Guest blogger: Sasha Cottman
I love TV series and movie series, but nothing gets me like a book series. I will be the first to admit that I love a boxed set of either books or DVDs. There is nothing better than knowing you have a whole series ahead of you. (Unless you get part-way through and they kill off one of your favourite characters … yes, I am looking at you George RR Martin).
While I enjoy a stand-alone novel, I really love picking up a book only to discover that it is part of an expanded series.
My first foray into reading romance was Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. Eight siblings all with their own stories! Bliss. I quickly snapped up several of the books (and, yes, I do like to read them in sequential order), and returned within days to buy the rest.
At last count I think I own at least 20-odd of Stephanie Lauren’s Cynster books.
Which brings me to my own writing. My current series—The Duke of Strathmore series—is currently sitting at three books, with The Duke’s Daughter the latest in the series. I am currently writing book four.
Letter from a Rake is the first in the series dealing with the family of the Duke of Strathmore. The five Radley siblings and their loving parents come to life on the pages. Alex Radley is the hero in the first book and meets more than his match in high-spirited, Indian born Millie Ashton. While the central love story revolves around these two characters, I had great fun in bringing to life strong secondary characters who cried out for their own book. Letter from a Rake was a finalist for the 2014 Romantic Book of the Year.
The second book in the series, An Unsuitable Match, continues the story of the Radley family and takes place not long after the epilogue in Letter from a Rake. The repercussions of a misdirected love letter continue to resonate through people’s lives. Alex’s brother, David Radley, finally decides that the life of a rake is not what he wants and he works to overcome his status as an illegitimate son to win the hand of Lady Clarice Langham. This book was great fun to write as I got an opportunity to write a dastardly villain in the form of Thaxter Fox. I also got to practise fight moves in the kitchen at work with our national payroll manager.
The third book in the series, The Duke’s Daughter, is the story of Lady Lucy Radley, Alex and David’s sister. She is a delight of a character and I had quite a few emails and comments from readers asking when Lucy would get her own story. The hero in this book is Avery Fox, younger brother of the villain of An Unsuitable Match. Avery is a supposed war hero with a dark secret. Thrown together, Lucy and Avery face a long and at times frustrating journey to find true love. A number of readers have suggested they would love to bang these two heads together, which is exactly how I wanted people to feel. This is a special book for me as I wrote a lot of it when I was travelling in England with my sister last year.
With a full family tree now developed, the next branch of the Radley family is set to strut the stage in book four, so stay tuned.
It is both great fun and a challenge to write a series. You have familiar characters and back story, but the challenge is to bring a fresh story to life.
Do you have a favourite book series?
Sasha is giving away a Kindle copy of The Duke’s Daughter. Leave a comment below to go in the draw. The giveaway closes on 1 November. (The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Malvina!)
By every measure of her own behaviour, Lady Lucy Radley knew this was the worst.
‘You reckless fool,’ she muttered under her breath as she headed back inside and into the grand ballroom.
The room was a crush of London’s social elite. Every few steps she had to stop and make small talk with friends or acquaintances. A comment here and there about someone’s gown or promising a social call made for slow going.
Finally she spied her cousin, Eve. She fixed a smile to her face as Eve approached.
‘Where have you been, Lucy? I’ve been searching everywhere for you.’
‘I was just outside admiring the flowers on the terrace.’
Eve frowned, but the lie held.
Another night, another ball in one of London’s high-society homes. In one respect Lucy would be happy when the London social season ended in a few weeks; then she would be free to travel to her family home in Scotland and go tramping across the valleys and mountain paths, the chill wind ruffling her hair.
She puffed out her cheeks. With the impending close of the season came an overwhelming sense of failure. Her two older brothers, David and Alex, had taken wives. Perfect, love-filled unions with delightful girls, each of whom Lucy was happy to now call sister.
Her newest sister-in-law, Earl Langham’s daughter Clarice, was already in a delicate condition, and Lucy suspected it was only a matter of time before her brother Alex and his wife Millie shared some good news.
For herself, this season had been an unmitigated disaster on the husband-hunting front. The pickings were slim at best. Having refused both an earl and a viscount the previous season, she suspected other suitable gentlemen now viewed her as too fussy. No gentleman worth his boots wanted a difficult wife. Only the usual group of fortune-hunters, intent on getting their hands on her substantial dowry, were lining up at this stage of the season to ask her to dance. Maintaining her pride as the daughter of a duke, she refused them all.
Somewhere in the collective gentry of England there must be a man worthy of her love. She just had to find him.
What a mess.
‘You are keeping something from me,’ Eve said, poking a finger gently into Lucy’s arm.
Lucy shook her head. ‘It’s nothing. I suspect I am suffering from a touch of ennui. These balls all begin to look the same after a while. All the same people, sharing the same gossip.’
‘Oh dear, and I thought I was having a bad day,’ Eve replied.
‘Sorry, I was being selfish. You are the one who needs a friend to cheer her up,’ Lucy replied. She kissed her cousin gently on the cheek.
Eve’s brother William had left London earlier that day to return to his home in Paris, and she knew her cousin was taking his departure hard.
‘Yes, well, I knew I could sit at home and cry, or I could put on a happy face and try to find something to smile about,’ Eve replied.
Eve’s father had tried without success to convince his son to return permanently to England. With the war now over and Napoleon toppled from power, everyone expected William Saunders to come home immediately, but it had taken two years for him to make the journey back to London.
‘Perhaps once he gets back to France and starts to miss us all again, he shall have a change of heart,’ Lucy said.
‘One can only hope. Now, let’s go and find a nice quiet spot and you can tell me what you were really doing out in the garden. Charles Ashton came in the door not a minute before you, and he had a face like thunder. As I happened to see the two of you head out into the garden at the same time a little while ago, I doubt Charles’ foul temper was because he found the flowers not to his liking,’ Eve replied.
Sasha Cottman’s debut novel was published in 2013. Letter from a Rake, was a Romantic Book of the Year finalist in 2014 and won the Book Junkies Choice Award in 2014.
Her books are centred on the theme of love, honour and family. Her current book series, The Duke of Strathmore, covers the story of the love lives of a group of siblings and their cousins.
Sasha’s second novel, An Unsuitable Match, was a four time ARRA finalist in 2015. The third book in the Duke of Strathmore series, The Duke’s Daughter, was released in August 2015.
Sasha divides her time between the city of Melbourne, Australia and her family beach retreat at Torquay. She and her family have discovered all the places the family cat disappears to whenever it realises they are about to head home on a Sunday night.
Before accidentally enrolling in a course for romance writers a number of years ago, she had always had a love of history. While her writing career may appear at odds with her professional career as a finance executive, it means she can spot a poorly written company board report at twenty feet.
A self-confessed ‘hopeless’ cook, she writes a blog, In the Regency Kitchen, where she recreates recipes from the Regency/Georgian era. Her family have so far managed to survive being the test subjects of her culinary efforts.
The little time she has left during the week and weekends is spent trying to beat her husband at Fitbit challenges and trying to find where the pair to that sock really went.
Sasha is published by Destiny Romance, a digital imprint of Penguin Random House.