Friday, October 14, 2011

The Comeback Kid

Breaking up with a series is traumatic. Sometimes you have no choice because the publisher pulled the plug. Sometimes your heart is broken by an author who decides to end a series. Sometimes you end the affair. After long-term relationships, I dumped two popular series—Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta mysteries and John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport mysteries. What can I say? We were in a rut. And then there’s the break-ups where your heart is ripped out and then stomped on by Louboutin stilettos. So what happens you’re asked to reconcile?

I found Deadly Love in the mystery section at Border’s. It didn’t take long to figure out that the author, B.D. Joyce, was Brenda Joyce. I’d enjoyed her romance novels featuring the Bragg family. In fact, they’re buried two-rows deep in my bookshelves. The introduction to her new series read: “Welcome to the world of Francesca Cahill, crime solver extraordinaire. Francesca is no ordinary heroine. She refuses to bow to convention, wears her heart on her sleeve, and is determined to right the ills and injustices of the world.”
Color me intrigued.

Set in turn-of-the-century New York City (1902 to be exact), the mystery centers around a little boy who is spirited away from his bed during a high-society ball. Two people race to save him: bluestocking reformer Francesca Cahill and NYC Police Commissioner Rick Bragg. The characters engaged my interest right from the start. Francesca’s father, Andrew, is a millionaire who made his fortune in meat-packing after a humble beginning as a farmer. He adores Francesca and often turns a paternal blind-eye to her adventures. So it is her mother, Julia, an American blue-blood, who rules the family with an iron fist. To Julia’s despair, Francesca has little interest in obtaining a husband. Instead, our intrepid heroine would rather follow local politics and effect positive change for the less fortunate. Luckily Julia has another daughter: the beautiful Connie who is (seemingly?) perfect and (happily?) married to the dashing Neil. The youngest child, Evan, a charming ne’er do-well with a gambling problem, is the apple of his mother’s eye and an irritant to his hard-working father. At the end of Deadly Love, Francesca and Bragg solve the crime and become very “special friends.”  

In the second book in the series, Deadly Pleasures, Joyce introduces her most intriguing character yet—Calder Hart. Half-brother to Bragg, Hart is a bad boy in the best sense of the word—disturbingly sensual, sardonically witty, and uncaring about what society thinks of him. He is also Bragg’s arch-rival, so it’s no surprise when Hart turns his attention to Francesca to get a rise out of his do-good brother.

I tore through Deadly Affairs and Deadly Desire in 2002. By Deadly Caress and Deadly Promise, both published in 2003, I was firmly in Hart’s corner. Bragg was blonde and noble, but Hart was dark and hot. (I do love me some bad boy.) And then came the moment that arrogant womanizer Calder Hart could no longer deny his infatuation with the beautiful and brave Francesca, and he made her an offer of marriage. I’m not ashamed to admit that I squealed audibly when she said “Yes!”

I waited impatiently for Deadly Illusions, which didn’t come out until 2005. And I was chomping at the bit by the time Deadly Kisses dropped in 2006. It was the biggest nail-biter yet! Hart, who is suspected of killing his devious ex-mistress Daisy, ends his engagement to Francesca to protect her from scandal—breaking her heart and my heart in the process. Only Francesca believes in his innocence, and it is a frantic race to capture the murderer and Hart’s heart. (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.) The series was on fire. Then these devastating words posted to Brenda Joyce’s website in 2009.

I would like to thank all of you who have emailed me inquiring about The Deadly Series. My publisher is simply not interested in publishing the final book at this time. I realize that a majority of my readers do not know that I don’t get to write whatever I choose, but what they [the publisher] request I write. When I announced after Deadly Kisses that I was taking a break from the series, I had every intention of finishing this series. I’m saddened that the characters have been left in limbo. If you wish to voice your concerns, I’m including the [publisher’s] email address.

Limbo? This was more like being left in an upper level of hell. When I said the series was on fire, I didn’t mean it literally! I had questions that demanded answers—Would Francesca and Hart ever marry? If so, would the sensuous Hart, who sometimes enjoyed intimacies with multiple women at the same time, remain true to the virginal Francesca? Would Bragg get over losing Francesca to Hart? Could Hart and Bragg rebuild their fractured relationship? And what would happen to Evan (Francesa’s scamp of a brother), Sarah (a bohemian artist and Evan’s ex-fiancĂ©e), Maggie (a working-mother of common birth who is crushing on Evan), Roarke (Bragg’s half-brother, a medical student who shows an uncommon interest in free-spirit Sarah), and the other secondary characters I’d grown to love?

Deep breath. And now for the comeback.

Last year, I received an email from Brenda Joyce. The subject line: "A very important message about The Deadly Series." Her publisher had had a change of heart. It planned to re-release the last two books in the series in December 2010 and January 2011 and—wait for it—the 9th book in the series, Deadly Vows in February 2011.

I’m happy to say that Joyce delivered. For the first time in years, I had to turn to the back page to see how Deadly Vows ended. And now it’s your turn. Treat yourself to a great series and be sure to read them in order, you won’t want to miss one second of the adventure, mystery, and romance. 


  1. Pretty much how I felt reading this series throughout the years.

  2. I want to know if Francesca married Hart? I think he is the perfect man for her!!!!