My Society of Gentlemen trilogy is the story of three interconnected groups of people. The gentlemen: Lord Richard Vane and his well born friends Julius Norreys and Dominic Frey. The radicals: Harry Vane, Richard’s long-lost cousin, brought up in poverty, and Silas Mason, an extremist of the lowest possible class. And the servants, like David Cyprian, Richard’s valet, moving silently around in the background.
What I planned to do was tell the story of each couple in turn. First Julius making Harry into a gentleman and finding himself changed in the process (A Fashionable Indulgence). Then A Seditious Affair, starring Dominic and Silas, whose anonymous sexual encounters turn into a dangerous love. And finally A Gentleman’s Position with Richard and David, who would breach every rule of class and morality if they admitted their feelings for each other.
Except that Dominic and Richard’s gone-but-not-forgotten love affair and damaged friendship lies at the heart of the trilogy, and Silas’s political activities have repercussions that affect all the gentlemen, and Richard’s guilty secret spills out into all his relationships, and David’s schemes lead to unforeseen consequences, and Harry’s purchase of a puce coat in book 1 sets off a chain of events that change the course of two other people’s relationship forever…and, and, and.
Basically, I couldn’t tell the stories in turn because events don’t happen in a neat line. Everything we do affects other people. Every conversation we have looks different from the point of view of the other people in it, and the people listening to it, and the people to whom it’s reported later. Everyone has their own motives and wants.
So while each book in this trilogy is a romance in itself, the individual books couldn’t be written as standalone stories and put aside. I had to write each with an eye on the others, knowing what was going on in the background and offstage and in the minor characters’ minds as they pass through and interact. The timelines overlap, the events interact, there are crucial scenes that had to be written twice from different points of view because something else was going on.
All of which was a challenge. But in the end, this trilogy turned out to be about how we’re connected to other people–not just our love affairs but our friendships and social worlds too. A Seditious Affair in particular is about what happens when worlds collide. Silas and Dominic come from different backgrounds, are set against each other in every possible way outside the bedroom, ought to be sworn enemies. Their friendships and duty form a divide that their love affair struggles to bridge. And in the end it’s the clash of worlds that may destroy them, or save them.
Silas Mason has no illusions about himself. He’s not lovable, or even likable. He’s an overbearing idealist, a Radical bookseller and pamphleteer who lives for revolution . . . and for Wednesday nights. Every week he meets anonymously with the same man, in whom Silas has discovered the ideal meld of intellectual companionship and absolute obedience to his sexual commands. But unbeknownst to Silas, his closest friend is also his greatest enemy, with the power to see him hanged—or spare his life.
A loyal, well-born gentleman official, Dominic Frey is torn apart by his affair with Silas. By the light of day, he cannot fathom the intoxicating lust that drives him to meet with the Radical week after week. In the bedroom, everything else falls away. Their needs match, and they are united by sympathy for each other’s deepest vulnerabilities. But when Silas’s politics earn him a death sentence, desire clashes with duty, and Dominic finds himself doing everything he can to save the man who stole his heart.
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat.
KJ writes mostly romance, gay and straight, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there. She specialises in editing romance, especially historical and fantasy, and also edits children’s fiction.