And the winners are: CATHY BEACH and ANDREA SHACKFORD. Congratulations to them and thanks to all who left a comment.
The seventh and last book in the Survivors’ Club series, Only Beloved, will be published on May 3. It is the story of George, Duke of Stanbrook, who opened his home, Penderris Hall in Cornwall, during the Napoleonic Wars for the treatment and convalescence of wounded officers. Six of them stayed for three years or more, and those six plus George formed a close bond of mutual support and affection and named themselves the Survivors’ Club. The six are young men–and one young woman, but it seemed important to me at the start that George be an older man so that his decision to offer his home would not seem like a guilt-offering for not having gone to war himself. I did involve him emotionally, however, His only son fought and died in the wars at the age of 17, and his wife committed suicide soon after. George is now 48. Too old for a romance of his own? I knew from the start that I was facing the writing of his story at the end, and I trusted that I was up to the challenge–and that readers would be receptive to his love story despite his age.
Although it would have been perfectly realistic historically to give George a young heroine, I just could not do it, and modern sensibilities don’t find it very acceptable (though Léonie is in her teens and the Duke of Avon in his forties in Heyer’s much beloved These Old Shades). Dora Debbins first appeared in The Arrangement as the music teacher of Vincent, the blind hero. I don’t think I thought of her then as George’s heroine, but I certainly did when the two of them met in Only Enchanting, and so did many readers! Dora was perfect heroine material. She had given up all her hopes and dreams as a very young woman when she remained at home to raise her young sister after their mother ran away with a lover. Now she lives alone in a cottage in a country village, earning her living as a music teacher and counting her blessings. She is 39 years old. Too old for a romance of her own?
I think readers generally speaking are ready for romances involving older people. Many readers are older people–and so am I! In the changing social fabric of our times, more and more older people are single (for whatever reason) and looking and dreaming. It is no longer assumed that if you have not snared your man (or your woman) by the age of 25 or so and got safely locked into marriage, you are on the shelf and out of luck for the rest of your natural born days. People of all ages are dating, forming relationships, getting married, falling in love, staying in love, and so on and on. Perhaps it is time for a whole genre of romances for the over-40s. Dora almost qualifies! In fact, by the end of the book she probably is 40, and in the epilogue (yes, there is one to wrap up the whole series) she is 43. And he–gasp!–is 51.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing George and Dora’s story. As older people, they both enter into a marriage with the expectation that it will be more of a companionable friendship than a passionate romantic relationship. And their expectations are fulfilled…and severely challenged…and exceeded until the moment late in the book when George, in a moment of great stress, can call Dora his only beloved. Dora, of course, has been quietly, deeply in love with him since that evening when he turned the pages of her music as she played the piano in Only Enchanting. I hope readers will enjoy this ending to the series and then follow me into the next one–the eight-part Westcott Family Series beginning with Someone to Love in November, 2016.
To two people who leave a comment below before the end of Thursday, April 28, I will send a signed copy of ONLY BELOVED. Good luck!