Nicola here! With just over a week to go until the publication of my new book, Notorious, I am extremely excited! Notorious is book 4 in my Scandalous Women of the Ton series and it features many of the characters who have appeared earlier in the series including Alex and Joanna Grant from Whisper of Scandal.
As you know, ideas for books come from many different places and one of the inspirations for Notorious was Pride and Prejudice. When Lydia Bennet runs off with Wickham her sister Jane laments: “So imprudent a match on both sides!” Elizabeth, in speaking to Mr Darcy about the elopement is even more outspoken, believing that Wickham will ruin Lydia and certainly not marry her: “She has no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to… She is lost forever.”
Mr Darcy, of course, saves the day, by compelling Wickham to marry Lydia. Money changes hands to seal the deal. The match is made. And the idea came into my head: “What would happen if money changed hands to ensure that a match was broken rather than made?”
In the literature of the Georgian age, in the archives and in fiction we frequently read of imprudent matches and disapproving parents. Money, marriage and scandal could be closely linked. Servant girls were paid off if they became pregnant (I’ve come across a couple of examples of this in my researches into the Craven family!) Parents and trustees bought off fortune hunters in order to save their heiress daughters from throwing themselves away on unsuitable men. When I was researching a Yorkshire gentry family in the Regency period I came across a very curious payment in the ledgers to a young local man who was paid "to go away to London." At the time the family had a teenage daughter who was an heiress. Naturally my writer's imagination started to spark; perhaps he had been involved with the girl and the family wanted her to make a more upwardly moblile match so they paid him to go away... Thus the idea for Notorious was born; my heroine would be a match-breaker rather than a matchmaker, paid to distract impressionable young men of good family if they looked inclined to make an unsuitable match or to tempt rakes away from heiresses.
I didn’t have far to look for a hero for Notorious. After Whisper of Scandal came out a number of readers contacted me to ask if James Devlin, cousin to Alex Grant in Whisper, was going to have his own story. The idea appealed to me very much. Dev is the sort of man my late grandmother would have described as “cocky.” She would have said it with a smile because Dev is handsome, self-made and a little bit brash but so charming that he gets away with it. He is a little too confident of himself and of his ability to attract women. In short he needs to be taken down a peg or two and my heroine, Susanna, is just the woman to do it.
Of course life for Dev is nowhere near as smooth as it appears on the surface. He is engaged to an heiress and appears to have the world at his feet but it is a fragile world. Both Dev and his sister Chessie are fortune hunters and in Notorious I try to show what a precarious and at times desperate situation that could be. Dev's other problem is that he is bored with a capital B. He's been a sailor, adventurer and explorer. Now he is at the beck and call of his heiress fiancée. He is losing his self- respect, which I felt was an interesting conflict to give my hero.
One other unusual thing about Dev. He has inherited an unusual title, that of Hereditary Knight in the Irish peerage. There are three hereditary knighthoods of feudal origin in Ireland and they sound as though they come straight out of the legends of King Arthur: The Knight of Glin (The Black Knight), the Knight of Kerry (the Green Knight) and the White Knight, which is currently a dormant title. I couldn't resist giving my Irish hero such a romantic background! The picture is of County Kerry, a stunningly beautiful place.
The Heroine and the Cover Art
I won’t give away how Susanna, the heroine, falls into her profession of match-breaker. Suffice it to say she is a very beautiful woman who realises that her looks will enable her to escape poverty and keep her adopted family together. When my editor asked me to send her some pictures of what I imagined Susanna to look like, I was immediately able to visualise her and here she is! The picture is from a very long-running and well-known advertisement in the UK for financial services. This was Susanna, beautiful, slightly mysterious and definitely intriguing. I sent in the picture to my editor and was very amused when the cover art for Notorious arrived, featuring a “headless” heroine whose most prominent feature was her enhanced cleavage. Hmm. But they did keep the red and black colour scheme!
I very seldom choose the titles of my books, mostly because I am not very good at coming up with something that my editor and the marketing team consider sounds "right." The choice of the title Notorious was interesting to me. Susanna cannot be notorious because she operates secretly. No one can know she is a matchbreaker because that would give the whole game away. So it is actually Devlin who is the infamous one. By the end of the book, however, both Dev and Susanna are as scandalous as each other!
There is a fun trailer for Notorious here and here is a link to an excerpt if you would like to sample the story. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of the book to one person who comments between now and midnight Wednesday. Notorious is set in London and features a number of prominent London landmarks from Tattersalls bloodstock auctioneers (pictured) to St Pauls Cathedral. Do you have a favourite place in London that you have either visited or read about which you would enjoy seeing featured in a book?