Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration series debut: Or how to leave your publisher and start over again.
The 17th century has always been one of my favorite periods. It is filled with highwaymen, cavaliers and courtiers; political upheaval, social mobility both up and down, colorful characters, tremendous wit and giant leaps in science and thought. During and after the Restoration women had more freedom than they would in later years, the social structure was more informal, and people questioned authority, religion, and long held beliefs in a way they hadn’t before. In a way, the Restoration period reminds me a bit of the sixties.
While researching the period for Highland Rebel, I came across John Wilmot, the notorious rake and libertine and sublime poet whose scathing wit and social commentary ( as well as humor, charm and good looks) gave me the idea for a story that turned in to Libertine’s Kiss. The first in a series of 17th century romantic historicals, an AAR Desert Island Keeper and an RT nominee for Best British Isles Historical, this book tells the story of two childhood sweethearts torn apart by civil war and reunited following the restoration of Charles II to the throne. It features a hero based on the notorious libertine, poet and close friend to the king, John Wilmot Earl of Rochester
Libertine’s Kiss has a bit of a fairytale motif, and is a love story told at least in part from a POV firmly planted in the centre of London, court life, the inner royal circle, and palace intrigue. William de-Veres is the ultimate insider and the heroine Elizabeth develops a close friendship with King Charles II. My editor “got it” I had a great cover, and the book did reasonably well for an relatively unknown author. Sadly though, (but happily for her) my editor was off to a prestigious art school before I began the second.
Undaunted, inspired by the period and firmly at home in it, I began the second book, The King’s Courtesan. This hero and heroine in the second book were “outsiders” in a sense. Captain Nichols was a country gentleman, a friend and suitor of Elizabeth from Libertine’s Kiss, but he fought on the Parliamentarian side and loses his lands soon after King Charles II regains his throne. The heroine, Hope Mathews, is a lowborn mistress of the king who must be removed from court before King Charles’ new wife arrives from Portugal.
Although Libertine’s Kiss and The King’s Courtesan are connected stories with recurring characters they were not connected as a series by title or covers by my publisher. I felt too much was cut from the second story to bring it in at a certain length, the cover was dreadfully wrong for the period and there was no series title. I was disheartened. I read reviews complaining there was no epilogue or follow up to the first book. I heard from people asking if there would be a second book a year after the second book was released. Very few people found that book compared to the first one.
When the third book, titled Hers at Midnight was approved it was not connected either. To be honest, I didn’t like the title for this one either. I had my heart set on The Highwayman and I didn’t want a mustache on my clean shaven hero. But these things were decided by the marketing department, not me. When it was delayed for release repeatedly, I began to consider what had once been unthinkable.
Many friends were recommending independent publishing as the best place for cross genre books who don’t adhere to the rules to find a home. I was terrified at leaving traditional publishing, but I decided to make the move. After much negotiation and a long wait I got most of my rights back (other than foreign translations) to my first two books and the as yet unpublished Hers at Midnight.
At last I was able to publish my books as series, The Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration, in the form and length that was originally intended. Libertine’s Kiss remains the same, except for the cover. I am delighted to release an enhanced version of the King’s Courtesan, now titled Soldier of Fortune in the form and length that was originally intended. Readers who enjoyed Libertine’s Kiss can find out what happened to Captain Nichols and catch up with Elizabeth, Charlie and Will.
The last line leads directly into my new release The Highwayman, a story based on the real highwayman Swift Nick and inspired by the intrepid 17th century traveler and journalist Celia Fiennes that takes the reader from the privileged world of London’s aristocracy to the highways and byways, inns and hunting grounds of some of England’s most celebrated rogues.
(LIBERTINE’S KISS IS FREE TODAY! CLICK COVERS FOR BUY LINKS)
I have learned a lot along the way. One of the toughest hurdles in launching the series was finding the right covers. These stories aren’t traditional romance in the current sense of the word, nor are they traditional historicals. They are a blend of fact and fiction, history and romance, with a dash of adventure, a generous helping of sensuality, a bit of a literary twist and an angsty love story at their core. Finding images to represent them, let alone ones that are historically appropriate was a daunting task, but thanks to Rob Lucas I was able to do just that. Blogger, photographer, model, re-enactor, weapons consultant, and clothing designer, Rob also owns a period clothing store. His Rakish Highwayman was the inspiration for all three covers. It has been a difficult task getting all the elements together but I am happy with the covers and the title. They are my choices and I am proud of them, even if the old ones may have been more marketable.
Finally, although each book can stand alone, they were written as a series, and when read in sequence, they provide a richer picture of the characters and the times. If you are interested in revisiting, catching up, or discovering the series for the first time today is the day! Both Libertine’s Kiss and Soldier of Fortune are free on kindle today!
I have included Rob’s Rakish Highwayman, my cover inspiration. I would also like to thank Victoria for inviting me here today and for all she does to broaden the field and open the doors to stories of history and romance.
ABOUT JUDITH JAMES
Judith James, award-winning author of IPPY gold medalist BROKEN WING, Historical Novels Reviews Top Choice and Barnes and Nobles best of the year HIGHLAND REBEL, and Booklist starred reviewed and Romantic Times 2010 best book nominee LIBERTINE’S KISS, is an avid reader and history buff who grew up in Montreal Quebec. She is a bit of an adventure junkie and has travelled, worked and lived in many places, including the Arctic, Ireland, London and France.
Variously employed as a trail guide, horse trainer, and clinical psychologist, she’s had the opportunity to live out many of her dreams. She has found the perfect place to write on the East Coast, with a view of the ocean from her window. Judith’s writing combines her love of history, romance and adventure with her keen interest in the complexities of human nature, and the heart’s capacity to heal.
She is currently getting ready to publish her Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration series. If you haven’t met them yet, catch up with the libertine, William de Veres and his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth Walters in Libertine’s Kiss. Meet the soldier and the courtesan in Soldiers of Fortune, previously known as The King’s Courtesan and prepare to be swept away by The Highwayman, a story based on the real highwayman Swift Nick and inspired by the intrepid 17th century traveler and journalist Celia Fiennes.
Ms James is always pleased to hear from fellow readers and writers and invites you to visit her on Facebook, her webpage or on twitter.