With the Help of Jane Austen…

Enjoy this tidbit from when Eloisa was writing The Taming of the Duke.

The book I’m writing at the moment (as yet, untitled) circles around the production of a play — and yes, for those enthusiasts out there, Miss Gillian Pythian-Adams is the producer. The obvious progenitor of this kind of novel is Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, in which a houseparty tries to put on a production of Love’s Vow. They are halted at the last moment by the arrival back home of a rather dour father figure who tosses everyone out of the party. You’ll be happy to know that my characters are rather more successful; I generally dispense with Puritan-esque father figures early on as they dampen the plot.

At any rate, I wanted to add a small acknowledgement of Miss Austen’s brilliant book, so at one point Lady Griselda and Rafe have an argument about the propriety of putting on a play, especially one to be directed by Gillian Pythian-Adams.

“If Miss Pythian-Adams has accepted your invitation,” Griselda said, keeping a firm grasp on her toast, “we shall need to arrange a house party in order to cover over the oddness of it all.”

“It’s all a matter of semantics,” Rafe said. “Theatrical parties are all the rage. An old friend of mine from school, Yates, is quite obsessed with them and wrote me a remarkably tedious letter about some performance of Love’s Vow.”

And there we are: Yates (who appears in Sense and Sensibility as a prime mover of the play) turns out to be one of Rafe’s school friends. And Rafe would definitely have found Yates to be a remarkably tedious person, old friend or not.

Originally published August 2005.

Dreaming Up Gabriel

In the month before The Taming of the Duke was published, Eloisa ran a contest on this website asking readers, who had first met Rafe in Much Ado About You, what they thought Rafe’s illegitimate half-brother would be like and why he was in Taming. Eloisa blithely thought it would be easy to pick a winner.

Well…not so! Not only were there hundreds of entries (each of which she read with great pleasure), but the pure amount of heart and emotion and pleasure that was poured into the question made it impossible to choose a “winner.” Every single entry was a winning one. Gabriel was a shape-shifter: readers depicted him as a robber, a solicitor, a soldier, a morphine addict, a boxer, and a journalist. In some entries, he took after his name (the angel of vengeance) and in quite a few entries, he resembled Rafe – because he really was Rafe and no Gabe truly existed!

Overall, the entries were amazingly passionate, interesting and fun to read. Eloisa was tremendously honored at the time, imagination and affection invested in her characters. In the end, she created a pastiche of creative entries: the people who dove farthest into their own imaginations and created Gabriel from scratch, giving him scenes, dialogue and remarkable motivations.

So…with the authors’ permission . . . HEEEEERE’S GABRIEL!

Sara from Northridge was able to tell us exactly why Gabriel Spencer showed up in Rafe’s life:

Gabriel had never been one for magic or superstition. To his mind, a cat was a cat, regardless of its color, and if the toadstools in the forest happened to be growing in a circular formation, well, he would have been far more perturbed if the mushrooms spelled out his name. No, Gabe Spencer prided himself on being a man of logic and intelligence, not at all the sort to be swayed by an old crone’s ramblings. And yet, he couldn’t seem to shake her words from his mind. Over and over they played, taunting and tantalizing him, clawing at his brain till he thought he d go mad. All he had done was tell her the date of his birth, the 22nd of May. Those rheumy old eyes had cleared as she laughed and clapped her gnarled hands together. “The twin’s a Twin. The twin’s a Twin,” she’d repeated, obviously delighted.

R.B. from New York was more interested in the effect on Rafe of Gabriel’s appearance:

Gabriel’s function in the story is twofold. Firstly, he helps to fill the hole in Rafe’s life since his older brother died. Rafe turned to drinking because of his grief and loneliness over the loss of his brother. Although Gabriel cannot replace the brother he lost, Rafe will once again have that special connection that one can only have with a sibling. As he realizes that he has people to love and live for (Gabriel, Imogen), Rafe will give up drinking and begin to really live his life again.

Eleanor from Nashville saw Gabriel as a spur to Rafe’s own ambitions:

Cheerful laughter coming from across the drawing room where Gabriel and Imogen were chatting caused Rafe to abandon his gloomy thoughts. Gabriel leaned close to Imogen’s ear and whispered something that Rafe could not hear. Whatever it was, it must have been incredibly amusing, for Imogen laughed again. When her laughter faded, she turned and caught Rafe’s eye.

“Don’t scowl so, Rafe. You look as if you are suffering from a toothache.”

“No, my dear,” Rafe replied. “I’m suffering from an entirely different kind of ache.”

Cay from Rockport agreed with Eleanor, but seems to have seen Gabe as being a little bit more involved in Imogen’s life than Eleanor imagined!

Broad, naked shoulders drew her eye. She silently studied the figure in the bed. A mass of brown hair lay on her pillow; muscles rippled down that back to a very trim waist. Her eyes continued downward, past his covered buttocks to the long limb just sticking out of the covers. She sighed and whispered, “Oh, Rafe, why are you here?”

…Then she blinked as she looked into cold gray eyes. “Who are you?” Gabe sat up in bed and smiled with such a roguish grin, Imogen took a step back and stared. Looking at him from head to toe trimmed hair, hard muscles, flat abdomen, and long limbs, he reminded her of her dream Rafe… Imogen felt a tremor run through her spine as he proclaimed, “I am Gabriel Spenser, the Duke of Holbrook!”

Mea Culpa, The Taming of the Duke

  • Alas, I had a few particularly egregious errors in this book, and they’re of a nature I recognize, because my children hate being called by each other’s names: Imogen and Annabel switch places a few times. So many astute readers pointed out these particular errors that I won’t award the find to any particular reader.
  • On page 244, “What next?” is a question from Imogen; Annabel is presumably back in Scotland and certainly in no position to enter the conversation between Imogen and Josie. Yet enter she does, on page 245 near the top. “What an ass,” Annabel said dispassionately. While I’m quite certain Annabel would agree, that was Imogen speaking.
  • On page 267 near the bottom, Annabel intrudes again. It’s Imogen who bends down to touch her former mother-in-law’s sewing basket.
  • In a different sort of name problem, on page 253, Miss Pythian-Adams suddenly takes on the rather more pedantic name of Miss Pythian-Jones.
  • Frances wrote me to note that on page 146, Loretta & Jenny are “playing intervals at the Hyde Park,” and on page 150, the theater manager, Bluett is suddenly running “the Regency Theater.” The latter is the correct one.
  • Cathy noticed a problem just from reading a Sneak Peek of the novel (a new record for me – mistakes discovered before a book is even published!): “On page 4 of Much Ado About You, Rafe mentions his older brother turned duke at age seven. Since Gabe is the same age as Rafe, he could only have been six at the oldest when their father used to dandle him on his knee (which is mentioned in The Taming of the Duke as going on until Gabe was eight).” Argh!
  • Dawa pointed out that when Imogen and Rafe are at Christobel’s performance, before Christobel actually performs, the innkeeper tells a patron to put his sword away. As Dawa noted, swords were not common Regency accoutrements. Dawa thought perhaps the whole question of the sword was a euphemism for the patron’s manly parts…I wish I’d thought of that! As it is, it’s just a mistake. I must have been having a medieval moment.
  • Debbie’s sharp eye noticed that on page 14, after Imogen called Rafe too old for her, Josie crushingly informed her sister that the marriage was entirely “inappropriate,” given that Imogen was over twenty-one. Of course, Josie thought the marriage is appropriate.
  • Susan pointed out that I have two reversed names in the Historical Note about Whiskey: “John London’s Jack Barleycorn” should be “Jack London’s John Barleycorn.” Looking at this long list of errors, all I can say is that I had small children and it clearly frizzled my brain!