It’s a joy to welcome author Ann Tracy Marr today! I am convinced you’ll be as enthralled as I was when you hear about “To His Mistress”, one of her romances. Welcome!
Thank you to Regina Andrews for offering me this spot in her Blog-String Fest. I like meeting people and consider this a great opportunity to do so. I assume you are a mix of writers and readers (as if writers don’t read). How shall I virtually bend your ears? Would you like to know how I conceived the plot of To His Mistress, one of my books?
I started with the hero, Alexander Stanton, the Earl of Shelton. He lives in England in 1814 when women wear romantic long gowns and unromantic corsets. Gentlemen gamble, ride horses, and have mistresses, as in prostitutes, to take care of their, ahem, needs. Prostitutes are for fun, not marriage.
That is how I began. Shelton has lots of experience with women, all of the whorish persuasion. Ladies — sisters, mothers, friends’ sisters and mothers — are set on a pedestal. Shelton stays far away from them because one step wrong and you end up married to them. Ladies are strictly chaperoned. They probably haven’t been kissed; God forbid some guy has touched them other than on the hand. They are to be as pure (and as sexually ignorant) as the white dresses they wear. Shelton has a mother and a budding desire to marry Lady Clarissa, daughter of another earl. He hasn’t done anything about it yet, because Shelton doesn’t really want to get married, but Clarissa looks pretty good.
Staying at an inn (think hotel off the interstate), Shelton goes to his room and finds a female in his bed. Like the guy on that TV commercial for Caesar’s Palace, he thinks he has gotten lucky, and wakes her up. Instead of snuggling, the female (her name is Katherine) screams, bringing her uncle on the scene. Uncle makes such a fuss he wakes the house and creates a scandal.
“Have you hear the latest scandal?” Gossipy old ladies will twitter. Everyone will have a field day talking about him. Laughing at him. You don’t think Shelton will like that, do you? Especially when it turns out that screaming meemie Katherine is not a whore; Uncle is a baron, there is no money to boast of, but she is still a lady, as in a never been kissed, stay away from or else you’ll end up married to her lady.
And that is what happens. Shelton has to marry her.
This is a pretty standard setup for a Regency — the forced marriage. What I did differently is that Shelton remains convinced Katherine is the next best thing to a whore. Her background isn’t distinguished; her uncle skates on the rim of disreputable. Not Katherine, but her uncle. Katherine is a perfectly nice, should be on a pedestal girl, but not to Shelton. Her uncle made such a vulgar stink at the inn, Shelton is sure it was deliberate. Katherine set him up, took advantage, forced him to marry her. Of course, she did it for his money. He doesn’t get happy with the marriage; he doesn’t fall in love and decide they can live happily ever after.
No, he wants a divorce. Then he can have the best of all possible worlds: marry rich Lady Clarissa and make Katherine his mistress. With all the Regencies I have read, I have never seen that plot.
Part of what is unique to the plot is the way Shelton treats Katherine. Remember, ladies and mistresses are not treated the same. A hero can slap a whore without the reader batting an eye, but he can’t raise a finger to a lady. Don’t swear in front of a lady, don’t stare at her breasts. Treat her like a nun or precious Waterford crystal. Have fun with the mistress — have lots of hot, steamy sex, don’t mind your tongue, relax and enjoy.
Shelton treats Katherine like a mistress. He plays with her body, acts out fantasies, and insults her, paying her back for tricking him into marriage. For the first part of the book, he is the villain. It isn’t until Katherine begins to understand the man that the reader begins to see that Shelton can be a hero. You are cheering for Katherine to win and she insists that you include Shelton in your prayers.
The result is a Regency that veers in a different direction. If you thirst for reality in books, Shelton and Katherine fill the bill. The characters are real people in a realistic situation fueled by misconceptions that fit their personal bugaboos. To satisfy those who want a little fantasy with their story, I incorporated two magicians — Shelton’s not-so-fond Mama and her butler — wagering on the success of the marriage. No spells barred, they do what they can to influence Katherine and Shelton, but they do it so subtly, you can read the book again and again without identifying the magical twists (or misidentify twists as magical).
Through it all, Shelton stubbornly insists on divorce. Oh, yes, Shelton is stubborn. He gets that trait from my husband.
When he can no longer deny that Katherine is a dyed in the wool lady — when he has to admit that he should not have treated her like a whore — Shelton has dug a pit so deep he might never manage to crawl out. How many times has a man you know done the same?
Ann Tracy Marr writes fantasy Regency romance. To His Mistress, the third book in her Banshee Brigade series, debuted in paperback October 25. Keeper of the Grail is in the works. A computer consultant in the Midwest, Marr lives with her husband, two cats, and plots that bounce off the wall.
Visit her at http://www.anntracymarr.com
Buy her books at http://www.awe-struck.net/authors/ann_tracy_marr.html
To His Mistress Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587497209
Round Table Magician Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587496066
Thwarting Magic Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587496479
Keeper of the Grail Awaiting release