Thank you again, Robyn. Your many suggestions and pieces of advice are most helpful.

Because I've been discussing my protag's relationship with his lord so much on these threads, I might have given you the impression that my story is primarily about that. Well, I misled you---unwittingly, of course. The story actually focuses on Collen and Teleri, on their growing relationship. So yes, it's a romance. HEA and all.

If it were about Collen and Madoc, it would be, as you suggested, a straight historical. Actually, a historical fantasy; there are elements of magic in it that are essential to the premise, and which are going on during from early on. But it takes a while for the protag to discover this.

Yes, Madoc is essential to the plot. He's an antagonist---but not quite a villain. I've noticed that in most of my works, especially my more recent ones, there is no designated villain. The "bad guy" is fate, or an internal weakness, or both.

You've been a great help to me in fleshing out my characters. Your suggestion about playing up Collen's admirable qualities is particularly useful.

This is true especially early on, when I have to hook the reader. If he's just another flunky, they probably wouldn't read on. I'm trying to present his strengths, such as his intelligence and sensitivity, as well as his weaknesses---largely that which is keeping him from manifesting his strengths.

And of course, there must be something inside him that would make Teleri fall in love with him, and vice-versa. One friend of mine who's been published by a major company for 20 years recently noted on a blog that when the focal relationship in a romance is discussed, usually it's mostly about what keeps the hero and heroine apart. But we mustn't lose sight of what draws them together and keeps them together.

And---just my opinion---it sure helps if it's not just a plot contrivance. For example: John and Mary are in a loveless marriage of convenience. The only positive aspect of their relationship appears when they stop arguing long enough to have sex---terrific sex, of course; they discover they really have the hots for each other in these interludes between fights. She gets pregnant and now they've got to make their marriage work. The reluctant groom who formerly would have nothing to do with family life becomes the perfect husband and father.

That's three major contrivances in one plot. And let's face it, this sort of romance is wildly popular. But not with me!

I'd rather read about a couple who comes together naturally. Their story should convince me that their love could happen in real life. In short, it should feel right. Otherwise, I'm not buying, even if a zillion other readers are.