Mary Jo Putney’s Silver Lady

Anne here, interviewing Mary Jo Putney about her latest book, SILVER LADY. It’s the first book in a new ‘Dangerous Gifts’ series, but it’s also a return to her Regency world with a touch of the paranormal, where some people are ‘gifted’ with extra sensory abilities, and where many others are prejudiced against them. (The Marriage Spell)

Cover of Silver Lady, By Mary Jo Putney

SILVER LADY has already received some glowing reviews. It’s the Editor’s Pick on Amazon for best romance.  Publishers Weekly called it the start of “an exciting new historical romance series set in 19th-century Cornwall” and recommended it “for readers who like some fantasy in their historical romance and appreciate stories with chosen family and strong women.“

Booklist Reviewer John Charles said it deftly blended “a superbly atmospheric Cornish setting, spot-on historical details, and a danger-riddled plot enhanced with just the right touch of the paranormal.”

Anne: Mary Jo, can you tell us a little more about this world where some people are ‘gifted’ and others hate them for it?

MJP: I’ve always loved reading fantasy because I like the idea that there might be something wonderful just outside the corner of one’s eye.  I’ve done full fledged magical fantasy books (my Guardian series and my Dark Mirror young adult series), but I wanted something subtler, more like the psychic abilities in Jayne Ann Krentz’s books.  Since humankind has a long and terrible history of despising anyone who is different, it was easy to believe that being gifted could arouse hostility. I thought that would make a solid framework for a new series. And indeed it does. <G>

Anne: This new series features a “found family” of people who had been rejected at a young age by their parents because of their ‘gifts’ — ie paranormal abilities.

MJP: I only heard the phrase ‘found family’ relatively recently, but it’s something I’ve done from my earliest books because I was always interested in the friends of my protagonist.  This interest became much more focused with my first long historical series, the Fallen Angels.  I love the idea of people who have had difficulty in their early years finding friends who become closer than blood kin, bonded by absolute trust and mutual caring.  These kinds of found families are the DNA of all my series. In this series, the “Tribe of Tremayne” was created by the gifted Lord and Lady Tremayne.  They have three biological children but they’ve rescued many gifted children who had been discarded by their families. Some children they placed with other gifted families, some they kept, like Bran.

Anne: Bran, the hero of SILVER LADY, was dumped by his noble birth father in a baby farm, where he’d been expected to die, but he and another gifted little boy escaped and found their way to London where they were taken in and adopted by Lord and Lady Tremayne.

Now an adult working for the British government, the adventure starts when Bran’s intuition draws him to investigate something disturbing happening in Cornwall. Tell us about Bran.

MJP:  Bran is reserved, even-tempered, and extraordinarily competent.  His politeness to his rude, angry birth father makes the old bully even angrier. <G>  Bran is a very gifted analyst, good at putting fragments of information together to form a larger picture.  Bran is also very intuitive and sees important matters as shimmering silver.  That leads him down to Cornwall.  He doesn’t know why, only that it’s vital that he go there. (The photo above is by Mark Markstein on Unsplash.)

Anne: The Cornish setting is wonderfully evocative. (Photo on the left is by Thomas Vogel on Unsplash)
Your heroine, the ‘Silver Lady’ of the title is unusual in that for the first part of the book she has no name except ‘Girl’ and can barely communicate. Tell us about her. Was she difficult to write?

MJP:  Not at all.  I’ve always been interested in stories of identity, and an amnesiac situation really emphasizes that.  Bran’s Silver Lady is gifted, and people who want to exploit her talents force a hypnotic amnesia on her.  I thought it was interesting to show her gradually regaining a sense of herself until she has the courage to make a break for freedom.  Once she comes under Bran’s protection, her recovery becomes much faster–and surprises everyone around her!

Anne: Apart from the London opening, the story is mostly set in Cornwall.  Bran is killing two birds with one stone; reconnecting with his estranged noble family, and as a government agent, investigating the disturbing feelings he’s getting from that part of the world – personal and political. It’s the latter that provides the adventure part that’s so often a feature of your books. What sort of research did you do for this?

MJP:  I chose an interesting period in 1803 when the Peace of Amiens is about to be broken, which will send Britain and France into war again.  Since I wanted Cornwall to be the setting, I did some general reading and discovered the Royal Naval Dockyard on the border between Cornwall and Devon. It was vitally important in the ongoing wars with France, and more reading brought me to a disaster several years earlier.  The explosion of the frigate Amphion was an inspiration for what might happen in my story. (That’s a frigate above.)  I’ve found that poking around with research invariably produces possibilities.  In fact, that just happened yesterday with the book I’m working on now.

Anne: Will you give us a short snippet of SILVER LADY please?

MJP: This is from the opening. Rhys and Gwyn Tremayne have been at the theater, but as they’re about to get into their carriage, Gwyn senses something down a dark alley.

“Something, or someone.”  Gwyn drew her cloak more closely around her as she purposefully started threading her way through the mass of waiting carriages and playgoers who were happily discussing the show they’d just seen.

Two turns took them from Covent Garden into a narrow lane.  Halfway down, Gwyn paused, then turned left into a dark alley barely lit by capricious moonlight.  It dead ended at a wall where a pile of rubble had accumulated against the dingy brick. Heedless of her expensive cloak, she knelt on the frozen ground by the rubble and said softly, “You can come out now, my lad.  You’re safe.”

There was a rustling sound but no one appeared. “How does warm food and a fire and a bath sound?” she said in her most persuasive voice.

A child’s voice snarled, “Don’t want no bath!”

“Then we’ll start with the food and the fire,” she said peaceably.  “Will you show yourself?  We won’t hurt you.”

Rhys stood silently behind her, knowing a frightened child would fear a rather large grown man more than a soft-voiced woman.  The rubble shifted and a small, filthy face became visible. A boy child perhaps five or six years old.

Gwyn brushed back a lock of fair hair, then peeled the kidskin glove from her right hand and offered it to the little boy.  He hesitantly took it.  As she clasped his freezing fingers with her warm hand, his eyes widened and he sighed with relief.

“You can tell I’m safe, can’t you?” Gwyn said.

The boy frowned up at Rhys. “You may be, but not sure about him!”

“I’m safe, too,” Rhys said in his most reassuring voice.  “I’m very good at protecting others.”

Unconvinced, the boy narrowed his eyes warily.  As Rhys stood very still, Gwyn said soothingly, “I’m Gwyn Tremayne.  What’s your name?”

The boy hesitated, as if his name was too precious to share.  After a long moment, he said, “Caden.”

“Caden.  That’s a good Cornish or Welsh name.  My husband and I come from Cornish families.”  Knowing there was more to find, her gaze moved back to the rubble pile.  “Your friend can come out, too.”

Caden gasped and jerked away from her.  For a moment she feared he’d try to bolt, but a thin, childish voice emerged from the rubble.  “It’s all right, Cade.  These are the people we came to find.”

An even smaller boy emerged from the rubble, his ragged garments almost indistinguishable from the trash around him.  His gaze on Gwyn, he said, “I’m Bran.”

“For Branok?” Again Gwyn offered her hand and Bran took it without hesitation.  His small fingers felt as if they were carved from ice.  In the darkness it was hard to see the boys clearly.  Though both were dark haired, there was little other resemblance.  Bran’s eyes were light, Caden’s were dark, but the color wasn’t visible in shadows. “Are you brothers?”

The boys exchanged a glance.  “We are now!” Caden said fiercely, challenging anyone who might deny that.

Anne: I love the way those lost little boys claimed each other so fiercely — the essence of “found family.”  (Photo of on the left is by Jonny Gios, on Unsplash.)
What’s next for MJP and the ‘Dangerous Gifts’ series?

MJP:  I’m close to finishing book 2, Golden Lord.  The hero is Caden, Bran’s foster brother who helped them escape from Cornwall to London when they were very small boys.  They’re very close.  Bran is more the strategist, Cade is in charge of cracking heads. <G>

Anne: I can’t wait.
Question for readers: Do you enjoy stories with a touch of paranormal in them? Do you like “found family” stories?
Mary Jo will be giving away a copy of SILVR LADY to someone who leaves a comment. (US only, alas.)

Remembering Mitteleuropa

I’m still locked in mortal combat with the current book, so I’m offering another classic travel blog: a riverboat cruise on the Danube.  Rivers were the interstates of the past, and so much of European civilization developed along the waterways.  How better to explore than in a boat holding maybe 150 friendly, intelligent passengers and serving lots of really good food?

Like a plot element, the idea of a riverboat cruise simmered in my lizard brain for years, and in 2006, I thought it was time to do a cruise in Southern France.  Except that all the French cruises were booked for the time slot we had, and we ended up cruising the Douro River in Northern Portugal. It was great.

This year, I decided it was time to book that French cruise.  Urp. Once again, Southern France along the Rhone was sold out.  Which is how we ended up cruising Danube Riverthe Danube.  Again, it was great—the Mayhem Consultant and I are easily amused, and any interesting new place will be fun.  (Update 2023: we’d booked a French riverboat cruise for autumn 2022, but for a variety of reasons we cancelled it. I think I’m doomed never to travel the French rivers!)

Prague

Our Danube cruise started with a three day pre-cruise extension in Prague, which isn’t on the Danube, but really, how could we go to Eastern Europe and not see Prague?  The city has been an intellectual and creative center for centuries, and under the blighting hand of five decades of Soviet rule, it was spared rapacious developers tearing down beautiful old buildings.

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A Christmas Tart!

ChristmasTar_The Christmas Tart Stands Alone! 

By Mary Jo

I have a weakness for writing Christmas novellas, but many people never read the original anthologies.  This is why I love publishing older novellas independently because good stories deserve a second chance at life.

Because I love writing novellas, in an excess of enthusiasm in the early '90s, I agreed to do two novellas the same year. Ooops!

For the Signet Victorian Christmas anthology, I wrote my Beauty and the Beast story, The Black Beast of Belleterre, which had to be written really fast!

Then I had to write another story really fast for the Signet Regency Christmas anthology.  Hence The Christmas TartI have no idea where the story idea came from, other than the fact that I wanted a light, suspension-of-disbelief-type story.

 

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One Wicked Winter Night

OneWickedWinterNightby Mary Jo

I really enjoy writing novellas because the whole process of "Inspiration! Disillusion! Panic! Frantic finishing! then, Success!" is compressed into a much shorter time span.  It's also possible to explore story ideas that aren't complex enough for a full length novel, but will still be fun.  So I was happy when Kensington invited me to be in a Christmas anthology with two other Kensington historical authors, Madeline Hunter and Sabrina Jeffries.

Seduction on a Snowy Night was published in 2019 in a trade paper edition, and the next year in a mass market size.  Now Kensington has come up with the very fun idea of publishing each of the novellas separately as a freestanding Christmas novella. Hence my story. One Wicked Winter Night, has just been released with a lovely new cover. 

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Dragons and more!

Because…Dragons!

Mary Jo

DragonAudioI'm been under the deadline hammer for far too long, and even missed the fact that the audiobook edition of my novella, The Dragon and the Dark Knight, had gone live in July!  (The time it takes for audio platforms to approve projects various greatly.) The narrator is the ever wonderful Siobhan Waring.

Since time is in short supply, I decided to rerun the blog I did in 2020 when the e-book version was released. The Dragon and the Dark Knight!  

I've written a number of novellas and shorter works because they're an enjoyable change of pace and give me the chance to go to new and different places. They can also be quirkier or more humorous than full length novels.  In short–fun! 

 

 

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