Jacki has offered a free audiobook download of A Code of Love for readers; thank you to everyone who entered, the winner is Carol Cork!
What's Love Got to Do With It: Marriage with an Agenda
While some cultures still practice arranged marriages, most contemporary societies believe the foundation for marriage should be love. This is a fairly recent shift in perspective. For many centuries, marriage was a strategic decision made for political alliances, financial gain, expanding land holdings or advancing social status.
"What marriage had in common was that it really was not about the relationship between the man and the woman," said Stephanie Coontz, the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage (Penguin Books, 2006) in the article History of Marriage: 13 Surprising Facts. "It was a way of getting in-laws, of making alliances and expanding the family labor force."
For historical authors who incorporate suspense and intrigue into their plots, the "strategic marriage" concept opens up the potential for all sorts of emotional conflict and plot twists. My series, the Code Breakers, is set in Regency England, and I've had great fun with this angle. During this time period, British and French aristocrats were all connected by marriages and alliances, and the division of classes also meant they socialized together. This makes a great area for creative license to develop spies who are conflicted over family loyalties vs. country loyalties.
And it also makes for excellent double agents which I did in A Code of Love, Book 1 in the Code Breakers Series. In A Christmas Code, the romance is derived from the familiarity within the closed aristocratic society. Gwyneth is in love with her brother's best friend. She has grown up with him and now is in constant contact in the small social circle of the Ton. To prove her merit, maturity and strength to Ash, who is a spy, Gwyneth becomes entangled in espionage, which pushes Ash’s internal conflict as he struggles between duty and passion. In A Code of the Heart, Miss Amelia Bonnington assumes she will marry her best friend’s older brother, the Earl of Kendal, the man she grew up with and who brought solace after her mother died. That is until she accompanies Gwyneth to a house Christmas Party and meets the Lord Derrick Brinsley, an outcast in society. One of the conflicts standing between Amelia and Derrick is the strict Ton standards for behavior and etiquette. Ultimately Derrick must find a way to redeem himself in order to avoid having Amelia also shunned from society.
What are your thoughts on how historical authors use social norms as part of their story plots?
About the AuthorJacki Delecki is a Best-Selling, Romantic Suspense writer. Delecki’s Grayce Walters Series, which chronicles the adventures of a Seattle animal acupuncturist, was an editor’s selection by USA Today. Delecki’s Romantic Regency The Code Breaker Series hit number one on Amazon. Both acclaimed series are available for purchase at http://www.JackiDelecki.com.
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A Cantata of Love - Book 4 in The Code Breakers Series
Two weeks earlier in Paris
Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, attempted to stand with the arrival of his unexpected guests. He was quite adroit at avoiding any pressure or pain from the gunshot wound in his arse by this nimble maneuver. Using his arms to push himself off the settee, he planted one leg at a time, twisting forward, preventing any backside contact.
Hurrying to greet the guests and to secure his dressing gown from revealing any part of him, he twisted a bit too quickly and fell backward on his wound. The sharp pain on impact was excruciating.
“Son of a bitch.” He knocked over his brandy in the fall, spilling the liquid into his boots. “Double son of a bitch.”
Denby, his valet, rushed to greet the two nuns encased in black robes and white wimples, who stood at the entrance to the drawing room. The older nun held a young boy’s hand; a round, jolly nun carried a large portmanteau. Denby turned back at the commotion caused by the fall. He signaled impatiently with his hand for Michael to get off the floor.
Without any help from his valet, he was left to get off the floor. Hampered by his cumbersome, dressing gown, he struggled on all fours to obtain an upright position.
The boy giggled behind his hand at Michael’s gymnastics. The minx whispered to the older nun whose severe lines softened when she leaned down to answer.
Her penetrating gaze at Michael left him feeling fully exposed for every one of his transgressions.
Now upright, he pulled himself up and walked forward with decorum of his rank, his hands holding his dressing gown together. He glanced at Denby, whose face was red. Could a stalwart of the cavalry be embarrassed by the censure of a nun?
“Sister Marie Therese and Sister Genevieve, may I present Lord Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal,” Denby said.
Michael bowed with the correct amount of aristocratic poise for greeting the sisters, who had just witnessed his disgraceful fall. He ignored the piercing pain that shot down his arse. “A pleasure, I’m sure. May I ring for tea?”
The round Sister Genevieve smiled. It was obvious that she had an amiable personality, unlike her tight-lipped and tight…superior.
“There is no time. Only a snack for Pierre for the journey.” Sister Marie Therese commanded.
Avoiding further pain, Michael nodded instead of bowing to the youth. “How do you do, Pierre?”
With his eyes focused down, the boy whispered almost inaudibly, “Monsieur.” A hat covered his hair, little wisps of blond hair framed his pale face.
“We should make the switch quickly. The men watching your home will be suspicious of your entertainment of the Sisters of the Visitation.” Sister Marie Therese’s speech was clipped, her manner fixed. “Lord Kendal, remove your dressing gown.”
Michael stiffened in shock. He had been imbibing generous amounts of brandy for the pain, but he had consumed nowhere near-enough to have imagined that a nun had just instructed him to get naked.
He turned to Denby for help, but the seasoned soldier’s gaze was on the ground, his face as bright a crimson as a chaste debutante.
Michael replied through gritted teeth, “Over my dead body.”
“Lord Kendal, it will be your dead body if we don’t make haste.”
Sister Marie Therese stepped closer. Her eyes flashed with authority, the same look he assumed she gave to Pierre and other wayward children. “You and Mr. Denby will escape Paris and deliver Pierre to the safety of England. You will leave France disguised as Sisters of Visitation.”
In the seaside town of Berck, France
Mademoiselle Gabrielle De Valmont pushed back Lord Harcourt’s blond curls and applied the wet cloth to his burning brow. His long golden eyelashes brushed against his bright red cheekbones. In their days of hard travel from Paris, the Earl’s gunshot wound had festered into a nasty infection.
At this moment, he rested, but, in the past days when the fever peaked, he thrashed, calling out about a book to woman named Henrietta. Desperate to soothe him, Gabrielle discovered he’d calm with the French songs of her childhood.
They couldn’t stay in the little village much longer without Napoleon’s or Fouche’s henchmen discovering them. Gabrielle had brought them to her former nanny’s tiny village of Berck, south of Calais, when it became obvious the Earl couldn’t travel. They waited until the middle of the night to make their entrance into the village to avoid alerting the citizens.
For seven long days and nights, she had cared for the ill Earl. Their presence in the tiny town couldn’t be kept secret much longer. They had to leave Berck and France.
But how would they cross the channel with the French soldiers on alert, watching all the boats crossing the English Channel?
Monsieur Denby, Lord Harcourt’s valet, had assured her that he had a plan to divert their attention away.
Helpless and despondent from the exhaustion, she beseeched the Blessed Virgin for their safe escape and the Earl’s recovery.
She also prayed that Lord Harcourt would forgive her and Mother Therese for their deception. When he understood what Fouche and Napoleon had planned for her, she knew the amiable gentleman wouldn’t abandon her to her terrible fate.
Look for more heart-pounding adventure, international intrigue, and sizzling romance with the release of Book Four in The Code Breaker Series, A Cantata of Love in the Fall of 2015.
Copyright © Jacki Delecki, 2015.