We are so excited to have historical romance author Miranda Neville on XOXOAD! She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her newest novel, Lady Windermere’s Lover, as well as provide a short excerpt for us all to enjoy. Find out why Miranda loves the Regency era, the challenges with reforming characters, and the importance of giant orange fur balls! Lady Windermere’s Lover is available from Avon tomorrow, June 24th.
So, Lady Windermere: any connection to Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan?
Aside from the title, not much. Like Wilde’s heroine, my Lady Windermere, Cynthia, is a good and slightly naïve woman and her husband is also involved in government. But there the resemblance ends. Although it’s quite possible Oscar would have liked to depict his characters enjoying some fairly spicy sex, it wouldn’t have been permitted on the Victorian stage!
What is it that keeps the Regency era such a popular setting for historical romance? What do you love about it?
Regency England – broadly the first two or three decades of the nineteenth century – was the time when Britain came fully into its position as the world’s dominant nation. That makes the ruling classes very powerful and power is sexy. Things were changing fast with self-made men challenging the landed aristocracy for power. Damian is an old-school aristocrat while Cynthia, niece of a rich merchant, represents the new order and has to face the scorn of the old, including her own husband. It is also a transitional period between the bawdy Georgians and the uptight Victorians with a tension between surface expectations and actual behavior that makes for great romantic conflict.
Any thoughts of turning the Wild Quartet into a Quintet, or are you moving on to a new series?
I just finished the last book, featuring the Duke of Denford, Cynthia’s would be lover. Nothing has been decided yet, but I’m thinking about a series spun off from that book but set a few years later.
What are the challenges in reforming a character like Damian, who starts out with some fairly black marks against him (having gambled away his estate, married for money and then run away from his bride) into a satisfying romantic hero?
Great question! I hope I have succeeded in making Damian both likeable and infuriating at the beginning of the book. The key to his character is that having messed up badly by getting drunk and losing the estate, he overreacts and becomes the perfectly conservative aristocrat, dedicated to family and duty. He has to learn to forgive himself and get back some of his youthful wildness, but without the irresponsibility. I always love a hero who has some reformin’ to do. Usually it’s the bad boy who has to clean up his act but in this case Damian has become too good. He needs to loosen up and reclaim his inner bad boy. It turns out his long-ignored wife is the person to help him do it.
You were Oxford-trained as a historian; how much do you use that training in developing your books? If the vagaries of the publishing market were no object, what historical figure or event would you most like to use in a romance?
I’m not sure how much academic training helps in writing fiction. Every historical writer has different levels of tolerance about adhering to the documented record. I’d describe myself as a moderate stickler: I strive for authenticity in my stories, but I invent or tweak minor stuff if necessary. I will say that I love going off the beaten track and finding unusual sources to give me ideas. For example, reading about the discovery of a Roman villa in eighteenth century England gave me the plot for one of my previous books, The Ruin of a Rogue.
Perhaps because I loved the classic historical saga Forever Amber, I’d love to write something set in Restoration England. I also love French history–perhaps late-Medieval France or the Court of Burgundy? Such gorgeous costumes! I’d like to weave a story based on the illustrations in the famous manuscript, Les Très Riches Heures of the Duc de Berri.
And some silly ones:
Downton Abbey: Thumbs up or down?
Thumbs up Season One, thumbs bending downward since.
TV shows or movies you’re passionate about?
My all time favorite shows are the original Upstairs Downstairs and The West Wing. Currently I watch Scandal, Castle, and Mad Men. During my last deadline I relaxed with episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras, about as far as I get from Regency England! I don’t go to the movies much. I like romantic comedies and I don’t think there are enough good ones. I will not watch anything with graphic violence.
I see from your bio that you share your home with a large orange cat. How important is having a cat if one wants to be a successful writer: rather important or vitally important? 🙂
I would say having a cat is a detriment to a writer. If Ernie isn’t trying to sleep on my keyboard, he’s demanding to be let in and out of the house every five minutes. I have tried to explain that if I don’t write he doesn’t eat, but he doesn’t believe me.
Keep reading for a sneak peek!
He couldn’t have said who kissed whom first but declared it a tie because when it came down to it, who cared? All that mattered was she was intoxicating and finally he was going to put an end to far too long a celibacy. Somehow his exhilarated brain kept a grasp on his good intentions. His physical condition was approaching desperation and he doubted he’d last long enough to please anyone in his current state. He needed to slow down.
She lolled against the cushions, a golden angel in a den of iniquity, her eyes big and dreamy, her hair a honeyed cloud, her lips plump and dark from his kisses and asking for more. She represented an invitation to sin as sultry as any Persian houri, despite her nightgown, covering her from chin to toe like a nun. True, it was an improvement over the thick flannel shroud. It fell smoothly about her curves, giving him a better impression of her figure than he’d yet been afforded: high breasts, a small waist, and a lovely curve of the hips. Through the superfine cambric he caught a shadowy impression of nipples; dark pink, he fancied. His favorite kind. With thickened fingers he unlooped the button at her neck, and couldn’t resist the indentation of her collarbone, allowing himself a quick taste of the tender skin. She arched into his mouth and the nightgown fell open, revealing round, pert breasts that his palms itched to touch. “You are lovely,” he whispered. “I want to see all of you.”
He could have bit his tongue, thinking he was going too fast, but he needn’t have worried. The fragrant smoke or some other cause had shredded her inhibitions. With two shrugs and a wriggle she got out of her nightdress, tossing it aside, and arranged herself on the claret-colored velvet like a goddess in an Italian painting. She took his breath away. How could he have ever made the mistake of thinking her short and dumpy? She was a pocket Venus, perfectly proportioned, with ravishing curves to her arms and thighs, and narrow waist above a gently swelling belly.
“You are absolutely made to be naked,” he said with a voice full of awe. “It’s a crime that such beauty should be hidden.”
“A hanging offense or transportation?”
Her smile would entice a monastery of abbots to mass fornication. She stretched like a sensual cat, undulating her hips to draw attention to the blond thatch of her pubis. The anticipation of possession tortured him. It was impossible to believe that he’d had her before, unaware what a treasure he had captured. But now he had to make sure that she was so incredibly satisfied that she would never again give Julian Fortescue as much as a passing thought.