dare This week is extra special because we’re doing a double feature of Books with Buzz! As many of you know, Tessa Dare burst onto the scene last year with Goddess of the Hunt, and was our readers’ pick for Best Debut Author. I enjoyed reading that book as a reviewer, and readers have been thrilled with Dare’s storytelling ability as well as the mixture of humor and deep emotion found in her stories. She creates interesting, distinctive characters that really grow over the course of her stories and in One Dance With a Duke, she kicks off a new trilogy based around the members of the Stud Club.

I was able to read an advance copy of the book, and am anxious to read the rest of the trilogy now. Even better, thanks to Tessa Dare and the wonderful folks at Ballantine Books, 10 lucky winners will be able to get copies of One Dance With a Duke for themselves! Just comment below to be entered in the contest. And, now – here’s Tessa Dare!

1. Would you tell our readers a bit about One Dance With a Duke?

I suppose it would be cheating to just cut and paste the blurb, hm? *g* Readers can find that on my website, along with the first chapter of the book.

Here’s a bit from the blurb:

A handsome and reclusive horse breeder, Spencer Dumarque, the fourth Duke of Morland, is a member of the exclusive Stud Club, an organization so select it has only ten members — yet membership is attainable to anyone with luck. And Spencer has plenty of it, along with an obsession with a prize horse, a dark secret, and, now, a reputation as the dashing “Duke of Midnight.” Each evening he selects one lady for a breathtaking midnight waltz. But none of the women catch his interest, and nobody ever bests the duke — until Lady Amelia d’Orsay tries her luck.
In a moment of desperation, the unconventional beauty claims the duke’s dance and unwittingly steals his heart. When Amelia demands that Spencer forgive her scapegrace brother’s debts, she never imagines that her game of wits and words will lead to breathless passion and a steamy proposal. Still, Spencer is a man of mystery, perhaps connected to the shocking murder of the Stud Club’s founder. Will Amelia lose her heart in this reckless wager or win everlasting love?

(Warning: That last sentence is obviously a trick question.)

2. There are plenty of series, often set in early 19th century England, involving friends bound together by school ties, spy brotherhood, a tendency to turn into werebeasts, etc.. The Stud Club and its code are a little bit of a variation, though. What gave you the idea?

Since my first trilogy was largely driven by the heroines’ decisions, I knew I wanted to start this one with the guys. And as you point out, there are plenty of Regency romance series based on some sort of club. A bachelors club, a spies club, a soldiers club, a fabulously-wealthy-and-devastatingly-hawt-lords-with-traumatic-childhoods club… Et cetera. So I said to myself, “Okay. I’m going to do a Regency guys club, only…different.” I wanted the guys to come from diverse backgrounds, so I decided the club’s membership would have to be dependent on chance. At some point, I decided they would all own shares in a racehorse. And then I think I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be funny if I could get away with calling this the Stud Club? I mean, let’s just call it what it is, you know?

So the Stud Club was born. And it’s a Regency heroes club, only…different. The club itself started as a joke, and a several of the characters can barely say the name with a straight face. There are no pacts; no bets on who will be last, first, or most advantageously married. The three surviving members aren’t especially friendly, with each other or anyone. But like it or not, they are forced to interact when Leo, the club’s founder, is found murdered.

3. One Dance With a Duke opens with a fairytale setup – the single dance with a mystery man at midnight. Are these sorts of fairytale motifs something that will play a role throughout the series?

Hm. I don’t know that there are too many other fairytale motifs, exactly. But as I said, I do like to take familiar romance tropes and give them a playful tweak. It’s just more fun that way.

4. This story starts in a very dark place, with a death and with readers being privy to the grief of those left behind. How much of a challenge was it to work a love story into this somber setting?

Balancing the tone was a challenge, through the entire series. As a whole, this trilogy is definitely a few shades darker than my first. How could it not be, with a murder as the inciting incident? But I’m a person who tries to find a bit of humor in any situation, so I was always striving to keep the tone from growing too dark.

That said, I didn’t find it difficult to imagine a romance blossoming from tragedy. The idea behind the series is that a friend’s death causes the three heroes to take stock of their lives. What do they want out of life that they haven’t pursued? Companionship, love, family, home, peace, redemption…the answers are different for each of them, but I hope most readers can identify with the phenomenon. An unexpected tragedy has a way of forcing life into focus.

5. I started reading your books with Goddess of the Hunt. The smart, forthright Amelia D’Orsay is so different from the slightly immature Lucy of that book, but both really grow over the course of their stories. Do you start your books with the character arcs already plotted out or do you dive in and see where it takes you?

Well, first, thank you for calling Amelia “smart and forthright,” and for calling Lucy only “slightly” immature.

[smile] All the heroines in the Stud Club series are 26-28 years old, so they’re at much different places in their lives than the first set were.

I do tend to set rather steep growth curves for my heroines, which means that they make mistakes and must redeem them. (I try to do the same for my heroes, but their mistakes are less often remarked upon. I guess flawed heroes are more par for the course.) These character arcs are where the book starts for me, so I do have the general journey in mind when I begin writing. However, plot specifics and nuances of motivation evolve along the way.

6. One thing I really like about your books is that the couples have idiosyncrasies to them that make them well-matched to one another. I come away from the stories thinking that no one would work for this particular heroine quite so well as the hero and vice versa. What were your favorite qualities about Amelia and Spencer?

Thank you, that’s a lovely compliment. As a reader, I’ve always preferred books where I find myself rooting for the couple, not just lusting after the hero. That’s what sells me on the Happily Ever After, so I strive to make my heroes and heroines uniquely suited to one another.

Basically, I try to give each protagonist a defining personality trait—one which can be either a strength or a weakness, depending. Then I try to pair them off so that these conflicting traits will be an initial source of acrimony, but an eventual source of accord.

Amelia is a nurturer and intensely loyal to those she loves. In many ways, it’s her most admirable trait, but it becomes the source of problems when her loyalties tug her in different directions. Spencer, on the other hand, is extremely self-reliant. He makes good decisions, knows how to use his talents to his advantage, and cares little what others think. But on the flipside, he can be insular and emotionally withdrawn. This contrast makes for clashes at the outset, and has some rather disastrous consequences further on in the story. But by book’s end, I hope the reader believes Amelia and Spencer are perfect for each other, and are much stronger together than apart.

7. What can readers expect in the remaining Stud Club books?

Rhys St. Maur, the battle-scarred hero of Twice Tempted by a Rogue, is definitely the most tortured hero I’ve ever written. His book takes him back to his burned-out estate on the moors of Devonshire, where he meets his match in Meredith Maddox, the beautiful, strong-willed widow who runs the local inn. Three Nights with a Scoundrel is a friends-to-lovers romance between the two people closest to the Stud Club’s murdered founder: Leo’s elegant twin sister, Lily Chatwick, and his best friend, Julian Bellamy—a devilish rake with dangerous secrets.

8. And since I tend to be both curious and to think ahead – what’s next for you?

More Regency-set romance, I hope! This trilogy was written on a pretty tight schedule. I just finished the page proofs for Three Nights a few weeks ago, so I haven’t had time to make much headway on the next project, but I definitely have the ideas percolating. Thanks for asking, and thanks so much for inviting me here!

And thank you for joining us! For those who would like to enter the contest, please comment below. The contest will be open until 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, May 16, 2010. Good luck!

– Lynn Spencer

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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.