Devilish Montague will be out in little over a month, and I’m waiting in some trepidation of the advance reviews. PW has already produced the usual “Intriguing protagonists, quirky secondary characters, and a surprising plot make for an endearing sequel to Rice's 2010 Regency The Wicked Wyckerly” and they generously added a line about the “clever, foul-mouthed parrots.” I’m waiting for the first reviewer to recognize that one of those quirky secondary characters has Asperger’s—not a problem that I could actually name in an historical!
But back to the parrots—the entire reason for this novel. My heroine is called the Byrd Lady, not just because her name is Byrd-Carrington, but because as a child, she collected birds and still knows more about them than anyone in the ton. But no one seems to understand that she does this for her odd younger brother, who is obsessed with birds, and at best, can be called socially inept . Recovering the African grey parrots Jocelyn’s older step-brother sold begins the antics that bring my hero and heroine together.
After researching parrots I chose African greys because they were utterly perfect for my plot—they mimic sounds so well that it’s sometimes difficult to tell them from the humans they imitate. Or the teapot whistles. Highly intelligent birds, they can be taught to identify colors and actions. I worried a bit about introducing them to the Regency era until I learned they were so admired that they can even be traced back to Henry VIII’s and Marie Antoinette’s courts. And if Andrew Jackson could have a parrot that cursed at his funeral, and Queen Victoria could own a grey that sang “God Save the Queen,” I saw no reason my creatures couldn’t run the plot—outside the romance, of course.
Birds have apparently been kept as pets for as far back in time as we can trace. They can be found in Egyptian hieroglypics, as pets for aristocrats in ancient Greece, and mynahs have been sacred in India for two thousand years. Alexander the Great had parrots with him in 327 BC. And of course, birds have been an export from Africa and the Caribbean for as long as there were traders. The characters in Treasure Island might have started the cliché of a parrot-carrying pirate, but pirates actually did trade in parrots, just as they traded in rum and sugar and anything else they could steal, salvage, or barter. So if pirates had pets, parrots would be an excellent choice, as well as an early-warning system in case of invasion!
I would love to own a parrot, but like dogs, they need their companions with them, and I travel too frequently to keep one happy. Parrots can live fifty years or longer, so they really need to have guardians appointed to care for them in the event of their caretaker’s incapacity, just like children. I daresay my daughter would shoot me if I left her a parrot! So I have birdfeeders all around the house and watch the finches and woodpeckers and cardinals and talk to myself rather than a pet. Besides, the finches don’t talk back.
In the interest of bird antics, Jo Beverley will give away a copy of her FORBIDDEN MAGIC with her pet parrot for a random reader to enjoy! Does anyone out there have bird pets?