This post originally appeared on Bookworm2Bookworm
Thank you so much to Bookworm2Bookworm for letting me come by today as part of the release tour for my debut novel, A Dangerous Invitation. The first book in my new series, The Rookery Rogues, A Dangerous Invitation is the story of Daniel O’Reilly and Kate Morgan.
Have you ever wanted to atone so badly for a mistake that you’ll risk everything—even your life—for forgiveness? That’s what motivates Daniel to return to London after three years as a fugitive. One wretched night in 1829 sent him reeling toward destruction, when he was accused of murdering a warehouse laborer for the shipping company he worked for (and Kate’s father owned). He faced almost certain death, for he’d been caught at the scene of the crime with the victim’s mangled body. Worse, an “affidavit woman,” a 19th century term for a woman who was paid to give a false statement of evidence, claimed to have seen him commit the murder. So to survive, Daniel flees the City, thinking that he’s going to give his affianced Kate a better life without him.
But Kate doesn’t get a better life, and Daniel certainly doesn’t thrive without her. The addiction to gin that he struggled with in London runs rampant, taking hold of his body until he’s nothing more than a withered husk of the man he once was. When his drunkenness starts to affect his family, he struggles to return to sobriety. With the help of his sister Poppy, he looks at making good on his past life. He comes back to London so that he can prove to Kate that he wasn’t culpable in that murder. He doesn’t know how he ended up in the alley, but by God, he’s going to find out who did kill that warehouse laborer. He’ll get justice not only for himself, but for the man who was murdered.
Kate now lives in the rookeries, the nineteenth century version of slums. She’s a fence for stolen goods, and the company she keeps is certainly not on the up and up. While Daniel works to make her see that he’s not the same man he was before, she struggles to let go of her memories. She’s got to stop resenting him for what he did in the past and also understand that people make mistakes.
I love the idea of two people being changed by their relationship, but still, they are at their core imperfect. In my story, Kate and Daniel have a second chance at love. The relationship they had before was inherently flawed. They had to become something different entirely to be able to accept each other completely.
In writing A Dangerous Invitation, I thought about what love really meant to me. I’m drawn to romance genres not just because of the implicit happy ever after, but because of the journey. I want to see two people transition into a relationship that makes them much healthier and happier. By the end of the novel, they’re not who they were when they started. I love romances especially that deal with a traumatic incident in a character’s past—by the end of the novel, the character has learned to accept that event as a shaping part of who they are now. Examples of this that I can think of are Shana Galen’s If You Give a Rake a Ruby with Fallon’s thieving upbringing, and Cecilia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone with Lydia’s big reveal to Will.
The excerpt below happens when Daniel and Kate have just finished interrogating a pugilist who knew the warehouse laborer.
THEY WALKED DOWN Shadwell High Street, the street alive with a vibrancy that failed to lift Daniel’s mood. Snow crunched under his feet. The smell of gin had left his nostrils, allowing him to breathe easier again, but the heaviness in his stomach came from the knowledge of Kate’s sacrifice. She’d given up part of her livelihood, all to answer questions from a man she shouldn’t have had to speak to, let alone develop an acquaintanceship with.
“You didn’t have to do that,” he said.
“Cyrus would never have told us anything otherwise.” Kate cocked her head toward him, her voice flat.
She walked with her hands shoved into her pockets, her shorter strides two to his longer ones. He slowed to match her pace. This city, with all its grit and crime, didn’t deserve the brilliance of Kate Morgan.
Devil take it, he didn’t either.
“That doesn’t make it right.” He halted her progress down the street, gripping her thin arm. “I’ll pay you back for what that watch costs, on top of what I’ve given you for your help already.”
“That’s not necessary.” She stiffened against his touch.
He didn’t release her arm. They stood in the middle of the street, the traffic diverting around them. If he got through to her—well, he didn’t know what he’d do then.
“I don’t want you to have to pay for my mistakes.” Reaching out with his other hand, Daniel brushed his thumb against her cheek.
Her eyes closed for a half-second, transfixed by the moment. His breath caught in his throat.
Her eyes fluttered back open, chocolate abysses deadened to his attempts. Steeled against what she must believe were lies. Maybe he’d never change. Maybe he was a drunk for life, doomed to repeat the same patterns.
He let out the breath he’d been holding, let it out like he wished he could free himself of doubt. Time flowed once more, rapid and bitter.
“I’ve paid for your mistakes and I’ll pay for mine.” Her voice was full of resignation.
“It shouldn’t have to be that way. Last night, in the wool warehouse—I couldn’t think of anything else other than the fact that you were in danger because of me.” His hand tightened on her arm, holding her close to him.
She shook her head. The feather stuck into the trim of her gray straw bonnet bobbed too. “Nothing is perfect. For all we know, that man was after me for my own activities. You talk as though things will change because you wish them to. I don’t remember you being that naïve.”
“It’s not naïve to dream. You used to know that.”