Susan here – we are so pleased to welcome friend and author Jaclyn Reding to Word Wenches today to talk about her upcoming books and some of the very interesting inspirations for her writing. Be sure to scroll down to read this fun interview and a story excerpt — and then take a moment to comment for a chance to win a copy of her latest release, The Pretender!
Jaclyn Reding’s award-winning, bestselling historical and contemporary romance novels have been translated into nearly a dozen languages. A National Readers' Choice Awards finalist, and Romance Writers of America RITA Award nominee, she is the proud, proud mom of two grown sons, and willing minion to an elderly cairn terrier and a tuxedo cat. Home is with her family in New England in an antique farmhouse that she suspects is held together purely by old wallpaper and cobwebs. A lifelong equestrian, she spends her free time in the saddle, going over plotlines and character arcs with her confidant and toughest critic, a very opinionated retired racehorse named Brunello.
Susan: Congratulations on your latest release, The Pretender, set in 18th-century Scotland. It's a beautiful new edition of a classic historical romance with a gorgeous cover! Tell us a little about the story.
Jaclyn: Thank you! I'm very excited about this venture. In The Pretender, when the very English Duke of Sudeleigh discovers that his eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth Drayton, is the clandestine author of a scandalous editorial, he decides it's time to bring the feisty young woman to heel. Unbeknownst to her, he will secretly send her off to an arranged marriage so that she might better concentrate her efforts on hearth and home instead of the spreading of contrary ideas. He means it simply to put a fright into her, but a mishap with her carriage en route brings headstrong Elizabeth the chance to foil her father’s plans. Douglas Dubh MacKinnon, an annoyingly handsome Highlander, will provide her with the perfect riposte. What Elizabeth doesn’t consider is that in these turbulent political times, she, too, might offer Douglas something in return: a convenient means of securing his birthright–-as well as the ideal disguise when the opportunity to save a prince on the run arises, leaving them both to wonder just who is the true Pretender after all? Add in a comical goat and a dash of Highland lore for a true rollicking adventure.
Susan: You and I went to Scotland years ago and had a great time driving through the Highlands and across the Isle of Skye, with some hilarious adventures along the way, from lost luggage to a car boot full of a ridiculous number of books, and then a stalker sheep. Did you use any of that in your writing?
Jaclyn: Oh, absolutely. In fact the inspiration for my silly goat character in The Pretender was indeed our friend from this trip, who wasn't a goat, but a sheep – remember we affectionately named him "Lambo" for his fierce baa'ing and bravery? I still have a photo of him. I recently reminisced about that trip we took. Dug out a few photos …we had such an adventure of our own that trip.
Susan: Lambo! What a brawny fellow. We were checking out a blackhouse when we saw this ram staring at us from above, ready to launch at us in defense of his ewes and lambs. We ran to the car — then drove through the Highlands in a little red rental car, cracking the bumper when we got stuck in the mud near Kilchurn Castle (trying to get a photo of the castle that was on the cover of one of my books!). We reached the Isle of Skye, where we stopped at an auto repair shop to get the bumper fixed. A guy came out, took one look, said "Och! Ye brrroke it!" and advised us to get a bottle of red nail polish, cover it up, and not tell the rental company. It was hilarious. That was also the trip when my luggage went west to Chicago while I went east to the UK, so I had to buy everything, shoes, clothes, PJs, a coat, the works; my luggage didn't find us until we were nearly ready to go home — by which time we'd both acquired enough Stuff to have to buy new plaid duffel bags (we both still have those plaid bags, and I still have the shoes and the other things). And I remember we shipped a huge number of books home for a huge cost… Altogether a really fun trip!
You travel quite a bit these days. Do you use that in your writing?
Jaclyn: For me, it's impossible not to. Traveling is one of the most tangible ways for me to write a setting, or a time period. Researching online or in books is great, and one of my favorite things to do, but being there in the place, seeing the play of the light, the sounds, the scents…you sort of immerse yourself in it, and it lends so much more depth to the world you create on the page as a writer. I'm very fortunate and grateful that I have been able to visit places I write about and have that connection to it as a writer. It's something I still carry with me years later, even though I haven't been to some of these places in twenty years. When I happen to read a passage I wrote from a certain setting, it immediately takes me back.
Susan: The Pretender is the first in a trilogy – followed by The Adventurer. What's next for you?
Jaclyn: Well, in addition to revising my past titles – making them all new "Author's Editions" – I am currently writing a never-before-published historical romance/mystery sequel to my Georgian-era series that began with The Pretender, and then The Adventurer.
This third novel will tell the tale of the youngest Drayton daughter, Caroline, who readers will have first met in The Pretender, as a precocious little imp who gets herself into a bit of trouble. Each one of the Drayton daughters deserves her own unique adventure, and Caroline will be no exception. The new book, which is under a working title of The Masquer, will take a Caroline who is now a young woman to a mysterious Venetian palazzo, a city that is very beloved to me. This story will be filled with shadowy alleyways and brilliant gleaming ballrooms just teeming with riddles and intrigue. I'm very excited to write it.
Susan: And I can't wait to read it – you know Venice so well! Thank you for spending time with us today, and all the best with your writing. (We have got to revisit Scotland and try to see that blackhouse again!)
Scroll down for an excerpt from The Pretender . . . and be sure to leave a comment for Jaclyn for a chance to win a copy of the e-book!
1746, in the early morn…
Dawn had broken on this, a peaceful spring morning in Northumbria, wrapped in the gossamer warmth of a rose-colored sunrise and stirred by the lyric warbling of tittering sparrow song. Bees frittered busily among new spring blossoms. A cow lowed in a distant field, the tin bell draped around its neck clanging as it grazed. Somewhere close by, under an old stone bridge, a brook rippled with the bubbling splendor of the winter melt-off.
The year reborn.
"Preposterousness! That's what this is. Utter preposterousness!"
Alaric Henry Sinclair Fortunatus Drayton, the ninth Duke of Sudeleigh, shook his head over a breakfast plate heaped with his favorite buttered eggs and mutton ham. He grumbled, he sighed, and then he stabbed a chunk of stewed fig with his fork. From the expression on his face as he chewed it-the bitter twist of his mouth, the slow swallow-one would have thought the fruit had gone foul.
At the opposite end of the dining table sat her grace, the duchess, Margaret, a striking woman of most regal demeanor. Centuries of breeding had resulted in her straight aquiline nose, high forehead, and generous mouth. Her chestnut hair, prone to a slight curl, was only slightly sprinkled with silver, and this particular morning, she wore it à la tête de mouton beneath the frilled tippets of her lingerie cap. The duchess stood, her head haloed by the morning sunlight pouring in through the tall windows behind her. Her skirts scarcely rustled as she walked the length of the carpet to calmly pour a steaming splash of pekoe into her husband's tea bowl. In contrast to the duke's thundering indignation moments before, the duchess presented the very picture of tranquility.
Her husband's outburst hadn't given the duchess even the slightest turn, for over these nearly thirty years past-the whole of their married life together-she had learned to take the duke's sudden fits of temper in stride. Typically , it was politics that set him off, something the duchess had little to no interest in, at other times the English weather. One particularly damp week of note had left Alaric grumbling endlessly when five straight days of downpour had seen the River Blyth overflow its banks, delaying the Hanfield Hunt. Though at times he was hot-tempered, Alaric rarely did any real damage.
"What is it this time, dear?" the duchess finally asked, knowing he was stewing, waiting for her to respond.
"Bah! It is another installment of that ridiculous journal, 'The Female Spectator.'" The duke waved a small printed booklet through the air, its pages flailing. With his greying auburn hair and starched collar, he looked quite like the local vicar pontificating at his pulpit. "A waste of the very paper on which it is printed."
Having returned to her seat, the duchess took a small sip of her tea, glancing sidewise at him. She noticed there was a loose button on the lapel of his morning coat and made a mental note to have it attended to. She quite liked that coat. The color brought out the flecks of green in his hazel-colored eyes. "Wherever did you find this one, dearest?"
"I heard of it from Lord Polson, who had it by Lord Gwynne, who first learned of it from Lord Bainesford, who actually came across his wife discussing it at tea!"
"Leticia had it at tea?" The duchess sipped again. "How odd. I always thought her a most sensible woman…"
"So I sent for a copy myself from the bookseller in Newcastle. They tell me it is all the talk at the coffeehouses in London. A disgrace to king and country! I say just look here on the first page, Margaret. 'A Letter in Favor of Woman's Equality to Man.' Equality! A woman to a man? Have you ever heard such nonsense?"
Please join us in thanking Jaclyn for visiting the blog!
Have you visited Scotland, and had any adventures of your own to share?
Do you think we should have used red nail polish on that fender, or 'fessed up to the rental company?
Leave a comment to be entered in a random drawing for an e-book copy of The Pretender!