Message From The Author

Judith James

Genre: England, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance

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Author's Message

As someone who loves romance and history, I find inspiration from both when writing my stories. I think of history as a secondary character my hero and heroine play off, react to, and interact with. The King's Courtesan takes place in Restoration England. To me, the easygoing, womanizing survivor Charles Stuart, is one of history’s more fascinating rulers in terms of temperament and personality. Led by him, the  Restoration Court, filled with a host of colorful characters, was one of the most informal and interesting courts of any country and any time in history. As a fractured nation strove to heal the wounds left by the Civil War, commoners supped with royalty and actresses gave birth to dukes and earls. It was a time of cavaliers and courtesans, mercenaries and explorers, playwrights and poets. With so much room to develop characters and so much interesting material, this period inspired the context, canvas, and characters for this tale of a haunted warrior trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered life, and the beautiful and determined courtesan, struggling to keep her own dreams and joy alive, who becomes his wife. 

Captain Robert Nichol’s, haunted by a childhood tragedy, is an intensely private man, a stranger to even those closest to him. Now that peace is restored he struggles to find meaning and build a life, when all he has known is duty, vengeance and war. Robert first made an appearance in Libertine's Kiss. Honorable, supremely capable, yet very stoic and detached, it bothered me that he was so alone. I wanted to know him better. I wondered what terrible secret lay beneath that reserve, and what kind of woman might pierce it. She would have to be confident, self-assured, determined, and willing to make the first move. She would need to be a fighter, with enough warmth and light and passion, to help him reclaim his own. It was these thoughts that first inspired me to write this story. And shortly thereafter, Hope Mathews was born.

Hope was inspired in part the goodhearted Nell Gwyn, affectionately referred to by Londoners as Cinder Wench (and Cinder Whore) for her meteoric rise from the gutter to the bed of the king; and by Frances Stewart, La Belle Stuart, famed for her beauty and for being the one that got away. Hope and Nell share much in common when it comes to their early years, but Nell was content to share Charles with Lady Castlemaine, his wife, and several other mistresses, something the proud and independent dreamer Hope Mathews would never do. She comes with her own baggage, but she wants something more.

When it comes to romance, two themes I enjoy are the wounded hero/heroine, and trust and friendship as a basis for love. I don’t believe you can have true love without intimacy. I don’t mean sex. I mean finishing each other’s sentences, communicating with just a touch or look, the sharing of deep secrets that brings a couple ever closer. Of course you need white-hot chemistry too! That’s how it always starts. It’s always the door, at first open only a crack, through which love gains hold. How do couples move from strangers who are attracted to each other, to intimate and loving partners? What are those magic moments when a couple takes one step closer to being us and we, rather than you and I? 

In any romance or love story it’s this journey that interests me most, because intimacy can be beautiful, but it’s dangerous too. By exposing one’s deepest self, one makes oneself vulnerable and if trust is misplaced the results can be disastrous. Life has taught Hope some harsh lessons. She doesn’t trust anyone but herself and has learned to use physical intimacy as a tool.  Robert trusts in duty, but not in his feelings and not in himself. 

How can two such guarded people find their way to love? Can Hope disarm her Captain? Can Robert convince her he’s worthy of her trust? Questions such as these are the inspiration for the love story at the heart of The King's Courtesan.

- Judith James

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