Katharine Ashe: The ROGUE Interview
THE ROGUE by Katharine Ashe allows the reader to understand important issues of the time period while exploring the age-old struggle of trust and honesty within a mystery. The story opens with a young debutante, Lady Constance Reed, falling for a handsome rogue, Evan Saint-André Sterling. Constance bargains with her father to let her marry Saint, a “nobody,” who is neither rich nor titled. They must overcome Constance’s desire to build a wall in their relationship because she was physically abused and raped. In addition, now a married couple, they work together, to find evidence against the Duke, the primary suspect, who they believe to be responsible for a girl’s murder and other kidnappings.
Elise Cooper: Rumor has it that besides being an author you also teach, true?
Katharine Ashe: Yes. I have been an associate professor at Duke University since 2007, specializing in Medieval Religious History. I also teach a course on romance fiction that combines history, literature, creative writing, and business entrepreneurship. I am able to combine my love for teaching and writing. Instead of writing academic books I write historical romance novels surrounding some mystery.
EC: Can you explain the backstory on Peregrine and Lady Justice?
KA: They have been exchanging letters. She is a journalist who is trying to find the real purpose and identity of the Falcon Club. Lady Justice and Colin Gray whose code name is Peregrine have been trading correspondence and debating over women’s issues, specifically a woman’s marital status. They have a “frenemy” relationship. But in the next book they will end up as lovers.
EC: Why the name The Falcon Club?
KA: I named each of its members after birds that reflected a character’s qualities. Eagle is a Scotsman; Seahawk a pirate; Raven, retrieves missing people; Colin is Peregrine; and Constance is Sparrow. When I first started writing the series I imagined a door of the Falcon Club and its knocker was in the shape of a Falcon head.
EC: In this book you explore how women were treated in the 1820s. Please explain.
KA: I am a historian at heart and find the struggle for rights fascinating. That is why I put in the book the quote from Lady Justice, “Even the sacred vows instruct a woman to love, cherish, and obey while a man must only love and cherish.” When a woman weds in the 1820s the Law of England places her income, belongings, and her entire body in the possession of her husband. She has no power or authority over her money, property, and children. This is something I will go into more detail in my next book, including a woman’s inability to legally leave her husband. In order for her to do that she had to prove her husband not just an adulterer, but also that he was participating in bestiality or incest.
EC: Is trust a main theme of the book?
KA: Yes. I have had enough friends who went through really rough times. It affects a person’s ability to go forward in a relationship. The abuse in this book showed how it was difficult for Constance to open up. She had trusted the wrong man who hurt her. With Saint she is learning to trust again. He really wants to help her get past the darkness. I enjoyed writing this dynamic.
EC: Is there any of you in your characters?
KA: There is a little bit of me in every one of my characters. I went through, not so long ago, how Saint had acted, putting himself aside. I had to put all my energy and efforts to focus on someone else. I wrote this book right after I came out of that period of my life. I would compare Constance to myself in that we are both independent and enjoy helping others.
EC: Do you think the book has many intimate scenes?
KA: I think it is somewhere in the middle of most books. There is less sex than most TV shows. My style is to write a love story set in historically 19th century that has a happily ever after. The characters have their own conflicts, values, and challenges. Two people must overcome the conflicts between them, and learn to communicate in many different ways. A fellow writer said, ‘Sex is the way that a hero and heroine communicate their relationship and feelings to each other.’ The physical communication is one of the most profound ways a man and a woman can share and give to the other person.
EC: Because you went into a lot of detail about fencing, is that a hobby of yours?
KA: It is now. In college I took defense courses and learned to fence. Because I had Saint as a master swordsman I wanted to have a sense of what is happening so I took lessons. I am still doing it because I love the sport. People have asked how Constance could learn fencing since she is a woman, but there were women who fenced in that era although it was unusual.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book projects?
KA: In the next novel Constance and Saint do not show up much. It is called The Earl, out in October. As I said earlier, it will be about Lady Justice and Colin Gray. In the future I am thinking about writing a story about the person who abused Constance. I am not a big fan of killing off villains. Instead I think about how a person can go from being a very bad guy to being redeemed. I am also considering writing a historical novel series where Constance and Saint could show up.