Mary Jo here. As always, I'm delighted to interview sister Word Wench Anne Grace on her delicious new book. The Rake's Daughter is second in her Brides of Bellaire Gardens series. Besides being a lovely romance, it's a moving story of friendship and sisterhood.
MJP: Anne, will you tell us about the set-up and setting for this series?
AG: The series is based around a large private garden in Mayfair, with access only from the back of the houses that surround it. In some of these house live young women, young women who will one day become brides . . .
MJP: How did Leo, Lord Salcott, a sober and hard working young lord, find himself landed with the guardianship of a young woman he's never even heard of?
AG: It was a mistake. The father of the two young women, the Rake of the title, meant to leave the guardianship to Leo's father, naming him "Josiah Leonard Thorne, the sixth earl of Salcott." But Leo's father was the fifth earl, and seeing both Leo and his father had the same Christian names, and his father had predeceased the rake, the document was legal.
MJP: Tell us about the two half-sisters, Clarissa and Isobel.
The two lonely, motherless little girls met by accident, just before their ninth birthdays, and defying their father, who planned to dump the newly bereaved Isobel in the nearest orphanage, decided to stay together. You can read part of this scene here. The two sisters grew up together in the country, and are very loyal to each other.
MJP: I would describe Leo as a decent man wanting to do the right thing, but rather…clueless? How do you see him?
AG: Yes, he's decent and honorable, but also rather clueless — especially in dealing with women. He's been in charge of his family estate since the age of sixteen and, being used to everyone obeying him, he's become rather autocratic. As well, just when it looks like his life is going to be his own to live, he is lumped with yet another unwanted responsibility. So when the two girls don't obey his instructions, he's baffled and frustrated. But he's a good man at heart, and as you say, trying to do the right thing. He's also been warned against Izzy by her horrid father, and it takes him a good while to realize that it was, in fact, a terrible act of spite.
Leo is also not exactly in touch with his emotions, and Izzy really gets under his skin from the start, and he really doesn't handle that well at first.
I do like to see a hero learn. <g>
MJP: And he does. And there are complications! How does that happen?
AG: Leo is insistent that Izzy cannot make her come-out in society with Clarissa, that having her illegitimate half-sister with her in public, as an equal, will reflect badly, and since Clarissa is his ward, he wants to protect her from that.
But the girls don't agree. First he makes Izzy what he thinks is a generous offer, which she refuses, much to his bafflement. Then when Leo is needed on his country estate they take matters into their own hands. Much to his fury. And alarm — because of course, it's bound to come crashing down on their heads and cause a huge scandal.
MJP: Not surprisingly in an Anne Gracie novel, there is a splendidly eccentric old lady! Please tell us about Lady Scattergood and her furry friends.
AG: I must admit, I do like my eccentric old ladies. Lady Scattergood is Leo's aunt, who also lives on Bellaire Gardens, and since he's a bachelor and it would be improper to have the girls live with him, he houses them with his aunt.
Lady Scattergood is somewhat of a recluse and lives surrounded by a dense clutter of ornaments and items from all over the world that her late husband sent back from his extensive travels. She's outspoken, a bit of a misandrist, though very kind-hearted, and her views on marriage are . . . unique. She doesn't go out, but she collects strays — mainly little dogs, but also a starving young urchin found in a gutter, who she brought home and is training to be a footman.
MJP: Can you give us an excerpt to whet reader appetites?
"We are so looking forward to shopping in the capital. We've heard so much about it—the Pantheon Bazaar, the Western Exchange in Bond Street—we passed Bond Street on the way here—"
"Hatchards bookshop," her half sister interjected.
"Oh yes, we are desperate for new books, and then of course we will want new dresses for our come-out—the village dressmaker is good, but she is not au courant with the latest fashions. Perhaps your aunt—"
Leo stopped the eager flow with a raised hand. "Spare me! I know nothing of feminine fashions." His aunt, as they would discover, knew even less but that wasn’t his concern. "Just have your bills sent to me and they will be taken care of."
He turned to the half-sister. "And you, Miss Burton, what are your plans? Are you seeking employment? Perhaps I could help you find something suited to someone in your position."
"Someone in her position?" Miss Studley glanced at him, surprised. "Izzy will make her come-out with me, of course. And—"
"I’m afraid that's not possible," Leo said. "The circumstances of her birth—"
"Are not her fault," Miss Studley cut him off vehemently. "Izzy and her mother were very badly treated by my father—our father—"
"Who ain't in heaven," her half-sister interjected sotto voce. "Unhallowed be his name. . . Because of course, he's in the other place."
Leo gave her a sharp look. She responded with a faint mischievous smile and raised one shoulder in an infinitesimal shrug. Nothing shy or demure about this one.
You can also read Leo's reaction to the news of his unexpected guardianship on amazon — click here.
MJP: I've already read this story twice and it was delightful both times. What might we expect in the next book in this series?
AG: The next book is Clarissa's story, and because her guardian is away on his honeymoon, he asks his friend Lord Randall to keep an eye on Clarissa. Which, as her sister said: "That's like setting a fox to watch the chickens." Lord Randall, you see, has something of a reputation as a rake.
MJP: Now I'm looking forward to Book 3! Will you be giving away a copy of The Rake's Daughter to a commenter on this blog?
AG: Most definitely — and it doesn't matter where in the world they live.
MJP: Thanks so much for giving me an early read of this lovely book, Anne. I'm so glad you've returned to Bellaire Gardens.
AG: Thanks for interviewing me, Mary Jo, and for your very kind words about my book. I'm enjoying Bellaire Gardens, though there are so many possibilities for more stories set there, it's hard to decide where to go.
Question for readers: There are plenty of rakes in historical romance, though very few of them are as unredeemable as Izzy and Clarissa's father. Generally we love seeing them fall for the right woman, because when a rake falls, he falls hard — unless he is a complete villain, of course. Do you have any favorite rakes from historical romance?
I'll send a copy of The Rake's Daughter to someone who leaves a comment.