This post appeared recently on Helen Hollick’s blog, but I thought to share it with you because I dearly loved the premise. Enjoy!
We all know the protagonist is the hero (or anti-hero!) of a novel. He or she usually has a companion main character, often the ‘love interest’ or mayhap the stalwart side-kick, but what about that next rank down: the supporting role guy or gal? You know, the one who doesn’t get Best Actor, but Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. I thought it time that some of these supporting cast characters had a chance to step from the shadows of novels and have a turn in the limelight.
So, a rousing round of applause please for….Adam Lawrence, Viscount Stafford
Helen: Hello, I believe you appear in several of Regina Jeffers’s novels. Would you please introduce yourself?
Stafford: I am Adam Lawrence, the only child and heir to the Earl of Greenwall, with whom I am often at odds. I employ of father’s courtesy title of Viscount Stafford. I have appeared in eight of Mrs. Jeffers’s novel: two of her Austen-inspired titles and six of her Regency-based “Realm” series.
Helen: What role do you play in the novel/s?
Stafford: I first appeared in Jeffers’s cozy mystery, The Phantom of Pemberley. In it, I begged shelter at Pemberley House during a raging snow storm. Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Austen’s most famous hero, would have preferred to turn me away for I was traveling with my mistress, and Darcy wished not to expose his wife and sister to such a woman. However, as I am an intimate acquaintance of his cousin, Darcy relented. Later, he was glad of my attendance in what turned out to be an impromptu house party because I aided in his attempts in locating a killer at the grand manor.
In other of Ms. Jeffers’s books, my role varies. I had a “walk through” role in A Touch of Velvet, greeting the Duke of Thornhill and Miss Velvet Aldridge at the infamous Vauxhall Gardens. In A Touch of Grace, I was the foil to Gabriel Crowden, the Marquis of Godown, for he and I often vied for the same women. I again came to the aid of the heroes of A Touch of Mercy, A Touch of Love, and A Touch of Honor by providing transportation, advice, and a bit of “pretense.” I attended the house party in His American Heartsong and persuaded Lawrence Lowery to seek out an American hoyden, Miss Arabella Tilney, as his lady love, as well as protecting the reputation of both Lowery and the lady. In Ms. Jeffers’s latest Austen-inspired novel, Mr. Darcy’s Bargain, I assist Darcy in capturing Mr. Wickham and foiling the authorities.
Helen: No spoilers. But are you a ‘goody’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or mayhap you are both!)
Stafford: I suppose many among the ton would characterize me as a “rake.” I hold the reputation of being a man about Town, but I privately pray that does not define me. I enjoy the turn of a card for my winnings supplement my allowance from my father, the Earl. I admit that I have not been the easiest of sons for Greenwall, for I am often defiant and disrespectful. I learned long ago that I could not live up to him reputation, and so I chose no longer to try. Nor have I been a “true friend,” for the majority of my “friends” are mere acquaintances, not trusted companions. However, in each of Mrs. Jeffers’s novels, the dear lady has been kind enough not to paint me with a “black stroke.” She saw beyond my shallow facade and presented me with a few redeeming qualities.
Helen: So you support the lead character? Who is he or she and tell us a little bit about him or her?
Stafford: I said prior that Fitzwilliam Darcy was not happy to accept me into his home. In truth, I was not much pleased with the idea either, for his cousin had filled my head with tales of Darcy’s “perfectionism.” However, my attitude changed when I observed Darcy’s tender care of his sister, his wife, his servants, and his house guests. I began to envy the relationship he and Mrs. Darcy share.
I admit to enjoying plaguing Lord Godown. In my opinion, the man is too thin-skinned. I have been known to seek out a particular woman just because Godown showed interest in her. However, I have witnessed the man’s devotion to his wife. To my regret, their marriage brought an end to our “competition.”
As to the other men of the Realm, I am a bit desirous of their “brotherhood.” I have no doubt that their duties to the Home Office often placed them in danger, but as I have never known the type of loyalty they display, I feel ashamed of my failures.
Helen: Do you like being the ‘supporting role’ or do you wish you could have a lead part in a book of your own?
Stafford: My dear Ms. Jeffers has been kind enough to bring me from the shadows and into a starring role. I am greatly in her debt and that of her loyal readers who kept asking for me to have my own tale. His Irish Eve takes place some six years after I released my mistress to a return to her family after that debacle at Pemberley House. Little did I know at the time that Cathleen Donnel was with child. It was only after Cathleen’s cousin contacted my father for financial assistance that I learned of my “bastard.” When I arrived to claim the child, I found not only a son, but also two daughters. As I am certain you readily suspect, they are triplets.
This encounter brought me into the life of not only the children, but also their cousin, Miss Aoife Kennice, who assumed the children’s care when Cathleen passed. Miss Kennice is type of woman to demand that a man be a better person. She rejected my flirtations while enticing me to learn more of my responsibilities as the future Earl of Greenwall, a task I had avoided for years. Needless to say, we were meant to be together for she is “Aoife,” the Anglicized name for “Eve.” I am much impressed when Ms. Jeffers adds these little details to a story, for I am quite happy to be “Adam and Eve.”
Helen: What is one of your least favourite scenes?
Stafford: My least favorite scene in all the books comes in His Irish Eve. I planned to propose to Miss Kennice when she turned over the children to me. We were to meet in Manchester. Unfortunately, the day of our meeting was also the day of the Peterloo Massacre at St. Peter’s Field. I have never been more frightened in my life, not for myself, for I could have turned and walked away from the melee, but I could not leave Aoife and the children, who were caught between the cavalry and those who came to the park to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. I had to fight my way across the field to reach my family.
Helen: And your most favourite?
Stafford: There was a moment in A Touch of Mercy where I executed something “heroic,” but not dangerous. Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford, searched for Miss Mercy Nelson, who had been kidnapped. I had encountered the woman upon the road, although I did not recognize her situation at the time, and informed him of where to search. Meanwhile, his friend Lord Swenton was to purchase a special license in Lexford’s name so Lexford could marry the girl quickly when he found her. Needless to say, the Archbishop did not approve of Swenton’s maneuvering. With the combined efforts of Lexford’s Realm companions, I pretended to be Lexford in order to convince the Archbishop that the special license was necessary. Despite it being but a twist of the facts, it was quite satisfying to know I served the Lexford well.
Helen: Thank you – that was really interesting – I look forward to meeting you again in Ms. Jeffers’s novels!
Helen: Now something for the intrepid author to answer. You can invite six fictional characters (not your own!) to Christmas Dinner – who will they be?
Jeffers: Gosh, this threw we at first. I am accustomed to answering the one about what “real” people I would ask to supper.
First, I would choose Mr. Rochester from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Rochester fascinates me because he plays his games with Jane and Miss Blanche Ingram well. He is the perfect Byronic hero: dark, brooding, intense, troubled, arrogant, emotional. His great passion and forcefulness make him an appealing character. As a military brat and a military wife, such men do not intimidate me.
A character I return to often is Lieutenant Rebecca Phillips in Zack Emerson’s (really Ellen Emerson White) Echo Company series (Welcome to Vietnam, Hill 568, ’Tis the Season, Stand Down, and The Road Home). Rebecca is a nurse in Vietnam who encounters Echo Company when her medvac helicopter is shot down. Although the story was written for young adults, it is filled with enough grit to satisfy even those who wish for a description of the horrors of war. Having once thought to be a nurse, this would likely have been my calling for Vietnam was my era and the military was my life. I adore Rebecca’s vulnerability and her wit and her larger-than-life optimism in the midst of war’s worst scenarios.
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd brings us the fictitious adventures of an “J. Will Dodd’s” ostensibly real ancestor in an imagined “Brides for Indians” program of the United States government. The premise of the story is that the Northern Cheyenne Indians are shrinking in numbers and seek a way to assimilate into white society. They decide to marry white women and have half-blood children, enabling the two cultures to blend naturally. The Cheyenne Chief Little Wolf approaches President Ulysses Grant with the proposal to trade 1000 white women for 1000 horses, an offer publicly refused by the government. May Dodd chooses to join the program as a means to be released from a mental asylum, where she has lived since being incarcerated by her family for having two children out of wedlock. I would be very interested in her backstory, one of which the reader learns only bits and pieces.
Sharyn McCrumb’s The Songcatcher, shares the story of pioneer settler Malcolm McCourry beginning in 1751, when nine-year old Malcolm was kidnapped from his home on the Scottish island of Islay to serve aboard a sailing ship. As an adolescent Malcolm turned up in Morristown, New Jersey, where he apprenticed with an attorney, later becoming a lawyer himself. He fought with the Morris Militia in the American Revolution. In the 1790s, Malcolm McCoy left his wife and children in New Jersey, and in the company of his daughter and her husband, he made his way down the Wilderness Road to western North Carolina, where he homesteaded, married, and raised a second family. As I live in North Carolina, this book and character struck a real chord with me. I often used it in my classes on Regional literature when I was a teacher. I love how McCrumb intertwines the traditional ballad sung by Malcolm with the country music star modern-day relative, who searches for the old song to give it new life. I have a ton of questions I wish to ask Malcolm on what he witnessed.
Another female I would choose would be Regina Hubbard Giddens in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. The role of Regina Giddens was one I adored performing over the years in community theatre. Tallulah Bankhead originated the role on Broadway, and Bette Davis played the part in film. The play’s focus is Southern Regina Giddens, who struggles for wealth and freedom within the confines of an early 20th-century society where fathers considered only sons as legal heirs. She is conniving and will do anything to be independently wealthy, including taunting her fatally ill husband Horace with her contempt. She withholds the medicine he requires to live. I ask you: Who does not love a woman who takes no prisoners? Especially in a time when women held few options.
Those of you who know me can guess the last person on my guest list. I fell in love with Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice when I was but 12. That emotion has not changed. Darcy exhibits all the good and bad qualities of the ideal English aristocrat — snobbish and arrogant, he is also completely honest and sure of himself. As Darcy’s nemesis, George Wickham, notes in his sly assessment, “His [Darcy] pride never deserts him; but with the rich, he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honorable, and perhaps agreeable — allowing for fortune and figure.” Darcy falls in love with a girl who is smart, witty, a bit judgmental, sympathetic, and naive to the ways of the world. At age 12 (and now at age 69), those traits still describe me.
Regina Jeffers, an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era romances, has worn many hats over her lifetime: daughter, student, military brat, wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, tax preparer, journalist, choreographer, Broadway dancer, theatre director, history buff, grant writer, media literacy consultant, and author. Living outside of Charlotte, NC, Jeffers writes novels that take the ordinary and adds a bit of mayhem, while mastering tension in her own life with a bit of gardening and the exuberance of her “grand joys.”
You may find Regina at …
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