Margaret Evans Porter & The Proposal

TheProposal400x600Today the Riskies welcome guest Margaret Evans Porter! Margaret and I have been friends since early days in my career, and I was a huge fan of her work even before that. The Proposal is one of my absolute favorites among her books, so I am very excited that a new edition will be released tomorrow!! Margaret is offering a print copy of The Proposal to a randomly chosen winner among those who comment by the end of this week, so please share your thoughts with us below after visiting here. And read on to find out about a new project she has coming out next month, as well!

Margaret Evans Porter

Margaret is the author of 11 novels and 2 novellas published in hardcover, paperback, digital editions, and in translation. She earned the Best New Regency Author award from Romantic Times Magazine with her first book, and later novels received multiple award nominations. She has also published nonfiction, poetry, and her photography, and is a trained actress who has worked on stage and in film and television. All this and she is also a historian and an avid gardener! But I should let HER tell you.

What’s the premise of The Proposal?

A: In 1797, Sophie Pinnock, a botanical artist and the widow of a famous landscape designer, is employed by the Earl of Bevington to alter the ground of his newly inherited castle in Gloucestershire. She would much prefer to restore the gardens to their original state than replace them. After many years living in Portugal, her employer has returned to England to claim his title.

Where did the idea for this particular story come from?

Margaret’s garden

A: It was the dead of winter in New England, the world was buried under snow–much like this winter! My coping mechanism was to design new rose beds that would feature historic period roses from Medieval times to the Regency and Victorian eras. I had recently spent time at a Gloucestershire castle. I ended up with a 2-book contract as well as an expanded garden!

Where did you turn for research?

A: I had already amassed a collection of historic gardening guides and price lists from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuties. My mother is a rose gardener, so I was raised with historic roses and books about them. On trips to England I visited intact gardens from earlier times.

What aspects of the research itself most intrigued you?

A: There was a raging debate about landscape design at that very time, when Humphrey Repton was altering many formal gardens to conform with his more “natural” style–popular with some people, and criticised by others. I was able to rely on primary sources, like the Red Books that Repton created for his clients (Sophie provides her clients with Blue Books!) And I’m always happy when I can wander through English gardens, so that was particularly appealing to me.

Do you have a favorite scene in this book?

A: I managed to include a scene in which Sophie debates Humphrey Repton himself, because–quite conveniently–he had clients in the neighborhood.

What would you say is “risky” about this book?

A: It seems “risky” to us nowadays, the concept of a female businesswoman in the late 18th century or Regency. But there is so much precedent! Many a widow, through financial necessity or entrepreneurial desire, took on responsibility for her late husband’s businesses. I think it’s a disservice to these women to bury the record of their achievements, and in some cases their innovations–Mrs. Eleanor Coade, who developed Coade stone, Hester Bateman the Silversmith, Rolinda Sharples the artist, Mrs. Sarah Baker the theatre proprietress who developed the theatres of southeast England. These are the notable names, but how many more must there have been that we do not know?

Another aspect of “risk” concerns opium addiction, and to a lesser extent, attitudes and suspicions about sexual orientation. Both of which have an effect upon the secondary mystery plot.

How long have you been writing?

A: I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a crayon in my fist. I became a publisher-editor-author at age 9 or 10 when I founded a class newspaper. My family is packed with writers, so it wasn’t an unusual path for me to follow. My mother, who taught me to read quite young, says she always knew I would be a writer.

What aspects of your own personality show up in your stories?

Rose from Margaret's Garden
Rose from Margaret’s Garden

I’m everywhere. I create gardens and grow roses–so does Sophie in The Proposal. I performed on stage for many years, and studied dance–I’ve written novels featuring an actress, a dancer, and an opera singer. Like Oriana in Improper Advances, I play the mandolin. I mine the places in Britain or Ireland where I’ve studied, lived and/or travelled and use them as settings for my stories. My dogs turn up in books as members of my characters’ households.

Do you find that your training in theater is helpful to you as a writer?

A: It’s immensely helpful, in a variety of ways. Performing period plays immersed me in the idiom of past times, I was speaking dialogue uttered by the people who lived in the eras about which I write. From a very young age I was required to do intensive character biographies, creating backstories for the people I was portraying–this often required in-depth research into social customs, education, upbringing, styles of speech, popular books and music. And of course I was wearing costumes–corsets, petticoats, full skirts, strange shoes–and carrying fans and having my hair dressed and so on. Those experiences were extremely valuable, as you might imagine!

Which book, if any, was the most difficult for you to write, and why?

I would say my new historical biographical novel, A Pledge of Better Times, for several reasons. It is entirely fact-based, all the characters were real people of the late Stuart court–monarchs and aristocrats. PledgeCover400x600Historical events provided the structure, the research was intense and took place over many years between other commitments. (For example, my productivity suffered a little during my 2 terms in the state legislature. But some sections of the novel were written surreptitiously during boring floor debates!) I don’t remember that any of my Regencies or historicals were difficult to write, although I did have to manage a very quick turnaround on an option book proposal while visiting friends in England. Almost every character in that book, Improper Advances, except the hero and heroine, were historical persons, so my fictional story needed to tie in with historical reality.

You now have a second website ( for your mainstream historical novels, featuring real people from history. Your April release, A Pledge of Better Times, is the first of these. Tell us a little bit about this new direction in your writing?

A: In my youth I read many YA biographical historical novels, and my ambition to write mainstream historical novels dates from that time. It took a long time for the right story to find me–that of Lady Diana de Vere, and of Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans (bastard son of King Charles II and actress Nell Gwyn). It was sparked by some genealogical research, and caught fire after I became acquainted with a direct descendant of theirs. I spent years carrying out the research all round London–at Kensington Palace and Hampton Court and the Tower–as well as in Holland at The Hague and Paleis Het Loo. And Versailles. This book also features the development of formal gardens!

A Pledge of Better Times, will be available in print and as an ebook in April. It has just been named one of the “Books to Read in 2015” by the Book Drunkard blog–very exciting.

Where can readers go to get in touch or learn more about your books?

@MargaretAuthor on Twitter.

Risky readers, don’t forget to post a comment if you’d like a chance to win a print copy of The Proposal! Margaret Evans Porter, thanks so much for visiting with us today!

The Proposal:

When a lonely young widow and a mysterious earl clash over a neglected castle garden, suspicion and secrets threaten a blossoming love.
“Part romance, part mystery, a highly entertaining read.” –M.K. Tod, author of Lies Told in Silence
“Very sensual…lush in detail. Her characters have as much depth as the settings, and the gardens provide a wonderful backdrop for a tender love story.” –Affaire de Coeur
“Decidedly different…totally believable and deeply heartfelt.” –Rendezvous

Print on Amazon:

Kindle on Amazon:

About Gail Eastwood

Gail Eastwood is the author of seven Regencies that were originally published by Signet/Penguin. After taking ten years off for family matters, she has wobbled between contemporary romantic suspense and more Regency stories, wondering what century she's really in and trying to work the rust off her writing skills. Her backlist is gradually coming out in ebook format, and some are now available in new print editions as well. She is working on the start of a Regency-set series and other new projects. Stay tuned!
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25 Responses to Margaret Evans Porter & The Proposal

  1. Elena Greene says:

    Hi, Margaret. Congratulations on the new book and the reissue. I enjoyed The Proposal very much the first time around. The new cover is lovely!

  2. Thanks so much, Elena. I’m very happy with the new cover…the painting on the front. And the images on the back of the hardcover (visible on the Amazon product page) were taken at the location that inspired the novel!

  3. Margaret, thanks so much for visiting with us today! It was so much fun interviewing you. I’m looking forward to rereading The Proposal. After the winter we’ve had, I am so hungry for spring, and reading about gardens along with the love story will be such a pleasure. And I’m also looking forward to A Pledge of Better Times –you’ve chosen a fascinating woman from history to write about.

  4. Thanks, Gail, for the warm welcome, and the great interview questions! Winter often makes me impatient to be gardening again outdoors (I have lots of flowering indoor plants to keep me sane!) But this historically snowy winter has sharpened my desire to play in the dirt!

  5. Maribelle says:

    I have not read any of Margaret’s books yet. I appreciate it when a good deal of research is done, and when real people and events are worked into the story as it makes the reading experience even more enjoyable. Definitely a new author to follow for me.

  6. Margaret, I love this cover ! Congratulations on the release of the new edition.

    I have a large collection of books on period gardens, historical garden designs and the various gardens of stately homes. I putter around on my five acres and had I more time away from the DDJ (dreaded day job) my gardens would be far more extensive.

    Your garden is lovely and the roses are perfection. I have a Queen Elizabeth climbing rose I have been cultivating for twenty years. In full bloom she is glorious!

  7. Kristen H says:

    Margaret – You books sound so interesting! I’ll have to get copies! England is #1 on my travel list – I hope to get there someday!

  8. Margaret, I have been a long time reader of your blog, particularly during your time with the government, and have followed your interest in gardening, especially that sweet period when the winter snows recede and things start sprouting. Over the years, we’ve connected in various places on the Internet. It’s good to read about your books here.

    • Keira, it’s always lovely connecting! The snow here is melting–too slowly to suit me, but I’ll be planting new roses in the weeks ahead! And the several dozen already inhabiting my gardens will be very thankful for all the enriching nutrients the blanket of snow provides!

  9. HJ says:

    I love the photographs of your roses! On your trips to England, have you ever been to Mottisfont Abbey? You would love the rose gardens there, especially in early to mid-June when they’re at their best. And your mention of Repton and is Red books reminded me of Tom Stoppard’s excellent play Arcadia.

    I look forward to reading The Proposal, and A Pledge of Better Times sounds fascinating.

    • HJ, I have visited Mottisfont numerous times, in and out of rose season. One of my favourite places in all England. And Arcadia is a favourite play as well, I’ve seen several productions–I can’t resist it!

  10. A few months ago I visited “Bevington” Castle gardens, when spending time in Gloucestershire (and in Clifton, also a location in The Proposal). Here’s a cut & paste link to photos if anyone (whether or not on Facebook) is interested in seeing the landscape that inspired the story:

  11. jcp says:

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  12. Linda Brower says:

    This is a new author for me, but I plan to add these novels to my wish list. Thank you for the giveaway opportunity.

  13. Jane Bigelow says:

    I’m so glad they’re reissuing The Proposal! Gardens, romance, mystery, one way or another I’m going to read this. I’m currently watching my roses to see how well-or not–they came through Denver’s sudden November turn from unseasonably warm to arctic.

  14. Michelle Roberts says:

    I look forward to reading your book and learning about the garden designs. I love the formal knot gardens and am an avid rose grower.

  15. bn100 says:

    fun idea about the gardens

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