Theresa Romain on Writing and Her New Regency Romance – To Charm a Naughty Countess

Excitement city! Theresa Romain is visiting my blog today AND she is giving away her latest release To Charm a Naughty Countess to one lucky commenter from the US or Canada! Theresa is an amazing writer. I’m in awe of her.  She performs magic on words and stories. When she agreed to visit my blog, I took the opportunity to pick her brilliant brain.

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CAN A RECLUSIVE DUKE…
Brilliant but rumored mad, Michael Layward, the impoverished Duke of Wyverne, has no success courting heiresses until widowed Lady Stratton takes up his cause–after first refusing his suit.
WIN LONDON’S MOST POWERFUL COUNTESS?
Caroline Graves, the popular Countess of Stratton, sits alone at the pinnacle of London society and has vowed never to remarry. When Michael–her counterpart in an old scandal–returns to town after a long absence, she finds herself as enthralled with him as ever. As she guides the anxiety-ridden duke through the trials of society, Caroline realizes that she’s lost her heart . But if she gives herself to the only man she’s ever loved, she’ll lose the hard-won independence she prizes above all.

 In print: amazon • barnes & noble • book depository • books-a-million • chapters indigoindiebound • powell’s • posman • sourcebooks • walmart • watermark Ebook: kindle • nook • ibook

To Charm a Naughty Countess features a socially astute heroine and a logic-driven, socially backwards hero.  Yet, as with all your characters, they are completely sympathetic and complex.  How did you conceive and develop Caroline and Michael? 

 Thank you for hosting me today, Susanna! And thanks for your kind words about Caroline and Michael. I’m really glad you enjoyed their story.

 To Charm a Naughty Countess is the second book in my Matchmaker trilogy, and Caroline actually appears as a secondary character in the first book (It Takes Two to Tangle). As a popular and wealthy widow, she seems to have everything a woman in Regency society could want. But she didn’t marry for love and she’s never had a real romantic relationship—and in ITTT, there’s one brief scene in her point of view that reveals how lonely she is. Caroline’s character journey is to figure out what will really satisfy her heart and contribute to her sense of worth.

As for Michael’s character, you could describe him in a nutshell as “Caroline’s opposite.” Where she’s socially accomplished but rudderless, Michael has an unshakeable sense of purpose. He’s a duke, and he has dedicated himself to the careful stewardship of his dukedom. But outside of that, when there’s no plan or script or ledger, he has no idea how to act. Social interactions seem like a time-sucking mystery to him.

As the story progresses, though, they prove not to be quite as opposite as they seemed at first. By the end of the story, both Caroline and Michael are stronger than they were at the beginning. And I hope they bring out the best in each other, too.

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You write deep novels with less action and more dialogue and inner exploration. How did you plan this novel?

 I started with two ideas in mind.

1. Since the first book in the trilogy took place in 1815, the second would take place in 1816. That was known as “The Year Without a Summer,” and I wanted the terrible cold (due to the ash cloud from a huge volcanic eruption) to drive the story.

2. I wanted to write a virgin hero. I hadn’t done that before, and a virgin hero seemed like a good counterpoint to Caroline, who’s had some love affairs.

So you could say first I bashed the hero into a real-life historical event, and then I bashed him into the heroine. The character of Michael was shaped by both of those things, and the plot of the novel—a Pygmalion story in which he hunts for a wealthy bride after the endless winter causes crop failures—arose from there. I guess my plots tend to be driven by characters rather than the other way around. Exploring character is, to me, one of the most interesting things about writing romance.

Your prose is just stunning. Did you always want to be a fiction writer?  What other authors do you admire and have influenced your style?

Wow—well, thank you very much! That means a lot, coming from you. (Readers: if you haven’t read Susanna’s novels, grab them. The history is rock-solid and the characters are hilarious.)

Actually, I never expected to be a fiction writer. My older sister liked to write stories as a kid, and since I idolized her I tried writing them too. Blech. I did not enjoy writing at all; there were just no stories I wanted to tell. At the time, I much preferred to read or draw horses.

In college, I got an English degree by taking all of the literature classes and none of the creative writing classes. Nonfiction seemed to be my skill set, and writing NF got me through grad school, into my first post-graduation job, and even my first book. After years of NF, I was a little burned out, so in my spare time I started writing fiction. (Apparently “not writing anymore” was not an option?)

Learning to write fiction was like learning to write, period. I hadn’t expected it to be so different from writing NF, and it took me a long time to figure out my fiction voice. That happened over the course of years—and is probably still happening—as I read a lot, wrote a lot, and revised a lot. All my reading in British literature and history in college definitely influenced me, as did a slew of romance writers ranging from Jane Austen to Julia Quinn.

What was the hardest part in the development of this book? What was the easiest?

The easiest part was the plot. I know, I know: I said usually my characters inform plot, and it is true. But having a specific historical event—the Year Without a Summer—to hook plot details onto really helped shaped the story structure. Halfway through the book, the story shifts from London to Lancashire, and that new setting helped keep the story clicking along in my imagination.

The most difficult part was figuring out Caroline’s attitude toward Michael at the beginning of the story. I must have gone through seventy million drafts (conservative estimate), striking different tones in those first few chapters. Should she be flirtatious? Resentful? Offended? Cavalier? After all, these two have something. In the end, I think she wound up being pretty pragmatic, which is something the oh-so-logical Michael would respect and respond to well.

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Thanks for the great questions, Susanna. Now I have one for readers. The first thing that catches Michael’s eye is Caroline’s social brilliance; the first thing that catches hers is his sense of purpose. (Ok, yes, they each think the other is easy on the eyes, too.) What qualities make you like a character or want to stick with a story? One random commenter will win a copy of To Charm a Naughty Countess! Open to US and Canadian addresses.

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Historical romance author Theresa Romain pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in the Midwest, where she is working on her next book.

Website: http://theresaromain.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorTheresaRomain

Twitter: @TheresaRomain

 

 

Posted in Interviews with cool people | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Guest Post from Emily Greenwood: Five Things Viscount Roxham Loves about Lily Teagarden

emily-greenwoodThank you so much for having me on your blog today, Susanna! I thought we could take a little peek at what the main characters from my current Sourcebooks release, GENTLEMEN PREFER MISCHIEF, are up to at the moment.

To introduce your readers a little, Miss Lily Teagarden is a serious young woman who doesn’t have time for romance—and certainly not with her handsome rake of a neighbor, Hal Waverly, Viscount Roxham. But at the moment, she’s being forced to enjoy a house party on his estate, and if you sort of squint your eyes, you can see her right now, striding purposefully through his beautiful garden.

Oblivious to the heady scent of summer roses in the air, she’s focusing on a to-do list of worthy undertakings. But as she passes an enormous lilac bush, she spies Hal, who’s standing beside a stone table on which he’s tracing his fingers in a light coating of dirt. She can’t resist a comment…

“It will be much more effective to get a cloth, Roxham. And while you’re cleaning up, that statue behind you is quite filthy.”

Hal laughs. “It’s the outdoors, Lily. Things are supposed to be dirty.”

She sniffs, and her eyes fall to the tabletop, where she sees there are letters in the dust.

“What are you doing?”

He grins. “Writing a list of things I love about you.”

A happy little shiver runs across her shoulders. She shouldn’t be interested… but she is.

“How preposterous. Let me see.” (She pretends not to notice his pleased smile as she leans closer to the list.)

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Five Things I Love about Lily Teagarden

1. Her eyes.

Lily (arching an eyebrow skeptically): A ridiculous thing to love about a person.  None of us has any control over our eye color.

Hal: Perhaps it’s because they’re your eyes that I find them especially beautiful, though really, they are the most remarkable shade of blue. I’m sure no one else has eyes like you.

Lily: You might as well admire my kneecaps!

Hal: I’d have to see them first, but I would be most willing –

Lily: That won’t be necessary.

Hal: I can see you smiling.

She rolls her eyes and glances back at the list.

2. Her laugh.

Lily: My laugh. Have you even heard me laugh?

Hal (chuckling): Once, four years ago. But the memory of it teases me. It’s a challenge I’ve set for myself—to see if I can get you to laugh again.

Lily (with lips twitching): Perhaps I do laugh, when you don’t see. Perhaps I sit in my bed chamber simply overcome with mocking laughter at all the crazy things you do.

Hal: Now you’re making me want to peek in your window.

She moves on to the next item.

3. Her creativity.

Lily: If this has to do with that journal of mine that you stole four years ago—

Hal: Took.

Lily: It wasn’t for anyone’s eyes but mine!

Hal: Come now, sweet, there are some really compelling passages in your little book.

Lily (sticking her nose in the air): You have an inordinate interest in that journal.

Hal: That’s because it’s about me.

Lily: This is a ridiculous list.

Hal: Maybe, but it’s my list.

4. Her seriousness

Lily: Now I know you’re just mocking me.

Hal: I’m not! (He drops a kiss on her cheek, making her smile though she’s trying to maintain her seriousness.) I’m entirely fascinated by your capacity to focus.

Lily: That’s because you have so much trouble being serious.

Hal: Which means we balance each other perfectly!

Lily (hiding a laugh): And the fifth thing? I only see four items on this nonsense-y list.

Hal: That’s because the fifth thing is something I have to show you…

Emily here—Well, there they go, off to a secluded part of the garden to finish their conversation. Thanks again, Susanna, for having me and my characters here today!

Is there anything you’d put on a list of things you love about your favorite hero –real or fictional? Leave a comment (any comment!) for a chance to win one of two copies of GENTLEMEN PREFER MISCHIEF. US only. Winners will be chosen on Friday, April  11th. 

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Emily Greenwood has a degree in French and worked for a number of years as a writer, crafting newsletters and fundraising brochures. But she far prefers writing playful love stories set in Regency England, and she thinks romance is the chocolate of literature. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters. You can learn more about her and her books at http://emilygreenwood.net/

Read the first three chapters of Gentlemen Prefer Mischief at Scribd or purchase at
Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Posted in Interviews with cool people | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

General Observations On Gentlemen’s Dress For March 1807

The following was excerpted from the book, The Follies and Fashions of Our Grandfathers, published in 1886. The book reprinted articles from the year 1807.

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An evening suit if attempted to be described in colours, would be literally a repetition of what was laid down in our last number, as the approach of Lent necessarily prevented much alteration in coloured clothes by its customary introduction of black, which of course will ever be considered the most appropriate dress during that season; we can therefore only say, that kerseymere waistcoats and small clothes are much more prevalent than silk, which, though most assuredly more of a dress, has been gradually reducing in consumption for these many years; and satins, which were so essentially necessary to compleat the dress of a gentleman a few years back, are now totally exploded, and a pair of satin breeches would attract the observation of every beholder almost as much as a maroon coloured coat.

In addition to observations on Morning Dress, we have noticed many gentlemen in plain buff kerseymere waistcoats of a very pale colour, and which certainly have a neat appearance, particularly such as we have seen with an edging of the same stuff; some few waistcoats have also been introduced of a sort of pearl colour, and also some scarlet kerseymeres, which after being rejected for several years seem to be again coming into notice; but as they do not correspond with coats usually worn, nor afford a pleasant contrast, they are not likely to become by any means general; indeed, blue or dark brown or corbeau colour coats are the only ones that can well be worn with a scarlet waistcoat.— Brown top boots seem to be somewhat more worn than they have been for some time past, and which are almost constantly accompanied by kerseymere breeches; leather being now almost exploded from the thigh of a man of fashion, and scarcely maintains the preference even in the chase.

We have also observed that many gentlemen in their morning walks have attempted to introduce a sort of shooting dress, by parading in a short coat of any light colour, and with drab colour cloth or kerseymere gaiters to come up to the knees; but, however well such a dress may suit a watering place, or a walk over the grounds of an estate, we do not think it adapted to the promenade of Bond-street.

Posted in Historical Fashion, Regency England - General History | 2 Comments

Partying in Bath in April 1807

The following was excerpted from the book, The Follies and Fashions of Our Grandfathers, published in 1886. The book reprinted articles from the year 1807.

There are two Assembly-rooms, one at the bottom of the Orange Grove, called the Old or Lower Rooms; the other in Bennett-street near the Circus, called the New or Upper Rooms. At the Lower the Master of the Ceremonies is Mr. Le Bas, who has for many years occupied with great popularity the same situation at Margate and Ramsgate. At the Upper officiates Mr. King, a gentleman whose polite attention, and yet manly conduct, have acquired for him not only the goodwill, but, what is much less usually bestowed on the occupiers of such offices, the respect of the subscribers at large. The Lower Rooms, which were originally the cause of the fame of Bath assemblies, the sphere of the memorable Beau Nash, and the resort of almost all the nobility of the kingdom; which once boasted two crowded assemblies in every week, the one on a Tuesday and the other on a Friday night, are now almost entirely deserted; and the few who attend are for the most part persons of no fashion, “mark or likelihood.”

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The Original Bath Guide, Considerably Enlarged and Improved, Comprehending Every Species of Information that Can be Required by the Visitor and Inhabitant, Etc. (1811)

But the Upper Rooms, at which a dress ball takes place on each Monday, and a fancy or cotillon ball on each Thursday night, are still attended by almost all the beauty and fashion of the place. I never remember, Mr. Editor, to have seen any sight which gave me half so much pleasure as the coup d’œuil on entering the ball-room while the cotillons are going on. As the principal occupation of the young people is dancing, you may easily suppose that there are many excellent artists in that science; and when a great number of them are performing their evolutions in concert, there can be no spectacle more graceful and interesting. The uniformity of the figures, the brilliancy of the lights, the beauty and magnitude of the room, the splendour and fashion of the company, the effect of the music in the balcony, all unite to render the scene bewitching in the highest degree. It gives the idea of a fairy palace, of one of those elegant revels, which tales of enchantment leave us to imagine, but which we should scarcely expect ever to see realized.

Mr. King permits none but the dancers to occupy the floor, which is chalked in many squares, each adapted for a single set; thus the whole company of dancers enjoy equal and ample room, and having practised the figures, as usual, in the tea-room before dinner, they execute all their manoeuvres with the greatest exactness and skill. Three rows of benches are placed one above another round the sides of the ball-room, so that the spectators are most admirably accommodated, and at the bottom is a single bench, with standing room behind, sufficient for nearly two hundred spectators.—This space is usually the most crowded, because the best dancers are generally at the bottom of the room. The ladies who have usually attracted most attention for their dancing, have been Miss Talbot, Miss Freeman and her sister, Miss Brownlow, who was so much admired last year, has not danced this winter, and Miss Anne Gore, who was perhaps the best dancer of them all, is no longer at Bath.

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The Original Bath Guide, Considerably Enlarged and Improved, Comprehending Every Species of Information that Can be Required by the Visitor and Inhabitant, Etc. (1811)

These balls are by much more fashionable than those on the Monday night, because for a Thursday night neither the ladies nor the gentlemen’s tickets are transferable; whereas for a Monday, the ladies’ tickets may be, and too often are, given to persons of a very low description. Yet in the cotillon balls the same attentions are not paid to dress which take place on a Monday night; for ladies appear in hats, and perform other little excesses of a similar description, which on a Monday night are totally inadmissible.

One of the great advantages of Bath is the extraordinary cheapness of all amusements. These balls, at the Upper Rooms, which afford so great and so constant pleasure both to inhabitants and to strangers, are purchased at a price almost incredibly low. A gentleman subscribing to the Monday balls has no less than eight and twenty assemblies for his twelve shillings. If he pay the sum of one pound four, he has, for each of the eight and twenty assemblies, three tickets, one for himself, not transferrable, and the other two for ladies which may be transferred. There are no double subscriptions to the cotillon balls: but the single subscription is, as in the other instance, only twelve shillings. Besides this, each person pays, it is true, sixpence on entering the room; but for these sixpences tea and biscuits are provided for all who chuse them. Accordingly, at about a quarter before nine the party adjourns to the tea-room; and, after remaining there for about half an hour, returns to the jocund business of the evening.

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The Original Bath Guide, Considerably Enlarged and Improved, Comprehending Every Species of Information that Can be Required by the Visitor and Inhabitant, Etc. (1811)

The only article which is at all expensive in Bath, is chair-hire; and to a cockney who has been accustomed to a hackney-coach that carries four people a given distance for a shilling, it does at first sight appear a little unreasonable to pay two shillings for going the same distance in a chair singly. It has of late, however, become usual, when five or six people are going to the same visit, to take a glass-coach from a livery stable for the evening; which will convey them to and from the place of their destination, at the comparative trifling expense of six shillings for the coach and two for the driver. Many even of the most fashionable people go to assemblies on foot; for as Bath stands almost entirely upon hills, all water immediately runs off, and the heaviest rains at five will scarcely prevent a lady from walking boldly forth at eight.

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The Original Bath Guide, Considerably Enlarged and Improved, Comprehending Every Species of Information that Can be Required by the Visitor and Inhabitant, Etc. (1811)

The old theatre in Orchard-street, is now completely abandoned; and the proprietors have built upon the tontine scheme, a new house, of which the front is in Beaufort-square.—A few records of the actors. A Mr. Egerton is the hero, and has a very tolerable notion of general acting. He is an inferior kind of Elliston. Mr. Sedley plays the young gentleman: he looks such parts extremely well. But by way of making amends for any deficiencies that may have subsisted in some branches of the company, the managers of Bath, like those of most other country towns, have retained the services of Master Betty, who has been playing here—about as well as he used to play in town. In London the mania has a little subsided; Miss Mudie has been condemned, and children are no longer the fashion: but at Bath there were persons to be found whom Master Betty bit, and who thought him, as he was at first thought in London, a prodigy. It is not, perhaps, surprising that he should have been admired in many country towns, because, in point of fact, there are few country actors who altogether excel him: but that the people at Bath should have admired him, when almost all of them have had opportunities of seeing London actors, would, I confess, have surprised me a little, if I had not read the observation, which your theatrical critic, in a former number, has made on what is commonly called the taste of the public—

Yet may we not put the strong law upon him:

He’s lov’d of the distracted multitude,

Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes.

Enough of the theatre. Let us say a few words of another amusement very much in vogue at Bath; I mean the concerts. These assemblies, which are held at the Upper Rooms, are very numerously and elegantly attended.—The performances are well arranged, under the conduct of that approved veteran, Rauzzini. Miss Sharp and Mr. Magrath, with a Mr. Bennett, who has since appeared on the Bath boards with much success, as Orlando in the Cabinet, and as Carlos in the Duenna, are the principal performers. I never heard a sweeter voice, accompanied by a more correct taste, than Miss Sharp possesses. Her talents have been, during some parts of the winter, assisted by those of Mr. Braham. While Braham was singing one Wednesday evening, the following ridiculous accident happened:

A Mrs. Pr—d—x came into the concert room extremely late, and was unable to find a seat. She squeezed herself into a row, where some other more fortunate dames had obtained a resting-place, and at length, without any compunction, though very fat and heavy, sat boldly down in the lap of a Mrs. L—si—e. Mrs. L—si—e, ill able to endure the weight, made many endeavours to deliver herself from her tormentress; but the latter stuck to her, like the old man of the sea to Sindbad the sailor in the Arabian Nights. At last Mrs. L—si—e, provoked beyond all endurance, took out a pin, and applied it vigorously. Mrs. Pr—d—x, stung to the quick, turned rapidly round, and inflicted on her supporter a very complete drubbing.

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Assembly Rooms – The Eighteenth Century Architecture of Bath (1904)

 

Posted in Bath, Regency England - General History | Leave a comment

1819 Play Bills From The Theatre Royal

I’ve missed my blog so much. All I’ve been doing lately is writing, writing, writing. Finally, I’ve found a small break to put up these play bills from The Theatre Royal, English Opera House from 1819. Enjoy!

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Posted in Regency England - General History | 6 Comments