I had to fill out some information for the cover art for next February’s Captain Durant’s Countess recently. I finished writing it in March, so it’s one and a half books away in my past already. I’m kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” person, and my memory is not like it once was. At least I knew the characters’ names, but what color were the hero’s eyes? Oops, I couldn’t remember! I’ve gotten a new computer since I wrote The End, too, so it was a scramble to find the manuscript on a pendrive and the synopsis in my old email.
My hero Reyn Durant, who has dark eyes, has a dark secret, too–he’s got what would be described as ADD and dyslexia today. I drew on my years of working with special education kids, hoping to be realistic and sympathetic. Unfortunately for Reyn, his heroine is a scholar. Talk about opposites attracting. But attract they do, through obstacles much larger than Reyn’s inability to read. Here’s the synopsis:
Maris Hutton had been ridiculously grateful when the Earl of Kelby married her ten years ago. True, he was older than her father, but she was old too, and no great beauty. At twenty-four, she had been resigned to a life of spinsterhood. Assisting her father, the earl’s secretary, with the Kelby Collection, she never expected to be asked to continue the work—and warm the earl’s bed—when her father died. Kelby was desperate for a male heir, and Maris knew his eccentric filing system. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Their ten-year marriage has been a surprisingly happy one.
But now the elderly earl is failing, and his repugnant nephew David will inherit unless Maris can provide a son. It’s Kelby himself who devises the scheme to find a man to do the job he’s no longer capable of. Maris is appalled. What sort of man would agree to fornicate for money?
Reynold Durant has spent the better part of his life serving King and country, and lost most of his scruples along the way as he advanced on his enemies. When he returns home to find his sister ill, Reyn wants to make her last days comfortable. He answers an ambiguous advertisement in The London List, never dreaming what will be required of the job. He accepts the advance money, but returns to a life of vice, planning on repaying the old earl once his sister dies. Kelby’s plan is too wicked even for him, but when he meets Maris, he finds himself uncomfortably tempted.
Reyn agrees to return to Kelby Court with Maris. He’ll give himself a month in her bed—two at the most—to do this shocking deed. To dupe David Kelby, he’s introduced as an antiquities expert come to help the earl organize his vast collection. This feat will prove far more problematic than making love to Maris—because of his difficulty reading, Reynold Durant was too busy making mischief in school to learn much of anything. While he tutors Maris in the sensual arts, she teaches him something far more valuable—to respect himself.
When he learns the earl has died and Maris is threatened by David Kelby, he knows his duty—and his desire. He’ll protect the Countess of Kelby until he can make her Mrs. Durant.
I tried to treat Maris sympathetically, too. She’s the ultimate good girl who’s forced to break her own rules. Captain Durant’s Countess has its risky plotline, and, I hope, its rewards. It was fun to go back and get in touch with these two special characters. Now I can’t wait to see the cover!