They’ve had a bumpy ride, both in the real world and in theirs, but they’re back (again!).
They started when my children were little. To counteract the relentless progress of Thomas the Tank Engine, I started writing. I’ve always written, and it’s proved a good friend. I love my children, but you can only read the story of James stuck in the ditch so often!
When I first conceived the story, Richard was an unprepossessing man, a minor nobleman who slid in and out of stately homes almost unnoticed, solving crimes. But when I started to write him, a high-born dandy strode from the pages, one that could never be unnoticed!
The whole series took a right turn, and they never stopped. I wrote eighth altogether, and they went through a series of publishers, so they’ve been edited more than any other series I’ve ever written.
First with NBI, then with Mundania, then Samhain, they gained fans and rankings, and I was thrilled to bits. Then last year, Samhain announced it was closing, and I knew it was time for Richard and Rose to go it alone.
They’re written in the first person, the only series I have ever done in that style. Richard needed a filter, so Rose, the woman who loves him, tells the stories. They developed from less of a crime-solving duo to a couple coping with the consequences of Richard’s past. Because I wondered what happens to a rake when he changes his mind. Surely there could be consequences?
And there are, and it takes eight books to work it out.
There should have been nine, but I found one book, which had the slave trade as its theme, impossible to write. It was just too painful and the research regularly had me in tears. Maybe one day I’ll finish it!
All the houses in the book are based on real ones, and it’s been wonderful to feature photos of them on the cover. I started with Calke Abbey, a phantasmagorical place, restored by the National Trust to be exactly as they found it, half-neglected, occupied by a family more concerned with nature than the interior of the house. Once scene, where I describe the nursery, is taken directly from my notes that I made the first time I visited the Abbey.
Here it is:
“I have rarely, if ever, seen such a shocking sight. Toys lay strewn about randomly, as though the children had only just left the room, but they were mildewed and black with damp. A baby house lay open in the corner, its delicate contents poured out on the floor in front of it, as if the house had vomited them.
A doll I would have loved to own when I was a child sat on a table, its beautiful silk gown torn and rotted. I picked it up. It had a vacant look because it hadn’t been loved for such a very long time. It wore a fontanges, one of those high headresses fashionable fifty or so years before, and as I placed the doll back down again the head-dress slid off. It took the wig with it, leaving the doll obscenely bald.
I shuddered. “I don’t want to stay here too long, Mrs. Peters. This nursery isn’t pleasant.” Mrs. Peters didn’t seem to feel it, but she nodded. We wrote down what we needed to, and hastily left.
The night nursery was next to it, and on the other side the little room once occupied by the night nurse, or the nursemaid. To our surprise, we found this much neater than the other rooms. Someone had neatly folded the bedding away, the drawers and cupboard were bare—all much more normal in appearance.
“Perhaps this room was discontinued for use before the rest of the house was abandoned.”
“Very likely, ma’am.” Mrs. Peters didn’t venture any theory of her own.”
Later in the book, a very important scene happens in the nursery. I made up a story for the governess in “Yorkshire,” but it’s one of the tales I never got to tell.
Maybe it’s for the best. It wasn’t a happy ending, and I do like those.
You can get or preorder the books here.
And you can read more about the books here: http://lynneconnolly.com/richard-and-rose/