Message From The Author

Author's Message

Love historical romances? If so, chances are youll love them set in Regency England, the period from 1811-1820, when King George III went mad and the country was ruled by his son George, the Prince Regent.

Many years ago an aspiring Mary Balogh fell in love with Regency romance—and not just the stories, but the historical period itself. Determined to become a writer since childhood, Mary saw more than three decades pass before she found the time and the genre that was right for her. "The first Heyer Regency I read was Fredericka," Mary recalls. "That book hit me harder than almost any other I have ever read. I felt that I had discovered a new and glorious world—it changed my life."

Though marked by less than a decade, the Regency period is unique in its manner of style, behavior and personalities from the eras immediately preceding or following it, Georgian and Victorian respectively. "I think the Regency period has a lovely combination of vitality, energy, even a lack of inhibitions, on the one hand, while at the same time maintaining the elegance, the etiquette and the whole idea of manners and morals," explains Mary. "It was more modern than any other era. The historical figures were so colorful. Prinnie, the prince regent, was larger than life, as was his wife. There was Wellington, and women like Lady Jersey and the Queen. Theyre all unique, one-of-a-kind characters—proof that it was a vital age with a lot of individuality."

Mary believes that readers who haven't yet discovered the charm of a Regency romance tend to imagine the period as rather staid and bland. This perception may be due in part to the strict rules that have been imposed on the genre. While Regency enthusiasts love the periods droll humor, outrageous episodes in social etiquette and trademark cant, others—most critically booksellers—shy away from the Regency label, marked as it is by its short length, emphasis on manners and virtual lack of sexuality.

But Mary's work has always been a little bit rebellious. "I cannot accept the rules for the Regency—I never have from the start. I write my books true to the period and I still hear arguments that they're not true Regencies because they involve sex," Mary says. "I always ask, what's so unromantic about sex?

"It's a perennial argument," she concedes, "The answer I usually give is that people must have had sex during the Regency period or else Britain would be an empty island!"

As evolution ensures the survival of a species, so must a writer grow in order to keep her beloved milieu alive and vital. Sexy or sweet, long or short, Mary believes, a romance set in Regency England is, essentially, historical. Thus her shift from the traditional Regency format to the Regency historical, a more flexible label that allows for a longer, more sensual novel.

Although packaged like a traditional Regency, and shelved as such at the bookstores, Marys October release from Jove, IRRESISTIBLE, is just such a book. Though written to stand alone, this Regency historical completes Marys Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trilogy, which follows four dashing ex-cavalrymen who return from the Peninsular Wars eager to enjoy lives of hedonistic debauchery, only to be overcome, one by one, by the power of true love. The trilogy's final installment sees the last two die-hard bachelors succumb to the lure of an irresistible romance.

"I love creating heroes and heroines who appear to be totally incompatible," Mary says. "There is an exhilarating challenge in convincing the reader that indeed they do belong together and that they share a love of ages." In IRRESISTIBLE the unlikely pair in the forefront is the handsome Sir Nathaniel Gasciogne and Sophie Armitage, the independent, no-frills widow of a fellow officer. The Four Horsemen had known Sophie during wartime, when she had followed the drum, caring for her husband and the other men of the cavalry. Back then she was "good old Sophie," more of a good-humored comrade to them than a woman.

Meeting again in London after so many years was unexpected, but not nearly as unexpected as the two finding themselves in bed together, sharing a night of surprisingly beautiful intimacy. Though willing to do the honorable thing and marry her, Nat would prefer to remain unattached, as would the self-reliant Sophie. But the night they shared has left them both wanting more, and what begins as a simple "affair between equals" becomes a turbulent struggle to accept and embrace their deeper need for love and commitment.

"I particularly enjoyed creating Sophie," says Mary. "She is an intriguing mix of strength and weakness--she believes in herself as a person, but not as a woman. I see her as a recognizable type with whom many readers will be able to identify." Mary weaves this tale of self-awareness and love, as well as a captivating secondary romance into the rich texture of Regency England. "It's like a little gem in the middle of history," she says of the period. "Anyone who knows Jane Austen's books and has seen the movies is immediately there. It was such an elegant time--very sexy, revealing dress, large country mansions, all sorts of horse-drawn carriages and garden parties and galas in London during the Season--the whole thing was sheer romance." Romance lovers, just try and resist!

Readers may write Mary at P.O. Box 571, Kipling, SK, Canada, S0G2S0.


Excerpt from IRRESISTIBLE

He should go. He had stayed long enough. Too long. He must have been there for at least an hour. But he was warm and cozy and sleepy again. And there was something particularly pleasant lulling his senses. He had been largely unconscious of it. He breathed in deeply, moving his head a little closer to her.

"That perfume," he said. "You always wore it Sophie. I have never smelled it on anyone else before or since.

"I wear none." She smiled. "It is soap you smell."

"Then other women should discover your secret," he said. "It's the most enticing perfume I have ever smelled." They smiled at each other again, just as they had a dozen times during the past hour. Except that this time something happened. A mere moment of silence. A locking of eyes. A sudden tension.

A sudden shockingly unexpected sexual tension.

He broke eye contact and turned, embarrassed, to set his cup on the table beside him. He turned back to her, intending to thank her for the chocolate and to bid her a good night. But she had reached out one hand and set it lightly against the lapel of his coat. She watched her hand as it brushed lightly back and forth there and then came to rest over his heart. He could scarcely feel its weight. He could scarcely breathe.

He licked his lips. He should turn the moment. It could be done quite easily. He could say something, move, get to his feet. Instead he dipped his head closer to hers, paused a moment to give her a chance to turn the moment, and then closed his eyes and found her mouth with his own. He felt dizzy. He waited for her to pull away. She stayed quite still for a few moments and then her lips pushed back against his own.

He traced them with his tongue, prodded at the seam, and when she opened her mouth, tentatively, as if she did not know quite what he asked of her, slid his tongue deep. He had turned her, he realized, so that her head was against the back of the love seat.

It was a long and a deeply intimate kiss.

"Mm," he heard himself say as he drew his tongue back into his mouth and lifted his head to look at her.

She looked back and said nothing. She did not push at his chest or try to move away. She simply looked at him.

The tension had not lessened. Quite the contrary.

"Are you going to slap my face?" he asked her. "Or are you going to invite me to bed?"

"I am not going to slap your face," she said calmly.

He waited.

"I am inviting you to bed," she said just as calmly after several silent moments.

He got to his feet and held out his hand for hers. She looked at it and then placed her own in it.


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