To tie up my special February blog month, I would like to welcome author Maggi Andersen to talk about her book The Reluctant Marquess.
Clara: Tell us a bit about your book.
Maggi: The Reluctant Marquess is a Georgian romance. When Charity Barlow, and Lord Robert, the Marquess of St Malin are forced to marry, things get off to a very bad start. Charity must learn to be a marchioness, while Robert must give up the life he enjoyed as a single man in London. None of this can happen overnight, and as Charity wants her husband to love and cherish her and not just look at her with lust, and Robert is resentful and reluctant, the journey is a bumpy one.
Clara: Why did you choose to write historical romance?
Maggi: It’s a perfect form of escapism, and who doesn’t need a little of that from time to time? I feel a wistfulness or nostalgia when I read and watch historical movies, despite the knowledge that history was never quite like that. We are subjected to so much information today; the bleak, sad happenings reach us from many different news sources, far more than the good things that occur. I think that’s why romance novels are so popular. And the best thing about it? We know we’ll get that happy ending.
I think the historical romance genre chose me. The first books I read as a teenager were my mother’s. She loved Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie and Victoria Holt, and I also read my father’s crime and thriller novels. I guess they made quite an impact on me. I like to combine some of those elements in a story when I write. I have written contemporary novels and a couple of young adult novels, but the world I prefer to inhabit is a historical one, because it offers so much for an author. Not just historical facts to weave into the story, but fascinating architecture, clothes and interiors; the mores and habits of the times; what is possible for my hero and heroine within this world, and what is not. All these go into the world building and help flesh my characters out.
Clara: What did it feel like to get your first acceptance?
Maggi: After some years of finding my way, I was very excited and a bit relieved that all that time and money – I studied a BA in English and Fine Arts and an MA in Creative Writing – hadn’t been wasted. But with hindsight I realized that those years were necessary for me to reach a standard worthy of being published.
Clara: What is the best (and worst) part of the writing process?
Maggi: Writing is hard work, no writer would deny. An author – can’t remember who – said it was harder than working on the roads. In a way it can be although not as physical. The worst part is when I’m tired and think I’m writing rubbish, or having to write the dreaded synopsis which I hate. The best part is when it all comes together at the end. Or when my hero and heroine connect on a deeper level and the dialogue works perfectly. Or when the conflict sparks between them and the sexual tension almost leaps off the page.
Clara: How long does it typically take you to finish a story?
Maggi: It varies greatly. I worked on my first novel, a thriller/mystery for years. I’ve written a novella in a couple of weeks. But a good full length novel needs time. At least six months and probably longer.
Clara: Was there ever a point in your career where you almost gave up writing?
Maggi: No. I don’t believe a truly committed writer ever really considers giving up. I’ve heard it said, a writer is formed by what happens in the early years of life. That might be the case in some instances but I think we are born with a need to write. Call it obsession, sometimes close to masochism at times, and a good pinch of tenacity. Like an artist, a writer must develop a tough hide, because once your work is out there you come under scrutiny and sometimes hurtful reviews. That’s very hard for the more sensitive souls, and you have to bear in mind that it’s only one person’s opinion.
Clara: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Maggi: Keep honing your skills. Study and read how-to books. To be a writer means having to bear the frustration when things don’t go the way you planned. When you have to wait far too long for your submission to be accepted or rejected. Rejections can hurt too. But don’t give up. You learn a lot along the way, and it is persistence in my opinion that pays off in the end.
The Reluctant Marquess
A country-bred girl, Charity Barlow never expected to become a Marchioness. Nonetheless, she is determined to make her marriage of convenience into the ton work. Yet despite the strong attraction between them, and Charity’s bold attempts at intimacy, the rakish Lord Robert does not believe a husband should be in love with his wife. Can she ever make him love her?
‘You don’t? I wasn’t aware of you until the reading of the will. Then I learned of your parents’ death from my solicitor. I’m very sorry.’
‘Thank you. I’m sorry, too, about your uncle.’
‘My uncle fell ill only a few months ago. He rallied and then …’ The new marquess’ voice faded. He sighed and stared into the fire.
‘You must have been very fond of him,’ Charity said into the quiet pause that followed. Though, if she were honest, she felt surprise that the cool man she remembered could have provoked that level of affection.
He raised his eyes to meet hers and gave a bleak smile. ‘Yes, I was fond of him. He always had my interest at heart, you see.’ He sat in the oxblood leather chair opposite and rested his hands on his knees. ‘I am his acknowledged heir, and the legalities have been processed. I’ve inherited the title and the entailed properties. The rest of his fortune will pass to another family member should I fail to conform to the edicts of his will.’
‘His will?’ Charity gripped her sweaty hands together, she couldn’t concentrate on anything the man said. Her mind whirled, filled with desperate thoughts. With her godfather dead, where would she go from here? Her heart raced as she envisioned riding off along the dark cliffs to join a theatre troupe, or become a tavern wench.
‘This must be difficult for you to take in, and I regret having to tell you tonight before you have rested. But I’m compelled to move quickly as you have no chaperone and have travelled here alone …’
She raised her chin. ‘There was no one to accompany me.’ She would not allow him to make her feel like a poor relation, even though she was quite definitely poor. And alone. She hated that more than anything. What had her godfather left her? She hoped it would allow her some measure of independence and wasn’t just a vase or the family portrait.
The footman entered, carrying a tray with a cup of steaming liquid. Charity took the drink and sipped it gratefully. It was warming and tasted of a spicy spirit. She found it hard to concentrate on his words, as her mind retreated into a fog and her eyes wandered around the room. She finished the drink, which had heated her insides, and allowed her head to loll back against the cushions. Her gaze rested on her host, thinking he would be handsome if he smiled. She was so tired, and the warmth of the fire made her drowsy. What was he saying?
‘It’s the best thing for both of us, don’t you agree?’
She shook her head to try and clear it. ‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’
He frowned. ‘The will states we must marry. Straightaway, I’m afraid.’
‘I … What? I’m to m-marry you?’ Placing her cup down carefully on the table she struggled to her feet, fighting fatigue and the affects of whatever it was she’d just drunk. Smoothing her gown, she glanced at the door through which she intended to depart at any moment. ‘I have no intention …’
His lips pressed together in a thin line. ‘I know it’s perplexing. I didn’t intend to wed for some years. I certainly would have preferred to choose whom I married, as no doubt would you.’
Her jaw dropped. What kind of man was this? She had been raised to believe that marriage was a sacred institution. He made it sound so … inconsequential. She stared at him. ‘The will states I must marry you?’
‘Yes, that’s exactly what it states.’ He rose abruptly with a rustle of silk taffeta and moved closer to the fire. She wondered if he might be as nervous as she. ‘Unless I’m prepared to allow my uncle’s unentailed fortune go to a distant relative. Which I am not. As I have said.’ His careful tone suggested he thought her a simpleton. Under his unsympathetic gaze, she sank back down onto the sofa. ‘You are perfectly within your rights to refuse, but I see very few options open to you. As my wife, you will live in comfort. You may go to London to enjoy the Season. I shall give you a generous allowance for gowns and hats, and things a lady must have.’ His gaze wandered over her cream muslin gown, and she placed a hand on the lace that disguised the small patch near her knee. ‘What do you say?’
She tilted her head. ‘I shall receive an allowance? For gowns, and hats, and things a lady must have.’
‘Exactly,’ he said with a smile, obviously quite pleased with himself. ‘I see we understand each other perfectly. So … do you agree?’
What was wrong with this man? Slowly, Charity released a heavy sigh. She could barely contemplate such a thing as this, and yet he acted as though he’d solved all the problems of the world with fashion accessories. She had hoped for a small stipend, but marriage! And to a complete stranger. She couldn’t! Not for all the gowns and hats on earth. She straightened up in her chair and lifted her chin. Her words were clipped and precise, and she hoped beyond hope he would accept her decision gracefully. ‘I say no, Lord St. Malin.’
‘How disappointing,’ he said quietly.
She gulped as his heavy-lidded eyes continued to study her from head to foot. She was uncomfortably aware that the mist had sent her hair into a riot of untidy curls, and she smoothed it away from her face with both hands as she glanced around the room. She tucked a muddy shoe out of sight beneath her gown and then forced herself to meet his gaze. Might he like anything of what he saw? Her father loved that she had inherited her mother’s tiny waist, and she thought her hands pretty. His lordship’s gaze strayed to her breasts and remained there rather long. She sucked in a breath as her heart beat faster. When their eyes met did she detect a gleam of approval? It only made her more nervous.
Visit Maggi on her website, on her blog, or buy The Reluctant Marquess.
What better way to tie up the end of the month than with a contest? Leave a comment with your email address for your chance to win an ebook copy of The Reluctant Marquess.