The Tricky Subject of Blackmail by Author Robyn Donald

by Robyn Donald, author of The Rich Man's Blackmailed Mistress (Harlequin Presents, February 2010)

Blackmail – it’s a nasty word, first recorded in 1552 when it referred to the practice of ‘persuading’ farmers on the borders of England and Scotland into paying tribute to freebooting chiefs.  Payment meant that that particular chief would spare the farmer and his land from plunder and possible death.  Today it’s a crime that’s despised.

So how did it turn up in the title of a twenty-first century romance?

In THE RICH MAN’S BLACKMAILED MISTRESS Kain Gerard doesn’t demand money from Sable Martin.  He wants something much more important.  His younger cousin Brent — like a brother to him – has just sold his interest in an internet empire.  And now Brent is spending up large on Sable.  Is she a suitable prospect for a wife?  It doesn’t seem so; hints of a scandal involving blackmail swirl around her.  And in New Zealand a partner of two years is entitled to a half share of the assets – so Sable could well be intent on plunder, and Brent might be heading for a costly broken heart.

What’s an affectionate cousin to do?  For Kain, there’s one sure way of finding out just what the lady wants.  Fighting fire with fire – turn the lady’s penchant for blackmail against her.  She’s eager to become an events organiser, and for that she needs an irreproachable reputation.  So Kain blackmails her into his life.

With unexpected results for everyone.

Blackmail is a tricky subject to write about – like revenge.  To be successful, both have to be used carefully, and for reasons that are understandable.  And Kain might have taken a different course if he hadn’t seen Sable, and realised just how very wrong she would be for Brent.  And how very right for him…

Do you think blackmail is ever defensible in novels when used by a hero or heroine?

As with so many of my novels, this book is set in New Zealand.  Sable and Kain meet in Auckland, a city I lived in for some years.  Kain’s glorious old house is set on the Mahurangi estuary, part of the beautiful coastline close to where I grew up, and his holiday house and refuge is above one of Auckland’s wild, dramatic west coast beaches, known for their black volcanic sand and crashing surf.  And it’s set in summer, my favourite season.

Actually, I set each of my books in the season I’m writing it in.  So I’m writing about summer right now – and because in New Zealand over the past few years St. Valentine’s Day has become more and more popular with lovers of all sorts, I may well refer to it in the one I’m working on now.  So what did you do to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

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Comments ( 5 )
  1. Christina Hollis
    February 18, 2010 at 4:36 am

    My perfect Valentine brought me a card and present (including breakfast in bed) and we had a lovely romantic lie-in until nearly eight o’clock. This was a LONG lie-in, as we normally both get up around 5am! As I had a Valentine blog on the authorsoundrelations website I net surfed on and off during the day, when we weren’t outside enjoying the garden. Finally I tried out a new recipe for dinner – it wasn’t a success but sportingly, Valentine ate it without complaint and then washed up. He’s my ideal Alpha male!

  2. Robyn Donald
    February 18, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Christina, your Valentine was perfect indeed! Any man who nobly eats a new recipe and then washes up is definitely a keeper. It’s been interesting to see the development of the day in New Zealand over the past ten to fifteen years – and celebrating it is still not universal. In my family and acquaintanceship it’s mainly the younger generation who indulge, but mine bought me a bunch of flowers and breakfast in bed too. As another 5am riser, I shamelessly enjoyed the lie-in.

  3. Caitlin Crews
    February 18, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Great post!

    I think that blackmail–like all the other things that, in real life, we would condemn–can work so beautifully in a Presents. Things that remain unsaid, barely thought, in life are played out in a Presents–and who hasn’t felt compelled, perhaps even emotionally blackmailed at some point or another in a relationship? And in a Presents we then get all the delicious fall out from it!

  4. Amy
    February 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Robyn,
    I confess, my special fella and I skip Valentine’s Day! Seems kinda strange for a Harlequin employee not to be into Valentine’s, but working in a greeting card store for years surrounded by tacky stuff (think fluffy hand cuffs…) from Jan 1-Feb 15 killed the holiday for me. But even though we didn’t do gifts or a special date, he *did* make me a special brunch of crepes with strawberries, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce! I am so spoiled… 😉

  5. Francine Howarth
    February 19, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Hi Robyn,

    Isn’t every day “Valentine’s” when in love!?

    As for the title “Rich Man’s Blackmailed Mistress” it’s a winner.

    All lovers of romance love a villainous alpha male, don’t they (?)! And, blackmail lends intrigue before one picks up the book.

    The thrill of the chase may be the essential ingredient of a good romance, but a writer who stretches the boundaries of acceptability within the romance genre gets my vote any day.

    I can remember as a teenager being hooked on some old Daphe de Maurier historicals, which never really pushed the boundaries quite far enough. Then I discovered “Angelique” – a string of sequels about a mistress of the French King Louis during the period of rampaging musketeers and the like. Wow! Can’t remember the author by name, but I guess the books were too raunchy for M&B at that time.