Interviewed by Mary Jo
Marry in Scarlet, the long awaited final book in Anne Gracie's Marriage of Convenience Series, has arrived, and it's great. As Publishers Weekly says in its review, "George is an admirable heroine and the chemistry between her and Hart is magnetic."
Lady Georgiana, the wild child niece of the Rutherford clan, has come to value the family she didn't know she had, but she still prefers to be called George and likes her giant wolfhound, Finn, and her magnificent stallion Sultan more than most humans. She also has no desire to lose her independence by marrying, but the social pressure is building
Anne, you've included clever and appropriate quotes from Jane Austen as chapter headers (how do you find such perfect snippets?), and as I read Marry in Scarlet for the second time, I realized that it could easily be named Pride and Prejudice. What do you think?
AG: It hadn't occurred to me, but you're right; like Jane Austen's classic, both pride and prejudice play their role in the hero and heroine's attitudes. He doesn't trust women, she doesn't trust men. And they both have their fair share of stubborn pride.
Not that the plot is in any way similar. Unlike Austen's heroines, Lady George has no need to marry — she will come into a handsome fortune when she turns twenty-five, so the only pressure on her to marry comes from society — and her elderly, interfering great-aunt.
As for the Austen snippets at the start of each chapter, over the years I've made a collection — pages and pages of possible quotes sorted under headings. I also have all of Austen's novels and a collection of her letters on .pdf, and so I can search them easily using keywords. It's quite a lot of fun, finding a snippet to go with the events of each chapter.
AG: Thanks. I loved George. She's one of those characters who sprang from the page in the first book in the series, Marry In Haste. (French actress Audrey Tautou looks like I imagine George.)
George grew up desperately poor in a rural cottage, with just an elderly retainer to care for her. With no family and no idea that she was the legitimate daughter of an earl, she grew up unruly and untamed—a law unto herself. George has no desire to marry, because if she did, by law, the fortune she's due to inherit would belong to her husband. She trusts horses and dogs more than she trusts men, and wants to retain her independence.
She comes as a bit of a shock to the duke, whose lifetime experience of women is that they lie, manipulate and deceive to get their way.
MJP: George and Hart, the arrogant young Duke of Everingham, start out pretty much despising each other, but there is this blazing, mutually unwelcome attraction. Hart must have been a real challenge to write because, like Darcy, he is initially stiff and not terribly likable. Tell us more about Hart and how you transformed him into a wonderful Gracie hero.
AG: Thank you. At the start Hart is a classic, cold, arrogant, alpha hero of the kind I don't much like. I thought George and he would clash beautifully, and they do. <g> (I think Hart looks like British model David Gandy.)
But the more I thought about Hart, the more I saw the seeds of redemption in him. Yes, he's deeply cynical — about life and especially about women — but as you learn about his early life, it becomes less surprising that he's arrogant and cold. It's partly upbringing, and partly a protective device. His mother uses any means she can to get her own way. And having inherited the title at a young age, Hart early became accustomed to being courted for his title and influence.
His default assumption is that women lie—and why not? They always have to him. So George, with her blunt honesty and fierce sense of honor and loyalty comes as a shock, and it takes him a while to recognize that in her. And when he does—he surprises himself, and George—and, I hope, the reader.
MJP: Can you give us a sample bit of text?
AG: Yes, of course. Here is George, dancing with the duke.
It felt as though every eye in the ballroom was on them.
She couldn’t wait for the dance to be over.
“I suppose you’re used to it, all this attention,” she commented as they came together in a movement. It was polite, after all, to make conversation. Not that he was bothering.
His shoulder moved in the barest hint of an indifferent shrug.
“So disheartening,” she said, “seeing that after all these years of civilization, and for all our so-called sophistication, most people are still no better than the ancient Romans, gawking at a spectacle, hoping for blood—or scandal.”
A dark eyebrow rose. “Lions and Christians?” he said when they came together again.
His eyes glinted. “And which would you class me as — lion or Christian?”
“Oh, neither.” The dance separated them, and when the steps reunited them, his brow rose in a silent prompt.
“You’d be the emperor, above it all, looking down your long nose at the struggles of the mere mortals, untouched. Uncaring. Indifferent.”
His eyes narrowed.
MJP: Can you tell us something about what you're working on now?
AG: I'm working on the first book in a "matchmaker" series. The first book is about a reluctant matchmaker, and in this story there will be a double romance — a young couple and a slightly older couple. I can't say much more than that.
AG: Definitely. Thank you, Mary Jo, for taking the time to read Marry In Scarlet and for interviewing me.
MJP: Anne, this was entirely my pleasure! Now lead me to the comfy seat behind the palms. <G>
AG: I'll give a copy of Marry In Scarlet (or if the winner prefers the first book in the series instead of the last, Marry In Haste) to someone who leaves a comment or answers one or more of these questions by midnight Thursday:
Do you like to dance?
Have you ever danced Regency-style dances?
Which would you prefer, a dance, or a comfy seat behind the potted palm where you could watch?