I pounced on the opportunity to interview Word Wench Jo Beverley about her new release, Seduction in Silk, just out from Signet Penguin. The story is set in Jo’s Georgian Malloren World, in 1760s England. Jo is the Grand Master (Grand Mistress?) of the marriage of convenience romance, and SiS is another distinguished member of that tribe.
Jo, you once said that you were addicted to marriages of convenience. Could you explain why you enjoy them so much?
JB: I think it’s the forced intimacy between strangers. So many aspects of courtship are familiar in real life, but not many of us, male or female, are pushed into bed with a stranger. I like to pay attention to the man as well as the woman, because it won’t necessarily be easy for him. In An Unwilling Bride, the hero Lucien wonders if he’ll be able to perform, because he realizes he’s never set out to have sex with a woman without desiring her at the time.
MJP: Tell us about the delicious Peregrine Perriam, and his very reluctant lady, Claris!
JB: Perry is one of those characters who turn up and surprise. I can’t even remember how he came to be. In An Unlikely Countess the hero needed a friend, and there was Perry. He was such an odd match for Cate (yes, that’s the hero’s name — Catesby) that I had to come up with a backstory for my own satisfaction. (Cate had a year on the town when young which was so wild that his father tossed him into the army.)
Cate by that time is a career soldier. Perry is a Town Beau. He’s a younger son set to serve his family’s interests in London, at court, in society, in all the offices of power, and in any other sneaky way he can find. He loves it, and has no interest in rural life, which is why inheriting a country manor at the beginning of Seduction in Silk is such a pain in the you-know-where, not to mention the marriage forced on him.
He doesn’t expect to have difficulty in getting an impoverished clergyman’s daughter to the altar. She’ll leap at the chance. He’ll install her in Perriam Manor with the income to do with as she wishes and get back to his real life. When she insists on a marriage in name only, he has no objection at all.
Getting her to that point isn’t easy, however, because Claris has no interest in marriage. In general I find impoverished heroines who are dead set against marriage hard to believe, but Claris has survived her parents’ tortuous marriage and her father’s almost insane domination. Having gained freedom, and having enough money to survive on, she doesn’t want to give it up, especially at the demand of a stranger.
Also, she comes from strong women, on both sides. Perry realizes she has a scandalously eccentric grandmother (who is in the book) and an insanely vengeful virago of a mother. No wonder she tries to shoot him.
She does move into a grander world, however. Here’s a short fun video I made about Georgian dress and Claris.
MJP: What are you working on now for next year?
JB: I’m going back to my Regency world, that of the Company of Rogues. It’s been a while, and readers have been asking for a story about David Kerslake, the heroine’s brother from The Dragon’s Bride. He begins the book as the local smuggling master as well as the Earl of Wyvern’s estate steward. He ends it as the earl with many problems to deal with. A biggie is that the earldom is bankrupt, so he needs to marry money. A Shocking Delight will be out next April.
JB: It is exciting, isn’t it, Mary Jo? You’re ahead of me there. It’s such a great world for authors these days because we’re able to get our work out to readers directly if we choose. I’ve e-pubbed some of my previously published novellas. There’s a page for them here.
Also, some of my early books have not been available for e-readers, and I’ve just corrected that. The first five Company of Rogues books plus the second Malloren, Tempting Fortune, are now e-pubbed, and though I’ve hired help it’s been lovely to be in control of the situation. Though I must say that it’s hard to find stock photos of clean-shaven, fairly slim blond men! Why is that? I even searched Scandinavian sites. With An Unwilling Bride I gave up and have just a woman on the cover. It suits the title that she seem alone.
MJP: Do you have an excerpt of Seduction in Silk to share?
JB: After having been driven off a pistol-point, Perry has returned to Claris’s cottage to lay out the advantages.
“I can’t claim great wealth, Miss Mallow, but I can provide a very comfortable life for my wife. What’s more, and you seem to have failed to grasp this, I’m at your mercy. You may demand what you will.”
“Except, it seems, that you leave and never bother me again.”
“Except that,” he agreed. “But you may continue to live here if you wish, or I can offer Perriam Manor as an alternative residence. It’s of modest size, but in good repair and well furnished, though in an old style. I’m sure it’s cozy in winter and pleasant in summer. It’s surrounded by parkland and gardens that I would judge adequate but ripe for improvement, if gardening is your true delight.”
Claris kept a stony face. “Alas, with you present, sir, all would be spoiled.”
“Then you’ll be delighted to know that I would rarely be there. I’m much engaged in Town matters and can only enjoy rural delights now and then.”
“Even one day a year would be too much.” His amiable confidence was stirring her temper and for once she welcomed it. “Why am I debating this with you?” She loosened her arms to point at the door. “Begone!”
“Consider,” he said, completely unmoved. “You would be the mistress of a comfortable domain, and enjoy its income. Did I not mention that?”
“Will you not leave!”
“The income of the manor would be yours to do with as you wish,” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “You would need for nothing.”
“Except my independence. I would have a husband, a lord and master.”
“Alas, true, but I assure you that I am far too busy to abuse my powers.”
“Busy? What if you have an idle moment, sir? Leave!”
“I must remain until you change your mind.”
Breathing hard, Claris saw he meant it. He was disregarding every word she spoke. “You . . . you . . .” She grabbed the pistol and pointed it.
“Claris . . . ,” Athena said.
“Leave,” she growled, “or I will shoot you.”
The smile widened and his eyes lit.
He was laughing at her?
She cocked the pistol, the click, click loud in the room.
“You won’t fire it,” he said.
“Oh, won’t I?” Claris closed her eyes and squeezed the trigger.
A tremendous boom deafened her.
JP: Clearly Perry doesn’t die, or it’d be a very short and unusual book, but that’s certainly a turning point!
Jo will give away a copy of Seduction in Silk to one commenter between now and midnight Saturday. Share your thoughts on marriages of convenience, and the temptations of shooting a man who just won't listen!