Readers of historical romance are thrilled that Julie Anne Long, after a successful stream of contemporary romance novels, has returned to writing HR. Lady Derring Takes A Lover, due out on February 26th, is the first in a new series, The Palace of Rogues. We’ve read and and loved it–our DIK review may be found here. AAR’s Dabney sat down to talk to Julie Anne about the book, Julie’s very stressful year, and what’s next for her as an author.
Dabney: Julie, 2018 was a tumultuous year for you. (Julie and her family were victims of the Paradise, California fire and she lost just about everything she owned.) We hope you’ve landed on your feet and are doing well. Had you turned in Lady Derring Takes a Lover before you were burned out of house and home
Julie: It was indeed a year I won’t ever forget. I lost pretty much everything I own and gained a lifetime’s worth of perspective and gratitude—and I will carry the astounding outpouring of generosity, kindness and love in support in the wake of that disaster with me forever. I’m very much looking forward to the day I’m able to pay it forward. I am incredibly fortunate in so many ways—including the fact that I’d finished Lady Derring before all of that happened. 🙂 We worked on some stuff when I was hopping from hotel to hotel—page proofs, etc. But it was done and polished ahead of time.
Dabney: The book is a DIK at AAR—three of us—myself, Alexandra, and Kristen—did a joint review and, to a woman, we adored it. (That’s two high grades from me this year—I also loved Malcolm and Isabel.) What made you decide to return to writing historical romance?
Julie: I’m so touched and floored you all feel that way about the book—thank you! It’s very gratifying to hear it, particular because I fell in love with the premise and saw so much potential in it—and that’s why I decided to do another historical. I knew I could have a blast doing what I love the most—creating characters that fascinate me (and hopefully my readers) and building a vivid world for them to live in. I so hope my readers feel the same way you ladies do about it!
Dabney: One of the very best things about this novel is the warm and rich portrayal of the female friendship between Delilah and Angelique. That part of the story seemed to have every bit as much heft as the love story between Delilah and Tristan. Was that intentional on your part?
Julie: So lovely to hear that you experienced it that way! My friendships are incredibly important to me (many of them go all the way back to childhood), so it’s a true pleasure to be in on the ground floor, so to speak, of Delilah’s and Angelique’s. 🙂 You know, the way I see it, their friendship is integral to the main love story—I hope it adds depth and dimension and insight into to all the characters as we see them interacting with each other. For example, here we have two very different women—one a little too experienced, one more naive, both wounded, both witty and sharp and brave and terrified all at once—who are simultaneously set free and potentially ruined by the death of one man, the Earl of Derring. Being utterly frank with Angelique is Delilah’s first act of rebellion against doing the “expected thing”; it’s how she begins living her truth, and it’s this true self she presents to Captain Hardy. Delilah and Angelique give each other courage. Delilah admires Angelique’s panache intensely, while Angelique is protective of Delilah, sometimes to the point of condescension. She in fact warns Captain Hardy that she knows full well what’s sizzling between him and Delilah and that she hopes he knows how devastating that may be for Delilah. She knows Delilah better than Delilah realizes, but it’s vice versa, too. So their friendship twines through the romance. Like the relationships between brothers and sisters and fathers and sons and daughters in Pennyroyal Green (that are visited from different points of view throughout the books in the series), I see Angelique and Delilah’s friendship is one of the themes of the series and part of the foundation the series is built upon.
Dabney: You must have done a lot of research on customs, trade, and dockside inns for this book. What were some of your favorite things you learned?
Julie: I did learn some cool stuff as I researched. It’s interesting how often smugglers are portrayed as swashbuckling rogues and the like in fiction. During the Regency they actually caused a lot of misery, and were often violent and ruthless. Smuggling gangs sometimes terrorized entire towns into cooperating with them (bullying them into lending them horses or barns to hide things, for instance) and keeping mum about nefarious activities via threats of violence; other times they and the townspeople were in cahoots. Some of the things mentioned the book (when Tristan reflects upon burning the boats, for instance) were inspired by historical accounts. The ways contraband was smuggled were very creative. And I had fun reading about Regency period inns and the services they offered. As a military officer, Tristan was more likely to stay at the Stevens Hotel, which means he needed a very good excuse to stay at The Grand Palace on the Thames (his nearby ship).
Dabney: I’d describe Tristan’s and Delilah’s love affair as a bit of a slow burn—I think they don’t kiss until slightly past the 50% mark of the book. I’m curious if the #MeToo movement and our industry’s focus on consent has changed how you chart and write love scenes in your books.
Julie: Hmmm…I wonder if it feels that way because the earliest part of the book introduces characters and the premise of the series—much like The Perils of Pleasure did for Pennyroyal Green. So even as Tristan is peripherally aware of Delilah early on (he’s heard of her only as Derring’s wife, and views her as a source of suspicion, and possibly with a detached sort of pity), they don’t meet until he walks into The Grand Palace on the Thames. I felt that their connection catches fire and takes off pretty rapidly once they’re in each other’s presence continuously. But I always think the emotional wallop and payoff is much greater when tension and intimacy is built between our hero and heroine first. The love feels more earned and therefore more real and true (and maybe more torrid), if I do it just right, and I try hard to capture that arc of actually falling in love in pretty much all of my books, so the reader can feel it, too. I’m not certain anything in the current zeitgeist influenced the direction of their story, but it was gratifying to write these sort of characters against a backdrop of a movement striving to get men to truly see, hear and understand women clearly and with more empathy. Both Delilah and Tristan become very direct, “cut to the chase” sort of people for different reasons; they are mature adults and act like it (and Captain Hardy has become almost insufferably sure of himself, for good reason, and he’s often almost comically taciturn), but in each others’ presence they become utterly brand new, uncertain and raw as they begin navigating the uncharted (and turbulent) waters of love and passion.
Dabney: Delilah, a woman of many talents, is extraordinarily kind. And, as Tristan says “It takes enormous courage to be kind in the face of so many reasons not to be.” Kindness isn’t a virtue we necessarily see trumpeted in romance. What made you choose that as such a significant component of Delilah’s character?
Julie: I think I may have put my own perspective in Tristan’s mouth: I, too, see kindness as Delilah’s form of courage; it’s her guiding philosophy. I think maybe it’s the ultimate form of maturity, choosing to be kind and giving people the benefit of the doubt, which often means getting out of the way of your ego. Which is not the same as weakness or naivete; e.g., Delilah has a temper, and she’s capable of dryly recognizing when her kindness backfires (e.g., rescuing her maidservant Dot from unemployment, which saddles her with the hapless Dot for life, for better or for worse). Delilah’s at her best when she has someone else who truly needs her and when she has people to care for, and she’s been deprived of all of that both in her loveless marriage, and before that, as a marriage bargaining chip and the key to parents’ survival. She’s also not as easygoing as people always assume she is, as Angelique found out the hard way in one of my favorite scenes. Allowing Delilah to blossom into her true self was one of the pleasures of writing her.
Dabney: And if Delilah is, in part, defined by being kind, what would you say Angelique is significantly defined by?
Julie: I think deep below the surface of Angelique’s reserve and jaded wit, confidence and aplomb is a reservoir of great, great vulnerability and a capacity to love, and maybe even she is isn’t fully cognizant of it. She would personally rather die than betray any weakness, because vulnerability has gotten her into a world of hurt before, and she’s absolutely determined she’ll never be hurt again. She has no interest in another affair and thinks she’s completely immune to that sort of attraction. Which is what I think this will make her love story all that more risky and juicy—the stakes are high for Angelique.
Dabney: Is Angelique’s story next? Will it be published this year?
Julie: Yes, and yes! I’m working on it now, and it’s called Angel In A Devil’s Arms. I love it completely. I love her character and I feel very protective of her, the way she feels of Delilah, and vice versa.
Dabney: Are you currently taking a hiatus from writing contemporary romance?
Julie: Nope! As time permits (the fire threw my schedule off a bit), I’ll write historical and contemporary simultaneously. I have plans to write more books in the Pennyroyal Today series (readers seem to want to read Declan’s and Finn’s and Geoff’s stories, as well as Poppy’s—and I’d love to write one for Sir Clive). We’ll see how it shakes out and I’ll listen to what readers want, as well. I’d like to get a certain historical prequel done, as well. As I know full well, pretty much anything can happen. 🙂
Dabney: Thanks for chatting with me!
Julie: Thanks so much for the fabulous, interesting questions and the warmth and enthusiasm for Lady Derring Takes A Lover. I hope readers everywhere love it.