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Regency England

The DA3 Interview & Giveaway: Lois Lanes

The DA3 Interview & Giveaway: Lois Lanes

Maybe not exactly Lois Lane, but each book in today’s DA³ Interview features a heroine who works at a newspaper. Here, in order by chronological setting, are the books:

Seducing Mr. Knightly

FIRST LINE: Some things are simply true: the earth rotates around the sun, Monday follows Sunday, and Miss Annabelle Swift loves Mr. Derek Knightly with a passion and purity that would be breathtaking were it not for one other simple truth: Mr. Derek Knightly pays no attention to Miss Annabelle Swift.

Words Spoken True by Ann Gabhart

FIRST LINE: Adriane Darcy’s heart pounded as the darkness settled down around her like a heavy blanket.

The Last Woman He'd Ever Date by Liz Fielding

FIRST LINE: Sir Robert Cranbook glared across the table. Even from his wheelchair and ravaged by a stroke he was an impressive man, but his hand shook as he snatched the pen his lawyer offered and signed away centuries of power and privilege.














In Seducing Mr. Knightly, Maya Rodale concludes the Regency-set Writing Girls series with Annabelle, the shy advice columnist who asks her readers’ help in attracting the attention of the man she loves from not-so-afar—he’s the paper’s owner.

Editorial wars fan the flames of the social and political unrest of 1850’s Louisville in Ann Gabhart’s Words Spoken True. Adriane writes for her father’s newspaper, but the arrival of a Northern editor challenges her beliefs.

Finally, back to Britain and the present day for Liz Fielding’s The Last Woman He’d Ever Date. Claire is the gossip columnist for a village paper, which is far from the prestigious journalistic career she had in mind for herself pre-unplanned pregnancy. One great story on the self-made millionaire in town could turn things around, though.

The interview:

Instead of the usual six-word memoir, let’s stick with the newspaper theme: A headline for your protagonist:

Maya Rodale: Lovelorn Writing Girl Attempts Audacious Schemes To Seduce Rogue

Ann Gabhart: Editor’s Daughter Defies Conventions by Writing News Stories

Liz Fielding: Single Mother Struggling To Keep Job

How your heroine came to journalism:

Maya Rodale: Annabelle entered a contest in The London Weekly, never imagining that she’d win the position of advice columnist (“Dear Annabelle”) and become one of the four scandalous and celebrated Writing Girls.

Ann Gabhart: Adriane was born to it, a newspaperman’s daughter. She grew up in the newspaper offices of her father and learned about getting out the news.

Liz Fielding: Claire Thackeray should have been a high-flying journalist. Instead she fell in love with the wrong guy, had a baby and is now writing up the women’s interest and gossip on a small town newspaper.

What readers will love about your hero:

Maya Rodale: Besides being devastatingly handsome, wealthy, and powerful… He’s a man that gives women a chance to be something more that what society allows. While he is fiercely focused on his work at the newspaper, Annabelle recognizes “the intensity with which he might love and make love to a woman—her—if only he would.”  She’s right. Oh, so right.

Ann Gabhart: Blake Garrett reports the news as it happens. He fights for what he believes and refuses to be intimidated. He works and loves with his whole being.

Liz Fielding: He’s a man hell-bent on revenge, but right from the start we see his vulnerability, and a well-developed conscience when he bathes Claire’s wounded foot.

The setting for the first kiss: 

Maya Rodale: In the drawing room…

Ann Gabhart: In a carriage…

Liz Fielding:  In a muddy ditch…

A scene you vividly remember writing:

Maya Rodale: I had spent years writing the first chapter in my head and I knew exactly what I wanted it to be. Finally sitting down to write it—in bed, on a crisp autumn day—was such a pleasure. (Take a look at chapter one!).

Ann Gabhart: The election riot scene where Blake and Adriane see the mob burning the Irish tenement houses. The history is intense and so are the characters’ reactions to what is happening and to each other.

Liz Fielding: Hal invites Claire to be his date at a charity auction. Until now, although he hasn’t been able to stay away from her, he has been planning to make her pay for what her father did to him as a boy and every scene between them is underpinned with threat. At the auction, he realises that he’s been fooling himself, that what he wants is Claire Thackeray, in his bed, in his life. On the surface the scene is all about sex, but the subtext is all about letting go of the past.

For me, the heart of a good tale of journalism lies in the ethical dilemmas. Tell us about one your heroine faces.

Maya Rodale: Annabelle receives a letter requesting advice from her rival for the hero’s affections. She’s torn between doing her job well—and thus giving advice that would thwart her own goals—or putting herself first for once. Of course, the first thing she does is stuffs the letter in a book on a high shelf and tries to forget about it.  It’s true: even romance heroines are prone to procrastination.

Ann Gabhart: In the 1850s, newspapers were how people got their news. Editors wrote fiery editorials intended to incite readers. Adriane knows her father’s editorial rants are escalating the political unrest in the city, but there’s little she can do to influence his opinions. Then she finds out her father owes one of the politicians money and she wonders if her father is reporting what he believes or what he thinks the politician wants him to believe. She wants their news stories to be truth, but at the end of the story, she is confronted with the dilemma of reporting the truth of what has happened and facing social and economic ruin or not reporting the whole story and being in a position to write the news on another day.

Liz Fielding: In order to get back onto the career path she originally envisaged, Claire needs a big story. The arrival of Hal North, the bad-boy made good, is her opportunity. He’s a person of interest but he guards is privacy well. He’s a scalp every editor would pay highly for and she knows where he comes from and all his youthful misdeeds. Then she discovers the truth about his birth and can name her price.

What’s distinctive about the role of the press in the time period of your novel?

Maya Rodale: The Writing Girl novels center around The London Weekly, a fictional but “typical” newspaper from the Regency era that is based largely on actual newspapers from that time period that I read while doing research. Those papers and the society were gossip-tastic–just like our society today. Whether The London Weekly or People Magazine, or calling hours, Twitter, salons, and Facebook, it just seems human to want to know what other people are doing and to connect with them.

Ann Gabhart: The 1850s were a decade of political unrest in America. Not only was the Civil War lurking on the horizon, but also an influx of Irish and German immigrants was settling in cities like Louisville, the setting of Words Spoken True. Some of the established citizens of these cities feared the immigrants would take over the country if they began getting elected to office. That led to election riots like “Bloody Monday” in Louisville where dozens were killed. Some people put part of the blame for the riots on newspaper editors because of how their fiery editorials incited the public.

Newspapers were how people at that time got the news. People also looked to newspapers as a means of entertainment and enjoyed reading about their own social functions and activities. These stories were generally reported in the flowery language of the Victorian age.

Liz Fielding: The present-day obsession with celebrity has led to phone hacking, bin diving journalism. Personal privacy has been lost in the rush to salivate over the latest scandal or ogle Prince Harry’s bum, all in the name of “public interest”. We have become voyeurs of other people’s intimate moments.

How was your heroine’s characterization affected by putting her to work in this particular profession?

Maya Rodale: It was a tricky balance because Annabelle is decidedly not the sort of daring girl who would do something scandalous, like write for a newspaper. And yet one of her defining characteristics is that she extremely generous, kind and helpful to others, even at her own expense. So while she would never author, say, a gossip column, she’s a natural to offer advice to anyone who asks.

Ann Gabhart: Adriane’s character was greatly influenced by her work on the newspaper. She had “ink in her blood,” which meant she could never be truly happy unless she was involved in the business of getting out the news. At this particular time period, the middle of the nineteenth century, such work was not something a lady would do or even be thought capable of doing. So Adriane had to be independent and not concerned with the rules of society.

 Liz Fielding: Claire gave up her place at a premier university to have her baby, defying her mother and her teachers who tried to persuade her to have an abortion. She’s probably the smartest reporter on her local paper, but is confined to women’s interest, reviews of the local pantomime, small stuff. Hal’s story gives her a chance to break out, but instead of excitement at the challenge, the reality of exposing someone to the public gaze makes her uncomfortable. Even when she discovers what he is planning, she hesitates to send her story to one of the big tabloid newspapers. And yes, like everyone, I read the gossip columns!

What’s coming up next? 

Maya Rodale: In addition to Seducing Mr. Knightly I’ve also published a light-hearted and humerous novella, Three Schemes and a Scandal. I’m also at work on a new series which features a contemporary heroine writing a series of historical romance novels based on her own romantic misadventures.

Ann Gabhart: My inspirational novel, Scent of Lilacs, will be re-issued in March 2013 with a new cover. Then in July, my second Rosey Corner book, Small Town Girl, will be released.

Liz Fielding: I have just finished the first draft of my second “ice cream” book. The first, Tempted By Trouble, was published a couple of years ago and I’ve now written Sorrel’s story. No title as yet.

Your favorite book at age 10:

Maya Rodale: Anne of Green Gables—which is still one of my favorite books.

Ann Gabhart: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

Liz Fielding: I read so much as a child and I’m trying to remember what I was reading about that age. What Katy Did Next, maybe. It’s a book I loved. Anne of Green Gables, Pamela Brown’s The Blue Door Theatre, or Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes. They are all still bright in my memory.

Many thanks to Maya, Ann, and Liz. Readers, leave a comment or question for a chance to win one of the featured books.


REVIEW: Midnight Scandals by Courtney Milan,Sherry Thomas,Carolyn Jewel

REVIEW: Midnight Scandals by Courtney Milan,Sherry Thomas,Carolyn Jewel

Disclaimer: Robin aka Janet does freelance editing and she edited this novella. Sunita received the ARC and neither saw the book in earlier forms nor talked about with with Robin or any of the authors.

Dear Ms. Jewel, Ms. Milan, and Ms. Thomas,

I’ve been waiting for this anthology since I first heard about it last spring. The authors are among the strongest writing historical romance today and the premise linking the three novellas is clever and unusual: each is set in the same location but in a different time period. The three are quite different from each other, as you might expect, but they fit together. And each demonstrates, for me at least, why self-publishing is such a critical alternative to traditional publishers. I would love to see these themes and storylines in a Big 6 book, but I’m not holding my breath.

Midnight Scandals by Courtney Milan,Sherry Thomas,Carolyn JewelOne Starlit Night by Carolyn Jewel is the first in the anthology and takes place in 1813. Portia Temple and Crispin, Viscount Northword were childhood friends and something more, but they separated and didn’t see each other for a decade. When they meet again, Northword is a widower and Portia is a spinster looking to marry and leave the household of her newly-wedded brother. Both still have powerful, unresolved feelings for the other, but the traumatic event that led to their parting seem to make a reconciliation impossible. Portia knows she can’t coexist under the same roof as her sister-in-law, so she is determined to marry and set up her own household. She has chosen someone with whom she feels she can live a comfortable life, but now Northword has shown up and reminded her of the good and bad things that lie between them.

I haven’t read a book by Jewel in quite a while, but I immediately remembered why her writing is so distinctive and memorable. By the second chapter I was completely immersed in the story. The prose was so hypnotic that I absolutely had to read on until the end, and I almost forgot where I was. The relationship between Portia and Northword is intensely depicted, and I had no trouble believing that they could emotionally pick up where they had left off.

The other characters are just are sharply etched. Portia’s brother is a man who happens to be a vicar, not a stock Minister character, and the scenes with Northword convey the easy relationship of two long-time friends. Eleanor, Portia’s new sister-in-law, is a terrifying person, not least because she really seems to be trying to do what she thinks is best. I couldn’t believe Portia didn’t loathe her; I certainly did.

There’s very little backstory; we never find out exactly what Northword has been doing for the past ten years (or Portia for that matter), but I didn’t care. I just wanted them to find a way past their differences and the pain of the past, back to each other. And they did. Grade: B+

What Happened at Midnight by Courtney Milan is the second novella and it is set in 1856/1857. It opens with a bang: Mary Chartley is being threatened by two of her father’s investment partners, who suspect him of embezzling from them and then fleeing with the money. She is rescued by the third, much younger partner, John Mason, with whom she might have had a future if her father hadn’t ruined her life along with his own. Flash forward eighteen months: Mary is now a paid companion, and John has finally tracked her to Somerset. John is convinced Mary knows where the money is and plans to force the information out of her if necessary, but he can’t help notice how she has been transformed. No longer the sweet, funny, captivating creature he fell for, Mary has trained herself to be blank and self effacing, so now John has two mysteries to unravel.

This novella is sharply different from the first. The prose is plainer and unvarnished, which suits the characters and the story. John and Mary are almost aggressively ordinary, by romance novel standards (although Mary is a gifted pianist and John a skilled engineer), and their story is infused with melancholy. Mary is still mourning the passing of her past life and now is trapped in a present that she is unable to improve or escape from. Her companion position has turned into a nightmare, with an outwardly benevolent employer who is not what he seems. Over the course of the story, John learns to trust Mary again, they rekindle their romance, and the villain is foiled. The way this last outcome is achieved is a wonderful use of a historical event in fiction. It is organic to the plot and faithful to history.

I liked John and Mary. They were a bit prosaic, but the way their romance developed was warm and genuine and sensual. Sir Walter didn’t work that well for me as a villain. I wanted to know why he was the way he was, and without that knowledge he was more of a stock villain than he might have been. I also had trouble with the fact that Mary was so capable at the beginning of the story but then was so downtrodden and unable to help herself when she was a companion. I found that hard to reconcile. The defeat of the various villains at the end was a bit over the top as well; after the melancholy of the majority of the novella, I found it hard to shift emotional gears so thoroughly. These caveats notwithstanding, I enjoyed the story a great deal. Grade: B

Finally, Sherry Thomas’s A Dance in Moonlight carries the story of Doyle’s Grange into 1896. Isabelle Englewood has rented the house for reasons that no longer apply. She is preparing to leave when she encounters Ralston Fitzwilliam, who resembles her erstwhile lover, Fitz, in person even more than in name. Fitzwilliam is enchanted by Isabelle and cannot resist what she offers despite knowing he is only a surrogate for her Fitz. Despite this fraught beginning, both find that they are drawn strongly to each other. But can Fitz trust that he is more than a convenient replacement? For that matter, can Isabelle?

I should say here that I haven’t read Thomas’s previous novel, Ravishing the Heiress, in which the story of Fitz and Isabelle begins, so I had no preconceptions about Isabelle. Readers who disliked her there may not be able to overcome those attitudes. For me, the story of mistaken identity and the way in which Isabelle and Fitzwilliam find a new, unblemished point of connection was engaging. I really liked the first half of the novella, which focuses almost exclusively on the two of them and exemplifies Thomas’s beautiful prose and mesmerizing ability to depict sensual, romantic interactions. Although her style is quite different, my reading experience was similar to the one I had with the first novella in the anthology.

I found the second half less compelling. Once other family members (and Fitz and his wife) show up and the focus expands, I felt as if I could see the plot machinery operating. The constraints of the shorter format meant that the objections to Fitzwilliam (he is a dead ringer for Fitz) and the internal conflicts between the characters (their quickly moving romance and their lingering feelings for previous partners) had to be wrapped up quickly. As usual, though, Thomas’s characterizations and writing are impossible for me to resist, and I found the novella to be an enjoyable read. Those readers who come to the experience with strong feelings about Isabelle and Fitz might have a slightly different reaction. Grade: B-

Taken as a whole, there were a couple of standout aspects of the anthology. First, the production values are excellent, from the cover to the formatting to the clean, polished text. Second, each story took a risk with the plot and the heroine’s character. In Jewel’s story in particular, but in the other two as well, the heroine did things that I haven’t seen recently (or ever) in traditionally published novels. It reminded me that for all the problems readers encounter, there are rewards to the self-publishing model that make trudging through some of the slush worthwhile. As I said at the top of this review, I’ve been waiting for this book for a while. It was well worth the wait.