Bestselling Author Josi S. Kilpack Introduces her Strong, Independent and Unforgettable Heroine in her Latest Novel, Rakes and Roses


[Note from Frolic: Today, author Josi S. Kilpack is introducing her brand-new heroine. Take it away, Josi!]

Hello Dear Readers, I appreciate the opportunity to be here at Frolic and tell you a little bit about my newest Regency romance, Rakes and Roses. Though this is the third book in my Mayfield Family series, each story stands alone, and they can therefore be read in any order. 

Writing a series comes with unique challenges, one of which is making each story different from the other storylines in the series even though they share some common characters and themes. In contemplating book three, I chose to write two character types I have not written before in my Regency romances. The male lead, Harry Stillman, is a rake and a gambler who has squandered his opportunities and finds himself in trouble he can’t get himself out of. Lady Sabrina is an independent woman, determined to never give up control of her life to anyone ever again. Both of these characters stretched me in new ways. 

Whereas young men living in dissipation is an archetype we’ve all seen before — even if I haven’t written it myself — to create a truly independent woman in Regency England took some research. Women could not vote or hold office and were dependent on men to take care of them whether that was a father, a brother, a guardian, a husband or a son. Once a woman married, any property or inheritance she had now legally belonged to her husband. She could not petition for divorce, but if her husband did successfully petition parliament, she would lose her children. It was not until 1839 that mother’s rights were recognized in a divorce situation. With so many limitations, I needed to craft the right circumstances to allow a woman to live without a man pulling the strings.

The process of crafting these circumstances started with, ironically, a man. Lady Sabrina is not really a lady — she is the illegitimate daughter of a duke and therefore not entitled to honorifics. However, because Sabrina’s father has publicly acknowledged her and refers to her as Lady Sabrina, everyone else does too — just like you might call your brother Pudge even though his name is Ronald and after a while everyone forgets his real name. Were her father of a lesser rank, such an address would never be tolerated, but a duke has immense power, both politically and socially, and his position affords Sabrina certain allowances. Though she is accepted by society to a point, she knows she does not truly belong. She can’t be presented at court like other daughters of noblemen when they make their debut, and there are noses that will always turn up when she enters the room. 

This “life on the fringe” aspect of her character was an important point in order to explain why she makes the choices she makes. Specifically, in regard to marriage. Despite her illegitimacy, her connection to a duke and a generous dowry would still attract suitors and she is eager to marry so as to legitimize her place in society. 

She marries a man of wealth and connection only to realize rather quickly that she made a poor choice. Her husband is abusive, and she is trapped. With her marriage unsustainable, she went to her father for help, only to be told that “she” had created scandal enough for their family and he would not petition for divorce on her behalf and damage the family’s reputation. Fortunately, her husband dies unexpectedly, and without siblings, parents, an heir or entailments upon his fortune, inheritance laws settle everything on her and her alone. Were she a legitimate child of a duke, she likely would have returned to her father’s house and lived under his care regardless of her fortune, but Sabrina does not have that kind of security. 

All of these details had to be correctly orchestrated, creating a sort of loophole that Sabrina slips through, putting her as equal to a man as any woman could be at this time and with no gatekeeper. She is determined to keep her place, which means she will not marry again. To do so, would put her right back where she had started — under the control of a man who could then do whatever he wanted with her future and her fortune. 

As an independent widow, Sabrina becomes hostess to her half-brother and lives a life far enough above reproach that no one closes their door to her. Such is her life when the rake, Harry Stillman, crosses her path. As a result, she feels such conflict when she finds herself falling in love with him, putting at risk literally everything she’s so carefully guarded. 

Every setting, character, time, place and theme an author chooses to include brings opportunity and limitations. The fun part of writing this story was how to turn use those details to the best advantage. I hope you love it. Happy reading!

About the Author:

Josi S. Kilpack is the bestselling author of several Proper Romance and Proper Romance Historical series and a Cozy Culinary Mystery series. Her books, A Heart Revealed and Lord Fenton’s Folly were Publishers Weekly Best Romance Books of the Year. She and her husband, Lee are the parents of four children.

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Rakes and Roses by Josi S. Kilpack, out now!

Lady Sabrina endured an abusive marriage, a miscarriage, and early widowhood to emerge as a smart, successful, confident woman who found a way to make her mark in a man’s world. She has friends and a purpose but cannot hide from the emptiness she feels when the parties are over and the friends have gone home to families she will never have.

Harry Stillman may be charming and handsome, but he’s a gambler and a rake who has made a mockery of his privileges. He turns to the mysterious Lord Damion for financial relief from his debts, but still ends up beaten nearly senseless by thugs and left in an alley.

When Lady Sabrina comes upon Harry after the attack, she remembers the kindness Harry once showed her six years ago and brings him to her estate to heal. Though their relationship begins on rocky footing, it soon mellows into friendship, then trust. But Lady Sabrina needs to keep Harry at a distance, even if he is becoming the kind of man worthy of her heart. After all, she is keeping a secret that, if exposed, could destroy everything she’s so carefully built.

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