Sunday, April 28, 2013

Intimate Portrait -- Robert Carlton, the Duke of Cantin

This is an ongoing series on this blog to give readers a better understanding of who my characters are.

Robert Carlton, the Duke of Cantin, is one of my least liked characters. He insults people, he's not very nice
to his new wife, he likes to drink, he's pompous and arrogant, and highly intelligent, which comes across as conceited.

But Robert's sooo misunderstood, and I wrote him that way on purpose. You see, Robert has been with me and my characters from the very beginning. Eight years ago, when I first began writing THE LADY'S MASQUERADE, it was Robert who asked William to go to Wakefield-by-the-Sea to steward the estate and keep an eye on Penny and Lady Olivia. So I've known Robert for a long time.

What you don't know is that Robert's story goes even farther back than that, when Robert, William, and Richard attended Ellis' wedding. When they were all just gaining their maturity and before they decided on their careers. I wrote a small prologue for the original beginning to MASQUERADE that I had to take out because the book took a different direction. But I've always held onto that in my files so I could refer back to it if needed.

Robert Carlton, was titled Viscount Hadley back then, and had no care in the world. He was rich, titled, and handsome, and was like any other young buck of his time. His father, the Duke of Cantin, was still alive and Stephen Carlton was strong, determined, and voiced his opinions loudly. He also doted on his wife, loved his children, and expected them to adhere to his demands. The duke was a forceful man, on occasion drank to excess, and had a head for business that Robert eventually inherited.

Robert loved his father, as any good boy should, but they often didn't see eye to eye on certain subjects. Women, Parliamental leanings, the restructuring of the Cantin fortune, all these caused a rift between them. As a young man, Robert couldn't understand how his father could remain so stuck in the past, when it was evident the world was craving the future. Robert knew he would eventually inherit his father's title, and wanted to preserve their status in the world, by furthering their fortune. Stephen Carlton refused to see the light.

So Robert built his own fortune, with cloth factories, and ships, to trade with the America's. Robert also bought land in England to further the coffers. The last time he spoke to his father was the fight that killed the duke. Robert wanted to buy an estate that he thought would do well to add to the family's affluence, but his father had already checked it over and found it wasn't worth it. Wanting to prove his old man wrong, they got into a shouting match, and Robert stormed off. Stephen Carlton had a heart attack and died and Robert has never forgiven himself.

And even though his sisters are grown and married to wealthy men in their own right, Robert still thinks of them as little girls under his care. There is nothing more important to him than his family and he wants them close. Both Phyllis and Susannah live with their husbands and children at two of the Cantin estates.

When Robert was in his early twenties, he fell for a young woman named Mary-Elizabeth who broke his heart. Having never been in love before, Robert fell hard and when she left him he was devastated. He drank to ease his pain, and vowed he would never marry. In some perverse twist, he then began to use women the way Mary-Elizabeth used him. Robert was devastatingly handsome, and wooed the ladies, then left them. Charming, and an excellent dancer, he had a reputation for being a ladies man. An unobtainable ladies man. And that was the way he liked it.

When he was forced to marry Fiona, the first thing he wanted to do was get out of it. He couldn't tolerate the notion of losing his freedom. Or the fact she was nothing like Society women. Fiona is a strong woman in her own right, and cow-towing to Robert's demands was ludicrous. Robert always needed a woman who would stand up to him. Only he didn't know it.

Trust was the main issue I wanted to represent in Robert's story. He couldn't trust any woman because of what Mary-Elizabeth did to him. When Fiona came along, it took a while, but Robert finally did realize that he could trust her with his heart. She was not Mary-Elizabeth. Which is why I made Robert do all those nasty things to Fiona. He was testing her.

Now some people say I went overboard with all that. And maybe I did, but Robert had to find his way to love Fiona. And he didn't know how much until Fiona left him. Fiona wasn't stupid. She loved Robert, faults and all, but she wasn't going to compete with another woman -- especially Mary-Elizabeth. To her it was easier to walk away. And I think she did the right thing. After all, how do you know what you have until you lose it.

Robert may not be a likable fellow, but he's a good character, full of foibles and faults, the same with real people. And even though he can be a jerk sometimes, his heart is generally in the right place.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Historical Research -- Researching History

Breaking down history is kind of like breaking down an orange. First you peel away the outside, then the pith, then each section, and then you take the veins from the section. (What can I say, I like my oranges naked.)

For me, I chose to write about the Regency period. As a purist of the genre, my time frame covers the years between 1811 - 1820. When Prince George became Regent until he ascended the throne. To further pinpoint my time frame, my stories are set from March 1810 thru June of 1811. A mere 27 months. And although I'm writing a series, I'm writing an over-lapping series, so instead of my stories following each other, they overlap. More or less.

When I began writing, I thought this meant I would only needed to delve into a tiny piece of history. It didn't quite work out that way. As with all history, no matter where we start from, we need to research what happened BEFORE, to bring us to that point in time.

To make things easier on myself, I disregarded everything I couldn't do justice to, and kept it simple. There were so many things happening in England at the time. The Abolitionist Movement, Locomotives, Union Busting, Corn Laws, Luddites. All that in itself is overwhelming. I decided if it warranted my attention, and could play a part in my novels, I would research each separately for a book. But then, with so much information, how much could I possibly put in each novel?

There is a phrase -- Keep it Simple, Stupid -- to which I adhere. Yes, I do countless hours of research, (In THE LADY'S FATE, I spent almost a week researching the Royal Gardens, who tended them, Queen Charlotte and her favorite flowers, who belonged to the Royal Household and their titles, just to find out if Violet's father could have been a viable character. In the end, he only made a brief appearance at the end of the book and uttered two lines.) However, that research was invaluable and although most of it does not appear in the book, it lent itself to a more comprehensive storyline.

In ROMANCING LADY RYDER I cannot tell you how I studied the Napoleonic wars. Deciding to concentrate on Czar Alexander and the Russians and that small part of history seemed easier than to continue to have Remy/Greenleigh keep going to France to find Duclerc.

Now, I can tell you that Alexander did send an emissary to England. Whether it was actually Novosiltsov or not, I didn't get that far. I took literary license with the facts to create my "history". But, Novosiltsov was indeed the Czar's right hand man, the turquoise livery the servants wore, the paintings by Shibanov, the drink Ockhotnichnya created by the Russian boyarin for the Royal House, and the dialogue was all true. (Well, you really can't translate the Russian alphabet so I used a translator to put it all into the English alphabet.)

In the end, I thought the story was pretty good because of all the added research I did. (And yes, I know some of you wish the story had been longer. Truthfully, so did I, but I was on a deadline and well, that's what I ended up with. Maybe someday I'll release a longer version.)

Right now, I have 16 separate "folders" I have created in my Favorites Tab with titles ranging from Historical, Regency, France, Napoleonic Wars, India, Parliament, etc. Within these folders are articles I have found on the web. In my Regency folder alone there are 96 different articles ranging in topics to include -- dress, carriages, maps, Prince George, Debrett's Peerage, Covet Garden, Bow Street, etc. etc. In my Napoleonic file you can find articles that include -- ships, cavalry, regiments, battles, maps, etc. etc. not to mention the extensive listings of Napoleon himself.

I also have files I haven't put into folders and they're just hanging out on my sidebar. Maybe someday I'll get around to doing that. And all this doesn't even include the books I have on my shelves -- Webster's Biographical and Geographical Dictionaries (c) 1948 and 1943 respectively, A History of Barns, Primer of Navigation, Herbs and Medicinal Flowers, Harrod's Book of Fine Wines, the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, to name just a handful.

In the old days, back before there were computers, there was the library where most of us did our research. I remember countless hours poring over ancient volumes of encyclopedias, handwriting notes on legal pads, index cards with footnotes, files of paper folders cluttering up a small corner of my room.

Was it worth it? Is it worth it to waste so much time on research that you may never use? Absolutely. I've found readers appreciate the little things we place in our novels that might not make a difference if taken out of context. I had an acquaintance recently say to me, "My great-uncle used to tell us stories about the Russian boyarin when I was a child. It was so nice to see them regarded in your book."

So yes, every little bit of research you do helps.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Few New Ideas

Writing a blog for readers and writers is a daunting task, especially one for historical romance. What does one talk about anyway? I hadn't really figured it out, until now. It's called decompartmentalization. lol. Big word for something that just means "organized".

Among other things, I'm going to start posting twice a week. Sunday and Wednesday. Sunday will be for readers, Wednesday will be for writers. Beginning this Wednesday, I'm going to start writing about historical research and what it means to me. I'll share my notes and links and whatever else I used to help me write my stories.

The following Sunday I'll begin my new series -- What I'd like to call "Intimate Portraits". I get asked all the time why I chose to write my characters the way I did, and I thought I would share those with you. I'm hoping it will give my readers a deeper insight into my characters and their world.

I hope you'll stop by.

In other news, I've started developing the pre-quel to the last book in the Reluctant Grooms series. It's still under construction -- that is, the structure of it -- I'm not sure if I'm going to write it as a story itself, or a few short stories, or as a first person narrative. The last book in the series THE SEDUCTION OF MR. SUMMERVILLE is a novel. A book unto itself. (Coming in 2014)

However, this pre-quel needs to be written, for a lot of things are happening BEFORE Mr. Summerville arrives in England. I can't actually write a story about it (well, maybe I can, but it will be a lot of research), but I wanted to tie all the other books together before this final novel, because if I don't, readers will be wondering -- "Well, what about that? What about this? What happened to them?" If I write a pre-quel, THE SEDUCTION will make more sense.

In this pre-quel, we find out a little bit more of Lady Olivia's secret. She's holding on to information that is really going to upset the balance of her world if it ever gets out. And in THE SEDUCTION it does. I feel badly for Lady Olivia. She's going to be put through the ringer. Sorry, I can't help it. She's been messing with other people's lives for the better part of hers, so she needs comeuppance. I think it's better than killing her off. (Which I had wanted to do, but my readers were outraged.)

So that's my news for this week.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Historical Book Fair

The first book in The Reluctant Grooms Series...

Someone is trying to kill Lady Penelope Leighton’s father, and now the fiend has turned his sights on her. Frightened, she flees London masquerading as a traveling companion for her elderly aunt.

When William Smith, the Earl of Westerly, arrives in London to a hero’s welcome he does not want, he takes the stewardship at his cousin’s manor in Wakefield-by-the-Sea to escape. He is more than surprised when he meets the mysterious Miss Penny Higgins residing there with a persnickety duchess.

Miss Higgins’ unfathomable beauty and stunning intellect are in direct contrast to her dowdy clothes and recurring stutter. William discerns the ladies are in trouble, it’s obvious they are in hiding, and William means to find out why, but no one is talking.

Before either of them realizes it, they’ve lost their hearts – Penny to a man who she thinks is a steward, and William to a woman destined for a duke.

After Penny’s true identity and reason for hiding are revealed to William, he immediately engages his friends in a campaign to help catch the blackguard who threatens her. However, upon their return to London, a confounding chain of events leads them right into the villain’s trap. Can William save her before it’s too late?

To see the rest of the series, please click on the My Novels tab at the top of the page.
Also My Novellas.

For peeks into who my characters would be in the movies, please follow me on Pinterest
All books available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for direct purchase.
Also on Smashwords for some vendors.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Historical Research -- Word Choices

One of the things I learned as an early writer, was to write the books I want to read. I've been reading historical romance since 1975, so I'm no stranger to the genre. Steamy bodice rippers, filled with damsels in distress and the men who rescued them.

From these books, I gained a better understanding of not only history, but the words that were used at that time. Some of these words are obsolete now, or have come to mean different things in this new millenium. I was recently brought to task by a reviewer who claimed that I was using words that didn't make sense. She said --

"It's as if she's trying to show off her vocabulary by using the "big words" but she doesn't know what they mean so it comes off as amateurish."

Uh, no. I do know what they mean. Every single one of those "big" words, and a couple of the small ones too.

I use an etymological dictionary, which shows me EXACTLY when the word was first used, which language it originally came from, when it became an "English" word, and how it was used back then.

For instance, this reviewer claimed in THE LADY'S FATE that I used the term "nanny" in the wrong context, that nanny was not a word back then, and I should have said "governess" or "nurse/nursemaid".

I beg to differ, but the word "nanny" is listed in my etymological dictionary as being in use from 1795, and as my book is set in 1810, I have 15 years for it to be commonplace in the language.

I had also used the word "obloquy" once, and one of my regular readers said it stopped her reading because she had to look the word up in her "reference" dictionary because her regular dictionary didn't have it. The word is considered obsolete. I bowed to her observation, but I didn't like it. Now that I'm in the process of re-editing this novel, I'm putting it back in.

When I was reading historical romance all those many years ago, and I would stumble across one of those words, it was almost like a treasure hunt for me to find out what the word meant, and then to use it in a sentence. People today have no patience for the big words. They want instant gratification an don't want to be plagued by having to use a dictionary.(Or click out of their document to click on the dictionary app. God forbid, if they have to actually find a dictionary BOOK.)

Which I think is very sad. I think reading should get harder as children grow up, not easier. I think books should have some "big" words to stumble over. I think every house should have a big fat dictionary somewhere in the living room or kitchen and I think the next time my daughter asks me, "Mom, what does this word mean?" I am going to tell her, "Look it up in the dictionary."

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013