a new answer every day this week. Starting with Rights Assistant, Emma Winter:

Emma, what is the best love story of all time?

For me, it’s immediately (and forever) The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I love love stories and I’ve read so many over the course of the years, but this one always stays with me. It’s pretty much perfect. It follows Clare and Henry, husband and wife, but Henry has a rare genetic disorder which causes him to time travel. It is this core concept where the novel draws its quiet power.

The idea of exploring both time travel and a couple’s relationship, which begins, although not intimately, when Clare is very young, feels convincing and unique throughout. I’ve never read anything that resonated as deeply and left such an indelible mark. It is both brilliant and devastating and left me crying on the tube (I rarely cry at books, okay I cried at The Fault In Our Stars, so this was interesting).

There is a film too but, as ever, the book was better

There is a film too but, as ever, the book was better

What do you think? Is The Time Traveller’s Wife the best love story of all time? Let us know in the comments.

11 Ways Not To Start Your Novel – No. 10

With Extended Dialogue (or in a car)

“What do you mean you’re not going to do a blog post about not starting your novel in a car?”

“Well, it’s just that we’ve already attacked airports and that’s led people to anticipate further attacks on modes of transport. Also to be honest I think the opening-in-a-car craze is starting to tail off a little. I haven’t had one starting during a motorway traffic jam in a week or so now.”

“But a car journey isn’t a great way to start your novel.”

“You’re right but there are just too many variables to consider.”

“Like what?”

“Ok so having your protagonist caught in a traffic jam is generally not an action-packed way to start your novel but what if they were really funny or it was a creepy situation in some way or it wasn’t about the traffic jam at all, like maybe it was about the day the family dog Bessie jumped out the car window and was never seen or heard from again? Any of those variables might make the scene work.”

“It would still feel a bit unoriginal during the opening lines. It would be hard to immediately establish that this situation was special. I just think a lot of agents and publishers are probably growing tired of this setting for opening scenes.”

“True. But what about a high speed car chase instead of the usual stuck-on-a-motorway scenario?”

“That has been done too.”

“But has it been done enough for us to actively discourage it? What about if there was a really funny guy in a high speed chase in a creepy situation with the family dog Bessie riding along? You might forget there was even a car involved.”

“I’d still discourage opening right at that point in time for most authors.”

“Yeh but maybe some could pull it off?”

“Maybe.”

“Perhaps instead of discouraging car journeys we could discourage any journey? At the moment I seem to be getting a lot of manuscripts that open on trains. I’m getting a little biased against trains.”

“But isn’t that a bit over restrictive?”

“You’re probably right. How about not starting with a big move? That’s how about half of all children’s submissions start, I find. They’re either going to spend the holiday with an estranged family member, being evacuated or their cruel parents are pulling them up at the roots and moving them to an entirely new place where they’ll be bullied at their new school for being different and they’ll miss their friends.”

“It doesn’t really apply to adult fiction as much though, does it?”

“No. Also I like a good evacuee opening chapter, name cards and crying mothers and all the kids crammed into an enclosed space, emotions running high. It really gets you on the protagonist’s side and it’s an excellent breeding ground for tension. Also the thought of having to move did used to terrify me as a child.”

“You lived in Jersey. How big of a shakeup could moving from one part of a tiny island to another part of a tiny island have caused your life?”

“If we’d been moved to the wrong parish I was scared I might end up having to go to Beaulieu.”

“What’s Beaulieu?”

“Rival girls school to mine.”

“If you’re going to upload a transcript of this conversation aren’t you worried that no one will get that reference?”

“My friends who read this might.”

“Do many of your friends read this?”

“Probably not.”

“I feel like this conversation has gone off track.”

“It’s definitely gone on for longer than it should have.”

“Aren’t you afraid people will think this is just lazy? I mean it doesn’t really count as a proper blog post does it?”

“Well, it’s proving difficult to make your voice sound a bit different to mine considering that this is just an argument I’m having with myself. I like to think I’m employing some dialogue skills here.”

“But are you using any other skills beyond that? You’re not being descriptive, you’re not taking the characterisation any further and you’ve not given your reader a shred of exposition yet.”

“I’m being mysterious. Creating intrigue.”

“Yes but surely there’s a limit? I mean how many people do you think are even going to read this far? They might as well just go to a coffee shop and eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations if this is all you’re going to give them.”

“Hey now. I’m doing other stuff too. There’s a lot going on.”

“Such as?”

“Well I’m creating conflict.”

“People argue in coffee shops too you know.”

“It’s the caffeine.”

“What I mean is you’re not giving anyone reading this very many reasons to care about whether we have conflict or not, are you? Who are we? What does it matter if we have conflict?”

“Well I think I’ve established that I’m me.”

“And I am?”

“Um… Clare?”

“Is Clare this confrontational?”

“No. Clare’s really nice. But my first draft where we were just being really nice to each other and having a reasoned discussion wasn’t interesting enough.”

“And why’s that?”

“… Because opening with extended dialogue isn’t a great idea?”

“Precisely.”

“So could we just do the post about that then?”

“I guess. But could you find a way to at least touch on the idea that starting your novel in a car might not be a great idea either?”

“I’m sure I’ll think of something.”

By Vicki Le Feuvre