In my last post, I talked about my love of romance and reading Georgette Heyer novels as a teenager. But I also read my father’s thrillers. Dad had all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels in his library, and I read everyone. While I loved these stories, I wanted more romance and that happy ending. Further inspiration came from the fascinating life of one of the first British spies, diplomat, Lord Stuart de Rothesay, who was a colorful and intriguing political player on the world stage during the nineteenth century, and might be called the first James Bond. I found the perfect perior in which to set my spy romances: the Regency era.
Traditionally, spies are seen as shadowy characters, dangerous to know. An element of mystery surrounds them which makes for intriguing stories. Spies operate on the fringes of society, forced to adopt secretive measures to remain undercover. To survive, they must be clever, resourceful, quick-witted and athletic.
Spies can fight.
Spies can handle a gun, while looking great in a dinner suit.
Not to mention stripped.
The element of danger these men exude makes for an attractive hero, especially those in my series, the Spies of Mayfair, who act on behalf of the Crown risking their lives for their country. In writing Taming a Gentleman Spy, I drew inspiration from Daniel Craig’s James Bond. In Casino Royale, Bond falls in love and displays a vulnerability rarely seen in a Bond movie, to the point where he considers giving the game away. A consummate actor, Craig plays a tough, yet vulnerable hero, with steely blue eyes. And like him, my hero, John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn, is both tough and vulnerable, with steely-blue-grey eyes.
Taming a Gentleman Spy, is the second book in the Spies of Mayfair series, and can be read as a standalone. Strathairn became a military spy after returning from fighting Napoleon. He saw many friends die during the Peninsular war, and is beset by nightmares. When the agent Strathairn is working with is murdered, it affirms his belief that a spy can never marry. His work is dangerous, he may not live to see tomorrow. But despite his efforts to remain just a friend to Lady Sibella Winborne, he is growing much too fond of her.
The lives of ladies of the ton during the Regency era were quite constrained. Lady Sibella Winborne’s future was decided at birth, but as an intelligent, confident woman, she wishes to carve her own path and marry the man of her choice. Lord Strathairn is not that man, according to the head of the family, her eldest brother, Chaloner, now Marquess of Brandreth. Sibella’s sisters have helped her evade unwanted suitors in the past, but at twenty-six, she remains unmarried. No man has measured up to Strathairn in Sibella’s eyes, and she has refused several offers of marriage, hoping that their friendship will turn to love and marriage. When Strathairn makes no such commitment, Sibella’s mother, the forceful, dowager Marchioness of Brandreth, along with Sibella’s many siblings, band together to marry her off to a suitable man. Sibella is known to be the sensible one, but she admits she’s not at all sensible about Strathairn.
Do you love sexy spies as I do? Who was your favorite James Bond?
They walked to the stables together. Strathairn glanced at Sibella’s serious profile. “You are leaving York tomorrow?”
“I believe my mother is half gypsy,” Sibella said. “I shall almost be glad when she settles into her dotage in the dower house.”
“That’s not likely to be soon judging by the light in her eye.”
“No. Are you going to tell me the truth about last night?”
He shrugged. “Someone shooting at rats. As I said.”
She searched his eyes. “You won’t tell me then.”
“I honestly don’t know, Sibella.”
She shook her head and firmed her lips.
They reached the stable where his big chocolate brown horse enjoyed a feed of oats. Sibella patted the stallion’s neck. “Oh, he is a true beauty.”
“Yes. Ulysses is going to be one of my greatest successes.” He leaned against the stall enjoying looking at her in her green and white spotted dress. “So, we are friends again?”
She smiled. “We were always friends. It shall always be so.”
Was he a fool to believe their friendship could survive the changes ahead? Knowing how precarious his life was made him feel reckless there in the warmth of the stables with the horses shuffling in their stalls. He disliked the distance that stood between them. He would have liked to pull her down onto the straw and … “We’d best return to the house,” he said abruptly.
Coming August What a Rake Wants – the third book in the Mayfair Spy series.
Wish to learn more about Lord Stuart de Rothesay? Amazon: Customs, Castles and Kings True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors