Today, dear readers, is my birthday! 🙂 Because I consider this is the most important holiday of the year, I’ve arranged a special New Title Tuesday with my absolute favorite Historical Romance writer ever, Lucinda Brant.
So, I’ve left the regular NTT stuff up front, but keep reading. I’ve included my reviews of all of the books in her Roxton Family Saga.
Eternally Yours: Roxton Letters Volume One. A Companion to the Roxton Family Saga Books 1-3, Lucinda Brant
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: June 5, 2015
Previously unpublished letters from the private correspondence of the Roxton family, spanning 1743–1777, with extracts from the diaries of Antonia, 5th Duchess of Roxton and 7th Duchess of Kinross. Includes Roxton’s last letter to Antonia. Volume One complements the first three books of the award-winning Roxton Family Saga: Noble Satyr, Midnight Marriage, and Autumn Duchess. With a foreword by a late-Victorian descendant, Alice-Victoria, 10th Duchess of Roxton.
Who first encouraged you to write?
No one encouraged me. I wrote from a young age, and to escape my suburban existence. It worked! 18th Century aristocratic France and England are about as far removed, culturally, socially, and politically, from my hometown as the earth is from the moon! Later in life, it was my husband (the love of my life) who encouraged me to continue to write, and to publish.
What inspired you to write this book?
My wonderful readers! Over the years I’ve received lots of emails and FB questions about particular letters that were mentioned in the Roxton Family Saga books, but which were not elaborated on, such as Antonia’s letters to the Duke that were withheld from him by Antonia’s grandmother. And there are events mentioned by my characters that are never shown, such as Antonia and Roxton’s visit to Constantinople with little Lord Henri-Antoine to visit Julian and his godfather. I also wanted to include Roxton’s last letters—to his son, and of course, to Antonia. They were the most emotionally difficult (and draining) for me to write. But I really wanted to write them, to show the depth of Roxton’s feelings for his family, and most importantly for Antonia, and how their marriage led him to experience a great deal of personal growth.
What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Persistence—Never Give Up! Never Surrender!
MARI’S REVIEWS of The Roxton Family Saga
I admit to a certain bias: I claim the Duke of Roxton as my forevermore book boyfriend. Of course, I mean the man who existed directly before the start of this series, who hadn’t yet fallen in love with his Mignonne, because after that, frankly, he is useless to me (or any other woman). And if there was ever a woman with whom I have no wish to compete, it is Antonia.
Roxton is hard to get to know, both by his author’s design and his own. He is not a simple hero with a pure love for an angelic heroine. He is hardened and arrogant and callous, a jaded courtier who wields his power with as much force and precision as his rapier. One cannot tell, in the earliest stages of the book if we are meeting hero or villain. (I contend the character himself isn’t quite certain.)
By contrast, for all the book is named for him, Antonia immediately takes center stage as the heroine around whom his world will eventually turn. She is a bright light that shines on every page, exactly the kind of heroine I love: smart, spirited, fearless, genuine, with no love for rules or social constraints. When she sets herself on a course, she will not stop until the race is run… rather like her hero, though sweeter and kinder when confronting an obstacle.
There is a significant age difference between the young and sprightly Antonia and the aging roué, though not so much as to frame him as lecherous, and by the way he is written, there is no doubt of his appeal to her, to a wide variety of beauties in the French Court, and to any woman with a pulse who has a penchant for rakish dukes. He is old enough to sleep alone when it suits him, and young, handsome, rich, and virile enough to never need to. She is young enough to romanticize him, but wise enough, after some time in the decadent and permissive French court, to know what she will find in his bedchamber when she goes looking.
Both hero and heroine are charming and intriguing, for exactly opposite reasons. He because he is enigmatic; she because she is forthright. He because he tries so hard to follow the rules (where she is concerned); she because she tries so hard to ignore the fact rules exist. He because he thinks himself unworthy; she because she never doubts his worth, and never loses sight of her own. She is the only person for whom he will change any detail of his life, and she never once asks him to.
Because I am a sucker for a good villain, it must be said that along with wonderful secondary characters, Brant brings us three villains, all working at mutual or cross purposes at different points in the book. Between them, Brant covers nearly all of the seven deadly sins (and more): le comte de Salvan is a villian by greed and lust; le viscomte d’Ambert by cowardice and sloth; and the Countess Strathsay by carelessness and envy. And none of these have such weak teeth that they can be overcome by a show of ducal force. They attack and fall back in turn, nipping at the heels of the hero and heroine even to the bitter end of the book.
Set in the lush locale of Louis XV’s Versailles and the England of George II and III, Brant brings us into the 18th century by grasping our senses—the smell of the streets of Paris, the sound of carriage wheels in the courtyard of a noble hôtel, the taste of brandy choked down to deaden pain, and of course, rich descriptions of the rooms, the clothes, the sumptuous life lived in (arguably) the historical cradle of Western hedonism. With an equally deft hand, we are placed in the center of tense political intrigues endemic to royal courts through history, with players particularly suited to survive that cutthroat world.
Throughout the Roxton series, Lucinda, again and again, shows the highest levels to which historical romance can be taken. These are not “pulp” books, but smart literature in the vein of earlier generations of female novelists, who no one would now call “romance writers,” because they are studied in the canon, but who offered the same fictional escape to her female readers in the Georgian era as Brant does now.
Lucinda Brant’s books exemplify the historical romance genre for me. As a writer, I hope to emulate her excellent prose, as a reader, I just want her to write more books, so I can move on from reading these again and again.
This was the first Roxton book I read, which I count a good thing. Had I been comparing Julian with his father, the Noble Satyr himself, I might not have liked him as a hero. Roxton he is not (yet).
He is another hero who begins as less than attractive. Julian at the age of fifteen is drunken, petulant, and mean, and a few years later, returns from years abroad as a careless, entitled, sometimes-whiny youth, who shows signs of his father’s arrogance and disregard for emotional consequence to others. He is handsome and charming, to be sure, and with a wide streak of kindness, more in the manner of his mother than father, but he does not demonstrate empathy in any great quantity, or at least, he does not value it highly.
Deb is a heroine after Antonia’s heart. Gutsy, snappish, and more concerned with the people she loves than propriety. She is an unlikely heroine for Julian. She seems too spirited for him, too grounded, too honest, for a man who is too young to be jaded. That she has her own mind seems, at times, to be some sort of divine karmic retribution. She is not a lady willing to accept her lot, but who will fight for her happy ending. And win.
Midnight Marriage features another cast of lovable secondary characters, including some young enough to appear in later books in the series, and the return of the duke and duchess, now parents, with different priorities, but the same palpable love that places them always in the center of each other’s world.
Julian could have grown to be a different, much less pleasant, man, without Deb’s influence, and I might have then liked the later books in the series far less. Thankfully, however, she tempers him, humbles him, and reminds him of the depth of his honor.
This book represented a radical change in the series, and as such, I could not review without spoilers. You can go see it on Goodreads at your discretion. 🙂
Once again, Dair Fitzstuart is a hero I’m not inclined to like. He starts the book as a buffoon, more than anything else, thoughtless, indiscreet. But oh, so very handsome while he does it. My primary problem with Dair is that he too quickly throws off that bad boy image, and shows himself all that is decent and honorable. He lacks the darkness that imbued both Dukes of Roxton, and to a lesser extent, the Duke of Kinross, and that change in tone is a noticeable departure for the series. Dair is an unquestionable good guy. (And I admit, I like my heroes with a dash of villain.)
Rory, while his match in goodness, continues Brant’s tradition of heroines I can adore. She lives with a disability, but the limitations it presents are, in the main, self-imposed, and certainly not a barrier to her happy ending (if the hero has anything to say about it, and he does). She is a gentler, quieter personality than Brant’s other heroines, and is more a bluestocking, but no less opinionated or forceful or engaging.
Both hero and heroine, though, come to the first meeting with baggage, One thing I love about the Roxtons is that Brant never stints on the trials and tribulations, in this case, spying and political intrigue. She is very good at tying her books together by overarching story arcs and by intertwining characters in each other’s stories, so it is highly recommended her series be read in order, but it is by no means required.
There are more love stories planned in the series, as well as a second volume of family letters, to augment the most recent Roxton book:
I have an inherent bias toward epistolary fiction, as it is among my favorite forms to write, including a forthcoming novel that is about a third correspondence and written commentary. However, because it is an area of particular literary interest, I am very picky about it.
Writing in a character’s written voice is a special skill, especially placed in a different era, where not only the tone was inherently different, but also the rhythms, the conventions, the level of formality. When a letter has to stand in place of hearing a voice or seeing a face, and must span time and distance, how do characters manage the emotional events of lives spent separated from loved ones in a way we, of Skype and email and international airlines, cannot fathom? Done poorly, it can destroy a book. Done well, with a deep understanding of the characters, the situations, and the times, it can add a layer of detail and depth that cannot be found in narrative and dialogue. How a man writes a letter is as distinct as his speech.
Now, consider writing letters not only for one character, but several. Not just an emotional event, but THE emotional events alluded to in the first three Roxton books. Brant is able to bring characters back who have left the Roxton family for one reason or another, and explain the genesis, or end result, of stories left untold in the series.
Brant’s book have made me laugh and cry; I would not read the entire catalog of an author who doesn’t. This book, though, was in a class by itself, emotionally speaking. In this volume, we say goodbye to some series favorites, finally learning the details of their fates, and are given hope for the future. (And there is a future planned for this series!) I am not a weeper, in the main, and am rather cynical, even (some days, especially) about romance novels, but this was a box-of-tissues-by-the-bedside book.