By Mary Jo
MJP: I'm delighted to welcome Maggie Robinson here today. She started out in historical romance and is now writing historical mysteries. She's here to discuss her recent release, Farewell Blues, fourth and last of her historical mystery Lady Adelaide series.
Maggie, I've been enthralled by this series ever since you first told me the premise for book one, Nobody's Sweetheart Now. Will you explain the setup of the series? And tell us about the men in Addie's life!
MR: I’m delighted to be here! Ah, the set up. It sounds…a little crazy. But I’m reminded of this description of The Wizard of Oz: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets, then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”
Boiled down to its basics, there’s a widowed marquess’s daughter, the ghost of her philandering yet fatally charming husband, and a handsome Anglo-Indian detective. They team up not to kill but find killers through four light-hearted cozy mysteries. (Nobody's Sweetheart Now, Whose Sorry Now, Just Make Believe, and Farewell Blues.)
Scotland Yard’s Devenand Hunter has no idea he’s getting some sneaky beyond-the-grave assistance from repenting Rupert, who must redeem himself before he can worm his way into heaven. Lady Adelaide is the only one who can see Rupert, and believe me, she doesn’t want to! He was aggravating enough in life, but in death when he appears, someone else is about to die.
MJP: Tell us more about the protagonist, Lady Adelaide Compton, and her character arc.
MR: I’ll start by quoting Kirkus (blushing): “Robinson balances crime and romance, but her sharp heroine is the real prize.”
Addie starts off as a non-grieving widow who has had her self-confidence badly shattered by Great War flying ace Rupert. He died not over the skies of France, but wrapped around a dry-stone wall with his French mistress. Just when she thinks her normal life is resuming, Rupert turns up to act as an unwanted guardian angel, even though he doesn’t have his wings yet. During the course of the series, she blossoms from a sheltered, somewhat naïve aristocrat to a woman willing to break society’s rules and expectations.
MJP: I'm sorry to say goodbye to these characters, but I thought you ended the series beautifully. Did you have this ending in mind from the beginning, or did it form gradually over the course of the series?
MR: Thank you so much! I had nothing in mind in the beginning, LOL. I’m a total pantser, which is very tricky when you’re supposed to plot tightly for a mystery. But as a defrocked romance writer, I knew I had to get Dev and Addie together romantically somehow. I’d made it difficult for them and myself, since there was such a disparity in their “stations,” and class differences are alive and well to this day 100 years later. But I discovered Dev had been telling me all along where his heart lay, and without giving it away, I do think I solved their HEA pretty successfully. And I must thank you, Mary Jo, for reminding me to make Rupert grovel sufficiently at the end.
MJP: Do you have any interesting tidbits of research you'd like to mention?
MR: The 1920s seem high-gloss and full of mindless hijinks (and fabulous fashion), but beneath the veneer, the Great War left a lasting legacy. A generation of young men were wiped out. Rupert’s lads in the Royal Flying Corps were known as the Suicide Club. After perhaps a total of a dozen hours of flight training, they flew without parachutes and had an average lifespan of eleven days on the front. Sugar was still rationed until right before Christmas 1920. The reaction to all this death and deprivation was a desperate wildness that wouldn’t wind down until the end of the decade with the Great Depression.
On a much lighter note, some of my favorite foods were invented then—Welch’s grape jelly (1924) and Peter Pan peanut butter (1928), for example. What would we do without a PB& J sandwich on Wonderbread (1921) washed down with some Kool-Aid (1927)?
MJP: Will you give us a brief taste of Farewell Blues?
Mount Street, London
A Monday morning toward the end of June, 1925
Mama was in gaol. Four words Lady Adelaide Compton never expected to string together. In fact, at the moment she could barely think or speak at all.
But the ghost of her dead husband Rupert was making up for Addie’s baffled brain and syllabic silence. He stormed about the bedroom of her London pied-à-terre, tying and untying his maroon foulard tie in frustration.
Addie had buried him in that tie in just short of a year and a half ago, and she had agonized over which one to choose—her late husband had been something of a clothes-horse, and she was spoilt for choice. She never expected to see the tie again (or Rupert, for that matter) once his coffin was ensconced in the Compton family crypt in Gloucestershire, and she was rather bored with it now. It was taking Rupert a veritable eternity to winkle his way into Heaven, even after performing several good deeds as reparation for his wicked ways on earth.
“I ask you, Addie, what have I done to deserve this?” he said, not waiting for an answer, for he probably knew exactly what she’d tell him, and at great length too. “It’s not my fault things ended the way they did on Saturday. I was so close to Heaven, sooo close. I could hear the trumpets and practically taste the clouds. Apricot custard with a dash of almond extract, by the way, in case you’re interested. Though I imagine yours might taste different. I understand Heaven is an individualized experience, but at this rate I’ll never find out! It’s so unfair! I solved your last case, didn’t I? Well, most of it. You would have been rid of me forever if your bloo—uh, blessed mother did not go and shoot the Duke of Rufford.”
This stirred Addie to speech. “She didn’t. She couldn’t have.”
Rupert collapsed on her bed. “Well, I suppose not if I’ve been summoned to your side again. Damn it, Addie! I know I was a cad when I was alive, but you must give me some credit for improving! Can’t you put in a good word somehow?”
“To whom would I speak?” asked Addie, genuinely curious. She said her bedtime prayers just like anybody else. Someone should have picked up the fact by now that she wished to be rid of her husband for good.
MJP: Are you working on something new?
MR: I am! I’ve finished the first book of another 1920s-era cozy mystery heavily influenced by Auntie Mame, and have begun the second. No release date yet. Mum’s the word, LOL.
MJP: Will you be giving away a copy to a commenter before midnight tomorrow?
Some think of the 1920s as the first really modern age. If you could time-travel back to the Twenties, what would you do? Shop at Chanel’s atelier in Paris? Motor through Mayfair on a scavenger hunt with the Bright Young People? Sip a Sidecar in a smoky jazz club? Swim with Scott and Zelda on the French Riviera? Take tea with debut author Agatha Christie? Paint with Pablo? The possibilities are endless!
MJP: It's been lovely to have you here, Maggie, and I'm looking forward to what you write next!