A few years ago a publisher who shall remain nameless told
me that the Regency traditional with sex didn’t fit in the market, that it
wouldn’t work. That was when I’d written a book subsequently called “Noblesse
Oblige.” Either, they said, tone down the sex or forget the history.
I sold the book to a small publisher and it did remarkably
well, won awards and sold very nicely. Recently I got the rights back from the
publisher, and after a light edit and a new cover, I put it up on Kindle and
some other platforms. I just didn’t want it to die, because it was a book of my
heart, which was probably why it didn’t fit anywhere. I’m astonished at how
well it’s done since.
It also features my one and only duke. Dukes abound in
historical romance, but not in my work. I decided that I’d do a duke when I needed
to, and this book really needed the oomph a duke brings to a story. The hero
needed it. At first the fact that plain old Mr. Rivers was a duke in disguise
was a secret, but it’s impossible to give an idea of what most of the book is
about without revealing it, so the mild spoiler came into being. Mild because
the heroine, Marianne, and the characters around her are the only ones who don’t
know what’s in front of them, and some do, but choose to keep Jerome’s secret.
The idea came when I read about the King trying to stay at a
spa as a private man and failing miserably, but why not, I thought, why shouldn’t
someone a bit less instantly recognisable get away with it?
Jerome just wants to get away from the pomp and circumstance
for a week or two, so he goes to Scarborough every year, where he meets
Marianne, paid companion to vulgar Mrs. Middleton, who is looking for a good
time. Spas were sometimes places where ordinary behaviour was relaxed a bit, so
the perfect place for unattached men to meet unattached women, and even indulge
in a little discreet naughtiness. Not that there’s anything like that between
Marianne and Jerome, not at that stage, anyway.
Although there are some erotic scenes, they are marital
ones, and they do involve two characters who love each other very much
exploring their own sensuality and each other’s. I loved writing them, because
it’s not very often the romance writer gets the chance to write scenes like this.
The conflict comes from other sources. I tried very hard to avoid the clichés of
the awful mother-in-law, the rake who will ‘do’ anything in a skirt, and other tropes
that have become ubiquitous in the genre. I wanted to write about the real
Regency, the period that existed, but I wanted to make it sexy. For me, the
Regency has always been sexy, but it doesn’t have to be overt.
Jerome and Marianne have more to face. As soon as they
become engaged the attacks start, and soon it’s obvious that Someone has Got It
In for them. Since I wanted to explore how their crises affected their
characters and how they developed under fire, I didn’t make the mystery too
mysterious. It wasn’t important. But I did create some characters and revisit
some places I still love.
Scarborough, for instance, has a perfect little spa
building, an elegant small rotunda, that for a time in this period was a
fashionable place to go for people in the north. York was a centre of northern
culture, a place the highest in the land might gather for social events. It had
a theatre, elegant shops, wonderful Georgian houses. And the house itself,
based on Castle Howard, which is situated half way between Scarborough and
York. I set it a few miles away, and it became Riverscourt Abbey, an elegant
private dwelling and one of the glories of the north.
In Regency England, a woman
without inherited wealth had few options. Marianne Noble decided to
be a lady's companion. Working for the wealthy but vulgar widow Mrs.
Middleton is sometimes a trial, but never more than when, on a visit
to the fashionable spa town of Scarborough, Mrs. Middleton sets her
sights on the handsome Jerome Rivers. Because Marianne wants him for
Jerome is hoping to escape from the pressures of his life, but instead
meets the one woman he knows he will love for the rest of his life.
Can Marianne cope with marriage to a man she sees as a simple country
gentleman but who turns out to be so much more? If that wasn't difficult
enough, someone seems determined to kill Jerome, or Marianne, or both
Will Marianne cope with her new position in life? Will they discover
who wants them dead? With only love to sustain them, Marianne and
Jerome must trust each other and discover the truth.
You can buy the book from Amazon here
Labels: Cinderella story, duke, Lynne Connolly, Noblesse Oblige, regency romance