Okay, I know you really want to know about the books we’re flogging, right? You lucky people, I have two—count them, two!—releases in June. I’ve already posted on THE MARRIAGE SPELL, and I thank all of you who’ve made such lovely comments about the story.
But I haven’t said much about PETALS IN THE STORM. Granted, it’s a reissue with roots that go way back, but I’m the sort who tends to care about people and things indefinitely, so I’m still very fond of the characters and story. In fact, Petals (I don’t like to use initials for this book because that would be PITS <g>) started life as a very long Signet Regency. THE CONTROVERSIAL COUNTESS was the fourth traditional Regency I’d written, and the one where I realized that the longer, more adventurous Regency historical was really where I belonged. (Two of my first four Signet Regencies, nominally 75K words, had drafted around 120K. And the plots tended to be pretty active.)
The hero of Petals, Rafael Whitbourne, Duke of Candover, had a walk-on role in my previous book, The Would-Be Widow. He was your basic dark, disdainful duke, but in his last scene, he showed a flash of vulnerability that intrigued me. He was a man who had loved and lost, so naturally I wanted to write a book about him.
I adore the smoldering intensity of lost-love-regained stories (later I learned they’re called reunion stories, but I like my name better), so I sent Rafe off to the Paris peace conference that was held after Waterloo to decide what to do about France since Napoleon had blown up the hard work of the Congress of Vienna after he escaped from Elba. Rafe could move in the highest circles, so he was asked to listen to what was said and pass information to British intelligence. He’s told to work with a mysterious and highly talented Hungarian countess called Magda Janos, who spies for the British.
He meets the countess—and finds that she’s the very British Margot Ashton–the only woman he’d ever loved, and whom he’d thought dead for a dozen years. They’d parted on very bad terms, with anger and recriminations. But stubborn, rather arrogant, Rafe learns that the past isn’t what he thought, and dammit, Maggie is still the only woman he’s ever loved. After a lot of adventures and major humbling on Rafe’s part, they work out their problems.
Even though the book was published as a Signet Regency, it had the plot and soul of a historical. So several years later, when I was writing historicals and decided to do my Fallen Angels trilogy (yes, this is the seven book trilogy <g>), I was thinking about archangel names and wishing I could use Rafael, because it’s a good name and Rafe would fit right in with this crowd.
Bingo! Because NAL was crash publishing the first Fallen Angels book, THUNDER AND ROSES, to launch their Topaz imprint, I was going to have a gap between books. So I suggested to my editor that I revise The Controversial Countess into a Fallen Angels book. She thought that was a fine idea, and the result was Petals. Editing the book into a historical took less time than writing a new one, which was good for my scheduling, and indeed, Rafe fit in beautifully with the other Fallen Angels. The revision polished the writing, removed some Regency-isms, and became a little sexier. It was the same story and characters, but better suited to publication as a historical romance.
I had two main thoughts in mind as I wrote the original story. English aristocratic males were often raised in ways that would make them fairly harsh and unlovable in real life. At the least, they would tend to have trouble expressing themselves emotionally. This is one reason my heroes have often suffered greatly: to increase their empathy and make them more believable as romantic heroes. (Besides, torturing heroes is fun. <eg>) In Petals, Rafe starts as the typical dark, arrogant tempered duke, and is greatly improved by learning some painful truths.
For Margot, the heroine, I was interested in contemplating the aftereffects of serious trauma. She has also suffered greatly, and become stronger in the mended places. Nonetheless, it takes Rafe’s love and acceptance to complete the last bit of healing. And lest you think that her recovery is too improbable—something all too similar to Maggie’s trauma happened to a friend of mine. Yes, healing is possible. (Some of Margot’s thoughts reflect things I learned from my friend.)
So I still love the book and Margot and Rafe, and if you haven’t read it and think you might like the story by all means, read it!
As an aside, when I first started writing the story, I needed a foil for Maggie, so in a finger snap, I created Robin Andreville, the blond, enigmatic English spy who has been her friend and mentor. He intrigued me so much that I went on to write him into the book that became The Rogue and the Runaway, and later ANGEL ROGUE. AR will be reissued in November, the last Fallen Angels book to be reissued. But that’s a story for another day.
Mary Jo, thinking back on how researching this book pre-internet was a lot of hard work!