Lies, spies and Traitors… Choc Lit’s Beverley Eikli talks about the darker side of The Regency in her new book The Reluctant Bride.
It’s my pleasure to welcome to Romaniac HQ, Choc Lit author, Beverly Eikli, on the launch of The Reluctant Bride.
Thanks so much, Laura, for inviting me here to talk about my Napoleonic espionage romantic suspense The Reluctant Bride.
I must say, it’s had the most colourful history of any of the eight books I’ve written. The first three chapters won the Romance Writers of New Zealand Single Title competition about six years ago, which was before I got my first publishing contract with Robert Hale in 2009. After that it went through multiple drafts, while I wrote other novels and novellas.
I just couldn’t let it go. I kept seeing potential for more ‘layering’.
Initially The Reluctant Bride focussed on my hero’s tortured past. He’d been forced into an impossible situation during the retreat to Corunna, in 1809, four years before I take up my story. Now, conscience-stricken, he seizes an opportunity to atone for the past when he finds my heroine, Emily, is in need of rescuing.
Unfortunately, the lie he tells Emily, the woman he’s loved from afar, in order to spare her pain comes back to haunt him after she becomes his ‘reluctant bride’. She believes he’s taking advantage of her desperate situation to make her his wife and considers her a ‘bargain’.
In the first drafts I’d focused on events between the Retreat to Corunna and the Battle of Waterloo.
But Emily’s past was just as important and I needed to understand the chaotic life into which she’d been born. This meant immersing myself in the extraordinary, almost stupefying events of the French Revolution. I’d studied it on a superficial level but now I had to bury myself in the details in order to understand how a so-called hero one day could be considered a traitor the next, and what passions drove people to behave with a brutality so contrary to basic human principles. I concentrated on the September Massacres of 1792 but I also had to understand the mind-set of both revolutionaries and the masses.
When I entered Choc Lit’s Search for an Australian Star competition I was intrigued by Choc Lit’s focus on the male Point of View. I’d fallen in love with my hero, Angus, after living with him over so many years so I naturally hoped the ‘tasting panel’ would see the layers behind the scarred, taciturn exterior.
And they did. I’m thrilled that The Reluctant Bride is Choc Lit’s launch title into Australia.
It’s the most intricately plotted of all my books – yes, I love a good plot. I love the late Georgian/Regency period and I absolutely adore the challenge of creating characters whose attitudes and behaviour are true to their times.
A passive heroine doesn’t go down well with modern readers, so this is where I get creative with plot, set-up and characterisation. Women had so few legal rights they really were utterly dependant on their closest male relative – and their wits.
In the opening scene of The Reluctant Bride my heroine thinks she has it all. She’s a week short of being free of her Puritanical father who has – surprisingly – sanctioned the match of her heart. By scene two, when Angus gives Emily the bad news, she believes her life will be devoid of joy henceforth. However she doesn’t have time to brood as she’s soon caught up on a roller-coaster ride involving spies, lies, traitors.
One line from a recent review of The Reluctant Bride I liked was that ‘nothing is what it seems’ while another reviewer calls it ‘the darker side of Regency life’.
Thanks again, Laura, for inviting me. I still get a thrill when I see that beautiful cover Choc Lit’s talented Berni Stevens created for me. The whole process of taking the book from competition winning entry to its final form as a September 15th paperback release was huge fun. It was also such a blast to meet six fellow ‘Chocliteers’ at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City earlier this year. I shared a room at the Crowne Plaza with my editor, Rachel Skinner who was absolutely delightful to work with. The weird thing was that we seemed to be colour coordinated with everything we wore for the six days of conference.
I hope readers enjoy Angus and Emily’s story.
Beverley Eikli is the author of eight historical romances published by Pan Macmillan Momentum, Robert Hale, Ellora’s Cave and Total-e-Bound. Recently she won UK Women’s Fiction publisher Choc-Lit’s Search for an Australian Star competition with her suspenseful, Regency espionage Romance The Reluctant Bride.
She’s been shortlisted twice for a Romance Readers of Australia Award in the Favourite Historical category — in 2011 for A Little Deception, and in 2012 for her racy Regency Romp, Rake’s Honour, written under her Beverley Oakley pseudonym.
Beverley wrote her first romance when she was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page was, she discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt and she became a journalist.
After throwing in her job on South Australia’s metropolitan daily The Advertiser to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, Beverley discovered a new world of romance and adventure in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire.
Eighteen years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s as an airborne geophysical survey operator during low-level sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland’s ice cap, Beverley is back in Australia teaching in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University, as well as teaching Short Courses for the Centre of Adult Education and Macedon Ranges Further Education.