Guest Rose Lerner Talks About A Lily Among Thorns

Today we are delighted to have Rose Lerner as our guest author. Rose burst onto the scene last year with her debut book, In For A Penny (Amanda listed this book as one of her 2010 favorites). Today Rose will talk about her second book, A Lily Among Thorns.

Praise for A Lily Among Thorns:
“I loved it, even more than I loved In For A Penny…most of all for a heroine who is independent, prickly, and wonderful all at the same time.” — Courtney Milan, author of Unveiled.

“Rose Lerner is masterful at bringing out the details that make characters human, in a way that reminds me of Judith Ivory and Meredith Duran. I highly recommend this novel and can’t wait for her next novel.” — Kat Latham, Reader I created him.
Rose is giving away one signed copy of A Lily Among Thorns to one lucky commenter chosen at random.
A Big Risky Regencies welcome to Rose Lerner!
Tell us about A Lily Among Thorns.

My heroine Serena has been fighting for the past five years to build her hotel’s business and to be safe as a woman alone who’s known to have once worked as a courtesan. Then Solomon walks back into her life. She’s had a secret crush on him for years, ever since he gave her the money she needed to buy back her contract at a brothel, and walked away without touching her. But love, and the vulnerability it brings, terrifies Serena at the best of times–and these are definitely the worst of times. On the heels of Solomon’s arrival, she faces a close friend’s betrayal, the threat of losing her hotel, French spies, and a whole mess of other things that could bring her carefully constructed life crashing down around her ears.

What inspired this story?

Traditional Regencies, actually. There was a certain type of alpha hero who was very popular for a while: he never ever expressed his emotions. He barely had facial expressions. And sometimes, he had a deep, broad, and often unexplained knowledge of the criminal underworld. He was generally saved from his own self-hatred and isolation by the unconditional acceptance of an innocent but unconventional young woman. And I wanted to see what that would look like with the genders flipped.

The book grew from there, of course, but that was the seed.

What is risky about A Lily Among Thorns?

Three things. First, Serena is an embittered ex-courtesan. Remember that conversation last year about “unlikeable heroines”? (If not, my post on the subject is here, about how difficult it is as a woman to express anger and not feel guilty about it, and it’s got links to the original Dear Author post and another post at History Hoydens that I loved.)

Plus, Solomon, my hero, is a beta. He’s socially awkward, geeky, doesn’t have a ton of experience with women, and he works as a chemist for his uncle’s men’s tailoring shop. He’s got no problem standing up to Serena when it matters (and since she’s got some issues, that’s more often than you’d think), but he’s perfectly content to stand back and let her run the show in the general course of things.

The third thing is that the secondary romance is between two men, but I don’t want to say too much about that because there are some major spoilers involved.

Did you come across any interesting research when you were writing A Lily Among Thorns?

Oh, tons! I researched the London criminal world, gay clubs, annulments, chemistry, ethnic diversity in London, women’s property rights, who exactly is entitled to be beheaded instead of hanged, drawn, and quartered when convicted of treason, food and kitchens, the Battle of Waterloo…I could go on. If anyone has any questions about any of those things, I’d love to talk about them with you! Here’s two interesting things I discovered:

British people in the Regency did eat plenty of foreign-inspired food, especially French food. But it was much rarer than it would be a little later, or now, to refer to them by their foreign names. So when Solomon says he knows how to make crème brûlée, he calls it “burnt cream.”

And that story about Nathan Rothschild getting news of Waterloo in advance, tricking everyone at the ‘Change into thinking he knew Wellington lost, and then buying up all the consols and seizing control of England’s finances? Totally false. Also, when I was researching that, you would not believe how many scary anti-Semitic websites I found that used it as an example of how Jews control the world. Anyway, if you want to hear more, I’ve got a blog post about it here with lengthy quotes from a Rothschild biography.

I’ve also got a post on Regency chemistry up over at History Hoydens.

This is your second book, but we at Risky Regencies always love a debut author story. Your debut received some wonderful buzz. Tell us about your journey to publication?

Thank you! I was actually having a really tough time with writing romance when I sold that book. I was having a tough time, period. When I was about a hundred pages into my first draft of In for a Penny, I found out my mom’s cancer was back and that she was going to die. I found out she would never get to read the book, and I didn’t write a word for about six months. My mom introduced me to romance novels and she was always the person I wrote for, the person I knew would love my books.

Eventually I forced myself to finish a draft but it was like pulling teeth, and once I was done, I couldn’t bring myself to edit it. I couldn’t even bring myself to reread it. I had a revised first three chapters, though. I promised myself I’d pitch it at the Emerald City Writers Conference, but if I didn’t get any requests for a full, I didn’t have to look at it ever again.

Well, Leah Hultenschmidt requested the partial, and I sent it to her, and I didn’t hear back. I figured, okay, that’s it then. I didn’t revise it, I didn’t send it out, and I didn’t start my next book, either. I thought maybe it was the end of the line for me and historical romance. Maybe the spark was gone. Heck, it wasn’t like anyone would ever want to publish me anyway.

Then about six months later, Leah requested the full. For a minute there, I was actually kind of mad. I still didn’t believe she was going to buy it, and now I had to go through this whole grueling process and it would all be for nothing, right? But when I read the book again, I kind of liked it. Yeah, it needed a lot of work, but I could fix it. So I dived in, cleaned it up, sent it off, even got my groove back enough to start a new book…and it turned out the spark wasn’t gone at all. I just needed to believe that someone might someday read what I was writing. I just needed to believe that someone might love it.

And then Leah called and said she wanted to buy In for a Penny, and the rest is history!

What is next for you?

I’m not sure. I’m almost done with a draft of a book about the 1812 Parliamentary general election. By the local rules of her town, the middle-class heroine’s husband would be eligible for a vote…if she were married. The younger-son-of-an-earl hero is sent to the town to find the heroine a husband, but of course he falls in love with her himself! But it’s not sold yet so I don’t actually know yet if it will be my next book out or when it will be available. I’ll keep you posted!

There’s plenty to comment about from this interview. Rose’s emotional debut story. The risks she took in this book. The research, especially about the Rothschilds. The whole issue of unlikeable heroines. So there’s no excuse not to leave a comment and earn a chance to win a copy of A Lily Among Thorns.

Or ask Rose a question! She’s coming back from a conference today, but will check in during the evening.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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10 years ago

I love learning about what authors research and how they end up incorporating into their stories. Thanks for a couple of new sources, to me, and new authors!

Louisa Cornell
10 years ago

Rose, what an amazing journey you have had to publication. And you have endured which is something all real writers have to learn to do.

I am fascinated with the depth of your research and I will definitely be exploring the posts you mentioned. As a fellow research geek I have spent many hours I should have been writing pouring over research books and websites.

How difficult was it to write a heroine in the model of those traditional regency heroes. I know exactly the sort of which you speak and I am truly looking forward to a heroine written in that vein.

Sophia Rose
10 years ago

That was a good posting for me a fledgling writer to read- thank you for the interview questions and thank you, Rose, for your candid answers. I got chills from a parallel situation though mine ended differently.

I love the idea of a beta male lead because it is not often done. I’ve read tons of regencies and other romances where the female is alpha just like the male.

Based on your list of research sources and subjects, this will be an incredible read.

Thanks for posting and for the giveaway opportunity.

Terry Parrish
Terry Parrish
10 years ago

This book does sound different than the usual Regency. And I definitely love the female character who knows what she wants. I would really enjoy this book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

Barbara E.
10 years ago

I enjoyed the chance to learn more about a new author that I don’t know much about. I’m looking forward to reading A Lily Among Thorns, with a unique heroine and a geeky hero, they sound very different from the norm.

10 years ago

I thoroughly enjoyed PENNY and have been looking forward to LILY.
What I particularly like is the way your books seem to be grounded in the real world of the period — the result of all that research!

Cathy P
Cathy P
10 years ago

Hi Rose! You have had a very sad but amazing journey to get to the point where you are now. So glad that you persevered. I am looking forward to reading A Lily Among Thorns. It sounds like a must read book.

Rose Lerner
10 years ago

Girlygirlhoosier52–Oh good, because I love talking about research! If you ever have specific questions or cool stuff you want to share, e-mail me. <3

Louisa–Sometimes it IS hard to stop researching and get back to the keyboard, isn’t it? Who knows, that next great idea may be on the next page!

It wasn’t very difficult–after all, I’m not sure what’s specifically masculine about wanting to look strong even when you feel weak. I even think in some ways it was easier for me personally to write a woman that way because I understood so clearly WHY, and what she was fighting against. When you’re a woman, there are a lot of people in this world who just assume you’re weak without looking at you twice. If you want people to look at you and know right off that you’re tough, you really have to go the extra mile.

Of course there were things that ended up having to be different from those trads. A woman that behaved that way could never keep her place in high society the way a man (esp. a titled or very rich man) might be able to get away with. If you read the book, let me know if the switch worked for you!

Sophia Rose–thanks so much! I also have seen some great alpha/alpha pairings. It can be one of my favorite things if it’s done well–have you read Tessa Dare’s A Night to Surrender? Watching the h/h fight for control over that little town was AWESOME.

Terry–thanks! Have you read Meredith Duran’s Wicked Becomes You? It has one of my very favorite lines of all time in a romance, when Alex says to Gwen, “In this world, there is nothing more wicked than a woman who is unafraid to acknowledge what she wants.” It wasn’t just the sentiment, but him knowing that, and saying it to her, and wanting her to be true to herself…I kind of teared up, to be honest.

Barbara–thanks! Let me know what you think if you do read it. 🙂

Lil–Aw, thank you! That’s my geeky worldbuilding side shining through. It’s a good thing I don’t write fantasy or I’d be one of those authors where the first five chapters were all infodump about the history of the Intergalactic Empire or whatever.

Cathy–thank you! I’m glad I persevered too. 🙂 I hope you like the book!

10 years ago

Rose, I loved “In for a Penny” and added “Lily” to my Wish List as soon as it was announced. I am going to order it, but will wait to see if I win. In that case, after I read it, it will go on my Keeper Shelf.

Don’t worry about your WIP, I’m sure a publisher will snap it up so we can enjoy it.

Thank you for hours of reading pleasure and more in the future.

Laura T

10 years ago

I resisted reading “In for a Penny” because I thought it just couldn’t be as good as everyone said. Then I realized I was potentially hurting no one but myself, bought and read the book, and learned an abject lesson in why cynicism is Not a Good Life Choice. I thought the book earned every single one of the compliments it had received. The growth in the relationship was portrayed both truthfully and romantically, as an initial attraction between two strangers grew to love. I also thought the relationship between Penny and her parents was quite lovely.

The timing of this contest is quite fortuitous as I looked in my local B&N for “A Rose Among Thorns” just today. Couldn’t find it so realized I have to go online to get it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and, if I don’t win, my order will go out immediately after. Based on how well the marriage of convenience plot was done in the first book, I can’t wait to see how the gender role reversal is done here.

Rose Lerner
10 years ago

Laura–Thanks so much! Good luck in the drawing. 🙂

Susan/DC–Wow, thanks! That’s hilarious, I know I’ve done that plenty of times. It’s like I dig in my heels and the more other people rave about something, the more convinced I become that I wouldn’t like it at all. Sometimes I’m right, of course, but sometimes I’m very very wrong! I’m glad you decided to give Penny a chance and I’m glad it lived up to the hype!

10 years ago

Rose, I enjoyed your first book and look forward to the second. Your interview was enlightening and touching. I wondered what drew you to writing in the beginning and why historical romance?

Rose Lerner
10 years ago

TxDee–Thanks! I’ve been writing stories since I was five or six. I started reading Regency romances when I was twelve and have been reading them by the dozen ever since. Sorcery and Cecilia (a paranormal Regency, basically) by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer was one of my favorite books. It had started out as a “letter game,” where you write in-character letters to a friend. My fellow romance-reading friend and I LOVED the book and one memorable sleepover night in high school decided to try our hand at in-character Regency letters ourselves. We ended up ignoring all the other girls there to scribble frantically in the corner for hours. The game went on for about a year and when it trickled to a stop, I wanted MORE. I wrote my first Regency manuscript my senior year and haven’t stopped since.

Rosie Hong
10 years ago

That was a very touching debut story, Rose. I’m sure your mom is extremely proud of what you’ve accomplished. I’m glad you managed to get your book out there.

DaniJo Avia
10 years ago

Rose! So glad Lily is coming out. Really enjoyed In for a Penny and have been looking forward to your next read. Congratulations!

Rose Lerner
10 years ago

Rosie–Thanks! I wish she could see (and read) my books…if you look, I dedicated Penny to her.

DaniJo–Thank you! Let me know what you think. 🙂

10 years ago

You certainly did some extensive and interesting research. As for the Rothschild information, how many other “facts” of history have also been so skewed.

I am sorry to hear about your mom. I know how much the closeness and inspiration can mean and what the loss of it does. I am glad you were able to pick up and continue to write. What better way to remember her and honor her faith in you.

I appreciate your book being so well researched. One of the reasons I read and enjoy reading historicals is the opportunity to learn details and information of life in the era depicted.

I will have to get IN FOR A PENNY off my TBR mountain and read it. I really like the sound of your new story, A LILY AMONG THORNS and look forward to reading it.

10 years ago

Have you ever wanted to include a wonderful piece of research in a book, but it just didn’t fit the plot?

Rose Lerner
10 years ago

Librarypat–Voltaire said that history is a pack of tricks we play on the dead, but sometimes I wonder if it isn’t really the other way around!

Kim–oh, all the time! Luckily there’s no expiration date on these so I write them down and save them for later…

10 years ago

OK, I’m late to this party, but I just wanted to thank you for this great interview! You’re awesome, Rose! I LOVED your first book and can’t wait to get started with this new one. Great research, great characters, great heart. Thank you!

Rose Lerner
10 years ago

Karen–Lateness is fashionable, right? 🙂 Wow, thank you! I hope you like this one just as much.