My Facebook friend, fellow author, and like-minded history enthusiast Francine Howarth (do you get the idea that I like this lady a bit?) invited me to join the blog-hop Meet My Character. Francine is not only a former mainstream-published author and former publisher, she’s now the self-published author of 17th century swashbuckling romances, lavish Georgian novellas, and romantic Regency murder mysteries.
I know. She’s that awesome.
Find out more for yourself by visiting Francine at her website, where you can also find links to points of sale for all her novels. You can even read sample chapters, view images of places featured within her novels, and discover links to more places of interest to historical novelists (like me!).
For this blog-hop, I’m to profile a main character from a current work in progress (WIP). I classify my third novel, Earl Crazy, as a WIP, as I am currently putting the final touches on it before shipping it off to my editor. When it returns with bleeding red wounds, I will definitely progress to working on it some more. For now, let’s get to know my beleaguered, crazy Earl.
What is the name of your character? Is he fictional or historical?
Tobias Kitteridge, the Earl of Aylesford, is a most fictional character, although I picture him quite alive and well in my mind. For each character in my book, I pick real titles, estates, and events, but I mix them up to fit my completely fictional story. My Earl of Aylesford hails from Warwickshire rather than Kent. He inherits his title after his father refuses to be the heir, forcing Aylesford’s grandfather to seek to have the Letters Patent for the earldom amended (which is very fictional, by the way; it could happen, and did in the 20th century, but not during the Regency). As for what Aylesford looks like, I picked a public figure that fit my idea of his characteristics. On my Pinterest page, Novel Inspiration, I have tacked up pictures of close representations of my fictional characters. Aylesford happens to look very similar to Tom Cullen, the dashing Lord Gillingham on Downton Abbey.
You can see why it’s quite easy for me to blur the line between figment and fiction, yes?
When and where is the story set?
Earl Crazy is set in the autumn months of 1814. All the action takes place in London. 1814 was an unusual year in history in general, and London in particular. February brought a Frost Fair to the Thames for four days as the river was frozen solid. Napoleon was deposed, abdicated his crown, and set sail for Elba in April. Louis XVIII decided it was safe to leave London, and departed with dreams of a triumphal return to Paris. Universal peace was declared in May, and dignitaries from various countries began to find their way to the English capital now that the war had ended. Wellington was made a duke, fêted formally in polite homes, and extremely informally at a masque held by The Dandy Club of Byron, Devonshire, Leinster, et. al. The Glorious Peace was celebrated in multiple parks and ballrooms in August. So unlike most years, the aristocracy stayed in Town throughout the summer. It would not do to miss a thing this the happenings in London, despite the heat and unfortunate stench.
What should we know about your character?
Tobias Kitteridge is a man who grew up without a childhood, inherited an earldom that should never have been his, and shouldered the responsibilities of an entire family. His grandfather, having lost two sons to accident and war, and the third and youngest to a world-wide treasure hunt, pulled young Tobias from university to bring him home for study. He petitioned Parliament to let the earldom bypass his living son – Tobias’s father – so that grandson Tobias could inherit. His petition was granted, thus ending Tobias’s youth of school, friends, and frivolity. Life soon became endless lessons on land management, book balancing, and sober living. At the death of his grandfather, Tobias became Aylesford, and inherited the care of his grandmother and aunt in addition to his wealth, lands, and tenants. When we meet Aylesford, he is desperately trying to balance the demands of the earldom and supervision of his relations with the understandable desire to pursue his own interests for a change. Just when things seem to be working out, two of his closest friends marry; now even the landscape of his friendships is changing and adulthood is leaving him behind. A drunken suggestion is made that the answer to Aylesford’s problems can be found in a wife: one who will manage his family and his household, and allow him some much-desired free time. This leads to a drunken advertisement for a wife (another bit of real history coming to life in my fiction). Mix in two scheming countesses, one daffy aunt, liberal drops of the machinations of well-meaning friends, and you have the picture of life for Aylesford in Earl Crazy. Sounds like he only wants for the perfect – for him – woman.
What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?
I touched on this a little bit above. Aylesford had to grow up too soon, and missed out on many of the classic youthful male pursuits of drinking, wenching, and gambling. His main conflict comes in trying to find a balance between his responsibilities and needing a much-deserved break from those responsibilities. He thinks he’s figured out a solution with the helpful prodding of his friends and family: a wife will take over the household concerns while his secretary and stewards will help with the earldom. In reality, a wife complicates his life . . . but in a surprisingly satisfactory way. He congratulates himself on finding a lady who needs help as much as he, thinking they can both do each other a fine turn. Instead, he finds that he likes her, wants to spend time with her, and relishes taking on the burden of ridding them all of her horrid brother. It ends up further “messing” up his life, eroding what little order he had managed to scrape together, but in exchange he finds much more than he ever thought he needed.
What is the personal goal of your character?
This is a bit of a difficult question. At the beginning of the story, I think Aylesford’s goal is simply to survive. He wishes his life were simpler, and wishes his responsibilities were lighter, but he doesn’t necessarily want them to go away. He wishes his problems were more self-solving and involved him less. After he marries, thinking he has achieved his goal of simplicity, we see him start to look at his life from the outside in, taking stock of the things that are important and those that are secondary concerns. Pretty soon, his goals becomes to nurture and protect. First he wants to help his wife, to give her the things she has missed most her life. Next he wants to protect her from her threatening, grasping brother, and the subsequent worries he causes. This softening of Aylesford’s perspective leads him to trouble himself personally for people rather than just attempt to manage them – he begins to care for his wife, react tenderly to his aunt and grandmother, and cherish his friends. Responsibilities become privileges.
Is there a working title for this novel? Can we read more about it?
There is a
working permanent title for Book Three in The Lords of Oxford series – Earl Crazy. It will be published later this year. Soon I’ll have the cover to reveal, chapters to share, and general newsy bits to discuss. I do have an excerpt that well describes the heroine’s perception of Aylesford, and gives a bit of insight into how others see him. Lady Margaret and her benefactor, the Countess of Ashford, with whom she is staying as her brother is threatening her safety, are on their way to Aylesford’s house. The Countess has just read of the Earl’s need for a wife, and she thinks Margaret is the perfect candidate.
The Earl of Aylesford.
Margaret bit her lower lip in concentrated thought. That man unsettled her, for some nameless reason. The gentlemen of her immediate circle were affable and courteous, as was Lord Aylesford, but that gentleman also made her feel . . . something indefinable.
She usually avoided men as a general rue. They were unpredictable, brash, hot-headed, and downright mean. The men of her family had taught her early that their sex was selfish and impatient, and brooked no intelligence or impudence from their women. So she became a great studier of persons – their character, actions, and expressions – and tried to blend in as much as was possible. But the Earl of Aylesford was a mystery, other than seeming to be perennially frustrated or harried.
And those black, fathomless eyes.
“You are thinking of his lordship, yes? Worrying and wondering what possible reason we have to visit him.”
Lady Ashford’s words scattered Margaret’s musings to the wind. “I thought we visited his relations, his aunt and grandmother.”
The Countess’ knowing smirk faded to a look of chagrin. “Yes, that’s what I meant. I merely misspoke.”
“You never misspeak.”
The Countess now flushed. “True. You misunderstood, then.”
It was Margaret’s turn to color, but she paled instead, casting a quick eye down at her beautiful borrowed morning dress. She raised a hand to her elegant up-do, brushing her fingers as well against the delicate gold earbobs the Countess insisted she borrow. “Please, Lady Ashford, I beg you not include me in any scheme–“
“Scheme? I also never scheme. I plan, and would even admit to the occasional plot, but never would I be so vulgar as to scheme.”
Margaret leaned across the carriage to take her mentor’s hands. “Then I do beseech you leave me out of any ideas that should arise from this morning call. There is nothing I lack that Lord Ayesford, or his family, should be sought to provide.”
“So you want nothing to do with anything planned at Kitteridge House?” Lady Ashford queried, enunciating the last three words carefully. Her eye narrowed under beetled brows as she waited for an answer.
“Yes–” Margaret began.
“Ha-ha!” the Countess interrupted in victory. “All was conceived at my own dining table. My plan is well in hand, and now allowed by your own concession.” She squeezed Margaret’s hands in reassurance. “Trust me, darling girl. I have your best interests at heart. Or if it makes you feel more at ease, this meeting is as much about what you can provide this family as they, you.”
Margaret swallowed painfully, and loudly. “I am well and truly sunk.”
Lady Ashford smiled with tenderness and affection at the timid lady now slumped back in the squabs opposite her. “No, my dearest. You are saved.”
So there you have it. I’m hard at work in the writing cave, creating like mad for release later this year. If you’d like to stay in the know, do the clicky thingy on the follow buttons of your choice up there on the right side of this page.
But this tour isn’t over yet.
There are two other lovely ladies participating today, and they would adore it if you’d stop by, browse a bit, and say “hi.”
Please visit Sasha Cottman to read about her upcoming new release.
She also has a giveaway going on here.
Finally, hop on over to meet Catherine Curzon, AKA Madame Gilflurt, of Covent Garden fame.