First off, I want to thank Shana and the JQ gang for inviting me to blog. I’m really looking forward to chatting with everyone.
The story idea for A Lady’s Revenge came from a scene that flashed through my mind of a young woman chained to a wooden table in a dungeon. What sparked the image is a mystery, but it intrigued me enough that I wrote it down. Thus, the beginning of my writing career.
Then came the hard part—answering the multitude of questions needed to create a story. What was her name? Why was she in a dungeon? Who held her captive? Where were they holding her? When I set out to answer these questions, I had no idea they would lead me to the Nexus, my fictional group of international spies. I thought it would be fun for us to meander through the process I took to create this elite group of spies, which eventually resulted in a three-book deal.
Now about those questions…
My heroine’s location: I couldn’t come up with a good reason for her to be held in an English dungeon, so I turned my eye toward England’s enemy—France. That was one of my easier questions to answer. Next, I had to determine why she was a prisoner in a French dungeon. My story takes place in the year 1804, which turned out to be perfect fodder for an English-French political conflict. This revelation eventually led to the realization that my heroine needed to be a spy. Perfect! Then all I had to do was make the small connection of her getting caught doing spylike things by the villain.
As you can see, each step took me deeper into a world of espionage. A world I knew nothing about. I spent hours researching and collecting a good deal of valuable information about the political unrest of the time, but I eventually plateaued. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find a single reference to a spy network operating in the Regency period. Finally, I broke down and contacted a researcher used by one of my favorite historical authors. Within a few days, she found an article by Elizabeth Sparrow in The Historical Journal titled The Alien Office, 1792–1806. From there, she located Sparrow’s book Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792–1815. Ever heard the term “gold mine?”
In these two resources, I found a wealth of research on an administrative office of what would eventually evolve into Britain’s secret service. The Alien Office’s origins were decidedly not glamorous—unless you think post offices are adventurous. The British government—fearful of a civil uprising that would match the revolution in France—established the “foreign letter office” to open mail sent to and from foreign embassies and their governments. The mail was opened, copied, deciphered and then resealed before being forwarded onto its proper destination.
Where did the Nexus come into all this fabulous research? Sparrow’s investigation revealed that the Alien Office had a connection to both the Home and Foreign Offices. This bit of information was music to my ears. It gave my network of spies a home base. So I created the Nexus, a division of the Alien Office, which took its direction from the Foreign Office. Convoluted? I agree. Positioning the Nexus legitimately within the British government took a great deal of time, ingenuity, and a wonderful research assistant.
But I’m really happy with the result and so glad I sought professional help with the research. It was well worth the money.
Has your research led you to a wonderful and unexpected discovery? What was the most interesting thing you’ve ever learned while doing research for your story?
Please leave a comment by 9:00 pm (Central) for a chance to win a print copy of A Lady’s Revenge (U.S. and Canada only, please).
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BRIEF SUMMARY OF A LADY’S REVENGE:
A British agent flees her French captor’s torturous dungeon and falls in love with the decoder responsible for her imprisonment.
British agent Cora deBeau has spent the last three years seducing secrets from the most hardened of French spies while searching for her parents’ killer. When her latest assignment goes awry, she suffers at the hands of her French captor until Guy Trevelyan, the Earl of Helsford and master cryptographer, saves her during a daring rescue. Scarred and wary of men, Cora shies away from the one man who could heal her savaged heart.
After rescuing Cora from a French dungeon, Guy discovers it was one of his deciphered messages that led to her captivity. Guy strives to earn her forgiveness while outwitting their enemy. But will he find the scars on her wounded soul run too deep?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine’s happy ending). An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at: