The Land of Ideas

The first question I usually get when "normal" folks find out I write romance is this: Where do you get your ideas? So, thought I would tell you where the germ of inspiration for "Pride of Honor" started - the first in a series called “Men of the Squadron.”

I met the prototype for Sophie and her notorious poet father in a tiny bookshop tucked along a cobblestone alley in Florence, Italy. Ideas occasionally come to us from odd places. The shop offered hand-painted cards of famous Italians depicted as various animals.

One of the cards featured a tomcat attired as a Regency buck. I immediately thought of my friend and romance author Louisa Cornell. She loves cats and writes a mean Regency. But later, on the plane trip home, I pulled out the card and read the back. The cat represented the famous Italian poet, Ugo Foscolo, who spent time near the end of his life in the environs of London.

Additional research revealed one of his many mistresses was the daughter of an English duke. They had an illegitimate daughter who was raised by her grandmother, the duchess. And if that is not enough to pique any romance reader’s interest, the grandmother was a famous, successful writer of romantic novels in the 1700s, well before Jane Austen. My romance characters, of course, are only based on these real-life characters.

A heroine with a past as romantic as Sophie’s needed a truly strong hero. For Arno (Captain Arnaud Blanchard) I reached back into a French family from Martinique in one of my earlier romances, “Secret Harbor,” and plucked a plausible young man with deep roots from seafaring stock.

However, the time for naval exploits would have been a little off. Some research of what the Royal Navy was up to in 1820, well after the Napoleonic Wars, yielded a fascinating bunch of guys who were charged by Parliament (in 1807) with clearing the high seas of slavery. It took them until nearly the end of the century, but they did it. Their amazing exploits are detailed in the ships’ logs of the Royal Navy’s African Squadron.

Arno and his brothers in arms were kind of like modern day Navy Seals. Before you point out Seals are American, the American Navy of the nineteenth century was also involved in chasing slave ships, liberating and re-settling the captives. Did British and American ships ever cross paths or cooperate? Technically, no, but there were incidents…

Huge kudos to all the Regency readers, Beau Monde members, editors, and agents who spent their precious reading time helping me build a better series through my entry scoring a “final” in the Beau Monde’s Royal Ascot competition. Your comments are nuggets of gold money can’t buy. I will be entering another novel from my series next year, and I hope many of you will participate again to help me produce the best possible romance.

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 Regency Buck tomcat based on Italian poet Ugo Foscolo

Regency Buck tomcat based on Italian poet Ugo Foscolo