This isn’t exactly an April Fool’s column, because it’s not a joke, but the date seemed appropriate since it’s a “what if? …” exercise of imagination. When Janet told me about it, I asked her if I could please post it at VM. Janet is my go-to expert in All Things Rogue, and while I haven’t read all of Jo Beverley’s books, some of hers are among my very favorites. They’re also the gold standard in historical romance for me. So anything that gives us more JoBev is welcomed, even if they’re imaginary. And you never know …
A guest post by Janet W., AKA @JanetNorCal.
Reading A Shocking Delight, David Kerslake’s story, led me to wonder whether there might be other untold stories in the Rogues world. Taking obsession a couple steps further, I imagined a follow-on story for each book. Here are my proposed storylines and protagonists. I’ll admit to being just a little bit fan*sessed. If you are too, perhaps you have some storylines of your own—please share.
An Arranged Marriage: Kit, the Earl of Stainsbridge, Nicholas’s twin brother. Irrefutable—he’s gay and he’s a widower. Up for discussion—when he was introduced, he was not particularly happy, somewhat of a busy-body, and rather ineffectual, usually looking to Nicholas to clean up his messes. So m/m, but whom? Someone in the art world perhaps, since he raped Eleanor over a piece of jade wrapped up with a blackmail bow. In the years since his shadowy encounter with Eleanor, has he found a modicum of peace, particularly since the succession has been taken care of with the birth of Nicholas’s son Francis?
An Unwilling Bride: Tom Holloway, a handy extra pair of eyes or hands when needed, friend to the Rogue men. He’s somewhat in the background of Rogue hijinks, in attendance at Nicholas’s wedding, and waiting with a carriage after the Rogues descend on Deveril’s sordid townhouse. How about a joint novella with Joanna Bourne? That would give the Rogues’ token hang-around spy a chance to flex his muscles.
Christmas Angel: James Knollis, the eldest son of the Earl of Charrington’s extended family, the one who lied when he told Leander and Judith that there was diphtheria at Temple Knollis. James is quite unprepossessing, “He was of sturdy build, with neat brown hair, and tolerable clothes, but very young to be accosting an earl. About twenty.” A sturdy English squire—how to make his story interesting? But then Leander has such elegant, exotic foreign relatives—could it be a young lady from Russia perhaps. Sables ahoy…
Forbidden: Cather, the young gardener. This was tough since there are so few extraneous characters! But revisit this passage with Serena, Dibbert, Francis’s London butler, Cather (the gardener who ratted out Serena to Francis) and the downstairs cast of characters. It all started with the disappearance of a pound of tea. Is there a power struggle between Mrs. Andover, the housekeeper, and Mrs. Scott, the cook?
Serena noted evidence of a feud there, and from the appeals both women were making to a harassed Dibbert, she suspected he was the bone of contention. The cook, Mrs. Scott, seemed intent on pinning the blame on a terrified kitchen maid who had only been hired the month before. The maid’s wails brought in the young gardener, who came staunchly to the defense of little Katie. That clearly upset the younger upstairs maid. Serena noted that perilous triangle. Affairs of the heart below stairs were almost as complicated as those above!
Serena’s attempt to smooth over the contretemps leaves bruised feelings, particularly with a bitter Cather. Serena thinks “that her kind intentions might cause trouble from him in the future.” How about the enterprising Cather leaves the Middleton household to seek his fame and fortune? A Horatio Alger rags to riches tale…and maybe someday, after he’s made his pile, he crosses paths with his former employer and downstairs colleagues… Hey, it worked with Downton Abbey.
Dangerous Joy: Blanche’s daughter. Blanche shared with Felicity that she, like her, bore a child out of wedlock. Food for thought—this is what I wrote at Heroes and Heartbreakers: “Of all the Rogues, who hasn’t starred in his own story? Did you guess Major Hal Belmont? That’s correct; Hal and actress Blanche Hardcastle’s romance has only been woven through the various Rogue stories. Which I’ve always thought was rather a shame. So my invitation to Jo Beverley would be to shake down the Rogue tree one more time, in the hopes of uncovering a worthy plot. Perhaps it could center on Blanche’s mysterious natural daughter, adopted by a wealthy family when Blanche was little more than a girl herself. What if she …” This story could be so interesting, very Rogue worthy.
The Dragon’s Bride: David Kerslake, no more to be said … you will read all about his tale in A Shocking Delight.
“The Demon’s Mistress” in In Praise of Younger Men and The Devil’s Heiress and Hazard: Miss Natalie Florence. She’s Maria Vandeimen’s niece, the orphaned daughter of a relative of Maria’s first, unlamented husband. She has continental blood and according to Van, she’s very sensible. Lord Vandeimen asks Race to escort her to a gala Brighton gathering.
When the ladies came down in the evening, Race had no complaints about his partner. Natalie was no beauty—her hair was mousy, she was short, and he suspected she’d always be plump. An enormous zest for life fizzed in her, however, and someone—presumably Maria Vandeimen—had excellent taste … The bodice was low enough on her full breasts to be interesting while still being modest, and her jewels were delicately made of pearls and sapphire chips. Suitable yet unusual, and a reminder to the world that Natalie could be assumed to share some of her uncle’s wealth—the uncle being Maria’s first husband, Maurice Celestin.
Mark me down for being interested in Natalie’s story. But who could her hero be? We know it can’t be Lord Uffham, heir to the Duke of Arran (the brother of Lady Anne, Race’s lady love) because Jo Beverley has said he is not about to change. Tiresome fellow.
St. Raven: Cary Lyne, St. Raven’s loyal friend. He’s quite the philosopher, saying to Cressida (after she turns down St. Raven, again!): “His expression was rueful and kind. “Don’t worry. I’ll pick up the pieces. Bon voyage, Miss Mandeville, but I hope you are very sure of your proper destination.” Lyne’s story could be somewhat of a parallel to A Most Unsuitable Man, a recent story in the Georgian Malloren world.
Skylark: Juliet and Robert Fancourt. A married couple story à la Helen MacInnes. Juliet is Laura Gardeyne’s younger sister, the one who waited two years until her diplomat husband could afford to marry. Perhaps they could be asked by the Crown to undertake a dangerous mission together. I’m envisioning a mystery with undercurrents and strains from their long separation. Juliet says to Laura, when she’s asked where her home is, “Wherever Robert is.” Then Juliet pulled a face. “Well, not Denmark. Or at sea, which is probably where he still is. But yes, our London house is home.” Does Robert know how playful, intelligent, and resourceful a person his wife is? Her maturity and independence might cause their marriage to alter and change.
The Rogue’s Return: Dorothy, Lady Austrey. Here’s Jancy’s first impression of her, “A slender woman rising from a sofa, dressed in deepest black, must be the widow, Cousin Dorothy, Lady Austrey. She dismissed a hovering maid and smiled with obvious effort.” Dorothy has not had an easy time but she’s been exemplary, even stoic in the face of her travails (bearing girls, not an heir to the earldom, nursing a sick husband for quite some time). What’s ahead for her after her year of deepest black mourning is behind her?
To Rescue a Rogue: Feng Ruyuan, Dare’s healer, guide, and helpmeet in his fight against opium addiction. It was Nicholas, King Rogue, who brought Feng to Dare. Mara seeks him out and they become allies: “…the man who opened the door was dressed in the red monk’s robe, and like the figurine was completely bald. He wasn’t old, however, and his height and broad shoulders suggested strength. He had steady, slanted eyes in a rugged, wide face.” Jo Beverley doesn’t share much of Feng’s story—but what we see is fascinating. After he gives Mara an oriental disk with the black and white yin-yang design, he says it doesn’t represent good and bad but instead “light and dark, but dark is no more bad than nighttime is. Light and dark also represent the masculine and feminine in each of us.” Mara, Dare and Ruyuan travel to Mara’s home, Brideswell, a special place. Ruyuan says, “People come here and stay here because of the chi. Good people enhance it, but the pure energy comes from elsewhere.” Since Brideswell is holy and has been for centuries, perhaps there’s a healer nearby, a holy woman skilled in the use of herbs. West meets East?
Lady Beware: Frank Cave, Darien’s sailor brother. We meet Lieutenant Cave, RN, when things are at a low ebb for Lady Thea and Lord Darien, “Frank stood at the head of the stairs in his blue naval uniform, not smiling, but still managing to convey clean, honest goodwill and fellowship. No one asked who he was. Dark hair and eyes and the cut of the jaw declared him a Cave, but as always, the magic of his charm worked.” It’s rather predictable to have the hero’s brother star in his own story so let’s have a heroine he met when he was a sailor. Someone from a different hemisphere and culture perhaps and let’s have her be so wealthy that he’s the one on trial—the one her family isn’t sure they should allow her to wed. There was this admiral’s daughter he had thought to marry but maybe that was a ruse, or Plan B, since he thought the tantalizing “other” was forever out of reach.
So what do you envision? Have you “shipped” any of Jo Beverley’s characters over the years? Please share!