Lord of Scoundrels & Bertie's Overworked Porter

This year, Avon Books celebrate their Diamond Anniversary. Among other events and activities, each month they highlight a  "classic" Avon title. It started in January with Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower. February was Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue. March was Julia Quinn's Dancing at Midnight. April highlighted Rachel Gibson's Simply Irresistible. May starred my hero Susan Elizabeth Phillips's It Had To Be You. (She made me care about football!!!)

June is—as you may have deduced, what with this blog post and all—my Lord of Scoundrels. Avon will be doing a read/reread-along, as well as offering the eBook for $1.99 for the entire month of June (with apologies to readers outside North America, the offer applies to the U.S. and Canada only).

As I try to do from time to time, I'll offer a few background notes on the book. With Lord of Scoundrels, it's quite an experience, since I wrote the book before I had access to the Internet, and well before Google and others started scanning and posting online the ancient tomes I had to go into the bowels of libraries to find. And they were not searchable! You turned crusty, dusty pages, looking for what you wanted in magazine collections, for instance, that were not indexed.

So, when I installed a porter in the apartment building in Paris in which Bertie Trent lives at the story's start, I depended mainly on Frances Trollope’s Paris and the Parisians in 1835.** As is normally the case in travel writings, the author’s attitudes and prejudices color her observations. I try to give my English characters similar viewpoints, though I may tone them down a bit, so as not to jar my readers too much. It's always a balancing act, finding a happy medium between 19th and 21st century outlooks. I want to use a little of  the "foreigners are not as cool as we are" attitude, both for comic effect and because that outlook is hardly unheard of today. But a little goes a long way.

I do think Ms. Trollope is fairly balanced in this particular context. From what I've read elsewhere, the position of the apartment building porter entailed a great deal more than that of the porter in a large English establishment, where many other servants, especially footmen, were available to perform various tasks. But read for yourself—and you may want to go on reading, by clicking on the link below to this section of Paris and the Parisians, now online.


Another accommodation which habit has made it extremely difficult for French families to dispense with, and which can be enjoyed at an easy price only by sharing it with many, is a porter and a porter's lodge. Active as is the race of domestic servants in Paris, their number must, I think, be doubled in many families, were the arrangement of the porter's lodge to be changed for our system of having a servant summoned etime a parcel, a message, a letter, or a visit arrives at the house.

Nor does the taking charge of these by any means comprise the whole duty of this servant of many masters; neither am I at all competent to say exactly what does: but it seems to me that the answer I generally receive upon desiring that anything may be done is, " Oui, madame, le portier ou la portiere fera cela;" and were we suddenly deprived of these factotums, I suspect that we should be immediately obliged to leave our apartments and take refuge in an hôtel, for I should be quite at a loss to know what or how many additional "helps" would be necessary to enable us to exist without them.—Frances Trollope, Paris and the Parisians in 1835, Letter XXXVI.

Images: Parisian Porter from James Jackson Jarves’ Parisian Sights and French Principles: Seen Through American Spectacles (1853). Street scene: Eduard Gaertner, Rue Neuve Notre Dame à Paris, 1826.