Message From The Author
My Favorite Countess is my third Regency-set historical romance, and was by far the easiest for me to write. There’s a reason for that, and her name is Bathsheba.
Bathsheba Compton, the widowed Countess of Randolph, is the heroine of My Favorite Countess. She’s a bit different from your average Regency heroine. You see, she was the villainess of my last book, Sex and the Single Earl. In that novel, Bathsheba did her very best to torment Sophie, the heroine, and she did a bang-up job of it. Not that she actually tried to physically hurt Sophie or put her life in danger, but Bathsheba did do something pretty awful—she tried to ruin Sophie’s reputation so the hero would dump her.
Bad, bad, Bathsheba.
But even while I was working on Sex and the Single Earl, I found myself fascinated by her character. When creating villains, most writers work hard to make them more than just one-dimensional plot devices. Fully developed villains really add to a book’s strength. Not only do they make for a more interesting story, they give the hero and heroine a greater challenge to overcome, often forcing them to grow past their greatest fears. Bathsheba certainly fit that bill, at least for me. She was never a cartoon character, used only to move the plot along. She fascinated me—and some of my readers, too, who wrote to ask me about her, and what her story was.
Early on, then, I realized I had to give Bathsheba her own book. At first, I was rather intimidated by the whole idea. After all, she was a villainess, for heaven’s sake. Now, readers are used to bad guys morphing into good guys. We see that all the time in romance novels, especially in historical romance. Who can forget Sebastian, the hero of Lisa Kleypas’ wonderful book, Devil in Winter? He seemed irredeemable, but Ms. Kleypas pulled it off with a realistic and moving portrayal of character growth.
But redeeming the villainess? There are a few examples in romance, but not many. Still, I wanted to try because Bathsheba was such an interesting and vital character. I just couldn’t resist the challenge she posed.
Initially, I thought it would be a struggle and I felt some trepidation starting off. But the key to Bathsheba’s character was in developing a believable backstory—a reason why she behaved in such a nasty and seemingly unforgiveable way. So I gave her a compelling reason why she had to be so ruthless in Sex and the Single Earl, and I made it one that would engender sympathy in the reader. I also gave her a great deal of courage in her own right, and forced her into making choices she never wanted to make.
Finally, I made sure that she took responsibility for her bad behaviour and didn’t make excuses. That was something I really liked about her from the start.
The other thing that made it so much fun to write My Favorite Countess was the hero, John Blackmore. He’s also a bit different from your average Regency hero since he’s a doctor—an accoucheur, specifically, which is the Regency version of an obstetrician. Doing research on this topic was both fascinating and gruesome (as you can imagine), and I had a great time creating John’s character and placing him in Bathsheba’s world. From their first meeting, they struck sparks off each other, and their chemistry made the words seem to flow from my fingertips.
Writers use the phrase, “the book just wrote itself.” We know that’s not true, of course. It’s always some mysterious combination of research, creativity, and old-fashioned hard work. But some books really do feel like a gift the Great Muse hands down from on high. For me, that book was certainly My Favorite Countess. I hope readers have as much fun reading it as I had writing it!
- Vanessa Kelly
Read Book Review ›