THE SOUTHERN DEVIL
By Diane Whiteside
Brava - September 2006Even a perfect gentleman has a little devil in him.
Once a starving Confederate war veteran, Morgan Evans is now a wealthy man respected for both his business acumen and his chivalrous Southern manners. He would be the perfect catch for any woman, but only one holds his constant attention. Jessamyn Tyler Evans has been his obsession since the time she derailed one of his spy missions by holding him hostage in her bed for days. Her innocent explorations awakened a fierce hunger inside the young Morgan, and the passion and intimacy they shared frightened them both. Jessamyn spurned Morgan for his cousin, and Morgan vowed that someday he would drive her as wild with desire as she had driven him. Now Jessamyn has returned. The payback has begun…
Jessamyn has an obsession of her own: hunting for a legendary family treasure in the hills of Colorado. To do so, the spirited widow needs a husband, and Morgan Evans is only too happy to join her masquerade…for a price: she must submit to being his, body and soul, surrendering herself to whatever he demands. It’s a devil’s bargain to be sure.
Their union is as treacherous as it is passionate – and the only thing they can trust. Searching for a treasure that may not exist – a treasure others would kill for – two lovers are moving deeper into unmarked territory, where no threat is more perilous than everything they feel…
"Packed with riveting suspense, hot and steamy love scenes, and romance, THE SOUTHERN DEVIL
is a fast paced story that will keep readers turning the pages to get to the exciting end. Not relying on sensuality alone, Diane Whiteside has penned another winner to add to her Historical resume." – Historical Romance WritersThe Southern Devil is set in post-Civil War America. How did you become interested in this time period? What do you love about it?
The building of the Transcontinental Railroad has always personally fascinated me, because my great-great-grandparents, as an Irish immigrant couple, worked on it. As a writer – The Irish Devil, my first western historical, had to be set in 1871 Arizona to use my hero’s background from the great Irish famine, my heroine’s experiences during the Civil War, and Arizona’s silver mining history.
Post-Civil War America is a fascinating balance between the vitality of Manifest Destiny and western expansion, the Gilded Era’s extravagance and arrogance, and an incredibly rapid pace of technological change. Underlying all of this are the unsettled wounds from the Civil War, expressed in a violent atmosphere that surprises remarkably few people.
As a romance writer, I find in this era lots of God-fearing alpha males with all the characteristics of Special Forces soldiers – but just waiting for the right woman to give them an opportunity to settle down. Wonderful!What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?
Personally, I really dislike the racism, especially because I instinctively demand that I write realistic fiction. There were many races present, who made many great contributions, and who have many fascinating stories to tell. Yet it’s extremely difficult to find a credible way to show the races interacting together socially, as equals, long-term. I keep trying to do so but I also feel obligated to show the bad side, too. In THE SOUTHERN DEVIL, Lucas Grainger – a secondary character – has an extremely good friend, John Little, who’s a half-breed, former Army scout. As soon as he hears that Little’s being beaten up, Lucas rescues him and then makes sure that Little has a good job for the rest of his life. For the rest of the book, I show them as friends whenever possible. I just keep wishing I could do more, as a writer, to show the other ethnic groups.
The two things that constrain my plotting in this period are (1) motivating my heroines to jump into my hero’s bed and (2) syphilis.
Every erotic romance author always has to credibly motivate her heroine’s choice to enter into the relationship. As a historical author, I like to also consider the factors present during post Civil War America – notably social status and the likelihood of pregnancy. Also, given that I tend to write action adventures with a fast pace, an erotic romance works best if my heroine has some sexual experience so the romance’s "getting acquainted" period can move more quickly. If a respectable, unmarried woman openly had an affair, she’d almost guarantee the loss of her social standing. Put all of those things together and I tend to make my heroines widows, just to respect their own caution about protecting their long-term standing in the community. Mercifully, medical science and the amount of violence during that period makes widowhood easy to provide when plotting a book. My only unmarried heroine – Rosalind, in THE RIVER DEVIL – was so rich and of such high social status that she could afford to laugh at society, should she become pregnant during an affair.
Syphilis, on the other hand, was an all too-common, extremely gross, and deadly sexually-transmitted disease during this period. A common phrase was "One night with Venus and a lifetime with Mercury," meaning that one night with the wrong woman and a man would spend the rest of his life taking mercury salts to keep himself from rotting to death. It was well-known that this could be fairly readily prevented by steady use of condoms. Given all this, it’s very difficult for me to believe that any sexually-experienced, upper-class man would not have known that he needed to use condoms all the time. I also think it’s heroic for my hero not to want to take any chance of passing a disease on to the heroine, who he’s falling in love with, even if it means he’s uncomfortable in the bedroom.
I don’t like to think about distasteful topics like this. On the other hand, I also know that, if a woman at this period announced her upcoming nuptials, she’d be deluged with advertisements for condoms as "marital aids." So, realistically speaking, I believe I need to include condoms, which leads to all sorts of interesting convolutions in plotting. Camping in 1872 with condoms, anyone?
Of course, it also leads to joyous moments at a book’s end, such as THE SOUTHERN DEVIL’s finale when Morgan and Jessamyn for the first time deliberately try to start a family. Given the importance they both place on family, this is a critical moment and the beginning of their new life together. Not having a condom between them literally means that all barriers have disappeared.Your bio mentios a lot of camping. Did you experiences outdoors influence your choice of setting, or contribute to it?
That’s a chicken-and-egg question. I’ve camped a lot across the western United States because I love it there and I write about the same landscape because I know and love it. It’s quite true that it’s easier to write about what you know.Your books are erotic romances, care to talk a bit about how you blend the erotic with the historical?
My maxims for writing erotic historical romances are know thy motives, thy settings, and thy props.
Figuring out the motives is fairly straightforward; researching it’s the same, whether you’re writing sweet or steamy. Of course, it can take a serious amount of effort sometimes to really understand a historical character’s sexual thinking, since sexual mores change so much over time. It took me two years to understand Morgan’s reaction to being tied up by Jessamyn at the beginning of THE SOUTHERN DEVIL.
Researching settings takes more work, since actually visiting the historical setting or an equivalent is so useful. My camping experience has come in useful, plus reading period documents, of course. And God bless reenactors! A Civil War Historian, a wonderful magazine, reprinted excerpts from the Army’s Civil War era manual describing how troops camped. I used that information, plus my camping experience, for the love scene where Morgan seduces Jessamyn in a tent outside Ft. Sumner after a long day’s ride.What/Who do you like to read?
Lots and lots of historicals, plus romantic suspense, science fiction/fantasy. Jo Beverly, Mary Jo Putney, Roberta Gellis, Georgette Heyer, Emma Holly, Elizabeth Lowell, J.R.R. Tolkien, Angela Knight, John Buchan, Zane Gray – the list goes on and on!Care to share a bit about your writing process? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?
I’m definitely a plotter but I’m primarily character-driven. (A good book to me means fascinating characters and enough of a plot to stress them out.) I work from index cards so I see my plot as something fluid, not cast in stone. I clean up my manuscript as I go, but it usually works out to be four or five major drafts.What are you planning to work on next?
I’m currently working on THE NORTHERN DEVIL, which is Lucas Grainger from THE SOUTHERN DEVIL’s story. It’s a marriage of convenience story, in which the more Lucas falls in love with Rachel Davis, the more his actions drive her away.
After that, I’ll be working on BOND OF FIRE and BOND OF DARKNESS, volumes 2 and 3 of my Texas vampire trilogy. Since they really overlap in time, I’m very glad I get to write them one after another. BOND OF FIRE starts during the Peninsular War then moves to modern day Texas. BOND OF DARKNESS (formerly called BOND OF STEEL) is set in modern day Texas.What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?
Lucas walked into THE SOUTHERN DEVIL and demanded his own book. Actually, he rode down Raton Pass – a very steep, rocky pass – into Trinidad, an extraordinarily tough town. He received a series of letters from his family – which he shrugged off, might I add – but he charged into a saloon to rescue an old friend, a half-breed Indian scout. Then he informed me that he’d taken a vow never to get married. What could I do but plunk him down into a situation in which he had to get married to a woman that he’d fall hopelessly in love with?
THE SOUTHERN DEVIL was also inspired by a character – Morgan Evans. In THE IRISH DEVIL, Morgan went off to tell Paul Lennox, the villain, that he needed to start playing nice. Morgan was an extremely macho fellow and also quite the Southern gentleman – definitely someone who could easily accomplish the smooth gunplay this scene needed to end with. Yet, at the beginning, he froze at the sight of a glass of sherry and told me – very firmly! – that he wouldn’t drink the stuff until he could put Jessamyn Tyler in her place for having tied him up. There were entirely too many unpleasant memories associated with it.
I blinked. Who the heck was Jessamyn? Why had Morgan put up with being treated like that? Why hadn’t he taken his revenge before now? THE IRISH DEVIL wasn’t supposed to answer questions about him!
Well, Morgan graciously allowed me to wait until this year to have his story published. THE SOUTHERN DEVIL tells how Jessamyn managed to tie him up, he gets his revenge, and they find true love while racing to find lost Spanish gold deep in Colorado.Did you have to do any major research for his book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?
Jessamyn is every inch a Southern belle, as befits Morgan’s lady, so she rides sidesaddle. However, racing sidesaddle across some of the roughest terrain in America, during a period when fashion and sidesaddles were rapidly changing – well, let me just say that researching it took a lot of work.
I’ll talk more about this research in my next post.