Andrea/Cara here, and today I have the distinct delight of interviewing Jo about her new book, The Viscount Needs A Wife, which releases on April 5th. Now before I begin, I have a confession to make—normally we Wenches behave with the utmost ladylike decorum among ourselves. But when Jo asked who wanted to read an ARC and interview her, I threw a few elbows to get my hand in the air first. (Sorry, everyone—the bruises will fade quickly.) Am I ashamed of myself? Nope. (evil chuckle.) When you read the book, you will understand why. And now, without further ado, let’s hear from Jo!
You seem endlessly intrigued by the marriage of convenience trope, and always succeed in putting a fresh spin on it. The Viscount Needs A Wife is no exception—tell us a little about the process of creating such a match.
I do love a MOC, but that's because it forces strangers together in a believable way and that's what I like to write about. I like to observe their discoveries.
Both your hero and heroine have very interesting backstories, and you use them to turn the usual “heir to a title” aspirations—as well as city-country life— a very unexpected twist. What attracted you to the idea of doing something a little different?
The difference came from Braydon in the previous book, Too Dangerous for a Lady, when he began to express this powerful pleasure at living in London and his dislike of spending any significant period of time in the countryside. I've always taken it for granted that my characters enjoyed country life with occasional city jaunts, because that was true of the English upper class in the past, and is arguably an English constant. It seems to be that even now, when most people live in towns and cities, the dream is to retire to a country village or a small place on the coast. Possibly the appeal of TV programs like Midsomer Murders and Downton Abbey is the rural life.
In theory at least, it's the outsiders who are drawn to London, Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool and rave about their vibrancy. This isn't a social commentary, but about subconscious dreams. I'm not sure what the American "idyllic location" is, but I don't think it's life in a small rural town.
Perhaps some blog readers will have suggestions.
Back to the point, having Braydon happy with his London-based life made his inheriting a title a problem — and we author are always looking for ways to torment our characters. It took me a while to realize that Kitty shared his feelings, in part because she didn't realize it herself. Her London life hadn't been idyllic, but she had lived there for ten years, and she'd been born and brought up in towns. The countryside is alien territory and that frightens her. I expected them both to come to love their rural life, but they didn't. They found unexpected harmony in dislike of the rural and love of London.
You talk a lot about how you love to read primary sources in order to weave the real mood of the era into your stories. Can you talk about the some of the actual history that influenced your story?
I do like to read the newspapers of the time to see what was important, but the crucial true event in this book is the death of Princess Charlotte in November 1817. As my Regency historical novels follow a timeline I knew this was coming and I've been wondering for years how I'd deal with it.
Charlotte was the Regent's only child, and thus heir after him to the throne. Due to a number of factors, she was the only legitimate grandchild of King George III, and thus the hope of the nation. She had dutifully married a suitable German prince and was apparently happy. Prince Leopold seemed devoted to her, and her child would be the security of the future. All was perfect!
Her death in childbirth, along with her baby son, devastated the whole nation. That's no exaggeration. It was like the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, magnified by political implications of true significance.
We often get the impression that women frequently died in childbirth back then, but it's not true. The death rate was much higher than now, but it still wasn't common. The queen had many pregnancies and in 1817 had many living children. Thus, when the news spread that Charlotte was in labor, no one expected this disaster and it truly shocked as well as grieved. It was easy to imagine the news powerfully affecting people's lives, as it does here, awakening Kitty to the chancy nature of life, and that she shouldn't waste it.
As well as shock and grief, the nation was plunged into a succession crisis. If mad, elderly King George died, and that was expected at any moment, the Regent would become king. He, however, wasn't a fit and healthy man, and as I said above, there were no other legitimate grandchildren. If one of the Regent's brothers didn't produce legitimate children, Britain could be looking at a foreign ruler, with all the problems that might bring, when the nation had only recently emerged from decades of the Napoleonic Wars.
That crisis provides the external plot to the novel, when an attempt to blow up three princes takes Braydon and Kitty to London.
How about sharing a short excerpt?
9;s the scene where Kitty finally officially meets the man who's proposed a marriage of convenience. Unfortunately, they have met the day before, when Kitty was a muddy mess after rescuing her dog from a cow field. Kitty is sure Lord Dauntry will want to back out of the arrangement.
I should also note that Kitty isn't nobly born. Her family were quite ordinary and it was only chance that led to her marrying Marcus Cateril, the son of a noble family, and becoming the Honorable Kathryn Cateril.
He should have seemed less formidable than he had on horseback, but she found him more so. He wasn't as broad a man as Marcus, but his elegant clothing didn't disguise the same sense of muscular power that her husband had retained even in his ruined state. Dauntry was perhaps taller.
Then she wondered why she'd thought "elegant clothing." He was wearing a brown jacket, buff riding breeches and top boots, as most men did in the country But in some way his garments warranted the tag "beau." With his clean-cut features, fashionably dressed blond hair and cool expression, the word that came to mind was sleek.
Somewhere in the distance, Ruth was making introductions, but Sillikin disregarded formalities to trot forward and stare. That wasn't a good sign.
"Sillikin, heel," Kitty commanded, and thank heaven, her dog obligingly trotted back to her side. Kitty dipped a curtsy. "Good morning, Lord Dauntry."
He bowed. "A pleasure to meet you, ma'am."
Kitty heard a silent "again."
Pride afflicted her with an urge to break the arrangement first, but that would be foolish indeed. Innards churning with nerves, she sat, waving him to a nearby seat. Ruth mentioned last minute arrangements and left, but Kitty only saw her from the corner of her eye. She couldn't stop looking at Lord Dauntry, rather as one might watch a predator that seemed likely to attack. His eyes were a light and rather icy blue.
He sat on a facing chair and crossed his legs. "Well, Mrs. Cateril?"
"Very well, sir."
"I wasn't asking how you are, ma'am. What questions do you have for me?"
Questions? Her mind went blank. "Mrs. Lulworth told me the essentials, sir."
"Are you not curious about the inessentials?"
The wretched man was toying with her! "I assume she didn't conceal that you are stark, staring mad?"
No reaction apart from a raised brow. "I might have concealed it from her, but indeed, I'm not. Are you?"
"Excellent. I also have all my teeth."
"So do I."
"Yet more harmony."
Oh, you wretch. Now she understood his abrasive manner. He'd come here to end the arrangement, but was going to avoid any hint of jilting her by making her do it. Well, he could work for his prize. She'd play his game, returning every shot, forcing him to produce the coup de grace.
Now he was using silence. She saw the small piano in the corner of the room. "Is there a pianoforte in the Abbey, my lord?"
"There is," he said, "though I've heard no one play it."
Has the house in general been neglected, my lord?"
"Not as far as I can tell, but I know little of such matters. I was in the army, and since leaving, my home has been rooms in London."
For a moment she envisioned rooms similar to the ones in Moor Street that she'd lived in with Marcus, but she dismissed the notion. No one had such deep polish and surety without luxury and privilege from the day they were born.
"I have no living family," she said. "Is that the case with you, too, my lord?"
"My parents and three of four grandparents are dead. I have two much older sisters, both married. We're not close. Some distant female cousins dangle on the family tree, but I don't know 'em."
Solitary, but careless of it. Like a cat. A fine blooded cat, sure of its position in the world and that all should do it reverence. The cat was playing with a mouse, but this mouse wouldn't be trapped. She let silence settle.
"Of course I have my new family," he said. "At the Abbey."
The reason for all this. "The previous viscount's mother and daughter, I understand. The situation must be difficult for them."
"And for me. Your husband was the son of a baron?"
"My father was a shopkeeper." There's your exit, sir. Take it.
"A bookseller, I understand, and a scholar of some repute."
Damn it. Of course, Ruth would have told him that.
He continued. "Your husband was an officer gallantly injured at Roleia."
"He was, my lord. You, too, were a soldier. You escaped without injury?"
She didn't mean it to be as insulting as it sounded. She would have apologized, but he seemed unmoved. "Superficial wounds only. I'm sound in wind and limb. Are you?"
She deserved that riposte. "Yes." She recognized an opening. "You will have noted that I have no children, my lord. That must be a concern to you." Another escape. Take it.
"Must it? If the viscountcy dies with me I won't turn a hair."
"Of course not, being dead," she said tartly, "but when living you will want to provide for the continuance of the title. Any man would."
"Ma'am, until a few weeks ago I'd never given a thought to the viscountcy of Dauntry, so its future is unlikely to disturb me now or in the hereafter."
"Are you ever disturbed?" Oh dear. That shouldn't have escaped.
He stared, as well he might. "It rarely serves any purpose."
"Yet you don't seem idle."
"Activity is generally most effective when taken calmly. Do you have any other questions?"
You can read more of this excerpt here. And an earlier one here. A list of all my books is here, with each title linking to more information.
You’ve created amazing worlds for your readers with your Malloren and Company of Rogues series. How does “Viscount” fit in, and can you give us a sneak peek at what’s coming up next?
I like the idea of "worlds" because my characters exist there, no matter what, but with The Viscount Needs a Wife, I'm making a departure. There are no Rogues left to provide heroes, and no close connections, either. Rogue fans will meet a few familiar people in this book, but it isn't exactly a Rogues book. Nor is the next one, which I'm writing now. Merely a Marriage also springs out of the death of Princess Charlotte, when Lady Ariana Boxstall realizes that only one life stands between her family and disaster — that of her young and foolhardy brother. She tries to force him to marry and produce heirs, which leads to a story. Again, Rogues fans will encounter some familiar characters, but I can't accurately claim that it's a Company of Rogues book.
The Viscount Needs a Wife will be published on April 5th, but it can be pre-ordered now.
Two commenters on this blog will receive a pre-publication Advanced Reading Copy, so have your say.