A Touch of Honor is the seventh book in my highly popular Realm series, with the next one, A Touch of Emeralds, the series’ conclusion.
The Realm is a covert governmental group operating under the auspices of the Home Office during the Napoleonic War. Each book in the series features one of the members of the group. The gentlemen operatives of the group have joined the Realm either “to punish” themselves for what they perceive as their inadequacies or “to prove” their worth. The hero of A Touch of Honor, Baron John Swenton, has lived with the shame of his mother’s desertion and her infamous life upon the Continent, as well as his father’s bitter struggle to protect John as the heir to the barony. John has conducted himself with honor in all his dealings, and Swenton means to claim a woman he has admired from a distance in order to set his title aright.
For two years, BARON JOHN SWENTON has thought of little else other than making Satiné Aldridge his wife; so when he discovers her reputation in tatters, Swenton acts honorably: He puts forward a marriage of convenience that will save her from ruination and provide him the one woman he believes will bring joy to his life. However, the moment he utters his proposal, Swenton’s instincts scream he has erred: Unfortunately, a man of honor makes the best of even the most appalling of situations.
SATINE ALDRIDGE has fallen for a man she can never possess and has accepted a man she finds only mildly tolerable. What will she do to extricate herself from Baron Swenton’s life and claim the elusive Prince Henrí? Obviously, more than anyone would ever expect.
ISOLDE NEVILLE has been hired to serve as Satiné Aldridge’s companion, but her loyalty rests purely with the lady’s husband. With regret, she watches the baron struggle against the impossible situation in which his baroness has placed him, while her heart desires to claim the man as her own. Yet, Isolde is as honorable as the baron. She means to see him happy, even if that requires her to aid him in his quest to earn Miss Satiné’s affections.
The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout. – Publishers Weekly
Sacrifice and honor, betrayal and redemption, all make for an exceptionally satisfying romance. A Touch of Honor is a mesmerizing story of extraordinary love realized against impossible odds. – Collette Cameron, Award-Winning Author
The Scandal of Lady Eleanor (also known as A Touch of Scandal)
What made you come up with the premise?
Each character has evolved throughout the series, with a bright spotlight focused on his individual development. Each man has a secret – some more convoluted than others, which he must overcome in order to build a new life and to claim happiness. For example, James Kerrington, the group’s leader and heir to the Earl of Linworth, has deserted his infant son when his wife died in childbirth, and the act has haunted him for years. Brantley Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill, in book 2 means to wipe his father’s debauchery from the history of the dukedom. Gabriel Crowden, the Marquis of Godown, from book 4 had been driven from England rather than to be forced into a contrived marriage, while Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford in book 5 suffers from the news the woman he loves is married to his brother. Etc. Etc. Etc. What is unique about these books as romances is they are generally told from the hero’s, rather than the heroine’s, point of view.
To be honest, all the Realm characters are favorites; after all, they have lived in my head for nearly three years, but there is one character, who I have disliked from her conception: Satiné Aldridge. Satiné plays a dominant role in book 3, A Touch of Cashémere, for she is the twin of the book’s heroine, Cashémere Aldridge. The three Aldridge sisters were “farmed out” to relatives when their parents died in a suspicious carriage accident. Velvet, the eldest and heroine of book 2, came to reside with her maternal cousin, the Fowlers, while Satiné went to the maternal uncle, Baron Charles Morton. Cashé had the worst situation, remaining with the paternal uncle, a conniving man who uses his religion as a tool to manipulate his niece.
Satiné’s situation places her in a position of learning all the feminine graces of ladies, but as I developed her, I found she lacked substance. My original plan was to match Satiné with Aidan Kimbolt in book 5, but I soon abandoned that plan, sending her to the Continent until I made major changes in the story’s overview. Satiné knew hardships when she was mistakenly kidnapped in place of her twin, but she thought of herself as a victim rather than as a survivor. The problem I encountered was fans of the series kept asking when I would bring her and John Swenton together, for John participated in Satiné’s rescue. A Touch of Honor is how that dilemma is resolved.
What about the premise speaks to your aesthetic as a writer?
I love stories with multiple layers. Every memorable hero and heroine possesses flaws and foibles, which mold them into the characters he/she has become. The back-story is often as compelling as the current situation. I love it when I hear from a reader who says, “I never anticipated…” or “I never saw that coming.”
I am first and foremost a life-long reader, literally with a book propped up before me from the time I was a babe. I taught English for forty years, and I have lived with stories in my head for six decades, but other than educational grant proposals and a brief time in journalism, all my writing was confined to lengthy letters to friends and remarks in red ink in the margins of student papers.
Then in late 2007, I was discussing the weaknesses I observed in a particular book with my AP Language students when one of my students challenged me to “Just Do It” myself. I wrote Darcy’s Passions as a response to that particular challenge. I self published it, even permitting one of my students to draw the cover, and I got on with my life. The book rose quickly on the Amazon sales list, and Ulysses Press offered me a contract. The rest is history.
Like most Austen-inspired authors, I have loved Pride and Prejudice for years. I first read it when I was 12 years of age. As a pre-teen girl who was too tall, too thin, and too intelligent for most boys my age (or even those a bit older), it was a revelation to discover Mr. Darcy fell in love with a woman possessing “a pair of fine eyes,” “more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form,” a “figure…light and pleasing,” an “easy playfulness” in her manners, and the willingness to improve her mind with “extensive reading.” What is not to love in such a man?
For you, what comes first in the early stages of novel plotting? (the first line, the ending, formulating a character, envisioning a certain scene, etc.)
I am very much a “pantser,” creating a story by “the seat of my pants.” I develop a series of scenes critical to the story (recording them for memory purposes, but omitting the details), but I do not decide beforehand how I will proceed from point A to point B. Often times, the characters shout in my ear that a particular plot device is not working, and I generally find myself agreeing with them. The trick is not to include a scene simply to fill space. If in chapter six I have Darcy sentimentally purchasing lace he noted that Elizabeth Bennet favored, then I must settle the issue of the lace in a later chapter. Nothing is worse for a reader than an author not resolving all the plot points.
The Realm series begins after Napoleon’s initial capture in 1814 and covers a period of five years. A Touch of Honor is set in 1819, the year before George III dies and the traditional end of the Regency Period, for George IV comes to the throne in January 1820. After the Napoleonic War, change flooded England’s shores. In 1816, the world saw the “Year Without Summer” and the extensive loss of crops. Men left the estates for the industrial centers of the North. 1819 saw the Peterloo Massacre and Lord Sidmouth’s attempts to quash sedition in the land. It was also a time for great ideas. For example, John Loudon Mcadam, who plays a minor role in A Touch of Honor, changed how roads were built in England, making them from better materials and shaping them to drain properly. If one has ever heard of “tarmac,” he knows something of Mcadam. I regularly include historical notes at the end of my novels as points of reference for the reader.
What do you do when you hit that proverbial wall? How do you handle getting past it? Is there any advice you can give others struggling with writer’s block?
For me, I simply must let the story sit and find other things (family, marketing, editing, blog posts, etc.) to occupy my time. The scene will replay in my head like an old VCR tape. I rewind it and think my way through the story again and again, but I put no pressure on discovering the key to continuing. Sleep is also very helpful. More than once I have awakened from a dream to chuckle at the obvious solution to my dilemma. The longest I have ever waited was three weeks for the “secret” to make itself known.
One thing we must remember is the vast majority of the historical fiction we admire (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Little Women, Great Expectations, etc.) was “contemporary” fiction at the time of its conception.
In reality, any type of story – thriller, romance, steampunk, mystery, paranormal – can be set in a historical setting; yet, the key to historical fiction is for the history to be more than the story’s backdrop: The history must be an integral part of the story. The characters must act and speak in a manner appropriate to the time, and they must be involved in a conflict realistic to the period. The author must be true to the dialogue and create a balanced mixture of real events and fictional ones, while providing neither a history lecture/lesson or taking too much freedom with the story line.
Lastly, is there a new hush-hush manuscript in the works for your readers to enjoy soon?
I am writing two different WIPs (work in progress) at the same time. One is another Regency era romance, Angel and the Devil Duke, one for which the early drafts have garnered praise and recognition. I am also working on another Austen-inspired cozy mystery, tentatively entitled The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin. In the future, I have plans for books two and three of the First Wives’ Club trilogy, the conclusion of the Realm series, and several sequels to the Austenesque books I have written.
Award-winning author Regina Jeffers writes Austen-inspired novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, Christmas at Pemberley, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, Honor and Hope and The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy. She also writes Regency romances: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, A Touch of Grace, A Touch of Mercy, A Touch of Love, A Touch of Honor and The First Wives’ Club. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, Jeffers often serves as a consultant in language arts and media literacy.
Blog: Every Woman Dreams http://reginajeffers.wordpress.com
Twitter – @reginajeffers
Facebook – Regina Jeffers
(Books available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Joseph Beth, Kobo, Audible, and Ulysses Press.)
The Phantom of Pemberley – SOLA’s Fifth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – 3rd Place – Romantic Suspense
Darcy’s Temptation – 2009 Booksellers’ Best Award Finalist – Long Historical
The Scandal of Lady Eleanor – Write Touch Readers’ Award – 2nd Place – Historical Romance
A Touch of Grace – SOLA’s Seventh Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – 3rd Place – Historical Romance
The First Wives’ Club – SOLA’s Seventh Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – Honorable Mention – Historical Romance
Christmas at Pemberley – 2011 Booksellers’ Best Award Finalist – Inspirational Romance; as well as Second Place, General Fiction, New England Book Festival
The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy – SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Awards – Honorable Mention – Romantic Suspense; as well as 3rd Place, 2nd Annual Frank Yerby Award for Fiction
Angel and the Devil Duke – SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Awards – 3rd Place- Historical Romance