You probably already know that I’m a fan of Julia Donner’s Regency romances, so I’m happy to announce that A ROGUE FOR MISS PRIM is free, June 15-19. This is one of my favorite books in her Friendship series. The opening scene made me laugh, and the humor lasted through the entire book. Gordon Treadwell has finally met his match, and he eventually discovers he’s not the scoundrel he thought he was.
Here’s my Q & A with Julia Donner:
Thanks for inviting me, Judy! Love your questions, especially one that gives me juicy ideas.
1. Your heroine, Adele Primrose, is determined to be a spinster. Will you tell us why?
She isn’t determined to stay unmarried as much as settling for the circumstances of her status in the ton. In a time when coming-out girls were ruthlessly outed as prime marriage material, Adele was never given the precedence of being seated at the “first bench” at assemblies and balls. This was a practice most cruelly used in Bath. Her aunt and guardian wasn’t eager to let the world know that Adele would inherit a fortune. Her aunt was quite content to utilize those monies that Adele would have no access to until many years older. Since the fortune could go to a husband if Adele married, the aunt tended to downplay and never enhance her niece’s best qualities. Adele settled for being looked over, but she didn’t settle when it came to her favorite charity. Her pin money wasn’t enough to cover those expenses. Being an observant girl, she noticed how sex sells and turned her need to support her charity into a lucrative income by writing, secretly of course, novels so smutty they have to be printed in France. She doesn’t discourage her Friday-faced reputation when out in society, but during the day, she visits the world of the demimonde for ideas.
2. Gordon Treadwell has standards. What bothers him about the wager he made when he was in his cups?
Even though a sporting man, a “buck about town” sort, he would never knowingly compromise a girl’s reputation. He also nourishes a deep respect and admiration for his father and dreads the thought of disappointing him more than he already has. His latest drunken wager to wed or deflower a respectable girl with the initials A.P. is the worst thing he’s ever done. The only way to regain his father’s favor and repair his self-respect is to place himself in the hands of the girl everyone calls Miss Prim and pray she shows him mercy.
3. I know that a few readers have remarked on your book covers. They love your books but think the covers don’t do them justice. Yours don’t have an aristocratic male clutching a luscious female with a lot of bosom showing. Why have you decided to choose something different?
The objectification of women is a well-justified clarion call of outraged females everywhere. Let’s be real. Covers with bare-chested men sell romance books, but IMHO it’s just another form of objectification in which guys get stuck with the unrealistic expectations. If women are fed up with being expected to look like runway models, the same understanding should be given to men. Don’t get me wrong. There’d have to be something wrong with me not to appreciate a nice looking bod, but all men cannot be expected to look like my hubby did without a shirt. I was just lucky a kindhearted, romantic soul came with it. That’s what really matters.
4. Tell us a little about Lord Hayden.
This question intrigues me, especially because Hayden exists mainly as a catalyst and the reason for Gordon’s predicament. Hhmm, you’ve got me thinking. As little as he’s mentioned, it appears that his lordship tweaked your imagination. Maybe there is a book there….
5. How did you come up with such a wonderful servant as Showers?
There is no way to explain it other than a compassionate muse or my years in the theater. Characters come to me whole and Showers is REAL to me. My stories are filled with people who live inside my head and often “haunt” me until I get them on paper. I give full credit to the character when what I’m writing cracks me up.
6. Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Two things: It’s hard to find ways to thank a loyal readership, other than taking their requests to heart and inserting the suggestions in my books. Emails, comments and good reviews keep writers writing when times are discouraging. A reader’s kind words can make a writer’s day and fill us with encouragement and gratitude.
Secondly, we try not to have favorites when it comes to our children, and creating a book is a lot like birthing a baby. No joke. But out of thirty plus books, Adele and Gordon make it to the top of my favorites. I love that they’re both bullheaded, mad for each other, and unsure of so much, but that doesn’t stop them from soldiering on to reach their goals.
I’ve added an excerpt from A Rogue for Miss Prim at the end of this blog to lend light to the unusual relationship between manservant and master.
A Rogue for Miss Prim
Gordon Treadwell woke to the sinking feeling that he’d done something terribly wrong. A curious weight lurked in his chest. He feared it might be guilt, an emotional condition he usually avoided with great success.
To look at him, no one would suppose he possessed a shred of conscience or any tenderness of feeling. Most people took him for the typical buck about town, a bit jaded with a history of hard drinking, heavy gaming, living the relentless pursuit of escape from boredom.
Appearances can and do deceive.
At the moment he didn’t give a bloody damn about anything but the restoration of his sore head. This kind of pain came from gin, lots of gin, not the sensible bottle or two of wine. He nourished ideas of enacting a protracted death for the lout who called himself friend and got him drinking the stuff. Mistakes, bad ones, were invariably made from large quantities of blue ruin.
Holding his head in both hands to keep it affixed to his shoulders, he carefully sat up in bed, hunched over, and partially opened an eye. An obscene amount of sunlight poured through the windows. Talking would cause too much pain, so he pointed at the drapes.
His valet removed his rotund self from his station at the foot of the bed, where the man always waited before Gordon awoke. Showers had an eerie talent for knowing exactly what was needed before Gordon knew he needed it. Except for this morning. Showers had allowed in that vicious blast of sunlight. Its brightness sent shards of pain through his skull.
Although Showers was as round as he was tall, the man moved with swift grace, wonderfully light on his feet. He didn’t merely walk across a room, he flitted and whirled, as if dancing, while somehow maintaining his dignity—a dignity that annoyed at present.
A plump hand with a tumbler of clear liquid appeared under Gordon’s nose. He shoved it away. “Christ, man. I can’t drink that.”
“Sir, it is not meant for drinking. It is merely water and extract of mint for the cleansing of the palette.”
Gordon squinted at the glass and the bowl held at the ready in his valet’s other hand. Showers had draped his thick wrist with an ironed towel. Its glaring white hurt when Showers gestured for him to drink up. After swishing the concoction, then getting rid of it in the basin, he did feel a bit more refreshed. As awareness increased, he noticed the state of his person and a foul smell polluting the bedchamber.
“Lud, Showers, what is that stench?”
“Me, you say? Bloody hell. You’re a better man than I to put up with this sort of abuse.” Grunting in agony, Gordon tugged the ends of his rumpled shirt from his breeches and complained in a raspy voice, “Let in some fresh air. And I need to bathe.”
“All is prepared, sir. If I may suggest, the airing of the room might be postponed until after your ablutions. The temperature is quite cool this afternoon.”
“Just get me there, Showers. And keep watch that I don’t drown myself, which is fast becoming a temptation. I woke to the hideous feeling that I’ve done something unaccountably stupid.”
Unconcerned, Showers replied, “It appears that you may have done.”
“And where the hell are my boots?”
“You allowed me to remove them and your coat last night before you collapsed on the bed. Come along, sir. After a bath and bracing cups of coffee, confronting the consequences of the morning after may not be as dreadful a pill to swallow.”
The bath did help. If nothing else, the soaking leached the stink of gin from his pores. Three cups of sweetened coffee cleared some of the cobwebs, but not the fierce pounding. He wasn’t quite to the point where he could broach a morning sirloin and half a bottle of wine. He feared he might never be up for whatever he’d done the night before. His valet hinted that he knew the details. Time to do the manly thing and face it down.
“Showers, it’s three in the afternoon. Whatever infamy I enacted must be all over town by now. If I am financially ruined or a laughingstock, is it fair that I am to be the last to know?”
Showers turned from his task of draping ironed neckwear over a dowel in preparation for the creation of a perfectly tied knot. “I have indeed ascertained the particulars, sir.”
“Out with it, man, and more importantly, does my father know?”
“I doubt Sir Charles has been made aware. He has not yet returned to town.”
Gordon reached for the crusty roll sent up with the coffee, then withdrew his hand. Not yet ready for food. Perhaps in another year or two. In the meantime, putting off the bad news would not make the hearing of it any easier. At thirty and four, he’d thought himself past the age for reckless gaming and silly pranks. Apparently he’d left a few wild seeds unsown.
“Spill it, Showers. Financially or morally ruined?”
“A bit of both, I would say.”
Gordon placed a hand across his brow and exhaled a groan. “Can I pay my way out of it?”
“You unfortunately wagered all of your ready money.”
“Which reminds me, when were you last paid, Showers?”
“Some months have passed, sir. We will come about. You always do.”
“But not this time?” Gordon hinted.
“Perhaps not this time, sir. Not without drastic measures.”
“Showers, I cannot do without you. Before you think to hand in your notice, there is a locked box in the lower drawer over there. You know where the key is. Take the ruby ring and see what you can fetch for it. Hopefully enough to cover your wages and keep us in food until the next quarter.”
“Very good, sir, and I took the liberty of canceling your appointment at Jackson’s. With the head you have today, I doubted you would wish to have it bashed about from fists like his.”
“Blast it but I’ve waited months for the chance to stand up with him in the ring. Crying off like this with Gentleman Jackson is damned irregular. Doubt it’s ever been done. One wouldn’t like for him to take offense.”
“He will take none. Knowing how long you have waited for the opportunity, I engaged in a prevarication when I passed along your regrets. You should be advised that a close family member has succumbed to a dreaded illness. I quite naturally omitted the fact you were the victim taken into decline.”
“Perhaps he’ll take me on again if you manufacture an actual death. Anyone in the family recently take up harp playing?”
Showers smiled, his ageless face wreathed with the perpetually expectant expression of readiness to serve. “Sadly, no one has obliged. Perhaps someone would consider doing so if they heard that the great Jackson has condescended to take you on. If I may say, sir, it’s been a matter of pride for me that I have an employer so handy with his fives. Would you care for more coffee or should we decide on your coat and knot for today?”
“I hear the scold under that request, and damn you, yes, I’ve been procrastinating. Who wants to hear their embarrassments repeated? But let’s have done with the business. Out with it. No blindfold, if you please. What did I do?”
“In no less than three clubs you signed wagers in tandem with Lord Hayden.”
“Not Hayden!” The outburst had him clutching his sore brow and lowering his tone to a mutter. “Bloody hell, I’m done for now. He hates me.”
“Apparently so. In a game of whist, you wagered all, and Hayden kept bidding. You had reached the low water mark, and Hayden refused to accept your vowels. You rashly pledged to take up whatever dare Lord Hayden proposed in lieu of the IOU.”
Gordon sank down on a chair, cradling his head in his hands. “And what did I vow in the betting books?”
“To win the affections of a spinster with the initials AP, specifically known only to you and Lord Hayden, and have it verified that you have either ruined her or will have married her within the fortnight.”
Thanks to the heavens and the angels that he hadn’t eaten anything. All he had left inside to cast up was the coffee. Silly things like pride and self-respect had already fled.
Wretched and resigned, he asked, “So it’s all over town by now, is it?”
“That is pretty much the case, sir. Will you have the brown cutaway or the navy redingote?”
“The brown to match my mood. Do you think any of it will be set down as a prank on my cousin’s door?”
“As much as you and Lord Byron share similarity of form and face, I doubt anyone will be fooled into thinking that he wrote your name instead of his own in the betting books. And there is the minor problem of his leaving the country a year ago.”
“Forgot about that. Gin’s rotted the brain box. We can only hope it isn’t permanent. Hand me a neckcloth, and for some reason that reminds me, the next time you shrink the buckskins, leave some space for my modesty.”
“As you wish, but allow me to say that a gentleman with your excellent figure should privilege the world with its beauty.”
“Lud, man, from the waist up, not the particulars of my nether anatomy. Something Byron would do, I’d wager, but not this fellow.”
“If I may be allowed to mention, there isn’t anything left to wager, sir.”
Showers extended his arm draped with neckwear. The scent of freshly starched linen rose from the rectangular strips. Gordon muttered curses as he focused on tying the linen with fingers that refused to work. He flung a failed attempt at a difficult knot on the chair.
Showers murmured, his face yet aglow with passive good cheer, “On the bright side, no one would think of accusing you of the ravishment of an innocent female.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I wouldn’t know, sir.”
Gordon squinted at his valet. “You and your damned bloody innuendoes. I’ve changed my mind. One could do better with a less officious manservant. I’m sending you off without a reference.”
“As you wish, sir, and a providential decision to make before I exchanged your great-aunt’s ring for filthy lucre.”
The banter continued, postponing the need to confront the fix he found himself in a while longer, which was no doubt his valet’s intent. He ruined the knotting attempt of the next neckcloth and the next, unable to focus. His gut ached from the gin and worry of how to alight on a plan to free himself from his present coil. Something most definitely had to be done before his father found out.
And who the hell was AP?
Thanks for stopping by! And I hope to see you on my blog on June 22nd when your new Western historical romance, Drover’s Lane, is released. Readers can find and pre-order it now if they can’t wait.