Villain to Hero?

by Mary Jo

Today's topic was inspired by a question from Word Wench reader Kay Spears, who 51Vng9sTxILasks:

One of my allllll time favorite romances is/was Mary Jo Putney's The Rake and the Reformer aka The Rake.  I love Reginald Davenport…he turned out to be quite a hero. My question for all wenches: How do you take a drunk/ licentious/ corrupt/ not-hero-material man and redeem him? And, when you're writing this character, do you recognize him as hero material? Or, does it come as a surprise when readers start wanting him as a hero?

MJP:  I immediately grabbed this topic for a blog, but it's such a great question that other Wenches may pick it up for blogs of their own. For asking this question, Kay Spears will get a book from me. 

Reggie Davenport made his debut in my very first Signet Regency, The Diabolical Baron. Since it was my first book, I was feeling my way and just wanted an antagonist for my hero, Richard, a Waterloo veteran who has learned that he's heir to the Wargrave earldom, a responsibility he isn't sure he wants.  Reggie is his cousin who has long thought that he was the heir. 

 

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The Diabolical Baron!

MaryJoPutney_TheDiabolicalBaron_800The Return of The Diabolical Baron!

by Mary Jo

I've been slowly reissuing my older books digitally, and now the time has arrived to send my very first Signet Regency, The Diabolical Baron, back into the world.  It's the first in my Putney Classics Series, which will include Carousel of Hearts and Lady of Fortune. 

Back when I was writing my Fallen Angels Series, my publisher asked me to revise several of my early Signet Regencies into historical romances.  I was happy to do that with some of the stories that became Petals in the Storm, Angel Rogue, The Bargain, and The Rake, but I didn't feel that was appropriate for the three books I'm calling Putney Classics.  These stories are just too traditional Regency to become rewritten as longer, sexier historical romances. 

So, say hello to the newest edition of The Diabolical Baron! To this day, it's an object of wonder to me.  I started writing the book three months after buying my first computer for my design business.  I'd always had stories in my head (I thought everyone did!) so I decided to see if I write a story myself. 

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The Bargain: “There’s something about that story…”

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

This week, Kensington has reissued my early romance, The Bargain, which got me to thinking about the long journey this story has.  It started life as my third Signet Regency, The Would Be Widow.  I was very much a neophyte at the time, and several of my writing traits first appeared here.  

To begin with, I connected the story to my first book, The Diabolical Baron, by making the hero of The Baron the best friend of the hero of the Widow, and a key player in the story.  Without even realizing it, I had started writing a community, and that has served me well as those books turned into a de facto series, and series are really popular now!

TheBargain CoverSecondly, this was the first book where there was a difficult man who proved unexpectedly interesting at the last moment, so naturally I had to immediately write a book about him. (The man was Rafael Whitbourne, the Duke of Candover, and his book was The Controversial Countess, later revised as Petals in the Storm, about which more anon.  Reggie Davenport in The Diabolical Baron was a similarly problematic character who ended up with his own book: The Rake and the Reformer, now The Rake.  But I didn't write that for another year or two.)

The Would Be Widow is a perfect title for this story: a young woman needs to marry by her 25th birthday in order to secure her inheritance and she doesn't want to marry at random when she has her eye on a man she really wants, and he seems interested in her, too.  It's not long after Waterloo, so she visits a London military hospital to see a friend, and is struck with the brilliant idea of marrying a dying man, which will fulfill the terms of her father's will while soon freeing her to pursue the man she wants.

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