Elliot Marchmont, the hero of my forthcoming book, Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah, is a career soldier turned housebreaker. We first meet Elliot when he falls from a drainpipe and lands on my heroine, who writes erotic novels under the pseudonym Bella Donna. He quite literally, takes Deborah’s breath away!
Elliot suffers from survivor’s guilt. A veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, during which he reached the rank of major and sidelined in espionage, he is finding it difficult to adapt to civilian life. It’s not that he misses the bloodshed, but he does miss the thrill of war, the visceral excitement of living each day as if it might be his last, the intellectual as well as the physical challenge of combat. Elliot is angry at the way the men who fought for their country are being treated now the war is over, and is waging a one-man battle on their behalf. He is tough, fierce and intimidating on the outside, confused, isolated and vengeful inside.
I’m not a huge fan of action films, but when I first pictured Elliot, Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond came immediately to mind. He’s not classically handsome in a George Clooney way, but he’s dangerous, he’s unpredictable, he’s ruthless, and incredibly sexy.
But Craig’s James Bond wasn’t my only source of inspiration. An unlikely Harlequin Mills&Boon hero maybe, but the poet Thomas Stearns Eliot is one of my heroes, and it is he who gave my Elliot his name. When I’m writing a book, there is usually a piece of poetry or a line from a song that evokes the essence of the story. In this case, it was those haunting lines from The Wasteland:
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Eliot wrote this poem in the aftermath of the Great War. I first read it when I was in my final year of high school, and it just blew me away. Many years and many readings later, I still don’t understand some of it, but the essence of it, the tragedy and destruction of the 1914-18 war, still moves me to tears.
My Elliot (with a double ‘l’) spent most of his life in the army fighting the French. It was a long and costly war, during which the troops suffered dreadfully, not just on the battlefield, but through maladministration, ill-conceived economies, and disease. After Waterloo, they returned to a fundamentally changed Britain, to a government which had no money to pay their pensions, and a society which wanted to forget all about the war. Unemployment and crime soared. The soldiers were blamed for both.
The parallels between the experience of these veterans and those returning from the battlefields of the Great War are striking. And so, T S Eliot’s lines, it seemed to me, epitomised how my Elliot felt.
Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah is a Regency with no balls, no parties and no posh frocks. If you like your heroes dark, your heroines subversive, and your romance with the bedroom door open, then leave me a comment telling me your favourite poem, for a chance to win a copy.
You can find out more about Marguerite Kayes's books at www.margueritekaye.com
Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah, Harlequin M&B Historical, August 2012.
Flirting with Ruin, the novella prequel to the Regency upstairs/downstairs series, Castonbury Park, is available for FREE download during July at major digital retailers in the US and Canada, and from Mills&Boon in the UK.