OS: Welcome to Ariel Tachna and Nicki Bennett authors of All for One! Thanks for stopping by! What can you tell us about your latest story?
AT NB:Athos, Porthos, and Aramis…
Are there any names in French literature better known outside of France? We fell in love with them in the pages of books and on the big screen as teens, and really, who can blame us? They’re the epitome of courtly elegance, rakish splendor, and swashbuckling bravura. And no matter who’s portrayed them or when (Wikipedia lists 32 different portrayals of d’Artagnan, 35 of Athos, 37 of Aramis, and 19 of Porthos – obviously a few are missing), we can’t help but love them.
Or to imagine them together, because let’s face it. Dumas was brilliant at many, many things, but the love stories in The Three Musketeers were underexplored plot devices at best. In his defense, that wasn’t what his audience was looking for at the time. They wanted to read adventures and sword fights and intrigue and all about the evil English Duke of Buckingham.
The story has as many variations as there are film versions.
In the 1993 version starring Tim Curry as Richelieu, the threat came not from outside but from within, the age-old animosity between the Cardinal and the Royal Musketeers taken one step further, to the Cardinal wishing to overthrow, instead of simply control, the king: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_eCydap2FI
In the 2011 steampunk version, the threat is not only Buckingham but also a wealth of weapons and intrigue around plans stolen from Leonardo da Vinci’s vault. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onPXqpjeSTA
One piece that never changes, though, is the devotion of the Royal Musketeers not only to the king but to the often persecuted queen. This clip, from the 2011 version, shows that her delight in them is equal to their devotion to her. Certainly her comment that “will be boys” applies to our musketeers as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqCFtEZRFPE
The other piece that never changes is the lengths they will go to for their king and for each other. This clip shows an older version of the musketeers from The Man in the Iron Mask, one piece of the third of Dumas’s trilogy about the musketeers, that neither of us can watch without getting chills. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc51ExPQJcQ
As much as we love all the variations, we wanted to explore what made them tick beyond their loyalty to king and company. Except we couldn’t write Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. If we were going to do this, we had to make them our own.
The bitter noble, the former (and future?) priest, and the buffoon or the gourmand, depending on how he’s portrayed. Those were the archetypes Dumas,and the films inspired by his book, left us. Like all archetypes, they gave us a place to start, and then it was up to us to build on that foundation–to give them life beyond the characteristics inherent in their tropes.
Aristide, then… handsome, noble, estranged from his family, with a secret buried in his past that he would rather never come to light, yes, but also a keen wit and a romantic heart that still believes in true love, even if he’s not sure he’ll ever find it.
Léandre… a younger son of minor nobility; worldly, charming, ready to play the game of seduction with either sex and to give as good as he gets with anyone, but especially with the junior member of their trio, Perrin.
Perrin… the foster son of a baker, as blunt in his speech as he can possibly be, he eschews subtlety and intrigue whenever possible, preferring the simple joys of good wine, good friends, and good fucking.
Rather than trying to recreate our own version of D’Artagnan as the final member of the classic foursome, we introduce Benoît, a blacksmith-turned-messenger who’s about as far from the musketeer archetype as possible. While he retains the status of provincial that set D’Artagnan apart from the other musketeers, he has none of the noble heritage or education that D’Artagnan benefited from. Nor does he have D’Artagnan’s rashness. But because the message he carries threatens the musketeers and possibly the king, he is still pulled into their world and becomes critical to the success of their ventures.
As for Cardinal Richelieu, he—and his guards—remain objects of the musketeers’ scorn. But whether he is the agent behind the mysterious letter and its implications… well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.
OS: Sounds amazing! Good luck on your tour!
Aristide, Léandre, and Perrin pledge only three loyalties in life: their king, their captain, and their passion for each other. So when the musketeers discover a plan to accuse M. de Tréville of treason, the initial impulse to kill the messenger, Benoît, is tempered by their need to unmask the plotter. But their first two suspects, the English ambassador and Cardinal Richelieu, prove to be innocent, forcing the musketeers to delve deeper into the inner machinations of the French court.
Meanwhile, Aristide finds himself falling in love with the ill-fated messenger, a blacksmith without a home who rouses all of his protective, possessive instincts. Benoît, however, has no interest in any man. Torn between desire and duty, Aristide must find a way to protect the king and clear his captain’s name—all while heeding the demands of his heart.
“Holà!” a voice cried over the sound of steel against steel. “What have we here? Musketeers dueling in the streets?”
Aristide turned his head just long enough to spot three guards in the red of the cardinal’s livery approaching them. His blade caught and parried his opponent’s, but the Spaniard did not press the attack, for which Aristide gave silent thanks. He had seldom crossed blades with as skilled a swordsman, and he suspected that had his attention not been split between his compatriots, the bodyguard would have been even more formidable. After exchanging a wordless glance with the ambassador, the Spaniard lowered his blade, standing silent as the guardsmen drew nearer.
“You know the price for dueling,” the cardinal’s guard declared. “Hand over your swords and come with us quietly.”
“Dueling?” The English ambassador intervened, stepping forward casually, as if he had not just been fighting for his life against an opponent whose skill outmatched his own. “Is that what you thought we were doing? Obviously you are mistaken. The musketeers offered weeks ago to spar with my bodyguard and myself as a way to welcome us to Paris and to improve our skills. Today was simply the first day we were all available to do so.”
“We are hardly fighting in the streets,” Aristide added in a calm voice, not sure why the man they had all but attacked would come to their defense, but not about to dispute his explanation. “We chose a quiet corner of the park so that we could practice undisturbed.” He stared down the cardinal’s man without blinking, daring him to press the matter further.
“If we had been fighting in earnest, would we have brought along an unarmed spectator?” Léandre pointed out, indicating Benoît with a flick of his hand. “Really, my good man, you must see the ridiculousness of your accusation. If he’d feared for our lives, he would have run for help instead of standing here watching.” He slid his sword into its scabbard, hoping the others would follow his lead, though he knew he could well be drawing it again if the guards insisted on trying to arrest them. “Since our presence here is so troubling to you, though, we’ll simply return to the tavern and toast the ambassador’s good health instead.”
The guards’ gaze flickered uncertainly between the combatants, but there were six armed men—seven, if they counted the allegedly unarmed observer—and only three of them. And if the fellow with the exceptionally fine garments truly was as important as his attitude seemed to indicate…. Not at all anxious for the half-dozen blades that had returned to their scabbards to be drawn against them, the senior guard cleared his throat and took a step backward. “Well, then—next time find someplace you will not disturb the public peace with your… practice. Or the cardinal will hear of it.”
Not bothering to dignify the threat with a response, the group turned to head out of the park, Perrin going so far as to clap the guard’s spokesman on the shoulder with a cocky grin as they passed. No one spoke until they were back inside Le Bon Laboureur, the ambassador gesturing to the owner for more wine.
“I really will drink to your health,” Léandre addressed the Englishman, “though I don’t understand why you didn’t denounce us to the cardinal’s guard.”
“Two reasons,” the ambassador replied, “which I’ll share in a moment, but first, your names, if you will. I make it a policy never to drink with strangers.” A wink at his companions accompanied his words.
Aristide rose to his feet, sketching a graceful bow to the Englishman and his party. “Aristide, of His Majesty’s Royal Musketeers, at your service.”
“Léandre.” Léandre’s bow was no less elegant, but his face bore a ready smile, in contrast to Aristide’s more restrained demeanor.
“Perrin,” Perrin finished, “though ’twas your companion who first challenged us, not the other way around, so perhaps you should give us your names as well.”
Léandre kicked Perrin’s ankle under the table, though it would make little impact through the heavy boots they all wore, and Aristide gave him a hard look. “You might let everyone introduce themselves before demanding names in return. Our manners are not all so poor,” he added to the ambassador before turning back to the fourth member of their group, whose erect posture hinted at his discomfort.
The Englishman nodded an acknowledgment and turned deliberately to the man who had not yet spoken, who had not entered the fight. “Benoît of Montredon,” Benoît said softly. “A simple blacksmith by trade who owes my life to these kind gentlemen. If not for them, a brigand’s ball would surely have taken my life.”
“I recognize Your Excellency from court, though we have not been formally introduced,” Aristide added. He recognized the man who sat so protectively at the ambassador’s side as well, from court as much as M. de Tréville’s comments about the ambassador’s Spanish bodyguard, but the youngest member of the group was unknown to him.
“His Majesty and I have differing opinions over who I need to meet in my new role,” the ambassador replied easily. “He insists I should spend hours meeting with fawning advisors and sycophantic courtiers when I would far rather meet the loyal men who defend him. Christian Blackwood, Viscount Aldwych, ambassador of His Majesty Charles I,” the Englishman said. “My companions are Teodoro Ciéza de Vivar and his son, Esteban Ciéza de Vivar who acts as my secretary. Now, to answer your question, if the cardinal’s guards had arrested you, they would have attempted to arrest my friends and me as well, a situation I could not accept. And secondly, you mentioned treason, and I wish to know what exactly you would accuse me of so that I can make sure I don’t find myself embroiled in a plot I’m unaware of. I had enough of that in Spain to last a lifetime.”
Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.
When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands).