Well, the house renovations and addition mentioned in my last posting are all done. My new office is a joy. It has big windows, French doors separating it from the family room, and a long counter desk where I can spread out research books and generally make a mess. I put lots of rolling low file cabinets underneath it, where I can stuff the mess if company comes. The walls are a deep sea blue. I felt very daring in choosing the color, but with the white trim it looks refreshing.
Am I more productive in this new space? More organized, the way I dreamed? See the reference to “mess” above. I am a stacker, not a filer. Those cool file cabinets are all but empty. I drooled over the television shows displaying decorating tips with a place for everything, but within a couple of months my natural inclinations ruined the plan. So I am facing those stacks again.
Despite the months of chaos in the house I finished last winter’s book (almost on time!). It comes out October 31 and is titled The Rules of Seduction. I am starting a new series with this book. That was exciting enough to push the environmental disruptions out of mind.
The Rules of Seduction is the story of Alexia Welbourne, an impoverished woman hanging onto her gentlewoman status by her fingertips. When Hayden Rothwell ruins the finances of the relatives on whom she depends, she has few options for her future. She reluctantly accepts Hayden’s offer that she become a companion to his aunt, which makes her now dependent on the very man who destroyed the fortunes of her dear cousins. Their continued proximity allows their unexpected but powerful attraction to grow despite the conflict that stands between them. An impulsive seduction, a marriage of obligation, an intrigue that weaves present with past and old promises with new ones— The Rules of Seduction offers mystery, desire, deep emotions and clever humor.
At the core of the plot is the concept of honor. From the second chapter honor causes the hero to do certain things and forbids him to do others. Debts of honor from the past also influence his actions and affect his emotions.
It can be hard to communicate in a novel what was meant by honor in the old days. The importance of a man’s honor was just a given, so braided into life that he would never question the rules about it. A man took his honor very seriously in the early nineteenth century, when The Rules of Seduction is set. It was worth a duel to protect his good name or that of his family. Calling a man a liar, a cheat, or a scoundrel all but invited being called out. A man’s word of honor was sacred too, and breaking an oath unacceptable. So honor was not something that one pulled out of a hat at one’s convenience but set aside if it got in the way.
In The Rules of Seduction, Hayden Rothwell gives his word of honor to a man but later that promise interferes in his life. At the time he gave his word he never expected it to be a problem. Actually, it was in his interest to give his word, since he was embarking on a plan that required silence on the matter he promised to keep a secret. That plan itself also turned on his beliefs about his honor. He could never envision that within months he would be gritting his teeth over having to remain silent.
Should he have given in and broken his word? Readers will wish he could. Some will think he should. Some may even be annoyed he does not. However, unlike us, Hayden does not live in an age when words like “honor” have lost their meaning. Instead it is a core concept of his historical age.
This is what writing an historical novel is all about. The clothes and food and social customs are colorful, the detailing can create indelible images in our minds, but the core beliefs of a society need to be respected in a story (or the deviations explained). I think that using those beliefs and expectations as plot devices and as tools for character development tie a story to its time and place even more than the descriptions do.
If you have visited before, you may have noticed that my web site now has a new look. Thanks go to Cissy at Writerspace, who once again translated my vision into a better reality than I saw in my mind. Things have been reorganized too, and the links to the cut scenes and the series explanations made more prominent. There have been some updates in the History section, and various things like photographs and recipes are being added under the Off Topic link. That is where I plan to put material that is not directly related to my writing and my books. I hope the navigation is easier for my visitors and readers. We are still tweaking and adding pages, but we are getting there.
In the meantime, I hope you like the changes, and that you give The Rules of Seduction a try and meet Hayden Rothwell and the estimable, indomitable Alexia Welbourne.