About the book
Anyone who has read my first Newmarket Regency, Fair Deception, cannot have failed to spot that Caroline Fortune was only being held to secondary-character status by a supreme act of will on the author's part.
In Fortunate Wager (set a year later in 1817), she breaks gloriously free and sets about making the book her own from the very first page. Caroline is under no illusion about her attractions: plain, unbecomingly dressed and with little money, she is resisting all attempts at marrying her off as a housekeeper-substitute - because what she really wants to do is settle down on her own and train horses.
Lord Alexander Rothwell, on the other hand, cannot wait to shake the dust of Newmarket off his Hessians and get back to London. Unfortunately he is stuck here for the moment because he has promised Lady Jersey that he will try to get to the bottom of the double-dealing she claims to be taking place on the racecourse.
He manufactures what he considers to be an excellent excuse to hang around the training grounds, by making a preposterous wager with cub-trainer Harry Fortune (Caroline's brother). This seriously inconveniences Caroline who needs seclusion to help train Harry's string.
But the wager is not nearly as inconvenient as when Alexander is struck down and left for dead at Harry's stable. Now that really does make life trying.
Background to Fortunate Wager
I am sure other racing towns might disagree, but it is common knowledge around here that Newmarket is the 'Home of Racing', and has been ever since James I was fog-bound in the Griffin Hotel in 1603 and first hit on the idea of staging a horse race on Newmarket Heath.
By Regency times, the Jockey Club was well established in the town, and Newmarket Heath was the elite venue in the Regency racing lexicon - an essential part of the social calendar for all gentlemen worthy of the name.
Ah. Gentlemen. Therein lies the rub. Because in their sweet, delusional way, they decided that women should have no place on the course. Not on the course, not in the training yard and definitely not on the horse's back.
Well, really, how can a historical romance writer look at that sentence and not see the word STORY leaping out of it in letters a foot high?
I have mentioned before on this site how fond I am of research. Fortunate Wager was an absolute joy because it involved reading about all the skulduggery that used to take place (doping, poisoning, hobbling, blackmail...), lots of lovely maps, lists of races and almanacs of results. Then there was a racing-silks site where I could invent my heroine's colours, gentlemen's magazines with Very Polite Disagreements between sporting correspondents - and I got to do some more ferreting around neighbouring Bury St Edmunds as well.
A particular pleasure was reading the Georgian playwright Thomas Holcroft's memoirs of his time as a stable lad in Newmarket. Two of my subjects in one!
I still haven't quite got to grips with betting and odds, though.