This is part 1 of 2 of the conversation. You can find the rest on Rose’s blog here. And please stick around to comment, because we’re offering a book + snack giveaway on each site!
A little orientation before we start:
In A Gentleman’s Game, when valuable racehorses fall ill before a rich stakes race, Nathaniel Chandler must work with his father’s mysterious new secretary, Rosalind Agate, to protect the horses and get them safely across England to Epsom. Along the road, Rosalind and Nathaniel fall for each other—but she’s keeping some secrets that will tear them apart. Read the first chapter here.
And in Listen to the Moon, John Toogood is a very starchy, very proper valet…who’s currently out of a job. Sukey Grimes is a maid-of-all-work with a big mouth and a mean boss. The local vicar is looking for a married couple to head his staff of servants….Read the first chapter here.
Theresa: Hi! So shall we just dive in?
Theresa: Okay! Well—this is not very coherent, but Listen to the Moon was AKLSJADJKLDJKL SO GOOD and I just wanted to be friends with the characters. They seemed so complex and real.
Rose: Thank you! Something that’s interesting to me is that I identify really strongly with both Toogood and Sukey. Like I could say “That is totally me” about BOTH of them. And yet they’re so different. I don’t understand how writing works but it’s awesome. A Gentleman’s Game was also amazing. You have a way of writing heroes who put a lot of effort into seeming effortless that is my JAM. (Xavier [from Season for Surrender] ftw!)
Theresa: Heh, that might be projection on my part. Effortlessness is impossible for me, so I assume it must be the same for others. And thank you!
Rose: I think in general I like characters who are careful about how they present themselves. Where there’s like, a layer between impulse and action….I am also not an effortless person.
Theresa: ::fist bump:: And that description is Toogood in a nutshell, isn’t it? He’s so careful in his forethought and planning. Sometimes he was almost burdened by that—which made Sukey such a good match for him. She could draw out his sense of play.
Rose: Careful presentation is a huge part of what I love about the archetypal valet characters like Jeeves. He is so PERFORMATIVELY starchy, so theatrical in how unobtrusively he holds himself. It’s beautiful.
Theresa: Jeeves is one of my favorite characters EVAH. And “I’ll handle it” is about the most attractive sentence I can imagine. But such competence and unobtrusiveness doesn’t mean humorlessness.
Rose: Exactly! I think with that type of character, though, often there’s something introverted about their jokes. Like their jokes are only intended for themselves, or for one other person (such as Wooster). And that’s so attractive to me. A kind of self-sufficiency and intimacy of humor.
Theresa : Humor can be another way to be self-sufficient, then? The joy is in making the quip, not in having it recognized by others. Though when it is, like when Sukey GETS Toogood: total heart-eyes.
Rose: Basically I want a romance pairing to be like a Vaudeville duo? There’s the funny man and the straight man. But a straight man is ALSO a comedian. (Not every romance pairing. But it’s a type I like, where they take on roles and sort of play them up for each other’s entertainment.)
Theresa: Yes! The act can’t succeed without the straight man. Also, that is a fabulous analogy.
Rose: Like Rosalind being The Proper Secretary, and it becomes this sort of private joke between her and Nathaniel.
Theresa: “Secretaries don’t…” Yeah, sure, lady.
Rose: At first when she says “Secretaries don’t,” she means it. But later, it’s something she says to make him laugh…YES! And that shift in her persona causes a shift in how she actually thinks about herself, makes her understand the role as something separate from her SELF.
Theresa: That’s true. She becomes more and more separated from the role of secretary/secret other things as the story goes on. I saw that in Toogood too, in your book. He was SO SURE he wanted to be a butler at the manor house at first. Then his own preferences start to shift, and he’s a husband and a lover as well as the perfect servant. And those other roles are equally good to identify with. Or better 🙂
Rose: Yes, and interestingly I think that helps him understand being a butler as MORE than a role, too. Like, it’s actually a relationship with other people that has to be done genuinely. As a valet he could get away with just performing Valet for himself, but as a butler he has to BE that person that is in charge, that helps and directs, that people can rely on.
Theresa: Ah, that’s a nice insight. That a butler must have the social side he’s tried to suppress as irrelevant.
Rose: I am SUCH an introvert. If you look at my books that is such a theme.
Theresa: Hee! Perhaps that is one of the reasons I identify with your characters so strongly! Like, I love them and want to be their BFFs but then I would have to strike up a conversation, so then again maybe not.
Rose: lol! Well definitely some of my protagonists are extroverts, but like, the narrative is so aware of that. It’s always a big part of their character and stuff. Because it’s so noteworthy to me when someone is an extrovert. “You mean…they just see other people and…want to talk to them? Strangers even?”
Theresa: Oh lord yes. My daughter is as extroverted as they come, and I marvel at her confidence and ease with people. She RAISES HER HAND VOLUNTARILY to TALK IN PUBLIC!
Rose: Do you think Rosalind is an introvert or extrovert?
Theresa: I’m not sure about Rosalind. She’s kind of in between, maybe because circumstance has forced her to be solitary. She so badly wants to connect with other people. But then plunk her in the middle of her huge family, and she seems like the quiet one.
Rose: Yes! That’s why I asked because I felt like I could buy an argument in either direction. By the way, I really enjoyed the awareness of alcohol that ran through this book, too. Usually excessive drinking is a totally unquestioned part of…well, everything, but also historical romance. And it was interesting to see it being noted who was drinking and who wasn’t, and how much. (Rosalind’s family reminded me because it’s hinted that her dad maybe likes to drink a lot and it maybe bothers her mom. And it’s just hinted! Like maybe it isn’t even a thing. But the story is AWARE of that as a possibility that exists.)
Theresa: Right, like he never gets DRUNK drunk but he gets tipsy. And he’s setting the example that drinking is part of the family circle. For Nathaniel, drinking has become something he does NOT want in the family circle, because (from his POV) it had a role in ruining the family.
Rose: It was funny to me that it took Nathaniel the whole book to put together that drinking a carefully monitored amount of brandy every day at a specific time is something an alcoholic would do.
Theresa: It took me even longer, if you can believe that. In the prequel novella, The Sport of Baronets, Sir William has this careful amount of brandy and I never thought why. And in the first draft of A Gentleman’s Game, same. Only in a rewrite did that part of his character come through. (That was, um, a major rewrite.)
Theresa: Yes, really! My subconscious mind must know what it’s doing, more than the conscious mind.
Rose: I really enjoyed all the As You Like it references in AGG. Nathaniel says he doesn’t buy that a woman could successfully pass as a man but he is wrong, wrong, wrong! Any chance you might write a cross-dressing story one of these days? I think you would do amazing things with it.
Theresa: Um…I might be working on one right now?
Rose: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!1! Is it part of the same series?
Theresa: No, it’s the other one I’m writing currently—the Royal Rewards. The heroine of the second book appears briefly in the first book. For SRS BZNS REASONS she is dressed as a boy. At the beginning of the second book, she still is, much to the hero’s exasperation.
Rose: Oh man I just read the back cover copy of Fortune Favors the Wicked for the first time and I am SO HAPPY. I assumed it was the next book in Romance of the Turf for some reason. Tell me more about this series btw. Who else is getting books?
Theresa: Ooh, I want to know the same from you for Lively St. Lemeston. In Romance of the Turf, the other two Chandler siblings are getting stories. Older sister Kate is first; she is a widow who has a friends-to-lovers romance. Then her twin Jonah, who was married a long time ago and ditched after his wedding night.
Rose: Is the heroine his wife?
Theresa: Yes! And in my mind she looks like Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Rose: ::eyes become saucers:: That is a nice way to look.
Theresa: Right?? She’s so beautiful. Jonah is toast.
Thanks for joining us for this chat! Rose is giving away a signed paperback of Listen to the Moon, plus some Godiva Cherry Cordials (slightly reminiscent of cherry bounce, a treat enjoyed by Sukey and Toogood), to one random commenter on this post. To enter, tell us a favorite romance hero or heroine, and whether you think they’re an introvert or extrovert. Or if you’ve got a question about books for one of us, that’s cool too! Comment away. A winner will be chosen at random from among all comments left by Sunday, February 28, at 3 pm ET. Since perishable food is included in the prize, this giveaway is limited to US addresses only.
Right now, Rose is writing a Regency series set in the small town of Lively St. Lemeston (Listen to the Moon is book 3, but you don’t have to read in order). She is currently obsessed with the Alexander Hamilton musical and the history behind it, and forever obsessed with Star Trek. Come say hi on twitter or tumblr!
For the second half of this chat–plus another giveaway!–please check out Rose’s blog.