He·ro-- hi(ə)rō (noun)

My blog guest today is Regency author Vanessa Kelly. She gravitated toward this popular setting thanks to her early love affair with the works of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and Fanny Burney. I know you’re going to love her hero in My Favorite Countess, so without further ado, I’m turning my blog over to this very talented writer.

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Hi Mia!  Thanks so much for having me on the blog today.  I thought I’d talk about one of the things I like best about being a romance writer, and that’s how much fun it is to create heroes.  There are, of course, many wonderful things about writing—and reading—romance, but let’s face it: nothing turns our crank faster than a sexy, fascinating hero!

For my latest Regency-set historical romance, My Favorite Countess, I wanted to create a hero who was a bit different from the average aristocratic.  Not that I have ANY objection to a hot marquess or earl, as my earlier books will illustrate.  But I really wanted to come up with someone outside the ordinary this time around.  After all, my heroine’s a bit of a tough nut.  She’s a sharp-tongued, fiercely intelligent countess who is occasionally quite bad-tempered.  Bathsheba has had a difficult life and, consequently, she doesn’t have a very rosy view of the world.  I needed to give her a man who was not only strong, handsome, and sexy, but one who was also decent and kind and who could show her that good people do exist, and that happiness is possible to achieve.

Who better to accomplish that difficult task than a doctor, especially one who makes it his life’s mission to care for the impoverished women of the slums?

And so Dr. John Blackmore, my hero, was born.  He’s an accoucheur, which is the Regency version of an obstetrician.  As you can imagine, giving birth was a difficult and often dangerous proposition during the period.  If a woman survived the actual birthing process, there was still a fairly good chance that she could die from childbed fever or any number of complications.  It was even worse for poor women, who suffered from malnutrition, terrible housing conditions, and a lack of clean water.  I decided to have John dedicate his life to saving these women and their babies, even going into the most dangerous slums of London to do so.

Now, I ask you:  what heroine could resist a guy like that?  Strong, principled, and dedicated to helping the most vulnerable and needy members of society.  By my standards, that’s a true hero.    Of course, John has his own trials and tribulations to face, as the reader will soon find out.  Here’s a snippet from the beginning of the book, where we find John having a very dark day, indeed:

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John had failed and another woman was dead.  Soon the rumors would begin again, whispered through the sooty laneways and alleys of St. Giles, spreading fear and ignorance like a foul contagion.

The Angel of Death.

That was the name some of the locals called him.  He could hardly blame them, although cold logic told him they were wrong.  Still, Death trailed in his footsteps.  No matter how fiercely he struggled to best it, in these dark places he rarely emerged victorious.

John dropped his scalpel into the tray lying on the floor next to the rough hewn bed.  A battered wooden table, a few mismatched and broken chairs, and an old trunk made up the rest of the tenant’s furniture.  In the fitful light cast by one old lamp and a few smoking candles, the room testified to the hardscrabble life eked out by the wretched souls in the London stews.

Roger Simmons, his assistant and medical student, carefully drew a tattered, grime-encrusted blanket over the body of their patient.  Patients, rather, since John had been unable to save Mrs. O’Neill’s baby, either.  The stillborn infant lay in his mother’s arms, joined with her for eternity, which John hoped was a more forgiving place than this dreary pest-hole.

“There wasn’t another thing you could do to save her, Dr. Blackmore, and you know it.”  Roger’s rough voice, still bearing the faint traces of his upbringing in Spitalfields, broke the unearthly quiet of a room that had vibrated with a woman’s screams just a short while ago.

“So you say.”

The words scraped raw in John’s throat as he rubbed the blood from his fingers with a scrap of cloth.  Once it had become clear Mrs. O’Neill was breathing her last, he’d cut her open in a futile attempt to save the babe.  But, as usual, he was too late.  The poor of St. Giles rarely sent for a doctor or surgeon to deliver an infant—not that most doctors would even set foot in the place—and put their trust instead in neighbors or relatives to assist in the birth.  If they were fortunate, they could perhaps afford a midwife, but in this benighted part of London even that was an unusual occurrence.  So by the time someone became desperate enough to run to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital to fetch him, the unfortunate woman was often beyond help.

“Sir, you know her pelvis was too small, too disfigured.”  Roger carried on doggedly, wiping medical instruments clean before stowing them back in John’s bag.  “Her life was slipping away by the time we got here.  A caesarean was the only chance we had to save the infant.  You know how many of these women have rickets.  Christ, we’ve seen it often enough these past months—especially among the Irish.”

The certainty of that knowledge offered John little comfort.

He bit back a frustrated oath and threw the bloody cloth into the tray.  It would take more than a few bits of cotton to scrub the gore from his hands and arms.  And God only knew what it would take to wipe clean the stains that marked his soul.

He turned away from the bed, rubbing his neck, searching for the knots that felt like pieces of lead shot under his fingertips.  Exhaustion leached through his veins, and he suddenly craved the solitude of his study.  And a brandy.   A very large brandy.

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Vanessa KellyFortunately, John decides to escape his troubles by going on short trip, where he meets Bathsheba.  Helping each other, they will both find the redemption and love they seek.  And, after all, isn’t that what a good romance is all about?

Vanessa Kelly writes Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra.  She also writes contemporary romance with her husband under the pen name of VK Sykes.  You can reach her on the web at: http://www.vanessakellyauthor.com

Thanks for joining us today, Vanessa.

My guest is offering to give a copy of My Favorite Countess to a lucky commenter, so be sure to leave a comment or an answer to this question: What character trait do you look for most in a hero?

PS. Mia is visiting Vanessa’s blog today as well as Monica Burns. She’s giving away a copy of Touch of a Thief at both locations, so be sure to pop over and let her know you’re there with a comment.

30 thoughts on “He·ro– hi(ə)rō (noun)

  1. Buttercream says:

    Wow, what a beautiful cover. Thank you for a great post. It introduced me to a new author and whose books I really want to read now.

    A character trait I look for in a hero is Compassion, loyalty and strenth.

  2. Vonnie Alto says:

    What a heart wrenching scene! A quality that I look for in a hero is tenderness.

  3. Vanessa, I love your work! I’m looking forward to seeing how you redeemed Bathsheba and this glimpse of John is sooooo tempting.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Stacey!

  4. Wonderful premise, great excerpt, and in addition to the writing, the characters, and the cover, I’m impressed with the medical accuracy. Best of luck-to you, to John, and to the countess.

    1. Thanks, Grace. I actually worked with a wonderful research librarian on the medical details. I wanted to make sure I got it right.

  5. Linda says:

    The book sounds lovely & I’ve added it to my wishlist (but here’s hoping I win a copy here *grins*).

    Definitely a man of integrity, honor & compassion but 1 who is ever so wicked with it too!

    1. Excellent description, Linda!

  6. Mariee says:

    Sounds like a great book, loved the excerpt!

  7. Dalila G. says:

    Hi Mia and Vanessa! *waving*

    Please do not enter my name in contest. :)

    Just wanted to said howdy and to wish you both the best on the new releases.
    Anyone who’s ever read your books will definitely be happy with these also!

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Dalila!

    2. Mia Marlowe says:

      Thanks, Dalila! I’m so glad you dropped by.

  8. Wow! Pretty much everything I look for in a hero was in your excerpt there, starting with the capacity for, and acknowledgment of, failure. I don’t like fantasy figures nearly as much as I like fallible humans I can relate to and root for.

    Wasn’t Bathsheba in an earlier book? Sex and the Single Earl, maybe?

    1. Yes, Cecilia. Bathsheba was the bad girl in Sex and the Single Earl. I decided to give her the chance to redeem herself!

  9. Thanks, librarypat! I think you describe John very well!

  10. librarypat says:

    A telling excerpt. Definitely a man whose soul needs some soothing. He is the type of hero I like best. A man of integrity, honor, and compassion. Forget the Alpha male, macho swagger, a sign of a man too full of himself, hero or not.
    The cover says so much. A beautiful woman with an attitude but also a vulnerability.
    By the sound of the excerpt, this is a book I can curl up with and thoroughly enjoy. Best of luck with the release of MY FAVORITE COUNTESS. I am certain it is doing well.

  11. Great post, and what a gorgeous book cover.

  12. catslady says:

    I’ve not read a book about a doctor set in the regency and I do love variety so it sounds wonderful. I look for honesty and a good sense of humor but also that inner strength. Your cover is gorgeous!

    1. Thanks, catslady! It’s my favorite cover of all my books.

  13. Quilt Lady says:

    Your book sounds wonderful and i would love to read it. I love a strong hero with some type of flaw. The flawed hero makes a better book for me.

    1. Quilt Lady, I agree. I like physical perfection in a hero, though! That probably makes me a fairly shallow person!

  14. Thanks for the giveaway. The character trait I most look for in a hero is a quiet inner strength.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Interesting. That’s exactly what first attracted me to my DH.

    2. I love that quality, too, Loopy Librarian! BTW, you won a book in one of my giveaways the other day. Please check my blog for deets!

  15. Hi Sandy! Yes, I imagine guilt is something all doctors must struggle with. It’s a big challenge for John since was an incident from his past still weighs on him.

    Barb, thank you so much for your support! Hope you enjoy my countess.

  16. Barb H says:

    Vanessa, I love the premise for this story! In fact, I picked up the book Friday, before I left for a workshop, and it’s sitting right here on my TBR pile. And after reading this interview, I may just have to leave the laundry for later, kick back and start it. Ah, the sacrifices we must make :)

    I’d say good luck with the release, but I’m confident it will be a hit.

  17. Sandy says:

    Vanessa, your story sounds lovely. Doctor’s often feel guilt at losing a patient even in our time period.

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