A few years back I randomly picked up a book called The Spinster’s Secret, by a new-to-me author named Emily Larkin, purely because the premise sounded interesting; a spinster living in a cold, bleak, grey home who writes erotic novels in order to earn enough money to be able to move out and set up on her own, meets a scarred war hero – sent to unmask her – with whom she falls in love. (This was a few years ago, so the spinster/erotic novelist trope wasn’t something I’d come across often, whereas at the moment, that character seems to be in one in every three books I pick up!)
I was captivated by the story and the quality of the writing and eagerly sought out more books by Ms. Larkin, only to be disappointed to discover there weren’t any :( Fortunately, however, I found she’d written some other historical romances under a pseudonym (books she is soon planning to republish under her own name), and now she’s back with a series of books under the banner of Baleful Godmother, in which she combines an element of fantasy with historical romance. The first of these – Unmasking Miss Appleby – is a terrific read, a wonderful balance of fantastical whimsy and gorgeous romance that engrossed me completely from beginning to end. I was delighted to discover that several more books are planned and will be eagerly snapping them up. In the meantime, I contacted the author to ask her to tell me some more about her writing in general and this new series in particular.
Caz: Emily, welcome to AAR.
EL: Hello Caz! Thanks so much for inviting me to be on AAR – I’m really excited to be here!
Caz: You’ve written several historical romances (I’ve particularly enjoyed The Spinster’s Secret and The Earl’s Dilemma – sadly currently unavailable) and a number of fantasy titles, too. What, in particular, attracts you to those sub-genres? Do you feel more at home in one or the other?
EL: I think that what attracts me is stepping into another world, and both fantasy novels and historical romances give me that—but while I like writing fantasy novels, I love writing historical romances. I lay the blame for that squarely at Georgette Heyer’s feet! I read her novels over and over and over. In fact, I’m currently rereading Faro’s Daughter.
As a reader, I love Heyer’s Regency and Georgian romances, with their heiresses and rakes and highwaymen and duels and smugglers and women dressed as men—and sometimes even men dressed as women! Heyer stayed true to the time period, with its notions of honour and propriety, but her books have humour and adventure and some very strong-minded heroines. As a writer, those are the kind of historical romances I want to write (but with the addition of sex).
I’m really glad to hear that you enjoyed The Spinster’s Secret and The Earl’s Dilemma, Caz. They’re two of my favourites, with their war-damaged heroes and unconventional heroines, and—very excitingly—the rights have just reverted, so I can re-release them! My revised edition of The Spinster’s Secret will be out in the next month or so, and the new edition of The Earl’s Dilemma will come out next year.
Caz: Your new series, the Baleful Godmother, obviously combines these two elements (Fantasy and Historical). Was it a conscious decision to do that, or was it just a natural extension of your writings in those genres?
EL: A natural extension, I think. I love writing Regencies, but I was keen to expand my backdrop beyond the glittering ballrooms of the beaumonde. I wanted to venture into the underbelly of society and add more adventure and danger to my stories, and it seemed natural to use a little magic to achieve this—probably because I was already very accustomed to writing about magic.
But despite the magic, I want my heroines to be realistic, by which I mean, true to their time. They’re not modern day superheroes; they’re young Regency women bound by the conventions of polite society, and having to hide their magic on top of that. Yes, they’ll have adventures. Yes, they’ll fall in love, but everything happens within the constraints of Regency society.
A number of other authors mix Regency England and magic. Have you ever read Sorcery and Cecelia, by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer? I love this book! And of course there are Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories, and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
Caz: I’ve read the Clarke, but haven’t come across the others. I’ll check them out! Tell us a bit more about the Baleful Godmother series.
EL: First and foremost, the Baleful Godmother series is a historical romance series. These aren’t paranormal romances with a historical window dressing, and the heroines aren’t modern women dressed in old-fashioned clothes; they’re products of their time, women who’d be at home in a novel by Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen—except that they have a Faerie godmother (which is something you won’t find in Heyer or Austen!).
The series revolves around several families who’ve inherited a (very baleful) Faerie godmother. Because of this, the characters are propelled into adventures they wouldn’t otherwise have. Each book has a different balance of magic and romance. Some have magic all the way through, like Unmasking Miss Appleby (#1) or Trusting Miss Trentham (#3), while others have only a few scenes, like Resisting Miss Merryweather (#2) and Claiming Mister Kemp (#4).
Caz: Having read Unmasking Miss Appleby and thoroughly enjoyed it, I can say that for me, the balance between the romance and the fantasy was just about perfect. The romance takes centre stage while the fantasy aspect affords the hero and heroine a way to get to know each other in a way which isn’t often possible in an historical because of the social mores and restrictions placed up on women of the time. Was that quite freeing for you as an author?
EL: It was fantastically freeing! I was able to take everything that I love about writing historical romances, and add some of what I enjoy about writing fantasies. This enabled the sort of interactions between the hero and heroine that are usually impossible in a Regency romance, plus it gave me more opportunities for humor, for adventure and danger, and for exploring the underbelly of Regency society.
Compared to my earlier historical romances, the Baleful Godmother books are more sensual, but also darker and grittier. There’s more action and more sex, but also a bit more violence and bad language.
As a writer, it was challenging and exciting and fun and once I’d written Unmasking Miss Appleby, I knew I wanted to continue the series. I’m really glad you enjoyed the book, and I hope other readers will, too!
Caz: What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing the fifth book in the Baleful Godmother series, Ruining Miss Wrotham. After that I’ll head straight on to book six, Discovering Miss Dalrymple, and then I plan to write two interlinked Baleful Godmother series featuring two sets of Regency cousins who don’t know the other exists, which should be fun!
Caz: What do you like to do when you’re not writing – or reading?
EL: Lots of walking up hills! I grew up on a hill and that hill was the bugbear of my schooldays (heavy textbooks, steep hill, argh), but now I walk up hills every chance I get. Twice a day if possible, and I try to do some yoga every day, too.
Caz: Emily, thanks for chatting with me – all the best with the new series!
EL: Thanks so much for having me, Caz. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you!
WE HAVE TWO (2) eCOPIES OF UNMASKING MISS APPLEBY TO GIVE AWAY TO TWO LUCKY READERS! PLACE YOUR ENTRY AT RAFFLECTOPTER BY CLICKING BELOW, AND THEN LEAVE A COMMENT WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS AND PREFERRED FORMAT.
Emily Gee grew up in a house full of books–her mother worked as a librarian and her father is a well-known New Zealand novelist. Emily has studied a wide number of subjects, including geology and geophysics, canine behavior and ancient Greek. Her varied career includes stints as a field assistant in Antarctica and a waitress on the Isle of Skye, as well as five vintages in New Zealand’s wine industry. Most recently, she has worked in one of New Zealand’s most isolated national parks, Fiordland National Park.
Emily loves to travel and has lived in Sweden, backpacked in Europe and North America, and traveled overland in the Middle East, China, and North Africa. She enjoys climbing hills, yoga workouts, watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, and reading.
The Spinster’s Secret and its prequel, The Countess’ Groom will both be reissued later this month.
The Earl’s Dilemma and My Lady Thief (formerly published as The Unmasking of a Lady) will be reissued early in 2017.