Jessica Cale shares details about the creation of Mark Virtue in the book Virtue’s Lady.
About the Book
Title Virtue’s Lady
Genre Historical Romance
Author Jessica Cale
Book heat level (based on movie ratings): R
Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.
After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.
Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.
When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye.
Introducing Mark Virtue
Name: Mark Virtue
Birthplace: Rothschild House, St. James, London.
Profession: Carpenter, Ex-Highwayman
Ethnicity/Species (if not human): English
Describe his body build, skin tone, height and weight. Include any unique features such as dimples, freckles, or scars: Mark is on the tall side with the muscular build of a man in his profession. He’s blond but tan from working outside much of the time. His nose has been broken a few times, he has dimples you’ll see if you’re very lucky, and scars around his wrists and his ankles from the couple of times he was in prison.
Who is the significant other in your character's life?
In Virtue’s Lady, Mark falls for Lady Jane Ramsey, the only daughter of the Earl of Hereford. She’s nineteen, gorgeous, and more than a little bit mad. He meets her for the first time in Tyburn, but Virtue’s Lady is their story.
Tell us about this character, please.
Mark Virtue is a working-class hero. He is the only son of a housekeeper and a stable hand, and grew up in the Earl of Somerton’s household until he started his apprenticeship at a carpenter’s Southwark. He completed it and took over the business. Unfortunately for him, the Great Fire of London happened in 1666. People no longer wanted wooden houses, so carpenters were out of work by the hundreds. Mark started robbing coaches as a highwayman at this point, putting his apprentices to work building coffins to smuggle their takings out of the city for sale. By the beginning of Virtue’s Lady, Mark has given up highway robbery and is trying to build an honest life for himself as a carpenter in Southwark, one of the poorest slums outside of London. He loves his town and tries to look after his neighbors, but his life and his livelihood are threatened when Lady Jane comes back into his life. He’s crazy about her, but not crazy enough to believe an heiress would ever want to live in Southwark.
How does your hero dress?
Mark is a no-nonsense kind of guy, preferring his worn linen and wool work clothes to anything else. He has a long coat with deep pockets, tall leather boots, and a tricorn hat. He doesn’t put a lot of stock in appearances, and he’s very active, so he likes to be comfortable.
If you could only hear this character's voice (but not see him) what characteristic would identify him?
He has a very strong accent similar to what we might describe as Cockney today. He swears often, he’s funny and blunt, and you can hear the hint of a smile in his voice if you’re listening carefully.
How educated is this character?
He’s better educated than he lets on. He grew up in an earl’s household and had lessons with his half-brother, Nick, the earl’s son, until he started his apprenticeship. He can read and write, he’s good with numbers, and he’s an excellent carpenter.
Does he scrape by, live comfortably, live extravagantly?
After years of poverty, Mark is finally what he would consider to be comfortable. He has a rickety old house he’s trying to renovate, and enough money from his days as a highwayman to supplement his income as a carpenter. He’s careful with his money and indifferent to luxuries, but he always keeps his kitchen well-stocked with coffee. He’s not wealthy, by any means, but he’s happy with what he has.
On what special skills does your character rely?
Mark can talk his way out of anything. He’s sharp, charming, and women love him. His popularity with women has gotten him out of--and into--some very bad situations. He’s also very well-connected. He knows a lot of very useful people from his time in prison and living within the criminal underworld. Some of them, such as the executioner Jack Ketch, still owe him favors.
What kinds of things does your character always carry (in pockets or purse)?
He always carries his pipe and his pistols (old habits die hard), and he wears his late father’s signet ring on his right forefinger.
Is he close to family?
Mark doesn’t have a lot of family left. Both of his parents are long dead, and his half-brother, Nick, is his only surviving close relative. He’s very close to the family he has and the people he considers himself responsible for, such as his apprentices, Jack and Harry (who is also his cousin), and his business partner, Will. He also adores Nick’s wife, Sally.
Is your character involved in his community?
Very. He loves his community and takes his responsibility to it very seriously. His neighbors are among the poorest people around London, and he does what he can to help them. He tries to find work for other carpenters in need, repairs homes and builds coffins, often at a loss to himself. He wants to build a school for the town, too, and takes it upon himself to try to find the money to do it. He tries to look after them, and they love him for it.
Does this character see morality as black-and-white, or with shades of gray?
Mark has been a criminal for most of his adult life. He doesn’t necessarily agree with the law (hanging someone for stealing a few pennies is ridiculous), but he has a very strict moral code of his own. He’ll steal from the very wealthy, but he won’t hurt them. On the other hand, if someone threatens someone he cares about, he has no problem hurting them whatsoever. He is fiercely loyal and honest to a fault, and never takes more than he needs. He puts what he can back into his community to help the poor directly.
What is your hero's biggest personal flaw?
He doesn’t trust people. He’s seen enough of the worst parts of life to know better. He questions motives and sees things through a very cynical filter. He also has a very strong aversion to the wealthy (girls in particular) because of a trauma from his past.
About Your Writer
Why do you think your writer chose to write about you?
Had to, didn’t she? She wasn’t sure about me at first, but I kept showing up, stealing scenes until I won her over. Before long, I was all she could think about. I have that effect on women. Jess was different, though. She didn’t didn’t just want to write ballads to my biceps--that has actually happened, don’t ask--she wanted to know what I was thinking about, and what made me the way I am. Not a lot to it, I told her, but she kept digging until she found the things I didn’t want anyone to know about. She didn’t tell Jane, to be fair, but it wasn’t easy having to go through all of that again.
What do you wish your writer had not told others about you?
Everything. The state of my house, how often I wash, the things I’m good at that make girls like me as much as they do. Anything that happened in Newgate. There are some things people don’t need to know about. I wish she’d have left out some of the more, erm, intimate details about me and Jane. I’m the only one who gets to look at her now, and I don’t need all and sundry picturing her without her clothes on. Christ wept, that’s my wife!
What other character from your book do you think your writer should write a book about, and why?
Harry. He’s got it coming. See how he likes having somebody walking around in his brain. He thinks he knows everything, but Jess’ll put him through the ringer, make no mistake. Jack, too. He’s a good lad and he deserves to be happy, but he’ll never figure out Alice fancies him on his own. He’s clever for a boy his age, but he doesn’t understand a thing about girls.
Why do you think your writer loves to write?
She likes spending time with us. We talk to her at all hours of the day, telling her what we want, what we think, what we’re afraid of. We couldn’t help it since we figured out someone was listening. If she didn’t put pen to paper, we’d just be voices and she’d be dragged off to Bedlam.
Is there anything you'd like to say to your writer?
Jess, you’re a great girl, but I wish you’d have left some things buried. You know the ones I’m talking about. For a romantic hero, you could have made me look more heroic. I got the girl and you know I love her, but did you have to make things so bloody difficult? Jane didn’t have to be an earl’s daughter. If she were in actress in truth, I’d have dragged her off months before and nobody would have gotten shot! You knew how I feel about rich birds, and still you went and found me the only one I had to have. You have a curious sense of humor, Madam. Having said that, you let me do what I was going to do anyway, and you didn’t try to change me into something I’m not, so...erm...thank you.
Buy This Book
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/1121713113?ean=9781622102051
Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. You can visit her at www.authorjessicacale.com.
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Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Cale/e/B00PVDV9EW