The Soldier’s Scoundrel, Cat Sebastian’s début novel for Avon Impulse, is a male/male historical romance set in early nineteenth century England. It is also, I believe, the first such book released under the Avon imprint. I was able to get hold of an advance copy to review (look for that next week) and was immediately impressed with the quality of the writing and storytelling. I asked Ms. Sebastian if she’d care to share a little of the background to the novel with us.
Caz: Is historical romance a genre you’ve always wanted to write?
CS: A few years ago, when my kids were all pretty much babies, I started reading historical romance as an escape. I don’t think I’ve gone more than a day or two since then without reading romance. So when I started writing, I felt at home in the universe of fictional 19th century Britain. I think I might feel more comfortable and knowledgeable writing about Almack’s than about Tinder!
Caz: What was the impetus behind this book?
CS: I really wanted to write the story of a Regency-era fixer. It was a time with rampant injustice: women had few rights, homosexuality was illegal, poverty was rampant, and colonialism was in full swing, just to name a few of the more galling issues. The idea of a man who decides to ignore unjust or useless laws and take matters into his own hands appealed to me. I had a pretty clear concept of who I needed Jack to be: a hard-around-the-edges former criminal with no fondness for the upper classes. Of course, he needed to be paired with a man who had his own entry in Debrett’s and the misguided notion that law and justice were one and the same.
Caz: I love that distinction – it’s the perfect description.
CS: Thank you 🙂
Caz: Cross-class romances can be difficult to pull off, especially in historicals. I was pleased that you didn’t sweep these issues under the carpet, and given that you are writing about a same-sex couple – you certainly didn’t make it easy for yourself! Can you expand on why you chose to write a male/male romance specifically?
CS: I guess the blunt answer is that I like writing happily-ever-afters for characters who aren’t necessarily the straight, rich, able-bodied white people we typically read about. Don’t get me wrong: I will always love reading about dukes and whatnot, but when it comes time for me to write, I gravitate toward stories about queer pickpockets. I also, personally, find it really comforting to be reminded that throughout history there have been LGBTQ people not only existing but also falling in love and building lives together. Seeing that represented in romance is important to me.
Caz: You know, that brings me to a point that I wanted to make about the cover of the book. I’m not normally a fan of the “standard historical clinch cover” – you know the sort of thing I mean; her dress is falling off (and there’s no historically accurate underwear underneath), his undone shirt exposes all that honed muscle – but I really appreciate what Avon has done by giving The Soldier’s Scoundrel that sort of cover. It screams “historical romance!” – that just happens to be about two blokes.
CS: I’m so glad that Avon did a traditional clinch cover. Everything from the backdrop to the half-opened shirts to the way the characters are posed seems like a deliberate callback to old-school romance covers. I love that Avon’s first gay historical romance got treatment placing it as part of that romance novel tradition. In general, I’m ambivalent (at best) about clinch covers, and scantily clad cover models, and that entire aspect of the industry, but in this case it feels right. Basically, like you said, the cover signals that this is a historical romance that just happens to feature two men; that was my goal when writing it, and I’m delighted at the cover reflects that.
And, to pick up on your question about the cross-class element, I liked writing a love story that, at its heart, is about two very different people hammering out their differences – they both have to decide what really matters and what compromises they’re willing to make. Because, honestly, that’s what love really is, when you get past the honeymoon stage – staying in love means holding onto common ground while managing to exert a great deal of forbearance about everything else. For Jack and Oliver, class is a part of those differences.
Caz: When you find time to read, what are your favourite genres/who are your favourite authors?
CS: Historical romance is definitely my favorite, but I also read some contemporary. My favorite authors are Loretta Chase, Laura Kinsale, Sherry Thomas, KJ Charles, Joanna Bourne and Cecilia Grant. If anybody can figure out the common ground between those authors (other than that they’re amazing, obviously!) I’d love to know.
Caz: Nope, I think their general awesomeness just about covers it. And incidentally – they’re all on my list of favourites, as well.
What are you working on now? Any other future projects you can share with us?
CS: I just finished writing Georgie’s story. Georgie is Jack’s confidence artist brother; of course he’s going to fall in love with a man he needs to swindle. I’m also working on an f/f novella about Molly Wilkins, a lady’s maid who has a small role in The Soldier’s Scoundrel.
Caz: That’s excellent news. Georgie made quite the impression, so I’m really eager to read his story. Cat, thanks for answering my questions, and congratulations on a truly impressive début novel. I can’t wait for everyone out there to read it and agree with me!
CS: Thanks so much for having me and the kind words.
Cat is giving away THREE copies of The Soldier’s Scoundrel to three lucky winners! To enter, click the Rafflecopter box below, and be sure to comment, leaving your email address and preferred format. Good luck!
Cat writes steamy, upbeat historical romances. They usually take place in the Regency, generally have at least one LGBTQ+ main character, and always have happy endings.
Before writing, Cat was a lawyer and a teacher. She enjoys crossword puzzles, geeking out over birds, gardening badly, and–of course–reading. In high school, her parents went away for a week, and instead of throwing raucous parties, Cat read Middlemarch. Even worse, Cat remembers little of a trip through Europe because she was busy reading Mansfield Park. Her proudest moment was when she realized her kids were shaping up to be hopeless bookworms too. Currently, her favorite genres are romance, mystery and fantasy.
Cat lives with her husband, three kids, and dog in an improbably small house. After growing up in the northeast, she now lives in a part of the south where every body of water seems to contain alligators or sharks, and every restaurant serves biscuits and gravy. She likes the biscuits, but not so much the alligators.