Musing on the Eccentric, Enigmatic, Dark Hero
First of all, I want to thank Romancing the Books for inviting me to guest blog today! As some of you already know, I have an affinity for the Byronic hero––the natural born iconoclast, who embraces his inner recluse and makes few apologies for his eccentric, often anti-social behavior. For those of you who are not familiar with the Byronic hero, here’s a list of attributes, compliments of Wikipedia:
The Byronic hero typically exhibits several of the following traits: Arrogant, cunning and able to adapt, cynical, disrespectful of rank and privilege, emotionally conflicted, bipolar or moody, having a distaste for social institutions and norms, having a troubled past or suffering from an unnamed crime, intelligent and perceptive, jaded, world-weary, mysterious, magnetic and charismatic, rebellious, seductive and sexually attractive, self-critical and introspective, self-destructive, socially and sexually dominant, sophisticated and educated, struggling with integrity, treated as an exile, outcast or outlaw.
Recently, I did a brief inventory of all my heroes and a few villains. So far and I have determined that they are all eccentric, and some of them might even reach the sublime––the Byronesque hero! Take the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series:
In An Affair with Mr. Kennedy, Detective Zeno Kennedy is a stoic, habitual frowner and a brooding, moody head case in desperate need of charm lessons. The hero of A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis is a near-do-well, second son of a earl. Disowned by his family for a variety of naughty Byronic reasons, Rafe’s most unpardonable sin is that he’s taken a job with Scotland Yard. Then there’s A Lesson in Chemistry with Inspector Bruce, Archie Bruce is the wonky crime lab director of Special Branch––an eccentric Victorian version of a CSI man––enough said. Which brings us to Agent Gunn, and my latest release, A Private Duel with Agent Gunn.
About the only thing that can lure reclusive Agent Gunn out of his Chester Square townhouse is an undercover assignment for either Scotland Yard’s Special Branch or the Naval Intelligence Division. When he’s not working on a puzzling case, Phineas Gunn suffers from a condition called Soldier’s Heart, the symptoms of which include bouts with melancholia and attacks of hysteria or nerves.
When I was developing the character of Finn Gunn, I knew I wanted him to be an eccentric recluse, given to intellectual pursuits as well his talent for espionage and crime solving. Beginning in chapter one, paragraph one, it quickly becomes apparent Agent Gunn is having some sort of attack of nerves. Here’s an excerpt:
“Clean as a whistle these young lovelies. Sure you won’t have a taste, sir?” The dandy peacock tipped his hat and squinted to see inside the carriage.
Phineas Gunn sat in the darkness and regarded the street pimp for the briefest of moments. “Quite. Sure.”
“Take another gander, sir––you’ll find something comely that tickles the old Thomas.” The fleshpeddler cocked his head with a wink. “Rooms by the hour, right behind me.” With bosoms near to bursting out of corsets, the rag-a-bed jewels of Princess Street posed enticingly for his attention.
“Bugger off.” Phineas slammed the coach window shut.
Twirling a crystal-knobbed cane, the fancy man swept his walking stick behind bouncing bustles. “Special this evening––two girls––three and six.” The pimp hawked his bevy of spoiled doves to every man, Jack, and Prince Arthur prowling the backstreets of Leicester Square.
Finn gulped for air. A band of tension squeezed his chest. An intense wave of fear ripped through flesh and sinew––right down to his bones. Damn it all.
His body was playing tricks again. It seemed nothing he could think or do could distract from this sudden assault on his nerves. He inhaled another deep breath and exhaled slowly, counting to ten. The shakes often came upon him without warning or obvious cause. Finn knew very well he sat safely within the confines of his coach. Every fiber of his being, however, told him he was being chased down a dark alley by a raving murderer, poised to thrust a blade in his back.
He was dying and there was no way to stop it.
As the story unfolds, the reader learns that Finn was sent to Afghanistan as a young officer, and fought in the Second Anglo-Afghan war. Even though his physical injuries have long since healed, it’s the emotional wounds that continue to torture him. Dark, enclosed spaces often trigger his nervous attacks, and contribute to his solitary life, causing him to have certain services brought to the house––including his mistress and his fencing master.
As I mentioned earlier, the only thing that gets Finn out of the house is an occasional assignment from Scotland Yard or Naval Intelligence––and in A Private Duel with Agent Gunn––it happens to be a case involving mysterious ballerina, Catriona de Dovia aka Cate Willoughby.
To find out exactly how Cate makes Finn’s heart race, be sure to read A Private Duel with Agent Gunn. Here’s a short blurb:
Prima ballerina Catriona de Dovia lives the glamorous life of a starlet, filled with glittering jewels, sumptuous dinners, and admiring suitors. She’s grown up considerably since losing her heart to Hugh Curzon once upon a time, no longer wasting her emotions on the empty promises of charming gentlemen. On her own since the untimely death of her parents, she will do anything for the only family she has left: her brother, a notorious anarchist.
Scotland Yard Agent Phineas Gunn, sometimes known as Hugh Curzon, receives his new assignment reluctantly. He’s up for something a little more strenuous than playing nanny to a ballerina, until he sees who his charge is. Then, it’s a completely different story, because he’d been unable to forget the trusting, beautiful Cate since he had to leave her behind in Barcelona. And he suspects Cate is more than a ballet girl––in fact, she just might be a jewel thief, or even more arousing––a clever undercover operative.
Finn is determined to find out as the two race across the Continent––by land, by sea, even through the air by zephyr––it becomes uncertain who is keeping tabs on whom, and Finn and Cate must battle the sexual tension that snaps and sizzles between them every step of the way.
Do you write eccentric, enigmatic heroes or do you have a favorite from fiction, film or TV? Please share a comment for a chance to win The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series!
Jillian’s first book in The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series, An Affair with Mr. Kennedy, won the 2010 Golden Heart for Romantic Suspense. Her latest novel, fourth in the series for Pocket Books is A Private Duel with Agent Gunn. She also writes the Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator series for Kensington Brava.