Risky Regencies

Nicola Cornick Visits the Riskies!


(The Riskies welcome HQn/Harlequin Historicals author Nicola Cornick for the first time to the blog! Be sure and comment for the chance to win a copy either of Unmasked or The Last Rake in London. Yes, it’s a two book giveaway this week…)

Riskies: Welcome to the blog, Nicola! Tell us about Unmasked (I love the Russian heroine…)

Nicola: Thank you so much for inviting me to visit Risky Regencies today! I’m so excited to be here.

Unmasked is a story about friendship and liberty as well as being (I hope!) a very tender and passionate love story. The heroine, Marina Osborne, was born a Russian serf in the house of a British diplomat, the Earl of Rashleigh, in St. Petersburg. He educated her as an experiment and brought her up to be an English lady, but when he died and his son inherited, the new earl forced Mari to make an unholy agreement–she had to become his mistress to buy her family’s freedom from serfdom.

When the story begins, Rashleigh has just been murdered and Mari is the prime suspect. She has come to England and re-invented herself as a respectable widow living in the Yorkshire countryside, but there are so many secrets in her past that it seems impossible she can escape them. The earl’s cousin, Major Nick Falconer, is sent to try to uncover the truth about the murder. Nick is a soldier, as honorable as his cousin was evil. As he starts to discover the truth about Mari he is hugely attracted to her and desperate to help her heal, and she is equally desperate to keep her secrets while at the same time she wants to trust Nick–and is falling in love with him.

It’s a very tender and moving courtship, and I hope readers find it moving, too. I should add, though, that I have leavened the story with some of the humor I always like to put in my books. For example, Nick suspects Mari of being the leader of the Glory Girls highway-women. But then he sees her fall off a horse because she is such a poor rider, and he realizes his assumptions about her might be quite wrong!

Riskies: LOL! Where did you get the initial idea for this story? Was there anything interesting or unusual you came across in the research?

Nicola: The year 2007 was the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery in the British Isles, and it was that that gave me the idea for the book. I knew that I wanted to write a story about slavery and freedom, and how being a slave would affect a person’s feelings about themselves and their identity.

The research into the slave trade was fascinating and horrifying. Even though the trade was abolished in 1807, existing slaves were not freed until there was further legislation in 1833. Nor did abolition stop the trade. Some captains who still traded in slaves would throw them overboard to avoid fines if they were in danger of being caught by the Navy.

Riskies: And we always have to ask–what is “risky” about this book?

Nicola: There are a couple things about the book I think are risky. First, it features a group of highway-women, and I know that not all readers like heroes or heroines who break the law. I hope that with the Glory Girls I have demonstrated why they feel so passionately about injustice and inequality, and feel moved to break the law in order to right some of the wrongs in society.

Second, the book has a very strong theme of slavery and abuse, and I know that with such a powerful and emotive subject there is always the possibility of upsetting readers who might have strong views on the subject themselves. So I hope I have dealt with this very sensitively in the story.

Riskies: How did you get started writing? What draws you to the Regency as a setting?

Nicola: I started writing when I was at college, and I used to read chapters of my books to my friends over late night cups of coffee as an antidote to our studies! One of my friends swears she is still in love with the hero of my very first book, True Colors, because he made such an impression on her at the age of 18!

I’ve always loved the Regency period. I find it a fascinating period of history with a glittering world of privilege at one end of the social spectrum and a desperate fight for survival on the other. It feels like a complicated and dangerous society in which to live, and it’s great to be able to set a book against those contrasts.

Like so many other readers, I was introduced to the Regency period via the works of Georgette Heyer. My grandmother recommended her books to me, and I was so entranced I read my way through all of them. From there, I moved on to UK Regency authors such as Sheila Walsh and Alice Chetwynd Ley, whose books I adore. I read every Regency-set book I could get my hands on until I ran out! Then I discovered that US authors also wrote Regency historicals, and I was a very happy reader.

Riskies: Does living in the UK have a large influence on your work?

Nicola: Living in the UK is very useful in the sense that the history is all around me, and that is very inspiring. I like to visit historic towns such as Bath, soak up the atmosphere and the architecture, and visit the museums. Stately homes are also a huge source of inspiration to me–I work as a guide at Ashdown House, which is one of the most beautiful houses in the country. The stories associated with those places are a wonderful source of ideas.

On the other hand, so much of writing is about creativity and imagination, and I don’t think one has to be based in a particular place for the imagination to spark. Some of the best historical romances I’ve ever read have been written by US-based authors and Australian authors who have the excitement and energy and creativity in their writing to make the period really live.

Riskies: You have another book on the shelves recently–The Last Rake in London! I see it has an unusual setting. Tell us about this story!

Nicola: Thank you for asking about TLRIL, and giving me the opportunity to mention my lovely hero, Jack Kestrel. He does seem to be a bit of a hit with readers!

Harlequin Mills & Boon asked me to write an Edwardian-set book as part of their centenary celebration this year. This was quite a challenge for me, as I hadn’t studied that part of history since I was at school. But when I did my research I realized what an interesting era the Edwardian period was, and I wondered why there aren’t more books set in that time. I loved the fact that we were entering the modern period, and there were elements of the period still recognizable today, such as the London Underground, and that there were cars on the streets and the King using the telephone to call up and his friends and tell them he was coming to visit! The potential it gave for the story was enormous. My heroine, Sally Bowes, is the owner of an exclusive London nightclub, and Jack, the last rake of the title, is a self-made businessman, as well as the descendant of the Duke of Kestrel.

Riskies: I also read that one of your favorite historical heroines is Anne Boleyn! She’s also a great favorite of mine (Amanda’s). What draws you to her story? Are there any other historical women you admire?

Nicola: It’s great to meet another admirer of Anne Boleyn! I think she is a fascinating character. I love strong heroines, so what draws me to her is probably that she was such a strong woman at a time when women’s roles and positions were even more constricted than in the Regency. She was brave, she was clever, and she was evidently enormously charismatic. I have a very powerful sense of justice and hate the fact that she was brought down on the basis of false evidence. She would be one of my dream dinner party guests–I would love to meet her!

When I was studying for my MA in Public History we discussed the fact that women are absent in so much of recorded history, not because they did nothing but because, as Anne Elliot says in Persuasion, history was largely written by men! So it is great to find female role models to admire.

Another of my heroines is Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen. We tell her story at Ashdown House. After she and her family were exiled from Bohemia in 1620 and her husband died, she brought up her 10 children alone and acted as a focal point for those loyal to the restoration of her son’s ancestral lands. She was another strong and charismatic woman.

Riskies: And what is next for you?

Nicola: I’m currently working on the second book of a trilogy that is linked to Unmasked and features some of the same characters. The first book in the series, Confessions of a Duchess, will be out next summer from HQN Books. I’m also finishing a short story for Harlequin’s new “Undone” e-book series, which will be on sale in November. And I have a first-person Regency coming out in the spring form Harlequin Historicals. It’s based on the classic story Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, and was lots of fun to write!

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Gillian Layne
14 years ago

Excellent interview, Amanda. Good morning, Nicola! 🙂

I think you do a lovely job of combining very deep, true emotion and historical details that really bring your stories to life. I look forward to enjoying The Last Rake in London on my end-of-summer holiday. I’m so glad Harlequin continues to offer a broad scope of historicals.

I’m thrilled to hear you have so many new projects in the works! Is it a challenge for you to work on a variety of stories at one time, or do you enjoy the variety?

Cheri2628
14 years ago

I just want to say that I truly enjoy reading your books. “Deceived” is my favorite! You write stories filled with rich characters, strong emotion,realistic historical details, and intriguing plots. I look forward to continuing to read your books.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Hi, Nicola!
Welcome to the Riskies! It is so nice to see you here.

I love the premise of Unmasked! Talk about being creative….
I like that you introduce the Regency reader to other exotic places important to the history of the time and your heroine sounds refreshing.
(Unmasked, by the way, was the original title of my The Mysterious Miss M. I always liked that title and am glad it is on your book!)

I love the Edwardian period, too. Beautiful clothes in that period of history. TLRIL is on my TBR list.

I work as a guide at Ashdown House, which is one of the most beautiful houses in the country.

I’m all envy!! It looks like a beautiful and very interesting house.

Elaine
14 years ago

Thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Even took notes on the books. Unmasked sounds like my kind of story. Elaine

Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

Hello, Nicola! Huge fan girl moment here as I am a true fan of your books, as you well know!

The Last Rake in London is a must read, ladies! Jack is definitely a swoonable hero and the entire romance is just magical.

I am so anxious to read Unmasked as it sounds fascinating and incredibly romantic. Lady highwaymen or would that be highwaywomen sound like a lot of fun!

I was interested to hear of your early experience with the novels of Georgette Heyer as I started reading her books when I was nine – the year we moved to England! Two little old ladies with the most amazing garden introduced me to her books and I devoured them. They were sisters and so sweet. They would invite me to tea and we would discuss books – and they would argue over which hero they liked best.

I, too, am so glad to hear you are busily writing more books. Do you think writing a first person book will be more difficult or easier than writing third person?

Thanks for writing such marvelous books!

Lorraine
14 years ago

I have taken a break from historical novels in the last year or so, but I recently read one that captured all the things I always liked about them.

This latest book sounds like it has the same elements. Thank you for the interview

Gerri Bowen
14 years ago

Lovely interview, ladies!
I recently had the pleasure of reading Deceived, and am looking forward to reading more of your books, Nicola. Wonderful story telling and beautiful writing. Thank you!

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi everyone! Thank you very much for such a warm welcome.

Gillian and Cheri – thanks so much for the comments on my books. I’m so pleased you enjoy them! I love reading books that explore deep emotional conflicts – it’s one of the things I enjoy the most about a lot of the US published Regencies I’ve read – and I also love developing the deep emotional relationships between my characters.

Elaine, I’m so glad you liked the interview! If you do pick up the books I really hope you enjoy them.

I have my 3 year old god-daughter here helping me write this!! I’ll be back soon…

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Hello again, Nicola! Welcome to the Riskies, and thanks so much for agreeing to visit us. (BTW, I have “Last Rake” in my read-on-the-plane-to RWA pile, since I’m a fearful flyer and need good distractions, lol. I agree with Diane, beautiful clothes in this period)

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi again!

I find it very difficult to work on a variety of stories at the same time, Gillian, and envy writers who can do this with ease! I think it’s because I get so deeply into the characters that I can’t easily tear myself away and focus on a different set of people. I’d like to know other people’s experience of this, whether they can write two things at once. I know some people can do it if the books are set in different time periods because the contrast makes it easier. What do you think?

Michelle Styles
14 years ago

Waving to Nicola.
I did not realise that you loved the Winter Queen. I think she is so fascinating. I recently readSpencer- Churchill’s biography of Prince Rupert which was really intriguing.
I am looking forward to seeing what you do with the first person Regency

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi Diane! I hadn’t realised The Mysterious Miss M had originally been titled “Unmasked.” How appropriate. I loved that book so much! I’m glad you like the premise of Unmasked. I think it is a bit different and as I mentioned, the idea of slavery interested me and the fact that it was still a fact of life at the beginning of the Regency period… I wanted to explore that.

I’m glad you like the sound of Ashdown. It’s one of my passions! If anyone is visiting the UK anytime it would be my pleasure to show you around.

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi Louisa and thank you so much for your kind comments! I love the thought of those two sisters arguing over the best Georgette Heyer hero!

The first person Regency was actually easier to write than I had anticipated (easier than third person in some ways). It felt way more intense as a writing experience – I think I even began to believe I was an eighteen year old girl in Highland Scotland in 1804!! Hmm, that was a bit scary! I know some readers enjoy first person regencies and others not so much so it will be interesting to see what people think when the book comes out.

I’m very pleased you enjoyed Deceived, Gerri. Thank you! Writing about a Princess as heroine was lots of fun! I think I’d like to do that again sometime. Has anyone read Louise Allen’s book “The Dangerous Mr Ryder”? That has a Princess heroine who is a wonderful character. And I loved Anne Gracie’s “The Stolen Princess”. Yes, definitely a soft spot for them!

Deb Marlowe
14 years ago

Nicola is in the house! I’m reading The Last Rake in London right now and I have to agree–that Jack Kestrel is lovely!

I’m so excited to read Unmasked. Tell us about the Enriched Ebook version, Nicola–a brilliant concept! I love the idea of reading a book with links to the various historical topics, etc. How did that all come about? Did you choose the links?

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi Michelle! Yes, I’m very interested in the story of The Winter Queen because of the connection she has to Ashdown House. I thought the biography of Prince Rupert was excellent. I have to confess he one of my big historical crushes LOL!

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi Deb – What fun to meet you here! The enriched e-book version of Unmasked was a big surprise for me. I only found out a few days before the launch. (Maybe they thought I’d be so excited I’d tell everyone (g!) I think it’s a great idea to have the enriched books and I have to say that the enriched version of Unmasked is very cool. I’m not really a tecchie person but I loved clicking on all the internet links and reading up on the historical background details. I didn’t have any input into that and it made me nervous in case I had slipped up on my research! The other thing I liked about it was the pictures at the top of each chapter. That looked so pretty. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the next enriched edition.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I’m glad you like the sound of Ashdown. It’s one of my passions! If anyone is visiting the UK anytime it would be my pleasure to show you around.

The “sound” of it? I looked it up online and read about it! It looks lovely, all that white chalk stone.

And you may regret those words about showing visitors around. I’m PINING to go back to England and I’d be happy to put Ashdown on my list of things to see.

Sara Lindsey
14 years ago

Hi Nicola! Another fangirl in the house!

I remember meeting you at the literary signing in Atlanta in 2005 – I had just graduated from college, it was my first conference, and I was so overwhelmed, but you were so lovely and friendly! I still have the Sense and Sensibility postcard you gave me (or rather, I took with your permission) up in my room to remind me not only about the period in which I write (and the fabulous Jane!) but also what a warm, encouraging community we have in the romance world.

The enhanced e-book sounds marvelous – what a wonderful idea! I’m not allowing myself to read anything regency until I finish my edits, but I will definitely be on the lookout for TLRIL!

Hope to see you in San Francisco – I promise not to steal all your postcards this time!

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

LOL Diane, it’s a deal. I would LOVE to show you around Ashdown! When Anna Campbell came to visit last year she got the full Ashdown treatment, poor girl! And I’ve already been boring Amanda with my obsession with William Craven, the cavalier who originally owned the place. The house and its story was the inspiration for one of my non-Regencies, Lord Greville’s Captive, which was set in the English Civil War.

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi Sara! I had such a lovely time meeting everyone in Atlanta. The whole Nationals thing is overwhelming for me as we have 150 people at our national conference in the UK, but everyone was so friendly and kind to me so I felt right at home. I’m really sorry that I won’t be able to get to San Francisco this year but to stave off my disappointment I’ve already started planning for Washington in 09! I’ll be with you all in spirit this year, though, and hope everyone has a fantastic time!

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

Hi, Nicola,

I love Regencies and have written a few myself although not much luck in getting a publisher for them so far. I read several of your Harlequins and enjoyed them.
How did you get started? Did you need an agent?

Jacqueline Seewald
THE INFERNO COLLECTION, a novel of romantic suspense and mystery
Five Star/Gale

Anna Campbell
14 years ago

Hi Nicola! Hi Riskies! Hi Gillian, Cheryl, Louisa, Deb and Sara and everyone else! Quite a party you’ve got happening here over the bone china cups!

Nicola, as you know, I’m a huge fan of your books. I adored THE LAST RAKE IN LONDON and swooned over Jack, as I gather did everyone else who read this book. He’s so sexy! Unmasked is on the TBR pile – a bit of a carrot for me to get some writing finished and then I can settle down with another delicious NC story.

Hey, good luck in the RITAs! Nicola’s fantastic LORD OF SCANDAL is up for the Regency gong! Wish you were coming to SF!

Sara, I left you a message on your blog congratulating on your fantastic sale news! Love to see another great historical writer in the fold!

Nicola, I’m definitely a one book at a time person. Those characters tend to take over my life when I’m really into a book.

I wondered if you’d seen any trends in historicals lately? Any guesses as to what will be the next big thing?

Also are you thinking of writing another Edwardian book? That was such fun delving into another period – and as the Riskies agree, the clothes were gorgeous! When I was in New York last year, they had the most amazing exhibition on at the Metropolitan of Paul Poiret’s work. That stuff was breathtaking – like something out of the Ballets Russes! Of course, I couldn’t have worn it in a fit (or NOT a fit, as the case actually is). He loved a flat-chested, no-hipped, athletic kind of girl. That ain’t me, sadly!

Oh, dear, you can tell I’m a fangirl, Miss C, I’m gushing!

Julia Justiss
Julia Justiss
14 years ago

Hi, Nicola! So nice to have the background about Unmasked, which sits at the top of my TBR pile. I’m glad someone asked about the enriched e-book already, which answered many of my questions (like whether TPTB made you come up with all the links. How like TPTB, though, to tell you nothing about the program even though you are the LAUNCH book!) One Dumb Question from one with no techie experience–I sort of thought e-book readers were “detached” devices. Can the enriched e-book work on those or do you have to buy the e-book and download it to your computer so you can be connected to the internet for the imbedded links to work?
Another question about Unmasked you didn’t cover: were your Glory Girls based on an actual group? If so, how did you discover them.
Oh, I’d love to come to England for your tour! I didn’t know one of its owners was the prototype for Lord Grenville’s Captive, one of my favorite of your books. The English Civil War is so fraught with built-in conflict I’m surprised there aren’t more historicals set there.
Which leads me to–how delightful I found the setting of TLRIL. So nice to see the hints of the “modern woman” in Sally owning her club, her sister who’s a suffragette (will she be getting her own story, BTW?)
Thanks again for so many hours of reading entertainment.

Jane
14 years ago

Hi Julia,
How common were highway-women? Do you think there were bands of these women like the Glory Girls?

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi Jacqueline! You were asking how I had got started and about agents. I didn’t have an agent when I started writing for Harlequin. This was mostly ignorance on my part as I hadn’t a clue about how to get published and simply sent my manuscript off to Mills & Boon (several times!) because I had read lots of their historical romances and knew they published the sort of books I liked to read. In a way things were simpler for me being in the UK because M&B was one of only 2 publishers of Regencies in this country at the time. I didn’t even think of the US market. As I said, I wasn’t very clued up about how to go about it!

I signed up with an agent when I started writing for HQN Books because the contracts were more complicated. Personally I hate all the negotiating stuff anyway so I like having someone to take that on for me. Plus I find having an agent with good knowledge of the market is a huge benefit.

Congratulations on The Inferno Collection btw – it sounds intriguing! – and good luck with your Regencies!

Anna Campbell
14 years ago

Julia, isn’t Lord Grenville a fantastic book? It’s one of my favorites of Nicola’s too. I agree with you – it seems a pity we don’t see more books set in the English Civil War. Such great possibilities for really meaty conflicts.

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Hi Anna! Hmm… Trends in historicals, eh? I would LOVE to know what the next big thing is going to be!

Over here in the UK it’s probably first person Regencies. Both Piatkus and Little Black Dress are looking for them so if anyone has a manuscript… They are very keen on the “chick-lit Regency” idea.

My agent tells me that in the US sequels or “different versions” of the classics are going to be big. I hear a sequel to Tom Sawyer is coming out later this year and my Kidnapped-inspired book caused some interest, so that’s my top tip!

I haven’t planned another Edwardian set book, despite the lovely comments I’ve received for Last Rake, but never say never! I would have loved to see the Poiret exhibition you went to. Sally, the heroine of Last Rake, wears a Paul Poiret gown on the night that Jack seduces her! They sound amazing dresses but I’m another one who isn’t built for gowns like that – or for some of the styles of the Regency period either!

flchen1
14 years ago

Thanks so much for the terrific interview, Amanda and Nicola! I’m definitely to hear about everything coming up for you!

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

LOL Julia, I am so not the person to ask techie questions! But yes, I think you need to be connected to the internet to benefit from the enriched edition of the books. My dh has just tried to explain to me that you can have wire-free connections to read on a PDA or phone or other device, but it went straight over my head!!

You and Jane were both asking about real life inspiration for the Glory Girls highwaywomen and I must admit that I didn’t come across any bands of female highwaywomen who worked like that but that my research did show up some individuals who were highwaywomen. There’s a fantastic book called Stand and Deliver by David Brandon which gives the history of highway robbery in the UK with a whole chapter devoted to female highwaymen. They were an amazing bunch who mostly rode astride like men, except for one woman who insisted on riding side saddle. It was great fun creating a band of women who could ride and shoot as well as men, and giving them a cause they were fighting for was very important to me. I based that aspect of the story on the Rebecca Riots (another great research book!) where groups of armed men galloped about the countryside protesting against road tolls and the enclosure of common land. The Rebecca Rioters were men who dressed as women for disguise – there has to be a story in there somewhere of men in drag!

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Welcome to the Riskies, Nicola, and thanks for such a fascinating interview. I love stories that explore unusual facets of history and yours sound so intriguing. Best of luck to you!

Linda Banche
14 years ago

Another fan here. I’ll try anything Regency once, and the first book of yours I read was “The Blanchland Secret”.

It got me hooked. I do like a story that has other things going on than just the romance, like you write.

Too bad some of your backlist is out of print. Can you get Harlequin to reissue them?

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

“And I’ve already been boring Amanda with my obsession with William Craven, the cavalier who originally owned the place.”

LOL! Please, “bore” me anytime. I love meeting people who don’t think I’m weird for being obsessed with people who died hundreds of years ago. 🙂 (And Nicola has bravely offered to join me on a pilgrimage to Hever Castle when I’m in Europe in the fall–next visit, Ashdown! And Hardwicke!)

I have somehow missed “Lord Greville,” must look for it.

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

Nicola, I’m fascinated by the abolitionist movement, too (I wrote about it, sort of, as Jane Lockwood). Have you read “Bury the Chains” by Adam Hochschild–it was my inspiration.

Also I’ve only read a few pages so far of “Unmasqued” but wondered if the hero really was in drag in the opening scene–couldn’t figure that one out!

kimmyl
14 years ago

Hi Nicola, Just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your vooks. I can’t wait to read Unmasked.

Santa
14 years ago

I know it’s late but I just wanted to say that I am so happy I discovered your books a few years back. I’ve caught up and catch every release. Each book is better than the other!

I am excited about Unmasked and I hope to get my hands on TLRIL. Thanks for stopping by here! I look forward to meeting you one day!

Cara King
14 years ago

Great to have you here, Nicola!

An Edwardian? How exciting! I used to gobble up all the Edwardians I could find from the (now long defunct) Fawcett Coventry line — I recall Marion Chesney wrote some delightful ones under the name Jennie Tremaine.

BTW, I LOVE your covers!!!

Cara

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Thank you so much for the welcome, Elena and Cara. It’s been such fun to be here! And thanks also for the book recommendation, Janet. I will have to get hold of a copy of Bury the Chains.

No, the hero isn’t in drag at the beginning of Unmasked, Janet, but he is in disguise as a macaroni – very foppish with lots of lace and embroidery, patches and mincing around! Doesn’t fool the heroine, of course!

Linda, Kimmy and Santa, it’s great to meet you here and I’m so pleased you enjoy the books. I would love for Harlequin to reissue my backlist, Linda! They are reissuing all my books in the UK but unfortunately they hardly ever reissue historicals in the US (unless you are Stephanie Laurens vbg!) So they will be available from Amazon UK but I know that postage is always an issue.

Nicola Cornick
14 years ago

Thank you all so much for welcoming me to Risky Regencies! I have had the best time here chatting with you all!

CrystalGB
14 years ago

Hi Nicola. Great interview. Your books sound wonderful

Nebula
14 years ago

Hello Nicola,

I just discovered your books back in May and have been happily reading all those I can get my hands on since! As I wrote you before, I love your website (which I now know was designed by your husband) and your “What do I do all day?” log. I’m glad to see your new work is being published–the idea of highwaywomen heroines is very intriguing! Now that I have also discovered Elena Greene and the other Riskies, I see I have many months of enjoyable reading ahead of me!

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