How closely should we follow trends? And where do you start when you’re plotting a new book?

With my Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society Series, I started the entire series by working with character tropes. I picked popular Regency romance tropes and made them the ladies of the society. I’ve got the caustic widow, the society stickler, the stuck-up duchess, the mushroom trying to shove her way into society, the giggly miss, an athlete, and so on. Each lady has her own book, although it’s not always the lady who is the heroine, sometimes hers is the secondary romance of the book, but she always has a problem and a secret which calls the ladies of the society together to solve a problem and help the hero and heroine to their happily ever after.

But then I read about what’s “popular” in historical romance (according to BookBub, it’s bets which force the hero and heroine—an unlikely pair—together), I get tempted to try and incorporate that trope into one of my books.

You would think in a series about women who gamble for secrets, I would have no problem creating a book that fell into that betting trope, but try as I might, it’s not working. It’s probably because I’m trying to force it into a book where the hero and heroine are already determined and mostly formed. Neither are the sort who would make a bet that would force them together. I don’t yet know how or why these two people should be together, but I’ll figure that out soon enough.

The other problem I had is that I decided on the titles for these books before I even began to create the characters that would go in them. That was probably my biggest mistake. You really can’t fit characters to a title, but need to find a title to go with the characters.

Yes, sometimes fitting the characters to the title has worked. Jack of Diamonds, the second book in the series, was easy. Jack, or John as he’s actually called, is a diamond thief. I had the title, knew who the hero should be (the diamond thief) and then determined what sort of character would be a diamond thief and how that would work with the heroine, who I’d already decided upon. Book number seven of the series will be called Love in Spades. I already know that the heroine is a botanist or a gardener. From there I’ll figure out just what she wants and doesn’t want and pair her with a hero whose goals will get in the way of hers. (Because I like it when the hero/heroine is the antagonist of the other hero/heroine. It makes for a more complicated, interesting romance.)

Right now, I was trying to plot the book I’d originally titled Gambling for Hearts. It just screams out for there to be a bet that forces an unlikely hero and heroine together, doesn’t it? Sadly, the characters I have don’t fit the trope or the title of the book. He’s a businessman (the son of the mushroom) who doesn’t care about society and just wants to find love. She’s a widow who inadvertently got a reputation as a woman of loose morals, and she’s trying to fix that. Neither one gambles.

What to do?

Change the title.

After my husband (who helps me plot a lot of my books) and I went back and forth, this way and that, trying to come up with idea on how to cram these people into the trope and title of the book, we finally gave up and will let the characters determine the plot of the book.  Instead, I’m changing the title to An Affair of Hearts (playing on “an affair of the heart” and keeping with the card theme of the series).

It’s all about the characters!