"This book was utterly hilarious." —Amazon reviewer
The Villainous Viscount
An appreciative satire of the cliches of traditional Gothic.
When Clarissa Greendale inherits the fortune of disreputable uncle she hardly knows, she does not expect to find herself forced into marriage with an aristocratic fortune hunter and wild, brawling, debauched social outcast. Still, she has always found Harley Venn set off the most unmaidenly tinglings in her; that is one consolation.
Yet neither did Clarinda expect to inherit the legacy of evil from half a century before. For the wicked if beguiling Lord Venn seems to have inherited a family curse, which, having dispatched the main perpetrators of the old crime, now moves on to their heirs, who are just as wild a set of rakes as their elders. There are rumours of violent deaths preceded by appearances from an inexorable hooded spectre, of inexplicable strikes of lightning, and of haunted mirrors.
The light-hearted Harley Venn dismisses all these as conjuring tricks. He even hires a drunken charlatan of a professional magician to prove it.
Clarinda is far from sure that there is any rational explanation. Still, it would take more than an enforced marriage to an incorrigible pugilistic libertine or persecution from malevolent spectres to damage her steely nerves and sense of the ridiculous.
This lively Gothic comedy, written as a good natured satire, gives the reader a kind and courageous heroine, a rascally but beguiling anti-hero and an authentic historical background to the delightfully over-the-top adventures, a cast of wholly believable characters, an engaging love story and many chills on its way to its tumultuous conclusion.
In the author's words . . .
Interview with Lucinda Elliot
There's an interesting story behind this book. Will you tell us a little about it?
When my family lived in the Clwyd Valley in North Wales, my mother often came by old books through buying job lots at auctions. One of these was by a best-selling author of romantic melodramas of Victorian and Edwardian days, Charles Garvice, called ‘The Outcast of the Family’ (1894). When we were snowed up for some days one winter, I read it.
It was perhaps the worst book I have ever read up to now, written with total absence of irony and wildly far-fetched. It was all about a wicked, drunken and pugilistic ne’er do well viscount who goes about dressed as a costermonger to annoy his relatives. After two conversations with the virtuous heroine, he resolves to reform...
Remembering it and re-reading it a few years ago, I decided to depict an anti-hero who shared some of the amusing characteristics of Garvice’s character, but transposed from the late Victorian to the end of the Regency era.
The ‘Villainous Viscount Or the Curse of the Venns’ is also based on a family curse, an idea which has always fascinated me since I first read ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ at twelve. However, mine is spoof gothic, with the family curse treated as darkly comic, featuring a haunted castle, a hooded spectre who always appears in a crack of lightning, secret passages and much else.
Tell us something we may not know yet about Venn and Clarinda.
I have tried to depict Harley Venn as an incorrigible but likeable rascal, and full of wicked fun. Having spent most of the fortune he inherited from his uncle, he is looking for an heiress to marry. Naturally, when he proposes to the female lead, the no-nonsense Clarinda Greendale, the cloaked and hooded spectre that has lately haunted him appears in its inevitable flash of lightning.
Venn, although villainous, has a generosity of spirit. For instance, he allows his widower valet’s impossible children to live in the house, which was unusual in that era (even if he does encourage them to pour water over debt collectors). Over the course of the story, he starts to become fond of them, and they of him. Like the anti-hero of Garvice’s ‘The Outcast of the Family’, Harley Venn is softened by women and children, but unlike in that novel, I avoid portraying that sentimentally.
Clarinda Greendale seems to be the opposite of Harley Venn, except in delighting in the ridiculous. Her own late uncle was Harley Venn’s late uncle’s steward, who made a fortune through dubious means. She has scruple about inheriting it, which her ambitious brother and sister-in-law find bizarre.
Clarinda – whose appearance is unremarkable, which makes her cynical about the admirers she acquires as an heiress in London – has no wish to come for a season to make a good match. She wants to return to the country to live with her younger sister, and help to improve the lot of the poor, not that of the good for nothing Lord Venn.
Her fate, however, is going to be very different as she ends up trying to save him from the curse that has destroyed his late uncle and his group of friends…
-Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
I think my favourite chapter in the book is the ridiculous one where Harley Venn proposes to Clarinda with a speech full of high flown and ridiculous sentiment (in fact, borrowed from the planned proposal by Charles Garvice’s hero).
He tells her:
‘I know I am unworthy to address you, unworthy even to touch the hem of your robe. Yet if you would consider linking your fate to that of a man who is an outcast from much of decent society, and to be my good angel, I would be eternally in your debt and your slave…’
Clarinda finds this laughable:
‘I cannot accept your flattering proposal, Sir.’ Tempted to add, I cannot believe that I was second or even third on your list, she said instead in a friendly tone, ‘I am far from angelic, and the idea that a girl of twenty-one could be a guiding light for a man of the world several years her senior is preposterous to me.’
Harley Venn argues, but he is interrupted by the cloaked and hooded skeletal figure appearing, accompanied as usual by a clap of thunder.
Clarinda remarks calmly, ‘We saw that oddity before...’
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I have had some negative reviews from readers who seemed not to take in my descriptions of my books as ‘spoofs’ and ‘satires’ of the historical gothic genre. Mine are fairly gentle spoofs, not disrespectful to the genre, and it is possible that the fact that these readers did not realize that they are to be read tongue-in-cheek. Disappointing reader expectations is of course, a hazardous business and usually leads to bad reviews.
Also, being dyslexic, I do find it difficult to notice and remove every typo. My Beta readers are invaluable, and I hope that I keep the said errors to a minimum, but somehow I always miss a handful, and a minority of readers have noted them. I hope yet to be able to afford a professional copy editor.
On a happier note, I’ve had many wonderful reviews from readers who love my writing. This makes it all worthwhile. All authors want readers to enjoy their books.
For instance, here are the ones I got when ‘The Villainous Viscount’ was awarded a BRAG medallion for outstanding self-published fiction, and a very generous one of it from writer Jennifer Macaire.
‘Wonderful fun book! I have read others of MS Elliott's books for indieBRAG and this one did not disappoint. This is a creative and witty turn on a historical romance. Please keep them coming - I'm ready for more Lucinda Elliott books!’ —Jennifer Macaire
Books & Benches: Great interview and a behind-the-scenes look into The Villainous Viscount. Congratulations, Lucinda, on what sounds like a really fun book.
Lucinda Elliot loves writing Gothic style stories, which isn’t surprising because she was brought up in a series of big old isolated houses which her parents were refurbishing (it wasn’t so fashionable back then). After that, she lived, studied and worked in London for many years and now lives in Mid Wales with her family.
She loves writing about strong women to complement gung-ho males.
Her interests do include weight training and body shaping, and she was once a champion Sportsfighter, but apart from that her interests are quite geeky. Reading classic novels, conservation, gardening, and even names and their meanings (bring on the carrot juice). She loves a laugh above anything.
Release Date: February 24, 2017
Content Note: R1
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