I am delighted to welcome to the blog Mr Richard Cunningham, who has agreed to answer some of my questions... (although I don't know whether his author has approved his answers!)
In The Mask of Duplicity (Volume One), following the death of their father, Beth’s brother Richard returns from the army to claim his share of the family estate. However, Beth’s hopes of a quiet life are dashed when Richard, dissatisfied with his meagre inheritance and desperate for promotion, decides to force her into a marriage for his military gain. And he will stop at nothing to get his way...
Beth is coerced into a reconciliation with her noble cousins in order to marry well and escape her brutal brother. The effeminate but witty socialite Sir Anthony Peters offers to ease her passage into society and she is soon besieged by suitors eager to get their hands on her considerable dowry.
The first in the series about the fascinating lives of beautiful Beth Cunningham, her family and friends during the tempestuous days leading up to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.
RC: If I do, madam, I will not answer them. I find it extraordinary that a mere woman should be chosen to interview the military at all. I will have a word with your husband about it later. No good comes of indulging women and allowing them unnecessary freedoms.
AW: Let's leave aside the notion that my husband is my keeper, and I shall of course try to keep a civil tongue in my head, Sir. For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the Chronicles, perhaps you would indulge me as I take us back to the beginning of the story, as we know it, and ask you how you felt when you rode up to the family house that day, back in 1742, as the new master? What were your hopes, your expectations?
RC: I expected, of course, to be greeted as befitted my status as the master of the house and estate. I intended to use the money from father’s will to restore the house, which was in a deplorable state when I rode up the driveway. This is what happens when you allow women to take charge – everything goes to hell. I understand that father was unwell for some time before his death, but even so, he could have employed someone to take care of my inheritance.
Once the house was restored and I’d suitably disposed of my sister, I intended to purchase a commission in the dragoons, and use the rest of the money to live as befits a man of some military genius, and to achieve the necessary introductions to those who could help me rise further in my profession.
Of course I had no idea then that father would have been so weak as to be influenced by my bitch of a sister into leaving me out of his will altogether. If I’d known that, I would have returned before he died, in order to persuade him otherwise, while he was still capable of dictating a new will and signing his name to it. And of course to have given him a chance to apologise for the way he treated me as a child.
AW: May I offer my condolences on the death of your father? And of course, Beth's rash behaviour after his death in Book One threatens to disrupt your plans concerning Lord Edward. Tell us about that, if you will? Do you find her a little, shall we say, wilful?
RC: A little wilful?! Dear God, madam. I see now by your choice of words, what manner of woman you are. Your husband has been very lax in disciplining you appropriately. I must definitely have words with him.
My sister, or should I say half-sister, is a malicious ill-bred bitch, who deceives everyone by her outer appearance. Her mother was no better – the only attribute she possessed was her beauty, and she certainly made good use of that to hoodwink Papa into marrying her. I really think there was some witchcraft involved there. He never would have besmirched the memory of dear Mama otherwise.
Not only was she a whore, and an illiterate savage from North Briton, but a damned papist, for God’s sake! No, I’m certain she bewitched him, not only then, but afterwards too.
How else can you explain his attitude towards me, his only son and heir, once my sister was born? He loved me until she came along, but I could do nothing right after that. It was all Beth, Beth, Beth. She was spoilt entirely and I was utterly neglected. And when I tried to win father’s attention back, all I got for my trouble was a beating. That’s why I left home as soon as I could. I had hoped to become a captain of dragoons and then come back and show him I was worth his love, but the damn fool died while I was still a sergeant.
Oh yes, that Scotch savage he married tried to pretend she cared for me, but I could see through her. She even said she wanted to be my new Mama! How dared she presume that she could even aspire to kiss Mama’s feet, let alone be a mother to me? If I’d been old enough then, I’d have beaten her myself, showed her her place. She was badly in need of it.
No wonder Beth…Elizabeth has no idea how to conduct herself in good company. Bad blood will out, And God knows she’s inherited no noble blood at all. She is all MacDonald. But father’s ridiculous infatuation with her mother meant that Elizabeth had no idea how to be anything other than a barefoot, knife-throwing heathen savage.
If father hadn’t made such a stupid will, I swear I’d have broken my sister’s neck that day when I arrived at the house and she made a fool of me by pretending to be the scullery maid.
AW: Beth's lowly ancestry clearly irritates you, so presumably you must have been happy when Sir Anthony appeared 'on the scene', as we say in the modern world? Do, please, give us your opinion of him?
RC: Sir Anthony Peters is beneath contempt. I despise his sort, who think that a title (although baronet is not much of one), vast wealth, expensive tasteless clothes and low wit can excuse the fact that they are sick, perverted buggerers of boys. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had a catamite at home to keep him satisfied. They should be castrated and then strung up and left to rot in my opinion, as a lesson to others. Or made to enlist in the army. I would love to have the command of a few such as him. I’d soon knock them into shape, make damn sure they never sodomised a boy again.
Of course the ridiculous molly is also very influential. For some reason everyone seems to find him amusing to listen to, particularly women. That’s probably because like them, he’s empty-headed and interested only in the most trivial gossip. What the King and Prince William see in him, I have no idea. But he is very influential and as rich as Croesus, so of course it’s worth being civil to him, especially as he seems to show an interest in Elizabeth. Or rather in her dowry. Like many of his kind, he probably wants to marry some unsuspecting girl and get a brat on her to allay rumours, and leave him free to continue his disgusting sexual practices unmolested by the law.
AW: In case it's not already clear, perhaps you could explain why it is you think that readers might not necessarily sympathise with your character? Do you think the author does you a disservice?
RC: The author is a woman. Need I say more? Probably most of her readers are of the feeble sex too, so they won’t have the wit to think for themselves, and will just believe all the lies she writes about me. Not that I give a damn about what she or any other woman thinks. They’re good for only two things; f*cking and breeding.
These dim-witted women have no understanding that the reason they can sit in their drawing rooms, drinking tea and gossiping about who’s swiving who in society is because real men like me are fighting wars and getting cut to pieces to save their way of life from those who would seek to destroy it. Like the damn papist French, and the barbarian Scots, to name only two.
If the author had any intelligence at all, I would be the hero of the book. After all, it’ll be a cold day in hell before limp-wristed fops like Sir Anthony save them from their enemies. Can you imagine him prancing across the battlefield waving a jewel-encrusted sword in one hand and a lace handkerchief in the other? The only chance he’d have of killing anyone is if they died laughing at him!
Now I think of it, once I’ve had a chat with your husband, I think I need to have a word with the author too…
Well! That was quite the interview... Having read the first three books in this series I've come to have strong feelings about Richard Cunningham. For those who are new to this series, I can only advise that you take some of what he says with a good old-fashioned pinch of salt. You might discover that what he says, and what he sees of, the other characters is just what he wants to see. And it's certainly only what they want him to see...
Following on from The Mask of Duplicity is The Mask Revealed. Volume Three is The Gathering Storm and in Volume Four The Storm Breaks.
The 'storm' alludes to events which occur as the main characters move from London and the European Continent to Scotland, where Charles Stuart (the Bonnie Prince) has come to claim his inheritance.
Pursuit of Princes continues the story beyond the rebellion. The Duke of Cumberland seems determined to stay true to his reputation as the 'Butcher' and secrets may not be so much revealed, as betrayed...
Pursuit of Princes, Book Five in the series, is available to pre-order HERE (UK) or HERE (US)
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