Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Duke for All Seasons

I'm starting a FREE online novella on my website. I want it to be a fun experience and a chance for readers to be involved in deciding how the story progresses. That's why I've organized a contest to encourage input, and I've gotten some great, detailed feedback already. But I thought we might discuss characters and plot in more depth here on my blog.

Here's the first part of Chapter One of A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS:

'A woman, like a blooded hound or a fine steed, has a finite period of usefulness. When that time has run its course, a prudent man divests himself of the asset without regret.' ~ A Gentleman’s Guide to Keeping a Mistress 

Sebastian Blake hated to wait for anything. Fortunately, he was the Duke of Winterhaven. It was a simple matter to let others wait for him. That's why His Grace settled into his private box after the house lighting dimmed and the gas footlights illuminated the Olympic’s red velvet curtain. Sebastian preferred to miss most of the overture, if he could. His late arrival kept him from having to brush off those who would use a chance meeting at the opera as an excuse to curry favor.

Or ask for one.

“Rosalinde isn’t joining us?” his friend Neville Granger asked in a whisper as the orchestra finished the overture with a flourish.

“Her season has passed,” Sebastian said with a shrug. “We parted ways and she left with a generous pension.”

Neville shook his head. “They don’t call you The Ice Duke for nothing.”

“Nonsense. Rosalinde knew exactly what to expect.” Sebastian was faithful and devoted to his mistresses, but he always dismissed them with the turn of each season and found a replacement. The rules were explained at the start. In this way he never grew bored, and never had to end a relationship in anger or face tearful recriminations. It was simply a function of the calendar, eminently logical, utterly civilized. “She has a new diamond necklace and I have my freedom, as per our agreement.”

Neville brought his quizzing glass to one eye and swept the crowd below them. “Someday, my friend, you’re going to meet a woman who can’t be bought.”

“On that day, I’ll give you a bottle of that expensive Spanish port you favor,” Sebastian said. “Provided you stop grumbling at me about it now. This is how I’ve ordered my life. Four times a year, I engage in a brief chase and then give myself three months to enjoy my prize. Don’t spoil this part of the process for me by scolding like a fishwife.”

“Make it a case of that port and we have a deal.”

“Done.” Sebastian leaned back in his tufted seat, sure he’d never be called upon to make good that wager. “Now, tell me about this soprano you think I’d like.”

“Arabella St. George. Shh! Here she comes.”

Neville leaned forward so far, Sebastian feared he might tumble out of the box. Then his gaze flicked to the stage and he realized why Neville was willing to risk life and limb.

Normally Sebastian favored petite brunettes, but the footlights shot this woman’s long pale hair with strawberry highlights. Tall and willowy, with striking, even features and luminous dark eyes, Arabella St. George possessed a fierce, almost other-worldly beauty.

Sebastian didn’t consider himself the sort given to flights of fancy, but his imagination soared at the sight of her. She might be a changeling princess, offspring of the hollow hills. Or a pagan priestess demanding sacrifice. Or one of the three queens who bore King Arthur’s body to Avalon.

Lord knows, he’d let her take his body anywhere she pleased.

Then ethereal Miss St. George opened her mouth and began to sing.

No wonder Neville calls her a diva. Her voice was liquid seduction, a fiery blend of passion and pathos. Sebastian decided then and there, whatever else she was; she was going to be his.

At least for the coming season.
Click here to read the rest of the first chapter.

When I used to sing professional opera, I always made up backstories for my characters. A backstory is the character's past history--those pivotal moments that make the character who they are. I needed to make one up so I'd know why my character behaved as she did in the opera.

My hero Sebastian seems to have an almost paranoid fear of a long term relationship. Or maybe he's just so self-absorbed he doesn't want the bother of working on knowing someone else deeply. If I knew what happened in his past, I'd have some insight into why he behaves this way now. I have a couple of ideas about his past, but I'm interested in what YOU come up with.

What do you think happened to him that caused him to come up with his "seasonal mistress" plan?


Glynis Peters said...

Mmm an interesting story, and what fun to be involved.

Well... I wonder if he was jilted at a young age? An arranged marriage and a public humiliation turned him into the player. It happened just before his father died and he became Duke. :)

Jane L said...

I wonder if maybe Sebastian was engaged to the love of his life.

After the death of his dear mother , whom he highly respected, his fiance turned her sites on Sebastians father, purely for title and wealth.

A child was born to the fiance and his father. Possibly out of wedlock?

Sebastian, dispised this child, having a half brother from the woman he was suppose to spend eternity with was enough to make any man cynical.

Now danger and death threatens the child and Sebastian must prove blood is thicker than water?

But..... is the child really his fathers? or could he have been Sebastians?

EmilyBryan said...

Interesting ideas, Glynis and Jane. I'm still fleshing mine out. Thanks for sharing yours.

librarypat said...

He obviously has long term commitment problems. Could be his mother was the love of his father's life and when she died, he was devastated. He never recovered and was just a shell of himself before dying a year later. Sebastian vowed never to allow himself to become that attached to anyone or anything.

EmilyBryan said...

You know, Pat, I was thinking the problem went back to his mother. But death is not a voluntary abandonment. Though we might feel angry at the one who died (irrational I know but it happens) we don't feel the same sense of betrayal as we do if the abandonment is the result of a conscious decision.

What if Sebastian's mother ran off with a lover when he was young and left him with an embittered father? That would explain his coldness and create a reluctance to form close ties with a woman.

Just a thought. . .

GladysMP said...

I feel different about Sebastian's reasons for loving and leaving his mistresses. He witnessed the genuine love between his mother and dad and longs for the same. The very fact that past mistresses have been willing to agree to a "nice payoff" if the affair comes to an end lets Sebastian know that, if he were not a wealthy and powerful man, that female would not be so willing to enter his bed. He sees her as a golddigger or temporary fling not a prospective lifetime partner. He will only become totally captivated by a female who is insulted by such a discussed "payoff," and has enough self-pride to tell him so.

EmilyBryan said...

Interesting take, Gladys. Just goes to show there are lots of reasons why people do things.