Journalist Evelyn Trimborn interviews Sorcha MacMurrough, author of The Rakehell Regency Romance Series:
Q-Where DO you get your heroes and villains? They are so amazing!
A-(Laughs and points to her head) All in here. I don’t even dare take credit for some of them. They literally pop right out, almost fully formed at times. For example, Philip Marshall in The Mistaken Miss, came into my head almost fully formed one Christmas morning, and was so compelling, instead of doing all the family things as promised, I wrote for most of the day. He certainly was a gift.
Simon in Madness was also fully formed from the moment he came into my head. The heroine’s predicament and the history of the time did the rest.
Lawrence in Experience was almost the same, except that as I have said, I like to set myself challenges in my writing, and I realized I had got all the way near the end (or what I thought would be the end) of the Rakehell series, over a dozen books, and had yet to deal directly with a marriage that was not so happily ever after. Experience was the hardest book I have ever had to write–the sensual parts were amazing to write, a nd definitely count as romantic erotica, women’s erotica, but Lawrence’s hard heart and head and actions towards Juliet the heroine had me (and many readers!) totally in tears.
But again, my heroines are tough, because I want to show how love can transform and heal.
Q-You mention an unhappy marriage here. That definitely is not the usual romance novel fare.
A-No, true, but as I said, it would have been true of that period of time, much more true, in fact, than the frothy Regencies and so-called historicals we get from certain authors and publishing houses. They are really just modern people in costume most of the time, frankly, and it does a disservice to the reader. I also wanted to show younger women readers that there are acceptable and unacceptable actions within romance and love, the difference especially between consensual and non-consensual love scenes. The bodice-ripper type scenes are still being churned out by certain authors who have been around for a while, and I have to admit it disturbs me, the message that this might be giving to young women. No means NO, end of story, and regardless of what the context might be (what she was wearing, where she was, and so on). Then there is emotional abuse. Neglect is also abuse. I deal with those topics in Experience.
Likewise we need to make it clear to younger women in our society that violence in a relationship is NEVER acceptable. Only the villains engage in any physical violence in my stories, but it is always there for a reason, never gratuitous or sensational, any more than the love scenes are there just for filler. They are there to reveal character, issues they might have, and the path of falling in love.
Q-Yes, your villains. Talk about creepy!
A-Well, that’s the whole point. To be a very strong contrast with the hero in each novel. But it is also fun to see the heroine sorting out who she can really trust, versus who is after her for their own agenda. After all, a villain has to be plausible, appear normal, otherwise everyone will know what he’s up to! The first three books of The Rakehell Regency Romance series, which were written for more traditional Regency romance publishers, were very much based on the idea of the heroine wanting to (or being pressured into) making a ’good match’, but having to learn to trust her judgment and sense, and her heart as her head, to sort the lies from the truth.
Jane Austen wrote about many unhappy marriages in her books-mainly based on fortune hunters or ill-matched couples, like Northanger Abbey, or Persuasion, so again, I was being true to life, and adding suspense, while still adding lots of romance.
Q-Like Beauty and the Beast?
A-Exactly. Only in my books, the reader, and sometimes the heroine, isn’t always sure who is the Beast. (Grins.)
Q-(Laughing) That’s certainly true. You really know how to surprise us, yet you’ve given us enough clues that we don’t feel, “Huh? Where did THAT come from.” Like in The Scarred Heart. I LOVED the way you let us in on the hero’s identity, while still keeping the heroine in the dark almost til the last minute when she gets engaged! Really well done.
A-Glad you liked it. It wasn’t easy, but very fun to write. I wanted to show that when it comes to love and relationships, you need to trust your instincts, head as well as heart, and vice versa.
Q-The way you wrote that book was very involving too–because we also start to guess who the villain is, and we’re terrified she’ll end up in his clutches. And of course it is durin the Napoleonic Wars, so you’ve got the hero and heroine’s high stakes in falling in love, and then the even bigger ones of what is going on in history at the time.
A-That’s exactly what I was aiming for, yes. A larger landscape than just rake meets debutante, so again, I am writing much more historical fiction than Regency romance, though the books are set in the Regency period. You still get plenty of balls, flirting and wittiness, but with real events underpinning the action.
Q-And that’s another thing,action. I really admire the way they are all pretty seemingly ordinary men and women, especially the women, who get thrust into the most amazing situations.
A-But that’s when we’re tested the most, don’t you think? We can only grow through being challenged.
Q-Great point. And I like the way the heroines are not really damsels in distress. That in some cases they actually rescue the hero, either emotionally or physically. Sarah the vicar’s sister helping the blind Alexander is a revelation in her novel.
A-Yes, The Matchless Miss. She does rise to the occasion indeed. A very passionate book, that one.
Q-But some of your heroines are not so lucky.
A-Ah, no, sadly, but again, true to life, some of them do fall into the villain’s clutches, alas. Like poor Arabella in Guardian of the Heart.
Q-Yes, how hard were those scenes to write?
A-Er, certainly not easy, but not graphic. I let much of it be implied, but some of the heroines do have to recover from some ordeals. Again, I am writing realistic historical romance, but it still has to be romance.
Q-Yes, it certainly is. I mean, your love scenes. Well. Wow.
Q-I am going to guess you enjoy writing them? Because a lot of writers don’t, and it shows. With yours, on the other hand, well, wow! The Matchless Miss, The Model Mistress, Ravished, Experience, those are just off the top of my head. Wow.
A-(Laughs) Thanks! That is sort of the idea. The lovemaking arises from who the characters are as people and the circumstances they find themselves in.
Q-And Michael Avenel in The Model Master. What an incredible hero and couple, and it all sets the stage for the later books, especially Innocence and Innocence Afire.
A-Thanks, yes, those three are closely connected, though they are quite separated in terms of the story arc, with time passing as the other stories occur, til all the lose ends are tied up in the series. They are all standalone, of course, but it was great seeing all my characters grow as people, especially Randall Avenel, after having such an amazing brother as Michael to live up to. So if you like the characters, and in particular, all the love scenes in each of those books, then I’ve succeeded in my mission.
Q-So your mission is what, exactly, when it comes to the love scenes?
A-To be continued….