Beautiful People: Parental Guidance (or Lack Thereof)

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Another month has rolled around, and you all know what that means. A new month heralds the arrival of a new Beautiful People feature on the blog! (Of course, it's almost the tail end of the month now, but shhh.)

This month's theme is parents, which works wonderfully for a particular character I've been thinking about. Plus, we readers of YA books are all too aware that parents tend to get shoved aside in lots of stories. While I love good orphan characters as much as the next girl (Baudelaires, I'm looking at you), I think parents are important elements in the lives of many teenagers, and they're too often neglected. So I'm glad to be able to shed light on one set of parents I'm writing today. 

This time around, I'm featuring Charles Mareil, a supporting character in my WIP On the Midnight Streets. He's eighteen years old and the son of a duke, and the fortune that he'll inherit upon his father's death is second only to whatever's in the royal coffers. He's also idealistic to a fault, and he isn't too good with the company of people he doesn't know well. His family is one of the most prominent in the kingdom, so as the eldest son, he feels huge amounts of pressure to uphold their good name. But at heart he's super earnest and well-intentioned and he cares about people and goodness and bravery a lot. Charles first becomes important in OtMS because he and my heroine, Chantilly, are engaged. They even almost get married.

Until Chantilly gets kidnapped at her wedding, but hey, whatever.

Along with dear Charles, I'm also going to talk about his mother and father, Eleanor and Richard Mareil. Richard is one of the more high-ranked, wealthy dukes in the kingdom, and he runs a thriving tea business that imports from all over the world. However, he himself has fallen into a bit of moral decay. He has a host of expensive bad habits that his family tries very hard to keep a secret. Eleanor is the epitome of a good duchess—or at least she was until she came down with a terminal illness that doctors still can't really name, most likely some kind of cancer. Charles loves them, of course, but sometimes he feels like he's been left to compensate for their shortcomings and weaknesses.

1. Do they know both their biological parents? Why/why not?

Charles supposedly lives with both of his biological parents, but his mother is actually housed in an Upper City hospital. He doesn't actually know his parents as well as he'd like to, because Upper City custom dictates that parents have their children taken care of by household servants hired specially for the task. He has a general sense of them as people, of course, but there's always been a measure of distance between him and his parental figures. They're family, but 'family' is rather a loose term in the Upper City.

(I suppose he should just consider himself lucky to be a legitimate child and not born outside of wedlock. The Upper City is a world of pain for illegitimate children.)

2. Have they inherited any physical resemblances from their parents?

Charles mostly takes after his mother, Eleanor, in terms of physical appearance. He and Eleanor are both fair-haired, tall, and pretty as anything (no, really; Charles is prettier than most of the girls in the OtMS cast, protagonist Chantilly included). They have graceful, slender limbs that make everything they do seem like dancing. They also share a somewhat aloof bearing that makes them seem almost statuesque when viewed from afar. Alas, that doesn't work so well for Charles when you actually get to talk to him and you figure out he's a Legitimate Awkward Dork.

In sum: he's very nice to look at but maybe try not to let him open his mouth.

Charles does have his father Richard's hazel eyes. However, most of his father's appearance was passed down to Charles's degenerate younger brother, Edward—brown hair and sharp eyes and a face that tends to make people uncomfortable.

3. What's their parental figure(s) dress style? Add pictures if you like!

Charles's father is always careful to dress in the height of men's fashion, having so much money at his disposal. However, part of it is that he wants to maintain the impression of power in wealth—the Mareils have been losing money lately, due to Edward's gambling habit and Richard's, er, various vices. So he spends extravagantly on clothes that will make him seem like the picture of privilege.
On the other hand, Charles's mother doesn't have as much... sartorial license, let's say. She's confined to a hospital bed the vast majority of the time, so while her clothes are still of high quality and really lovely besides, they're much less flamboyant than they might be ordinarily.

4. Do they share any personality traits with their parental figures? And which do they take after most?

Personality-wise, Charles got quite a bit from his mother. They both have very set moral compasses and are drawn to ideas above all else. They have firmly established principles that they live by, and that makes them very uncomfortable with gray areas. They can be almost frighteningly determined if they choose to be, and they try their hardest to do right by everyone they meet. They can be pretentious sometimes, but they never really mean it, and they've both been bred to be excellent figureheads for their families.

On the other hand, Charles and his father are nearly polar opposites. Probably the biggest difference between them is that Richard is perfectly fine with bending the rules a little (or a lot) to get his way, while Charles opposes anything of the sort. 

5. Do they get on with their parental figure(s) or do they clash?

Much of Charles's childhood has been about learning to inhabit himself without his parents around to help him, as neither of them have really been there for him enough to 'raise' him in the typical sense. More often than not, he doesn't really know how to act around them. It pains him to admit to himself that he does tend to clash more with his parents, as his father's terrible habits and ruthless business sense kind of rub him the wrong way, and his mother's ambitions for him are a little overwhelming. He does get along much better with his mother most of the time, though.

6. If they had to describe their parental figure(s) in one word, what would it be?

His father: unconcerned. Charles feels that Richard has always displayed a troubling ability to distance himself from problems—whether they're his own or those of society as a whole. Although this is sometimes helpful, it's also incredibly damaging in the long run, and it's one of the few things that can get Charles really, truly angry.

His mother: unyielding. Eleanor's an incredibly stubborn woman across the board—once she's decided something should be a certain way, no one can change her mind. This applies to anything from her emotions to her appearance. While Charles usually admires that about his mother, sometimes it can be a little exasperating, especially when she projects that stubbornness onto her expectations for his future.

7. How has their parental figure(s) helped them most in their life?

Mostly, Charles's father has helped him through his money and family name—using his father's prestige and financial freedom, Charles has been able to get huge amounts of privilege and opportunity that would otherwise have been unavailable to him. For example, at the beginning of OtMS, his family's reputation has put him on the kingdom's Residential Council, though he has zero experience dealing with residential affairs. The other council members kind of resent this:
Honestly, I think. One meeting. My father means to get me a position as head of the Residential Council of the Mendlands, seeing as I haven’t got the cunning to take on his tea company once he retires, but not a soul in the council other than me is younger than five and forty. Of course, that means there are daughters in their houses—and most of the council members would rather have me as a son-in-law than as a chairman. They ask for my opinions when they really mean time to marry, my lord.
Charles's mother, on the other hand, has taught him a lot about perseverance and about maintaining a tough-as-nails attitude in the face of overwhelming odds. Her illness has kept her mostly confined to the hospital for the past five years, but Charles has drawn a lot of inspiration from her determination, wisdom, and spirit.

8. What was their biggest fight with their parental figure(s)?

When Charles was fourteen or so, he got into a heated argument with his parents about his illegitimate half-sister, Talia. Charles wanted his parents to allow Talia to live with the Mareils, as an accepted part of the family. He's always wanted to get to know Talia better, since she's older than he is and he's always craved the guidance of an older sibling. However, both his parents would prefer to keep her out of the public eye, because if word got out that Charles's father had had an affair with a servant that produced a daughter, things would get ugly for the Mareils really fast. Charles felt this was deeply unfair to both Talia and himself—he still does—but in the end, he had to give over to what his parents wanted.

A few months later, though, his father decided it'd be advantageous to make it look like Talia was a ward of the family, and she came to live with them. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Charles's time with her was abruptly cut off by a... certain incident that forced the family to send her away again.

// can't say more because important backstory spoilers

// hint: may have to do with a certain hat-wearing rapscallion

9. Tracing back the family tree, what nationalities are in their ancestry?

OtMS is set in a kingdom called the Mendlands. Knowing this, we can see that Charles's bloodline is Mendish. And Mendish. And...

...yes, more Mendish. Sadly, interracial marriages are frowned upon in the Mendlands—one thing you should about this country is that it has a horribly prejudiced social mindset that needs to be thrown out the window STAT—so an old-money family like Charles's wouldn't even consider ever allowing them. The Mareils were also one of the first families to come to prominence in the Mendlands, in the kingdom's early days, and they've enjoyed high status ever since. They're very proud of their 'pureblood' lineage, although Charles has been questioning that pride lately.

10. What’s their favorite memory with their parental figure(s)?

Oddly enough, Charles has really good memories of his entire family having breakfast together when he was younger. It hasn't happened in years, so maybe the memories have been strengthened by nostalgia, but he was definitely fond of those times. His parents would converse quietly and thoughtfully over their toast and tea and other assorted expensive Mendish foods, and they would actually listen to him if he wanted to tell them something, and his brother Edward would actually shut up for once, because Edward is the only one in the family who isn't a morning person.

Or maybe those were his best parent-related memories because of the food.

Charles really likes breakfast food.

And on that note, I'd like to turn it over to you all! What do you think of Charles and his parents? Did you participate in Beautiful People?

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1 comment

  1. AHHH. Talia will most likely show up around book 2-ish, as I'm not sure it'd make sense to work her into this book.

    I actually hate Talia a lot—like even more than Edward—but I probably shouldn't say why. It has to do with the backstory stuff I mentioned in #8. There's a bit of... negative history surrounding her. And Edward... hmm. He's not home too often, but I'm sure Charles will drag him in for breakfast food at some point.

    Also YES I'm so glad you find Charles adorable ;)


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