Thanks so much Allison for being with us today for this interview. I must say that your book should please a large multitude of readers. Anyone who likes historical romance, mystery, intrigue or the Victorian time period is going to be in Heaven with this delicious read.
Terra ~ You have a few characters besides the hero and heroine that people could actually fall in love or hate. Which character would you say you love the most and which do you hate the most?
Allison ~ It’s so hard to choose, because I try to make my secondary characters interesting people, with an outstanding trait that sets each apart. I think you’ve got to admire Beatrice for her devil-may-care attitude; Melinda is the motherly type that will always set you straight when you need it. I’ll talk more about George Fitzclarence in a minute, but he’s a bundle of contradictions that, in the end, make him an endearing kind of ne’er-do-well. And then there are Laurel’s sisters. They only appear briefly in this story, but in my mind I know who they are with all their strengths and vulnerabilities, and I can’t wait to tell their stories (Ivy’s will be out in December with OUTRAGEOUSLY YOURS). So like any mom, I guess I love all my “children.”
Terra ~ Your cover art is absolutely beautiful and does indeed fit one scene in the book perfectly. At least I think so. Do you have any say into the cover art?
Allison ~ The cover of MOST EAGERLY YOURS combines two different scenes – an early one where Laurel, the heroine, is wearing a yellow gown and meets the hero for the first time, and then a later scene where they meet again in Bath, on a balcony outside the Assembly Rooms. But throughout the story, that yellow dress becomes a code between them for “I know you’ve got secrets and you aren’t going to tell me what they are, but I’m going to try to trust you anyway.”
With all my books so far, I’ve been blessed by the cover gods! The art department at NAL is phenomenal in getting the details right and capturing the essence of the story. My input comes in the form of providing those details, but otherwise I’m not consulted until they’re ready to show me the finished product. It’s more like “here –what do you think?” So far they have blown me away.
Terra ~ Our hero and heroine both have their fair share of secrets as well as childhood trama. Is it safe to say that is where their instant attraction stems from because this is not the classic case of opposites attract.
Allison ~ I never do anything the easy way. In a romance its much easier to create romantic conflict when the hero and heroine have two opposing sets of life experiences, but it was actually so much fun to have conflict arise from the similarities between them – similarities neither felt at liberty to reveal. Some of their conflict arises from inconveniently getting in each other’s way as they go about their missions. But it also stems from their own, inner struggles. Aidan is afraid to lose his heart after witnessing how love destroyed his father. And Laurel has always put the welfare of others ahead of herself, and believes she must continue to do so, even at the expense of her own happiness.
Terra ~ Which scene in the book is your favorite and why?
Allison ~ One of the most romantic interludes occurs at the ruins of Greys Abbey in the Cotswolds. Aidan and Laurel have made love outdoors beneath a starlit sky, and afterwards Aidan “commands the earth to sing and the sky to dance,” and waltzes with Laurel beneath the night sky. There’s so much sadness in that scene as the two of them come to grips with the realization that their lives are pulling them in separate directions, but as Laurel realizes, “He might not be able to offer her a happily ever after, but he’d already given her more than she had ever imagined.”
I almost deleted that scene during my revisions, because while it was nice enough, I wasn’t sure it moved the story forward. In the end, though, I found I just couldn’t nix it. So I moved it and gave it more meaning than it originally had, and I’m really glad I did.
Terra ~ Queen Victoria doesn’t get much of a part in this book, will she more involved in upcoming books or will it basically be about the Sutherland sisters?
Allison ~ Each of these books will really belong to the sisters and respective heroes. I’m fascinated with Victoria’s story – the forgotten little princess growing up friendless and under her mother’s intense scrutiny in shabby apartments in Kensington Palace – but as a fiction writer I want to focus on my fictional characters. They’re where I can really express my creativity. Victoria is a catalyst for the action and a motivating factor in keeping my heroines focused on their job – no matter how tempted to drop everything and jump into the hero’s arms!
Terra ~ Our hero and heroine have very strong parts in this book and their secrets to what they are doing are somewhat the same. How hard was it to keep the two from crossing over into each others storyline before the right time presented itself?
Allison ~ I do sometimes wrestle with that very thing. It’s always good to have the hero and heroine meet and begin interacting as soon as possible, but I had to be careful not to rush things in MOST EAGERLY YOURS. This book sets up the circumstances for the next three as well, so there were certain details that needed to be established before Laurel’s mission took off. Of course, she and Aidan do inadvertently meet early on…which creates huge problems for Laurel later and is partly responsible for Aidan becoming so instantly intrigued by the mysterious “Mrs. Sanderson” when he meets her again Bath nearly a year later.
Terra ~ You last two books were paranormals, was it hard for you to switch gears to go to a historical romance that could also be classified as a cozy mystery?
Allison ~ To be honest, it took me by surprise when my publisher suggested switching away from paranormals. While that genre is doing gangbusters in terms of contemporary romance, they’ve found it somewhat lagging when it came to historicals, except for a few notable exceptions.
Then again, I’ve always included mystery elements in my stories, and the Blackheath Moor books were no exception. I always say I’m a bit of a closet mystery writer. While the romance always takes precedence, I love puzzles and mysteries and am always pulled in that direction in terms of external plot. And you’ll still find touches of “dark hero” and gothic themes in the new books as well, as well as the powerful emotions that carried the Blackheath Moor books.
Terra ~ What are your plans for this series? Will you be doing a book for each of the sisters? Since you have piqued my interest in Laurel’s and her sisters past so much, will there be a separate book that will explain all that or will it perchance possibly be incorporated into one of the sisters books?
Allison ~ I do indeed plan to write a book for each sister. Ivy’s story, OUTRAGEOUSLY YOURS, is next, and will take her to Cambridge University where she must win the trust of a man reputed to be a bit of a mad scientist, and steal back something that belongs to the queen. It was TONS of fun to write, and I even learned a bit of Victorian physics along the way. Ivy’s story gives us a couple more clues into the sisters’ past, just enough to keep us guessing. Holly’s story will take us deeper, and the final story, Willow’s, will finally reveal the truth of who these ladies really are –but not without much danger and angst first!
Terra ~ I love the contrast you have given to Fitz and how he seems to be the center of focus. Was it hard to try and make him look like the bumbling fool/dastardly villian? It’s almost like he has some sort of dual personality and you never know which side will come out. I actually found myself like Laurel in my opinion of him.
Allison ~ Fitz, of course, was George Fitzclarence, the real life eldest son of William IV and his mistress, actress Dorothea Jordan. He was also, therefore, Victoria’s first cousin. The basics of Fitz as I wrote him are true – his frustration at having been born illegitimate haunted him all his life, until he finally took his own life in about 1841. He seemed such a sad character, and when I tried to find out more about him, I didn’t have much success. In my own mind he became a very complex individual: his own worst enemy, not quite royal but not common either, kind of a failure, but not without his redeeming and endearing qualities. He was almost the perfect counterbalance to Aidan’s James Bond-like confidence and skills.
Terra ~ Your description of Bath is really elegant. How much research did you do to make sure you had a place that would be perfectly believable both during the Victorian period as well as the Roman occupation period?
Allison ~ Tons! I’ve been to England but not Bath, so I knew I had to make up for that by exploring every aspect I could. I found numerous books at the library, did a lot of research on the internet, looked through some past copies of British Heritage Magazine, even borrowed a friend’s travel log from a few years back – whatever I could get my hands on. A detailed map helped immensely with the basic layout of the streets and the river, and I can’t tell you how long it took me to figure out the Weir, which adjusts the river levels. At one point I went on Google Earth for satellite images. All the photos I’d seen of places like the Royal Crescent and King’s Circus showed only the fronts. Well, I needed to know about the backs of those buildings, too.
Little by little I pieced together the incredible history and development of the city, and along the way fell in love with it. I learned much more than I needed, but Bath is such a fascinating place, you could spend years studying it. I’m really hoping to get there one of these years soon.
Thank you so much for having me here at Yankee Romance today, and for helping me celebrate the release of MOST EAGERLY YOURS. To make it even more fun, I’ll be randomly choosing from among everyone who comments, and the winner will receive a copy of the book!
Raised on their uncle's country estate, the four orphaned Sutherland sisters formed a close friendship with the young Princess Victoria. Shortly before her coronation as queen, Victoria asks the sisters to serve her in matters requiring the utmost discretion.
They are to become her secret servants...
Laurel, the eldest, is the first to be called. The Queen is threatened by her jealous cousin, George Fitzclarence, who is known for speaking treason. She asks Laurel to pose as a wealthy widow and use her charms to win George's trust, then find out what he is really plotting. Laurel is prepared for the risks of acting a part, but she encounters an unexpected and formidable obstacle in the Earl of Barenforth--George's friend and a notorious rake, whom Victoria has warned her to avoid...
An undercover agent for the Home Office, Aidan Phillips, Earl of Barensforth, is on the trail of a financial hoax involving alchemy, murder...and George Fitzclarence. When a lovely young widow wanders into his path and turns his well-laid plans on end, he senses she is hiding something. Aidan is no stranger to seduction, or to the wiles of beautiful women. And he intends employing wiles of his own to uncover the lady's secrets...