Ah, the country! I am delighted to be here at Lady B’s house party, breathing the fresh air and reveling in the open spaces. Not only did I recently turn in a manuscript, but I have just celebrated the release of A Lady by Midnight. After all that excitement, some rustication in the country is exactly what I need.
Our plans for Pall Mall and badminton are thwarted today by light rain, so Lady B has offered us a tour of the Beaufetheringstone estate.
Lady B: So glad you could make it from Spindle Cove, Miss Dare. And where is it you’re visiting from, Miss Linden?
Caroline: I’ve just come from Frome, a rather rustic village south of Bath.
Lady B: Frome…Frome… why does that name make me think of bed warmers?
Caroline: There’s quite a lot of coal there to be mined, and of course that coal needs a canal to get to market, but canals are expensive and need investors–although you would be a fool to invest in any canal that doesn’t have an honest prospectus… Oh dear, I’m doing exactly what my heroine Tessa Neville would do, and getting swept away by financial details. But then, Mrs. Neville and I are both decidedly bluestockings, with a bent for numbers. Not very ladylike, I know, but I’ve been longing to write a heroine who loves math for so long now.
(the other) Tessa: I love a heroine who loves math! And your heroine has the best name. But I’m a little glad you left her in Frome, or this would have gotten very confusing…
Caroline: Suffice it to say, I have returned from the wilderness and couldn’t be happier to be here. Won’t you show me more of your lovely home, Lady B?
Lady B: This is the long gallery, featuring portraits of all the esteemed Beaufetheringstones of Ages Past. Ah! And here’s a portrait of my nephew Monty as a young boy.
Tessa: Oh! Be still my heart! Is that a Gainsborough?
Lady B: My Monty looks very fine, doesn’t he? Just as the heir to the Beaufetheringstone title should.
Caroline: Oh, yes. His eyes…why, they’re green as the grass of this country estate!
Lady B, proudly: So glad you noticed. Our Ballroom guests thought the same.
Tessa: And his hair… (tilts head) Why, how would you describe his hair?
Caroline: If you don’t mind my asking, Lady B…Just how is it that Montague is both your nephew AND Lord B’s heir?
Lady B: I don’t mind you asking, if you don’t mind my not answering. It’s…complicated.
Tessa: Ah. Another one of those situations. Miss Linden and I know them well. We’ve both just finished writing characters with complex inheritance issues and a great many family secrets.
Lady B: Is that so? Do tell. I love a good scandal.
Caroline: You must have heard about the Durham Dilemma. My poor hero, Charles de Lacey, recently learned he might not be the legitimate heir to his father, the Duke of Durham–because the duke was once married, secretly and scandalously, to an actress.
Lady B: An actress?
Caroline: An actress. (horrors!) And when he and this actress had a falling out, they simply went their separate ways and never saw each other again. This was almost sixty years ago; who knew that it would ever come to light? Surely not the duke; he married again and had three sons, only to get a terrible shock when some villain started blackmailing him about that long-ago marriage.
Unfortunately for Charlie, the duke was very used to keeping secrets. Durham didn’t tell anyone about the blackmail, so Charlie and his brothers only discovered it when the duke died. At first it seemed Charlie’s brothers would take care of the problem, but they both got tangled up with women, and then they got married, and now Charlie’s the only one left to sort out the mystery and prove he’s the rightful heir to the dukedom…if he can. Because the worst secret Charlie harbors is that he’s probably not up to the task. All his life he’s known his brothers are smarter and braver than he is. All his life he’s been found wanting, in every serious measurement, and now it’s up to him to save himself and his family from disgrace and disinheritance.
Tessa: It’s remarkable, really — because the heroine of my new book, Kate Taylor, is on the opposite side of that scenario! She’s the long-lost love child (perhaps) of a marquess. All she ever wanted was a family, and now that’s she’s found the Gramercys, the truth of her identity might ruin everything.
Lady B: Dear me. Well, at least I know we Beaufetheringstones are not alone. I suppose every family has a few skeletons in the closet.
Caroline: Of course they do! And rattling them about is ever so much fun for authors. I don’t feel my hero and heroine really know each other until they’ve opened the doors and peered right into the back of those dusty closets filled with secrets. I know I feel more connected to you, Lady B, by the little hints I’ve heard about wildness in your youth, reckless misadventures, and that one naughty evening you spent with the Prince of…. Tessa, quit pinching me! You didn’t tell me that was a SECRET secret! You said she was proud of her days as a hoyden–well, proud once one got a little ratafia into her…
Well…judging by the look Lady B is giving me, we will have to save that story for another day!
But while we’re on the topic of family secrets and scandals, anyone else want to open those closet doors? Do you have a strange or quirky family story that gets told around the Thanksgiving table?
Oh, and don’t forget to lobby for your choice as to Monty’s hair color! We’re going to have a proper image of this man eventually.
Many thanks to Caroline for joining us today! One lucky commenter will win copies of both The Way to a Duke’s Heart and A Lady by Midnight!