Anne Gracie     The Trouble With Old Ladies. . .


Minor characters are like actors — they’re always negotiating for a bigger part. I have to confess, in my book, The Autumn Bride, a minor character ruthlessly upstaged the love-story. The poor hero didn’t get much of a look in for ages; in the first part of the book it’s all about my heroine, Abby, her sister and two friends — and a feisty old lady.


I have a weakness for feisty old ladies, I admit. There’s something about the Regency-era dowager that appeals to me — maybe, subconsciously I want to be a dowager when I grow up, and utter clever, pithy, snarky remarks. Like Maggie Smith’s character, the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey.  Or maybe my grandmothers are haunting me — they were both very strong-minded old ladies.


Whatever the reason lurking in the dark depths of my psyche, strong-willed old ladies are always popping up in my books. None of them, however, have competed for stardom, as Lady Beatrice Davenham has. But she’s that kind of old lady.


For a start, there’s her name. She was married to a baron, so she ought to be called Lady Davenham, not Lady Beatrice. But she was born the only daughter of the Earl of Fenton, and the title of Lady Beatrice was hers by birthright. In the early months of her marriage people sometimes forgot her change of title and continued calling her Lady Beatrice and it annoyed her mother-in-law so much, she decided to keep on being Lady Beatrice. Get the idea?


Even when she first appeared in the story — a victim in truly pathetic circumstances — she refused to be pathetic. My heroine, Abby, is in a dire situation and, desperate for money, climbs into the open window on the second floor of a run-down mansion, looking for something to steal. Instead she finds Lady Beatrice:


“Have you come to kill me?” The hoarse whisper coming out of the darkness almost stopped Abby’s heart. She swung around, scanning the room, braced to flee. Nothing moved, only shadows lit by the faint shimmer of moonlight from the windows where she’d pulled back the curtains. No sign of anyone.

“I said, have you come to kill me?” It came from the bed. Sounding more irritated than frightened.

“No, of course not!” Abby whispered back. She tiptoed closer to the bed, straining her eyes in the darkness. What she’d taken for a bundle of clothes piled on the bed was an old woman lying awkwardly, fallen between her pillows, her bedclothes rumpled in a twist.

“You’re a gel. Wearing breeches, but I can still tell you’re a gel.”

“Yes.” Abby waited. If the woman screamed or tried to raise the alarm she’d dive out of the window. It was risky, but better than being hanged or transported.

“You’re not here to kill me?”



Abby blinked. “Pity?”


She’s been ill, you see, and is bedridden and wholly in the power of lazy, neglectful and dishonest servants. After a few more nocturnal visits, the old lady invites Abby and her sisters to move in with her — and they do, posing as her nieces, and sacking the horrid servants and putting the house, and Lady Beatrice to rights. It’s all going beautifully until Lady Beatrice’s nephew — her only living relative—arrives after years abroad and demands to know the truth.


  “Who the devil are they?” Max said when the door was finally shut.

“I told you, my nieces.”

“Nonsense, you don’t have any nieces. Who are they really?”

She shrugged in a manner he recognized of old. “If I say they’re my nieces, they are.”

“You forget who you’re talking to, Aunt Bea. I’ll take an oath those girls aren’t even related to one another, let alone you.”

She gave him a warm smile. “Dear boy, so lovely to have you home again. Now, tell me what you’ve been up to. What’s brought you back to England after all this time? Going to settle down with a nice gel and make me a great-aunt, are you?”

“Don’t change the subject.”

She smacked his hand. “Don’t be dreary, Max. I’ve told you they’re my nieces and that’s all you need to know.

  * * * * *

AutumnBride64k   The Autumn Bride is a rags-to-riches, feel-good, fun story with a dark undertow. But mostly it’s about the joy of friendship, second chances, sisterhood — and love.


So what about you? Do you enjoy old ladies in stories? Do you have any favorites, perhaps like Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey? Any other wonderful old ladies in your life? And when you reach old-ladyhood, what are you looking forward to?  I’ll give a copy of The Autumn Bride to someone who leaves a comment.


Anne Gracie spent her childhood and youth on the move, thanks to her father’s job, which took them around the world. The gypsy life taught her that humor & love are universal languages and that favorite books can take you home, wherever you are. 

Anne started her first novel while backpacking solo around the world. Originally published by Harlequin, she’s since written nine ST historical romances for Berkley and a novelization of the first “The Tudors” TV series. Anne is a former president of Romance Writers of Australia, a three time RITA finalist, has twice won the Romantic Book of the Year (Australia) and the National Reader’s Choice Award (USA) and has been listed in Library Journal (USA) best books of the year.  Visit Anne’s website or her FB page for lots more info!


44 thoughts on “Anne Gracie is Visiting for Bring a Friend Friday — on Wednesday!

  1. Mia Marlowe says:

    OMGosh! Your first scene with Lady Beatrice reminds me of my great aunt who talked an intruder out of her home after he demanded sex from her. “You don’t want a bony old woman like me,” she informed him and proceeded to gently bully him out the door. “And I won’t give you any money either.” Once he was out, she called the police and he was arrested a block from her home.

    What a wonderful character your Lady Beatrice sounds!

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Mia, what a great story. Your great aunt sounds fantastic. It’s one of the things I love about old ladies — they say what they thing and they have a lifetime of experience and wisdom. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ebony Morton says:

    I like them in books.They try to match make most of the time in 🙂 I love your books! !!!!

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Thanks for those kind words, Ebony. 😉 Some of them do try to match-make, I agree. Lady Beatrice is a bit more subtle than some in that regard — but in other ways she’s not subtle at all.

  3. Sandi in OH says:

    It sounds like a lovely book. I can’ wait to read it just to see what happens to the hero. Heroes don’t like to be beaten by their aunts.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Hi Sandi — I wouldn’t say beaten by his aunt, so much as thoroughly exasperated, and frustrated because he loves her.

  4. Linda says:

    I just read a book that had a feisty old lady in it: Marsha Canham’s Swept Away. This particular lady was such a character! Unfortunately she only featured in the 1st third of the book. I was most sad that she wasn’t in the rest of it. Yeah, she did rather steal the scene away from the hero/heroine.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Linda, I love Marsha Canham’s books, but I don’t know that one. My old lady refuses to be swept away — and I suspect she’s going to be hanging around in the other books in the series.

  5. JenfromTexas says:

    This books sounds fun — I adore books about friendships. As for fiesty older ladies: there was a family neighbor, Pauline, who defined fiesty: traded romance novels, played cards, remembered early details of my husband’s childhood, wrote me weekly, and exemplified love and loyalty to her family and friends. Plus she had a wicked sense of humor. 🙂

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Jenn it sounds to me like your neighbor, Pauline, is the kind of friend who becomes like family. She sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Jane says:

    Congrats on the new release, Anne. Violet gets the best zingers. I do enjoy old ladies in books and one of my favorites is Lady Osblastone from Stephanie Laurens’ Cynster series.. She’s kind of my like Violet.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Thanks, Jane. Yes, Stephanie Laurens’s Lady O is a character, all right. Sounds like your Violet should be a candidate for the Feisty Old Ladies Club. 😉

      1. Anne Gracie says:

        Oops, just realized which Violet you’re talking about — the one in the photo above. LOL I never think of her as Violet — just the Dowager. 😀

  7. I too long to be the Dowager Duchess! “What’s a weekend?” Can’t wait to meet you in Australia, Anne! Love the sound of Lady Bea!

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Hi Kristan — looking forward to meeting you in person. We’re going to have a blast in Brisbane at the Aussie Romance readers Convention — it’s two weeks away. Are you packed yet? 😉

      1. Anne Gracie says:

        Forgot to say, I just read Somebody To Love and I loved it! A great read.

  8. Shana Shana says:

    Welcome, Anne! That’s a gorgeous book cover. I love Maggie Smith’s character, and I have an old lady character in my current series who is lots of fun to write as well.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Hi Shana — they’re irresitable, those feisty old ladies, aren’t they? i suspect it’s because we all secretly want to say some of the outrageous things they say.

  9. Maria P says:

    I enjoy ladies of any age in the books that I read, as long as they’re spunky! There’s always something to learn from an older woman, though.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Maria, I agree. It’s very hard to empathize with wimpy females in a book. I like mine to be spunky – but not OTT so that they’re not quite believable. It’s a fine line.

  10. Karen H in NC says:

    I love the Dowager Countess Violet in Downton Abbey. I personally think she is the best character in the program! I’m looking forward to reading your Lady Beatrice character. The only other book, or series of books, that I can recall having a old lady character is Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. Lady Danbury is in nearly every book.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      I like to have different generations in a story where possible — it’s more realistic with a family, and Julia Quinn’s wonderful Bridgerton series was all about family. In my very first book the hero and heroine were thrown together by the hero’s grandmother, who was the godmother of the heroine’s long-dead mother. In my first series, starting with The Perfect Rake, as well as a mad-and-evil grandfather, I also had sweet, eccentric Great Uncle Oswald — he appears briefly in The Autumn Bride, too and quite a few people have written to say how much they enjoyed seeing him pop up, even so briefly. I hope you like my Lady Beatrice.

  11. Anne –

    Thanks for joining us today – cant wait to read this one!

    I am a huge Lady Violet Crawley fan – I laughed aloud during this last week’s episode at a couple things she said!!

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Thanks so much for letting me your guest, Terri. Maggie Smith is a wonderful actress, isn’s she? I love her in most everything she does. And I’m sure she loves the role she has in Downton.

  12. eap says:

    I like old ladies in books.

  13. CateS says:

    Old ladies… no filters… telling it like it is… such great fun… well, unless you’re the one being talked to by an old lady..
    Love Lady Violet!!

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Yes indeed Cate — it wouldn’t be all that much fun being on the end of a pithy set-down. Both my grandmothers were masters of that — my paternal one was quite a bit like the Dowager — delivered rapier-like comments in the most ladylike way. The other one was Irish — blunter and less snarky, with no airs and graces.

  14. Connie Fischer says:

    Oh yes, I love feisty old ladies in stories. As I’m aging myself, I plan to be one too!

    I just finished reading “The Autumn Bride” and totally fell in love with Aunt Bea. What a tough, wise and wonderful lady she is. Hope everyone gets a chance to read this super book.

    Now, I must get my hands on more of your novels, Anne. I love the way you write!

    Congratulations on your successes.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Hi Connie — I’m so pleased you enjoyed Autumn Bride. Thank you so much for your very kind remarks– it’s very sweet of you to say so. I hope you enjoy my others as much. If your name is drawn I’ll send you one of the other books.

  15. catslady says:

    My mom’s 90 and she’s been saying what she thinks for years lol. I haven’t got to that point yet, but I hope to some day lol. Your story sounds like a great read!!

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Hi Catslady — I’m sure you’ll take on your mom’s style eventually. I think it can be a great way to be — though most comfortable in books, I think. i don;t want to encourage too much blunt speaking in my vicinity. 😉

  16. bn100 says:

    Don’t mind them in stories; don’t have a fav

  17. Liz V. says:

    Jane Marple and, on suspects, Agatha Christie in her later years.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Jane Marple is a great character, I agree. Have you seen the various versions of her on TV? I think the Geraldine McEwan one is my fave.

  18. Marcy Shuler says:

    I love old ladies in books. LOL I just read Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash and loved the H’s French great aunt, Mémé, who was blind, but maybe not. A total character.

    She told the h, Roxanne, that she detested informality and wasn’t to be called Mémé, but since they were going to be related that the h could call her Antoinette. It wasn’t until later that she learned the great aunt’s true given name was Jacqueline. 😀

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Marcy, Meme sounds like a hoot. I do love a cunning old lady. Must hunt that book out.

  19. Quilt Lady says:

    I love them in books it adds to the story. I feel like I am in old ladyhood myself right now and my body is falling apart.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Hi Quilt Lady, my back has been playing up recently and I find myself walking like my grandad. It’s a scary thing. 😉 Thanks for visiting.

  20. Stefanie D says:

    I absolutely like old ladies in books. Especially those wise ladies who play matchmaker without the hero or heroine realising it.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      Thanks, Stefanie. My old lady doesn’t actually play matchmaker in this book. Perhaps she will in future. I don’t know. She’s hard to keep track of.

  21. Ann s. says:

    I love the old ladies who speak their minds in romances. They are such fun. I want to end up like my Aunty Kay, she was a character. She loved to play her organ and sing. Glow Worm was her favorite song, too bad she always sang off key.

    1. Anne Gracie says:

      I love it when someone enjoys singing so much they don’t care if they’re off key. Of course that’s because they can’t hear they’re off key. I don;’t know if i could stand a lot of it, though. 😉

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