Margaret McPhee

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Writing the Series

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Gentlemen of Disrepute - Writing the Series

Kicking off with Unmasking the Duke’s Mistress
I didn’t set out to write a series. I didn’t even set out to write the book that kicked it all off – Unmasking the Duke’s Mistress. I was supposed to be busy working on a different project when I got the idea for Arabella’s character. She was there in my mind - very insistent and very compelling. She wouldn’t leave me alone, so I stopped what I was doing and wrote her story, which became Unmasking the Duke’s Mistress.

Love and betrayal, secret babies and blackmail…
The book opens with the visit of a group of the Ton’s most eligible and disreputable bachelors to an upmarket bordello, a House of Rainbow Pleasures. But Dominic Furneaux, the Duke of Arlesford, gets more than he bargained for in bedding the mysterious masked Miss Noir, when he discovers that she is the ghost from his past – Arabella – who has haunted him ever since.

Arabella broke his heart and hardened him against women. Their story is one of love and betrayal, of a secret baby and blackmail involving the villainous father and son team the Earl of Misbourne and Viscount Linwood.

What sent devil-may-care Hunter home to brood alone?
I enjoyed writing the book and when it ended I got to thinking about Dominic’s best friend from the story, the handsome, devil-may-care rake Sebastian Hunter. And what might have happened down in London amongst that select group of friends that sent him home to brood alone upon a windswept Scottish moor. So I wrote Sebastian’s story next in A Dark and Brooding Gentleman.

A Dark and Brooding Gentleman
By the start of A Dark and Brooding Gentleman Sebastian Hunter is a man his friends down in London would no longer recognise. Dark and haunted, he spends his nights drinking and staring out over his moor...until the arrival of Miss Phoebe Allardyce, his mother’s new companion. Phoebe has her own secrets to hide and another purpose in being at the gothic Blackloch Hall. For all of his resolve, Sebastian has no choice but to keep a close eye on the woman who is intent on stealing something very specific from him.

Their story takes them into a dark and sinister world neither of them knew existed - of black-cowled men and secret societies, of intrigue, and sacrifice for love. Linwood, sworn enemy of Hunter and Arlesford, also makes a minor villainous appearance in A Dark and Brooding Gentleman.

Before it all began - How to Tempt a Viscount
When I was asked to write a Harlequin Undone, a coffee-break size e-reads whose focus is primarily sensual and light, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at another one of my gentlemen of disrepute. Specifically, to answer the question why Marcus Henshall, Viscount Stanley, is the only one of Arlesford’s dissolute friends who, on the opening night of Unmasking the Duke’s Mistress, does not go to Mrs Silver’s House of Rainbow Pleasures, but home to his wife and baby. How to Tempt a Viscount became a prequel to Unmasking the Duke’s Mistress.

Dealing with the villainous Linwood and his family in His Mask of Retribution
The third full-length book in the series turns to Linwood’s family.

To his father, Misbourne, who in Unmasking the Duke’s Mistress was so greedy to land a duke for his daughter that he resorted to dirty-dealing Arlesford. To his snobby overpowering mother, Lady Misbourne. And most of all to his sister, Lady Marianne, the woman that Arlesford so steadfastly refused to marry in the first book.

A smoulderingly sexy highwayman
None of it was Marianne’s fault. She was a pawn used by her father, bullied by her mother, and humiliated by Arlesford’s rejection. She had to get her own story, for sure. So in His Mask of Retribution Marianne is abducted on the way to her wedding by a masked highwayman – the dangerous and smoulderingly sexy Rafe Knight - and held hostage for a price, a retribution, demanded of her father. But there’s more to that price than either of them have realised.

Redeeming a villain…
His Mask of Retribution reveals the reason underlying Misbourne and Linwood’s villainy and ponders the question whether villainy is still villainy if done for the best of reasons. It also takes the pampered, weak girl that Marianne seems in the first two books and shows that she is a strong, courageous woman in her own right.

And turning him into a hero!
Having given Marianne her happy-ever-after, I turned to her brother, the dark, intense and mysterious, Viscount Linwood and his story in Dicing with the Dangerous Lord. This fourth book in the series picks up where the previous one left off.

Dangerous games of truth and deception in Dicing with the Dangerous Lord
The Duke of Rotherham has been murdered and Covent Garden’s demimonde darling of the stage, the vampish Miss Venetia Fox is called to her toughest acting role yet - to seduce a confession from Lord Linwood. Readers of His Mask of Retribution have insider information. They will understand both Linwood’s connection to Rotherham and his motive for murder from the outset. Linwood knows Venetia is playing a dangerous game with him but he is only human and what red-blooded man could refuse the raven-haired siren? And besides, Venetia has a few secrets of her own he must discover.

Is Linwood innocent…or guilty?
In a game where neither can lie but only hide the truth beneath honesty, Linwood and Venetia are both adversaries and lovers. But the more that Venetia learns of Linwood the more she risks losing her carefully guarded heart. When Linwood is arrested and faces the noose, only Venetia can save him. But is he innocent or guilty? And does it matter when it comes to a woman sending the man she loves to the gallows? So many questions that I had fun in answering.

Writing to music – U2, Peggy Lee and Ren Harvieu
Linwood is such a dark and intense character who needed a very strong woman to balance him, and Venetia was just that woman. I wrote Linwood while listening to U2’s Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me because it has the feel of the danger and allure that surrounds him. Venetia’s song was Peggy Lee’s Fever, and their song together, Ren Harvieu’s Through the Night.

Sex, pride and love!
Having formed an attachment to Alice and Razeby while writing Dicing with the Dangerous Lord, I was reticent to let them go. So they got their story in the follow-up to Linwood and Venetia’s. Mistress to the Marquis opens with Alice already Razeby's mistress. They 'clicked' together from the very beginning, sharing a strong sensual chemistry and a heart. But the two are from different worlds: Razeby is a marquis with more than the pressure of the ton ensuring he must marry well. Alice has fought her way up from a background of poverty through the most scandalous of paths. When you have found 'the one', can you turn your back on them and walk away for the sake of duty and honour and all that is right? I did rather put Alice and Razeby through the wringer to answer that question.

I particularly enjoyed writing Alice and Razeby's dramatic finale at the 'gothic' masquerade ball. Khachaturian's
Masquerade Waltz is too late for the Regency period but it captures the mood of the scene perfectly and so this was the music playing in my ears as I wrote it.

A handsome wolf amidst the pampered pedigree gentlemen of London's ton
Remember Emma Northcote? She first made an appearance in A Dark and Brooding Gentleman as the best friend of its heroine, Phoebe Allardyce. While writing that story and those subsequent, she was at the back of my mind. Her circumstances would be getting not better but only worse over the years that passed following the particular terrible incident; I often found myself wondering what had happened to her. Being raised as privileged, educated and genteel, and then to lose it all... She had to have her own story, both to satisfy my curiosity and see that justice was done. So I wrote The Gentleman Rogue.

But who to have as her hero? And then I thought about Ned Stratham, and I knew at once that it had to be him! I do like alpha heroes - tough, no nonsense,
and wickedly attractive - and Stratham is all three. Within the pampered pedigree gentlemen of Regency London's ton he really is a wolf, handsome, dangerous and untamed; a man that can protect a woman from any danger that might hurt her...except the truth of his own identity.

Maturing a young fool into a worthy hero...
Emma's brother Kit was the baby of the group of Disreputable Gentlemen and when it came to having a good time he was always the idiot, easily led and pushing things too far. Little did he know in those reckless foolish days of Unmasking the Duke’s Mistress just what I had in store for him. It does, after all, take a lot to mature a young fool into a worthy hero! Readers of the series will already know the terrible event he caused. And that he disappeared, never to be seen again. If you were wondering where he went and what befell him, The Lost Gentleman, provides the answers.

A 'disreputable' romance series needs a handsome alpha pirate hunter...
Now three years later, Kit Northcote has become Captain Kit North, a very different man altogether - a pirate hunter - ruthless, hard and apparently emotionless. Just my kind of hero! He is not interested in women, in pleasure, in anything other than redeeming his lost honour; a task that requires the capture of the notorious pirate La Voile. But Kit hasn’t reckoned on La Voile being the beautiful Mrs Kate Medhurst...or on falling in love with her.

And a feisty heroine pirate...
I liked Kate from the outset and the fact she turns stereotypes for the time period on their head. She’s sassy, and real, and a woman who can’t let herself fall for the lean, handsome pirate hunter for so many deep, dark reasons.

Torn between the devil and the deep blue sea - feeling the emotional anxt...
Their situation is impossible. What is a man to do when it’s a choice between redeeming his honour and rescuing his family...or betraying his last vestige of integrity to save the woman that he loves? It’s a tough and emotional call for both Kit and Kate. I was listening to the Sam Smith song ‘Stay with Me’ as I wrote the later scenes between them.

Is this the end of my Gentlemen of Disrepute?
Watch this space for the answer.

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