Welcome back my friend, Lavinia Kent, who has had a busy couple of months with the release of her Real Duchesses of London novella series from Avon Impulse (which I loved!). Lavinia is here today to tell us about her new book, What A Duke Wants.

Here’s some buzz about What A Duke Wants:

“Refreshing in the strength of its heroine and the uncertainty of its hero, What a Duke Wants will keep readers engaged from beginning to end.” —Joyce Greenfield of Eye on Romance

“Kent does an excellent job mixing romance, mystery and history, keeping her readers enthralled with plot twists and revelations. Another winner!” — RomanticTimes Book Reviews
Lavinia is giving away a great gift to one lucky commenter, chosen at random. The first two novellas in the Real Duchesses of London series, Kathryn the Kitten and Linette the Lioness. Winner has a choice of the ebook versions or print. And, as if that were not enough, the winner also will receive a What a Duke Wants T-shirt.

1. Tell us about What A Duke Wants.

What A Duke Wants is the story of a duke who doesn’t want be a duke and lady who ran away from society long ago. It is a story of mistaken identity and true love, with just a hint of Cinderella thrown in.

My hero, Mark Smythe, the new Duke of Strattington, is on his way to London for George IV’s coronation. Mark is preoccupied with learning how to be a duke, as he had never expected to inherit his uncle’s title. When he meets a young baby nurse, Miss Isabella Smith, he is delighted that she does not recognize him, and enjoys the freedom her company offers him. When he is with her, he can simply be himself – not the Duke.

As they travel toward London, stopping at the same inns each night – with only slight planning on Mark’s part – they slowly form a deep attachment and the beginnings of a great passion.

But, of course, no romance can be that simple. I am leaving out the blackmail, accusations of murder, Isabella’s running away for a second time, a masquerade ball, a disapproving older brother, a scandalous sister, a loyal best friend, two more dukes, hot, sensuous interludes, and dancing with a very cute kitten. To learn more you’ll just have to read the book. I have an excerpt posted on my website, http://www.laviniakent.com/excerpt_duke.html. It has the best first line I’ve ever written, so I do hope you’ll take a peek and check it out.

2. How is What A Duke Wants connected to your other books?

What A Duke Wants is connected to my other books in two ways. Isabella is the runaway younger sister of the heroine of my first book, A Talent for Sin, and Mark is the brother of the hero of my second, Bound by Temptation.

It also features Annie, Lady Richard Tennant, one of my Real Duchesses of London. Annie is one of Isabella’s childhood friends and, after a chance meeting, becomes the only one Isabella can confide in. I actually wrote What A Duke Wants before The Real Duchesses of London, so unfortunately I couldn’t work in appearances by any of the other duchesses.

3. What is risky about What A Duke Wants?

I think the most risky thing about What A Duke Wants may only make sense to another writer. I let my characters do what they wanted. I am not a big plotter. I normally know the beginning and the end and the big points in the middle, but for this book I knew exactly how the story was supposed to go and when things were supposed to happen.

And then Mark walked onto the page and he had some very different views about what his character would do. He was fine with making a few bad choices, but he hit a point where he thought it was time to do the right thing – and he did.

It meant that I had to rewrite half the book, because otherwise the happily-ever-after would have happened on page 250. And while I might have enjoyed imagining 150 pages of domestic arrangements, I can’t imagine readers would have found it nearly as entertaining.

I do think the book is much better than it would have been if I’d had my way.

4. Did you come across any interesting research when writing the book?

I did a lot of research on the king’s coronation for this book. I was fascinated by exactly how elaborate it was. He spent $24,000 pounds (in 1821) on his coronation robes alone. They were made of crimson velvet with gold stars and lined with ermine. The total length was 27 feet and it took eight pages to carry all 855 lbs. And I am not even mentioning the crown he had made (12,314 hired diamonds – he purchased the Hope Diamond for the affair), the raised platform stretching to Westminster, the gold canopy – or the fact that he barred his wife from the whole proceeding.

The other piece of research I did was on nursing (or feeding bottles). I wanted my heroine to be responsible for caring for a baby, but not to be a wet nurse (for obvious reasons). I was fascinated to discover exactly how babies were fed. Although there were some bottles with nipples (often of animal skin) a very common design (and the one I chose for my heroine) looks almost like a small neti pot or even a teapot. It had a long thin neck and a small hole on top. A thumb could be placed over the hole to hold back or release the milk. They were made of glass or ceramic.

I do have to confess that I avoided thinking too much about exactly what was fed to the infants – cow’s milk was by far the healthiest of the alternatives.

5. You recently released your Avon Impulse ebook short stories, The Real Duchesses of London. Can you tell us a little about them? (what I want to know is if Annie will get her story???)

I’ll start out by reassuring you that yes, Annie will get her story. I knew Annie’s story long before I knew any of the other duchesses’ and it may have been as hard for me to hold back as it is for readers to wait. I am not sure exactly what form it will take, but I do have very special things planned for Annie.

I’ve always loved connected stories and, as a guilty pleasure, have become addicted to Bravo’s Real Housewives. I am particularly fascinated by the Beverly Hills’ Housewives and the lavish style of their lives. Who else lives in 29,000 square foot mansions and has a closet full of gowns? Who spends a large part of her life looking beautiful and getting ready for parties? I was laughing to myself about these questions when I realized I was very familiar with the type – I’d been reading and writing about them for years – only in the Regency. And so were born The Real Duchesses of London. (Shameless Plug – Avon has lowered the price of each to $.99 in honor of the release of What A Duke Wants — but only for a limited time.)

I had great fun writing the collection of four novellas written to be released digitally (although they can be ordered in paperback format) over this past summer. It was wonderful to see how quickly books can be published in this new world. My Duchesses (not all are actually duchesses) are a group of good friends who are brought together by a series of nasty cartoons that begin to appear in store windows across London. Each Duchess has a secret revealed, and must work to find true love. The novellas feature scandal, cat fights, true friendship, hot dukes (or earls), reconciliation, a proper number of steamy scenes, and, of course, happy endings.

6. What’s next for you?

That’s a hard question right now. I am working on a few things – e-pubbing some older works, writing a YA with my son, a hot steampunk, and then there’s Annie’s story. I am at that most delicious of moments when I have a banquet spread before me – and now I have to choose.

Hmmmm, choices, choices . . .

How do you decide what to read (or write) when you have so many choices?

Thank you all for having me. I always love visiting the Riskies.

(Diane, here. Don’t forget to leave a comment or ask Lavinia a question for a chance to win the first two Duchesses novellas and a “Go To Bed With A Duke Tonight” T-shirt)