Attention historical romance lovers: There's a new series in town, and we think you're going to love it. Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard—the first book in Vanessa Kelly's Renegade Royals series—goes on sale today. The witty, engaging romp features Aden St. James—illegitimate son of the Prince Regent—who finds himself unable to resist the charming, beautiful Lady Vivian Shaw.
In this guest blog post, Kelly offers a peek into her writing process—and shares what's so fun about basing characters on real-life royal scoundrels.
Authors of historical romance face a unique challenge: How much history should they include in any one book? Readers love the historical details, and woe betide the author who skimps or makes mistakes.
Historical romance, however, is not historical fiction, although both share the goal of creating compelling characters in a vibrant period setting. But romance has an entirely different set of genre expectations. While it’s true that our readers insist on colorful and appropriate world-building, as in all romance, the love story must come first.
In my new series, The Renegade Royals, I worked especially hard to weave in historical elements while still keeping the focus squarely on the romance. That’s because the series premise is bolstered by several well-known British historical figures—the notorious sons of King George III. My heroes are the illegitimate sons of the royal princes, and one of the fathers is the famous Prince Regent himself.
My heroes are fictional, of course, although the royal princes and their base-born offspring certainly provided me with plenty of historical fodder. For instance, the Prince Regent, who gave his name to the era and later ascended the throne as George IV, initiated his scandalous career at the tender age of 17 when he began an affair with the famous actress, Mary Robinson. He took numerous mistresses over the years and had up to six illegitimate children. In fact, the seven princes who reached adulthood sired up to 22 illegitimate children.
Clearly, I had a lot of material to work with.
Aden St. James, the hero of Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, the first book in my series, is the illegitimate son of the Prince Regent. I began my research knowing who I wanted Aden to be, and knowing his social background (a spy, whose aristocratic mother had once had an affair with the Regent). That left me to figure out the mechanics—how old was the Regent when he fathered this fictional child, for instance, and was he actually in London when I wanted him to be? Those were the sorts of questions I had to answer in developing the background for my hero.
Believe me when I tell you that there were flow charts and diagrams involved in figuring out ages, dates, times and locations. And more than once I discovered that a certain prince was not where I wanted him to be at a given point in time. That’s one of the hazards of using historical personages in fiction—a written record exists. So just when I needed one of the princes to be in Brighton having an affair, he was inconveniently away in Germany for military training.
Another interesting challenge was deciding how much page time to give historical figures. Aside from the fact that the princes are fascinating (if often repellent) in their own right and could easily overshadow other characters, too great an opportunity existed to make mistakes. The more page time I gave the princes, the greater the risk of putting them in the wrong place at the wrong time, or having them act in a way that was contrary to the historical record.
My solution? Use them sparingly. In my books, historical figures inform the story rather than play an active role. In Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, the Prince Regent does appear in a few scenes, both in service to the plot and because he’s such a fun character. In Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom, my next book in the series (coming in April), the royal prince who sired the hero does not appear. It didn’t make sense for the story, so I kept that real-life person firmly off-stage.
And that’s just fine, because my readers are not selecting my books for detail about the lives of the British royal family in the 19th century. Yes, they enjoy historical elements, and, yes, they want to lose themselves in the extravagant and exciting setting of the Regency era. But they primarily want a heroine they can root for, a hero they can fall a little bit in love with and a happily-ever-after that fulfills their need for a romantic and satisfying read.
Given his own romantic adventures, I hope the Prince Regent would have approved.
Thank you, Vanessa! What do you think, readers? Are you planning on getting swept up in Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard?