1. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    Would You Do This? (Obviously, You Wouldn't, but Does it Make Sense?)

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by EstherMayRose, May 6, 2017.

    Hi, again, I'm writing a mystery story set in the court of a small fictional country (called Chevalia) in the early-mid 18th century, and I want to make sure my murder makes sense. It's all a bit complicated.

    Marie and Giovanni are in love. They meet secretly and...well, do what couples do. Then, Marie gets engaged to a French count called Jean-Richard. Despite having to move to France, Giovanni visits them whenever he can, befriending Jean-Richard to do so.

    Then, Jean-Richard finds out about the affair. He doesn't do much, but he does confine Marie to her own set of rooms, where her nineteen children (some of whom Jean-Richard thinks may be Giovanni's) spend most of their time, thus ending any kind of closeness there was before between them and their father. He also stops Giovanni visiting.

    Years pass. Giovanni moves on from Marie and takes up with an English woman named Mirabel. They decide to elope. She's a third daughter and he's a second son, so they have no money. Giovanni stays at the Chevalian court and Mirabel tours Chevalia and France in the hope of finding employment as a governess - and therefore, funds. She stumbles upon Marie and her children and Giovanni tells her in a letter about their affair. She begins to blackmail Marie, earning much more money than a governess usually does, since the affair was not publicised and she still retains some public respect.

    A couple of years later, Jean-Richard, who works at the French embassy, is sent to the Chevalian court, and, thinking it would be seen as odd if he didn't, takes his family so that Marie can see her homeland. Marie meets up with Giovanni again and, neither she nor Jean-Richard knowing that he's with Mirabel now, Marie plans to resume the affair. Jean-Richard finds out and they argue.

    Jean-Richard knows that great shame will fall on him if his wife leaves him. Besides, she's costing him a lot of money - he doesn't know about Mirabel's blackmail. So, he decides it's time for Marie to go. After their argument, Marie is in great distress - especially since she has spoken to Giovanni and he has told her about Mirabel. Mirabel is angry, as she realises that Marie now has power over her - meaning that she can extract no more money. Marie locks herself in her room, claiming illness, and a servant is tasked with bringing her food. Jean-Richard, out of concern (of course), pays a servant to buy multiple doses of a (fictional) herb which, in small quantities, is medicinal, but in larger amounts is toxic. Insisting that he take Marie's meal to her himself as a gesture of peace, he poisons the food and leaves Marie to die (which she does, as the poison is slow-acting, hours later).

    There'll be lots of clues like letters, gloves stained with the herb, etc., and plenty of adventure, but I just want to know if the above story is plausible and, if not, what I could add/take away/change.

    Thank you.

    (And if you would do this, seek help.)
     
  2. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

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    o_O When did she have the time to birth 19 children? That takes at least 19 years, unless she had several multiples.

    Apart from that, it could work.
     
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  3. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    OK. Thanks. And yes, there are years passing in this. (People had families like that back then.)
     
  4. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Lively Fred

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    Other than the nineteen kids part which has been brought up, it does make sense to me that this could happen. Keep in mind how many years, and that Marie should have at least some time to recover between pregnancies. Also the mortality rate was higher so some of them might not survive to adulthood. Also maybe consider if any of these kids play a part but other than that, go for it!
     
  5. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks. I was planning to have her lose a couple, but Maria Theresa - Holy Roman Empress at around that time - only lost four out of her sixteen as infants. (A couple died later, though.) The kids are (obviously) kept in the dark about the affair, but my MC (a younger princess of Chevalia) befriends twins her age, who want to help unravel the mystery of their mother's death.
     
  6. truthbeckons

    truthbeckons Active Member

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    Are they from families with any money at all or are they destitute? Because anyone with enough money for their children would usually set their daughters up with a modest dowry or possibly an allowance in the absence of marriage, and their extra sons with the money to begin a profession or something. Even though the first son inherits the estate, the other offspring are usually provided for in some way. Unless they're poor enough that it wouldn't matter much if they were first-born, or their parents are hardasses (if their chosen marriage displeased their parents, they could be denied any support, etc.), this shouldn't make them completely desperate for money, so it depends what you mean when you say 'they have no money'.

    I'm not sure this would bother him so much. It wouldn't raise eyebrows to make your business trips without bringing the family, and it's easy to make excuses like 'my wife is too ill to travel right now' or 'she wants to remain at home with our sick child'. If he was intent on keeping her confined and denying her the opportunity to cheat on him again, I can't imagine why he'd be compelled to bring her along. If you need her to go to Chevalia, you should probably come up with a stronger reason logistically and/or psychologically.

    The murder sounds very contrived. Is there a reason he doesn't just divorce her or abandon her? Especially if he believes the children aren't his, he shouldn't have reservations about abandoning her and those children, at least if he's cold enough to also consider murder a possibility. There might be some disgrace, especially if they're strongly religious, but not everyone would be in their personal decison-making. Besides, adultery by the wife was fair grounds for divorce both legally and theologically, so it takes someone who's particularly emotionally disturbed to murder someone to clean up the mess instead, given that the alternatives are not considered a big deal. I mean, if the main reason he doesn't divorce her in the first place is because he takes religious vows seriously, then that doesn't explain why he decides to commit a mortal sin as well as a crime. In the eyes of the church and the law, he can leave them all, get a new wife and have children that he believes are his own. On the other hand, if it's all about keeping up appearances, then he can just continue to ignore/confine her, get a mistress and forget about her.

    So mostly the psychology and the motivations don't quite line up for me. But if we get to know these characters very, very well, we might get to understand their specific choices better.
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2017
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  7. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    I'll respond properly later, when I've thought a bit more, but divorce was legalised in France in 1792, and this story is set in 1736.
     
  8. gaja

    gaja New Member

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    The number of children is too much. Never mind caring for them, you can always write in an army of wetnurses, nannies and governesses. But a female body will be quite worn down after so many pregnancies. Not everyone back then had so many children. Fertility is variable, especially if the married couple are not too fond of each other. "An heir and a spare" is still an expression in some families; If you have given birth to two sons, you will be left alone. But if you want to give the expression that the husband is attracted to his wife, you can increase the number of kids to 7-8-9 and add some abortions. Also do remember that even though they were used to children dying, they still loved them and mourned them.

    I don't think the murder is too far off, but I would keep to the love and honor reasoning, not money.
     
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  9. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    I know what I'm doing re the babies - yes, I've thought this through. (Sorry if that makes me sound like a whiny teenager, but I couldn't think of another way to word it.)

    Just a quick update - I've just realised that I've put the same character in twice: once as a daughter of Marie and once as the Dauphin (Crown Prince)'s wife. Thusly, I've decided to merge the characters, and I think that if Jean-Richard didn't take Marie to see her beloved daughter it may be a hint that something's up. He may also have a fear that the Dauphin may find out about the affair, which would really be a crisis. If a woman cheated, it reflected badly on the husband as well (although obviously not as much).
     
  10. Ettina

    Ettina Senior Member

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    I could see someone deciding to murder his wife under those circumstances - even if divorce were legal, it's a lot more publicly humiliating than your wife dying of mysterious causes. And there's the "if I can't have you, no one will" sentiment as well.

    My biggest question is why he didn't kill her when he first learned of the affair. As long as you justify that, though, it sounds plausible.
     

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