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The Riskies welcome back Elizabeth Rolls whose next Harlequin Historical, Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride, will be in bookstores in June. Elizabeth comes to us all the way from Down Under!

Elizabeth will give away one copy of the book to one lucky commenter chosen at random.

Elizabeth, tell us about Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride.

Hi everyone! Thanks for having me to visit again. You want to hear ALL about Braybrook and Christy? LOL! Just a little bit maybe. This is the story of a man who has a mental list, enumerated by his stepmother in front of the heroine, of the attributes he requires in a bride . . . and how he ends up having to marry Christy Daventry who embodies none of said attributes. Christy is a woman with only one thing to depend on – herself. She is capable, intelligent and more than aware that a man like Braybrook can only want one thing from a woman like her. She is also aware of her own deepest vulnerability- her loneliness.

How does Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride fit in with your previous books?

Braybrook was really an accidental character. He first appeared in His Lady Mistress and originally I intended him to be a bit of a rat bastard, in Anne Stuart’s immortal phrase. But he refused to behave badly and turned out to be rather nice. Still, he only had one scene, and a very minor part at that. Then I started writing A Compromised Lady and there he was again. This time muscling his way in on the action right from the start. I was starting to find out a little bit more about him and before I knew where I was, parts of his story were coming to me, so I wrote them down before I could forget them. The early parts of Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride were written at much the same time as parts of ACL. It turned out though, that the characters from the earlier books didn’t show up at all in this story. That surprised me, but the story just didn’t work out that way.

Did you come across any interesting research while you were writing the book?

I did quite a bit of reading up on illegitimacy. The situation for illegitimate children was really horrible. A child born out of wedlock had no legal rights of inheritance AT ALL. They were considered Filius Nullius – child of no one. There was absolutely nothing in the legal system to protect such children or force the father to take responsibility. Of course in those days there was no way to prove beyond all possible doubt that the father was the father. Children born into this situation were considered literally tainted. Julian’s actions are, I have to admit, historically fairly unlikely both in regard to Christy and Nan Roberts. What can I say? The man’s a hero. I had a weird experience with the last part of the book in terms of research. I really didn’t know how to end the story, and tie everything up so that Julian’s altered attitudes were believable. Not for the reader, but for Christy. Most of it was in place, but I needed some sort of context for him to make that final declaration. Not to force it, but to give it form. In the end I found a couple of books on antique toys and nursery furniture – talk about a blinding revelation! The moment I had those books in my hands I had my final scene. (Literally. I’d barely opened them except to check they covered the right period.) It’s completely sappy and sentimental, the rocking horse owes more than a passing swish of the tail to the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, but I love it!

What is risky about Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride?

Risky?? Hmm. The risky part is that Christy is not your average well-bred heroine. That in itself is perhaps not risky, but Braybrook’s initial attitude towards her is typical of his time and rank, and is, as she later points out to him, deeply hypocritical. He is attracted to her, but because she is so far beneath him in the social scale he views her purely as mistress material. However, he is forced by circumstance and Christy’s nature to change his mind. I don’t want to give too much away in terms of spoilers, but he is also very much of his time in his attitude towards illegitimacy and some may find his initial views on this somewhat confronting. Possibly also those who don’t like children in a romance may find Braybrook’s youngest siblings annoying, so be warned if you are in that category. The man has a family and his story turned out to be very much about the importance of family and just what family involves. Braybrook’s conflict is that he is torn between what received social wisdom tells him he should feel about Christy, and what his heart is telling him.

What’s next for you?

I’m battling on with the next book. This one is a bit of a departure for me – a murder mystery. Don’t get too excited just yet. Murder is easy, but the plotting of the whole thing is giving me hell. I mean figuring out what happens is fine – the tricky bit is trying to make sure it isn’t obvious for the reader! Right now I’m hung up on the significance of a snuff box . . . This one is Regency set, but after that I have an idea for a Restoration story. So I’m reading about the English Civil War and the Restoration, and the 17th century generally. Lots of reading on both sides, Parliament and Royalist. I’m finding the differences and conflicts in religious thought fascinating, which may give the story a very different flavour to what I’ve written in the past. It’s hard to say at the moment. So far I have a premise and two characters and a couple of rough, VERY rough – did I say ROUGH? – scenes. It feels good though, but no doubt by the time I’m fully into the writing it will drive me mad! It’s nice to be doing something a little different though. I love Regency and will definitely come back to it, but this story doesn’t fit into a Regency setting and I really, really want to write it. I guess though I won’t be able to come back here and tell you all about that one – unless you want to make the blog Risky Regencies AND Restoration Drama for a day!

Elizabeth’s A Compromised Lady is a finalist for Australia’s Romance Novel of the Year!!

AND His Lady Mistress is still available as one of Harlequin’s 60th Anniversary Free Downloads.

Don’t you have a question you are dying to ask Elizabeth? Ask a question or leave a comment for a chance to win Lord Braybrook’s Penniless Bride

First, let me start with a grovelling apology to all the Riskies. This blog was meant to be posted on April 1st. You know; All Fools Day. Also my wedding anniversary, but let’s not go there! Anyway, when I flagged it to give me a reminder on the computer I must have been low on coffee or something because I flagged it for the wrong date. And of course when Diane emailed to remind me about it I was having a very virtuous off-line day keeping away from the evil distractions of the internet. Mea culpa. My bad.

Harlequin is celebrating its 60th Anniversary this year. As part of the celebrations they giving away 16 books for free download. ( ) His Lady Mistress is one of them.

I hadn’t thought about His Lady Mistress in quite a while and when Diane asked me if I’d like to blog I wondered what on earth I was going to say about it after all this time.

A day or so later someone asked me where I get my ideas from . . . If a dollar was donated every time an author is asked that question world hunger would be history! I’m always tempted to reply; “The ideas department of K-Mart – they’re on special this week!” Of course, the reason writers are tempted to sarcasm with this question is that we really have no clue where our ideas come from and feel stupid admitting as much. Anyway, being asked made me remember, if not where the spark for His Lady Mistress had come from, at least what that spark, or sparks, had been.

The thing is we don’t know where the ideas come from, but if we think about it hard, we may actually come up with something that seems as though it has been there forever, just waiting to be used. It’s as though somewhere inside us there is a supply, a well if you like, of seemingly useless tidbits of information, that left to brew for long enough with the right ingredients will eventually bubble up with an idea.

Sometimes tossing in one extra vital ingredient at the right time is all that’s needed to bring forth . . . the premise. At least that’s how it worked with His Lady Mistress. I was reading a research book, Kristine Hughes’s Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England. Near the end Ms Hughes very kindly reminded me of the details of something I’d forgotten; that until 1823 in England, a suicide was buried at the crossroads at night with a stake through the heart to prevent the ghost from walking. Until 1832 it was required that the burial could only take place between the hours of 9pm and midnight. Until 1870 all personal possessions were forfeited to the Crown.

Ouch. Barbaric.

At least that’s how any nice-minded person would react before turning the page quickly with a lady-like shudder. Not me. I’m a writer. My first thought was: ‘Oh, GROSS . . . but how would it be . . . ? What if . . . ?’ Several practice what-ifs slid through my mind and back into the brew before I had the real thing . . . what if my heroine, aged fifteen, was orphaned by her father’s suicide? Hmm. Potential there. But why did the guy commit suicide? Why does his death haunt Verity? Why does she feel responsible?

Still, I had my opening. Dark, wild night. Orphaned 15 year old creeping out to follow the cart to her father’s grave and being rescued by the hero. It’s the only time my original opening has EVER made it right through to the final draft. But I still didn’t know why the guy had committed suicide.

And this is the point where something I’d been interested in academically for years floated up from the depths: opium. At which point I realised that Verity’s father was addicted to opium. Okay, there were a few more, make that a lot more, questions that I had to answer before I had the whole thing worked out. (After that I still had to write it!) But those were the two snippets that bonded in my mind to provide the spark for His Lady Mistress.

Opium and suicide.

These days we are well aware of the dangers of opium and its derivatives. In the early 19th century the dangers were not so well understood. Opium acts on the brain, changing chemical balances to cause addiction. It could be bought over the counter with no questions asked and was widely used as a painkiller. Generally it was dissolved in alcohol and was known as laudanum. Mothers and nurses gave it to teething babies and plenty of people took it in small doses without ever becoming addicted. Yet for those who became dependent on it hell waited. But I still didn’t know why Verity’s father, William Scott, committed suicide over it, let alone why Verity blamed herself.

Opium and the Romantic Imagination by Alethea Hayter was an interesting source. Hayter gives a fascinating account of the English Romantic poets and their opium taking. Perhaps the most striking use of opium in literature, though, is the novel, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Not only does the whole plot turn on the effects of the drug, but Collins, himself an addict, gives us the minor character of Ezra Jennings as both warning and plea for understanding. But I still needed a reason for William Scott’s suicide . . .

Finally I read a description of going “cold turkey”. The physical consequences for an addict in missing a dose sounded about as grim as a suicide’s burial. Excruciating abdominal pain as the bowels cramp causing extreme vomiting and diarrhoea, muscular cramps, constant discharge from nose and eyes, sweating and shivering all at once. The victim can neither eat nor sleep and this can go on for up to a week. After that the symptoms will abate of themselves, but very few people have the strength to go through all that. I’ve drawn these details from Martin Booth’s Opium: A History where he quotes Dr Robert S, de Ropp’s 1958 study Drugs and the Mind.

Suffice it to say that by the time I’d finished reading Booth and Hayter I had nothing but pity for William Scott and I knew why he committed suicide. If he ran out of laudanum the effects of being denied his dose would have been so physically and mentally agonising that suicide was perfectly believable. But why would Verity have blamed herself for what happened? If you’ve already read His Lady Mistress then you’ll know the answer. And if you haven’t, well, what are you waiting for? Harlequin has your free download waiting.



Today the Riskies welcome back Elizabeth Rolls. Elizabeth was our guest last November when she talked about her novella A Soldier’s Tale in the Regency Christmas Anthology, Mistletoe Kisses.

She’s back to tell us about A Compromised Lady, available this month in bookstores.

Elizabeth Rolls was born in Kent, but moved to Australia at the age of fifteen months. She has lived in Australia ever since, except for a few years in Papua New Guinea as a child. Elizabeth taught music for several years and took a masters degree in musicology. Alternating between Melbourne and Sydney for a while, Elizabeth and her husband have fled the city for five acres surrounded by apple and cherry orchards in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. They share this paradise with their two sons, three slightly demented sheep, four alpacas and a collection of cats and dogs, as well as a colony of bats who reside in the air vents of Elizabeth’s study.

Tell us about A Compromised Lady.

Er, right. Tell you about The Book From Hell. How long have you got? No, just kidding. About the how long bit. A Compromised Lady has a chequered history. It took several drafts and far too long to write. It has a quiet, scholarly hero, a heroine with a Very Big Secret and an over-protective brother, who might one day get his own story, an interfering godmother and potential scandal.

How did you think of writing this particular book? Did it start with a character, a setting, or some other element?

For this book I started with a character; Richard Blakehurst. I knew after finishing His Lady Mistress that I had to write Richard’s story. At first after all the angst of HLM I was determined to write a romp, but Richard insisted on falling in love with Thea, and it turned out to be anything but a romp! All sorts of dark stuff kept popping out all over the place.

Tell us more about your characters. What or who inspired them?

I honestly have no idea what inspires my characters. They seem to stroll onto the scene fully formed. Of course they don’t reveal all their secrets to me at once. A lot of my writing process involves discovering their secrets as I go. I do tend to write wounded heroines I’ve noticed. They often have been isolated in some way and have to learn to trust. I’ve no idea why this is the case. Thea appeared wearing grey and it took me quite a while to find out why. At first I thought it was because she was a companion or governess and tried writing the story that way, but it just didn’t work. Nothing worked until I found out her secret.

As for Richard, he was, to an extent, fully formed from His Lady Mistress. In some ways that makes things easier, because you already know the character, but in other ways it complicates things. You have to choreograph your dance around a relatively fixed point. He was always much quieter and easier going than his twin Max, probably as a foil to Max’s more emotional temperament. This meant that he was harder to stir to passion. He needed Thea and all her baggage to bring him to life. Otherwise he was just going to find a nice comfortable wife and sit on the North Downs breeding sheep and reading for the rest of his life!

One character I really enjoyed in this book was Lady Arnsworth, Richard’s aunt and godmother, who is also Thea’s godmother. She was a bit of a baddie in His Lady Mistress and I had a lot of fun redeeming her.

Your heroine has a secret. How did you use this secret to build anticipation for the reader?

Ack! Thea’s secret! She jolly well kept it dark from me for long enough, so I figured it could be a secret for my readers for a while too! Thea’s secret is something that has wounded her so deeply she tries not to think about it. So much so that she has buried part of herself. She believes that she has put it behind her, that she is ready to go on, so it is only when circumstances force the issue into the open that we find out anything about it. Took me a while to work that bit out too. So the revelation for the reader comes bit by bit as Thea is forced to face her past. If it builds anticipation for the reader then that is a good thing. Really I was just going with Thea’s character and emotional baggage. Of which last she has quite a bit.

Did you run across anything new and unusual while researching this book?

Yes! I found out about Miss Banks collection of ephemera! Sarah Sophia was the sister of Sir Joseph Banks the naturalist who sailed with Captain James Cook and she collected Everything. And I mean everything; her collection included coins, medals and printed and engraved ephemera – trade cards, visiting cards, admission tickets, invitations, you name it. All nineteen thousand items of it. I’d bought a book on the history of the British Museum because of Richard’s interest in antiquities, and she was mentioned briefly because all that stuff ended up at the Museum. That was the origin of Thea’s collection of odds and ends.

What do you think is the greatest creative risk you’ve taken in this book? How do you feel about it?

Hard to say really.

I think readers may not like Richard’s initial reaction when he discovers the entire truth. It is something he has to work through and I honestly think his reaction is not only true to the times, but true to his character. Probably true to a lot of men. In fact many men wouldn’t be able to make the decision Richard finally makes. At the end of the day though, it’s my story to tell.

Also I know people often don’t like stories where one character keeps a secret from another. They seem to think that puts the secret-keeping character beyond redemption. So readers, be warned; Thea is keeping the mother and father of all secrets from Richard. But considering what the secret is and that she really has no intention of marrying Richard, I think it is perfectly understandable. I can’t second-guess reader reaction. Trying to do so would leave me with a story like last week’s custard. Which is a reflection on my own process, not the readers!
Is there anything you wanted to include in the book that you (or your CPs or editor) felt was too controversial and left out?

Not in this story. Of course my editor did nix the condom in A Soldier’s Tale. And after Diane went to all the trouble of photographing the thing in the British Museum! To be honest, my editor’s comments are usually pretty positive. On the rare occasion she has asked me to remove something, it’s been something I’m not dead happy about myself. (Except for the condom. I liked the condom.) Without her patience and encouragement I’d still be floundering in the second half of this book. Which is why I dedicated it to her.

Can you talk a little bit about your background, and how it helps or doesn’t in your writing?

It’s hard to say specifically what helps. In a way, everything helps. You just use what’s to hand. That’s part of what shapes and drives the stories you tell. My background as a music history teacher means that I have a basic grasp of history. And my whole family likes history. The main thing is that we are all readers. Every last one of us. There were books all over the house when I was a kid, and no one ever thought it was strange that I liked writing stories. They were a bit surprised when I did a degree in music with a singing major, but they coped.

One thing that really helps is that I have a memory for odd details. This drives my husband insane, but it’s very handy as a writer, because lots of snippets are stored away up there and they pop out when needed.

What is your writing process? Are you a pantster or a plotter? Do you write multiple drafts or clean up as you go?

A bit of both really. I do plot madly, and then the whole thing morphs under me. This story certainly did. Rather like a dream where you’re riding a horse that changes into a tiger while you’re aboard. At least it still had four legs and a tail. Just the teeth were a shock. I tend to write a couple of reasonably complete drafts, but I do clean up a bit as I go.

My whole process has changed over the last couple of books. I used to do the entire thing on the computer, but now I find I just freeze staring at the screen. I didn’t know what was wrong for ages and kept forcing myself to sit in the chair, telling myself that this was work and I had to do it and getting more and more stuck until at last I had a fully blown case of writer’s block. I bought a second hand Alphasmart from Harlequin Presents auther Trish Morey and tried that, but it was even worse. With the small screen I couldn’t seem to keep the story thread going.

I’d realised a while back that when I was scribbling plot ideas, scenes would often flower in the middle of my notes, forming dialogue and action. More often than not I’d continue with the scene and it would end up in the book. The final scenes of the novella The Prodigal Bride in A Regency Invitation were written entirely in a notebook, and several key scenes from my Christmas novella A Soldier’s Tale.

Recently I heard Jenny Crusie speak on the subject of freezing out The Girls in the Basement by insisting on Working, instead of giving yourself Permission to Play. This freezes all the creative juices. Lightbulb moment. I understood that I’d been fighting my own creative process in the interests of so-called efficiency, by trying to work straight onto the computer. Now I’m going with the flow and getting the scenes down in a notebook, after which I type them up and edit as I go. And if you think that makes sense, then God help you. The moral of the story is; know your own creative process and Don’t Mess With It! That’s probably more than anyone wanted to know, but you did ask. It’s working for me and that’s all I need.

What is next for you?

At the moment I’m finishing up Julian, Lord Braybrook’s story. He comes into both His Lady Mistress and A Compromised Lady, although his role is much bigger in the latter. This happened sort of accidentally, because parts of his story were written while I was struggling with Richard and Thea, so he kept leaking into their story. In the end he was quite useful so I let him stay. I’m hoping to have his story finished in the next little while, after which I’m planning a few murders. I’d like to write another novella too, because I have an idea for one, but I’ll see how it goes. I also have an idea for a restoration story, but I’d have to do a huge amount of reading first to feel familiar enough with the day to day life before I started writing. So I’ll write other stuff while I read it up. In the meantime I need to find a title for Julian’s story. Right now it’s simply Lord Braybrook’s Marriage, which tells you at once that it’s a marriage of convenience story. I love MOCs. All that pent up sensual tension! I hope it will be out some time next year.

Comment on Elizabeth’s interview and earn a chance to win a copy of A Compromised Lady. The winner will be selected at random on Monday, Sept. 10. Remember. Berties Rules apply!

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