Hello, Nicola here, and today it’s my very great pleasure to welcome HWW Amanda McCabe back to the blog. Today Amanda is wearing her Laurel McKee hat and is here to talk about her stunning new book Duchess of Sin, the second in her Daughters of Erin series set in Georgian Ireland. Book 1, Countess of Scandal, was a superb tour de force, awarded Desert Island Keeper status by the All About Romance review site. Romantic Times describes Duchess of Sin as “peopled with fascinating characters.” Laurel was kind enough to give me a taster of Duchess of Sin and I have been anxiously awaiting the publication of the book ever since!
NC: Welcome back to the Word Wenches, Laurel!
LM: Thanks so much for inviting me to the Wenches today, Nicola! I’m so excited to be here, and I’m also excited to see the release of Duchess of Sin, the story of Lady Anna Blacknall and Conlan McTeer, her wild Irish duke. I loved meeting Anna in Countess of Scandal and was very nervous to see everything work out for her in her own HEA. It’s been quite an adventure keeping up with the Blacknall sisters of the Daughters of Erin series, and luckily for me my fun isn’t over just yet—Caroline Blacknall’s story, Lady of Seduction, will be out in June 2011.
NC: We will be looking forward to that! The early nineteenth century is a very complex time in the political history of Ireland and it provides an extremely rich setting for the series. Tell us a little bit about the historical background to Duchess of Sin.
LM: Anna’s story takes place against the background of a very tumultuous moment of change in Irish history. The hotly contested Act of Union was actually two acts, the first passed as an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain on July 2, 1800 and the second an Act of the Parliament of Ireland on August 1, 1800. The two acts officially united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which came into effect on January 1, 1801 (the time of Duchess of Sin). In the Republic of Ireland, the first Act was not repealed until the passing of the Republic’s Statute Law Revision Act in 1983. Before these Acts, Ireland was already in personal union with England since 1541, when the Irish Parliament passed the Crown of Ireland Act proclaiming Henry VIII as King of Ireland. (England and Scotland were united into a single kingdom in 1603 with the accession of King James I).
NC: Some elements of the Irish Parliament were not too keen on union with Great Britain though, were they?
LM: The Parliament in Dublin had gained a measure of precious independence by the Constitution of 1782, and its members guarded this hard-won freedom fiercely (one of the most notable being Henry Grattan, the hero of the anti-Unionists—he makes a brief appearance in this story at the debates!). They rejected a motion for Union in 1790 after the upheaval of the Rebellion by 109 votes versus 104. (Not that the Irish Parliament was a truly democratic body, open to all Irishmen—only Anglican landowners of a certain class could become Members of Parliament and the biggest landowners often controlled the boroughs and thus the vote). But Britain was scared—the Revolution in France and the Irish Rebellion made them fearful and determined to make the wild Irish settle down once and for all. The final passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was achieved in large part by determined bribery, such as awarding peerages, estates, and money to get the needed votes. The measure passed 158 to 115 amid riots and protests.
NC: It’s often easy to forget that there was no universal franchise and that at times like this political “consensus” was achieved by loading the dice! And of course that was no long-term solution; it simply sowed the seed of discontent for the future. I also found it fascinating in my reading of the period how many connections there were between Revolutionary France and the Irish cause. For instance the last invasion of Britain, which took place in 1797, was undertaken by French troops led by an Irish American colonel. No wonder the British were fearful and wanted to bring the Irish to heel!
Do you have any recommendations for reading on this period of Irish history?
LM: A few good sources on the Act of Union and this period in history are: Alan J. Ward’s The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland, 1782—1992; WJ McCormack’s The Pamphlet Debate on the Union of Great Britain and Ireland; Edward Brynn’s Crown and Castle: British Rule in Ireland, 1800-1830; Patrick Geoghan’s The Irish Act of Union: A Study in High Politics, 1798-1801.
NC: Thank you very much for sharing with us some of the background of your Irish trilogy, Laurel!
LM: Thank you! Nollaig Shona Duit (Merry Christmas) everyone! I hope you enjoy Anna and Conlan’s story as much as I did. I’ll give away a signed copy to one commenter today, and be sure and visit my website (http://laurelmckee.net) for excerpts and a December contest!
NC: As Laurel and I both have December releases featuring an Irish ducal hero we are offering not one book but two today, a copy of Laurel’s Duchess of Sin along with my Mistress by Midnight. Feel free to ask anything you like about Duchess of Sin, Irish history, Irish settings, and of course wild Irish heroes!