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

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