Who would Jane Austen do?
~Creating a hero~
Yeah, you can read it again but that’s what it says.
Who would Jane Austen do?
Funny as it might seem, that is one of the things I ask myself each time I start a new book. I write fun, Regency-set historical romance with lots of 1940s movie-style repartee. So my heroine, while reckless at times and maybe a bit outrageous for her day, is also witty and clever, much like Jane Austen. Oh, I kick it up. Pile on some character flaws, wounds from her past, quirks. No one likes a perfect heroine. But still, at her core is the essence of Jane Austen.
So when dreaming up the perfect hero for my heroine, I ask myself, who would Jane Austen do?
In The Most Wicked of Sins, the latest in my Seven Deadly Sins series, the heroine is Lady Ivy Sinclair. Ivy has a bit of a problem with envy, so when the gentleman she intends to marry is snatched away by her rival, she isn’t about to take it sitting down. She uses the last of her money to hire actor Dominic Sheridan to impersonate a marquess who is in love with her to set her intended into a jealous rage. Only Dominic isn’t at all the man she thinks he is—and he isn’t acting.
Now, when I came up with Dominic, I got first pick. Always do. I like my heroes tall and brawny—which is probably why I often write Scottish heroes of Highland descent. But not this time. Ivy is Scottish, so an Englishman would be a much better match.
Jane ‘s turn. He must be a clever and moral man, who can match her wit. A man who is open-minded, or like her Mr. Darcy, becomes so during the course of the romance.
My turn: Her weaknesses are his strengths and vice versa. Together they are stronger. Her sin is released by his virtue.
Jane’s turn: she is a salve to his emotional wounds and he to hers.
My turn: He has ebony hair and sizzling blue eyes.
HarperCollins Art Department’s turn: The cover is going to be black and his head would disappear.
My turn: Good point. His hair is bronze but his are still blue.
QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who would be your perfect hero? It can be anyone, living, dead, fictional and why? Three copies of The Most Wicked of Sins for the best replies! Pics (G-rated please) encouraged.
July 30th, 1816
The Sinclair residence
No. 1 Grosvenor Square, London
The day had begun like any other.
Lady Ivy Sinclair rose at noon for breakfast, still weary from a late-night gala at Covent Gardens. She spread the Times out upon the dining table and giggled with her sisters, Siusan and Priscilla, over the outrageous and much-exaggerated society gossip in the weekly on dit column.
And when Poplin, one of only two servants in the household, set a sterling salver before her, Ivy sorted through the disappointingly few invitations and letters their family had received. She sipped weak, twice-strained tea, setting the more interesting of the invitations to her right as she munched on a wedge of toasted stale bread dabbed with a lick of comb honey.
Aye, as far as Ivy was concerned, the day had been entirely unremarkable. Perhaps even a bit mundane.
Until, that is, she broke the crimson wax wafer and released from its folds a letter from Scotland—one that would change her life forever. Of course, she didn’t know this for certain at the time, though the first sentence sent an unmistakable torrent of panic through her body.
“Of late, ye, Ivy, more so than any of my other children, have brought shame upon the Sinclair name.”
Oh God. Her eyelids snapped high. Each word had very nearly been carved into the foolscap, and Ivy recognized the angry, heavily inked script as belonging to the Duke of Sinclair, her father.
Her vision blurred with a rush of accumulating tears and her hands went cold as she raised the foolscap closer to her eyes.
“Will anything ever be enough for ye, or will ye continue to spend yer life peering hungrily over yer neighbors fence, coveting her life, her possessions, wishing her ill?”
She lifted cup of tea to her lips to stifle the whimper rising in her throat, but her hand began trembling fiercely, forcing her to return the cup clattering to its dish.
“I willna accept yer spoiled behavior any longer. Reform at once. Raise yerself up as a true example of decorum and respectability. Become a lady deserving of yer Lord Tinsdale’s admiration and standards—worthy of his troth instead of merely his amusement. Earn the respect the Sinclair name deserves—or when I return to London next month, ye will be regret it.”
Ivy’s jaw fell open and the whimper she had tried to contain suddenly slipped from her mouth. Even in his brevity, her father had reminded her of his expectations—and his harsh penalties for not meeting them—perfectly clear.
“Siusan,” Ivy jerked her head up to her elder sister. Though she tried to school her voice, to sound nonchalant, Ivy’s words sounded think with alarm and this frightened her.
Siusan’s elbows were propped upon the table, her chin resting wearily in her palms. “I already told you. No, to the Cockburn tea. Aye, to the Whitehall picnic.” Her eyelids looked heavy and she forcibly blinked her pale blue eyes. Her sigh made clear her boredom as she blew away a wisp of dark hair that had become ensnared in her thick lashes.
“N-not that.” Ivy tucked a lock of copper hair behind her ear and swallowed, hoping the extra moment would allow her to rein in her nerves. “This.” She started to pass the letter to Siusan, but Priscilla, the youngest of the Sinclair siblings, playfully snatched it from her hand and began to read.
“It’s from Da!” Priscilla leaped to her feet the moment she made the realization. Her vivid blue eyes immediately began shifting wildly from left to right as she read the letter.
Siusan’s eyes widened with worry and she slowly straightened her spine. She reached out and took Ivy’s hand and squeezed it. “What is it? The expression on your face is...well, positively ghastly. Though her eyelids were raised high her eyes were also seeming to squint. “Why, those are tears in your eyes.”
Ivy sucked her lips into the seam of her mouth for several seconds before speaking. Blood seem to drain from the rest of her body and into her restless legs. She came to her feet, unable to sit for a moment longer. “Tell me true, Siusan. Do you think it possible to convince Lord Tinsdale to offer for me—within a month?” She paced nervously back and forth behind Siusan’s chair.
“A month?” Siusan sat up straight in her chair and swiveled to look at her. “I was under the impression you had grown bored with him.”
Ivy’s feet stilled and she stared at Siusan, astounded by the comment. “Bored? You could not be farther from the mark. He has my full attention and rightly so. He is a good man, titled and respectable. Why, Da commented upon Tinsdale’s upstanding nature when he met the family at Sterling’s wedding.”
Siusan tilted her head and studied Ivy. “Hmm.”
“You haven’t answered me. Do you think it possible to secure an offer from him within a month?” Ivy asked, clutching at Siusan’s hand. “Please. Answer me.”
“Alright,” Siusan replied, wrenching her hand away from Ivy. “Tinsdale may be somewhat smitten with you, I’ll concede that, but he’s hardly at the point of getting leg-shackled. A month, Ivy? Are you completely mad?”
Priscilla slowly lifted her gaze from the letter. “No, Su, she’s not.” She rushed to Siusan and thrust the letter at her. “One month. It’s all the time she has.” She pointed at the letter. “I daresay there is no misunderstanding Da’s meaning. Read it!”
Siusan lowered her gaze to the foolscap and quickly read down its length.
Ivy resumed pacing the short distance behind Siusan’s chair. “I have one month to change my life, Su. If I fail, Da will surely keep the promise he made the night he forced us from our home for...this pauper’s existence in London.” Tears welled up anew in Ivy’s eyes, “and I’ll be disinherited...and cast from this very house to the workhouse.”
Siusan dropped the letter on the table as she rose, grabbing Ivy and hugging her tightly to her. “Dinna fash, Ivy. It willna come to that. I promise.”
Ivy took Siusan’s shoulders and leaned away from her. Through her tears, she peered at Siusan, then at Priscilla too. “How can you make such a promise?”
Her sisters exchanged meaningful glances and then Siusan took Ivy’s chin in her palm and tilted it upward, not allowing her to look away. “Because we will do whatever we must to prevent this, Ivy. Anything we must to see Tinsdale’s ring upon your finger,” Siusan said.
“Anything?” Ivy’s voice broke.
Priscilla nodded in agreement. “Aye, Ivy— anything. You have our promises.”