Part 1 of an Interview with Erica Vetsch,
Author of The Gentleman Spy
A woman who loves reading and everything about books meets a handsome, mysterious duke, gets married, and falls in love in Regency England. He even gives her a library! How can a story get better than that? In her much-anticipated follow-up to The Lost Lieutenant, The Gentleman Spy (Kregel Publications), Erica Vetsch offers readers a story they won’t be able to resist.
Marcus Haverly, introduced to readers in The Lost Lieutenant, was sailing through life just fine as a spy for the Crown. As a single man, and a “spare” rather than the heir to the Duke of Haverly, no one questioned his comings and goings. However, when both his father and older brother suddenly pass away, Marcus is saddled with a title he never expected to bear. Pressured to marry and live up to his new responsibilities, he impulsively marries a presumed wallflower. After all, since she’s meek and mild—or so he thinks—it should be easy to sequester her in the country and get on with his life as a secret agent for the Crown. Marcus thinks he can separate his life into neat little boxes—his family, the duties of his title, being a spy, and a new wife. He even puts his faith in a box that is only opened on Sundays. In his mind, it’s simple . . . until it’s not.
In the first part of her interview, the author introduces to her leading man, Marcus Haverly. We’ll get to know more about Charlotte in part two.
Q: For those who haven’t read The Lost Lieutenant, give us an introduction to Marcus Haverly.
Marcus was such a fun character in The Lost Lieutenant because he always seemed to know more than one would think, pop up when he was needed, and be so comfortable in his own skin. He could move in a variety of circles, both high society and those of lower rank. He was mysterious, intriguing. A handsome stranger who always seemed to be in control of his situation.
I knew that in the second book, I wanted to disturb Marcus. He was much too comfortable in his role in The Lost Lieutenant, and I knew he would need to be pushed out of that to reveal more about his character. Marcus needed to learn that control is an illusion, and that when it comes to dealing with people, relationships can be untidy.
Q: Marcus had his life and path pretty much set as the second son of a duke. What happened that shook up his plans? What are his responsibilities now that he is the duke?
Marcus enjoyed being a second son and had come to peace with not being in the limelight. He had reconciled himself to being second in his parents’ affections and interests too. But when his father and elder brother are killed, and his brother’s child is born a girl, the title falls to Marcus.
He now has the responsibility for an estate, for his father’s and brother’s widows, for bearing the title and taking his seat in the House of Lords, and for participating in his country’s government, in addition to the social obligations that come with being a titleholder.
The trouble is, he doesn’t want any of it. He has his work for the Crown (which is now in jeopardy), his freedom (which his mother is anxious to curtail), and his future (which is totally being undone by the women in his life) tidy and organized.
Q: Being the second son and single meant that no one paid much attention to Marcus’s comings and goings, which was ideal for his life as a spy for the Crown. What did his work as Crown agent entail?
Marcus is involved in both intelligence and operations for the Crown. With England engaged in a protracted war with France, the need for intelligence was great. And the home front was no different. Marcus keeps tabs on various people’s activities.
I created Marcus to be a sort of “eyes and ears” of a fictional branch of the Home Office. He has a network of informants, and he has the ability to go undercover and interact with individuals who are socially distant from the salons and ballrooms of society.
Upon occasion, Marcus has worked as a spy, infiltrating France to gather intelligence, but now that he’s the Duke of Haverly and his actions are scrutinized more closely, he fears his work as a spy is in jeopardy.
Q: How did Marcus and Charlotte cross paths?
They meet initially at a dinner party. Charlotte’s parents despair of finding a spouse for her since she’s spurned even the few offers she’s received. But she’s determined to find someone, if for no other reason than to escape her parents’ control.
Marcus has been informed by his mother that it is his duty to marry and produce an heir in order to secure the family line. He’s always thought about marriage as a “someday later” notion. And when he marries, he certainly won’t let it affect his life too much. (See what I mean about Marcus needing to be shaken out of his comfortable rut? Nothing does that faster than a pretty girl.)
Q: Marcus is set on keeping the various aspects of his life in boxes—his spy work, his responsibilities as a duke, and his marriage. How does that work out for him and what advice does he get from unlikely sources?
Of course his married friends, Evan and Diana from The Lost Lieutenant, try to disabuse him of such notions, but Marcus learns best by doing . . . and by losing his heart to a woman who won’t stay in the neat little box he’s constructed for her. The more he tries to keep the various parts of his life separate, the more they spill over and blend together.
He’s forced to realize that he can’t control everything, especially not his wife. And in the end, he doesn’t want to be controlling.
Marcus receives counsel from several people, including Evan and Diana, but also his boss, Sir Noel St. Clair, and his widowed sister-in-law, and even a former prostitute turned charity worker who is part of his network of informants.
Q: What role does faith play in each of their lives?
Marcus tries to keep his faith in his “faith box.” Church on Sunday, theological discussion Sunday afternoon, but God doesn’t bleed over into his work and responsibilities . . . until Charlotte lands in his life.
Charlotte was taught at a private girls’ school where she developed her love of books, and one teacher in particular had a significant influence on Charlotte’s spiritual life. This teacher taught her that there was more to faith than church attendance and trying to be a good person. She needed to have a personal relationship with her Creator and His Son. Charlotte struggles with wondering why a God who says he gives good gifts to his children would extend that goodness to her. And she struggles with her father’s duplicity. He is pious when he’s with others, but he’s mean-spirited and a philanderer behind the scenes.
Q: It can be risky for an author to move into a new genre like you did when starting this series. What has the feedback been from your readers?
I’ve been so pleased with the responses to my entry into the Regency world. Both authors and readers have been very gracious. Many of those who read my previous works set in the American West have been happy to follow me to England, and I’ve gained new readers who are faithful to the Regency genre who have been willing to take a chance on a new-to-them author.
The Regency era can be tricky to write, because the readers are so knowledgeable and well versed in the history and social mores of the times. But they are also some of the most loyal readers with insatiable appetites for Regency fiction. I’ve found it quite a nice group to be among, and they’ve been most welcoming.
Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor) and Instagram (@EricaVetsch).