At last, at last! The book so many of us have been waiting for this spring is finally in stores NOW. Your Scandalous Ways by Wench Loretta Chase is already gathering a heady share of well-deserved praise, and there are plenty of people (myself included) who think it's Loretta's best since Lord of Scoundrels. To help get readers in the proper mood, Loretta reveals the Truth behind this extraordinary book — or at least the Truth about James, Francesca, the influence of Venice, and all those plaster putti.
If you'd like to hear Loretta discuss this book via video (think along the exciting lines of "Garbo Speaks!"), please check out her new YouTube clips. And please be sure to join us for Part Two of the interview of Friday.
Also: Loretta will be giving away a signed copy of Your Scandalous Ways to a reader who posts on either half of the interview. Ask your quesitons now!
Susan/Miranda: Many of your previous books have been interconnected, but Your Scandalous Ways introduces a whole new set of characters to readers. What inspired you to create James and Francesca?
Loretta: Casino Royale was the spark. It made me think, “What about a 007 in the early 19th Century? I didn’t see Daniel Craig, though. I saw tall, dark, and handsome. And for some reason, I saw half-Italian. Once James Cordier took form, Francesca came instantly to life. The exotic looks–the elongated eyes, the wide mouth–came from a model in Brooks Brothers ads. The movie got Venice on my mind, too. I studied it, then Byron’s letters from his time there, and started thinking about English exiles and what they found there. Like Byron, Francesca has left England because of a major scandal. The scandal not only helped develop her character, but set the plot in motion–the thing that brings James into collision with her.
Susan/Miranda: Readers who remember Dain, the hero of Lord of Scoundrels, will love James Cordier, another “outsider” Englishman of unusual ancestry who chooses to live apart from polite society. Do you think these two gentlemen would enjoy each other’s company, and why or why not?
Loretta: Two extreme Alpha males, both with Italian blood? I think they’d stir each other’s competitive instincts in a big way. They’re such different men, it’s hard to imagine their having a conversation. And while they’re trying to decide whether or not to like each other, all the women in the vicinity are swooning from testosterone overdose.
Susan/Miranda: The city of Venice is almost another character in this book, and you do a wonderful job of catching the city’s mix of East and West, and its general other-worldliness. Yet you’ve chosen to set your story in an unusual era in Venetian history, after the fall of the Republic and well after the city’s glory-days. Why?
Loretta: Mainly because it’s the time period in which I usually set my stories *g*. But it’s still an interesting time. The glory days were centuries earlier. It’s always had problems with allies and enemies, disastrous wars, plagues, corruption, etc. At the end of the 18th Century Napoleon stomps in. That’s the end of the Republic of Venice, and it’s sad and awful.
By 1820, the time of my story, yes, people (especially foreigners) are nostalgic about the Republic (and let’s bear in mind this is the Romantic era) but Venice, like my heroine, is resilient. And like her, it’s fun. Though many of its riches have been plundered, so much remains. It’s still beautiful and mysterious and it’s still distinctively Venice–like no other city in the world. What Byron found there was a refuge. Old and wicked as it was, it was a place of renewal for him, a place where he wasn’t judged and where he began to do his best work. It enchanted him–and my characters–exactly as it does visitors today.
Susan/Miranda: Courtesans are trendy right now in historical romances, albeit courtesans who often turn out to be faux-courtesans for the sake of Polite Readers. However, Francesca Bonnard is the real thing, earning a tidy living in a city infamous at the time for being the “Brothel of Europe.” How did you create a love story for a courtesan?
Loretta: I thought of La Traviata, and my brain does what it usually does when contemplating a tragedy: It changed the characters and plot in a way to make a happy ending. I had in mind, too, Harriette Wilson, the famous courtesan of the Regency Era, and so I made my courtesan unrepentant, with a zest for life, and a bawdy sense of humor. (I ought to add that your Bad Barbara of Royal Harlot also inspired me.) Francesca has been left penniless and friendless. She’s become a courtesan to survive–but she does so on her own terms. She chooses the men who are to have the privilege of keeping her, and only a very, very few qualify. She’s exclusive and extremely expensive. What she needed, I thought, was a man who truly appreciated what she had to offer, who’d done enough not-so-nice things himself not to judge her and who was at the same time honorable enough to win her trust.
Please join us Friday for the conclusion of this interview, and more delicious discussions with Loretta about Venice, courtesans, and Lord Byron.
And don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Your Scandalous Ways!