THE APPEAL OF A SURVIVOR

Survival: it is somehow what life is all about, isn’t it? It is something we all do between the cradle and the grave, and sometimes it is not easy. There are all sorts of dangers along the way that might put an end to our existence. But survival is not just about staying alive. How we stay alive is equally important. Quality of life is important. And quality is not achieved simply by keeping our bodies alive. Survival involves our minds and emotions and spirits too. Most of us–indeed, all of us–get battered along the way. Even those people who seem to live charmed lives really do not do so. Living is a difficult, precarious business and it is easy to get discouraged, even to give up and become hopeless and embittered. But deep down we all long to survive and to do it well. We all want to triumph, to beat the odds, to retain our humanity and to hang on to love and hope and joy and serenity despite everything. We love hearing and reading about people who have overcome great challenges and hardships to live rich, meaningful lives. Such stories are inspirational.

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And such stories, even the fictitious ones, are a joy to write. I have always loved creating and developing wounded heroes and heroines, bringing them in the course of a book from the darkness of their woundedness into the light of wholeness and love. I am not sure where the idea came from to write a series of seven stories about a group of six men and one woman wounded in various ways by the Napoleonic Wars and forced to spend three years together recovering to a point at which they can live independently again. They call themselves the Survivors’ Club and get together for three weeks each year to renew their acquaintance. They are all healed to a certain degree, but none of them is yet whole. Each needs the space of a book and a love story to bring them to that point. And I am the lucky one who gets to write those seven stories!

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Book 1, The Proposal, is Hugo Emes, Lord Trentham’s story. He was not physcially wounded, but he did go out of his mind, as he put it, after leading 300 men in a successful Forlorn Hope attack on a Spanish fortress and losing almost all of them. He was brought back to England in a straitjacket. Book 2, The Arrangement, is Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh’s story. Vincent was blinded and deafened during his very first battle in Portugal at the age of 17. His hearing came back eventually but he is permanently blind. And then there is Book 3, The Escape, which is to be published in North America on July 1, 2014. It is Sir Benedict Harper’s story. Both of Ben’s legs were crushed in a cavalry charge. He refused amputation and vowed to walk and even dance again. But he was an athletic man and a cavalry officer who loved the military life. Facing the reality of what the future holds for him is not easy.

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Book 4, Only Enchanting, is due out on October 28, 2014. It is Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby’s story. Flavian sustained bad head wounds during a cavalry battle and suffered  long-lasting brain damage. His abilty to think rationally and to speak coherently was greatly impaired, and he has huge memory gaps of which he is unaware. Frustration has made him prone to violent rages. Book 5, Only a Promise, is due out in May, 2014. It is Ralph Stockwood, Earl of Berwick’s story. Ralph was very severely wounded in battle, but worse than the physical wounds was the fact that he watched his three best friends  from school days blown to bits before his eyes–and he blames himself for the fact that they were there. Note that Books 4 and 5 (and probably 6 and 7) will have very different cover concepts than the other three and differently conceived titles too as I move to my new publisher, NAL.

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Book 6, Only a Kiss (working title–it may change), on which I am currently working, is Imogen Hayes, Lady Barclay’s story. Imogen followed the drum and went to the Peninsula with her husband, a reconnaissance officer and a spy. They were captured together and he was tortured before being killed in her presence. She still suffers from the trauma of those events. And that leaves George Crabbe, Duke of Stanbrook, who brought the other Survivors together when he opened his home as a hospital for severely wounded officers. George was not in the military himself, but his young son was and was killed. His wife committed suicide a month or so later. He is as wounded as the others and must find his own way of surviving and triumphing. His story will be told last in Book 7, which will probably be called Only Beloved.

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In these last few weeks leading up to the publication of THE ESCAPE I will give away to one person who leaves a comment below signed copies of the first three books of the series, though the winner will have to wait until I get some copies of the new book. Those books are THE PROPOSAL, THE ARRANGEMENT, and THE ESCAPE. Make your comment before the end of Monday, June 16. In the meanwhile, you may preorder the new book right at my web site if you wish. And you can order the other two books as well!