I was still a beginner when I translated my first Katie Fforde novel into Serbian. And I remember thinking that no modern girl could be so naive, which is pretty snobby since all of us tend to be a bit ‒ a bit? ‒ unsure and go a little nuts when we are in love. By the way, Katie Fforde is to thank for my first encounter with a spotted dick and dead man’s leg ‒ sounds so appetizing, right? ‒ and the realization that pudding is a name for every dessert in British English, except black pudding and what else but white pudding, of course.
Anyway, I have translated three books by K.F. so far and must admit that she has grown on me although romance isn’t my cup of tea. Speaking of tea, Katie’s characters drink a lot of it since a nice cup of tea solves every problem in the idyllic English countryside. Interestingly, I dated a great guy from Surrey and we never drank tea since beer and hot chocolate brought more comfort. But Katie’s novels are full of tea in quaint cups and vivid surroundings, cupcakes and other puddings with crazy names, and descriptions that make you see bright green grass so clearly that you can almost smell it. She has perfected descriptions to that level that you can almost feel the sun on your face, hear the bees buzzing, admire the colors on a meadow, or that make you frown because of dirty windows sticky with flies’ entrails… The lady sure has mastered the “Show, don’t tell” mantra.
Her side characters are as interesting as the main ones, colorful, quirky, relatable. The old ladies from her books with their age struggles and witty lines are endearing. Just imagine a flushed, confused older lady preparing for a blind date with a guy she met on a dating site. Hilarious.
As for the love story, I find it boring to read a book if I know that the couple will live happily ever after even before opening the first page. Luckily, I am not the majority and romance books are still dominating the market. But my preferences don’t mean that I can’t recognize and appreciate a well-structured novel. And I must admit that Katie Fforde has mastered that genre. She was a president of the Romantic Novelists Association for a reason.
I may find her female characters naive or old-fashioned, but without a misunderstanding, however silly it is, you don’t have a plot. There must be some hindrance before the couple deserves its happy end. And a love story isn’t enough. Many modern authors seem to forget that their protagonists had a life and some background before they met the person that swept them away and try to fix the gaping lacks with steamy scenes. But Katie never made that mistake.
So, dear romance authors, if you are struggling with your story, I suggest taking a look at Katie’s novels and thinking about them as manuals for structuring your book.
And cherish the love, today and every day.
By the way, it’s Saint Tryphon’s Day in Serbia. And he is the patron of vineyards, wine-makers, and wine, which is a good reason to raise a glass. Cheers.