It's my pleasure to once again host historical romance author Rose Lerner. As regulars will recall, Rose's Sweet Disorder was on Janga's recently posted Top Ten Books of 2014 here at TRD (and is currently on sale in e-book for $0.99). Having read her new book, True Pretenses, I won't be one bit surprised if it also ends up on "best of" lists for 2015! For more information about Rose and her books, please visit her website.
Welcome back, Rose! On January 13th, Samhain released True Pretenses, the second book in your Lively St. Lemeston series. Please tell our readers what they can expect from this book.
It's good to be back! True Pretenses is a historical romance about a philanthropist heiress who needs to get her hands on her dowry, and a Jewish con artist trying to arrange a marriage of convenience between her and his brother. Needless to say, things don't go to plan.
One of the many things I enjoy about your books is your willingness to write outside the norm. In True Pretenses, you not only explore a cross-class romance but take it a step further with a scandalous, cross-religion obstacle as well as placing the hero and heroine on opposite sides of the law. What compelled you to create this couple whose pairing would have flown in the face of everything society held dear? What do you want readers to understand about them?
Huh, I never actually thought about it like that! That's a lot of conflict, isn't it? I think that was what made them so fun to write--there were all of these huge differences between them, really fundamental differences in life experience--and yet somehow they have this instinctive kinship at the core of themselves. And it starts with this little thing, that they're both sort of stand-in parents for a younger sibling.
I'm not sure I meant it to be as Romeo and Juliet as all that when I started, though. I created the characters first and then thought about how their romance would go and what the obstacles would be.
I never ever wanted to make light of the differences between them, or the difficulties of loving someone who has had privilege you can't really imagine. And yet, that happens all the time, doesn't it? For example, we live in a pretty sexist society and yet many women manage to love and marry men.
I was fascinated by the level of detail in this story, from the politics of the era to Ash’s childhood activities in London’s East End. Were the details a product of your imagination or derived from what must have been extensive research?
Thank you! Ash and Lydia are both completely fictional people, and Lively St. Lemeston is a completely fictional town. But I do as much research as I can and I hope that most of the details are at least historically plausible. In some cases they're borrowed more or less directly from research.
For example, at one point Ash says, "At five, I had already been employed for a year picking the embroidery out of stolen handkerchiefs." This is based on a description in an 1816 law enforcement notebook of "Mrs. Diner, of Field Lane, Holborn" who "Keeps a Shop where numbers of Silk Handkerchiefs hang at the Window which she deals in & nothing else & has lived there 8 or 9 years in the same way buying them from Pick-pockets of every description, Men, Women, Boys & Girls, but chiefly Boys, whose practice it is....The Officers sometimes come here, but of no avail, as she takes out the Initials or Marks, so that the Property cannot be identified." (Quoted in The Regency Underworld by Donald Low, Chapter 3, "Nurseries of Crime," from which I adapted many of the details of Ash and Rafe's criminal boyhood.)
While reading your books, I often find myself wondering which character’s shoes I’d like to step into – temporarily, of course. If you could step into the life of one of your characters (male or female) with an escape hatch back to the present, who would you choose and why?
Hmm. I'm glad you gave me the escape hatch because the truth is I don't think I'd want to visit the Regency for anything other than research purposes! I'd love to borrow some of the characters' skills--be an expert confectioner for a few days like Mr. Moon, or a brilliant seamstress like Helen Knight. I'd also love to borrow Nick's life for a bit and see what early Byron fandom was like. But in the end, I'm not envious of any of my characters.
What authors or types of books do you enjoy reading when you’re not busy writing your own?
I mostly read romance, with occasional forays into other genres like mystery and fantasy. Usually I stick to historical, with some paranormal thrown in, but recently I've been on a contemporary binge: Victoria Dahl, Molly O'Keefe, and Sonali Dev are three of my faves at the moment. I also watch a lot of television with my BFF--at the moment we're loving Forever (about an immortal forensic medical examiner played by dreamboat Ioan Gruffudd), Selfie (a My Fair Lady retelling which I can't BELIEVE has already been canceled because it's PERFECT), Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Leverage among others.
I love Forever! I've been a huge Ioan Gruffudd fan since Horatio Hornblower.
In True Pretenses, you write about a tradition of receiving 12 mince pies from different bakers to bring luck in the next year. Do you have a traditional New Year’s meal for luck?
Not on December 31st, but on the Jewish New Year in the fall I always eat apples and honey for a sweet new year, and round challah for a whole new year (i.e. living through the whole thing).
Speaking of New Year’s, I’m not one to make resolutions but I do have a tradition of listing my hopes at the beginning of each year. What are your hopes for 2015?
I hope to sell a lot of books, I hope to enjoy a lot of fiction, I hope Selfie gets picked up by Netflix or Amazon or something, I hope to be happy and healthy, and I hope to go on at least one vacation getaway.
Do you have more books planned for the citizens of Lively St. Lemeston? (she asked, hopefully)
Absolutely! Book 3, called Listen to the Moon, is out in January 2016. For anyone who's read Sweet Disorder (LStL #1), the hero and heroine are Nick's impassive valet Toogood and Phoebe's snarky maid Sukey. I'm also working on an erotic novella about Mr. Moon and Betsy, the town confectioner and his cashier, although I'm not sure when that will be out yet.
Beyond that, it's not a series with a planned end. Since the books are so loosely linked, I'm not feeling at all burned out yet. In fact, I have stories I'm really excited to write for at least five or six more books. I'll probably write them as long as people buy them!
Thank you for visiting with us today, Rose. Would you like to ask our readers a question?
Thanks for having me! I would love recommendations for contemporary romance. Or, tell me about a book, movie, or TV show that you're excited for in 2015! I'll send one commenter chosen at random a copy of True Pretenses in the e-format of their choice.