Ever since my first Lost Lords book came out last July, readers have asked me about the second book, Never Less Than a Lady. Was it about the cranky and enigmatic Randall? And did he and the widowed Julia Bancroft have something going on?
The answers are yes and yes. Major Alexander Randall (but he’s always called just Randall) was the prickliest of the three friends who went searching for the drowned body of their mutual friend, the presumed dead hero of Loving A Lost Lord. Prickly is intriguing. <G>
One of the fun things about developing a series is how characters who were sketched in lightly in an early book are developed for later books. There may be writers who plan better than I do—in fact, there are certainly writers who plan better!—but I enjoy how small details or throwaway lines in one story become vital keys to character in later stories.
So why is Randall prickly? Well, he’s an officer wounded in the Peninsula who is still suffering from buried shrapnel. Wounded soldiers are a favorite of mine—I like them to be all better by the end.
LALL also had a vignette where the amnesiac hero remembers breaking into a London townhouse to rescue a blond man who turns out to be Randall. More pieces for the puzzle. Why was he being allowed to die in an attic, and whose attic was it?
Sometimes I plan which crumbs of information I can use as building blocks in the future. Other times, they just happen. Occasionally, when I’ve finished a manuscript I’ll go back and add hints for the book I want to write next. The result is rather like having only a few ingredients in your refrigerator, so you type them into Google to see if they can find you a recipe that includes pickles, salt pork, honey, artichokes, and mangelwurzels. The challenges involved require creativity to solve. <G>
So all those bits and pieces about Randall had to be woven into a cohesive tapestry. He’s a wounded soldier with a disastrous childhood whose most rewarding relationships were forged at the Westerfield Academy, a school for boys of “good birth and bad behavior.”
Okay, what kind of disastrous childhood? (My characters often have them, so I have to work to find new ways of messing with their little childish minds.) Then the same process was applied to Julia Bancroft.
Usually I torture the hero, but sometimes, in a fit of sadism, I torture both hero and heroine, and that’s the case with Never Less Than a Lady. The heroine, Julia Bancroft, is a widowed midwife whose first marriage was so dreadful that she’d faked her own death to escape accusations that she’d murdered her husband. For years, she’s lived in the far northwestern corner of England doing her best to seem invisible.
Major Alexander Randall is an army officer who lost his parents when young and was raised by his difficult uncle, the Earl of Daventry. When all the closer heirs to the earldom die, Randall is told to come home and marry and produce an heir forthwith. Though he loathes the appearance of obeying his uncle, he’s had enough of war and he’s ready to sell out.
But he has no desire to marry the sort of boring, well-bred girl who would please his uncle. The woman who haunts him is Julia Bancroft. Ever since they met in Loving a Lost Lord, Randall has been drawn to Julia. He hates that. In return, Julia makes it clear that she has no interest in him or any man.
Yet when Randall decides he must see her once more so that he can then move on, he finds that danger from Julia’s past has caught up with her. Not only does she need a rescue, but ongoing protection—and the best solution he can think of is to marry her.
Julia is appalled by the notion—but Randall does represent safety, and a bone deep honesty that calls her. One of the things that I (and my editor and agent) particularly liked about these characters was how honest they were with each other. They both have a lot of baggage, and they know it.
Yet slowly, warily, they enter into a marriage of convenience. Can it become something more? Well, this is a romance, I’m sure you know the answer. <g> But the fun part is how they get to their happily ever after.
I was delighted when Library Journal gave Never Less Than a Lady a starred review, saying:
“Cleverly plotted, exquisitely stirring, and flawlessly written.”
Kristin Ramsdell, Library Journal starred review
Romantic Times gave NLTAL four and a half stars, a Top Pick, and Randall was chosen as a KISS hero for May:
“Putney's latest Lost Lord raises the bar for historical romance. A captivating plot, charming characters with great depth of passion and sensuality combine to make this novel an intoxicating and not-to-be-missed read."
Kathe Robin, Romantic Times Book Club
So who's up next? I’m working on the third Lost Lords book now, and it’s tentatively scheduled for May 2011. The hero is a fellow who turned up in NLTAL, and captured my fancy so much that I decided I had to write about him. (I haven’t done a lovable rogue in quite a while.) If you read the book, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble picking out my next hero! Now I’m trying to figure out how to torture him more….
Do you like heroes noble and tortured, or do you prefer lovable rogues? Here’s an excerpt of Never Less Than a Lady so you can sample the story.
And if you’re wondering about the cat pictures—they’re two of my cats who wandered into the book. <G> Look for Reggie and Miss Kitty....
I'll be giving away a signed copy of Never Less Than a Lady to one of the commenters between now and Tuesday midnight.