I announced on Facebook the other day that I had a new book coming out November 1st on Kindle (and POD), a never before published full-length historical romance called THE BASTARD–and was immediately reprimanded by a woman for using such a terrible word. I explained that the story is about a man born to a wayward marquise (illegitimately) who gave him to a farmer to raise. Although he’s had to climb up the hard way, without benefit of money or connections, he’s determined to prove he’s as good as anyone else, to rise to captain his own frigate one day. But when he finds a lovely French stowaway aboard The Tempest (the heroine, of course), he must decide whether to return her to the man she’S fleeing or risk everything, even his life, to keep her safe.
The woman calmed down when she realized the meaning behind the title, but it never occurred to me that people would mistake it in the first place. Maybe that’s because I read John Jakes’ THE BASTARD when I was fourteen and loved it so much (he’s probably better known for NORTH AND SOUTH, which became a TV mini-series). One positive association can cancel out a lot of bad, I suppose. Or maybe I was leaning too heavily on the cover to convey its true meaning (I thought the historical feel would make it obvious).
Now I’m thinking that this is why no one else has copied John Jakes’ fabulous title. LOL They didn’t want to come under the gun from those who might misinterpret it and be offended.
Interestingly enough, I realized when I had to defend the title that this story has something in common with OF NOBLE BIRTH, my first historical romance. And that is the theme. New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Elizabeth Phillips often talks about an author’s core story. Maybe this is mine—that worth has nothing to do with birth or station in life and everything to do with heart and character. When I started writing (OF NOBLE BIRTH was my very first book, which originally sold to HarperCollins and was released in November of 1999), I had only that title to go on. I didn’t know the plot or the characters, but I was certain of the title and the theme. That wasn’t the case with THE BASTARD. That book has gone through several variations of working titles from HONOR BOUND to THE MEASURE OF A MAN.
How important do you think a title is when selecting a book? Does it play a huge role in your purchases? Or do you care more about cover art or back cover copy? Or the first line? (This book starts: The Baron St. Ives was an ugly little man.) Or is it who the author is that matters? Which title do you like best (HONOR BOUND, THE MEASURE OF A MAN or THE BASTARD)? And would you avoid a book called THE BASTARD, even if it was named that way because it was about a bastard son?
Give away three copies of THE BASTARD –winners will be announced at end of day included in this post – good luck!