Anne Gracie and The Summer Bride

Mary Jo here: 

Since Anne Gracie and I both have July releases, we decided to interview each SummerBrideMedother!  Anne talked to me about Once a Soldier last week, and now it's my turn to enthuse about Anne's The Summer Bride, the last of the Chance Sisters quartet.  I enjoyed reading it so much that I promptly reread the first three books in the series.  

The book has been well received,  Romantic Times says, "Gracie's Chance Sisters have captivated readers and stolen their hearts, perhaps none more than Daisy, whose fast-paced story will delight fans.  All the characters readers adore are part of the tale, and which the charming plot enchants, it's the characters who take center stage."  

Library Journal’s verdict was: “Passionate and sumptuously witty, this final book in Gracie’s sparkling quartet has the entire household rooting (and plotting) for Daisy and Flynn to get things right.”

MJP: Anne, the premise for The Chance Sisters is brilliant, and the first book, The Autumn Bride, was listed as one of the ten best romances of the year by Library Journal, as well as being a Romantic Times Top Pick.  Can you tell us about the premise?  And do you have any idea of where such a great idea came from?  (Probably not. <G>)

AG: Actually I do know where the inspiration for the first book came from — it was a dream I had, in which an old lady was lying in bed, ill and in a desperate state, and a young woman climbed in her window. I scribbled it down in my notebook, and it kept nagging me and throwing up questions — who was the old lady, why was the girl climbing in the window — for no honest reason, surely? And that’s how I knew it was the start of a story.

The basic premise is, four girls band together as “sisters of the heart” in order to Cover-autumn-bridesurvive. When they find Lady Beatrice ill, neglected and abused by her servants, they pretend to be her nieces, and the girls and the old lady form a kind of family.

MJP: The four couples have been very different, so their romance are all quite different.  But in The Summer Bride, Daisy and Flynn are the most unusual of all, particularly Daisy.  Will you tell us about her?

AG:  Daisy is the Cockney maidservant who risked her safety to help Jane and Damaris escape from the brothel where they were imprisoned. She started off in my mind as a minor character, but as soon as she hit the page, she sprang to life.  She’s gutsy and outspoken and has a dream. I loved her from the start, so I was determined to give Daisy her own story.

PinkDressCreamLaceOverlay&trainHere’s a small snippet of Daisy’s thoughts:

    Daisy had no illusions about herself. She was a little Cockney guttersnipe with a gimpy leg and a foul mouth—though she was working on the swearing, and her grammar. But she loved beautiful clothes and—praise be!— she was good at making them.
    She was going to be somebody, and she was going to do it all herself; Daisy Chance, Dressmaker to the Toffs, with a shop and a business all her own. That was her dream, and she was so hungry for it she could almost taste it.

MJP:  The hero, Flynn, is one gorgeous hunk of Irishman.  Tell me more!

Cover-winter-brideAG:  Again, he’s not a typical hero. And in the spirit of “show don’t tell” I’ll use another snippet from the book. Flynn aims to marry “the finest lady in London.’ Here he’s talking to Lady Beatrice, who’s cross with him for not taking her into his confidence:

    She eyed him narrowly. "Finding you've aimed rather too high, have you? I did warn you. A low-born, uneducated sea-captain, Irish—and Roman Catholic to boot!" She shook her head.
    "Lapsed, m'lady, and though all you say is true, I don't believe I'm aimin' too high," Flynn said mildly. He was comfortable in his own skin and knew his own worth. "I'm also rich—a self-made man with a fleet of ships and a tradin' empire that spreads from here to the four corners of the earth."
    Lady Beatrice sniffed. "Money acquired in trade."
    Flynn grinned, undeceived by her disparaging tone. "Aye, m'lady, lots of nasty vulgar money at me disposal which the poor lass who consents to become me wife will have to help me spend.  'Twill be a terrible burden for her, I'm thinkin'."
    Lady Beatrice's finely painted lips twitched. "Undoubtedly. Modesty is not one of your virtues, is it, Mr. Flynn."
    Flynn shrugged. He'd never seen the point of hiding his light under a bushel.

GreendressMJP: Though Daisy and Flynn are connected with members of the beau monde by bonds of friendship, they are both openly involved in commercial activities – in “trade!”  How does that tie into the larger society?  

AG: It’s actually one of the things Daisy and Flynn bond over. The upper classes tended to frown on “trade” – they liked money. of course, but it was vulgar to refer to it, and they tended to look down on shopkeepers. But Daisy and Flynn also argue about business—she’s stubborn and her background has made her wary of trusting others—especially men.

  GreendressGirl   “You’re looking exhausted,” Flynn said bluntly.
    “So what? Hard work never killed nobody. I’m startin’ a business, remember?”
    “I know, and that’s why I decided to come tonight, when nobody else was here to overhear what I have to say.”
    Daisy gave him a flinty look. “What’s it got to do with you?”
    “Nothing. But I know a lot more about how to run a business than you do, and I have to tell you, you’re goin’ about it the wrong way.”
    Daisy stiffened. She set down her teacup with a clatter. “Well, thanks very much, Mr. Flynn, and now you’ve told me, you can get back to your bloody ball.”
    “Settle down, firebrand, I mean no insult.”
    “No? You tell me I’m doin’ everything wrong—me, who’s workin’ my fingers to the bone every hour God sends, making beautiful clothes for Jane and the others—clothes that other ladies want to order—an’ you expect me not to be angry? Bloody oath, I’m angry! What the hell would you know about ladies’ clothin’ anyway?”

MJP: Thanks so much for sharing a little of the book, Anne.  Now I'm ready to Cover-spring-bridereread The Summer Bride!   Leave a comment or answer this question by midnight Thursday to get into the drawing for a copy of the book.

Anne's Question: Editors are always telling me that people only want to read about aristocratic heroines. Is that true for you?

MJP:  Thanks so much for the lovely interview, Anne.  We'll have to do this again if the book release schedule permits!

Conflict And The Happy Ending

Joanna here. Having spent yesterday, Valentine's Day, exploring all the ways we can be in love. (Yeah love!) I thought I'd take today to look at the conflicts that hold our hero and heroine apart.
What kind of conflicts do we choose for our hero and heroine? How do we write them?

So I asked the Wenches.

Wench autumn brideAnne had this to say:

"Conflict" is a term often misunderstood by new writers, who think it means a lot of arguments and yelling. A better term is "the source of tension" which can be really powerful with no yelling at all. It's the central story problem that is preventing characters from reaching their goals.

For me, there are two main main sources of conflict — situational (where he wants X and she wants Y — or they both want X for different reasons) and character-based conflict. For me the latter is almost always the main one, though I'm happier if I have both kinds working together, playing off each other. Character conflict is where the hopes and dreams and deeply hidden fears drive the characters, and they have to work through them to find their happily-ever-after. Think "What does s/he want? Why can't s/he have it?"

For instance, in my book The Autumn Bride, apart from the usual misunderstandings between the hero and the heroine, there are two main sources of conflict. The first is that she's living under a false identity, but that's a relatively small conflict, fairly easily solved. A bigger conflict, especially for the hero is that he's made a promise to marry another woman,  a promise to which money was attached — part of a significant loan agreement with the woman's father. It's not just a matter of changing his mind — it's breaking his word, which is his bond. He's a man who lost everything as a youth — his future, his position and his whole sense of self was stripped from him, but his honor — his word of honor — is the one thing in his life that nobody could take from him, so to break it now is a major conflict for him.

I love that conflict in The Autumn Bride because it's a choice between love and honor. I'm a sucker for those.

In some books, the conflict can be less clear cut. There's plenty to keep them apart. What's needed is equally strong bonds to draw them together.

Jo Beverley says: Wench bookcover beverley tvnawnewsm

Conflict in a romance novel is a complex subject for all the reasons given, but it's whatever believably gets between the couple and their final happiness. It's different in every book.

My next book, The Viscount Needs a Wife, is a marriage of convenience story, and they always come with built-in stresses and problems. Sometimes the couple are enemies, but even if not, making a marriage with a stranger is a pretty tricky thing! Kitty is a widow, so marriage itself isn't odd to her, but her husband seems to suit his title — he's daunting. In addition, the behavior patterns from her eight year marriage lurk to make difficulties. As they would.

The new Lord Dauntry is already troubled, because he doesn't want a title or the responsibilities that come with it. He had a comfortable life as a bachelor in London, and occasional security work for the government to ward off boredom. He thinks a sensible wife will take his rural responsibilities off his shoulders and should be no trouble at all. Ha!

But this is the beginning. I find conflicts change and grow throughout a book, and as Kitty and Dauntry find ways to get along, new problems rise. And then, as surprising to me as to them, they discover that they share apparently impossible hopes and dreams. It's scaling those new high walls that powers the latter part of the book. The Viscount Needs a Wife will be out in April, but it can be ordered now. There's more here.

Rice_MagicintheStars600When I asked Pat how she chose the conflict for her characters, she said:

Choose a conflict? We get to choose our own conflicts?

Sorry, I just had a moment of process panic…  We all approach a book differently. I start with characters and a situation. These people pop into my head, nattering at each other, and they keep getting stronger and demanding that I listen, so I start taking notes.

I try really hard to define their characters, their motives, their goals, their flaws, all that good stuff, before I start writing. And the best way to develop conflict, for me, is to look at that list of traits and goals and see where one character opposes the other. He’s an astronomer…she’s an astrologer. How could that go wrong? He’s building telescopes and gazing at the stars…she’s drawing zodiac charts and telling him he’s going to die. Cheerful little devil, isn’t she? (That's Magic in the Stars, coming out March 29, 2016)

And somewhere thereafter, they’re off and running and I just let them go. I’m not saying I advise listening to those voices in your head, mind you. Because that’s just crazy. <G>


Cara has a somewhat similar approach to mapping out the conflict of a story.

She says: Scandalously yours

For me, conflict comes in two elemental forms, and I like to think of it with a Regency metaphor—the plot is like steel, and the characters are like flint, striking against the steel to set off sparks.  It’s the internal conflict of the hero and heroine that heats up the story. How they overcome doubts, fears, or whatever challenge stands in the way of achieving happiness is what makes us keep turning the pages.

 So . . . how do I going about creating these sparks?  I am a total pantser, so don’t ask. I get a story idea, I figure out basic conflicts that are torturing my main characters. For example, in Scandalously Yours, the heroine secretly writes fiery political essays pressing for social reform, but if her secret is made public, her family will be disgraced. The hero is an oh-so conventional lord who believes it’s important never to break the rules of Society. I had a perfectly good plot in mind for them, but by Chapter Two, they gave me the Evil Eye and started to rewrite everything. I was happy to hand them the pen. 


RogueSpy cover w-o blurbMe? My books are set in wartime. You got yer battling nations and divided loyalties. You got yer spies, lies, secrets, betrayals, misdirection, midnight flits, and the occasional gunfire, My heroes and heroines are now and then on opposite sides.

So my problem isn't so much creating the conflict to keep my people apart. There's distrust and cross-purposes scattered thick on the ground. The problem my unfortunate characters face is carving out some little niche of peace to fall in love in. My people have to learn to trust each other . . . and they aren't all that trustable.

In Rogue Spy, for instance, my hero and heroine, Pax and Cami, were children recruited as spies by the French Revolution, both trained to perform horrible deeds, both placed as covert operatives in England. They meet again as adults — ingenious, dangerous, tough adults who have to wonder if they can allow themselves to love each other.

(P.S. They do the trusting thing, but it takes a while.)



In your own reading, do you have favorite sorts of this-is-what-keeps-them-apart?
Do some sorts of conflicts just annoy you?

Some lucky commenter will win a book of mine. Their choice.