Finally, Michael! (And Patricia Rice)
Posted by Nancy Northcott Jul 16 2012, 12:27 am
My guest today, bestselling author Patricia Rice, is here to discuss The English Heiress, the long-awaited sequel to The Marquess. Finally, Gavin’s brother, Michael O’Toole gets his own book! He also has a Top Pick from Romantic Times magazine. (For disclosure purposes: I received a free copy of the book from Pat, whom I’ve known since she was a member of my local chapter.) Pat, welcome and congratulations on your Top Pick!
Thank you! I’m delighted to be visiting with the Bandits again. I don’t suppose you’ve retired the poor chicken?
No, not yet. I’m sure he’s around here somewhere, but maybe he’ll stay out of the way. For a while. The English Heiress had an interesting road to publication. Please tell us about it.
The English Heiress in the Regency Nobles series is an example of irony in action. The series started out in a small category Regency for Signet. Two characters appeared who absolutely begged for their own books—the American marquess who inherits a dilapidated manor, and his mysterious “brother” Michael, who doesn’t seem to have a name of his own.
I’d been writing western historical romances, but my editor was quite happy to have a large Regency. The Marquess was first published in 1997 by Penguin/Topaz. I had a wonderful new agent who took The English Heiress into a bidding war between Penguin and another publisher. The offer we accepted from the new publisher had me walking on air and quitting the day job, even though the industry then, as today, was in a turmoil.
I happily wrote Michael’s book, The English Heiress, and the sequel, The Irish Duchess and turned them in. I wasn’t used to working with the new editor, so I just met my deadlines, did my revisions, and patiently waited for her to tell me when the books would come out. The new publisher was slow and uncommunicative, so I started writing contemporary romances to keep busy.
I sold all three of the contemporary romances I proposed to still another publisher, for even more money than the Regencies (I told you, irony is the name of the game here). And then my brand new historical publisher chose to quit selling romance and demanded their advance back. Long story here, but my new agent emerged victorious with my manuscripts and my advance. But no one wanted sequels that had been sitting on a desk for two or three years after the first book’s release. I reluctantly tucked Michael and the duke into a drawer, continued writing contemporaries, and began writing the Magic series.
But now, with e-publishing, I no longer have an excuse to keep Michael hidden!
I’m certainly glad about that! What challenges or rewards did you face going back into this book and updating it?
Over a dozen years ago, when The Heiress was returned to me, I was probably dealing with one paper copy (scribbled all over, because that’s how I edited) and a half dozen floppy disks on Word 6.0 that I copied over to 3.5” disks before I shoved them into a drawer. Over the years, I copied some of the files and tried to update them, so the files in my computer no longer matched that lone paper copy.
Fast forward to 2011. The ancient disks had deteriorated, and only a few of the chapters were salvageable. The pieces I had were written in an earlier Regency style of excess verbiage and circumlocutions and head hopping that are the very devil to weed out.
So over this past year I’ve been painstakingly digging old chapters off the disks that weren’t corrupted, scanning chapters from yellowing pages for disks that were no longer usable, and piecing all of the bits together with the salvageable files. And once I had a full, coherent manuscript again, I edited. And edited some more. Then when my brain was about to explode, I sent the whole mess to the editors at Book View Café, who trimmed THE ENGLISH HEIRESS to its new fast-paced self. Every time I go through a project like this, I learn a little more about our language and editing—hard lessons, but well worth it!
Who are the hero and heroine of The English Heiress?
Michael, who goes by the adopted name of O’Toole, a rootless magician and jack-of-all-trades, and Lady Blanche Perceval, the sheltered granddaughter of a duke and one of the wealthiest young women in England.
What keeps Michael and Blanche apart?
That’s probably answered in the question above. <G> On top of that, after Michael rescued Blanche from a fire, they became good friends, and then once she was safe, he abandoned her for two years, only to show up on her doorstep with another young female who needs rescuing. It’s enough to make a girl swear.
Do you want to share an excerpt?
Michael presented himself at the office door. Two obviously harassed men, one in country tweed and the other in tradesman’s drab, stood hats in hands before a wide desk. Behind the desk sat the dainty woman Michael remembered well.
Wisps of sunny hair drifted from her coiffeur, framing sky blue eyes. But the rounded cheeks he’d once admired had reddened into drawn, angry patches, and the blue eyes appeared a glacial gray as she glared at her steward and man of business. Rose lips formed a humorless line above a small chin tilted in defiance. Michael advanced into the room. “Why don’t you just kick them in the balls and get it over with, my dear lady?” he asked with good cheer. “Men deal with physical pain much more stoically.”
The startling appearance of her knight in tarnished armor dashed all thought of business out of Blanche’s head. Michael! After almost two years, the wretched O’Toole dared to sweep back into her life as if he’d left only yesterday. She stifled an urge to dive over the desk and scratch his laughing eyes out.
He was more devastatingly handsome than she remembered. The years had sculpted his features into sharp cheekbones and lean jaw. Only the absurdity of his gloriously auburn hair and the laughing crinkle of his eyes softened his harsh features. She cast a quick glance at the breadth of strong shoulders she remembered too well, then forced herself to look away.
His ribald remark had left her men of business gaping with horror, but Blanche rose to his provocation. “Shall I take a pistol ball to your hide and discover the truth of that, O’Toole?”
Undeterred, Michael swept around the desk, produced a nosegay from his pocket, and flourished it before kissing the scar along her hairline. “Pistols at dawn, if you require, but I’d much rather take one to Neville than your dainty self.”
He gestured toward their audience. “Wouldn’t it be much simpler to just tell the gentlemen that you prefer feeding the poachers than letting your neighbors set traps for them? And I suppose the working conditions in the mine have deteriorated again to the point that you must visit the foreman and cut off his head before you give him one more ha’penny?”
“O’Toole, will you get away from me with your blarney and take these blasted flowers and shove them back in my garden where they belong?” Refusing to fall for Michael’s charms as she so stupidly had once before, Blanche glared at their gaping audience. “You’re both dismissed, and you may take this layabout with you when you go.”
With that, she rose from her chair and glided toward the escape of her private apartments behind the public office.
Before the two burly men could manhandle him out the door, Michael called after her. “If I leave, you’ll have to look after Fiona. I’m afraid she’s a bit of a handful, but she’s too far from home to return now!”
Blanche halted with her hand on the door to freedom. “Fiona? One of your strays, I presume?” she asked tartly.
He grinned. “Of course.”
Unconsciously, she raised fingers to a brow knitted with the pain of this day and too many others like it. “Leave him, Beamis. I may as well deal with one more nodcock before this day’s over.”
Intelligently, the beefy steward dropped Michael’s arm.
Michael waited until the two men closed the door behind them before speaking. “We meet again, my lady.”
“It’s been what? Two years?” she asked wearily. “And you just pop in and act as if it were yesterday. Who the devil is Fiona and what am I supposed to do with her?”
Blanche is fabulous, but I adore Michael and always have. Do you remember, after all this time, what inspired his character in The Marquess?
Michael actually first appeared in a short Signet Regency as the magician who keeps stealing the jewels while his harassed “brother” attempts to return them to the heroine. The Marquess fills in a lot of their background, with the American marquess being the center of attention while Michael does his slippery thing, pretending to be everyone from a footman to an addle-pated servant. His role just kept growing until I was too fascinated to resist and had to discover his story.
You’re re-releasing The Marquess, too, aren’t you? What else do you have on the horizon?
Yes, The Marquess came out with a new cover in May and is now on special for $2.99. Hurry and get a copy while you can because I’ll be marking it back up shortly.
I have so many balls in the air that it’s hard to give an accurate list. I have an urban fantasy out at the end of September under a pseudonym. I’ll have the second book in the contemporary romance Malcolm trilogy out in January. And I’m actually (wipes brow and gasps) working on the scanned copy of the next book in the Regency Nobles, plus Nick Atherton’s story from the Rebellious Sons. And I’m still scanning and editing backlist in my spare time.
For more info about Pat and books, please check her website or her Facebook page.
Pat is giving a ebook of The English Heiress to one commenter today, so tell us: What do you like about sequels? Who’s your favorite con man hero or favorite daring heroine?