I like Westerns. And I like Regency romances. When I wrote The Finer Gentleman, I had a vague and slightly weird idea of combining the manners and foibles of the Regency period with that of the Old West, and a time far in the future. I wasn’t certain if I could do it and I didn’t really expect it to come out as it did. I’m pleased with the result, however.
In The Finer Gentleman, writing as Icy Snow Blackstone, my tale of a Tritomitian rancher who inherits a title and an estate on the planet Arcanis was a delight to write. But then, writing about Sar Trant always has been.
On Tritomis-2, the people live a pioneer existence similar to that of the mid-18th century West, while Arcanis, hovering somewhere around Regency England socially, is technologically advanced enough to have space travel, androids, and lasers.
QUESTION: What would happen if an 18th-century American cowboy were suddenly dumped into 18th-century English society?
ANSWER: Chaos would probably ensue as he wore his boots and spurs to the dining room, broke down his wife’s bedroom door because he didn’t relish sleeping apart from her, and invited the king to “mosey on down to the saloon and get a shot o’ red-eye.” Sar Trant doesn’t go that far, but he does end up in a drinking match with the Margrave of Arcanis, until both men are so snockered they have to hold each other up, while the Margravine looks on with a disapproving eye.
The blurb says it all:
Sarkin Trant had always known his great-great-grandfather was the illegitimate son of an Arcanian giarl, and also that the mother of his child was so beloved by that nobleman he refused to ever marry, but he’s stunned when he’s informed he’s now the twenty-eight giarl of Craigsmere. Against his better judgment, Sar goes to Arcanis, taking wife and son with him, little realizing there’s a menace waiting on that planet, which will tear his family apart, and place his own life and freedom in jeopardy.
Sar came awake as soon as he heard the click of the lock opening.
Katy was snuggled against him, her breath warm against his shoulder, and he didn’t move except to turn his head slightly so he could easily see the door from where he lay. It swung open, revealing a figure silhouetted against the dim lighting in the hallway.
The door was quietly pushed shut; the figure tiptoed toward the hearth. It held something large and bulky in its hands.
Easing from under Katy’s weight, Sar reached out and seized the Winchester DT-3 lying on the bedside table. She had chided him when he’d insisted on bringing the laser pistol along, but accustomed to always being armed, he’d felt odd without the weapon in his possession. As a noble, he had diplomatic immunity to carry a firearm aboard an interplanetary vessel, so the Winchester made the trip, though it stayed in his clothescase except at night.
“Hold it right there!” Lifting the weapon, he struck the base of the lamp with the handgrip. A brilliant flood lit up the bedchamber, and Sar aimed the Winchester at the figure. “Hands over your head.”
Dropping the basket she held, Sterri gave a frightened squeak and thrust her hands into the air.
Sar slid out of bed, dumping Katy unceremoniously onto the feather mattress. She woke with a start. “What? What is it?”
“What are you doing here?” He leveled the pistol at the girl who was visibly trembling.
Sterri didn’t answer, just shook even harder. Her eyes were wide and frightened, staring in disbelief—first at the pistol aimed at her, then at the wild copper hair falling almost to Sar’s waist, and finally at his body, registering the fact that he was standing there stark naked. With a little squeal of shock, she put her hands over her eyes.
“Answer me!” Sar roared.
“Sar—” Katy spoke again. “You’re frightening her.”
“Damned right I am,” he answered. “What’s she doing sneaking in here like that?”
Sterri’s body began to quiver. From under the hands pressed against her eyes, two large tears dripped down her cheeks. She began to sob.
“Here, now, stop that caterwauling, and answer m’question.” Sar had never been one for knowing how to handle a crying female. Exasperation was his usual response. Taking a step totward the girl, he caught her shoulders, giving her a shake.
She continued to cry, harder than ever.
“Stop yelling at her,” Katy said. She reached to the foot of the bed, then held out something. “Here, put this on. The fact that you’re standing there naked probably isn’t helping.”
He glanced at her, then down at himself, realized he’d forgotten that fact in his haste to stop a suspected thief, and hastily returned the Winchester to the table. Then he reached for the robe. Making certain the double-breasted front was securely closed, he belted it tightly and walked over to the still-sobbing Sterri.
“Come on, lass. Stop that.” A hand was laid on her shoulder.
Sterri jumped, dropping her hands and opening her eyes. “Oh, please, sir, don’t beat me.”
Sar looked surprised. “Now why would I be doing that? Here.” He gestured to the sofa grouping. “Sit down and calm yoursel’.”
“I-I can’t sit, sir. Not in your presence.”
“We’ll both sit.” He steered her toward the loveseat, pushed her gently upon it and settled himself beside her. This only seemed to frighten the girl more. In the bed, Katy leaned back against the pillows and watched, silently. “Now, then. What did you call yoursel’ doing?”
“M-my chores, sir.” She wiped at her eyes, giving him a stare made even bluer by the tears still in them.
“And those chores consist of sneaking into m’room at—” He glanced at the clock on the mantle. “—five o’clock in the morn?”
“Yes sir. I mean, no sir.” “I do na need the fire lit, Sterri…’tis Sterri, isna?” She nodded again. “Go on wi’ your chores, lass.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Sterri got to her feet, bobbed him a curtsey, and escaped, clutching the basket to her breast.
As the door clicked shut behind her, Katy began to laugh. “Hurricane Sar strikes again!”
“Aye,” he agreed, coming over to the bed. “Do you still think I should be a giarl, lass?”
“Of course, I do. Although it might be a good idea for you to start wearing a sleepshirt if you’re going to continue to accost the servants this early in the morning.”
“Well, the harm’s done now. I suppose the tale’ll be running up and down the halls that I’m a madman who threatens to shoot li’l maids who’re just carrying out their assigned duties.” Sar sighed. “Did the lass really think I’d beat her?”
“I’m certain she did,” Katy answered. “And probably more than that, the way you were holding on to her.”
“What else would I be doing?” Sar looked puzzled.
“Come on, Sar, we’ve been here long enough for you to figure that out.” Katy gestured at the door, as if suddenly impatient with his naivity. “You’re the Lord of Craigsmere. She’s a servant. You were both in your bedchamber, and you were naked. What do you think?”
“Nay, Katy. Surely na— But you were here.”
“So?” Katy pointed at the entrances to those rooms. “I’ve a good idea that if you were determined, a sleeping wife would be an easy thing to ignore.”
When Sar didn’t answer, she looked back at him. His expression was closed, almost insulted that his darling wife would speak to him so. Poor dear, he has enough to adjust to without my heavy-handed teasing. She felt guilty for saying such things to him, decided she’d better apologize and get that hurt look off his handsome face. “Sar—”
“I suppose I should speak to Torin.” Sar didn’t let her finish. His tone was short as he looked around. “Where’s that bell-pull thingie?”
He saw it hanging near the hearth, stamped over and gave it several vigorous jerks.
“And while I’m waiting for him to get here, I’d best put on something a little more lord-like. Wouldn’t want Torin to get wrong ideas, also.” He disappeared into his dressing room.
The Finer Gentleman will be released by Class Act Books on May 15. www.classactbooks.com/
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