Writing heroes is always fun. I never set out with a perfectly formed character in mind. I usually have a scene, or even a scene-let, with a few lines of dialog, maybe a bit of action, and that’s it. But it gives me enough of a springboard that I can start building a story around this guy.
And a lot of the time, he’s definitely not the most likable character.
Take Lord Haughton, or Finnian, as he’s more familiarly known. He’s the hero of my next book, The Firstborn, and at first introduction, he’s not exactly someone you’d immediately warm up to. He’s stuffy, he’s stubborn, he’s worried about keeping up appearances.
His younger brother, David, has gone and sired a son out of wedlock. It’s a scandal, or it could be if it’s not kept under wraps. And Finnian, being the oldest son and the one with the weight of the title on his shoulders, has to take on the chore of cleaning up everyone else’s messes.
Finnian moved towards his desk, the neat stacks of invitations, of previous days’ newspapers, of filed and folded documents pertaining to the care of his family’s estates proving only a minor impediment as he shifted a few things aside and produced a sheet of vellum. “A simple thing, really. I merely offer her the money she would certainly come to claim at a time when it would be more inconvenient for me. A fixed sum, enough to ensure the child will receive the proper care and guidance he deserves as my brother’s offspring.”
“And in return?”
“In return,” Finnian brandished the document. “She does not interfere. She does not leave her tiny cottage. She does not set foot in London. Nor does she attempt to contact myself, my brother, or any other member of our family, except within the terms laid out for her.”
Winston let out a long, low whistle. “And do you think she’ll agree to that?”
“I’ve found that most people will agree to anything, if the proper incentive is offered.” Finnian glanced down at the document in his hand. He felt a mercenary twinge in his bones that did not agree with him, but the fact of the matter remained: he could not allow this woman to gallivant about the country with his brother’s illegitimate offspring in tow, no matter her attempts to keep up appearances to the contrary. Their father, the previous marquess, was barely cold in his grave, and now such a scandal threatened to destroy the family’s name.
Man, he’s just so warm and charming!
But surely, you think, he’ll show his softer side once he’s faced with a bouncing bundle of joy, his own nephew, and the woman who’s been caring for him!
“Very well.” He shifted forward in his chair, until both of his elbows rested on the tabletop and the position of his hands matched her own. “I would prefer that you agree to several conditions before this matter goes forward to my solicitor. First, that the boy never takes his father’s surname.”
“I see.” Sophia licked her lips, her mouth having gone uncommonly dry at the sudden change in the tone of the conversation. “Pray, continue.”
He drew in another deep breath. “You are to make no claim, public or otherwise, on the boy’s parentage. No one is to know the identity of his father, and should word arrive to me that you have done so, then any and all payments towards you will immediately cease.”
“Hmm.” Her gaze drifted down towards the table, her focus concentrated on a knot in the wood. She suspected that if she dared to look into the man’s face while he continued to speak, she might be tempted to do him physical harm. “Anything else?”
“You are never to come to London, or to any of my family’s estates throughout the country, unless first issued an invitation to do so. Failure to comply with these conditions will mean—”
“—an end to the promised annuity,” she finished for him. “Yes, yes, I understand.”
She continued to breathe, measured breaths that required her to count three seconds for each inhalation and three seconds for each exhalation, or else she thought she might be ill.
“So…” His voice sounded from the other side of the table. “Mrs. Brixton, are there any comments or questions you may have for me before we move forward with this?”
One.. two… three… “Only one thing,” she said, her voice tight as she attempted to speak between clenched teeth. “My own condition, actually.” Her eyes met his. One… two… three… “And that is that you must leave this house. Now.”
Goodness. His people skills are outstanding. Truly.
But it was with these first few scenes that set the stage for the character I wanted to create. Yes, I wanted him to be a bit of a jerk. But then, this is a man who’s had the shadow of responsibility looming over him since birth, a father who instilled in him the idea that no scandal should ever besmirch the family name, and a younger brother who has given him doubts that there are still a fair number of people in the world who aren’t simply looking out for their own interests.
Yet he also wants to be proven wrong. And that’s where the fun begins. He wants to find those other people who will stand up for themselves, who won’t back down when something easier comes along. Sure, there are the folks who are swiftly dispatched with some money or other material goods. But without him even realizing it, he wants to be surprised. He wants the human race to show him something – someone – better.
And when he happens to find it, it might just turn his world upside down.
The Firstborn will be available in ebook and paperback May 9th, 2017!
Don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads book list!