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Everyone, please give a warm welcome to Rose Lerner, who’s here to talk about her latest release, True Pretenses, and give away a copy to one lucky commenter!

True Pretenses

Never steal a heart unless you can afford to lose your own.

Through sheer force of will, Ash Cohen raised himself and his younger brother from the London slums to become the best of confidence men. He’s heartbroken to learn Rafe wants out of the life, but determined to grant his brother his wish.

It seems simple: find a lonely, wealthy woman. If he can get her to fall in love with Rafe, his brother will be set. There’s just one problem—Ash can’t take his eyes off her.

Heiress Lydia Reeve is immediately drawn to the kind, unassuming stranger who asks to tour her family’s portrait gallery. And if she married, she could use the money from her dowry for her philanthropic schemes. The attraction seems mutual and oh so serendipitous—until she realizes Ash is determined to matchmake for his younger brother.

When Lydia’s passionate kiss puts Rafe’s future at risk, Ash is forced to reveal a terrible family secret. Rafe disappears, and Lydia asks Ash to marry her instead. Leaving Ash to wonder—did he choose the perfect woman for his brother, or for himself?

Warning: Contains secrets and pies.

And now here’s Rose:

True Pretenses is your second book in a village-set series. Did you find writing it easier or harder than a stand-alone?

Definitely easier. Having an established world meant there were so many things I didn’t have to stop and think about. I already had a map of Lively St. Lemeston, for example (you can see it on my Lively St. Lemeston Pinterest board).

However, the two books were pretty loosely linked (if you’ve read Sweet Disorder, the heroine of True Pretenses is the daughter of Nick’s mom’s political archnemesis Lord Wheatcroft). So as far as writing characters and plot was concerned, it didn’t make too much difference.

What was your inspiration for this book?

I was watching Mark Ruffalo movies after The Avengers came out. One of them was a movie called “The Brothers Bloom” in which he and Adrien Brody are good-looking Jewish con artist brothers. The ending of the movie upset me so much that I had to fix it.

The basic set-up of the movie is that Adrien Brody wants to go straight, so Mark Ruffalo tries to set him up with Rachel Weisz, an endearingly eccentric heiress. Something that I realized while turning it over in my mind was that Mark Ruffalo set his brother up with someone exactly like him. Now, this is not an uncommon plotline, but usually it’s leading to either (A) “I set you up with a mini-me because I’m in love with you myself” or (B) “I arbitrarily decided you would be perfect with this person and pressured you into dating them and then HORRIBLY BETRAYED YOU by falling in love with them myself” (cf. Dan/Blair on Gossip Girl. Blair, Serena would have been FINE with you guys dating if you hadn’t gone ON AND ON about how she and Dan should get back together first, and tricked them into going on a weird Valentine’s Day date, and planted old people in the restaurant to talk about how great marrying your high school sweetheart is, and and and).

I went with option (B) for obvious reasons. Delicious angst! BUT with a happy ending, UNLIKE “The Brothers Bloom”. (Seriously, I love the movie, watch it, but BE WARNED.)

Did you learn anything that surprised you in your research? (I’m particularly interested in how you researched your hero’s background, since he’s not your typical Regency hero on several levels.)

I was surprised by how many Jews were involved in the Regency criminal world! Apparently most London fences were Ashkenazi Jews, for example, who had immigrated from the Netherlands and still had the connections to offload hot items there.

The word “swindler”, which my hero Ash uses to describe himself (“confidence man” is first attested in 1849, and in the US), entered the English language in the 1760s probably as a borrowing from Yiddish. (See a summary of the debate here. When it first came into use, the word had a much narrower meaning in bankruptcy fraud.)

I almost hesitate to share that because I don’t want to contribute to anti-Semitic stereotypes, but on the other hand, I don’t think that erasing Jewish criminals in favor of imagining an all-Englishborn all-Gentile underworld is any better.

Some books that were helpful to me in building Ash’s backstory were The Jews of Georgian England by Todd Endelman, The Regency Underworld by Donald Low (especially the chapter “Nurseries of Crime” about child criminals), The Big Con by David Maurer (a very entertaining history of American con artists that provided the blueprint for most modern heist stories and requires no background knowledge to enjoy), and A Vocabulary of the Flash Language (1819) by James Hardy Vaux, which not only teaches slang terms, but indirectly demonstrates a lot about London criminal culture and practice. 

What was the most difficult part of the book to write?

Ash and Lydia are both very different from me! They don’t like reading fiction, they live in the moment, they get a thrill from taking risks, in their hearts they don’t really care about the rules, they aren’t cranky and enjoy crowds. There were a lot of times where I was writing them and thinking Ugh I would hate this SO MUCH but I guess it doesn’t really bother Ash. 

Read any good books lately?

I feel like I’ve read ONLY good books lately! I think as I get older I get better and better at knowing my own taste and avoiding books I won’t enjoy. A few standouts: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev, Jeannie Lin’s new steampunk Gunpowder Alchemy, and Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain (yay for a Bath setting!).

What do you do when you’re not writing or reading?

Apart from working at my day job (cooking), mostly watching TV with my BFF. Fiction is my jam, and TV is fiction you can enjoy in real time with someone else! At the moment we’re obsessed with Leverage and enjoying The 100, Selfie, Forever, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and an embarrassing number of others.

What’s next for you?

The third Lively St. Lemeston book comes out in January 2016! It’s called Listen to the Moon and it’s about Toogood (Nick’s impassive valet) and Sukey (Phoebe’s snarky maid) from Sweet Disorder. I’m writing it now and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!


Thanks for visiting today, Rose!

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of True Pretenses, comment and tell us who your favorite fictional criminal is.

Also, note that the first Lively St Lemeston book, Sweet Disorder, is on sale for $0.99 at all retailers through tomorrow, January 20. And last but not least, Rose is giving away a con artist gift basket on her blog.

Susanna here.

Today my critique partner Rose Lerner visits Risky Regencies to talk about her new release, Sweet Disorder.

Rose Lerner

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly says that “Lerner’s distinctive and likable cast of parents, siblings, reluctant suitors, and political opponents feels integral to the story…This rich and memorable Regency romance brings its setting and characters perfectly to life.”

One commenter on this post will be chosen at random to receive a free e-book of Sweet Disorder (your choice of format), and one commenter will be chosen from the entire blog tour to receive an awesome prize package that includes tie-in pinback buttons, bookmarks, bacon-scented candles, a bookstore gift card, and much, much more! (You can see the full list and pictures of her fabulous swag at her blog. This drawing is open internationally. Void where prohibited!)

Welcome, Rose!

Tell us about Sweet Disorder…


What’s risky about the story?

Nick is a beta hero. AND he’s dealing with a mild new disability, AND there are no ballrooms anywhere (except in one small scene set at the local assembly rooms). But I think the thing I’m most nervous about is that the plot revolves around party politics, always a charged topic. While the heart of the story is the romance, and while I’ve tried to avoid any Star-Trek-style heavy-handed Special Messages (although I do enjoy them on Star Trek!), and while the political parties and issues of the Regency don’t really correspond to those today, given that political radicals of the time were pushing for–gasp!–universal male suffrage…well, I just hope I don’t turn off too many readers! Or at least that there will be plenty of readers who like what I’m doing, to compensate.

Phoebe, your heroine, isn’t of the aristocracy or gentry, but neither is she the kind of desperately poor waif or urchin that in my (completely unscientific) impression as a reader we most often see for a commoner hero or heroine. Instead she feels very relatable, an ordinary person working for her living like most of us are today (only I’m very glad chores like laundry have become so much easier). How did you decide on her background?

Well, I knew I needed Phoebe to be struggling financially enough to need money from Nick’s family when she has a family crisis, and I knew I needed her to be middle-class enough that her father was a voter. In the Regency, the vast majority of voters would not be in the desperately poor category, although I’m sure there were exceptions, especially in freeman boroughs (in most other borough types there were actual income/property requirements). So I had a range to work with…and then I made her father a lawyer who did a lot of pro bono work because my mother was a lawyer who did a lot of pro bono work.


Sweet Disorder centers around a parliamentary election. Phoebe can’t vote herself, but if she marries her husband will gain that right. I gather this only happened in a select few boroughs. Can you share where you learned that this was a real thing? I was fascinated by how the political parties were known by their colors, sort of like red for Republicans and blue for Democrats today, only I got the impression that your village had its own variations. (Basically I’d be glad to hear any fun political trivia!)

This post is getting CRAZY long, but I did a blog post explaining the pre-Reform Act of 1832 political system and women’s voting rights in detail over at History Hoydens a while ago. The short version is that it may not have been THAT rare–basically in freeman boroughs, anyone who had the freedom of the city could vote. Each city and town made their own rules for how to get this freedom, but ways typically included purchase (expensive), completing an apprenticeship to a freeman, or by inheritance (the son of a freeman is a freeman) or (in some boroughs) marriage.

What that means is that in some places marrying the daughter or widow of a freeman could get a man the freedom (sometimes only during her lifetime). In Lively St. Lemeston, only the eldest daughter of a freeman who died without heirs can pass the freedom along to her husband (there was at least one borough I came across where this was the rule), because I wanted Phoebe to be the only one in her town and therefore the focus of a lot of attention during a close electoral race.

Honestly, the colors for the political parties were more like sports teams! I don’t believe the national Whig and Tory parties had particular colors (although I do vaguely remember reading about an eighteenth century party where all the Whiggish ladies wore elaborate white gowns to indicate their political stance about some issue or other). But it was very common for local political parties–which were not really branches of the national Whig and Tory parties, although they usually were loosely affiliated with one of the national parties and their supporters often voted along those lines in national elections.

But national elections were rare (and in many constituencies, even more rarely contested) and most political activity was conducted at a local level, so one’s local political loyalties tended to come up much more often, and since most people didn’t vote, politics really was a spectator sport! People who couldn’t vote often still rooted passionately for one side or other. Elections were major events, and voters had to go to a central location to poll. So an election was really a lot like a big game day now, where you see huge groups of people in team colors hanging out, sometimes filling the street, drinking, cheering on their side, getting out of control and breaking things, starting fights with supporters of the other side, etc.

Covent Garden Market – Westminster Election, 1808. Via Wikimedia Commons.

This Rowlandson print illustrates the atmosphere nicely, I think. There seems to be an actual parade going on here, with floats and contingents from various parishes! Check out the people who’ve climbed the hustings (that distinctive slope-roofed temporary wooden structure, from which candidates gave their speeches and frequently where voters were polled) and are lying on their stomachs on the roof.

If your hero and heroine lived in 2014, what would they do with their lives? Both work in fields that still exist today, but would they follow a similar path if they had a modern array of career options?

I could see Phoebe doing the same thing–having been married to someone who owns a local newspaper and working on that while they were married, then writing children’s books. She’d probably need a day job, though. I could see her doing office/administrative work or something, especially in a law office or school. Nick…I don’t think Nick would be in the army. He was an upper-class kid with no idea what he wanted from life, and he only joined the army in the first place to spite his mother, because it sounded more interesting than the church or the law, and because you could just buy a commission. I can’t see him making the decision to go to Sandhurst (the British officer training academy). I think it’s more likely that a modern Nick would have volunteered for a British analogue of the Peace Corps.

Sweet Disorder is your first book since early 2011, after your first two books were released during Dorchester’s slow death spiral. If you’re comfortable doing so, please share what it was like to have such a long layoff.

Not fun! I spent a lot of time worrying that I would never be published again, or at least that by the time my next book came out all the momentum and buzz I got for In for a Penny would be lost.

Fortunately self-publishing took off right around the time Dorchester went under, and digital’s market share was growing dramatically (as it continues to do), so I knew that I had options if I couldn’t find another New York print publisher willing to take a chance on my books. Without that, I think I would have felt pretty hopeless.

I don’t even regret publishing with Dorchester, because I’d been trying for a long time and gotten a lot of rejections, and Dorchester got the books out there and started my career. My editor was wonderful, and she got me great reviews and really promoted the book, and every person I interacted with in the office was helpful and enthusiastic. I made lasting friends there.

But I have to admit, publishing with Dorchester scarred me too. The worst part was fielding questions from readers. Every time someone asked me where they could buy my books and I had to say that they were out of print, try interlibrary loan, and that no, I didn’t know when they’d be available again, no, I didn’t have my rights back yet, no, I didn’t know when I’d have another book out, I felt…not just sad, not even just embarrassed, but guilty. Ashamed. As if I’d done something wrong. I should have a better answer. I was letting people down.

Shame is an emotion that sneaks in and stays and is incredibly difficult to get rid of, like mold or an ant infestation. Now that I’m thinking about it, I realize that shame is kind of a running theme in Sweet Disorder. It’s an emotion with a peculiar ability to isolate people from each other, but also to connect them–because realizing that someone else shares the thing you’re ashamed of, or even just has their own secret shames and embarrassments, is one of the most liberating, intimate, powerful experiences in the world. That makes it especially interesting for romance.

Nick and Phoebe are both trying to figure out what the rest of their lives will look like. They’re both dealing with financial worries (even though Nick is from a very rich family, he’s had to leave his army career because of an injury and he’s temporarily living off the allowance he gets from his mother, which is sort of reliant on her being happy with him, and the idea of job-hunting while dealing with his new disability is really scary for him). They’re both filled with small, painful regrets, both trying to seem as if they’re calm and in control when really it feels as if everything is falling apart. I guess maybe it’s not a coincidence that I wrote this book after Dorchester.

What’s next for you?

My first two books, In for a Penny and A Lily Among Thorns, are being rereleased by Samhain in June and September. And then the second book set in Lively St. Lemeston, True Pretenses, is out early next year. It’s about a con man who decides to create a new respectable life for his beloved little brother by arranging a marriage of convenience for him with a beautiful philanthropist who needs to get her hands on her dowry. (She’s the daughter of Nick’s mother’s archnemesis Lord Wheatcroft, the head of the Lively St. Lemeston Tory Party.) But when a terrible family secret comes to light and his brother abandons him mid-scheme, the heiress demands that he marry her instead. Oh noes, what will happen?

Thank you so much for having me!

Susanna here again with a question for you readers: Which modern convenience would you miss most if you found yourself thrown back in time to the Regency? As a reminder, one commenter gets a copy of Sweet Disorder, and all are entered for her blog tour grand prize.

Today we are delighted to have Rose Lerner as our guest author. Rose burst onto the scene last year with her debut book, In For A Penny (Amanda listed this book as one of her 2010 favorites). Today Rose will talk about her second book, A Lily Among Thorns.

Praise for A Lily Among Thorns:
“I loved it, even more than I loved In For A Penny…most of all for a heroine who is independent, prickly, and wonderful all at the same time.” — Courtney Milan, author of Unveiled.

“Rose Lerner is masterful at bringing out the details that make characters human, in a way that reminds me of Judith Ivory and Meredith Duran. I highly recommend this novel and can’t wait for her next novel.” — Kat Latham, Reader I created him.
Rose is giving away one signed copy of A Lily Among Thorns to one lucky commenter chosen at random.
A Big Risky Regencies welcome to Rose Lerner!
Tell us about A Lily Among Thorns.

My heroine Serena has been fighting for the past five years to build her hotel’s business and to be safe as a woman alone who’s known to have once worked as a courtesan. Then Solomon walks back into her life. She’s had a secret crush on him for years, ever since he gave her the money she needed to buy back her contract at a brothel, and walked away without touching her. But love, and the vulnerability it brings, terrifies Serena at the best of times–and these are definitely the worst of times. On the heels of Solomon’s arrival, she faces a close friend’s betrayal, the threat of losing her hotel, French spies, and a whole mess of other things that could bring her carefully constructed life crashing down around her ears.

What inspired this story?

Traditional Regencies, actually. There was a certain type of alpha hero who was very popular for a while: he never ever expressed his emotions. He barely had facial expressions. And sometimes, he had a deep, broad, and often unexplained knowledge of the criminal underworld. He was generally saved from his own self-hatred and isolation by the unconditional acceptance of an innocent but unconventional young woman. And I wanted to see what that would look like with the genders flipped.

The book grew from there, of course, but that was the seed.

What is risky about A Lily Among Thorns?

Three things. First, Serena is an embittered ex-courtesan. Remember that conversation last year about “unlikeable heroines”? (If not, my post on the subject is here, about how difficult it is as a woman to express anger and not feel guilty about it, and it’s got links to the original Dear Author post and another post at History Hoydens that I loved.)

Plus, Solomon, my hero, is a beta. He’s socially awkward, geeky, doesn’t have a ton of experience with women, and he works as a chemist for his uncle’s men’s tailoring shop. He’s got no problem standing up to Serena when it matters (and since she’s got some issues, that’s more often than you’d think), but he’s perfectly content to stand back and let her run the show in the general course of things.

The third thing is that the secondary romance is between two men, but I don’t want to say too much about that because there are some major spoilers involved.

Did you come across any interesting research when you were writing A Lily Among Thorns?

Oh, tons! I researched the London criminal world, gay clubs, annulments, chemistry, ethnic diversity in London, women’s property rights, who exactly is entitled to be beheaded instead of hanged, drawn, and quartered when convicted of treason, food and kitchens, the Battle of Waterloo…I could go on. If anyone has any questions about any of those things, I’d love to talk about them with you! Here’s two interesting things I discovered:

British people in the Regency did eat plenty of foreign-inspired food, especially French food. But it was much rarer than it would be a little later, or now, to refer to them by their foreign names. So when Solomon says he knows how to make crème brûlée, he calls it “burnt cream.”

And that story about Nathan Rothschild getting news of Waterloo in advance, tricking everyone at the ‘Change into thinking he knew Wellington lost, and then buying up all the consols and seizing control of England’s finances? Totally false. Also, when I was researching that, you would not believe how many scary anti-Semitic websites I found that used it as an example of how Jews control the world. Anyway, if you want to hear more, I’ve got a blog post about it here with lengthy quotes from a Rothschild biography.

I’ve also got a post on Regency chemistry up over at History Hoydens.

This is your second book, but we at Risky Regencies always love a debut author story. Your debut received some wonderful buzz. Tell us about your journey to publication?

Thank you! I was actually having a really tough time with writing romance when I sold that book. I was having a tough time, period. When I was about a hundred pages into my first draft of In for a Penny, I found out my mom’s cancer was back and that she was going to die. I found out she would never get to read the book, and I didn’t write a word for about six months. My mom introduced me to romance novels and she was always the person I wrote for, the person I knew would love my books.

Eventually I forced myself to finish a draft but it was like pulling teeth, and once I was done, I couldn’t bring myself to edit it. I couldn’t even bring myself to reread it. I had a revised first three chapters, though. I promised myself I’d pitch it at the Emerald City Writers Conference, but if I didn’t get any requests for a full, I didn’t have to look at it ever again.

Well, Leah Hultenschmidt requested the partial, and I sent it to her, and I didn’t hear back. I figured, okay, that’s it then. I didn’t revise it, I didn’t send it out, and I didn’t start my next book, either. I thought maybe it was the end of the line for me and historical romance. Maybe the spark was gone. Heck, it wasn’t like anyone would ever want to publish me anyway.

Then about six months later, Leah requested the full. For a minute there, I was actually kind of mad. I still didn’t believe she was going to buy it, and now I had to go through this whole grueling process and it would all be for nothing, right? But when I read the book again, I kind of liked it. Yeah, it needed a lot of work, but I could fix it. So I dived in, cleaned it up, sent it off, even got my groove back enough to start a new book…and it turned out the spark wasn’t gone at all. I just needed to believe that someone might someday read what I was writing. I just needed to believe that someone might love it.

And then Leah called and said she wanted to buy In for a Penny, and the rest is history!

What is next for you?

I’m not sure. I’m almost done with a draft of a book about the 1812 Parliamentary general election. By the local rules of her town, the middle-class heroine’s husband would be eligible for a vote…if she were married. The younger-son-of-an-earl hero is sent to the town to find the heroine a husband, but of course he falls in love with her himself! But it’s not sold yet so I don’t actually know yet if it will be my next book out or when it will be available. I’ll keep you posted!

There’s plenty to comment about from this interview. Rose’s emotional debut story. The risks she took in this book. The research, especially about the Rothschilds. The whole issue of unlikeable heroines. So there’s no excuse not to leave a comment and earn a chance to win a copy of A Lily Among Thorns.

Or ask Rose a question! She’s coming back from a conference today, but will check in during the evening.
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