As I was waiting for the copy edit review of my novel, one of the people at my publishing house had an unusual suggestion for my book. She e-mailed me and said that she had been thinking about my story and wondering if I’d want to consider doing one of those old-fashioned, annotated TOCs (tables of contents) that used to be so popular in the 1800s. Her reasoning was that she thought all the chapters are so meaty (an evaluation I loved hearing!) that it might be fun to give the readers teasers about what’s coming.
My first thought was, What are you, psychic? You see, two of the 19th-century biographies of Betsy Bonaparte that I used for sources had just that kind of TOC.
My second thought was, No way. I don’t want to give away too much of the story.
But I reconsidered and decided to see if I could do it without including spoilers. It became like a word puzzle, . . . and I love word puzzles.
After I finished a version that I was happy with, I sent it to my editor to see what he thought. He agreed that it worked, so we decided to use it.
Here are the first few chapters:
Visiting a dying son — The seductive whirlpool of memory
Refugees from a revolution — An early loss — Snowball fights and arithmetic tests — Teasing Uncle Smith — Madame Lacomb’s school — Intriguing prophecy
The Belle of Baltimore — Dreaming of a brilliant match — Rumors about Napoleon — A Bonaparte in Baltimore — Their first encounter
A consummate flatterer — Quick wit and a sharp tongue — Aunt Nancy’s advice — The coquette and the guest of honor — “Destined never to part”
A shocking discovery — The wedding of friends — Passion awakes — Seeking a brother’s advice — A father’s worry and a daughter’s plea