Thursday, December 28, 2017

Remembering Miranda Neville

PJ here. The first time I met Miranda Neville she was a newly published author and I had yet to read her book. I was captivated by her friendly smile, her quick wit, her crisp British accent, and her whip-smart intelligence. I vowed to read Never Resist Temptation at my first opportunity. It didn't take long for me to be captivated by her writing and I eagerly anticipated each of her subsequent releases. Over the years, I've had the pleasure of getting to know Miranda better through romance conferences, social media, and her visits here at The Romance Dish. She was a shining light to all who knew her, a good friend with a wonderful sense of humor who could rock a fascinator like nobody else. She was also one of the most talented historical romance writers out there, in my opinion. Her final book, Secrets of a Soprano was one of my favorites from last year and one of my favorites of all her books. I mourn the fact that it is the last book she will gift to her readers but rejoice in the fact that she was able to publish this wonderful story - the self-proclaimed book of her heart. It's still hard to believe she's gone, taken from us much too soon. I mourn her passing but rejoice in the fact that her words will live on through her stories. 

Following are Janga's remembrances of Miranda:

I always think of Miranda Neville as sophisticated, not with the harsh, artificial brilliance that is unfortunately a common connotation of the word but rather in the larger sense of subtle, discriminating, cultured versed in the complexities of a subject. Her books impress me with those qualities too. She wrote intelligent romances, but they never lacked heart as well.

I began reading Miranda’s books with her debut, Never Resist
Temptation (2009). It begins fairly conventionally, but then the author gives things a twist. The reader is soon deep in a plot that involves cross-dressing (Jacobin runs away and becomes Jacob Léon, a French pastry chef at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton) and murder (Candover is poisoned by food served at one of the Prince Regent’s dinner, and Jacob is in danger not only of having her identity exposed but of being arrested). The novel was well-crafted with a fresh touch. I liked what I read and was interested in seeing more from this new author.

More turned out to be The Wild Marquis (2010), the first of Neville’s Burgundy Club series about an exclusive clique of young aristocrats who are rare-book collectors. She hooked me with that description, and I bought the book, liked it, and looked forward to the next in the series.

The Dangerous Viscount (2010) remains one of my top three Miranda Neville books. I knew going in that it was a male-makeover tale, a trope I’ve loved since I first read Georgette Heyer’s Powder and Patch and fell under the spell of Philip Jettan. I fell hard for Sebastian. I rank him with Jack Langdon in Loretta Chase’s Devil’s Delilah as favorite bookish hero. I feared Diana was going to be a shallow character, but she soon redeemed herself, showing that she had courage, a sense of humor, and an admirable streak of pragmatism. And I adored her family, the Montroses. The Dangerous Viscount put Miranda Neville on my auto-buy list before I knew the best was yet to come.

The Amorous Education of Celia Seton (2011) is my #1 Neville
book, and it is one of my all-time top 100 romances. Celia has the kind of strength in which I can believe. She refuses to be daunted by all that life throws at her. A lesser person would be paralyzed by self-pity, but Celia soldiers on through dismissal, kidnapping, hunger, and heartbreak. Tarquin is just as dimensional. He is a dandy, an aloof soul, and a wit who is carelessly cruel, but there are reasons for the image he presents to his world. I fell in love with him when he looked at Celia, found her “neither plain nor pretty,” doubted that he could ever have fallen in love with her at first sight, but acknowledges that he could have fallen in love with her after knowing her long enough to appreciate her courage, her quick wit, and her humor. That sounds to me like a promising foundation for a lifetime together. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described this one as a “mix of hilarity, mystery, and passion.” I agree, and I found the mix most palatable.

Confessions from an Arranged Marriage (2012) completes the Burgundy Club series, and I confess I had some reservations about this one. Because Minerva Montrose’s intelligence, humor, youthful confidence, and undisguised ambition to be a political hostess made her a particularly appealing secondary character in The Dangerous Viscount and The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton, the last person I expected to see her paired with was the insufferably superior Marquis of Blakeney. The opinion Sebastian Iverley (The Dangerous Viscount) expressed of Blake, his cousin and enemy, was one that seemed accurate to me: “He was an arrogant ass at the age of ten, with very little reason I may say, and he never got any better. He’s an idiot without a worthwhile thought in his head.”

But as Minerva’s perception of her husband changes, so does the reader’s. First, she begins to value what he does well. Minerva’s deepening respect for the man Blake is empowers him to become more, and he is able when she needs him most to be commanding and powerful, to be every inch the duke with generations of dukes behind him. Perhaps the greatest evidence of the changes in Blake is his acceptance of what he is and what he is not, a self-acceptance tempered by his regret that he cannot be the man Minerva wants. And Minerva’s response to his self-acceptance is a lovely reminder that these two have grown into two people who like and respect one another as well as healthily lusting after one another.

“I’m not going to lead the party and I’ll never be a member of the government, let alone Prime Minister. I wish I could be the man you want, Minnie, but I don’t have it in me.”
“You are the man I want. You don’t have to be anyone different.”

Sigh! I’m a believer. Happily ever after all the way. And an author who can effect such a transition in a reader is worth a price beyond rubies.

The Wild Quartet followed the Burgundy Club. The Importance of Being Wicked (2012) was the first novel, although a novella The Secret Seduction of a Lady (2012)—a terrific reunion tale--introduced the series and Caroline Townsend, the heroine of this first novel. I’m a big fan of the stuffy hero paired with a heroine who shakes his world. Both these characters have a sense of humor too, another reason I love them and this bit of dialogue:

“I don't like to be particular,” Thomas went on, “but that really should be the Duke of Stuffy, you know. Or, if you insist on ceremony, His Stuffiness.”

Her smile stretched into a delighted grin. “No formality between friends, surely. I shall simply call you Stuffy.”

The Ruin of a Rogue (2013) was next, and it delivers all the title promises. Some roguish heroes are little more than wild oats-sowing boys who must grow up in order to become heroes, but Marcus Lithgow is the real thing. Although the reader learns early on that he is capable of courage and kindness and even of experiencing a stab of guilt for his choices, Marcus acts in his own interests whether that violates moral codes or not. When luck turns against him, he feels no remorse in targeting the heiress Anne Brotherton, confident that he will either force her guardian to approve their marriage or secure a sizeable payoff from said guardian to disappear from her life. When Anne chooses to walk into Marcus’s lair, he thinks “The pigeon would be plucked, the shrew would be tamed.” But Marcus fails to understand that his own taming is in process. Later, when he warns Anne, “I’m a rogue and I’ll take advantage of anything that might give me entrée to those who can be of use to me,” the reader knows that the very act of revelation signals that the ruin of the rogue is almost complete. When Marcus is confronted with a moral crisis, he finds that he can “no longer be happy as a scoundrel.” For Anne’s sake and for his own, he rejects the expedient choice to do the right thing for the right reason, the very definition of an honorable man. The rogue has been ruined, and the hero is headed for an HEA with the woman who helped to ruin the man he had been.

Lady Windermere’s Lover (2014) is another great title, but I just could not like the Earl of Windermere despite his eventual redemption. I did like the heroine and I was so intrigued by Julian, Duke of Denford, that I thought he stole the book. He is the hero of the final book in the series, The Duke of Dark Desires (2014), another five-star read for me. Denford and his heroine,
Jeanne de Falleron, aka Jane Gray, meet when she joins his household as governess to the duke’s charges. In Jane and Julian, Neville has created two of her most complex, vital characters. He was only twenty when he allowed ambition to overrule his instincts and unwittingly played a role in the deaths of the Falleron family. Hedonism allows him to bury his guilt over that piece of his history. He finds sensual pleasure in his liaisons with many women, but his deep feelings are reserved for the art he buys and sells. The survivor’s guilt that haunts Jane is layered. Not only is she the only one to have escaped death but she did so by clinging to the identity of Jane Gray assigned to her by her father, thus denying her family. At fifteen, she chose to become the mistress of a French soldier rather than have him reveal her identity and send her to her death. Later she finds a measure of peace and pleasure as the mistress of a politician. Recognizing the pragmatism of her choices, she still views herself as a whore. Once they meet, Jane and Julian, who have controlled their feelings when they could control nothing else, begin to lose some of that control.

Sometimes the hero and heroine in romance novels are so consumed by lust that they seem to become totally physical beings. I often wonder how they will spend their time together when they are not lust-slaking. Miranda Neville avoids this trap. The heat between Jane and Julian is strong and blessedly mutual. But these are two people who genuinely like one another and enjoy one another’s company. Their pleasure in one another is not only physical. At one point, Jane’s “heart fluttered wildly at [Julian’s] nearness and her mind blossomed at the pleasure of his conversation.” (Those words struck me as a most accurate description of time with a beloved.)

Between 2013 and 2015, Miranda wrote five novellas: “P. S. I Love You” in At the Duke’s Wedding and “The Best Laid Planner,” her only contemporary, in At the Billionaire’s Wedding, both anthologies with Katharine Ashe, Caroline Linden, and Maya Rodale; and “Licensed to Wed” in Christmas in the Duke’s Arms, “Duchess of Scandal” in Dancing in the Duke’s Arms, and “The Rake Who Loved Christmas” in Christmas on Duke Street, all three with Grace Burrowes Shana Galen, and Carolyn Jewel. Each one is special, but “The Rake Who Loved Christmas” is my favorite. It is as sweet as it is sexy, and is has a powerful poignancy. It also has a bit of a Heyeresque feel, which seems appropriate given Miranda’s admiration for the author who introduced her to romance.

In 2016, Miranda self-published Secrets of a Soprano, which she called “the book of my heart.”  It was on my top-ten list last year, and it is the third book in my top trio of Miranda Neville books. This reunion story of a celebrated soprano and the man who captured her heart and broke it puts a new spin on the celebrity romance. Neville gives her readers not only an emotionally rich romance but also a look at the world of opera at a time when the public’s fascination with the stars of opera paralleled contemporary obsession with rock stars and top box-office draws. Neville honors the unwritten contract with her readers and gives Tessa and Max their HEA, but their journey to a blissful reunion is a fraught one—and Tessa’s celebrity is a realistic complication and a reminder that ours is not the first age to create and destroy idols. A reunion romance with a diva heroine (in the original sense “distinguished female singer”) plus a delightfully unexpected secondary romance and cameo appearances by Jacobin and Anthony, the Earl and Countess of Storrington from Neville’s debut novel, Never Resist Temptation, make this book a winner in every sense. Secrets of a Soprano was Miranda’s final novel.

How to Find a Duke in Ten Days and At the Christmas Wedding are both on my Kindle, but I haven’t been able to read either of them. I see the three authors listed on the cover, and I think of the one who is missing. Lady Scandal, planned as the first of the Ladies in Disgrace series and scheduled for a May 29, 2018 release, is still on my Goodreads want-to-read list. I’m sad that I’ll never read that book or the other Ladies in Disgrace novels. But I am grateful for all the wonderful stories Miranda left us. Each time I reread one—and I will reread them all—I will remember Miranda and be glad that for a space, she graced this romance community we all share with her warmth, intelligence, and humor. She is missed.

PJ, again. Thank you, Janga for that beautifully written tribute to Miranda and her books. 

For a look back at some of Miranda's visits to The Romance Dish over the years, click on the following links:

Q&A: May 3, 2016
Q&A: June 27, 2014
Guest Post: June 17, 2013

Readers, have you read any of Miranda Neville's books? Do you have a favorite?

Two randomly chosen people who leave a comment before 11:00 PM (Eastern), December 31st will receive a Kindle copy of Secrets of a Soprano


  1. I have read a number of Miranda Neville's novels and one novella I especially enjoyed a lot is "Licensed to Wed." Strong characters and a good plot made for a terrific story.

    This wonderful lady will be so missed, but what a legacy she leaves behind for so many to enjoy for years to come.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Connie. Glad to hear you've enjoyed Miranda's stories too!

  2. Let me add that I have read "Secrets of a Soprano" so please don't include me in your giveaway.

  3. How sad! I did not know of her passing. I enjoyed her books. I no longer have a working kindle, so no need to enter me in the contest.

  4. I read all her books except Secrets of A Soprano. So sad. She was a wonderful writer and will certainly be missed by this reader. Thank you both for your tributes.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    1. She will definitely be missed, Carol. I'm happy you've enjoyed her books too.

  5. I have not read any of hers, but I am definitely intrigued now. So sorry she is no longer here with us to write more.

  6. I've read a few of Miranda's books, which I really enjoyed. Janga did an amazing job with her tribute to Miranda. I'm so sorry that she died so young. What a huge loss for her family, and for us readers. I really don't read e-books, so there's no need to include me in the giveaway.

  7. That's such a beautiful tribute. Based on good reviews, I read The Duke of Dark Desires and really enjoyed it. I meant to read her backlist, but for whatever reason, I still haven't done it. I plan to, however.

  8. I read The Dangerous Viscount and so enjoyed it. Loved the sense of humor.

  9. Y'all have been responsible for me finding new authors, and new stories by authors I know.

    This is where I first heard of Miranda Neville when you first spoke about her death. I have not yet been able to read any of her books. But, I must say, from today's tribute, there are several which appeal to me.

    I like stories which have characters who draw me into their story. I like stories which show characters who have humor. I like stories which have characters who are engaged by the mind of the other person.

    You have given me many reasons to find books and get books and read books.

    Thank you both. It is evident that this woman was exceptional, not only as an author but as a human being. I thank you for introducing me to Ms Neville.

  10. I think I've read 1 or 2 of her books. She will be greatly missed.

  11. I've never read her books, but she seemed a lovely person. I'll have to add her books to my tbr!

  12. I didn't get my comment published yesterday; I got distracted.
    How sad. I had not heard about Miranda. I have always liked her stories, but her newer ones in the last few years were her best, just because of character development, I think.
    I no longer have a kindle (I should rectify that), so no need to worry about entering me in the draw.

  13. I've only read a handful of her books.


  14. Thank you for the wonderful tribute. Miranda was one of my favorite authors and I am so sad at her passing so young. My long-time favorite book is probably the first book of hers I read, "The Wild Marquess" which has a special place in my heart, maybe because it was the first. (Note: Please don't enter me in the contest since I already have Secrets of a Soprano--and all of her other books other than the anthologies that I mean to get one day.)

  15. It is such a loss for her family and the romance community. She will be missed.
    I have read her novella's in several anthologies. I have a couple of her books in my TBR Mountain. I really must get to them. It is a shame that there will be no more books from this talented author.