Updated: Aug 20, 2021
“Where did Jeremy come from?” is a question I’ve been asked often about Duke of Disgrace. (Edged out slightly by, “You do realize that divorce wasn’t a thing people did in the Regency, right?” Yes! That’s fodder for another post.) Without giving too much away about the book, he came, honestly, from multiple sources of inspiration. All are more vested in psychology and fiction than in historical English men who sought divorces. Because, yes, those are quite rare!
One is incredibly personal: years ago, I was in a terribly difficult relationship. I was being abused in different ways, yet because we had obviously started in a happier place, I felt that keeping my peace was a better option than leaving. I was wrong, but I don't blame my past self. Like many who find themselves in those situations, I hoped things would improve and I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt.
What you know, even if what you know is awful, can feel safer than the alternative unknowns. In some ways, there is my own experience in Jeremy. One of the things I hope Duke of Disgrace's readers might take solace in (especially if they have been, or goodness forbid, are in a nasty relationship or marriage) is the infinite human capacity for change, joy, and freedom that Jeremy discovers.
I’ve written before on Facebook about how the BBC Musketeers version of Athos inspired me. I’ve been quite lighthearted about it being down to Tom Burke. Who can blame me?
But more than that, the character himself also contributed to my thinking. He’s so invested in atonement and numbing himself with wine that it becomes self-punishment! Which, if you’ve seen the show… he should feel bad about what he’s done, but one has to wonder how constructive that much self-inflicted penance is. Eventually, he does get past it, and there’s a happily ever after for him. (The original Athos is far less kind, that's true; but I still love the novel.) To a lesser extent, I wanted to show that although addiction or substance abuse shouldn't be taken lightly, they don't confer moral qualities on their own. They often arise from illness, desperation, or some kind of lack. Addiction itself is a disease, too.
I felt that the hero I was trying to create had a strong sense of duty and a nearly devastating moral compass. And he's walking under a lingering black cloud of mistakenly believing that one must deal with what one is dealt, particularly if one is a powerful man. I had a small desire to play with representations of men who sweep women off their feet — to challenge the idea that to be romantic, they must always be proactive. I did this with Will in Duke of Sorrow, too, to mixed reactions! (Someone derisively said he seemed "bisexual," which, maybe he is? He hasn't told me.)
Regardless, I like creating heroes who don’t solve their personal problems by immediately charging toward them. Sometimes that means making them as uncomfortable as humanly possible before they take action. Even Reeve, from Duke of Havoc, avoids issues that only become worse because of his avoidance. He’s just more brusque, and the oldest of the three heroes thus far, which I think makes him more confident and reckless in his wrong methods.
A lot of the push-pull in Duke of Disgrace comes from Jeremy’s sensitivity and hesitance to take action.
It was great fun to navigate his reluctance and it never entered my head to make him more forthright with Lottie, or Isabel, or anyone.
Have you read Duke of Disgrace, yet? If not, you can get it on Amazon or read for free in Kindle Unlimited.
If or when you have, let me know what you think!