Today I am so pleased to welcome Cat Sebastian to Joyfully Jay. Cat has come to talk to us about her latest release, The Ruin of a Rake (which I reviewed here and loved!). Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the phenomenon of ordinary, even mediocre, experiences feeling sublime when you’re with someone you’re falling in love with. On my first date with my husband, we went to see Troy. To be clear, Troy is a very bad movie. Terrible, in fact. I left the movie theater thinking it was one of the best movies I had ever seen. I congratulated my date on his excellent taste; he heartily agreed. Years earlier, when I was very young indeed, I watched (I can’t believe I’m telling this story on the internet, but here goes) the Beavis and Butthead movie with a person I was in the advanced stages of puppy love with. Afterwards, I was pretty convinced Beavis and Butthead was cinema on a level with Kurosawa. I remember earnestly recommending that friends go see it (“It’s incredible! No, really, trust me!”). I was, in short, blinded by anime-style heart eyes.
When I look back at the best meals I’ve ever had, the only thing they have in common was the company (sad corollary: I had some objectively very good meals on job interviews and with people who exhaust me, but they were ashes in my mouth). When we’re lucky, whatever heart-eye magic makes the food taste lovely in the first place will carry over and make even non-stellar iterations of that food taste delicious in the future; this is the only explanation I can come up with for why even the sorriest bagels with cream cheese taste, to me, like heaven.
That sense of the ordinary being transformed into the excellent is something I try to capture for my characters. In The Ruin of a Rake, Julian is bowled over by the deliciousness of the pastries Courtenay brings him. He can’t quite believe that they’re just regular buns that Courtenay bought at the bakery. Everything is mysteriously better for Julian: the sun is brighter, the food is tastier, life is a bit more dazzling. Being a very stuffy and curmudgeonly individual, poor Julian doesn’t realize all this sensory excellence is because he’s falling in love. The reader knows, though. (So does Courtenay. He’s no stranger to the heart-eyes phenomenon.)
I try to reproduce this experience for my readers. I wrote this book entirely after November 2016, when I needed medicinal doses of comfort and happiness and assumed readers would be craving the same. So, as I wrote, I filled the book with all the things I like the most: pastries, kittens, banter, tacky gothic novels, warm spring weather, cranky math geniuses, lady scientists, and possibly-gratuitous sex. The characters enjoy those things because they’re falling in love, and my hope is that readers will have the same experience through the characters’ eyes. I think this is part of the appeal of romance as a genre: we can get swept along in the characters’ joy, the tiny moments of delicious food and bright sunshine, all those small things that, in the end, help add up to the HEA.
Julian was starting to fear that bringing Courtenay to the opera had been a tactical error. For one, Courtenay seemed to take up twice the space of any normal man. It wasn’t his size—indeed, Julian found himself repeatedly confirming that Courtenay was not much larger than he was himself—a bit broader in the shoulders and perhaps an inch or two taller, but he was hardly a giant. No, Courtenay simply arranged his body with no regard for anyone who was forced to share space with him. Instead of sitting on the chair like a normal person, he positively sprawled, propping one of his long legs on the empty seat before him and stretching an arm along the back of the empty seat to his side.
They had the entire box to themselves, but Julian was acutely aware of all the places where their bodies almost—but not quite—touched. Every breath brought him into acute danger of one of his limbs meeting one of Courtenay’s. And that was a fate he ardently hoped would not come to pass, for reasons he chose not to dwell on.
It was all he could do to keep his attention on the opera. Actually, that wasn’t true, because he had no idea what had happened thus far beyond the usual foreign singing, and it was nearly the interval.
And then there was the matter of Courtenay’s reading material. To have brought any book whatsoever to the opera was eccentric at best. But Courtenay, somehow managing to lounge decadently in the stiff-backed chair as if he were reading in bed, for God’s sake, had brought the blasted Brigand Prince. Why bring any book at all, unless it was to demonstrate how bored he was with his company? As if his posture alone didn’t communicate that fact quite sufficiently.
Occasionally, for whatever purpose, Courtenay would read a passage aloud.
“Listen to this, Medlock.” Courtenay lowered his voice so as not to be heard by anyone in a neighboring box. This was, ostensibly, polite, but the raspy quiet of his voice, combined with the darkness, suggested an intimacy Julian did not want to think of. “Don Lorenzo has caught Agatha traipsing through the haunted abbey. Do you think they’ll finally take one another’s clothes off?”
Julian nearly protested that it wasn’t an abbey (it was a monastery), it wasn’t haunted (the eerie noises came from imprisoned monks, not specters), and this was hardly the sort of book in which the characters took off one another’s clothing (more’s the pity). But he reflected that a highly specific knowledge of the contents of The Brigand Prince was not something Julian Medlock ought to know in his capacity as a gentleman.
Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.
Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.
As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.
THE RUIN OF A RAKE (available July 4 from Avon Impulse)
Cat writes steamy, upbeat historical romances. They usually take place in the Regency, generally have at least one LGBTQ+ main character, and always have happy endings.
Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird-watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.