The Riskies are delighted to have Sally MacKenzie visit us once again, this time to talk about her April release, The Naked Gentleman. The Naked Gentleman was selected as a Blue Ribbon Favorite of the month at Romance Junkies!

Q. Tell us about your latest book, The Naked Gentleman.

The Naked Gentleman is the fourth in my Naked series, but can be read independently, of course. (Bonus–Kensington has reprinted my backlist, so all the books are available again, even my first book, The Naked Duke.) Meg, the Gent’s heroine, first appeared in The Naked Marquis. She was one of those characters who leap off the page and demand their own story, but first I had to write her friend Lizzie’s tale, The Naked Earl. Meg also appears in that book, where she meets John Parker-Roth, her hero-to-be. As to the actual story, the back cover copy probably says it best:

John Parker-Roth cannot believe that marriage is necessary for his happiness. He would far rather pursue his interest in horticulture, but if one day he should find a female who shared his passion for flowers–a level-headed, calm sort of female–he might reconsider. Certainly the lovely young woman who has just tumbled into his lap will not do, as she possesses neither of these admirable qualities. Yet Miss Margaret Peterson does have many things in her favor. To begin with, she is a true English rose, blushing a delectable pink. And she is not entirely clothed. Her full mouth begs to be kissed. If only she would not wriggle so…oh, dear. He cannot ignore the sudden vision of her in his bed, but he must.

What? Is Meg actually asking him to kiss her? Well, well, well. John Parker-Roth is a gentleman, first and foremost. And he cannot turn down a lady’s request…

Q. What if anything was “risky” about The Naked Gentleman?

I love writing very nasty villains, but in the Gent I decided to try telling a story without the help of any truly dastardly characters. For an added challenge I brought back the “bad” girl from The Naked Earl as a secondary character to see if I could give her a happy ending.

Q. In the Naked Gentleman, both Meg Peterson and John Parker-Roth are plant enthusiasts. Are you a gardener yourself? Is that why you picked this interest for your hero and heroine?

HAHAHAHA…crash! Oops. Excuse me–I was laughing so hard I fell off my chair. I picked plants because I am insane! In real life, I avoid any up close and personal vegetative contact–plants make me reach for the allergy meds. All landscape work at the MacKenzie estate is handled by a hired army of blue-shirted garden and lawn guys.

I gave Meg her plant interest back when I was writing The Naked Marquis. I had a vague idea she might turn into a healer of sorts. Fortunately I shared this thought with a British friend who does know lots about plants and garden history–she clued me into the fact that I was teetering on the edge of a major anachronism. She kindly pointed me in the right direction. I hadn’t realized garden design was such a hot topic in the Regency and that people–often soldiers or clergymen in foreign countries–sent home new-to-England plant specimens, so the variety of greenery gracing English gardens was exploding during this time.

Q. How did you research the plants and flowers of the Regency period? Do you have any research sources to share with us?

My friend told me Penelope Hobhouse was one of the experts in this area. I found her Plants in Garden History (ISBN 1-86205-660-9) quite interesting and helpful. Another little gem I stumbled upon while prowling Amazon for sources was Seeds of Fortune by Sue Shephard (ISBN 0-7475-6066-8). It chronicles the story of the horticulturally significant Veitch family. I also got a copy of Mavis Batey’s Regency Gardens (ISBN 0-7478-0289-0). And I found lots of useful information in two “bibles” of Regency research: Regency Design 1790-1840 by John Morley (ISBN 0-8109-3768-9) and Regency Style by Steven Parissien (ISBN 0-7148-3454-8). Finally, Emily Hendrickson’s The Regency Reference Book has a section on gardens as well. And of course I poked around the internet!

Q. You’ve had a busy spring, attending the NINC conference in New York City, the Romantic Times convention is Pittsburgh, the NECRWA conference in Natick, MA, and our very own Washington Romance Writers Retreat, alas, not in Harpers Ferry this year. Tell us about one special thing that happened at these conferences or one special thing you learned.

I enjoyed all my travels (I ran into Risky Megan Frampton at NECRWA!), though I am totally beat now–and I have yet to master the art of writing on the road. Fortunately, my next deadline isn’t until June 1 and I’m in fairly good shape with that story…I think.

As to a special thing learned…well, maybe that the RT convention is not so very scary. I have to admit I was definitely nervous about going. I’m a bit of an introvert and the thought of costumes–and male cover models–makes me break out in hives. But it was really quite fun. I did avoid the Mr. Romance contestants (they were probably all my sons’ ages) and I made only a very token nod at costuming myself (a few beads, a few spangles on my head), but I had great fun observing the celebrations. (And I’m relieved to say I did NOT observe some of the “celebrations” mentioned on other blogs! Apparently I have a knack for avoiding anything risky in real life.) I saw many old friends–and some not-so-old friends from NINC and NECRWA–and I made a few brand new friends as well. I was on a panel moderated by my pal–and Diane’s pal–Kristina Cook (debuting in 2009 as Kristi Astor) that included Mary Balogh, Gaelen Foley, and fellow WRWers Kathryn Caskie and Sophia Nash. Very much fun. And Kim Lowe of Fort Meade fame (Diane and I went to the Officers’ Wives’ romance tea she organized last year) fortunately persuaded me to stop in at the author chat with Mary Balogh, Nicole Jordan, Mary Jo Putney, and Patricia Rice. It was wonderful. Kim also coordinated and emceed the SOS military mixer, a lovely tribute to veterans and their families–I was only sorry I came late from lunch and so missed hearing her husband, Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Lowe, sing the national anthem. And of course, the book signing was another highlight–I love meeting readers. I also discovered, much to my surprise, that Pittsburgh is a very nice city. I had a wonderful view of the three rivers from my hotel room. But now I’m ready to stay home for a while.

Q. Tell us about your next project? Who gets naked next time?

Two guys get Naked in 2009!! The Naked Baron, scheduled to release in the spring, goes back to the year of The Naked Duke and tells the story of a couple whom readers met in The Naked Gentleman–as well as a new couple’s story. The Naked Laird, my first novella, will be out in February 2009 in Lords of Desire, an anthology with Virginia Henley, Victoria Dahl, and Kristi Astor (aka Kristina Cook). It’s set during the house party that takes place in the Baron, so I’m having “fun” figuring out how the Baron and the Laird will mesh. And then? Well, if all goes according to plan, I have a Naked Viscount waiting in the wings.

Sally is attending the Washington Romance Writers Retreat today—right down the road from where she lives. She’ll be popping in to say hi and answer questions in the late afternoon, ET.

And one lucky commenter will be selected at random to win a Naked Gentleman—a signed copy of Sally’s book, that is.