It all started with a house. Not just any house, a mansion in Grosvenor Square. During the Regency, Grosvenor Square was home to the fabulously wealthy and titled, so what better place to throw a party? Of course, that’s only the beginning of the story. Fellow JQ Vanessa Kelly is here with me to chat more about how our holiday anthology, A Grosvenor Square Christmas, came to be.
Vanessa: I had a blast working on the antho with you ladies, too! Actually, I think the original idea to write a Christmas anthology was yours, wasn’t it? And although I have menopause memory, which basically means no memory to speak of, I recall that the four of us brainstormed settings for an anthology of connected stories. There have been a number of these holiday or Regency anthologies, but most are set in the country at a house party. That makes particular sense for a holiday story, since the haute ton tended to head off to their country estates in the winter. But some folks must have stayed in London for Christmas, and we thought it would be cool to place the action of our stories at a grand holiday party in the city. And what could be a grander setting than a mansion on Grosvenor Square, one of the premier places to reside in Mayfair?
Shana: Exactly! We wanted to do something a little different, and someone mentioned it would be fun if we wrote about an annual ball, hosted by someone whose invitations were coveted. And then Kate or Anna said we absolutely must have an eccentric butler, and Philbert was born. He actually turned in to something of a sexy secondary character.
Vanessa: Philbert started out as something of a running joke when we were brainstorming common elements. Obviously, we needed the interior of the house to remain basically the same, and the owner of No. 3 Grosvenor Square had to play a role, too. And Regency authors and readers all know how important butlers were to the smooth running of any household. How could you throw the most successful party of the year, decade after decade, without a fantastically competent butler? We did initially envision Philbert as something of an eccentric and even comic character, but when we created our hostess—the dashing Lucy Frost, the widowed Countess of Winterson—Philbert’s role began to change. We began to wonder exactly why Lucy never remarried, and it appeared that it had something to do with Philbert, who morphed from a stodgy and eccentric fellow into a tall, mysterious, and attractive man. What happens to Lucy and Philbert over the course of the four stories became part of the fun of writing these stories.
Shana: Well, in my story Philbert was initially short, but I quickly came to see the error of my ways. As you said, we wanted the interior of the house to match up in our stories. We all referred to these pictures and more for inspiration.
Another element we had to work out was our timeline. Kate and Anna wanted to write stories set technically after the Regency, in 1825 and 1830, while I wanted to set mine technically before the Regency, in 1803. You anchored us in 1818.
Since Lucy Frost is rather young in my story, set in 1803 and has aged 27 years by the time Kate wrote about her, we also needed a model who had aged publicly over time. We used Helen Mirren, who was and still is quite lovely.
Also, in contrast, I think Kate and Anna’s stories are stand-alones, but both of ours have connections to books we’ve written. But despite all these differences, we made it work!
How do Nigel Dash and Amelia Easton fit into the world of your other books?
Vanessa: Nigel Dash is a secondary character in all four books of my Stanton Family Series. He’s the typical best friend and consummate good guy, always stepping into the social breach to save the day. There isn’t an awkward moment he can’t smooth over, or a grumpy old dowager he can’t charm. My readers loved Nigel and wondered when he would get his HEA. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do that. Amelia is a new character, and I think she’s just perfect for Nigel.
Shana, your story is connected to your Sons of the Revolution Series, which are wonderful books. Where does The Seduction of a Duchess fit in?
Shana: Readers were always asking me if the widowed heroes’ mother, Rowena, got her HEA. They also told me they were craving stories with older heroines. I thought this was the perfect venue to tell Rowena’s story.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that the anthology is digital only and it’s FREE on most retailers. The anthology is composed of short stories, around 10,000 words each, and we’re hoping is that those of you who haven’t read one of us featured in the anthology will read our story and give one of our longer books a try.
BN (waiting for it to publish)
Four breathtakingly romantic tales of a Regency Christmas from four bestselling romance authors.
Down through the years, enchantment touches a tall gray house in Grosvenor Square. The legend of Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball promises true love and happiness to one lucky couple. Who will feel the magic this winter?
1803 – The Seduction of a Duchess by Shana Galen
Rowena Harcourt, the Duchess of Valère, never forgot the handsome footman who helped her escape the French Revolution. For fourteen years, Gabriel Lamarque has loved Rowena—now at Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball, has fate finally delivered a chance to win her hand?
1818 – One Kiss for Christmas by Vanessa Kelly
Nigel Dash is London’s most reliable gentleman, a reputation he never minded until he fell in love with beautiful Amelia Easton. Unfortunately, Amelia sees Nigel as a dependable friend, not a dashing suitor. At Lady Winterson’s famous Christmas ball, Nigel vows to change Amelia’s mind—by sweeping her off her feet.
1825 – His Christmas Cinderella by Anna Campbell
At the season’s most glittering ball, a girl who has never dared to dream of forever after discovers a Christmas miracle.
1830 – The Last First Kiss by Kate Noble
Susannah Westforth has always loved Sebastian Beckett – but he’s only ever seen her as a friend. When Sebastian takes his Grand Tour, Susannah transforms herself into a woman he’ll notice. Now Sebastian is back, just in time for Lady Winterson’s Christmas ball – but the last thing he expects to see is his little Susie, all grown up…
You’re invited to join the whirling dance at Lady Winterson’s sparkling Christmas ball, where miracles happen and true love shines forever. How can you resist?