Soldiers

PoppyHi, Jo here composing this on Remembrance Day in the UK, which we mark by wearing poppies. That's not the sort of poppy that bloomed around the trenches in WWI, but it's a picture of my own. There's a famous poem that begins,

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
 Between the crosses, row on row…"

If you don't know it, you can read the rest here. In the end it seems to be pro-war, so I have mixed feelings about it. You?

Let's talk about soldiers in historical fiction. I felt sure that I'd done this subject before, but I've done a skim through the archives and haven't found it, so here goes. Most of us never experience war, either as soldiers or civilians caught up in war, and I'm sure most people are as grateful as I am about that. And yet, war and warriors have strong appeal in fiction going back to Beowulf and beyond. Sharpe

I honestly don't know how I feel about this, for to me war seems all wrong. There has to be a better way. That's probably why I haven't used war as a setting for any of my Georgian or Regency stories, and mostly avoided it in my medievals. I've had some soldier heroes, but not many, and not on active duty. At the same time I have enjoyed some active soldier heroes. I regard Bernard Cornwell (Sharpe etc) as a guilty pleasure because his military heroes don't suffer doubts about right or wrong, and in some cases revel in battle. I suspect he captures warriors of the past more accurately than most modern writers and I enjoy his books. Comment?

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Jo Beverley reveals SEDUCTION IN SILK

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo:

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.

SedinsilksmallSo I think it’s a great dramatic situation, but I also find the fantasy erotic. I wonder how many of the Wench readers feel the same.

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 An Unlikely Countessinterest 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.

MJP:  You’re starting to move into the brave new world of indie publishing.  Could Dtk22you tell us more about your plans there?

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.

The one at the top is the first novella I’ve written directly for e-readers. It’s a sort of lead in to SinS. The protagonists are new, but Perry plays a small but crucial part.

Also, some of my early books have not been available for e-readers, and I’ve just Ubepubcorrected 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!

SedinsilksmallMJP:  Thanks so much for introducing us to Perry and Claris, Jo.  Having read the book, I guarantee it’s every bit as good as it sounds! 

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!

Threads through time

Jobigblue Jo here, with a story to tell that travels from June 1815 to September 2011, though as often with stories it's hard to know where to start.

The beginning

To me, the story starts in January 1991, during the Gulf War. We've become accustomed to real-time, round-the-clock reporting from wars, but January 1991 was the beginning. A reminder — this is before the World Wide Web, so no going on line to catch the latest, and certainly no Twitter! The Web came into existence in prototype in August 1991, and the first image was put there in 1992. The Web as we know it can probably be dated to about 1995.

So, back in early 1991, I like many, sat darkly enthralled watching missiles hit buildings in flares of bright light, trying to remind myself that they were real buildings containing real people because it did look all too much like a video game. Ubwwmj

In January 1991 I was particularly struck by the immediacy, because I was then writing An Unwilling Bride, the second in my Company of Rogues books, which takes place during the time of Napoleon's return to France and the Battle of Waterloo.

Waterloo.

I'd previWaterloo2ously given no thought to war reporting, but as I searched out records of when news of Waterloo reached England, and what that news was, the time lag was striking. When in the book the first news of battle reaches London, Nicholas Delaney says, "It's all happened, of course. Somewhere the living are rejoicing, the dead are dead, and the wounded are suffering under the knife. And mayby tomorrow or the next day we'll find out about it."

(The picture is a photograph taken by author Karen Harbaugh at a re-enactment at Waterloo.)

Yet each night I switched on the TV to see battle raging. I do believe that the presence of war on the TV gave depth to my writing about Waterloo as seen from those waiting helplessly in London. Water

Those waiting could not have anticipated the huge numbers who died at Waterloo. One site estimates it at 6,000 an hour, to a total of over 20,000, with many more wounded.Wellington famously said, "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." 

There's a list of the officers killed, wounded, and missing on June 18th, at the main battle, here. There are lists of the dead here. Go back to this page for more.

The Reaction back in England.

The news trickled across the Channel, some of it wrong, and jubilation at news of victory was muted by rumors about the high casualty rate. When the casualty lists finally arrive, the Rogues who have gathered in London learn that a Rogue is listed among the dead. Not one of the military men who'd returned to fight Napoleon, but Lord Darius Debenham, who'd pulled strings as a duke's son to be taken on as a courier. The lightest, brightest, merriest of them all.

It is then that Nicholas makes a toast. "To all the fallen: may they be forever young in heaven. To all the wounded: may they have strength and heal. To all the bereaved: may they feel joy again. And please God, may there one day be an end to war."

An Unwilling Bride was published in 1992 and sold very well.

It created (and still does create) controversy because the hero, Lucien, hits his wife, Beth, and lives to learn from it, but that is a true part of the book because it's about a private war between two strong, intelligent, proud people forced into a marriage they each find intolerable. (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books are to discuss it as their Sizzling Book Club for September, which should be interesting!)

It won a RITA award, the Golden Leaf award, and Best Historical from Romantic Times.

And that seemed to be that. I moved on to write the next Rogues book, the last of my trad regencies, and begin to write historicals in the medieval and Georgian period.

The next part of the story.

We move on a decade to September 11th, 2001, when we all watched in real time as people died and buildings fell. A few days later, I received an e-mail from a reader, Suzanne Elliott . She'd been working on an entry for a quilt show but given the events she wanted to make a quilt to acknowledge 9/11 and she wanted permission to include Nicholas's words. Of course I gave it; it was an honor. Visit her web site here.

Here's the quilt.  (Click on any image to enlarge it.) Quiltgoldendoor small

A few years later, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq still claiming the lives of soldiers from many countries I was touched to find the quote being used as a sig line on a blog for military wives.

JoQuote The Final Stage.

And now, completely coincidentally, An Unwilling Bride is being reissued almost exactly on the anniversary of September 11th 2001. (With a modern bride running away, but well…. there you go! The original cover above reflects the book much better.)

It's not a book about Waterloo. As I said, it's mostly about a private war and it was only the time sequence of the Rogues books that put it in Spring 1815.

Any connection to 9/11 in only in threads through time.

As I've explained in this blog, there a synchronicity that reminds that as we weave our writer's magic from our imagination we gather in the threads of the world around us, a world that now comes into our living room with full colour immediacy every hour of every day. These threads connect like a web to all we can imagine to produce our novels, each surely shaped by the time in which they're written, no matter the time period of the story.

If it hadn't been for the Gulf War, and CNN's new way of reporting on war, I might not have decided that the truth of war demanded that the dreadful death toll at Waterloo had to include a Rogue.Ubnew

Because my mind plays a strong part, too, I couldn't leave Dare dead, but I his existence years later needed an explanation that satisfied my internal truth and so he was revealed to be a victim of drug addiction and a compulsion honour would not let him break. To my surprise, his situation wove back to the beginning of the Rogue's series, written in 1977, when Nicholas Delaney was persuaded to use his amorous skills to obtain a list of secret Napoleonic supporters in Britain. Our creative minds are very complex webs.

There's more about An Unwilling Bride here.

I have no questions to pose on this blog, but I welcome your comments and thoughts, and I will send a copy of the new edition of An Unwilling Bride to a random pick from among them.

May there one day be an end to war,

Jo