Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Accidental Heirs Series and My Victorian Era Inspiration

Life is unpredictable, and none are more aware of it than those who worry about passing on their titles and properties. In the 19th century, when less advanced medical care and war, illnesses, or injury often shortened lifespans, British titled gentleman and ladies sought to produce an heir, but also a spare. Or two.

They knew that the men who inherited titles and grand estates were often not the one raised for the task. Primogeniture, the law or custom in which titles and estates were inherited by the firstborn son or eldest male heir in preference to spreading out a family's wealth among several siblings, meant that English estates, property, and possessions were kept together. Yet it might leave younger siblings, particularly if they were women, in quite modest circumstances, while uncles or male cousins inherited the whole of the family estate.

Queen Victoria herself is actually a fascinating case of unexpected inheritance. She was the granddaughter of King George III, and her grandpa and grandma, Queen Charlotte, worked very hard to produce plenty of heirs. Charlotte gave birth to fifteen children, thirteen of whom survived. Two of George's sons did become king. King George IV reigned from 1820-1830 and his younger brother, King William IV, ruled from 1830-1837, but when Victoria's uncle died in 1837, she was her grandfather's next legitimate heir. She became queen at only eighteen years old and reigned for nearly sixty-four years.

Another story of unexpected inheritance links directly to the current royal family. Take one handsome son of an Irish peer, add an American heiress, and you have a fascinating story of marriage and inheritance. In 1878, Frances "Fanny" Work, the daughter of a wealthy New York stockbroker, Franklin Work, fell for the dashing James Burke Roche, the second son of an Irish baron. They married in 1880, but Frances's father, a self made man, wasn't terribly impressed with Roche, and he wasn't keen on his American millions supporting an extravagant Englishman. You see,
James liked to gamble. Rather a lot.

The situation was so bad that, in 1891, Frances divorced James for desertion. Several years later, James's older brother passed away before him, and he unexpectedly became the third Baron Fermoy, but his marriage to Frances had already ended.

So how are Fanny and James linked to the current royal family? The couple had four children before they parted, including Edmund Maurice, the grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales. Thus, American Frances is the great great grandmother of Prince William and Prince Harry.

When I conceived my Accidental Heirs series, I took inspiration from these stories and many others. In my first book of the series, my hero, Lucius, Viscount Grimsby, is one of those younger brothers who assumes he must find a profession. But when his brother dies, he becomes a viscount, future heir to an earldom, and responsible for a crumbling estate and his ailing father. After losing his mother at a young age and facing his father's rejection for years, Lucius has learned to stifle emotion and focus on the practical. When suffragette bookseller Jessamin Wright storms into a fashionable soiree and kisses him in front of everyone, she turns his world upside down.

Jess has problems of her own. She's inherited her father's bookshop, but she'd never known just how far he'd sunk the shop into debt. In a desperate bid to earn enough money to keep the place afloat, she agrees to a vengeful young woman's scheme to embarrass Viscount Grimsby. One kiss, in public, for one hundred pounds.

What neither suspects is how that one scandalous kiss will change everything.

If you pre-order One Scandalous Kiss now for $1.99, it will be delivered to your e-reader on September 8th!

Please consider joining me on Facebook to celebrate the release of One Scandalous Kiss! We're having a party on September 13th with guest authors and lots of giveaways.