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!

A real duke

Tf2012Tempting Fortune has just been reissued.You can read an excerpt here.

Yes, the cover is odd for a Georgian romance with a short, red-haired, quite plain and under-endowed heroine, but there you go! The British edition (see below) did a better job, but I think it's too dark in tone and mood. It's accurately portraying Portia on her way to be auctioned off in a brothel, but that is the darkest part of the book.

Covers. So complicated, but this book has had its full share. The original (see below) was created when the publisher was experimenting with new styles for covers and it's all-over foil. As a result it doesn't reproduce well, and even on the shelf the light  can blank the whole thing out.  I don't think they tried that again.

Tempting Fortune is the second book of the main Malloren series

It was first published in 1995. The hero is Lord Arcenbryght Malloren, the second son, who has an edgy relationship with his half-brother, the Marquess of Rothgar. He's a more fiery man and likes risk. Rothgar has turned him from gaming onto handling the family's business affairs and investments, but there's risk there, too, because in those days the shareholders of a company were liable for all losses.

That would curb some of the wild investments we see today, wouldn't it?Tfold

The book is about gambling, with money and with other things. It seems a suitable theme for the middle of the eighteenth century when a passion for games of chance gripped everyone, but it was combined with an exhilarated exploration of new ways and new ideas the Enlightenment. To the visionaries of this time nothing seemed impossible, and they had no doubt that the new would be wonderful. They had not learned as we have that progress inevitably brings costs. Or perhaps they simply did not care.

Who's the real duke, then?

Bryght's business partner, the Duke of Bridgewater.

My author's note from Tempting Fortune.

I'm reproducing here an edited version of the author's note from the back of the book. It was the first meaty one I did because I found myself trying to explain the Duke of Bridgwater's canals in the text. Definite information dumping. Not good.

BridgewaterThe Duke of Bridgewater was just such a visionary.

It's hard to tell now what drove him, though the fact that he had grown up a sickly youth called the Poor Duke may have had something to do with it. (A string of short-lived predecessors had bankrupted the dukedom.) Perhaps he was destined by his title, for it is intriguing that Bridgewater should be the first person in England to attempt the construction of an aqueduct, a "water bridge."

Love had something to do with it, though, for it was after his betrothed wife jilted him that he devoted all his energies to construction.

Elizabeth, Duchess of Hamilton, was one of the famous Gunning sisters who had taken London by storm, much like modern pop stars. The king had to order them an escort of the Guards to keep back the adoring crowds when they walked the streets.  Maria, the elder sister married Lord Coventry. Elizabeth married the dissolute Duke of Hamilton and was soon left a rich widow. Bridgewater was just back from his Grand Tour, and still a young man, but he fell deeply in love, proposed, and was accepted. Elizabeth, however, changed her mind and chose instead a Colonel Campbell, who would one day be the Duke of Argyll. Thus, Elizabeth Gunning married two dukes and jilted a third, and what's more, was in time the mother of four.

Bridgewater turned his back on matrimony and became entranced with construction.

In the beginning, his plan was modest — no more than to use the drainage channel from his mine to float coal a short distance. But then he saw the advantages of extending the waterway to Manchester. Manchester was a new city, growing rapidly as the spinning and weaving of cotton became an industry. Development there was being held back by the high price of fuel. The Poor Duke saw the opportunity to make a lot of money.

Even then, Bridgewater's plan was merely to link up with an established river-rout using the River Irwell. However, the existing Mersey and Irwell Navigation Company demanded an extortionate rate to use their system, and Bridgewater took the bold leap of planning a canal all the way, one which would leap the Irwell with an aqueduct.

Nearly everyone thought him mad. No one had constructed a canal in England since Roman times, and his engineers  — Brindley and Gilbert — were largely self-taught, but Bridgewater at only twenty-four proved determined. When he failed to raise money by other means, he sold or mortgaged just about everything he had and went around soliciting small loans from anyone with money to spare.

Money wasn't the only problem, though.

Canal construction required a number of acts of parliament, and those proved hard to get. As the duke complains in Tempting Fortune, bribery was a way of life in London. In addition, there were many honest doubters. In order to persuade the committee of Parliament to approve the act, Brindley had to build a working model of the aqueduct in front of them.

To add to the problems, the real one began to fail as the first water ran through it. It was a minor flaw, however, and the engineers fixed it, working without sophisticated plans, almost by string and sealing wax. Thereafter people made special trips to see this modern marvel, and to watch ships sail through the air. Beneath, the proprietors of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation Company gnashed their teeth and feared the future.

It was the beginning of a new age, the new age Bryght foresees. By the end of the 18th century, England was criss-crossed by canals, which meant cheap, safe transportation of raw materials and finished products. This led to rapid industrial expansion, and Britain was poised for the Victorian age, when it would be the richest and most powerful nation on earth. It can be argued that this was all due to a 24 year old duke, so please don't assume young men or aristocrats are useless. He was a brilliant entrepreneur, and not out of keeping with his age or class.

This all made Bridgewater a very rich man. Bridgold

The profit from his coal mines rose from 406 pounds per annum at the time of this book, 1763, to 48,000 pounds at the time of his death, still unmarried, in 1810. In addition, he had the income from fees for the use of his canals, and from many other ventures such as the land on the new dockland of Liverpool mentioned in the book. I'm sure Bryght became just as rich in the process, but great wealth was never really his motivation. It was the fascination of new opportunities and the necessary risks that stirred him.

Bridgewater pops up in some other Malloren romances, usually as a desirable marital prospect. Can anyone remember when and where he appears?

What do you think of this real duke and his story? Share your thoughts and your name will go in the hat for a copy of the new edition of Tempting Fortune.



The Stanforth Secrets

Toysss Hi, here's Jo, blatantly promoting my book of the month — The Stanforth Secrets — but with, I hope, interesting stuff.

My first published book was Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed. (Still available.)

For my second, I decided to use my home area as a setting.

I was born and raised in Morecambe, Lancashire, but that's a Victorian sea-side town. Back in the early 19th century it was a fishing village called Poulton, and nearby Heysham was a bit larger and a great deal more historical. (That's pronounced Hee-sham, by the way, and Morecambe is Morcum.)

There's an excellent historical account here, going back to pre-historic times. As a child I was only aware of the Anglo-Saxon heritage, in particular the hog-back stone — a Norse burial stone, which used to be outside the very old church, available for climbing on. And yes, I confess, I did.

(You know, when I look at this picture again, it looks a lot like a penis to me…. )

The stone has now been moved into a more protected environment, but not everything can be. I liked this description from the above site about a New Stone Age burial site.

"The ancient race used the Long Barrows :- one
is in the allotments just to the North of Heysham School, and stretches
like a whale with its nose to the Pole Star right up to Crimewell Lane
opposite Mount Zion House. The only way to get to it lies through the
garden behind the fish shop."

Heyshamgraves More ancient remains.

There are also graves carved out of the rock. Even as a child that seemed a really hard way to form a grave, but they have the clear shape of a human body. This photo, from this site also shows the area's beauty.

In addition, you can see the ruins of Saint Patrick's chapel. Yes, one of Heysham's claims to fame is that St. Patrick established a mission there and built a church about 444 AD.

Let's return to that hog-back stone.

One version says it marked the burial place of  Thorold the Viking, killed in the Battle of Brunanberh in 937 AD. The important bit for The Stanforth Secrets, however, is that it was discovered and dug up in 1800, so it was still hot news in 1811, when my book is set. In fact, it weaves into the murder and mayhem that lie beneath the secrets there.

Sscov I think it was my editor's idea for this book to be a romantic suspense. Of course at that stage of my career I was a little engine who could. I think I did a reasonable job, but the process convinced me that my writing style and who-dunnit didn't mesh, especially with a setting involving servants. Not only did I have to figure out where the various family members were at suspicious moment, but where all the servants were too!

Let's look at covers.

The original edition was a hardcover from Walker Books, who were then using very plain dust jackets. That was preferable to this odd rendition on the Avon paperback. Yes, the rough character details are more or less right, but Chloe looksSsbare like a Japanese teenager suddenly overcome by a poisoned daisy!

The new one is much better even if she's going to catch a nasty cold going outside like that.

I hope you enjoy — or have enjoyed — the twists and turns as well as the romance. Forbidden love. Perhaps "survivor guilt." Passions that must be restrained, in part because of the decencies of the time, but also because back then I wouldn't have been allowed to let them get too heated.

Unlike in Chalice of Roses, out last month.

Or Tempting Fortune, out next month in the Tfuk UK. Brothel scene in that one.

And The Secret Duke, out in April.

By the way, I've just put up an excerpt. At the end, there's a period portrait which to me might be Ithorne in his more ducal mode. Sober, thoughtful, book in hand.


Oh, talking of character pictures, I found this one that I thought could be Chloe considering the predicament she finds herself in. You'll see that it's not wildly different to the woman on the cover except that her hair is up.

 So, what do you think of the character pictures?

Do you like to know that a setting has particular importance for an author, or doesn't that matter to you?

Anyone got spring yet? That's the scene from my kitchen window here in Whitby!

I'll give a copy of The Stanforth Secrets to one lucky comment-maker here.