I’m so thrilled to welcome Juliana Gray to Teatime today! She writes wonderful historical romances, and I had the pleasure of meeting her last December at Lady Jane’s Salon. I can attest that she is as lovely, smart, witty, and laugh out loud funny as her books! She’s here today to talk about her latest release, A Duke Never Yields, the final book in her Affairs by Moonlight series. I’ve read ADNY, and it was fabulous, as was the rest of the series. Without further ado, take it away, Juliana!
1. Can you tell us about A Duke Never Yields and the Affairs by Moonlight trilogy?
Juliana: *clears throat* Disenchanted with their London lives, three English lords and three English ladies have embarked on a year’s chaste retreat to a castle in Tuscany, except that their fabulous (and rather mysterious) lodging appears to have been mistakenly leased to both parties. Each book in the series focuses on the romantic escapades of one of the couples, and by the time we reach A DUKE NEVER YIELDS, only two lovers remain: Arthur, the Duke of Wallingford, and Miss Abigail Harewood.
Lisa: Like I said above, I adored ADNY and Abigail and Wallingford are my favorite couple in the series. I really admire how you managed to work the same scenes into all three books, but from the different perspectives of each hero and heroine. Brava to you, for I know it couldn’t have been easy!
2. What was your inspiration for the book and the series?
Juliana: Well, I began with Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labour’s Lost, which has a similar (and, to me at least, irresistible) setup: a party of noblemen swears off wine and women for an academic sabbatical, and naturally a party of beautiful Frenchwomen lands on their doorstep right away! But the characters and love stories in the Affairs by Moonlight are really their own, and when I decided the castle should have an ancient curse upon it, I turned to Italian opera, which of course is brimming with murder and vengeance and curses. So I was really marrying that over-the-top melodrama of the past with a kind of screwball sensibility you get from the best of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies, and just let loose with my madcap self. It’s pure fun, though of course the point of a retreat in Tuscany is to dig deep into your true self and become that better person hidden inside, and each of my characters takes that journey as well.
Lisa: I am a huge fan of The Bard, so the Shakespeare influence was an instant sell for me! And I’m an opera buff too, though Carmen is my favorite, which is in French, lol.
3. What drew you towards writing historical romances as opposed to contemporary, paranormal, or other romance sub-genres?
Juliana: To start off, I just love history, always have, and in particular that sense of being taken into another world that still has all the familiar signposts of human nature and human sexuality. In historical fiction, you can write sensibly about honor and virtue and sacrifice–all those words that were made ridiculous on the physical battlefields of the First World War and the cultural battlefields of its aftermath–and it’s not problematic, there’s not this counter-pull from the surrounding zeitgeist. Yes, it is fantasy, and often bears little resemblance to historical life as it was actually lived, but it’s fantasy that’s grounded in that historical reality, and (to me at least) feels therefore within reach. Now, I do love reading contemporaries and some of the less-furry paranormals (and the Affairs by Moonlight has its own zing of the supernatural), but I just don’t feel it’s my natural voice. For one thing, I’m not nearly current enough on popular culture!
Lisa: I was a history major in college, so I definitely share your love of history, and agree totally that part of the draw of a great historical romance is that it can transport you to a different time and place!
Juliana: Oh, I love these two! Wallingford is your classic Victorian aristocratic, very full of himself, and naturally so because he’s been brought up to be a duke, and never received any real affection from his family. So if you’re a naturally indrawn personality like Wallingford, it’s going to be very hard for you to learn to relate honestly to people, to have an equal exchange, and especially so with women. (Imagine today’s celebrity bubble times ten!) Abigail, on the other hand, is a ball of fun, lovely and lively and clever. She was raised without much supervision and has no real appreciation for the strictures of society, and she’s somehow managed to subvert all the accepted norms, which (as we’re beginning to discover, through diligent research) many Victorian women actually succeeded in doing. She doesn’t care that Wallingford is overbearing and a bit selfish, because she’s strong enough to push back, and because she only wants him as a lover. As their feelings deepen, though, she has a problem: How can she forge a life with an English duke, the highest of the high, and still remain herself? And Wallingford learns that if he wants to be worthy of a woman like Abigail, he has to learn how to be human and empathetic, when that’s never been asked of him before. I didn’t have any particular celebrities in mind here, but I’ve always been fascinated with the way Princess Diana dealt with the raising of her sons, taking them to McDonalds and Disneyland, engaging them in ordinary activities, in order to counteract that incredibly isolating and myopic effect of a privileged upbringing. It’s that sort of softening influence that Wallingford lacked, and he’s got a lot of ground to make up! I won’t reveal how he does it, but let’s just say it’s the age-old way that kings were made to understand the humble life.
Lisa:I absolutely fell in love with Wallinford and Abigail. And one of my favorite parts of ADNY is how Wallinford matures and grows as a character. Abigail was such a fun and lovely character-someone I’d definitely have as a girlfriend!
5. What is next for you now that the Affairs by Moonlight Trilogy? (feel free to plug A Hundred Summers as well as your next series! )
Juliana: My next trilogy launches in June with How to Tame Your Duke, so there’s no rest for the wicked! It’s set in the same 1890s period as the Affairs by Moonlight, and with a couple of familiar characters, but the setup is all-new: Three princesses are forced to flee their homeland and disguise themselves in three English households, which of course all happen to have eligible aristocratic bachelors conveniently near. I have to say I really fell in love with the first of my heroes, the Duke of Ashland — he is just so fierce and true. As you may know, I also write mainstream historical fiction as Beatriz Williams, and my second hardcover novel, A Hundred Summers, will be released a few days before How to Tame Your Duke (I’m still not quite sure how I’m going to juggle that!). It’s a love triangle set in a rarefied summer beach community in New England during the summer before the great hurricane of 1938. A completely different voice, but I do love mixing it up!
Lisa: I can’t wait until How To Tame Your Duke releases! And A Hundred Summers sounds wonderful too. I really admire how you manage writing under two pen names and keeping up such a demanding and hectic writing schedule!
Also, these six questions are some “Get to know you questions.”
1) What was the first romance novel you ever read?
Lisa: Lady Vixen sounds great! It reminds me of Johanna Lindsey’s Gentle Rogue, where the heroine Georgina disguises herself as a boy and ends up as the hero James’s cabin boy.
2) Your house is on fire – which five romance novels do you grab on your way out?
Juliana: Okay, assuming I can’t find my Kindle in time, I’ll go with the aforementioned Lady Vixen for sentimental reasons (and because it’s both out of print and undigitized), Flowers From the Storm by the irreplaceable Laura Kinsale, one of Lisa Kleypas‘s Wallflower novels chosen at random, Meredith Duran‘s Bound By Your Touch, Elizabeth Hoyt‘s The Raven Prince, Eloisa James‘s…oh, shoot. I’m out of books!!
Lisa: LOL! It’s tough, isn’t it? It’s times like this I’m grateful for my Kindle too. Lisa Kleypas and Eloisa are some of my favorites too.
3) What is your secret passion?
Juliana: Old school bacon-and-egg breakfasts at my local diner, and keep the coffee coming. (Well, I guess it’s not secret anymore!)
Lisa: I love diner breakfasts too! The calories are more than worth it. Whenever I’m in NYC, I always try to find a new diner to check out.
4) Why do you write romance?
Juliana: Oh, my answer to this question could go on for pages, but here’s the nutshell version: Of all our human endeavors, the desire to love and be loved and (with luck) to leave behind some living proof of that love, is the most compelling. So it seems obvious that this quest for love should reveal all the true and nuanced shades of our character, should drive us to our worst and our best, should allow us the greatest pleasure and the most painful vulnerability: in short, the makings of a perfect novel.
Lisa: Love this! So eloquently stated. Like I stated in my review of ADNY at The Romance Dish, what resonated most to me about Abigail and Wallingford is how they clashed at first, but in the end, were so perfect for one another. They each found the person who loved and accepted them for their worst selves, but empowered them to be their best selves in each other. Le Sigh!
5) Is there anything in your book that comes from personal experience?
Juliana: You mean aside from all that rampant and never-ending sex? *coughs* Well, I have traveled through and adored Tuscany, so much of the description and sense of place comes from my own observations. And there’s a point when Abigail is at her most vulnerable, when she’s considering the fact that Wallingford has had all those women before her, and whether she can trust him to be faithful: I think we’ll all experienced that at some point, coming to terms with the fact that there were other lovers, or there are other lovers, or perhaps that there will be other lovers. In that respect, Abigail isn’t quite so strong and unconventional as she’s always thought.
Lisa: LOL! I would love to visit Italy and see Tuscany for myself someday. That scene when Abigail wrestles with those demons was achingly sad, and beautifully written!
6) What is your favorite kind of tea, and how do you drink it?
Juliana: I love a good basic fragrant Earl Grey with just a touch of honey. If it’s served with a tower of exquisite sandwiches, tender scones, and crumbling pastries…well, all the better!
Lisa: You are a woman after my own heart, Juliana. I’m not much of a tea drinker myself, but I am all about the scones, pastries, and tea sandwiches.
Thank you so much for stopping by Teatime today, Juliana! It’s been lovely having you.
GIVEAWAY! Juliana has generously offered to give one lucky reader a copy of ALL THREE books in her Affairs by Moonlight Trilogy-A Lady Never Lies, A Gentleman Never Tells, and A Duke Never Yields! (US only) To enter, just comment below! Tell us-have you ever been to Italy? Some romances take place in interesting and unique settings-which are your favorites? If you had to be secluded and segregated from the opposite sex for a year, where would you go?
Connect with Juliana online:
Connect with Beatriz Williams online: