Susan here, very pleased today to be interviewing Jo Beverley about her latest release, A Shocking Delight, new this week in stores and online–and already getting much-deserved praise, including a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews:
"Beverley, with her masterful writing and keen knowledge of the Regency, sets the tone for a new novel in the Rogues series. With her ability to build sexual tension and emotional intensity into a lively story, she combines dynamic characters with a secret, smugglers, and a cast of secondary characters, including a few of those wickedly handsome rogues from previous novels to round out the plot. Simply savor this read."
The man she shouldn’t want. The woman he shouldn’t marry…
David Kerslake, smuggling master from The Dragon's Bride, is now Earl of Wyvern and must survive the ton as well as the Preventive Officers. Lucy Potter, daughter of a wealthy merchant, is more interested in trade than in the men after her dowry . . . but in London, when she meets the notorious Earl of Wyvern, her resolve weakens—even though she senses danger . . . . The Earl of Wyvern has a dark secret—but must win a rich bride. Lucinda Potter seems ideal—especially because at first glance, she seems unlikely to realize the truth . . . but soon, marrying Lucy would mean living a lie with the woman he has come to love. . . .
Susan: Jo, please tell us something about A Shocking Delight.
Jo: The title comes straight out of the book, because both Lucy and David are avoiding love. Lucy doesn't want to fall in love because marriage would hinder her ambitions, and David needs to make a cool-headed marriage to a rich but feather-witted woman. Love gets them anyway, and the delight is both a shock and irresistible.
It came directly from Lucy, from this passage. David has realized that such a sharp-witted bride would be a disastrous, but she's begun to accept his attractions. Being a lady who goes after what she wants, she teases him into pretending to woo her for a little while to deter her irritating suitors. Tangled in her expert negotiating skills, he demands a kiss a day as payment.
She’d won the means to spend time with him, to learn him better, to find the way. She had to suppress a smile at how he’d seen the daily kiss as a bargaining point when the prospect filled her with a shocking delight.
Susan: She is very clever, even though she's trying to hide it in order to fit in with the ton.
Jo: Lucy is the only child of a very wealthy London merchant, and he's involved her in his world. She's always assumed she was his heir and successor, but her mother has died and he plans to remarry with the clear desire to have a son to follow in his footsteps. He even encourages her to take part in the ton season and find a titled husband. He doesn't understand her at all.
She's devastated, but she goes to Mayfair as an escape while she decides what to do. She can't possibly marry at this point, as it will make it even more challenging to be accepted in the man's world of business and trade, but she's looking forward to the entertainments. However her fortune means she's pestered by fortune hunters.
Susan: David should have been one of them, shouldn't he?
Jo: Definitely. He's in London to find as rich a bride as possible. At the end of my novel The Dragon's Bride, David, the heroine's brother, reluctantly agrees to claim legitimacy which means he'll be Earl of Wyvern. He does it for his sister, and it is a sacrifice. He hasn't been raised to fill such a position, he's the local smuggling master, and the earldom's coffers are empty. If he's to look after all his responsibilities he must marry money. He targets Lucy, but soon realizes she's too clever not to realize that her husband has a secret life as a smuggler. To make it worse, at their first meeting he discovers she's firmly opposed to the Free Trade.
David says, “I wouldn’t have thought the Freetrade of interest to anyone in the City.”
“There, sir, you are wrong. Those wretches bring in foreign goods to compete with British-made ones, and they avoid taxes that honest traders must pay. In addition, I understand their practices are vile.”
He resolves to seek another bride, but where she's concerned his will is weak.
One of the themes of the book is love at first sight. Both David and Lucy's parents made scandalous matches because of rampant love; matches that could have been even more damaging than they were. Both David as Lucy are sure they can be more resolutely sensible.
Question for the blog: Do you believe in love at first sight? Please comment below!
Susan:A Shocking Delight is a captivating story that not only develops a strong new romantic relationship, but is also a richly detailed historical tale of smuggling along the English coast as well as a story of the differences in English society during the Regency era. What did you find most interesting as a writer—the smuggling or the chance to explore layers of Regency society, or all of the above?
Jo: Oh, all of it. I enjoy anything I find when I peel back a page. The smuggling part was familiar to me, however, because I'd researched that for The Dragon's Bride. (Image: Dragon's Bride, UK cover)
The contrast between society in the City of London and the West End was fun to unfold through Lucy and her family and friends. The City (think Wall Street) and the West End (the ton areas of St. James and Mayfair) are still distinct areas today, but in Regency times the distinctions were much clearer. They way of life was different, as was the pattern of the days. The City kept hours similar to our working days today, but also similar to the working days elsewhere in the country. When in Town, the ton woke at noon and danced until dawn.
By the way, the City of London leads to a trick question. If you're ever asked about the smallest cities in England, include the City of London, for it is still within those ancient boundaries. The rest is the huge Metropolitan area of London. All the same, I was surprised to find that the population of "greater London" was a million back in the Regency.
Susan: David is both a titled lord and a free trader. What qualities did you give him to create such an irresistible hero — not only an aristocratic gentleman, but a clever free trader and a complex and fascinating man? Why do smugglers make such interesting romantic heroes?
Jo: I'm glad you found him irresistible. I like him a lot, and readers have been asking for his story ever since The Dragon's Bride came out. However, I don't think he's complex so much as having complexity forced upon him. He's intelligent, competent, honorable and kind, so he would have done something with his life, but without interference he'd have chosen a local sweetheart, a simple home in Devon, and a family similar to the one in which he was raised.
One of the things I realized as I wrote the book is that there's a lot of anger inside him about the choices forced upon him. It does burst out at times, but most of the time he accepts the consequences of the choices he's made. I like that in a person. Readers might be interested in the scene where he agrees to claim the earldom. I rewrote and expanded it from The Dragon's Bride, intending to use it as a prologue for A Shocking Delight, but then changed my mind. I've put it up on line here.
Funny that you say smugglers make interesting heroes, because I don't find criminals admirable. After all, there's nearly always a victim. I don't think I've written any other such hero. The debates Lucy and David have over the rights and wrongs of smuggling reflect my own conflicted views. Extremely high excise taxes are foolish because they foster smuggling, but smuggling is wicked because it undercuts legitimate, hard-working businesses. I think we find it a little bit acceptable because we think of the victim as the government, but that really means the community, the taxpayer, and ordinary people. In particular, as Lucy points out, the law-abiding traders.
Question for the blog: Anyone have an opinion about criminal heroes or heroines?
Susan: I’ll answer that, if I may, having brought up the question of smuggling heroes, and it's a great discussion point to toss around in the comments section too. I've written smuggling heroes in Scottish historical romance, stories set in an era when a good number of Scottish smugglers were rebelling against the English government rather than breaking laws for personal gain. So smuggling, especially of Highland whiskey, was another expression of the longstanding contention with England. Certainly there were criminally minded smugglers everywhere, with some very nasty characters in both England and Scotland (particularly the Lowlands). But Scots–especially Highlanders–did not agree that making and transporting their whiskey was a crime. They considered it a right. The Scots resisted being told how they could use the barley in their fields and the water in their streams. So it's quite plausible to have a heroic whiskey smuggler in Scotland. In part it's a fundamental difference separated by a border.
True, it's a trickier situation in England, where the perspective was different. They too resisted unfair laws, but weren't motivated by an old cultural urge for freedom. While sticking to their rights can lend Scottish smugglers a heroic angle, English smugglers like the Earl of Wyvern have a slightly different perspective. Sometimes a hero has a good reason to commit a crime — if he believes it's not crime but a dispute of human rights. I love smuggling books for the added adventure, the danger and the characters' willingness to take risks for powerful reasons. The Earl of Wyvern is one of those heroes. But the truly criminal smugglers? They're the Baddies!
Susan: Lucy perhaps faces even more challenges than David in A Shocking Delight, because the life she thought she had falls away. How much of that was planned?
Jo: I don't plan my books, because I can't work that way, so I experienced those challenges through Lucy, and some surprised me. Of course I opened with the huge change of her mother's death having happened the year before, but then we have her father's news, which pulls the rug out from under her feet.
She bounces back, but going into the ton and meeting new people and situations keeps the changes coming. She enjoys many aspects of the beau monde, but that changes her, which she finds uncomfortable. Change always includes a loss of some things that were normal before, and all this is stressful. In addition, she's dealing with her irrational, potentially ruinous attraction to the mysterious Earl of Wyvern. Some of his appeal is because he, too, is an outsider and she senses similar tension within him.
And then she's challenged to leave not only the City of London, but the metropolis itself and go to the wilderness — ie the remote Devon coast. Of course she meets every challenge. I find her as delightful as David does, and I hope readers do, too. (Illustration, Beer Harbor, Coast of Devon)
Susan: Your books are often extensions of series. A Shocking Delight is a spin-off within the Company of Rogues series, and a sequel to Dragon’s Bride. You’ve also extended your Georgian Malloren series. Somehow you always keep things balanced and fresh, with new characters and stories in the forefront, while earlier characters never overtake the scenery. How do you keep track of it all?
Jo: Keeping track is very tricky. There are 15 books in the Rogues World now, written over 25 years, if we don't count that I wrote the first draft of An Arranged Marriage 37 years ago. I started with file cards, moved to ring binders, and now have a wiki and other data management systems, but it's still very difficult. I'm resigned to only being able to do my best. Anyone can look at my Rogues wiki here. You can read what's there, and if you see an error, please let me know. If you find names you don't recognize, you probably haven't missed a book. There are people and places that were cut, and bits from stories I've dabbled with and put aside.
As for characters from previous books, I try to only bring on stage ones who are needed — ie I would have needed that sort of character anyway. It was useful to realize that Maria Vandeimen, from The Demon's Mistress, would have a lot in common with Lucy's mother because they were both aristocratic ladies who'd married merchants. Therefore, they could well have known each other and even been friends. Lucy needed friends and allies.
This business of controlling the appearances of other characters was particularly tricky in A Shocking Delight as it takes place at the same time as two earlier books, To Rescue a Rogue and Lady Beware. All the Rogues gathered in London in To Rescue a Rogue to support Dare Debenham's return to society, and they lingered to help the hero of Lady Beware. So they were all around.
At one point I did have some scenes of massed Rogues and wives because they would have happened, but those scenes would have been too much for new readers so I kept most of the Rogues in the background. I hope fans of the Rogues will enjoy some casual mentions and that new readers will think the references are simply to random members of the beau monde, as in the Duchess of St. Raven's ball.
Susan: The cover is stunning. How does it reflect the story and the character of the heroine?
Jo: Very well! Due to a tight writing schedule my publisher was working on the cover as I was finishing the book. They gave me some input into Lucy and the model is perfect — young, pretty, and meeting the reader's eyes. When I saw the setting, I had to include that gorgeous rich paneling, which meant there had to be some renovations to the earl's house, Crag Wyvern. As it happened that gave insights into David's character for both me and Lucy. And then, of course, there's the ship, which also plays a part.
Thank you, Jo, and best of luck with A Shocking Delight!
Jo will be giving away a copy of ASD to a reader chosen at random from those who comment on this blog. Ask Jo a question, or answer one of hers:
Do you find smugglers romantic?
Do you believe in love at first sight?
If you were a Regency lady with 30,000 pounds of your own, would you marry, or would you set up your own household and live to suit yourself?