AAR’s Caz interviews author Lucinda Brant today. Ms. Brant has generously offered a lucky winner the choice of an audiobook or eBook of her latest release Deadly Peril. To win, make a comment below.
Caz: I’m delighted to welcome author Lucinda Brant to All About Romance today. She’s currently writing two of my favourite series; one historical romance and one historical mystery, both of them set in the Georgian era. She never fails to impress me with her encyclopaedic knowledge of the period and, in the case of her Alec Halsey mysteries, her devious mind and gift for the tightly-written, complex but emotionally satisfying plot. The third book in the series, Deadly Peril, is released on 7th November, and I was keen to ask her about her inspirations and love of the Georgian era. Welcome, Lucinda.
Lucinda: Thanks for inviting me.
Caz: You’ve chosen to set your books in the Georgian Era (most specifically the second half of the eighteenth century). Has that period always had a special interest for you, or was it a case of wanting to do something different – by which I mean, not Regencies?
Lucinda: I’ve had a fascination with the 18th Century since I picked up a copy of Alfred Cobban’s History of Modern France 1715-1789 when I was eleven years old. I bookend my interest between the 1740s and the 1780s, but stop short of the French Revolution. The Regency is on the other side of the French Revolution, and I’m not a great fan of George IV (whether Prince of Wales or King) and actually I don’t much like the clothes, which aren’t flattering for a big chested girl such as myself. Oh, and I prefer a man in a silk embroidered frockcoat and breeches any day!
Caz: I can certainly see the attraction ;) What else about the period particularly appeals to you?
Lucinda: The Georgian era is one wild ride! It would have been an amazing time to be alive, to bear witness to so much change and progress in such a short period of time. There had been nothing like it before, and since then, only our own era – from the end of the second world war until now, – that has seen that much upheaval and progress.
Caz: That’s a really interesting point, and not one I’d considered before.
Lucinda: Yes – the Georgian era was the beginning of the age of mass consumption, which continues on to this day. Those working the land were finding it increasingly difficult to make a living, began drifting to the big cities in search of work, and found this in the factories which were springing up everywhere to satisfy the demand for goods—everyday goods such as plates and cups, right up to the luxury end of the market with gold pocket-watches, snuffboxes, chatelaines, carriages, and furniture.
This change in the way people worked had a profound effect on the shape of cities, and the countryside, and how people viewed themselves and their place in the scheme of things. No longer were these people beholden to a liege lord, but to an employer who paid them wages. In much the same way today workers no longer have job security and feel loyalty to a company, for increasing numbers are now working on contract, or at home, with a good deal of the work done on line.
The Georgian era was also the beginning of the Age of Comfort when chairs, sofas, and furniture in general were no longer being produced just for utilitarian purposes, but for their aesthetics and how comfortable they were to sit on and use. Parisian townhouses installed flushing toilets, English great houses began to secure doors on bedchambers for privacy, and factories produced sofas, commodes, chaise lounges, and footstools in all manner of silks, velvets and feathery down luxuriousness.
I also prefer the aristocratic clothes of the 1740-1770s, even the outrageous hairstyles, the gigantic widths in the court mantuas, and the embroidered excesses in the frockcoats and waistcoats worn by gentlemen. Georgian Fashion for those who could afford it was all about experimentation and taking dress to the next, almost extreme, level. It was all about what you could get away with. And isn’t that much like our own times, where famous Fashion houses compete on the catwalks to be the most extreme and most talked about label. The same would have occurred in the ballrooms and royal drawing rooms in England and across Europe. Ladies wore their best silks and in widths that meant they were essentially walking billboards for their family and husband’s wealth. It was all about being seen and talked about. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde “it was better to be talked about than not talked about at all”.
Caz: That’s fascinating, and has certainly given me a different outlook on that particular period. As someone who reads a lot of historical fiction and romance, I always like books that give me an insight into the period of time I’m reading about, and that’s certainly something I have found in the books of yours I’ve read and listened to. I know that you’re currently working on two different series of books, one historical romance, and one historical mystery. Which came first, and how do you manage to keep track of both series?
Lucinda: The historical romance series came first. I wrote Noble Satyr (Prequel and Book 1) to the Roxton Series, and after completing Book 2 – Midnight Marriage – I embarked on the Alec Halsey Mystery series. I’m sure this mild change in direction was a subconscious decision because I knew what was to come in Autumn Duchess, and how emotional I was about Antonia’s life as a widow. I think I needed to distance myself for a little while before taking a deep breath and plunging in as it were!
Writing about Alec Halsey energized me, and as it was a mystery I felt I could write a bit more about the grittier side of life.
So far I alternate between the two series. One year I research and write an historical romance, the next year I research and write an historical mystery. I am not so much a slow writer as a very thorough one. And I won’t put out a book until I am very sure my readers have a top quality read and product. That takes time and more than just my skills. I may write the books, but I have a team that helps me get the book to market.
Caz: Alec Halsey is – in a nutshell – utterly delicious. Tell us about your inspiration for the character and how he came into being.
Lucinda: Thank you! I think he is too! ;)
I wanted a hero who was an aristocrat but who was on the periphery of his class – born with the silver spoon but had it taken away at birth. Alec is brought up by a forward-thinking (many would consider a lunatic for his ideas) uncle, Plantagenet Halsey, who is an MP, and because this uncle is the son of one earl and the brother of another he can say and do as he pleases. And so Alec has had this unconventional upbringing, which means he looks at the world differently to his peers. He is also patient, kind, a good listener, attuned to his emotions (a bit more than is good for him!) and the emotions of others. This makes him a very good amateur sleuth. And of course he is devastatingly handsome, said to be the product of his mother’s (a countess) affair with her mulatto footman. Ladies want to fall into bed with him, and gentlemen are envious and suspicious of him.
Caz: How has he developed over the three books so far?
Lucinda: Enormously! Well, in the first book Deadly Engagement, Alec is convinced he has overcome his feelings for Selina Jamison-Lewis, who was married off to another, and is intent on moving on with his life. Only to realise, almost too late, that he is still in love with her. The death of a friend draws him back into the social class that has shunned him for years. And then when something happens to point the finger of suspicion of murder at Alec, he again withdraws from society. Thus in Book 2, Deadly Affair, he only returns to London at the behest of an old school friend, and the murder of an old vicar sets him on the path of investigation. Alec is now a marquess in his own right, has inherited his mother’s enormous wealth, and so can pretty well do as he pleases, and does, with the help of his uncle and his unconventional valet. Yet, domestic harmony still eludes him when Selina refuses to marry him for reasons she keeps to herself. It takes until Book 3, Deadly Peril, with their lives, and the lives of their friends, in danger in the midst of a Continental civil war for the couple to finally reconcile, and for Alec to come to terms with a past that is haunted by unspeakable memories.
Caz: Do you have any idea at the moment how far you intend to take this series?
Lucinda: I have at least two more books in the series planned. Deadly Kin, which takes place in Edinburgh and at Alec’s estate in Kent; the fifth will see Alec, Selina and their family return to Bath and Somerset. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a third pops up, as one story tends to lead to another. In some cases, I just let the characters lead me!
Caz: Having read and/or listened to all three books, I am in awe at the deviousness of your mind! Without giving too much away, tell us more about Deadly Peril. Was it always your intention for this to be THE book which revealed Alec’s past?
Lucinda: Oh I do like to be devious (on paper)! I have intelligent readers, so it is imperative I provide them not only with an entertaining read but also with enough plot twists to keep them on their toes and hopefully never bored!
In Deadly Peril, Alec must return to the Continent, to the margravate of Midanich, one of his first postings as a junior diplomat when he was in his early 20s. Midanich is a fictitious country but it is set in the real geographical region of Lower Saxony known as East Frisia. As an ex geography as well as history teacher, I was a bit OCD about getting the details right. The country might be conjured up in my imagination but I researched the region’s geography and history and all of that is spot on. So says one of my editors, who just happens to be Dutch and knows this area well (he was also in the Dutch army, but that’s another story – but he did have an eagle eye on my depiction of the Margrave’s army!). So as you can imagine there was absolutely no pressure to get the details right! Ha! So he was VERY picky and ultimately impressed with my knowledge (I am as ever thorough! Ha!). Here’s a link to the area if you’re interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Frisia
And, yes, Deadly Peril was always going to be the book that sees Alec and Selina reconciled, and allows them to move forward with their relationship. From Books 1 and 2 we learn about Selina’s abusive marriage and what unspeakable horrors she had to endure at the hands of her husband. Alec knows this has left her with deep psychological scars, scars she must heal and overcome to be able to marry Alec, the love of her life. But what she is unaware of until this book is the depth of Alec’s empathy for her past. She thinks that while she was married to a monster he was off cavorting around Continental embassies bed hopping, and doing his best to forget about her. She does not judge him, but she is unsure whether he is truly aware that it is no easy thing for her trust completely. And then he confides in her something so utterly shocking and heartbreaking, that she will never doubt him again.
Caz: Being an avid listener to audiobooks as well as an avid reader, I was delighted when your books began to appear in audio format. I’ve listened to your two Salt Hendon books, narrated by Marian Hussey, who is very good, but with Alex Wyndham, you’ve struck gold.
Lucinda: I’m absolutely thrilled with the reception Alex has received as the narrator of my audio books. And so is he!
I knew as soon as I listened to his sample narrations that I’d found my Alec Halsey. And once he had recorded the first two books I knew I had, as you so perfectly put it “struck gold”. I just had to have Alex perform my Roxton series. He had never narrated a romance before, so I wasn’t sure he would be interested. But he was not only very interested, he embraced the books wholeheartedly. You see, he “gets” my characters. And that comes out in his performances, doesn’t it? He feels what they feel. He laughs along with them, becomes emotionally fraught when they do—he inhabits each character, and that’s what makes Alex’s performances masterful. Oh, and of course he has the most deliciously swoon-worthy baritone.
Caz: What are you working on now?
Lucinda: I’ve just finished the Deadly Peril audiobook production notes for Alex, and sent those off to him. So he’ll be starting to record that very soon. Hopefully readers/listeners won’t have a long wait for the audiobook. I hope before Christmas.
I am also working on a very special project for Alex, and we hope to have that in place and revealed in the New Year. Watch this space!
And I am presently completing my research notes to begin writing the fifth Roxton book Proud Mary. Lady Mary Cavendish, Antonia’s long-suffering first cousin and widow of Sir Gerald, deserves her happily ever after. Of course, Antonia and Jonathon, Julian and Deb, and Dair and Rory all put in more than an appearance. And there are a few surprises along the way that I think will please readers of the Roxton Family Saga enormously.
Caz: Well, you’re obviously a very busy lady! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, and good luck with the new book.
Lucinda: Thank you for having me as your guest, Caz! Your insightful questions gave me lots of food for thought, and were a pleasure to answer.