A dangerous mission at Queen Elizabeth’s bidding is Celia Sutton’s chance to erase the taint of her brother’s treason. Her life is at risk if she’s discovered—and so is her heart when she learns her co-conspirator is also her onetime seducer: brooding and mysterious John Brandon!
John can’t believe the change in Celia—what’s happened to the carefree English rose she once was? Leaving Celia was the only thing to do, but now guilt tears at his soul.He has to heal the sadness in her past, and he’s not above using anything—from expert seduction to royal favors—to achieve his goal.
Today I’m guest hosting once more for my good friend Amanda McCabe, in a slightly different format though. She has a new release October 1st, Tarnished Rose of the Court. I had just a few questions for her that she so sweetly indulged. (KLW)
Q: It’s obvious you love the Elizabethan period. What is it that draws your interest?
A: I do adore this period! I’ve talked about it here before, but I know that part of it is the sheer energy of the time period. It was such a time of change and movement, bawdy and raw but also elegant in its clothes and architecture, and a moment of artistic creativity almost unmatched in history. There were so many brilliant personalities in the arts, politics, exploration, the military, and it made for an exciting era. It was also really a moment for women. Besides Elizabeth and the intelligent and headstrong women of her court (like Bess of Hardwick, for one example), there was Mary of Scotland, and Catherine de Medici in France. There were a multitude of crazy, runaway romances, thanks to Elizabeth’s aversion to letting any of her courtiers marry. It’s a great setting for exciting stories…
Q: If you could live in that time, would you?
A: Definitely not!! As wonderful as it would be to actually see Elizabeth I, or watch a brand new Shakespeare play at the Globe, I don’t think I could handle the smells. Or the lack of medical care. Or dressing in farthingales and ruffs every day. Much as I love to dress up, sometimes a girl just needs her jeans! But if I could go back in time for a few days to do some in-depth research then come back home…
Q: Who would your heroine be?
A: In this time period, I really love Anne Boleyn. She was such a strong, intelligent, outspoken woman of deep convictions and great ambition, who was way ahead of her time. Her ending was certainly tragic (I cried when I visited the Tower, just thinking about it!), but she passed down those traits (along with a quick temper and mercurial charm) to her daughter.
Q: Your story is set when Mary Queen of Scots is two and twenty, which is much older than I initially believed. I suppose my question is in how you perceived Mary vs. Elizabeth. Did you consider Mary as naïve? And what of Elizabeth?
A: Mary Queen of Scots is one of the most fascinating characters in history (who still has a hold on the popular imagination!), but in truth she was something of a ding-dong when it came to being a queen. She messed up everything in her life in major, major ways, often because she simply didn’t seem to stop and think (or show any self-control!), unlike Elizabeth, who rarely took a step wrong. I wonder if it’s because of the difference in their upbringings. Mary became queen when she was a few hours old, and from the age of 4 onwards grew up at the supremely elegant and sophisticated French court, betrothed to the dauphin, queen to two countries. She was beautiful, spoiled, and always sure of her place in the world, though not very intellectual. Whereas Elizabeth’s mother was executed as a traitor when she was 3, she grew up a bastard, and was often physically in danger and always unsure of her place. It was a miracle she became queen. But she was very well-educated and extremely shrewd. She knew how to get herself out of trouble, and how to stay popular and in control at all times. She was willing to make sacrifices to keep her place on the throne (including not marrying her true love Robert Dudley), where Mary never sacrificed anything at all and had a rare talent for making very bad choices. I loved getting to show something of the contrast between them in this story!
For more info, I highly recommend Jane Dunn’s book Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens…
Q: It is a fascinating time period. Can you tell us a little about your degree in English Literature?
A: I’m afraid I loved going to school so much I ended up changing majors three times! Until my parents told me to pick one and finish the degree asap or they wouldn’t pay for tuition anymore, LOL. It ended up I had taken so many English lit classes that I had almost enough credits to finish it up, so English it was, then I went on to get an MA in Elizabethan poetry. It was great to combine my love of books and history, and even though my dad was sure it made me totally unfit for any “real world” job, it’s been great for being a historical writer!!
Q: What are some of the challenges you face as a published writer?
A: Deadlines. I always seem to be struggling with them. (But if I didn’t have them I doubt I would get anything done—I am a master procrastinator!). And finding time to get online promo and networking done every day can be a challenge (especially when there are so many fashion blogs to visit!). But the people I’ve met, other readers and writers, have been such a huge reward.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about Tarnished Rose of the Court?
A: It all started with the character of Celia! She appeared in my book The Winter Queen, and I wondered what made her so unhappy. At the end of that book, Queen Elizabeth sends Celia on some mysterious errand to visit Scotland (where Queen Mary has just returned after years in France), and I wondered what happened to her there, too. Once I sat down and started thinking about Celia, I realized it was a lost love, and a family tragedy, that made her what she was. But inside she was still vulnerable, especially when her lost love, John, returns.
It didn’t hurt that John happened to look like Henry Cavill in The Tudorstoo! I loved finding out what happened to them in Scotland. It’s always fun writing about court intrigue and mystery, and I wanted Celia and John to be together so, so much.
Q: When you’re working on a manuscript, what motivates you? What frustrates you?
A: Deadlines!! As well as being a challenge they’re a motivator. But I love it when I’m eager to spend time with characters every day and see what they want to do next. I get frustrated when what they want to do doesn’t correspond at all to what I planned for them…
Q: What do you like to read?
A: Everything!! Really, I will read anything I find at the bookstore or library that looks interesting, or that friends recommend. I love romance, mystery, a little fantasy sometimes, literary fiction, anything. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction, research-y type stuff (am in the middle of book one of my new Elizabethan mystery series!), but I’ve also finished two novels I am raving about to anyone who will listen—Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette(I never wanted this one to end, I loved it so much) and Meljean Brooks’s Riveted. I am obsessed with steampunk. If anyone here has any more recs, let me know!
Q: One last question that has nothing to do with your book—tell me about this dedication…quite flattered we were! In tears (happy tears!). I wish you much success with Tarnished Rose of the Court.
A: LOL! I guess everyone here should know about the Martini Club. Every Friday (and sometimes other nights) I meet Kathy and our friends Alicia Dean and Christy Gronlund at the Martini Lounge. It’s saved my sanity more than once…and so I just wanted to say a little “thank you” for the friendship (and the great lemontinis)…This is us (without Christy!) at the Martini Lounge…
And at the Museum Rooftop…
Now for a teeny short review of Tarnished Rose of the Court.
Celia Sutton is caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. She is a tragic figure who has lived through her one true love’s desertion, her brother’s execution for treason, and an abusive husband. And now, in order to secure a future for herself, she has to perform one last service for Queen Elizabeth—travel to Scotland and report Mary Queen of Scots marriage inclinations. If she is fortunate, the husband Elizabeth will bestow upon Celia will not be cruel.
In the meantime, John Brandon’s desertion of Celia years prior was inevitable; he was an agent of the Court. The problem was he hadn’t planned on falling in love with her. And now he is to accompany the party, Celia included, to Edinburgh. And he finds his passion has only deepened, despite the shadows that haunt her eyes. Now he just has to find a way to keep her from Lord Knowlton’s grimy paws.
This is a touching story of rekindled passion that is swept up in a tide of love, with danger lurking around every corner. A heart wrenching story to warm your heart. – Kathy L Wheeler