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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regencygirl01
10 years ago

If the story is good I don’t see why what they do should matter. Though I am not fond of heroines being courtesans. Probably wouldn’t want hero to be an executioner

Maggie May
10 years ago

Hero a doctor, not the most appealing. The first choice for favorite, a rake.

May
May
10 years ago

I think it’s fun that Blake and Minerva got together since they dislike each other so much.

I don’t think the profession matters too much.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
10 years ago

@regencygirl. I don’t find executioners particularly attractive myself. Though I have occasionally read about an assassin….

@Maggie May: I thought every girl wanted a doctor! Not sure rake is an occupation. A vocation, perhaps? It is true that they can be hot (and hopefully reformable).

@May. Getting them together took a little work, I can tell you. They resisted!

Diane Gaston
10 years ago

Welcome back to the Riskies, Miranda! It is lovely to have you back.

To answer your question about what’s the best profession for a hero—why, a soldier, of course!!!!

I hope readers totally adore your hero and heroine, even if politics looms large in the story.

Lory Lee
10 years ago

Soldiers fighting for peace during Regency era has it’s pros and cons. Dead or alive, you’ll always emerge as a hero and people will look up to you (specially the women’s, married or unmarried :D) But the side effects are as bad as how good it is. I often read ex-war heroes suffering from trauma. Some nightmares that disturbs them more than often. But that’s what our heroines do, they soothe the tired and weary spirit of our heroes. I think that for me is the best but also the worst occupations for a Regency hero.

simonelorzz@gmail.com

Betty Hamilton
10 years ago

WOW!! Minerva and Blake’s story sounds like its gpoing to be a great read!! TY for the chance to win a copy.

SusannahC
10 years ago

Best professions for a hero are soldier, naval captain, or politician (Lords or Commons). Best profession for heroine: governess or companion. (Anything else puts her too far down the social scale to be acceptable to most of our heroes.) I’m looking forward to reading Blake and Minerva’s story!

Dee
Dee
10 years ago

Well, there are plenty of unpleasant occupations: nightsoil carter, tanner, jailer, fenner, etc. Hard to make an appealing hero with those. I think a clerking hero might be interesting- bland, overworked, underpaid by day and unassuming hero at other times. The whole Clark Kent scenario. For heroine, occupations historically tended to be pretty menial. Hard to be spunky and appealing after bending over the hot laundry tub for hours. But, most unappealing would be mean girl and there are some women who make a career of it.

Anyway, thanks for the contest opportunity. I loved the other books in this series and can’t wait to read this. Unfortunately, having overspent my book budget last month it seems I must. Pout. Oh well -anticipation and sweeter, right?

ellaquinnauthor
10 years ago

I love this book and really enjoyed the politics. Great interview.

sheila
10 years ago

Love the poor governess/maid/servant who the rake falls in love with.

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

I read a Regency romance once where Hero was a former miner in India who found a cache of sapphires and became rich. His Mama and sisters were impoverished semi-aristocrats, so he bought their house back and re-established them in society. He fell in love with a commoner daughter of an MP, which would have been upper-middle-class at the time. I believe he was a Baronet, so this was not too much of a stretch.

Jeanne M
10 years ago

Hi Miranda!

Thanks for letting us know that The Importance of Being Wicked will be released this November! My birthday falls on Thanksgiving this year and it will be the perfect way to sit back, relax and read after the hectic Thanksgiving holiday!

I’m thrilled that you decided to give Minerva and Blake their own story especially because of the antagonism between them in The Dangerous Viscount!

My feeling about “best” and “worst” occupations is a little ambiguous because it depends entirely on how the book is written. For instance if a “hero” is shown as a blacksmith but there is a reason for it to make sense in the context of the story (i.e. he’s a spy for the King) or a “heroine” being a seamstress (daughters only and both parents have died with a “wicked” uncle inheriting and banishing them) I don’t have a problem. The most important thing that if their choices of occupations are explained or in context to what would actually be likely in the era the book is set. (i.e. the hero is the youngest son of a Lord and becomes a physician because a sibling in his family died because of lack of proper care).

I’m thrilled you mentioned Old Sarum. My husband and I were lucky enough to drive thru Salisbury on a trip to England that I qualified for through my work and after visiting salisbury and the Cathedral couldn’t resist stopping by Sarum on our way to Stonehenge. He is a master stone mason and spent time studying the construction both there and at both places. He was amazed by what they could build then without the complex equipment used now!

catslady
10 years ago

I really don’t think I have a preference or dislike any particular occupations. As long as I care about the characters, then I’m a happy trooper. I like variety so I guess that’s why no favorites.

catslady5(at)aol.com

Cathy P
Cathy P
10 years ago

Hi Miranda! I love your books. Looking forward to reading Minerva’s and Blake’s story.

I think the best occupation for a hero is a soldier, spy (good guy), or a politician. Of course, I prefer Earls or Dukes that have surprisingly inherited their titles. For the heroines occupation, I prefer a governess, paid companion, or poor relation that has to act as companion and slave to the family. I also like women spies as long as they are good girls.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
10 years ago

Hi Diane: it’s a pleasure to be back. I should have guessed you answer since you’ve written some terrific soldier heroes!

@Lory: Soldiers and the effects of war are certainly portrayed much more realistically than they used to be. PTSD is as old as warfare, even if it has only been diagnosed recently. Your point about soothing heroines is well said and well taken.

@Betty: good luck in the drawing.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
10 years ago

@SusannahC. Glad to hear you aren’t prejudiced against politicians 🙂 I’m afraid you are right about the dismal lack of choice when it came to genteel occupation for women. There were women in business (often carrying on their husband’s work) but they are distinctly middle class occupations.

I love the idea of Regency Clark Kent, even if it stopped short of paranormal. I am particularly fond of stories where our noble hero has to disguise himself as a servant, or other lesser being. Aside from anything, it’s a good humbling experience for him! Glad you enjoyed the Burgundy Club series so far. Good luck in the drawing.

@Ellaquinn – thanks Ella!

@Sheila – that’s a plot line with perennial appeal!

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
10 years ago

@anonymous – there were genuine fortunes to be made in India. Romance tends to concentrate on the nobility, but in the nineteenth century there were far more self-made wealthy men. Of course, they often bought estates and/or titles with their money.

@Jeanne. Happy Thanksgiving and happy birthday! You make an excellent point about any unusual occupation being explained to make it plausible. Glad you visited Old Sarum. I was born in Salisbury and grew up in the area so it’s like home to me. I think it’s fascinating your husband is a master mason – not there’s an interesting occupation!

@catslady – I appreciate a reader who is ready to be pleased!

@Cathy P – Thank you! I’m glad to say my new series has two heroes who inherit titles unexpectedly after rather disreputable upbringings (not the first book, though).

Barbara E.
10 years ago

What are the best and worst occupations for a Regency hero and/or heroine?

I like scholars and inventors, people that use their money to advance science – either heroes or heroines. The occupation I don’t care for that much is gambler or courtesan, but if the story makes a good case for their choice, I’m okay with it.

Miranda Neville
Miranda Neville
10 years ago

@Barbara – clearly you like smart characters and I agree with you. Re. gamblers and courtesans: no child says “I want to be a gambler/courtesan when I grown up.” They are occupations that a person may make something of, if forced, but they are hardly aspirational. I think lack of choice is really the point with such characters. I have a particular issue with gamblers because success usually means doing harm to other people.