Marry in Scandal! An Interview with Anne Gracie

MarryInScandal_coverby Mary Jo

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing sister Word Wench Anne Gracie about the April release of Marry in Scandal, the delightful second entry in her Marriage of Convenience series. Before I proceed to asking Anne about her book, let me mention that the first book in the series, Marry in Haste, has received these nominations from the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA):

Favourite Historical Romance.
Favourite Continuing Romance Series.
Strongest Heroine from a romance published in 2017.
Favourite Couple from a romance published in 2017.
(Not to mention that Anne was nominated for the Favourite Australian Romance Author 2016)

So Marry in Scandal has large shoes to fill — and it does! I think I enjoyed it even more than Marry in Haste. Kathe Robin at Romantic Times gave the book a 4 1/2 Top Pick and said:

"The latest addition to Gracie’s Marriage of Convenience series is a beautifully rendered, emotionally powerful tale full of the wonder and healing power of love. Readers will empathize with her well-drawn characters and delight in the growth of their relationship, cheering them on to their HEA….A story readers will cherish."

And this from the audiobook narrator Alison Larkin: "I just finished recording the audiobook today – it's wonderful – vintage Gracie – everyone will love it!:

 

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Return of The China Bride!

MaryJoPutney_TheChinaBride800By Mary Jo

I'm delighted to have retrieved the rights to my Bride trilogy. Book 1, The Wild Child was released in November, and now book 2, The China Bride is available. Here is the tagline I came up with for the trilogy:

Three extraordinary women,
    Three powerful men,
         Three passionate, unlikely marriages.

When I wrote that, I realized that all three are marriages of convenience that become true marriages of the heart. In other words, pure romance!

As a kid, I was always fascinated by the distant, empty spaces on the maps at school, which may be why I've written a number of books where my intrepid British protagonists have adventures in distant lands.

(I've learned I can usually do about three exotic settings in a row before my publisher starts muttering about returning to Britain. <G>)

But China has special resonance for me because I grew up hearing my mother's stories about living in China when she was a girl. Her father was an anatomy professor at the Peking college of medicine, and there are pictures of my mother and her little brother bundled up to ice skate. She also had a marvelous collection of Chinese jewelry, brass ware, rugs, and embroidered Mandarin garments, which stimulated my imagination wonderfully.

 

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Friends, Lovers, and Strangers

by Mary Jo

Years ago I read about a study that looked at the difference between meeting someone ONEPERFECTROSEART and having a crazed affair that burns out quickly, and passions that becomes life-long true love. Their conclusion: there IS no difference at the beginning.

A romance is about the courtship, the developing relationship, and a romance writer's job is to make that relationship believable so that when readers close the book, they can smile and know the couple is together forever. 

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Jo Beverley: Interview!

TvnawnewsmAndrea/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!

Jo-head shotYou 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?

TdfalmThe 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.

Princess_Charlotte_Augusta_of_Wales_and_LeopoldYou 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 2Charlotte 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.

FuneralAs 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?

Here&#3
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?"
    
     "No."
    
     "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.

Charlotte 1You’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.

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.