Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How the Scarlet Pimpernel inspired Hostage to Fortune

"They seek him here,
they seek him there,
those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel."
After Baroness Emmuska Orczy wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel, it was a successful play having over 2,000 performances in London. It then became a highly successful novel throughout the world. The popularity of the novel encouraged the baroness to write a number of sequels for her "reckless daredevil" over the next 35 years. The play was performed to great acclaim in France, Italy, Germany and Spain, while the novel was translated into 16 languages. Subsequently, the story has been adapted for television, film, a musical and other media.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is an adventure novel set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution.
The international success of The Scarlet Pimpernel allowed Orczy and her husband to live out their lives in luxury. Orczy wrote in her autobiography, Links in the Chain of Life: “I have so often been asked the question: ‘But how did you come to think of The Scarlet Pimpernel?’ And my answer has always been: It was God's will that I should.  And to you moderns, who perhaps do not believe as I do, I will say, in the chain of my life, there were so many links, all of which tended towards bringing me to the fulfillment of my destiny."
Perhaps many writers can relate to that.

After falling in love with Percy in The Scarlet Pimpernel I wrote a Georgian adventure romance with my own mystery man, Christian Hartley. Christian wants to put his dangerous exhausting job behind him and retire to the country to fish. What he doesn't want is to fall in love with a boisterous young woman in her first Season.
HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE is released today in e-book form with http//www.newconceptspublishing.com. Coming to Amazon soon.

Viscount Beaumont has buried himself in the country since his wife died. As the French Revolution rages, French actress Verity Garnier is ordered to England to seduce him back to France. She despises men, but she must not fail.
Here is an excerpt:
The roan mare Henrietta’s father had chosen for her had soft brown eyes. They rode together along the London streets to Rotten Row, finding carriages lined up to travel down the South Carriage Way. The park was filled with people strolling about.
          How she had missed riding. Henrietta was pleased with her new riding habit of a flattering moss green. Charlotte, as the horse was named, trotted along the track, obeying her instructions without protest and giving Henrietta plenty of time to search among the riders for Mr. Hartley, but there was no sign of him. A white horse approached them, ridden by a lady in a dainty sky-blue velvet habit with a tall hat atop her curls.
          “Why, Lord Beaumont,” said Mademoiselle Garnier. “And Miss Buckleigh. What a pleasant surprise.”
          Her father raised his hat. “Delighted, mademoiselle. Lovely day for a ride. Will you please join us?”
          Henrietta saw how he looked at mademoiselle, and wondered if this had been prearranged. She felt excluded, and a little jealous.
          Mademoiselle Garnier had far too charming a smile. “I do love your habit, Miss Buckleigh.”
          “Thank you, mademoiselle. Your costume is lovely. I like the wide lapels and caped shoulders. So very stylish. I expect it has been made in Paris.”
          “I find it incredible that a country with so brutal a government can produce such delicate and beautiful things.”
          “Henrietta!” Her father glared at her. “That was rude.”
          “No, no. She is quite right, Lord Beaumont. My country suffers from a bloody revolution. Do you know, Henrietta, that there are many English who agree with what goes on there?”
          “They say the guillotine chops off people’s heads. Innocent women and children too. I read about it in The Lady’s Magazine. How can they be so cruel?”
          “The French people were starving and something had to be done to change that.”
          Henrietta reined her horse in beside her. “What if someone you loved had his head chopped off, because he didn’t believe in the cause?” She was curious. “Would you still believe in it then?”
          “Henrietta!” Her father bellowed. “Have your manners deserted you?”
          Henrietta looked into the Frenchwoman’s beautiful face. She had gone white, and her violet blue eyes looked stricken. She suffered a jolt of remorse. “I’m sorry, mademoiselle. It was purely rhetorical.”
          “Henrietta!” Lord Beaumont brought his mount alongside hers. “You will please ride ahead. I’ll speak to you later.”
          Henrietta had never seen him look so fierce or fail to call her Hetta, his pet name for her. Tears of contrition stung her eyes. What had made her act that way? But she knew the answer. It wasn’t so much that her father was enamored of Verity Garnier, but her fear that he would rush to his brother-in-law’s aid in France. A very pretty couple they made with their heads close together, walking their horses. Henrietta sniffed and rode on ahead of them. Now barred from their conversation, she became more than a little annoyed that her pleasant time in London had been tinged with disquiet.
          “Miss Buckleigh.”
          Henrietta looked up from her study of her horse’s mane, where she’d been deep in thought, straight into the smiling eyes of Mr. Hartley. He sat on his tall chestnut, wearing a navy-blue coat, fawn breeches and glossy black riding boots.
          “Mr. Hartley,” she said faintly. She no longer felt up to dealing with him.
          “Surely you do not ride alone?” He replaced his hat and gazed about, but her father and Mademoiselle Verity had been left behind.
          “No. My father is here.”
          “Would you object if I rode alongside you?”
          “I think my horse might,” Henrietta said, as Charlotte tried to nip Mr. Hartley’s horse.
          “She is not very friendly.”
          “She is extremely friendly, but quite choosy.”
          “Surely she can find nothing wrong with Titan. His pedigree is as long as my arm.”
          “Lineage does not always vouch for good behavior,” Henrietta said, meeting his gaze with a raised brow.
          A corner of his mouth quirked. “Does it not?”
          “On the contrary, there are those that are very poorly behaved right here today.”
          “There are?” His lip curled farther into a grin.
          She flicked her crop. “Look at that man over there for example. He is a gentleman, is he not?”
          “That’s the Marquis of Tavenstock.”
          “Have you seen how he whips his horse?”
          “Can’t say I have. But I do not approve of such things.”
          Henrietta flicked her crop again. “And another, there.”
          “Lord Crompton. He holds no whip.”
          “He left his companion far behind. She is a trifle unsure of herself on a horse, I grant you. And her horse is also rather fat, but her companion should wait for her, don’t you agree?”
          “That’s his new wife,” Mr. Hartley said, in a strangled voice. “She is the daughter of a wealthy nabob who made his fortune in India.”
          Henrietta glanced back at the woman dressed in a clash of crimson and puce. “Oh, I see. They were merely examples, of course.”
          Mr. Hartley chuckled. “Miss Buckleigh, you are outrageous.”
          Henrietta cocked her head at him. “I am?”
          He steadied his mount, which disliked coming too close to Charlotte’s bared teeth. “But delightfully so.”
          Henrietta turned to see her father approach as Mademoiselle Verity rode away. “Good day to you, Hartley.”
          “You must excuse us. We return home immediately.”
          Mr. Hartley bowed. “It’s been a pleasure and an education, Miss Buckleigh.”     
          They left Mr. Hartley behind to canter through the park. “Was I so very terrible, Father?”
          “You behaved abominably,” he said, “Your mother was a Frenchwoman or had you forgotten?”
          “No. I would never forget,” she said fiercely. “It is only the government I detest, not the people.” Henrietta could never forget that French blood ran in her veins.
          “However, that’s not the reason for my haste. Your aunt sent me a message. She has heard from Philippe.”
          Henrietta gasped with relief. “Is he alright?”
           “That’s what I wish to find out.” Her father’s expression offered little reassurance.

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