Until I wrote The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, all I had written were Jane Austen adaptations and retellings, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation,Vampire Darcy’s Desire, The Phantom of Pemberley and Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion. I was very appreciative of Ulysses Press taking a chance on my first true Regency romance. What did not work out was before they could continue the series, Ulysses made the business decision to finish the fiction books under contract (including several of mine) to them and then switch to non-fiction only products. In truth, Ulysses was very much a non-fiction publisher when I joined them, so the decision was not surprising. However, that particular decision left my Realm series in limbo. It was impossible to sell the series to another traditional publisher for who would want to finish a series started by another publisher? Therefore, I ended up self publishing the series.
I must admit that it was liberating to write a story from beginning to end, without a preconceived framework already in place. When an author tackles an Austen storyline, he must stay somewhat true to the original characters or “suffer the ire” of Janeites. In my Austen books, I work in her original wording and use what I know of the lady and the times. With the Realm series, the characters and the conflict were part of my psyche.
A Touch of Scandal (formerly called The Scandal of Lady Eleanor) is the first book in the “Realm” series.
The Realm is a covert group working for the British government during the Regency Period. They rescue British citizens, bring about diplomatic portals, etc. Its members are titled aristocrats and minor sons–therefore, the name “the Realm.” The members in this series number seven: James Kerrington, Viscount Worthing (and future Earl of Linworth), who is the hero of A Touch of Scandal; Brantley Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill, from Book 2, A Touch of Velvet; Gabriel Crowden, Marquis of Godown, from A Touch of Grace; Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford, from A Touch of Mercy; Marcus Wellston, serving as the regent for his elder disabled brother, the Earl of Berwick, from A Touch of Cashémere; Baron John Swenton from A Touch of Honor, and Carter Lowery, the youngest son of Baron Blakehell, from A Touch of Love. The series conclusion, A Touch of Emerald, features Kerrington’s son, Daniel. These men have served together for several years in India and Persia, and they possess a stout camaraderie. Each holds reason for fleeing his home and title, and each must reclaim his place in Society, while still occasionally executing a mission in the name of the government. Unfortunately, not only must these men fight their own demons, they must foil the plans of Shaheed Mir, a Baloch warlord, who believes one of them has stolen a fist-sized emerald; and Mir means to have it back.
In A Touch of Scandal. James Kerrington, the future Earl of Linworth and a key member of the Realm, never expected to find love again after the loss of his beloved wife, Elizabeth. But upon his return home, Kerrington’s world shifts on its axis when Lady Eleanor Fowler, literally, stumbles into his arms. Unfortunately, not all is as it seems with Eleanor, as she hides a deep secret. She had hoped the death of her father, William Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill, would offer her family a chance at redemption from their dark past, but when Sir Louis Levering produces proof of Eleanor’s father’s debauchery, she is thrown into a web of immorality and blackmail. It is up to Kerrington and his associates in the Realm to free Eleanor from Levering’s hold.
In writing this series, I chose to use “modern issues” throughout. Just because life appears “simpler” does not mean Regency England did not reek of scandal. Women lacked options. Even women of a wealthier class were the property of first their fathers and then their husbands. As such, Lady Eleanor Fowler is no exception. When her mother dies, her father’s debauched lifestyle invades her privacy, and she is sucked into a situation because she “loves” a parent who does not really understand the meaning of the word. Eleanor’s brother Brantley escaped the Duke of Thornhill’s hold on his household, but Eleanor is left behind to cope in the only way she knows how: Survive.
Readers always like to know who an author imagines when writing a book. So, I am going to indulge you on this matter.
First let me say, I have been a Matthew Macfadyen fan long before he played Mr. Darcy in the 2005 film – back to his days in Wuthering Heights, Warriors, and The Way We Live Now. When I learned he was to be Darcy, I did a happy dance. He is always the Darcy in my head when I write my Austen pieces, and he is the man I see and hear (Does he not have the most mesmerizing voice?) in my other works. In this series, Macfadyen is James Kerrington. James Mcavoy is Carter Lowery; James Scott is Aidan Kimbolt; Matthew Goode is Brantley Fowler; Toby Stephens (as he was in Jane Eyre) is Marcus Wellston, and Alex O’Loughlin faces Gabriel Crowden (although I am not certain how O’Loughlin would look as a blonde).
As weird as it may sound, I do not have famous women in my head when I choose the females. I see their faces and recognize their movements, but they are ordinary women. In this series, Velvet Aldridge came to mind because I fondly remembered a former student named “Velvet.” I stole Brantley Fowler’s name from a young man I met at an Enterprise Rental Car outlet. I told him I would make him famous. I originally planned only 4 books and possibly 3 novellas bundled as one piece. As the series progressed, readers kept asking for the next character. Each book in the series starts with the same scene on the Persian border, where these men encounter their formal foe, Shaheed Mir. However, with each retelling of the scene, the reader learns more of what actually occurred, because he sees the action from a different point of view.
A Touch of Scandal: Book 1 of the Realm Series
The men of the REALM have served their country, while ignoring their responsibilities to home and love, but now Bonaparte is defeated, they each mean to claim their portion of a new and prosperous England. However, their long-time enemy Shaheed Mir has other plans. The Persian warlord believes one of the Realm has stolen a fist-sized emerald, and the Baloch intends to have its return or his revenge.
JAMES KERRINGTON, the future Earl of Linworth left his title and his infant son behind after the death of his beloved Elizabeth, but he has returned to England to tend his ailing father and to establish his roots. With Daniel as his heir, Kerrington has no need to marry, but when Eleanor Fowler stumbles and falls into his arms, Kerrington’s world is turned upon its head. He will do anything to claim her.
LADY ELEANOR FOWLER has hidden from Society, knowing her father’s notorious reputation for debauchery has tainted any hopes she might have of a happy marriage. And yet, despite her fears, her brother’s closest friend, James Kerrington, has rekindled her hopes, but when Sir Louis Levering appears with proof of Eleanor’s participation in her father’s wickedness, she is drawn into a world of depravity, and only Kerrington’s love can save her.
The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout. – Publishers Weekly
Jeffers’s characters stay in the reader’s heart and mind long after the last page has been turned. – Favored Elegance
“What do you plan to do?” James Kerrington asked as he leaned across Brantley Fowler, while pretending to reach for the bowl of fruit. Kerrington studied Fowler’s countenance as the man stared at where the Baloch warriors held the girl. Kerrington really did not need to ask. He and Fowler were the two of the original members of a group the British government “lovingly” referred to as the Realm. The unit ranged between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five. As he was the eldest, the others called Kerrington “Captain,” although no such military ranks existed between them.
The group often called Fowler “The Vicar” because the future Duke of Thornhill always wanted to “save” every soul they encountered, especially woman and children. Surprisingly, the baby-faced Fowler was also able to convince those their group captured to confess as readily as any clergyman. “Authoritative persuasion,” was the word they had coined for exacting information from those mean to defy the English government. Fowler had joined the group after a short stint with some shady seamen following the young man’s alienation from Thornhill and the dukedom, as well as a tumultuous time with Wellesley and the Spanish front. Fowler had never said exactly what had caused the rift between him and his infamous father.
Kerrington’s family knew something of Fowler’s. His mother, Lady Camelia Kerrington had made her Come Out with Fowler’s aunt, Agatha Braton, the Duchess of Norfield, and so Kerrington was familiar with some of the family history. Fowler’s father, the Duke of Thornhill, held a reputation for a lusty sexual appetite. Having viewed his friend’s multiple attempts to save more than one woman who suffered at the hands of a brute, Kerrington suspected there was truth buried in the gossip.
Fowler gritted his teeth, offering a grim smile to the Baloch warriors sitting about the low table, while Kerrington immediately assessed the situation. Fowler hissed, “Each man who enters that tent gives the girl a rupee because Mir says that is all she is worth — one rupee — one shilling and fourpence in England.” His friend’s breathing became shallow, obviously biting back anger. “She is not yet sixteen.”
“You cannot save the world, Fowler,” Gabriel Crowden, another of Realm numbers, cautioned.
Fowler insisted, “I can save her.”
Kerrington shot a glance about the tent to assure himself the others were aware of the change in their situation. He often regretted the fact he had shown more care with these men than he had ever shown to his son. Daniel resided with his parents at Linworth Hall. When he had walked away from his home after Elizabeth’s death, He had also deserted the child, who had cost his wife her life.
“Oh, Lord, here we go again,” Crowden grumbled as he slid the bench and slipped into the shadows. “Permit me time to assume a position.”
Kerrington stiffened in anticipation as he watched Fowler stand slowly and stretch. His friend pretended to exercise his legs. “I believe I will take a walk,” Fowler announced, but before James’s friend could execute more than five steps in the direction of the girl’s tent, a burly-looking soldier, under Mir’s command, blocked Fowler’s path. Without saying a word, the man had told Fowler to reconsider his choices, but James knew the Baloch would be sorry he had crossed the young duke.
Raising his hands in an act of submission, Fowler smiled largely and turned to Kerrington with a warning of what was to come. Fowler shrugged as if to agree with the warrior, but in a split second, he had struck the guard with an uppercut, sending the man reeling with a broken nose.
A heartbeat later, Kerrington and Fowler stood back-to-back, taking on all comers, delivering lethal thrusts after deadly jabs. “I have it,” Kerrington called as he parlayed a broken chair for a weapon. “Retrieve the girl. Take her to the Bombay safe house.” He shoved Fowler in the direction of the girl’s tent.
His friend did not look back; Fowler knew he count on Kerrington and the others in their group to break through Mir’s line of defense. Together, they would provide Fowler time to make a complete escape.
Preparing for the next assault, he wondered about his own sanity. How many times over the previous two years had Fowler staged “a fight to the death” in order to save some female? Somehow, Kerrington had accepted the future duke’s “need” to rescue the disadvantaged. It seemed only fair, if he was to die, he should do so in an effort to save some woman — an act of penitence, so to speak. He had had no skills to save the woman he love — Elizabeth Morris — the woman he had married and had promised to love and to honor and to protect “as long as ye both shall live.” Unfortunately, Elizabeth Morris Kerrington had live but two years, two months, and ten days before she had passed in childbirth — his child — their child. Mayhap by saving this woman, he might atone for for what he could not do for Elizabeth, and what he had done to Daniel — just walking away from the boy, unable to look upon his own child without seeing Elizabeth and experiencing the pain of her loss.
Turning his head, Kerrington noted how Fowler ran for the horses while pulling the scantily-clad girl behind him. Kerrington spun to the right, twirling a sword he had pulled from his walking stick, using the stick and rapier in tandem with swinging figure eights to ward off three Baloch soldiers. “Now!” he called above the battle’s clamor, and the Realm members synchronized their final strikes, leaving their opponents sprawled on the tent’s floor. They had dashed toward their tethered horses, swinging up into the saddles. They would distract pursuers, riding off in three separate directions — all in opposition to Fowler’s exit — to meet again in two days at their common house.
Racing toward the nearest hill, Kerrington pulled up the reins to take a quick look, making certain they had all made it out safely. He felt responsible, although each of his mean were quite capable and very menacing in his own right. “Let us depart, Captain,” Aidan Kimbolt called from somewhere behind him. Kerrington had seen all he had needed to see — they all were moving away from Shaheed Mir’s tents. Turning the horse in a complete circle, he nodded to Kimbolt, the group’s best horseman, to disguise Fowler’s hoof prints in the sand, before galloping away in the direction of the dying sunset.