In Murder at Queen’s Landing, the latest book in my Wrexford & Sloane Regency Historical mystery series, the Earl of Wrexford and Lady Charlotte Sloane have added a new member to their unconventional band of family and friends.
I find that one of the ways to keep a series fresh and engaging for readers is the addition of new secondary characters in each book. Not only do they bring depth and texture to the plot-twist possibilities, they also add color in their interactions with the main protagonists, allowing me to bring out facets of the “stars” in interesting ways.
So—who is my latest new character? It’s Harper, who is a dog. A very big dog.
I confess that I already have “Weasels” in my series. No, not furry little creatures—they are actually Lady Charlotte’s wards, two urchin boys, nicknamed The Weasels by Lord Wrexford for reasons I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say, the boys are fiercely independent—and untamed—which can lead them into trouble. So, it seemed only fitting that they should acquire a canine companion-in-mischief.
Once it became clear that a dog had to become part of the menagerie, I needed to decide what kind of dog. That actually was rather easy. In my mind, it simply had to be a big, rough-and-tumble canine, given the scraps the Weasels get into. That narrowed down the choices. I also had a vision of what said dog should look like … a resemblance to a wolf was highly desirable.
Given that the book is set in Regency England, I also wanted a traditional British sporting breed. I began to do some research, and, thus, Harper loped into the picture!
Harper is a Scottish Deerhound, a noble and ancient breed that dates back to at least the seventh century. (In Scotland, there are standing stones from the era that show rough-coated hounds in a hunting scene.) However, it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that the term “deerhound” came into use. That’s because the dogs were used for hunting the large red deer of Scotland.
According to one historical account I read, deerhounds were at one point so prized that anyone beneath an earl was prohibited from owning them. (Which, of course, was another reason why a deerhound was the perfect fit for Lord Wrexford!) It seems that caused greyhounds to become more popular in both Scotland and England, and deerhounds were in danger of dying out. However, the prohibition seemed to have been rescinded, and the breed flourished. By the nineteenth century, the dogs came to look much as they do today.
I love the look of a deerhound, but another main reason I picked it is because despite its massive size and strength—and fierce jaws—the dogs have a wonderful reputation for gentleness and friendly disposition. They are considered wonderful family dogs. Harper is definitely a “teddy bear” … unless a loved one is threatened!
I also discovered some other fun facts about Scottish deerhounds: Sir Walter Scott owned a deerhound named Maida, and the breed was a favorite of author Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixon) when she lived in East Africa.
I love working with history and tradition—and giving them unconventional twists. So, Harper makes a perfect addition to a Regency novel.
Andrea Penrose is the best-selling author of Regency-era historical fiction, including the acclaimed Wrexford & Sloane Mystery series, as well as Regency romances written under the names Cara Elliott and Andrea Pickens. Published internationally in ten languages, she is a three-time RITA Award finalist and the recipient of numerous writing awards, including two Daphne Du Maurier Awards for Historical Mystery and two Gold Leaf Awards. A graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in Art and an M.F.A. in Graphic Design, Andrea fell in love with Regency England after reading Pride and Prejudice and has maintained a fascination with the era’s swirling silks and radical new ideas throughout her writing career. She lives in Connecticut and blogs with a community of historical-fiction authors at WordWenches.com. She also can be found at www.AndreaPenrose.com.
ABOUT THE WREXFORD & SLOANE MYSTERY SERIES
Andrea Penrose’s Regency London–set historical mystery series draws upon a world swirling in silks, seduction, and the intrigue of the Napoleonic Wars, during which every aspect of society—from art and music to science and technology—is erupting with radical new ideas. Starring the Earl of Wrexford, a wealthy lord and brilliant scientist, and Charlotte Sloane, a young widow who secretly pens satirical political cartoons, the two are an unlikely duo and completely at odds in their methods—and yet find that they are fighting complicated feelings for each other.
The first book, Murder on Black Swan Lane, introduces readers to Charlotte, a fearless female artist who has secretly slipped into the persona of her late husband, using his nom de plume A.J. Quill; and Wrexford, a reckless yet brilliant scientific mind, as the two join forces using Charlotte’s sources to unmask a murderer. In Murder at Queen’s Landing, the fourth installment of Penrose’s fascinating series, Wrexford and Sloane must team up to chase down rumors of corruption and the mysterious disappearance of friends.