Anne here, interviewing Mary Jo about her new book, SOMETIMES A ROGUE, the fifth in the wonderful "Lost Lords" series, which I read as an advanced reading copy (ARC).
A little background — the "Lost Lords" series feature a cast of heroes who bonded years ago at school — a very special boarding school for "boys of good birth and bad behavior." Each book can be read as a stand alone romance, but there is pleasure in seeing some characters from previous books appear.
I have to say, I loved SOMETIMES A ROGUE. It's a rollicking adventure, with mistaken identity, kidnapping, spies, unexpected inheritances and much more, but at its heart it is, of course, a wonderful romance. The reviews are excellent:
Romantic Times gave it a Top Pick and called it the "marvelous, emotional and thrilling fifth book in the Lost Lords series.”
Library Journal gave it a starred review and said: “Witty humor, deep character development, thrilling sexual edginess, and a remarkable pair of protagonists combine in this exhilarating addition to Putney’s addictive and exquisitely written series."
John Charles of Booklist gave it a starred review and said: “Composed of equal measures of dangerous intrigue and potent passion, Putney’s fifth elegantly written installment in her Lost Lords series delivers captivating characters, an impeccably realized Regency setting, and a thrilling plot rich in action and adventure.”
Anne: Mary Jo, congratulations on this latest release. You're famous for torturing your heroes — and this book is no disappointment in that regard — but your heroine, Sarah, also goes through quite a bit. She's a heroine to cheer for — strong and brave and resourceful. Publishers Weekly agrees, saying : "Readers will especially love Sarah, a beautiful and resilient damsel in distress." Tell us about Sarah and her hero, Rob.
MJP: I loved writing about Sarah! When I told people she was the heroine of SAR, several readers thought she was insufficiently interesting, but they just didn’t know her well enough. <G> Sarah is a petite, a happy-natured blonde who looks younger than she is, and has a secret yearning for adventure and a dark, dangerous hero.
This is classic “be careful what you wish for” territory. <G> When kidnappers come after her very pregnant twin sister, Sarah helps her sister into old crypt and presents herself to the villains as the duchess. As they carry her off to parts unknown, she prays that her brother-in-law, the Duke of Ashton, will send help FAST!
Enter Rob Carmichael. Rob has been a minor character in all four previous Lost Lords books. He’s another Westerfield Academy student, and as a result of extreme family problems, he’s become a Bow Street Runner. The Runners show up regularly in Regencies, thanks to Georgette Heyer. They were investigators and thief takers could be hired for jobs that would take them all over Britain, and that kind of work has been Rob’s specialty.
As a close friend of Adam, the Duke of Ashton, Rob has been given carte blanche to stay at Ashton’s estate whenever he’s in the area, which is why he arrives on the scene in time to be sent after Sarah. He follows her and the kidnappers to Ireland, extracts her from the bad guys, and they have a wild flight back to England. And the trouble is only beginning!
Anne: It sure is. Sarah and Rob did quite a lot of traveling by various means. Did you have to do much research?
MJP: I’ve researched carriages and turnpikes before, but because they sail a yawl from Kinsale, Ireland to England, I needed more information on small boats of the time. A friend referred me to Eric Hare, an Australian expert on historical sailing, and he helped enormously on questions of the type of boat, probable speed, etc.
Anne: Can you give us a brief taste of SOMETIMES A ROGUE?
MJP: Here’s the scene where Rob sneaks into the house where Sarah is being held by the kidnappers:
The house appeared to have a standard layout with stairs coming down the center and rooms on each side. A sitting room was on the right, the dining room on the left. Since Bridget had said the kitchen was behind the dining room, he moved between the table and sideboard to the door that should lead to the kitchen.
Fighting stick in his left hand, he slowly opened the door—and froze when he was greeted by a raucous snore from inside.
Not moving, he studied as much of the room as he could see. The snoring man was seated on a bench by a long work table on the right, his head resting on his crossed arms. Next to him was an empty whisky bottle and the lantern that lit the room. The man seemed to be in a drunken sleep, so Rob decided not to retreat. Not when he was so close to the abducted lady.
Silently he crossed the kitchen along the left side. The snoring man didn’t stir when Rob passed less than six feet away.
He reached the pantry door. The key was in the lock, which saved him having to pick it. The key made a slight scraping sound when he turned it.
He held still, not even breathing, but the drunk snored on. Praying the hinges wouldn’t squeal, he inched the door open and entered, closing it softly behind him.
A shaft of moonlight from the pantry’s high window illuminated most of the tiny room. His first reaction was disappointment that the floor held only a clutter of sacks and boxes and broken crockery, not a sleeping captive.
Something moved on a shelf to the left and a delicate face surrounded by a fluffy cloud of blond hair peered up at him. Miss Sarah Clarke-Townsend looked like an adorable little golden chick. Harmless and helpless and prey to the first fox or hawk that came along.
Hoping she wouldn’t squeal or otherwise draw attention to them, he said in a barely inaudible voice, “Ashton sent me. Shall we be on our way?”
Her eyes widened like a startled kitten and she swung her feet to the floor. “Yes!” Wrapping her ragged blanket firmly around her shoulders, she continued, “Lead on, sir!”
Though her voice was low, he held a finger to his lips to emphasize silence. “There is a man sleeping in the kitchen. We must leave very, very quietly.”
She nodded and pulled her ragged blanket close around her. When they got to the horses, he’d find her something warmer.
He opened the door again and moved into the kitchen, beckoning for her to follow since the drunk was still snoring. Silently she wafted behind him.
They were halfway across the kitchen when disaster struck. Something clattered to the floor and Miss Sarah gave a squeak of dismay. As the drunk came awake with a growl, Rob saw that her trailing blanket had snagged a broom leaning against the wall and knocked it to the floor.
The drunk’s eyes widened as he focused on them. “The bitch is trying to escape!” he roared as he hauled himself from the table.
Two more heads appeared on the other side of the table. Rob swore as he realized the men had been sleeping there out of sight. Outnumbered three to one, Rob had only the advantage of being awake and alert. As the two other men scrambled to their feet, Rob lunged for the drunk, who was closest. “Run!” he barked at Miss Sarah.
Before the drunk could react, Rob slammed him in the temple with his fighting stick. The man collapsed backward from the bench, sending his whiskey bottle flying to crash on the flagstone floor.
Not pausing, Rob leaped over the table and attacked the closer of the two men, a wiry fellow who was pulling a knife from the sheath at his waist. Rob slugged him in the belly, then bashed the man’s head as he folded up, gasping.
As the wiry man collapsed, Rob swung to face the last opponent—and stopped cold when he saw the barrel of a pistol pointing at him. As the third man cocked the weapon, he snarled in Irish, “I don’t know who you are, boyo, but say your prayers!”
Rob was preparing to hurl himself back over the table in hopes of evading the shot when the air resonated with a deep, gong-like sound. The armed man crumpled to the floor. Behind him, smiling gleefully and holding a massive cast iron frying pan in both hands, was his helpless chick, looking absurdly pleased with herself.
Backlit by a lantern, Miss Sarah’s hair was a golden cloud shining like a halo around her exquisite face. A crippling emotion he couldn’t name twisted inside him. Yearning, perhaps, because in her beauty, joy, and innocence, she represented everything he’d ever loved and lost.
The feeling passed in an instant because his job was to save her life, not wallow in his personal sorrows. “Well done, princess. Now it’s time we are on our way.”
He would have preferred to bind and gag the three men, but reinforcements would arrive at any moment and he had no desire for a pitched battle. He scooped up the dropped pistol and gestured toward the kitchen’s door to the outside.
“I couldn’t agree more!” she exclaimed as she darted toward their exit.
A dozen steps brought him to the door. He unlatched it and ushered her outside. Once they were in the damp, chilly night air, he clasped her small hand. “Now, princess, we run!”
Anne: And then their adventures truly begin. No wonder Kirkus Reviews called it “a clever, twisting storyline, the end product is smart, fun, sexy and tender… Both elegant and swashbuckling, romantic and rollicking—an entertaining, satisfying romance.”
Now to change the subject slightly, it's been wonderful seeing so many of your out-of-print backlist returning to readers in e-form. Is it difficult becoming your own e-publisher? What's been the most difficult/interesting/rewarding part of it?
MJP: I love being able to make my backlist books available to readers again. I’ve e-published all but two of the novels I have rights to, and those last two, UNCOMMON VOWS and LADY OF FORTUNE, should be available by the end of the year. It’s fun but very time consuming because I want the e-books to maintain a professional standard. Once I finish releasing the novels, I’ll put together collections of some of my shorter works. Not that there has been a clamor for them <G>, but for the sake of completeness, I’d like everything available for readers.
Anne: What's next — or should I say, what are you working on now?
MJP: I’m working on Kirkland’s story, which has a working title of NOT QUITE A WIFE and which will be out next year. It’s been slow going because he’s dark and complicated—and married very young. The story brings Kirkland and his long estranged wife together again. It’s not the end of the Lost Lords series, though—there should be at least two or three books more.
Anne: Sounds wonderful. I can't wait to read it.
Here's a question for readers: do you enjoy road trips and adventurous stories? What do you like (or not like) about them?
Mary Jo is giving away a copy of SOMETIMES A ROGUE to someone who leaves a comment.