A Visit from Miranda Neville

We’re delighted to welcome back to the Riskies today smart and funny Miranda Neville, talking about her latest book, Confessions of an Arranged Marriage. And yes, there’s a contest. Here’s her book blurb ….

They couldn’t be more different, but there’s one thing they agree on.

In London after a two-year exile, Lord Blakeney plans to cut a swathe through the bedchambers of the demimonde. Marriage is not on his agenda, especially to an annoying chit like Minerva Montrose, with her superior attitude and a tendency to get into trouble. And certainly the last man Minerva wants is Blake, a careless wastrel without a thought in his handsome head.

The heat and noise of her debutante ball give Minerva a migraine. Surely a moment’s rest could do no harm … until Blake mistakes her for another lady, leaving Minerva’s guests to catch them in a very compromising position. To her horror, the scandal will force them to do the unthinkable: marry. Their mutual loathing blazes into unexpected passion but Blake remains distant, desperate to hide a shameful secret. Minerva’s never been a woman to take things lying down, and she’ll let nothing stop her from winning his trust … and his heart.

Welcome back to the Riskies, Miranda! Did you always plan for Minerva and Blake to have their own book?

I think I decided to bring them together when I was doing copy edits for The Dangerous Viscount. Minerva was the cute little sister with a gift for snark and a desire to be a diplomatic or political hostess. Blake was the guy who didn’t get the girl. I realized I wanted to write Minerva’s book and I had this perfectly good (and hot) heir to a dukedom lying around the place. They loathed each other and were patently ill-suited, in other words a perfect match.

In modern terms Minerva is the over-achieving star of the debate team with 1600 on her SATs and a life plan. Blake is the captain of the football team who doesn’t even need a sports scholarship because Daddy is loaded. I had to figure out why they were, in fact, right for each other and hope I succeeded.

Are either of them based on a real historical character?

Blake’s family is loosely based on the Dukes of Portland, one of the great eighteenth century Whig dynasties. I wanted to show how dukes actually got to be rich and powerful and how they stayed that way.  Minerva is a bossy, over-ambitious girl who thinks she’s always right. No one like that has ever existed in the history of the world.

What research did you turn up during this book? (Yes, now is your chance to go to town on rotten boroughs.)

I’m sure you’ll be fascinated to know that the rotten borough in the book was inspired by Old Sarum. This Anglo-Saxon fort was pretty much abandoned when the cathedral was rebuilt in nearby Salisbury. Until 1832, though inhabited mostly by sheep, it sent two members to Parliament. I’m not sure I’ll ever write another romance with a political background. The day-to-day conduct of political life is so complicated and I offer only a totally watered-down, over-simplified version of the era’s political culture.

I had fun when I sent Blake and Minerva to Paris on their honeymoon. Guidebooks of the period are full of great detail about travel, inns, and restaurants. I was particularly thrilled to learn that it was perfectly normal in Paris for ladies to eat out. I discovered a café converted from an old theater and sent my couple on a date there. The English (and Americans, too) have a long tradition of going to Paris to misbehave.

What do you like about the 1820s?

The decade feels modern. The middle class is growing in size and influence. There’s a sense that progress will not be held back, despite some King Canute rearguard action by conservatives like George IV and the Duke of Wellington. Even they had to agree to Catholic Emancipation by the end of the decade, and Parliamentary reform was inevitable, though the reformers were still in the political wilderness. That said, I didn’t choose to set Confessions in 1822. Since it’s the fourth in a series it just turned out that way. The issues – and the way the politics worked – would have been different if the setting was twenty years earlier.

What’s your favorite scene?
My favorite scene is probably when Blake finally embraces his political heritage and Minerva finds it incredibly hot. However, it’s near the end of the book and a bit spoilerish. Since this is the Risky Regencies, I’ll chose the passage where Minerva decides to spy on some Bonapartists (or so she thinks) in a Paris mansion.

….She dodged him, closed the door into the corridor, and fixed her ear to the door into the next room. Holding Blake off with the flat of her hand and a ferocious glare, she heard two voices this time, one of them male, still speaking in German. Agog with anticipation she tried to make sense of the words coming through the solid panels.
“You are a very bad dog.” At least, that’s what it sounded like.
Then a noise like a woman imitating a bark, and a shuffling sound. Minerva shook her head in bafflement and put her finger in her ear, to make sure it wasn’t blocked with wax.
“Lick my boots!”
What?
“What?” Blake had reached her side and was crowding her in the door embrasure.
“Ssh!” She got down on her knees and peered through the keyhole. It was a large one and she could see quite a lot of the adjoining bedroom. In her view was the lower half of a gentleman’s body, from waist to boots, and she had no difficulty recognizing the somewhat stout figure of the Duke of Mouchy-Ferrand, even without a sight of his florid complexion and heavily pomaded curls. The shuffling noise resolved itself into Princess Walstein, on hands and knees and wearing only her undergarments, crawling into view and preceding to obey her master’s command. She really did lick his boots.
Minerva slumped back onto her heels. She considered herself hard to astonish, but this did it. When Blake pushed her aside she put up no resistance. He took her place at the keyhole, let out a ghost of a whistle, and began to shake with silent laughter.

Brilliant! What’s next for you?

I’m starting a brand new series set in 1800, technically pre-Regency but in the era of high-waisted gowns so I guess it counts. Since I don’t seem to be able to write about men with manly occupations like spy, pirate, or soldier, the heroes (and one heroine) are art collectors. The first is called THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED and will be released November 27, 2012.

I’ve discovered some readers really don’t like politics in their romance. In fact I think a used carriage salesman would be more popular. However, characters need to have something to do when they’re not being–ahem–romantic. What are the best and worst occupations for a Regency hero and/or heroine?

Your comment or question for Miranda will enter you into a contest to win a copy of Confessions, your choice of print or ebook. 18 and over, void where prohibited, etc. etc.  Winner will be announced Monday and please leave a safe version of your email so we can contact you.
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