Monday, March 22, 2010

Guest Author -- Allison Chase

Originally from New England, historical author Allison Chase grew up with a deep appreciation for the rich history of her surroundings, and admits that, "If living in the past is a bad thing, then I've been bad all my life!" She and her family love to travel, especially throughout the British Isles and Ireland, and she's never happier than when exploring historic sites such as castle ruins, ancient abbeys, or the rambling gardens of old country manors. She lives in sunny, warm South Florida with her husband and two daughters. Her latest book, Most Eagerly Yours (see my review here) is the first in her new series, Her Majesty's Secret Servants. Please welcome Allison to The Romance Dish.

I’m so happy to be here at The Romance Dish today! Thank you, Gannon, for inviting me and for that really nice review of MOST EAGERLY YOURS a few weeks ago. :)

When we think of historical romance, we often think of feisty heroines – buxom, vivacious vixens whose seductive powers can bring an alpha nobleman to his knees. But a heroine doesn’t have to be loud or intractable or particularly well-endowed to get her way. Some use much more subtle means to wield their power, ensnaring the hero with little more than a soft word and a significant look. That’s assuming, of course, that they possess…

A Certain Spark

I have heard it said that when Prince Charles decided to marry Diana, it was in large part due to her apparently quiet, compliant nature. He had always loved Camilla but couldn’t be with her (well, turns out he could have), so he chose a wife who wouldn’t have the gumption to interfere in his affairs. His mistake was to confuse shyness with lack of spirit. Oh, wasn’t the joke on him! Diana had, as this particular royal biographer put it, an inner spark that refused to be doused. She possessed an inherent sense of self-worth that told her she deserved better, and that she would NOT accept a pat on the head and slink quietly off into a corner.

Diana’s story reminds me a little of another royal blunder, earlier in history…

When I first started researching the Victorian Age for my new series, Her Majesty’s Secret Servants, I didn’t know a lot about Queen Victoria herself. For instance, I didn’t know she grew up relatively poor, in cramped apartments amid shabby furnishings and threadbare rugs. Since in her early years she wasn’t expected to inherit the throne, her household income was minimal and her illustrious uncles – George IV and the future William IV basically forgot about her most of the time.

But her mother, along with the comptroller of their household, John Conroy, saw the very real possibility that Victoria might be queen someday, so they kept the child under their strictest control, intending to make her so physically and emotionally dependent on them that they would someday be the real power behind the throne.

Ah, but “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry…” What those ill-fated co-conspirators failed to recognize was the fierce spark inside that little girl – a fire in her belly that refused to be extinguished. Once Victoria did assume the crown, the first thing she did was banish Conroy from her court and relegate her mother to rooms far, far from the royal apartments in Buckingham Palace. That’s my girl! It makes me want to stand up and cheer out loud!

When I think of strong heroines, it isn’t an ability to level a man twice their size with a well-aimed karate chop, it’s having the confidence to know who they are and what they want, and the brains to out-think anyone who would hold them back. It’s about integrity, self-assurance, and courage.

That’s why when I came up with my new series, Her Majesty’s Secret Servants, I knew young Victoria would make such a wonderful secondary character and a catalyst for the action of the stories. My Victoria knows who she is and what she needs, and she knows she can depend on her childhood friends, the Sutherland sisters, to help her achieve her goals.

The sisters, Laurel, Ivy, Holly and Willow, are kick-butt heroines, not because they posses superpowers or can wield weapons, but because they each have unique talents they know how to use, and because they all have that inner spark to give them courage and drive them to achieve their goals.

In the book one, MOST EAGERLY YOURS, we learn that the sisters themselves are threatened by a mysterious secret from their past that puts them in uncertain danger. They soon realize that their quiet country upbringing was an effort by their uncle to protect them from those dangers, but as Ivy declares in book two, OUTRAGEOUSLY YOURS (December 2010), “Seclusion didn’t make us any safer. The danger was still there, waiting…” These ladies aren’t stupidly throwing themselves into perilous situations, but neither are they about to surrender their hard-won independence or their beloved London Readers’ Emporium, or turn their backs on their queen, to return to the safety and tedium of a sheltered existence.

In MOST EAGERLY YOURS, the eldest sister, Laurel, is the first to be called to the queen’s service…

The Queen is threatened by her jealous cousin, George Fitzclarence, who is known for speaking treason. She asks Laurel to pose as a wealthy widow and use her charms to win George’s trust, then find out what he is might be plotting. Laurel is prepared for the risks of acting a part, but not for the formidable obstacle she encounters in the Earl of Barenforth--George’s friend and a notorious rake, whom Victoria has warned her to avoid...

An undercover agent for the Home Office, Aidan Phillips, Earl of Barensforth, is on the trail of a financial hoax involving alchemy, murder...and George Fitzclarence. When a lovely young widow wanders into his path and turns his well-laid plans on end, he senses she is hiding something. Aidan is no stranger to seduction, or to the wiles of beautiful women. And he intends employing a few wiles of his own to uncover the lady’s secrets...

Most of us at one time or another have had to stand up for ourselves when no one else would. What was the hardest battle you’ve ever had to wage, and what were the results?! I’ll choose a random commenter to receive a copy of MOST EAGERLY YOURS.

Hugs to all,
You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter and Myspace!


  1. Allison,
    I have heard good things about MOST EAGERLY YOURS. I hope the release is going well. I look forward to the rest of the series.
    I guess I've been pretty lucky. I haven't had too many instances where I've had a problem where I've had to stand up for myself. My going to college is about the only thing I can think of . I was the first in both my parents' families to go to college. My mother supported me, but my Dad always seemed to find reasons why I should be pulled out of school. I stood my ground and stayed in. It was a generational thing. It was the early 60's and having a daughter achieve more than the men in the family was hard for them to take. They got over it. I'm glad it isn't such a problem in today's society.

  2. Hi, Allison. We are glad to have you here today. I loved MOST EAGERLY YOURS and I look forward to the rest of series.

    I'm on the road back home today, so I'll check in when I can.

  3. Hi Allison,
    You are a new to me author and Most Eagerly Yours sounds amazing.
    So your question is a toughie I think. There are so many things I have had to battle for in my life, but the largest by far was the marriage to my husband. My father wrote 6, 3-4 pages handwritten letters on why I shouldn't marry him. Granted he never met him either! We had been physically together and living together since the second day we meet. We have been married 14 years. It was devastating to me that my family wouldn't support me. We are happy and going for baby #2 now.
    I think I have proven to them I knew what I was doing when I married him. Ironically now we all get along great.



  4. Hi Allison,
    I do enjoy heroines who have a strong will. When I read your question I think back to the battle of wills between my teenaged daughter and I and how hard it was to keep punishing her when she broke the rules but it did work out great since she now is a successful college student.

  5. Good morning! Wow, what inspiring answers to start off with!

    LibraryPat, I would consider you one of the pioneers of women's rights, and what is more vital than the right to an education and achieve success? Women like you paved the way for future generations of successful women!

    Brande, I've recently had a conversation with two good friends about how we don't choose who we fall in love with. It just happens and sometimes it can seem to be for all the wrong reasons, or contrary to what everyone else expects for us. Love is like breathing - it's not something we can control, but love in any form is essential to life itself.

    Maureen, nothing is harder than raising teenagers! I know - my younger turns 18 tomorrow and her sister graduates college next month. As moms sacrifice, worry, tear our hair out, do our best and hope it all turns out well.

    I admire you all for believing in yourselves and having the courage not to back down!

  6. Hi, Allison. Your series sounds good! I think young Queen Victoria is often overlooked and people often think of her as an older reigning queen.

    I am and was a devoted fan of Princess Di.

    I had a very stressful time convincing my parents, especially my dad, and my sisters that I loved the man I did and wanted to marry him. My folks' objections were--and very valid ones--that he had been married before, had 2 sons, and had some baggage, and I had never been married before, nor seriously dated anyone else before. It was very stressful, but has turned out for the best because he is now loved by all and we've been married for nearly 12 years.

  7. Hi Allison, One time I stood up for myself & which I'll never regret is breaking up with a guy (I loved) who was no good to me. The turning point, if you can call it that, was when my grandmother was dying and he complained about me moving in with her to care for her in the last days of her life. I'm SO glad I got that time with her and if he couldn't understand why this was important to me it felt like he didnt know me at all, let alone care about my feelings. It cost me some but I gained a lot too.

    Your book sounds wonderful btw!

  8. Deb and Kirsten, you both stuck to your guns and while it couldn't have been easy, it sounds like you both knew what was best in your situation.

    I'll admit I'm a nonconfrontational person at heart. Some of my biggest battles have been with the schools on behalf of my daughters, like last year when my younger one wasn't placed in orchestra like she should have been. This was not just an elective for her. High school had been a little rocky, but music has always been her haven and the area where she really shines. Being in orchestra was important for her well-being and self-esteem.

    The guidance counselor hemmed and hawed and said they might not be able to do anything due to overcrowding and the difficulty of rearranging her schedule. Well...making a long story short, my claws came out and I let them know under no uncertain terms that my daughter WOULD be moved into orchestra asap - and she was.

  9. Can't wait to read your series, Allison!

    My toughest challenge was leaving full-time academia to become a fiction author. Academia has an insinuating way of convincing everybody in it that there's nothing else worth doing in the world. I'm still a part-time academic, and I adore my students and colleagues. But I'm so happy writing fiction--and reading it when it sounds as fun as yours! :)

    Deb and Book Junkie, my otherwise kind, loving, open-minded parents gave my older sister grief about her fiance, just like yours. If only we had crystal balls so we could hold them up to our parents' faces and say, "See? You guys are going to love him in ten years!"

  10. Hi Allison! Welcome to The Romance Dish. I have your book on my tbr pile and am looking forward to having the time to read it, especially after reading Gannon's review and your blog today.

    I've always been a very non-confrontational person. Standing up for myself when I was younger was very difficult for me but I've gotten much better at it as I've aged. The turning point for me was when my late husband's health took a turn for the worse. Shortly after we moved to a new state, he had a stroke that robbed him of his communication skills. In a split second I became his advocate and had to go toe to toe with doctors, hospitals, the insurance company and the VA to ensure he received the best possible care and to make sure I was kept apprised of every bit of information I needed to make sure he got that care. It was way out of the comfort box for me but I had no choice but to step up to the plate and continued to do so over the next five years until he passed away. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do but I'm so very proud of all I accomplished to make those five years (what he called his "bonus" years) the best possible life experience for him.

  11. Hey Allison! It is so nice to have you with us today.

    It is so funny that you mention the early years of Queen Victoria's life. I watched a short biography on the "young Victoria" this past weekend, and they mentioned her merger beginnings. They also mentioned her mother and John Conroy. Seems those two were quite a devious pair. I loved that Queen Victoria kicked Conroy out of the place as soon as she received the crown and the program said she ordered he was never to attend court in her life time.

    Most Eagerly Yours sounds like a fantastic book, and I'm looking forward to having some time to sit and enjoy it.

    Best wishes!

  12. Oops, I forgot to answer your question, Allison. And man that's a tough question.

    Personally, I don't like conflict. While I really enjoy drama on tv, I sure as heck don't want it in my life.

    At this moment I really can't think of any specific moments, but anything that involvs my kids will have me standing on the top of my soap box to make sure they receive every opportunity they should. You just don't mess with mama bear :-)

  13. Nice post, Allison. I was reading an article today on what qualities readers look for in a heroine. At the top of the list is the heroine's ability to know herself. That inner independence is a characteristic we can all admire. Sounds like the Sutherland sisters have that confidence. I can't wait to read your book.

  14. Hi Allison! This series sounds really interesting! I'll definitely have to check it out. :)

    Hmmm. I can't say that I've had to really stand up for myself, at least not yet. I'm young, so I'm sure that time will come. ;)

  15. I'm looking forward to reading Most Eagerly Yours, it sounds like a fantastic story.
    The biggest battle I fought was to get myself in a position to support my son and me so I could tell my dead-beat husband to scram. Best thing I ever did, and I never looked back.

  16. Hi, Allison! Thanks for joining us today. Congrats on your new release! Based on your blog and Gannon's review, I'm sold!

    I stood up for myself a few times when I was a kid (there's always a bully somewhere), but haven't really had to as an adult. Like a few of the others said, I try to avoid conflict. But let someone try and do something to my kids and the claws will come out, most assuredly. ;-)

  17. Katharine, having the courage to change our lives means standing up to ourselves and facing our fears - congrats to you for winning that battle!

    PJ, your story made me tearful. Your husband must have been so proud and grateful and in love with his courageous wife. I can only imagine how bittersweet those bonus years were.

    Buffie, kids need their mamma bears! Cuddly most of the time, ferocious when needed!

    Barbara - hurray for you for not letting yourself be trapped! I'll bet your confidence soared, and I'm glad you never looked back!

    Cynthia, thanks for the encouraging words! The Sutherlands do their best. Sometimes they have to dig deep for the courage they need.

    Trisha, I hope you don't have to face too many battles too soon! When and if they do come, I'm sure you'll find that you have the strength to handle them.

  18. Hi Andrea, thanks for the welcome! And those claws not only come out most assuredly when it comes to our kids, but Most Eagerly. :-)

  19. Thanks, Karyn. Congrats on the 28 years! You obviously had good instincts despite the advice of your family. I guess especially in those days, having your daughter move across the country was a scary thing. Now it's so much easier to keep in touch on a daily basis. I still hope my daughters stay close, though!

    I'm so glad I asked this question. The replies have been an inspiration and a wonderful reminder that we women are pretty formidable when we have to be - as strong or stronger than the men in our lives. Hurray for us!

    I'll check back in the morning to see if there are more comments, and then pick a random winner. Good night for now!

  20. Allison--Your book sounds great. I can't wait to read it. Your question is a tough one, and I am reaching way back to college for this story. As a senior, I was president of a student group that was scheduled to attend a national convention in New York. At a planning meeting, a majority of the group decided we should save money by under reporting hotel registrants, and letting others in our group stay in the same rooms without registering or paying. I was shocked and disappointed. Honesty is so important. After much discussion, I told the group that if that was the decision, they could do it, but it would be with someone else as president; that I couldn't remain with an organization that would choose to act in an unethical manner. All these years later, I'm still happy that when the group bluntly saw the proposal in that light--as unethical--they chose not to proceed. We all registered for the convention the honest way.

  21. I've seen this book on a few blogs. Please enter me in the contest. Thanks.

  22. LSUReader - wow, it's REALLY hard to stand up to peer pressure, especially when you're so young. And to actually change their minds and get them to do the right thing - sounds like you were a natural leader!

    Penfield, I'm glad to hear you've seen me around the blogosphere. Thanks!