Nicola here! Today I am very happy to welcome as our Word Wench guest historical author Mia Marlowe. Mia tells me that she learned much of what she knows about storytelling from singing. A classically trained soprano, she devised back stories for her characters as part of her preparation for operatic roles. Since she’s worn a real corset, and had to sing high C’s in one (and kudos for that - I used to be able to do one or the other but not both together!), she empathizes with the trials of her fictional heroines. But in Mia’s stories, they don’t die in a Parisian garret. They get to live and keep the hero! For more on Mia and her books visit www.miamarlowe.com.
Here, Mia shares with us some of the research that has gone into her latest release, Touch of a Thief:
“First, thank you for having me here today, Word Wenches. Since I adore history, I love your blog’s attention to historical detail. I'm a frequent lurker, so when Nicola invited me to guest blog I was thrilled.
Not all my research ends up in my novels. All the little tidbits are delicious, but what really fascinates me is learning how people thought about themselves and their place in the world and how these things change over time. Now, for example, adoption is lauded as a way to form families where none existed before. It was not always so. Adoption was unknown in England until the mid 20th century. Fostering, yes. Adoption, no. This is apparently a little known fact because I’ve read several highly acclaimed authors whose characters are supposedly adopted in the 19th century and go on to inherit titles and lands. Hereditary titles were all about bloodlines, so this could never have actually happened. The family to which a person was born, who his progenitors were, determined his place in the world. “Blood will out,” meaning a person’s lineage will show in their subsequent behavior, was taken quite seriously.
Because the idea of adoption was foreign to the Brits, it’s not surprising that they set aside the Indian custom of adopting a male heir when one was not born to a ruling potentate. According to British India's Doctrine of Lapse, any principality in which the ruling line failed to produce a male heir would be considered "lapsed." The kingdoms were stripped from their hereditary rulers and claimed by the British Crown. I used this inflammatory policy to set up a conflict in Touch of a Thief. My hero's best friend is Prince Sanjay, whose fictional Indian kingdom was lost to him because he was an adopted heir. In real life, Lord Dalhousie added in excess of three million pounds sterling to the Crown’s coffers with this policy. Per annum. The kingdom of Amjerat in Touch of a Thief is my own invention, but plenty of real cases of usurpation occurred. In one princely state, when the Rana died without a son to succeed him, his queen Lakshmi Bai adopted an heir in defiance of the British. Not to be set aside lightly, Lakshmi Bai donned warrior’s gear and led her people in armed rebellion. The uprising was put down, but she died fighting at the head of her force and has become an icon of feminine courage in India.
Though the action in Touch of a Thief takes place in London, Paris and Hanover, what happens in Delhi has a big impact on the main characters. My hero is trying to recover The Blood of the Tiger, a red diamond that was stolen from an Indian temple and is now en route to the Queen’s collection. He hopes returning the gem will help cool the tempers of the natives and diffuse a powder keg of unrest. Unfortunately, the Doctrine of Lapse has already upset the populace of India. When the new Enfield rifle is introduced to the Indian army and rumors fly that the cartridges are greased with pig or cow fat (anathema to both Hindus and Muslims), it’s the tipping point that leads to the disastrous Sepoy Mutiny. But that’s a subject for another blog…
Starred Review from Publishers Weekly for Touch of a Thief : “Marlowe weaves a gentle paranormal element into this delightful 19th-century romance. When a cursed red diamond is stolen from a temple in Amjerat, India, Capt. Greydon Quinn travels to London to recover it, accompanied by incognito crown prince Sanjay. They set a tempting trap of gems to catch the Mayfair Jewel Thief and force him to help them–but the thief turns out to be penniless Lady Viola Preston. Traveling to Paris uneasily posed as newlyweds, Viola and Greydon indulge their powerful lusts until they discover that Viola's supernatural gift for hearing jewels speak their histories lets her in on Greydon's secrets. The likable and quick-thinking protagonists sail through the challenges of both court and crime, swapping witty, sharp dialogue. Marlowe perfectly integrates Viola's paranormal sensitivity, with real problems balancing its obvious benefits. Both historical and paranormal readers will love this crossover tale.”
Touch of a Thief will be released on April 26, but I'm pleased to offer an advance copy to a randomly selected commenter. I love to talk with readers so if you leave a question, I will be by to answer. Thanks again for having me today!
Thank you to Mia for such a fascinating glimpse into the background to Touch of a Thief! Her question for you is: One of the themes in Touch of a Thief is injustice. What inequity makes your blood boil?