Monday, September 3, 2012
Richard and Rose and Romantic Suspense.
Why? Because it was for a historical romance. That year I’d had a few releases, and when it came to the awards, I didn’t want to put my books in contention with each other and split the vote. So I decided to put the fourth Richard and Rose book, “Harley Street,” in the Romantic Suspense category. After all, it did have a murder and a mystery in it. But it was the fourth in an ongoing series and the focus of the series was firmly on romance.
I didn’t think I had a chance, especially considering the quality of the entries that year. And I had what I thought was a sitter in another category. After all, who would want part four?
It turned out that they did.
“Harley Street” starts with the central characters, Richard and Rose, Lord and Lady Strang, returning to London after their honeymoon in Venice. Rose makes a courtesy visit to her godmother who lives in Harley Street, which was then a new street of houses for the middling and well-to-do. But her visit is interrupted when they find a body of a maid in the attic. She’s been stabbed. Rose sends for Richard, who recognizes the dead maid as someone he had an affair with when he was fourteen.
In those days, the 1750’s, it was often a maid who introduced a man to the joys of sex, although we might consider the man a mere child. That was what happened here, and the act has consequences that will reach to the end of the series.
When I first thought up Richard and Rose, Richard was a mild-mannered minor aristocrat who solved mysteries in country houses. Then, you had to have the entrée to polite society to know what was going on there. An outsider, even a Bow Street Runner, would most likely be cold-shouldered. Only outcasts like Lord Ferrers, hanged for murdering his valet, would be given up to justice, but Ferrers had exhausted all his favors and all his friends by the time that happened.
But then, when I wrote the first book, “Yorkshire,” Richard appeared out of nowhere, right in the first chapter. I just wrote and wrote and there he was. He was blond, a pink of the ton, a leader of society, and he wasn’t a minor aristocrat, he was the son of a powerful earl, and held the courtesy title of viscount. Rich, arrogant and far from the shrinking violet I wanted to write.
I decided to let it ride, and Richard took over. He just worked in the book. The heroine and narrator, Rose, is a child of the gentry, the county, rather than the country. Although they were often related, county and country had their set places in society and they tended to have their own social circles that rarely mixed. Only at Christmas and other celebrations, and the men might meet in Parliament.
Into this society, the mismatched, but deeply in love Richard and Rose grow, develop and at the end of the series, have a mature, loving relationship. I wanted to show that first.
So the fact that every book has a violent death and Richard and Rose are usually involved in solving the mysteries is incidental! Or maybe not.
The series came to an end last June, with the release of “Lisbon,” the place I always wanted to end the series. I knew how it started, and I knew how it ended, and I knew the main antagonists. The rest just happened. There is a half written Richard and Rose book that I fear will never see the light of day now, but one day, I might be able to slot it in somewhere!