The Lady Authors have published their second anthology, At the Billionaire’s Wedding.
A stately home in the English countryside seems the ideal place for a bad boy billionaire and his bride to tie the knot. Until the Internet fails. And the oven breaks. And paparazzi invade. And police crash the bachelorette party. And four unlikely couples discover that passion never waits for perfection, and happily ever after is just an “I do” away.
Last year, after we finished At the Duke’s Wedding, Caroline Linden, Maya Rodale, Katharine Ashe, and Miranda Neville discussed our next collaboration. “Let’s do a contemporary,” someone said. “Yes, let’s!” we all cried as one. So what, that we were four historical authors with almost no experience in writing about modern life. How hard could it be?
“I have a billionaire who needs a wedding,” Maya said. For Maya had briefly ventured into the twenty-first century with her Bad Boy Billionaire series of novellas. So we borrowed Maya’s couple, Duke and Jane, and proceeded to make their weeklong wedding celebration rife with laughs and sexy times and near disasters as four new couples found love and HEA.
As we wrote the connected stories in At the Billionaire’s Wedding, we had to meet the challenge of a whole new time period: The Present. How could we possibly write about things we knew about at first hand? It was difficult, but we are Professional Writers. We buckled down and gritted it out. It turned out there are many similarities between Regency and modern England, where we wisely decided to hold the wedding.
Historicals: Hot dukes.
Contemporaries: Hot showers.
Contemporaries: Shirts that button all the way down.
Historicals: Colin Firth in a wet shirt.
Contemporaries: Strippers dressed as servants.
Historicals: An elopement to Gretna Green in a coach and four.
Contemporaries: Two hours from the airport in an Aston Martin.
Historicals: Gorgeous gowns that require an expert maid to get into.
Contemporaries: Gorgeous gowns that require a “zip!” to get out of.
Historicals: Fantastic foreplay.
Contemporaries: Ultra pleasure condoms.
Historicals: Sex in a closed carriage.
Contemporaries: Sex in a stretch limo.
Historicals: Sex by candlelight in the Gold Saloon.
Contemporaries: Sex by floodlight in the Gold Saloon.
Historicals: No internet.
Contemporaries: Internet—wait, WTF, WHY is there no internet !?!!?
What’s your favorite similarity/difference between contemporary and historical romances? The Lady Authors will give a digital copy of At the Duke’s Wedding to one commenter. (Winner randomly chosen and announced Sunday).
Who wants to be An American Duchess?
Are you a fan of Downton Abbey? I’ve been a fan of the 1920s since I first read The Great Gatsby as a teenager. I’d written several Regency romances and Downton Abbey’s popularity gave me the courage to try something new. I sat down and wrote a funny exchange of telegrams between an austere British duke and his brash American bride—a couple on the brink of divorce.
Here’s an excerpt:
dear madam stop the duke of langford does not divorce his wife stop
In response, the next day he received a telegram that read:
my dear husband stop our marriage is a drafty and leaky institution stop with sagging roof and no modern plumbing stop we are not comfortable in it anymore stop we have outgrown the edifice stop
So once again, he found himself at the telegraph office in the village:
speak for yourself madam stop
To which she replied:
there must be some scandal stop that would make you willing to let me go stop intend to cause embarrassment in the extreme stop
This became the inspiration for An American Duchess, an October release from Harlequin HQN.
Why was it so exciting to write in the 1920s, the era when automobiles, jazz, and the brassiere became household words? I had as much fun as when I watched the Dowager Duchess of Grantham sit in a swivel chair and utters her now-famous line about daily battles with Americans. I realized it’s entertaining to see how people reacted to the technology we now take for granted, and to watch how people survived so much social change.
My heroine, the American Duchess, is Zoe Gifford, an American heiress and aviatrix, who needs a hasty marriage to gain access to her trust fund, and save her mother from disaster. Zoe has endured rejection by snobbish New York society, and she craves change and excitement. Nigel Hazelton, the Duke of Langford, and Zoe immediately spar over women’s rights, jazz dancing, coping with grief, and electric lighting—or lack of it. They drive each other mad but can’t resist each other.
I thought I’d share a few tidbits of my research for the “set” of my story.
The inspiration for Brideswell, the Duke of Langford’s estate:
Nigel’s home, Brideswell Abbey was inspired by details from several English estates. In one scene in the book, Nigel follows his brother Sebastian to the gallery and they get into a fight over Zoe. My gallery setting was inspired by the scene in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice where Colin Firth walks his hounds down a long gallery. I also read up on Highclere Castle, the “real” Downton Abbey, which is still occupied by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. (The photo is of the staircase of Highclere Castle)
I created complete menus for some of the meals, such as Zoe’s first dinner at the estate. I planned out four courses, though I only mention some of the food in the story, such as the Hors D’Oeuvres of Grilled Oysters in Lemon Garlic Butter and Caviar Cucumber Canapés. “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook” by Emily Ansara Baines was a helpful resource.
Creating jazz clubs was a lot of fun. Murray’s was a real club in the 1920s, and there was a cabaret of women performing in scanty costumes that included grass skirts. After a disastrous night out at Murray’s, Zoe and Nigel—along with his sister and brother—spend the night at the Savoy hotel. I loved having the chance to recreate the hotel’s lobby, smoking room, and some of the suites for the story—it was almost like staying there.
The Wedding Dress
It’s funny how distracted you get in the first draft. In revisions, my editor reminded me that I forgot to describe Zoe’s wedding dress! This made me think of the anticipation surrounding Lady Mary’s dress on Downton Abbey. I studied old wedding photos, paying special attention to hemlines. Zoe pushed the limits when it came to short skirts, but what kind of choice would she make for her wedding dress—something edgy and scandalous or more traditional? (The photo shows Princess Mary’s wedding dress in 1922.)
For the wedding ceremony, I had a plum dropped into my lap. In this time period, the word “obey” was taken out of certain wedding vows. That was too intriguing not to include in a scene.
My research always inspires me to write more. I read up on World War 1 to understand my hero Nigel, and was inspired to write a prequel novella to An American Duchess. The Heaven that is Home, about Nigel’s experiences around the war, is now available.
I’m giving away a digital copy of The Heaven that is Home to everyone who comments (any format). And one lucky winner will receive a signed print copy of An American Duchess!
Thanks so much for having me here.
Thanks for joining us, Sharon, and for your very generous giveaway! Readers, for a chance to win a copy of An American Duchess tell us if you watch Downton Abbey. If you do, who’s your favorite character? One person will win a copy of Sharon’s new book. And anyone who comments will bet a digital copy of the novella!
And do check out Sharon’s website for more info, excerpts, and buy links!
Today The Jaunty Quills have a special treat for you. Rita winner (the Rita is the most prestigious award conferred by the Romance Writers of America) Joanna Bourne makes her debut on the blog, and she’s graciously agreed to answer a few questions for us about life, love, and Rogue Spy (which releases tomorrow!).
Keep reading to find out how to win your copy of Rogue Spy.
Shana: Welcome, Jo! Can I call you Jo? Tell readers who might not have read you (shame, readers, shame!) about Rogue Spy and the other books in the Spymasters series.
Joanna Bourne: I’m going to offer the cover copy, since it’s informative without Giving Away Too Much.
Ten years ago he was a boy, given the name Thomas Paxton and sent by Revolutionary France to infiltrate the British Intelligence Service. Now his sense of honor brings him back to London, alone and unarmed, to confess. But instead of facing the gallows, he’s given one last impossible assignment to prove his loyalty.
Lovely, lying, former French spy Camille Leyland is dragged from her safe rural obscurity by threats and blackmail. Dusting off her spy skills, she sets out to track down a ruthless French fanatic and rescue the innocent victim he’s holding—only to find an old colleague already on the case. Pax.
Old friendship turns to new love, and as Pax and Camille’s dark secrets loom up from the past, Pax is left with a choice—go rogue from the Service or lose Camille forever.
Shana: You’ve traveled widely and said in other interviews (yes, I stalk) Paris would be where you’d choose to live. One of many reasons I love reading your books is because it’s so obvious you have been to Paris and know the city well. If readers were to visit Paris, where would you recommend they go to really get the sense of stepping into one of your novels?
JB: Go to the Marais. It’s a big section of old Paris that didn’t get neatened out of existence by Baron Haussmann in the Nineteenth Century. (The Victorians were very fond of doing away with all that untidy history stuff.) There you can see the Medieval city and the grand houses of the aristocrats of the Seventeenth Century.
My Spymaster people are quartered in the Marais in the 1790s. Some of the streets I mention are very much today as they were then. The Marais is a fine place to soak up atmosphere. The whole of Paris was once a city of small, crooked, cobbled streets and narrow stone buildings.
Shana: What is your writing process like? Do you have a daily page or word goal? Do you write early in the morning or late at night? Do you plot or fly by the seat of your pants?
Joanna Bourne: I make outlines. I create a detailed scene-by-scene plan of the story. Not that I follow that, you understand, but I write it out. I do this to give myself confidence and to set my mind at ease. Also, the publisher wants a synopsis before I start writing. I truly hope they never go back and compare that neat initial synopsis with the manuscript I actually turn in.
But I’m naturally a Planner, I think. It is my process. I couldn’t do some of the mystery thrillery suspense bits of a story without knowing how the details fit in place. I have to be very structural.
As to the nitty gritty of writing — once I get my mind centered on the story, I write. Time of day isn’t so important. I guess I don’t approach this in an orderly fashion.
Hmmm … I find I sometimes work better when I’m out at coffee shops or the library. That’s about it for ‘writing habits’.
I haven’t tried setting page or word counts. Mostly I write about five or six hours and then run out of steam.
I recently set up one of those ‘walking desks’. It is an experiment in progress.
Shana: I want one of those desks. Do you have a day job or do you write fulltime?
Joanna Bourne: I’m lucky enough that I can work full time. No day job. I have such respect for writers who hold down full time jobs or maybe have kids, and still keep up a productive writing schedule.
Way to go, says I.
Shana: Did you do any special research for Rogue Spy? Tell us one interesting fact you’ve learned from your research for Rogue Spy or another of your books.
Joanna Bourne: I have the notion of placing a scene in the next book at one of the clothes-washing areas outside of Paris. The city’s laundry would be carted out to the green fields of what was then the countryside, washed in the waters of the Seine, and spread out to dry on the grass and over the bushes.
There’s nothing like period prints and painting to give us the details of the past . . . one painting, being worth a thousand words, as it were. I’ve been able to find dozens of wonderful pictures of French laundresses going about their work and bright French clothing lying over the fields.
Shana: Finally, tell us what’s next for you.
Joanna Bourne: Next up is the Séverine story, set in Paris in the early 1820s. I’m early in the process on that one and really don’t know exactly how I’m going to put it all together. Some intriguing stuff going on though. A hero nobody’s seen before. Well, except Séverine’s seen him.
Shana: Oh, I’ve been waiting for this one!
Readers, now it’s your turn. If you could visit any country or city in the world, which would you choose? One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win a copy of Rogue Spy. [U.S and Canada only). The winner will be announced on Sunday.
Visit Jo’s website to learn more about her.
Order Rogue Spy now
Check out my Facebook page this week for a chance to win 3 of Joanna Bourne’s backlist. Super easy entry!
Please join me in welcoming USA Today Bestselling historical romantic suspense author Erica Monroe to the blog!
Vanessa Kelly: Hi, Erica! Welcome to Jaunty Quills. Tell us a little bit about your new book, Secrets in Scarlet.
Erica Monroe: Thanks for having me at the Jaunty Quills today, Vanessa! It’s an honor to be amongst all of you. And Jaunty, of course, I do love so porcupines—they’re one of the few animals that share my desire to have an outward prickly appearance. (Jaunty, here. I knew that Erica had good taste the moment I saw her!)
Secrets in Scarlet tells the story of Poppy O’Reilly and Thaddeus Knight. Poppy is what society would have termed a “fallen woman,” or a woman who had sex out of marriage. Shunned by her hometown, Poppy moves to London to join her brother Daniel (hero of A Dangerous Invitation) and she takes a job at a factory in the rookery of Spitalfields. She’s crafted this faux history because she’s determined that her daughter, Moira, won’t have to face society’s scrutiny because of Poppy’s mistake in falling for a blackguard who abandoned her after taking her virginity.
But when a girl is a murdered at the factory Poppy works at, Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. He senses that Poppy is hiding something, but he can’t figure out what. He recruits Poppy to help him look into the girl’s murder, and from there their relationship blossoms into something neither was prepared for. Poppy knows she should stay away from Thaddeus, but his sweet, earnest nature soothes her anxious soul. Meanwhile, the villains that Thaddeus is investigating are determined that Thaddeus won’t solve this case, so they’ve got to contend with that drama too.
VK: Sounds like they’ll be in quite a perilous situation! I read your first novel–and LOVED it–and I remember the villains being graverobbers. What will we see this time around?
EM: Because this is historical romantic suspense, there’s always going to be a “baddie” of some sort that the hero and heroine have to triumph over. For some reason, the suspense always comes to me first—I get this wild idea to blow something up, or have someone die by a strange gunshot wound, etc, and I have to build a story around it.
In ADI, I had a largely male criminal class. I love the idea of a villainess, and I wanted one who was absolutely bone chillingly cold. Thus came Effie Larker, who oversees the factory that Poppy works at. Effie needed a frightening husband as well, so I created Boz Larker, who is more of a brute-type than Effie. He’s the muscle, while Effie is the brains. I liked that dynamic a lot because in the end it’s Effie who holds more of the power in their relationship. Villains are always interesting to me, mostly because I like to pick apart their motivations. This is the reason I watch so many crime shows!
VK: Secrets in Scarlet is your second novel in the Rookery Rogues, correct?
EM: Secrets in Scarlet is indeed the second novel in the Rookery Rogues. Previously, I released A Dangerous Invitation and a short cliffhanger prequel to ADI called A Wayward Man (it is free at all retailers if your readers would like to check it out). Next I’ve got a novella called Beauty and the Rake which will be out during the winter, and book 3 Scandal Becomes You which will release in late spring. Secrets in Scarlet has been awhile coming, as it was originally intended to be a novella, but then Poppy and Thaddeus demanded that they had enough story to fill an entire book, thankyouverymuch.
VK: Tell us a little bit more about Thaddeus. He sounds like he’d be a beta hero, which we don’t see as much in historical romance.
EM: While I know it’s not fair to play favorites with characters, I have to say that I truly enjoyed writing Thaddeus. He’s interesting to me because he’s pretty socially awkward—he’s so cerebral, but the whole emotional side to the human relationship befuddles him immensely. He was a cross between Chuck Bartowski in Chuck to Elementary’s take on Sherlock Holmes with a bit of my own nerdy husband added in. To me, there’s something delightful about a man who is highly intellectual, yet a bit bumbling in his personal life. When he meets Poppy, he’s attracted not just to her beauty but her mind. He loves that he can talk about literature with him, and she finds his pretty silly attempts at flirtation to be charming. He’s a good guy who’s trying to do the right thing, but like most good guys he’s still got his flaws. But I loved his honesty, his zeal for solving mysteries, and the shy way he has.
VK: It sounds like it’ll be a great book! And you’ve got an excerpt to share with us too.
EM: I do. This is from when Thaddeus first meets Poppy, who he refers to as “Madame Surrey.”
He towered over her petite frame. Close contact didn’t appeal to him usually. So why was he compelled to take this woman into his arms? To draw her body against his?
Madame Surrey spun around, almost colliding with him. He caught her, steadying her with one arm wrapped around the small of her back. She was everything fragile and delicate, her subtle curves molding to his touch. What was this strange sensation that took hold of him? His hands had become warm where he touched her.
He stole a quick look at her arms to confirm that she was not aflame. No, her dress bore no singe marks. He smelled no smoke. Nothing but honey and vanilla.
“I—” His tongue was leaden in his mouth.
Her palms stretched out against his chest, yet she didn’t push against him to break free. That was surprising. Was she lost in this connection too?
No. He was becoming melodramatic. It was nothing more than a trick of physicality. He shook his head, reminding himself to focus.
Reluctantly, he released his grip on her. She didn’t move away from him. Her eyes bored into him, like emerald oceans at high tide. Her breath caught, held for a taut moment.
The world stopped before him.
She blinked, sliding from his arms. Though she had taken but a step back, the distance crashed upon him as though she’d run screaming down the street.
That didn’t make a damn bit of sense.
And we’ve got a giveaway! Erica will award an e-copy of Secrets in Scarlet to one reader. Tell us what your ideal hero would be like for a chance to win! I’ll also throw in a copy of Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, which also has secrets and suspense!
Be sure to visit Erica’s website for more info!
I’m thrilled to welcome fellow Kensington historical romance author Theresa Romain to the blog. She writes lovely historical romance that is witty and smart, sexy and emotional. She has a new Christmas romance hitting the shelves this week!
Thanks, dear Jaunty and Quills, for letting me join you today–especially Vanessa, my gracious hostess! I’m very happy to be here to chat about my newest historical romance, SEASON FOR DESIRE, which just came out on Tuesday.
SEASON FOR DESIRE is the story of an earl’s daughter who accidentally finds herself in York, an American on a treasure hunt, several mysterious puzzle boxes, and a Christmas snowstorm. I’m sorry to say there are no porcupines in this book (or in Regency England), but this is the first one of my books in which pets play a significant role. (Jaunty, here. What sort of country doesn’t have porcupines? I will never go there!)
I have no pets in real life, because my husband is allergic to any creature with fur or feathers. So clearly I have a lot of pent-up pet ownership wishes. When my hero and heroine, Giles and Audrina, visit a stately home in Yorkshire, they meet an elderly viscountess with not one dog, but eight.
Why eight? Well, the dogs serve a lot of different functions in the story besides eating tea biscuits (which they do, and happily). Their owner, Lady Dudley, describes herself as one who takes in strays. Though her mind is beginning to wander, she and her husband both long to have company around them as Christmas draws near. Before the end of the story, Lady Dudley will take in the human sort of stray as well as the canine.
The Dudleys’ widowed daughter-in-law, Sophy, is allergic to dogs, and so she spends most of her time in the library, where the dogs are not allowed. But honestly, Sophy would spend most of her time in there anyway. For a variety of reasons (spoilers!), she’s gotten used to hiding herself away from everyone. Her inability to be around the dogs is no different from her inability to join in the family circle…at first. (You guys knew I wouldn’t let her stay lonely, right?)
You see, a lot of things change when Giles and Audrina and their treasure-hunting companions arrive. For Audrina, raised in strict formality, the Dudleys’ household shows her how to be comfortable. For Giles, traveling with his widowed father, this is a chance to set aside some of the strains in their relationship. And whenever things get too tense, a dog is nearby to pet and play with and give a little time for thought.
By the time the story bids goodbye to Castle Parr, not one romance but three have begun to bloom. What can I say? I was in a happily-ever-after kind of mood when I wrote SEASON FOR DESIRE. And yes, I even brought up the dogs again during the final proposal scene. Because as heroine Audrina says, “Since we left Castle Parr, do you not miss having dogs about?”
Now I’m wondering: what sort of pets do you all have? Or if you don’t have any, is there a pet you wish you had, or a favorite pet in a book? Tell me all about it! One random commenter will win a print copy of my backlist historical romance SEASON FOR SCANDAL, a marriage of convenience holiday tale. Open internationally.
For a taste of SEASON FOR DESIRE, please stop by my website! You can read all of Chapter 1 here: http://theresaromain.com/books/season-for-desire/.