In which I introduce my new Victorian Sensation queer romance trilogy, with FAQs and illustrations. (Art by the ubertalented Mila May.)
What do you mean, Victorian Sensation?
I’m glad you asked me that. The Victorians were far from being the repressed nothing-on-Sunday bores of popular imagination. The snobs and the moralisers are always with us, but if you look at what people were actually up to–books, plays, newspapers–they loved scandal, drama, melodrama, murder, sex, mysteries, booze, romance, sentiment, off-colour jokes, raucous music hall, theatrical spectacle, and pretty much everything that is fun.
Victorian Sensation was basically what we now call genre fiction, on crack. Sex! Murder! Secrets in high places! Slumming! Mysterious strangers! Femmes fatales! Aristocratic families brought low! Ludicrously implausible coincidences! Everything happening in three volumes! If you fancy a read, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon were the acknowledged rulers of the genre. I particularly like Lady Audley’s Secret with its antiheroine running rings round the posh boys; Armadale is distinguished by a magnificent villain continually off her face on drugs, and no fewer than four characters called Allan Armadale, one of whom very reasonably calls himself Ozias Midwinter to avoid attention.
What I’m getting at is, this is not going to be drawing-room tea parties, and nobody is putting frills on their piano legs.
Go on, then, tell me about it.
The Sins of the Cities trilogy (obviously it’s a trilogy; everything Victorian happens in three volumes by law) is set in London, winter 1873, a year distinguished by one of the worst fogs ever recorded. We begin with An Unseen Attraction, in which we meet Clem Talleyfer, an unassuming lodging-house keeper with a lovely sweet pet cat.
Clem’s busy running his house, managing the lodgers, getting by, and maybe just slightly pining after his newest lodger: the taxidermist next door, Rowley Green. Meet Rowley.
Just two gentle, reserved, quiet men getting along. Two of the nicest characters I think I’ve ever written, actually. What could possibly go wrong?
Yeah, right, KJ. We’ve met you.
OK, so it’s possible things may take a very slight turn for the murdery. But just a bit.
You’re not fooling anyone but yourself.
Fine. Sex! Murder! Secrets in high places! Slumming! Mysterious strangers! Femmes fatales! Aristocratic families brought low! Ludicrously implausible coincidences! Everything happening in three volumes!
Ah yes. Three volumes?
Each book is a standalone romance featuring a separate couple, and each has a proper ending. But there’s also an overarching story running across all three books–so don’t expect all the loose ends to be tied up till book 3. They all feature the same cast of characters, many of whom are linked because they go to the Jack and Knave, a discreet and unassuming pub for a particular clientele. Would you care to meet some of the Jack and Knave’s regulars?
Go on, then.
We play the Diamonds in book 2, An Unnatural Vice. For now, meet Nathaniel, lawyer turned journalist, wealthy archbishop’s son, and upstanding member of society. Unfortunately, let’s just say, his love interest is very much a knave. (Nathaniel is kind of screwed.)
And here’s the Jack of Spades: private enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz. A practical man. His King of Spades…well, you’ll find out in due course. I couldn’t give everything away now, could I?
And that, for now, is where matters stand. A quiet taxidermist, a gentle-hearted lodging-house keeper, and his friends from the pub…oh, and the Queen of Hearts. Did I mention the Queen of Hearts?
Well, go on, then, who’s she?
That, my friend, would be telling.
The hands are dealt, the cards are on the table. Let the games begin.