Maggie Robinson has visited the Word Wenches before to talk about her delightfully original historical romances. Now she's turned to murder! Her first Lady Adelaide mystery, Nobody's Sweetheart Now, has just been released, so I've inveigled Maggie to visit us and talk about this new direction.
MJP: Welcome back to the Word Wenches, Maggie! Could you give a bit of information on your background and how you got into writing?
MR: I was an English major in college a thousand years ago (even in the English honor society, LOL), but didn’t get around to writing seriously until about 15 years ago. I was a teacher, library clerk, newspaper reporter, administrative assistant to two non-profits, and mom of four, and several other things I’ve forgotten!
Truth: One night my husband and I had an argument. I was so mad I went upstairs to the guest room…and also where the computer was. I couldn’t sleep and started pounding out a historical where the hero was going to be perfect. Ha. Even in fiction they’re a pain. One thing led to another, and a bunch of books later, it really is all my husband’s fault!
MJP: The Maggie Robinson voice is just as lively in this mystery as in your historical romances, but of course it's a very different kind of story. What made you decide to choose this new direction? And how did you like moving to more complex mystery plotting, where you have to create crime, clues, suspects, and red herrings?
MR: I’ve always loved mysteries, but never thought I could write one since I don’t seem to be able to plot. I was working on what I hoped to be the fourth book of my last Victorian series (Cotswold Confidential), and I was stuck halfway through after a whole year (maybe since I can’t plot?). I knew I needed a change, and last fall the idea for Nobody’s Sweetheart Now came to me. New genre, new decade. I wrote it in two and a half months, much faster than a year! And still can’t plot, LOL. I just fixed it so that virtually anyone could have been the murderer, and decided along the way. Guilty until proven innocent.
MJP: Tell us about the widowed Lady Adelaide, your charming and possibly a bit barmy leading lady!
MR: I love Addie. On the outside, it looks like she has everything—marquess’ daughter, grand estate, plenty of money, widow of a Great War flying ace. But he didn’t die over France; instead he smashed up his car with his French mistress in it. Much to her guilt and dismay, she’s relieved to seal in the Compton family vault and try to get on with her life now that most of the deprivations of war are over and the Twenties are beginning to roar. Except he doesn’t stay sealed! Will he wind up in heaven, or hell? Addie has an idea where she’d like to send him.
MJP: I'm very fond of the 1920s. Nobody's Sweetheart Now is set very specifically in 1924. What are your reasons for choosing this period as a setting?
MR: I’ve always been fascinated by the “between the wars” period in England. It’s the golden age of mysteries for sure! I wanted there to be a few years between the end of the Great War, so that dashing, reckless Rupert has time to get bored with his perfect life and perfect wife. The Twenties are filled with excesses and extremes—police strikes, coal strikes, unemployed soldiers, the lure of movies and music, Bright Young People behaving badly. Doing the research has been my kind of heaven. And the clothes are simply gorgeous. You can see some of my inspirations on my Pinterest page
MJP: The detective inspector from Scotland Yard who looks like a long term romantic prospect is an Anglo-Indian. Could you tell us more about how you came up with Dev? And is the annoying Rupert going to be a regular fixture?
MR: I’m the daughter of an immigrant. My mother was from Austria, and worked so very hard to assimilate, losing her language, removing her pierced earrings, reading the newspaper to teach herself English. I based Dev’s mother on her—she has left India behind and now out-queens the Queen when it comes to propriety and raising her son to be an English gentleman. Dev’s father was in the military police and has retired from Scotland Yard himself, and has great ambition for his only child.
There’s tension between Dev’s two worlds, which makes him an interesting character. He’s self-taught too, a seeker, with an interest in philosophy and religion, and ’can't quite fit in anywhere. He’s very conscious of the rules of society, more so even than Addie, who at this point just wants to have fun!
And yes, annoying (and attractive) Rupert has a lot of work to do to overcome his past and get through the pearly gates. He’ll be around for a while trying to earn his celestial wings.
MJP: Can you give us a short excerpt that captures some of the flavor of Nobody's Sweetheart Now?
MR: Here you go!
Once upon a time, Lady Adelaide Mary Merrill, daughter of the Marquess of Broughton, was married to Major Rupert Charles Cressleigh Compton, hero of the Somme. It was not a happy union, and there was no one in Britain more relieved than Addie when Rupert smashed up his Hispano-Suiza on a quiet Cotswold country road with Mademoiselle Claudette Labelle in the passenger seat. If one could scream with a French accent, it was Claudette, and it was said her terrified shrieks as they hit the stone wall were still heard on occasion by superstitious farmers and their livestock near midnight when the moon was full.
Addie was just getting used to her widowhood when Rupert inconveniently turned up six months after she had him sealed in the Compton family vault in the village churchyard. The unentailed house was hers to do as she pleased, and she had decided to open it up to her family and a few convivial friends for the weekend now that she’d made some much-needed improvements. Rupert had always been stingy with her money, and with him gone on to his doubtful reward, she had employed most of the district’s laborers in an attempt to bring Compton Chase into the twentieth century.
True, it was early in her mourning period to entertain, but she made the concession to wear black, even if there wasn’t much of it in yardage, thank God, because it was so bloody hot. And her mother was there to chaperone.
When Rupert appeared, Addie was dressing for her house party, and dropped the diamond spray for her hair on the Aubusson.
“That dress is ridiculous, Addie,” Rupert intoned from a dim corner. He was wearing the dark suit with the maroon foulard tie she’d had him laid out in, and apart from being rather pale, was still a handsome devil, emphasis on the devil. If he’d been in his uniform, she might even contemplate marrying him again.
Oh, she was going mad. Too much stressing over the seating arrangements in the dining room. Who was billeted next to who. Or was it whom? She’d tried to make it easy for those who wished to be naughty tonight to be successful. Then there was the bother over her sister turning vegetarian and ruining the menus at the last minute. Cook was cross and was apt to get crosser.
Addie was already sitting at her vanity table so she didn’t collapse alongside the diamonds. She shut her eyes.
“I’ll be here when you open them. And believe me, it’s no picnic for me either.”
Addie did open them, and her mouth, but found herself incapable of uttering anything sensible.
MJP: Will there be more Lady Adelaide stories, I hope???? If so, when?
MR: Yes! Who’s Sorry Now comes out next May, and I’m working on the third book right now. Unfortunately, both of them have taken longer than two and a half months!
Do you like stories set in the relatively recent past? And do you like that cover as much as I do?
Thanks for visiting with us, Maggie!