Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guest Author -- Courtney Milan

Debut author, Courtney Milan is a woman of many talents. An attorney who has also worked as a computer programmer and a dog trainer, Courtney is now writing historical romances for Harlequin. Her novella, "This Wicked Gift," in the anthology, The Heart of Christmas left readers wanting more of her fresh and compelling new voice but it's her January release, Proof by Seduction that will secure her position as a rising star of historical romance. Please give Courtney a warm welcome to The Romance Dish!

Writing a historical scientist as a hero for the 21st century

When I set out to write Proof by Seduction, I wanted my hero, Gareth Carhart, to be a scientist. But the more research I did, the more I realized that showing readers my hero was a scientist--instead of merely telling them he was one--was going to be very difficult for one simple reason: Science in 1838 looks nothing like what we think of as science today.

The problem starts with the word, "scientist." Its first use in print, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in 1834. And in 1834, it shows up when someone notes that there is no word to describe "students of the knowledge of the material world collectively.... Some ingenious gentleman proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form scientist, and added that there could be no scruple in making free with this termination when we have such words as sciolist, economist, and atheistbut this was not generally palatable." By 1840, however, that unfortunate term had gained some grudging acceptance, and so in 1838, I allow my characters to use the word. There is no period substitute.

But this lack only presages the difficulty of trying to show a modern audience science in 1838.

In modern parlance, Gareth is a biologist. In 1838, virtually every aspect of the field we think of as biology, every last thing that today's readers were taught in junior high, had not yet been discovered. Darwin hadn’t yet unveiled the theory of evolution. Mendel, the father of genetics, was barely 16 years old. Nobody knew about DNA or ecosystems. Heck, the theory of cells wasn’t developed until 1839. Science was a gentleman's pasttime, a hobby with few, if any, dividends, and no research or development budgets.

If you peruse the Royal Academy’s archives of the time period, you’ll find that science during 1838 looked like this: “Hey, everyone, I found something new, so I killed it to see if it looked like something old inside.” It was a science of description, not a science that tried to explain. Only a tiny minority looked at the animal kingdom and thought: Physics had rules that explained things. Biology should too. There was a not-so-silent argument running between the people who killed things and cut them open, and the people who believed there ought to be rules and explanations.

My hero was part of that minority who struggled to find rules. You won’t see much discussion of Lamarck and inheritance and rules in the book--it’s a romance novel, after all, not a history of science--but Gareth’s belief that physics had rules, and so everything else should too, colors the world he lives in.

Naturally, Proof by Seduction starts when Gareth meets a woman--a fortune-teller, no less--who will take all the rules he knows and turn them inside out….

She is his last chance for a future of happiness . . .

Jenny Keeble has never let her humble upbringing stop her. She’s made her way in the world as a fortune teller, one who convinces her clients her predictions are correct by telling them what they most want to hear. Business is good… until she meets her match in the form of Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a scientist and sworn bachelor.

He just doesn’t know it yet.

Broodingly handsome, Gareth is appalled to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of "Madame Esmerelda," and he vows to prove her a fraud. But his unexpected attraction to the fiery enchantress defies logic. Jenny disrupts every facet of Gareth's calculated plan— until he can’t decide whether to ruin her or claim her for his own. Now, as they engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they know . . . and the boundless possibilities of love.

Courtney has graciously offered to give a copy of Proof by Seduction to a randomly selected commenter from today's post. 


  1. Hi Courtney
    great blog very interesting I have heard so much about this book I have already added it to my must have list and am really looking forward to reading it.

    Have Fun

  2. Hi Courtney,
    Congrats on your upcoming debut release. Thanks for sharing part of your research with us. I haven't read many historicals where the hero was a scientist.

  3. Hi Courtney, I am really liking the sound of this book. I like that the hero is a scientist, I mean, we know they had to have them then but you don't read many stories with a scientist as the hero. This should be a fun read.

  4. Hi Courtney and congrats on your release !! It feels like I've been waiting for this book to come out for ever (probably even longer for you). Well here it is, congratulations !

  5. Morning All! We're delighted to have Courtney visiting with us today. She's a west coaster so it may be a bit later before she checks in.

    I've read Proof by Seduction and it's wonderful! Courtney has a knack for gradually peeling away the layers of a character, exposing their deepest fears and desires, taking the reader into their hearts and souls, letting us see all their faults but leading us to love them anyway.

  6. Morning Courtney! I ordered your book and should be getting it today :) I'm really, really looking forward to reading it.

    I'm fascinated by the research you did. I love history and finding out how words and concepts originated. Is research something you really enjoy doing, or more a necessary "evil" to authenticate the story?

  7. Congrats on the release, CM. I can actually say it's been years since I first heard (read part) of Proof (Originally title something completely different) and I've been waiting that long to finally get my hands on it. My goal is to run out and get it in ONE of the stores around my house either Dec 31 or Jan 1. I know it will be a HUGE hit and to your continued success!


  8. This sounds wonderful Courtney. I can't wait to read it. Congrats!

  9. Hi and welcome, Courtney! We're so glad to have you with us today! Huge congrats on the release of Proof by Seduction! I can't wait to get my hands on it. :-)

    Thanks for shring a bit of your research for the book. Makes me want to read it even more. Is this the start of a possible series? Or is it a stand-alone?

  10. Sorry, that should be shAring. ;-)

  11. Good morning, Courtney! The buzz about PROOF OF SEDUCTION has been fantastic, and I can't wait to read it myself!


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  13. Good morning everyone! Sorry I am so late to get here, but this is what happens when you live on the West Coast.

    I forgot to tell PJ that I'll be giving away a copy of my book to a commenter, chosen at random--apparently, having a book release coincide with Christmas and New Year's (and the end of the semester--I am teaching, after all) makes my head explode.

    SO. I am giving away a copy of my book!

    Now. Ahem! On to comments.

  14. Helen and Jane, thanks so much!

    There are a number of great historicals with scientists as heroes and heroines--Carla Kelly's Beau Crusoe comes to mind! Laura Kinsale's Midsummer Moon has a heroine as a scientist; in Eloisa James's An Affair by Christmas, the heroine is also a natural philosopher. I'm sure I'll think of more as the time goes by, too.

  15. Dianna, I hope it is fun!

    Emmanuelle, it's been two years since I finished the draft of this book! And yes, I still can't believe it's on the shelves.

    And PJ, thanks so much for having me here, and for your kind words about PROOF BY SEDUCTION.

  16. Congrats on your debut novel, Courtney!

  17. Stacy,

    I really love SOME parts of research. I love figuring out how people think--and how they do things--and what would work. I have spent hours reading old legal treatises to see how certain problems would be solved.

    But I have to admit I'm completely uninterested in historical fashion or drawing room decor, and I do just enough research there not to embarrass myself.

    The end result is that you'll rarely see me write ballroom scenes--or if I do, the focus won't be on the dresses or the decor, but something else entirely.

  18. Bev, thanks so much! I've been looking for yours too--three bookstores so far, and not one has been willing to give up either SINFUL SURRENDER or Carrie Lofty's SCOUNDREL'S KISS. Can you believe it? Don't they understand that I want those books NOW?

  19. Thanks, Kwana! I hope you enjoy it.

    Andrea, I don't know that I would call this a potential "series." There are two related books and a novella, but I have no more related books planned, and I'm not sure that there's a coherent overarching theme to these books, other than that the characters know each other.

    The "series" such as it is works like this:

    1. prequel (not necessary to read for this book; there's no spoilers either way): "This Wicked Gift," a novella in THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS anthology, which may still be on shelves of lazy bookstore owners who have not yet pulled their Christmas stock. This is a novella about Mr. William White, who is Gareth Carhart's man of business.

    2. PROOF BY SEDUCTION. Gareth Carhart's book.

    3. TRIAL BY DESIRE (scheduled for September, 2010) is Ned Carhart's book; Ned is Gareth's cousin.

    That's it! I think of these books as connected, but not in a series, if that makes any sense.

  20. Hi Gannon! I hope you enjoy. And Deb, thanks for the congratulations!

  21. I forgot to add---that when I read "This Wicked Gift", I knew right away at the end that I wanted Gareth to have his own story. So, I'm excited to read PBS!

  22. Deb, I felt the same way about Gareth at the end of "This Wicked Gift." I remember thinking, "I want to know more about this guy!"

  23. Hi Courtney,

    If there is one thing I love to do first thing in the morning over my tea is read about a new author, and a new book to read!

    Your book sounds wonderful, I love historicals, and I love it when the author gives us real historical bones on which to add the meat of the story. And a scientist! And any hero described as 'broodingly handsome' and I am there!
    Best of luck with your release!

  24. Courtney ,
    I have learned something new today from your blog. I thought the word scientist had to be much older.
    Your book sounds like a really fun book. Lady Esmeralda sounds like she can be a handful for the hero of the story.

  25. Congratulations again on the release of PROOF, Courtney! I loved the book! Romances that combine intelligence and strong emotional appeals, as PROOF does, are always keepers for me. And I must say how happy I am that you are giving us Ned's story. I can't wait to read it!

  26. Yeah! I read "This Wicked Gift" this weekend, and I knew I would love to read your next book! I am glad that Gareth is in Proof!

    P.S., I loved that "Wicked" had some less affluent/employable gentry instead of the usual high society/ton types....

  27. Deb and PJ, I'm glad you liked the little glimpse of Gareth you got in "This Wicked Gift." It's always dangerous having readers see a younger version of the hero--Gareth is a little more mature in PROOF--but this way, you get to know a bit more about him.

    Drew, I like my heroes handsome, too. In real life, brooding isn't so fun, but in fiction, it's my favorite kind!

    Gigi, I knew Gareth was going to need someone strong to stand up to him--he's so strong himself, that he would just steamroller anyone who didn't have a backbone.

    Janga, I can't wait until everyone else can read Ned's story, too. :) It's hard to talk about it now.

    And Jessica, I'm so glad you liked "This Wicked Gift"--for me, some of my personal triggers have to deal with money (or lack thereof) and so it's hard for me to write a book where money or class doesn't play a role. You can see that in both "This Wicked Gift" and "Proof by Seduction"--and it comes out in slightly different ways.

    I'll be back by a little later today, but thanks so much for the warm welcome, everyone!

  28. Congratulations on the new release. I enjoyed the brief view of Gareth in your first book, so his story should be interesting.

  29. Congratulations on your new release Courtney. That was an interesting post because you don't think about what different terms meant in the past and how they've evolved to become what we think of today.

  30. Hey Courtney! Welcome to The Romance Dish! It is wonderful to have you with us today. I have heard so many great things about your debut and can't wait to get my hands on it. I love the idea of a scientist and a fortune teller. Talk about opposites!!

  31. I forgot to ask what type of law you studied? I'm currently a paralegal in real estate law. Just curious.

  32. Courtney,

    Congrats on the book! I can't wait to read it. I really enjoyed "This Wicked Gift" and can't wait for future books from you.


  33. Penfield, thanks for the congrats!

    Maureen, as a historical author, I try to be VERY aware of the language I use. As a general rule, I try not to use words that weren't available at the time. Sometimes, though, there aren't many good choices. For instance, there aren't many good words to use to describe the sex act. "Having sex" is too modern, and back then "making love" meant something closer to "flirtation" or "talking it up" and definitely didn't imply physical contact. Back then, they used "fuck"--crude back then, and even cruder today--"shag"--which almost nobody believes is period-appropriate--and a couple of euphemisms that nobody recognizes today.

    So I end up fudging. What else can I do?

    Buffie, I hope you like PROOF! I basically did whatever my boss told me to, but think litigation side with an intellectual property emphasis, and you'll have the right idea.

    Finally, Crystal, thanks so much! I'm so glad you liked "This Wicked Gift"--and hope you'll enjoy PROOF too.

  34. Hi Courtney, congrats on the release. I've been wanting to read this one as I like stories with professions like scientists, and paired with a fortune teller sure has to have some fun mixed in.

  35. Personally, I haven't quite figured out that whole 'show don't tell' thing yet. Still learning.

    Your book's release date coincides with my middle son's birthday. A good omen for how well I'll like it, I think! And another good sign - I haven't come across many covers mostly done in purple tones, so that draws my attention too. Though the 'Otello' strangled Desdemona pose gives me pause.

  36. Pam, I hope you like it.

    And M, I just want you to know that when I first saw this cover, the e-mail I sent my agent said, "Hey, I think I have the first self-clinch cover!" There isn't any Desdemona in here, so don't worry about that. :)

  37. And PJ, and the entire Romance Dish group, thank you all so much for having me here!

    I said I would give a random commenter a copy of my book, and random.org says that the winner is...


    Gigi, please send me an e-mail at courtney@courtneymilan.com and I will send out your copy of PROOF BY SEDUCTION!

  38. Courtney, thanks so much for visiting with us today. I've enjoyed learning more about Proof by Seduction and you. Congratulations on the release and best wishes for a long and successful career!

  39. Congrats,Gigi! Hope you enjoy Proof by Seduction as much as I did!

  40. so much buzz about this book! sounds very awesome!! it has a very interesting plot--i don't think i've ever read a fortune telling heroine. happy release day courtney!!

  41. Thanks for visiting with us, Courtney! I wish you all the best with PBS!!