My name is Janga, and I’m a series addict. The habit goes back to childhood when my favorite fictional characters—Jo March, Anne Shirley, and Betsy Ray—were featured in series that I reread again and again, always in order. The most tattered romance novels on my keeper shelves are Jo Beverley’s Rogues and Mallorens, Mary Jo Putney’s Fallen Angels, and Nora Roberts’s MacGregors, which I have also reread again and again, and always in order. One of the things I like best about series is falling in love with a secondary character and knowing that sooner or later the author will write a book in which that character becomes the hero or heroine.
I started reading Jo Beverley’s books with her very first traditional Regency, Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed (1988), and so she was already on my autobuy list when she introduced her Company of Rogues with An Arranged Marriage in 1991. There were an even dozen of the Rogues when they banded together as schoolboys at Harrow, but Beverley, deciding that it was unrealistic for all of them to have survived in wartime had two of them, Lord Roger Merrihew, son of the Marquess of Edenbridge, and Allan Ingram die in battle before the series begins. The name of a third, Lord Darius Debenham, younger son of the Duke of Yeovil, showed up on the fatality list after Waterloo in the second book in the series, An Unwilling Bride (1992). Although Dare’s role in the first two books is slight, he was a light-hearted charmer who captured the affections of Beverley’s readers. I know I’m not the only one who shed tears when his death served as the occasion for one of the most moving speeches in romance fiction, the Rogues’ toast given by head Rogue, Nicholas Delaney, twin brother of the Earl of Stainsbridge:
“To all the fallen: may they be forever young in heaven. To all the wounded: may they have strength and heal. To all the bereaved: may they feel joy again. And please God, may there one day be an end to war.”
Nor am I the only one who hoped, however illogically, that Dare’s name on that list was an error. Soon there were hints and then more than hints that readers who had proclaimed “Dare Lives!” were on target. In 2006, fourteen years after An Unwilling Bride, fans were delighted when Dare got his own book and his own HEA in To Rescue a Rogue.
Dare’s book was the end of the Company of Rogues series proper, but Beverley has set other, more loosely connected books in the Rogues’ world. In April 2014, A Shocking Delight will give readers the story of David Kerslake, a secondary character from The Dragon’s Bride (2000), which has the distinction of being both the seventh book in the Company of Rogues series and the central book in the Three Heroes trilogy. Faithful Beverley fans will also have waited fourteen years for the story of Kerslake, the brother-in-law of Rogue Con Somerford, Viscount Amleigh.
As exciting as these connected books are, they pale when compared to that generated by the publication of Devilish (2000), still one of Beverley’s most popular books. My Lady Notorious (1993) introduced the Malloren family and Beowulf Malloren, the Marquess of Rothgar, the powerful, demanding, manipulative head of the family. This secondary character fascinated readers, who waited patiently—and sometimes impatiently—through seven years and three more novels for Rothgar to get his story. The phrase “Waiting for Rothgar,” which first appeared on much coveted buttons distributed at the 1999 Celebrate Romance conference, became synonymous with the eager anticipation of a secondary character’s story.
Six years after the wait for Rothgar ended, I held in my hands an ARC of a novel I had waited for with even more excitement and a touch of anxiety, although for a shorter time. Garrett Langham, Earl of Mayne, a bored aristocrat who had slept with half the women in London, was introduced as competition for the hero in the final book of Eloisa James’s Duchess Quartet, Your Wicked Ways (2004), but it was his presence in the Essex Sisters series (2004-2006) that accounted for the Mayniacs, a term coined by Manda Collins for those readers devoted beyond measure to this character. Mayne inspired dreams, arguments, poems, and endless speculation about his perfect match before he achieved his HEA in Pleasure for Pleasure, which is still the only romance that I own in four versions—the ARC with the original cover, the mass market paperback, the French edition, and the digital edition.
Like Mayne, Lisa Kleypas’s Cam Rohan was introduced in one series and served as hero in another. The half-Romany croupier appeared first in Devil in Winter (2006), the third book in the Wallflowers series, where he shared a kiss with Daisy Bowman, the only unmatched wallflower. Many Kleypas readers concluded that Cam would be the hero of Daisy’s book, and online complaints were plentiful and passionate in their disappointment when Scandal in Spring was published in the summer of 2006 with Matthew Swift as Daisy’s hero. I have one friend who still growls at Kleypas when Cam’s name is mentioned in book discussions. But Kleypas had not forgotten Cam. He was the hero of Mine Till Midnight (2007), the first book of the Hathaway books and served as a foundational character throughout the series.
Not all secondary characters who have won readers’ allegiance have been male. The irrepressible Lady Angeline Dudley, younger sister of Jocelyn Dudley, Duke of Tresham, (More Than a Mistress, 2000) and Lord Ferdinand Dudley (No Man's Mistress, 2001) was already married to the staid Edward Ailsbury, Earl of Heyward, in those two books, but Mary Balogh’s readers begged for a prequel that told Angeline and Heyward’s love story, a request Balogh granted with The Secret Mistress (2011). Another of Balogh’s secondary characters, Gwen, Lady Muir, widowed sister of Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, was first seen in her brother’s book One Night for Love (1999) and its sequel, the story of Gwen’s friend and almost sister-in-law, Lauren Edgeworth and Kit Butler, Viscount Ravensberg, A Summer to Remember (2001). Readers became interested in Gwen’s short marriage and the accident that lamed her, and Balogh indicated that she planned to write Gwen’s story. But readers waited for more than a decade before Gwen was given her HEA in The Proposal (2012), the first Survivors’ Club novel.
Miss Diana Highwood was clearly ideal heroine material from the moment she was introduced in Tessa Dare’s RITA-winning A Night to Surrender (2011), the first Spindle Cove book, but it wasn’t until the penultimate story in the four-novel, two novella series that Dare matched the lovely Diana not with the titled gentleman of her mother’s schemes but with Aaron Dawes, the village blacksmith (Beauty and the Blacksmith, 2013).
It was not one character but a family that stirred the interest of Julia Quinn’s readers. When Quinn’s popular Bridgerton series ended the eighth book, On the Way to the Wedding, readers clamored to know more of the infamous musicians, the Smythe-Smiths. Quinn responded with a series: Just Like Heaven (2011), Honoria Smythe-Smith’s story; A Night Like This (2012), Daniel Smythe-Smith’s story; The Sum of All Kisses (2013), the story of Sarah Pleinsworth (whose mother is a Smythe-Smith); and one book remains in the promised quartet.
Readers of contemporary romance are no less quick to fall for secondary characters and plead for them to be given their own stories. I suspect that I’m one of many long-time Nora Roberts fan who will always regret that she parted from Harlequin with a few of Daniel MacGregor’s grandchildren still single. And readers of Roberts’s Chesapeake Bay series (Sea Swept, Cameron’s story; Rising Tides, Ethan’s story; Inner Harbor, Phillip’s story—1998-1999) expected to long in vain for the youngest Quinn brother’s story until Roberts surprised them with Chesapeake Blue, Seth’s story, in 2004. Robyn Carr introduced two secondary characters who left readers asking for more in Virgin River (2007), the book that started her long-running series, but readers had to wait until the seventh book, Paradise Valley (2007), before they saw Rick Sudder, surrogate son to Jack Sheridan, and Dan Brady, mysterious local pot grower, achieve their HEAs.
At any given moment, some romance readers are counting the days until they can see a favorite secondary character finally get his/her own story. At the moment I have five that I am eagerly awaiting over the next year or years.
1. Giles Dalton, Lord Strand, was introduced in Connie Brockway’s very first book, Promise Me Heaven (1994), but it was in the dark All Through the Night (1997) that he really caught my interest. He’s been on my list of characters whose stories I most want to read ever since. Nearly twenty years after readers first met the character, Lord Strand will finally star in his own book, No Place for a Dame (December 1, 2013). For readers who missed the earlier books or just need to have their memories refreshed, Montlake has republished Promise Me Heaven and All Through the Night.
2. William Graves, a doctor who is a recurring character in Lorraine Heath’s Scoundrels of St. James series (In Bed with the Devil, 2008; Between the Devil and Desire, 2008; Surrender to the Devil, 2009; Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel, 2009), had many fans hoping to see him as the hero of a book. Heath said in 2010 that she had been unable to find his defining moment and thus didn’t know his story, but a couple of months ago she announced, “William Graves' story will at last be told! It will be released January 2014. Stay tuned for more details.” The Last Wicked Scoundrel is listed as a January 7, 2014 release.
3. Thorn Dautry, bastard son of Leopold Dautry, Duke of Villiers, is the hero of Three Weeks with Lady X (March 14, 2014), the next book from Eloisa James. Fans of James will remember the character as Tobias, the oldest of the six illegitimate children that Villiers located in A Duke of Her Own (July 2009), the fifth of the Desperate Duchesses series. James indicated in several informal conversations that readers who loved the children in the Desperate Duchesses series might see some of them grow up to be protagonists. Tobias was the most popular, and I can’t wait to meet him all grown up.
4. Lisa Kleypas thought she completed the Travis family series with Sugar Daddy (2007), the story of Liberty Jones, Hardy Cates, and Gage Travis; Blue-Eyed Devil (2008), the story of Haven Travis and Hardy Cates; and Smooth-Talking Stranger (2009), the story of Jack Travis and Ella Varner. But fans of her contemporaries kept asking, “What about Joe?” Their question will be answered next fall when Kleypas releases the story of Joe Travis, Brown-Eyed Girl (September 4, 2014).
5. Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series centers on the members of the town’s two wealthiest and most powerful families, the Everseas and Redmonds. In the first book, The Perils of Pleasure (January 2008), readers learn that Lyon Redmond, the Redmond heir, has disappeared. According to rumor and the conclusions of his siblings, he left after Olivia Eversea broke his heart. (According to legend, an Eversea and Redmond are cursed to fall in love disastrously once each generation.) Bits of information concerning Lyon and Olivia have been dropped into the other Pennyroyal Green books, eight so far. Lyon makes an appearance, and readers learn some significant details in his sister Violet’s book, I Kissed an Earl (June 2010), Pennyroyal Green #4, but Long isn’t saying when readers can expect Lyon and Olivia’s book. We know that the ninth book, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea, is scheduled for release on March 25, 2014. I suspect many fans are with me in impatiently waiting on Lyon and feeling sad that his book may signal the end of a much loved series.
And, Anne Gracie, if you read this, I have a message for you: I love your Chance sisters, but I refuse to consider your Devil Riders series complete until I have Marcus’s story in hand.
Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.