Is there anything more pleasurable than a great book? How about a series that holds your interest? Keeps you entertained and turning pages … that’s how I feel about the Jaded Gentlemen series by award winning author Renee Bernard. Please welcome her…
Let’s get personal with this quirky lady…
What in the world is a retired Navy chaplain’s daughter doing writing scorching hot historical romances? Renee Bernard is applying a great education from traveling all over the world to storytelling and doing her best to keep her father proud. Truthfully, her father is her number one fan, even though he has sworn never to read a single word of her books (a vow he has kept to this day!) Nothing stops him from telling everyone he knows that his daughter is now a USA Today Bestselling author.
It’s also very true that if you’re not supposed to do something in search of a career in writing, I seem to have accidentally done it. Seriously, all the brilliant advice about not quitting your day job, etc.—those people know what they’re talking about! Not that I meant to quit my day job, but comedy abounds in my life and I’ve simply learned to embrace it.
To maintain my sanity, I write. In the files are romances of every flavor—contemporary, historical, science-fiction/fantasy, paranormal and yes, erotica. I’ve hidden away most of those manuscripts out of a true respect for the writers who know what they’re doing, but somehow the historical romances got out and now, I’m too happy to give it up.
Another truth: Yes, I can write scorching hot sex scenes and yes, I’m too shy to wear open-toed shoes in public. I didn’t say it made sense. I said it was true.
There. I think that says more about me than where I live or a list of my food allergies. (I don’t have any, but I keep thinking that perhaps that isn’t a good thing since being able to honestly say “She never met a food she didn’t like” doesn’t bode well.)
In any case, since you’ve read this far, I’ll just take the opportunity to say thank you. For reading and caring enough to take a look at that odd woman on the back cover. I’m truly grateful.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I think I was a reader first and always loved a good story. I was a theater major in college and…let’s face it, if it had to do with drama/storytelling, I was in it up to my eyebrows. I was that annoying kid in class who asked if a paper could be longer, or could I write a play, or could I write that term paper on Wounded Knee from the POV of an American Native’s ghost? I think I was a writer all along.
It just took one really bad romance novel purchase to turn it all around. Suddenly, it was possible. After all, if ‘that’ had somehow gotten chosen, passed muster and made it onto the page…maybe I had a shot! And there you have it. The horrible truth.
Are you a plotter or panster?
Plotter. Hands down.
At what age did you write your first novel?
Not saying. But I think it was in the 90’s. And for fun, I self-pubbed it recently so if anyone cares to take a gander, “Treason’s Heart” under the pen name Robin Geoffreys is on Amazon for your reading pleasure. Sci-fi-fantasy-romance, anyone? LOL
Give us some background on your series. Share your favorite scene. Who’s your favorite hero/heroine in this series?
The Jaded were created with a lot of elements behind them but perhaps one of the strongest was my own wish to get away from titled heroes. There had to be a different flavor of hero beyond Duke, Marquis, Earl, etc. Galen almost broke the rule as a second son to an Earl but he had no aspirations to succeed his father and I liked the idea of him being off the radar in India for a time.
In the last book, “Desire Wears Diamonds”, I think my favorite scene is probably a toss-up between Michael’s incredible ‘fan-guy’ moment when he realizes that he has just married his favorite author; and the scene when Grace first arrives at the Grove (it sounds silly but I tear up when I think of how Mrs. Clay was so desperate to put a good foot forward and make the new Mrs. Rutherford welcome).
As for the series, choosing a favorite member of the Jaded is like choosing from one of my own. Ashe is clearly a front-runner, but for me, it’s probably a tie between Darius and Michael. Of course, Rowan is…so Rowan! Okay, I give up. You choose!
Any advice for mastering the art of writing a series?
I don’t know if I’ve mastered it but my approach is a little different than the usual “family links” or club approach. Because once the boys are onstage, they are more than secondary characters in each other’s stories. I tend to weave the lines very tightly so that readers can really enjoy those cameo appearances and feel as if they are in a familiar and good place (before I torment them with life and death scenarios and dire obstacles to happiness). I want to see characters evolve and relationships evolve over the series. If they are three-dimensional in their own books, why would they be cardboard cutouts in the next book?
Best advice I ever got was to really look at your umbrella concept, the overall arc of your story, and make sure it’s plotted out as tightly as the books. Know your world, and make sure that whatever rules you create, you follow. Readers will be the first ones to point it out if you blow it, so you have to be organized.
And have fun. Forget the tried and true. Be creative and let go!
What is the most romantic place you’ve ever been?
The Historical Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington. I kid you not. Unflipping-believable. If I’m ever lucky enough to have the means, I will live in that hotel. I swear to the heavens.
Name your favorite real-life hero or fictional hero… How have they influenced your life?
Leslie Esdaile Banks. She loved without limits, wrote like a woman possessed and was so generous and so kind…I wanted to be L.A. Banks when I ‘got there’ and I still do. I can’t say more without crying on the keyboard but the memorial article I wrote for her is online somewhere…
Name your favorite books from childhood and adulthood.
Childhood: Little House on the Prairie, Frank. L. Baum’s books, and A.L. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books.
Adulthood: Stephen King, Elizabeth Gaskell’s books, Linda Berdoll’s “Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife”, Laura Kinsale, “Flowers from the Storm” and “Prince of Midnight”, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen. And textbooks. I seem to really love old textbooks now.
What’s your astrological sign? Do you fit the characteristics associated with it? How?
I’m a Capricorn. Which always frustrated me since so many of the horoscopes have to do with money, which I never seem to have… So I thought I was a terrible Capricorn but beyond the financial, I’m right in the zone. I’m creative, driven, competitive and practical if a touch crazy. So we’re artists, but we’re plotters. Fabulous!
Favorite Color: COPPER
Favorite Actor/Actress: RYAN REYNOLDS, EWAN MCGREGOR and EMILY BLUNT, MAGGIE SMITH and HELEN MIRREN
Favorite Movie: The YOUNG VICTORIA, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
Favorite century and why?: 19TH CENTURY, BECAUSE THE FASHION WAS MORE FUN. 😉
Favorite Food: KATSUDON, CRÈME BRULEE, ANYTHING ITALIAN AND GOD HELP ME, COMFORT FOOD
Least favorite vegetable: OKRA
First boyfriend/How old?/Why did you like him?: JAMES LEE. SOPHOMORE YEAR IN HIGH SCHOOL. HE HAD RED HAIR, FRECKLES, ALWAYS WORE FLIP FLOPS AND PLAYED D&D. I THOUGHT HE WAS THE COOLEST, CUTEST THING EVER. STILL REGRET LETTING THAT BOY GO. BIGGEST MISTAKE OF MY ADOLESCENCE.
Describe yourself in 5 words:
Crazy, Talkative, Goofy, Quirky, and Witty. That sounds better, doesn’t it? I wanted to say: Funny, Honest, Kind, Creative, and Smart.
Ms. Bernard’s latest release is Desire Wears Diamonds…
Self-appointed guardian of the Jaded, Michael Rutherford, faces the ultimate test of his loyalty when he meets his perfect match. The final battle with the Jaded’s greatest enemy puts him between the Jaded and the lady he loves. It is a dance with the devil for a chance to taste the kisses of an angel.
“It’s a lovely menu, Mrs. Dorsett,” Grace said quietly as she handed the paper back to the cook. “Thank you.”
“As you wish.” Mrs. Dorsett’s expression remained stony and Grace did her best to ignore it. She’d been running her brother’s household for nearly seven years but her gentle nature didn’t lend itself to authority. In the first year, she’d once begged her older brother to release Mrs. Dorsett but he’d laughed at her childish request and merely pointed out that he liked the woman’s cooking. And then he’d added that until she had proven to be as invaluable as the cook, she would need to accept the charitable nature of her position.
She’d learned her lesson and never complained again.
She’d acquired a steadier hand and uncovered the real reason for Mrs. Dorsett’s foothold. It was her brother’s need to keep up social appearances by employing a cook—even if that servant had the education and bearing of a badger. Appearances were everything.
Our father’s lesson to my brother, I fear. Though I wonder what lesson I took from all those years of invisibility…
Her brother had brought her to London at seventeen years of age after their father had remarried and indicated that he had no place for another woman in the house. His new wife was the widow of a country squire and had no desire to share her position with another woman—even the quiet and odd daughter of her new lord and master. The flimsy excuse that Grace could find a rich husband in Town had been accepted without argument. No one really believed that Grace was going to take London by storm without a title, dowry or any chance at a debut but no one had spoken up when they’d packed her off to the city with her meager belongings.
Of course, if any of them had bothered to ask, she’d have assured them that she had no desire to marry. Grace hated nearly every aspect of the confined and careful life of an English woman; but she knew better than to reveal it. As Mrs. Dorsett retreated, she began to write all the weekly expenses into the house’s journal in her neat careful hand. She knew to the half-penny where the budgets were allocated. Over time, she had added a woman’s touch and turned a dreary dark house into a light, cheerful and elegant home.
Once the ledger was up to date, she set the accounts aside and took a deep breath of relief. She fingered the buttons of her blouse’s high collar at her throat and leaned back in her chair. The house was in order, the chores in hand, the menu set and she had the afternoon to herself and a few precious hours to do exactly as she wished.
A few precious hours to escape…
A new story she’d been working on with savage pirates and an underwater kingdom beckoned her back to the pages she’d hidden away. She’d been up until two in the morning wrestling with krakens and trying to decide if her heroine’s prayers for rescue should be answered in this installment, or the next chapter.
Grace eagerly unlocked the large hidden drawer underneath the rose painted surface of her ladies desk and pulled out the well worn leather bound notebook that was her one secret source of solace in the world.
Respectable ladies did not write nonsensical stories and outrageous tales for the working class. Respectable women did not entertain naked tribes of cannibals and leagues of wizards in their heads. Respectable women had no notions of murders and mysteries and would turn their noses up at the very suggestion that there was entertainment to be had with harrowing encounters with dashing highwaymen or in the discovery of secret societies of vampyres.
Yet Grace did not write tame poetry or weak prose. Her soul’s fabric was not suited to dainty fairy tales. And no one who knew her had any idea…
Her older brother simply thought her a strange creature with no gift for social situations and Grace had allowed it. After all, it meant that her interior landscape was her very own to manage and it allowed her to plot her path out of the stifling cage she occupied. So long as her brother believed she was only scribbling away in some kind of girlish journal, Grace was free to do as she wished.
She pulled out the linen wrist covers she’d made to protect her sleeves from getting ink stains and settled in with a sigh of blissful surrender, dipping her favorite pen into a heavy glass inkwell at the ready.
Their tridents gleamed in the silvery depths as they cut off Captain Martin’s escape. “Poseidon will have your bones to atone for this trespass!” cried the—
Grace’s hand froze when the jarring sound of the front door’s bell rang out.
She had to bite her lip to keep from crying out in disappointment at the interruption but there was nothing to be done for it. It was a small house and the crisp click of Mrs. Dorsett’s heels on the wooden floors downstairs as she moved to answer the door was unmistakable.
Grace held her breath for a moment, hoping that whoever it was, might have business that the ever-efficient Mrs. Dorsett could manage without spoiling the—
“Right this way, sir.” Mrs. Dorsett’s sharp voice carried up the stairs through the floors and Grace’s head tipped back with a sigh as she relinquished the breath she’d been holding. But disappointment at the interruption was almost immediately replaced by a stronger emotion.
A male caller? Did she say ‘sir’?
The low rumble of a man’s voice in reply to Mrs. Dorsett made her sit up a little straighter, her curiosity completely piqued. Grace put away her tools and her writing as quick as a cat, locking her things away and made a rushed inventory of the sitting room to make sure that it was presentable.
She stood, her nerves jangling, and smoothed out her skirts just in time as Mrs. Dorsett rapped on the door and then opened it before Grace could answer her.
“A man to see you,” Mrs. Dorsett stated flatly and then turned before she’d even shown the gentleman in, as if the intrusion of a visitor was her least concern, much less the rituals it might require or the impropriety of leaving her mistress alone with a strange man.
Grace bit her lip to keep from groaning aloud at the bungled social niceties but the sight of the tallest man she had ever seen ducking under the doorframe to enter her sitting room ended her ability to protest.
Indeed the sight of a very handsome and very large man in a simple dark suit with his hands gripping his hat in front of him shyly dwarfing her ended every intelligent impulse or thought she had hoped to have to make up for Mrs. Dorsett’s failings.
Dear God. He’s so…impossible!
“I was not expecting any callers, sir.” She swallowed and prayed as hard as she ever had in her life that the heat she felt in her cheeks was miraculously invisible. For here was not only an unexpected male caller but one that not even her own overworked imagination could have conjured. Thick black curls streaked with white in a salt and pepper effect offset the beauty of rugged masculine features, a square jaw and the gentle light of his eyes. Despite the white touches in his dark hair, he was not old but a man in his prime. He was broad and lean and appeared as solid and unyielding as any bronze statue in a park—except this chiseled wonder was standing in her sitting room. She curtsied slightly, at a loss for how one proceeded when demigods came to call. “I am Grace Porter.”
“You’re…” His voice trailed off, his expression reflecting genuine misery as his hat suffered from his white-knuckled hold in its brim. Pale grey blue eyes the color of a winter sky darted from hers as he took in the room. “I should have thought this through past the front door,” he said softly.
Grace blinked. “Is it a visit or a tactical siege?”
It was his turn to look at her in surprise. “A visit, I hope.” He replied as if asking if such a thing were acceptable.
Her next impression was that the man was undoubtedly the shyest human in the British Isles with the set of his shoulders and tentative stance. Why he looks like he’s getting ready to run from a fire breathing dragon! Grace warmed to the knowledge, courage flooding through her. “Then I should tell you that you are welcome. Would you care to take a seat?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think I should.”
“It is the first step of a social visit,” she offered. “Sitting. Or so I’m led to believe…”
He shook his head again, openly eyeing the delicate legs of the chairs, all carved to resemble bamboo and birds. “It may be but I don’t think your furniture will survive the attempt.”
Grace tried to see the room from his vantage point. It did look a bit dainty. “Perhaps it’s a wicked custom to give a woman’s dull life a bit of humor to see gentlemen attempting to navigate through our gauntlets of glass trinkets and silk pillows.”
“That sounds like a frighteningly real possibility,” he replied. “Please pardon my manners,” he said, his cheeks reddening. “I am…ill-suited to…drawing rooms on my best days but this visit is particularly challenging. It’s a lovely room but I won’t linger long.”
Grace’s stomach fluttered with butterflies at the effect of his presence. This is ridiculous and if I don’t stop staring at him, he’ll declare me an idiot and there’s an end to it. “I’ll accept the compliment and the brevity of your intended stay, if only to try to save your hat.” She bit her lower lip. “I’m sure it’s stopped breathing by now if you care to release it.”
He smiled shyly and relaxed his grip slightly on his cap. “There. A life spared.”
“Well, that’s one thing set right. But I’m probably the one to apologize for a lack of manners.” She straightened her back, doing her best to compose herself and channel a more serene countenance. “I have the habit myself of speaking first without thinking although I don’t recommend it to anyone for its consequences. But let’s ignore the rules and stand, shall we? Even so, you’ll need to provide your name if we’re to make another start. Don’t you think so?”
He nodded, becoming instantly more somber. “I am Michael Rutherford. I…I met your brother, Sterling, in India.”
Where to connect with Renee…
Where to find Desire Wears Diamonds…
It’s been fun visiting with you today Renee.