Devilish Montague and Brains

Devilsh low res While most of the wenches were in NYC romping through the RWA conference, I was at home writing blogs and answering interview questions about DEVILISH MONTAGUE, the latest in my Rebellious Sons series. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I prefer to stay home and write. While I love visiting NYC and seeing friends and editors and agents, crowds give me hives. I don’t know how new authors remember those snappy elevator pitches they throw out when asked what they’re working on. I can’t even remember my own name when confronted with that question. I’m not shy. It’s simply the stress of the situation and my natural introversion that creates memory loss. Well, and maybe a mild case of ADD or as Jennifer Crusie calls it, the “importance of shiny things.

I doubt that I’m alone in my inability to finesse social situations. I’m always fascinated with the differences between extroverts and introverts. It’s actually physical, so brain function is also of interest. It’s difficult to portray my fascination with brains in romance, however, since readers Exploding head generally expect our protagonists to be well…heroic, unless they're zombies and eating brains. Painful shyness and Asperger’s don’t generally convey heroic, although Jennifer Ashley did a lovely job in THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE.

But autism and ADD and other forms of social ineptness did not develop with the 20th century just because we learned to identify them. They’ve existed throughout the ages. We simply didn’t understand the problem. Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_figures_sometimes_considered_autistic which gives a list of historical Cavendish figures who could easily have been diagnosed as Asperger’s today. The description of Henry Cavendish is almost textbook accurate. Often, the brain malfunctions causing social ineptness are in the minds of geniuses. I guess it’s hard to have all that complicated wiring and function normally.

So I played with my fascination by including a secondary character with Asperger’s in my MONTAGUE tale. My legally blonde heroine might behave as the “flibbertiwidget” that my hero calls her, but she’s not stupid. Beneath her pretty blonde curls and flirtatious ways is a woman who loves her odd little brother and wants him to have the home where he’d once been happy. Unfortunately, her boorish half-brother has gambled the house away.  The house is in Chelsea, not exactly the social center of the world, and it’s been left to dry rot for years, so it’s not exactly  Cottage valuable to anyone except Jocelyn and her brother. Unfortunately, the extremely brainy, cynical, and violence-prone Blake Montague is the beneficiary of the Chelsea house. He doesn’t want it. But it belongs to his father, and he can’t sell it for the officer’s colors he wants. Access to Jocelyn’s newly acquired inheritance would be a fair trade off for the house, if marriage wasn’t the requirement for obtaining the deed.

Creative Commons AttributionEnglish Cottage – Credit: Pengannel

How surly, brainiac Blake deals with a flaky wife who adores society, a brother-in-law who keeps duck eggs under pillows, a potty-mouthed parrot, a falling down shack of a house, and African grey an encrypted message he’s determined to break should keep most readers entertained for an hour or two, I hope! If you're intrigued, there's an excerpt on my website: http://patriciarice.com/

Since I’m sitting here with a huge box of author’s copies, I’ll happily give one away to a random commenter. To stimulate your thinking caps, what flaws can you tolerate in your heroes and heroines? Which ones are beyond the pale?

Jungle Love

Devilsh low res Pat here:

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 African grey 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 Hieroglyphic 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 Bird3 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?