Release Day: Devices & Desires

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His True Love Has His Heart…But Can He Win Hers?

Happy New Year, everyone! And Happy Chinese New Year, which is just around the corner (2/8/16)!

What better time than to announce the arrival of a new book and the start of a new series? Devices & Desires, the first novel in my historical series The Lyons Pride, is out today, on the following digital platforms:

Kindle  Nook  iBooks  Kobo  GooglePlay

It’s also on sale for 3.99 until the end of January, after which it will be 4.99. A print edition is in the works and should be available soon.

The Story Behind the Story: The idea for The Lyons Pride has been percolating since December 2012, while I was promoting my first book, Waltz with a Stranger. Initially a throwaway line in one of the many blog posts I was writing at the time, the idea took root and germinated practically overnight, like Jack’s beanstalk! As I was committed to readying my second book, A Song at Twilight, for publication, it was some time before I could pursue this project, but once I had a hand free, it was full steam ahead!

The primary influence for the series and especially the first book, Devices & Desires, was the brilliant, biting historical drama, The Lion in Winter. It was originally a play by James Goldman, but people are probably most familiar with the 1968 film version, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn as estranged royal spouses Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who fight over everything from the succession–in question after the death of their eldest son, Henry the Young King–to the loyalty of their surviving sons: Richard (later the Lionheart), Geoffrey (Duke of Brittany), and John (known as Lackland).

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The Brothers Plantagenet: from left, John, Geoffrey, and Richard

I first saw the film when I was in high school, and the performances and razor-sharp dialogue blew me away. And I also read the play to see if I could pick up more nuances that the film might have omitted (there were a couple, but by and large, the film adheres closely to the play). It ended up being one of the films that’s stayed with me over the years, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that it inspired my new series. Who might these people be in Victorian England, approximately 700 years after the setting of the film, and how would their drama play out in a different historical context? And was it even possible for this charming, ruthless, contentious, too-clever-for-its-own-good family to earn the happy ending that eluded its historical counterpart?

The enigmatic Geoffrey, of whose existence I’d been unaware before the film and who predeceased his parents (he died of injuries sustained in a tournament in 1186), became my entry point–as Lord Gervase Lyons. Since Devices & Desires is a homage rather than a slavish updating of The Lion in Winter, I had no qualms about taking Gervase’s life in a somewhat different direction–especially when it came to romance–while keeping the family dynamics and his role in them largely intact. Gervase also owes a debt to Lord Peter Wimsey and Francis Crawford of Lymond, two favorite heroes of mine who use their wit, along with wordplay, as a weapon and as armor. They also happen, like Gervase, to be younger sons trying to forge their own path in a world where eldest sons are usually handed everything on a plate.

To balance cool, cerebral Gervase, I created Lady Margaret Carlisle, herself loosely based on Princess Marguerite of France, who was married to Henry the Young King. Not much is known about the historical Marguerite, so I could develop Margaret as I desired–as a sane, sensible, warm-hearted heroine strong enough to stand up to the Lyons Pride and smart enough to be the hero’s perfect match. Though it takes her a while to see it!

Although Devices & Desires wasn’t an easy story to tell–I completed it during one of the most stressful years of my life–my affection for it and its characters never waned. I hope you enjoy reading it as much–or more–as I enjoyed writing it. Minus the stress, of course.

Happy reading!

Wuthering Hearts: Brontës and Valentines

250px-The_Brontë_Sisters_by_Patrick_Branwell_Brontë_restoredOne of my favorite Valentine’s Day stories centers on the Brontë sisters. So much tragedy surrounds the brief lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne that it’s a pleasant change of pace to read about the good things that happened to them. One of which was their friendship with William Weightman, their father’s charming young curate. (Many speculate that at least one of the sisters was secretly in love with him.)

weightmnAlthough Weightman succumbed to a cholera epidemic in 1842, he brightened the Brontës’ lives during his time in Haworth. One of the nicest things he did was to send Valentines to the sisters and their friend Ellen Nussey, on hearing that none of them had ever received one. Weightman even walked ten miles to Bradford to post them anonymously, though the girls soon discovered the ruse–and returned the favor by writing their benefactor the following poem:

‘A Rowland for your Oliver˛ˇ

We think you’ve justly earned;
You sent us each a valentine,
Your gift is now returned.
We cannot write or talk like you;
We’re plain folks every one;
You’ve played a clever trick on us,
We thank you for the fun.
Believe us when we frankly say
(Our words, though blunt are true),
At home, abroad, by night or day,
We all wish well to you.
And never may a cloud come o’er
The sunshine of your mind;
Kind friends, warm hearts, and happy hours,
Through life we trust you’ll find.
Where’er you go, however far
In future years you stray,
There shall not want our earnest prayer
To speed you on your way. . .

Victorian Valentine: The message reads "My Dearest Miss, I Send Thee a Kiss"
Victorian Valentine: The message reads “My Dearest Miss, I Send Thee a Kiss”

So while Valentine’s Day has come to be associated mainly with couples, other kinds of love are also worth celebrating on February 14. Whether single or attached, no one is ever the worse for being loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day!