Blame it on the Mistletoe…
When Major Lucas Stanton inherited his earldom, he never dreamed his property would include the previous earl’s granddaughter. Phoebe Linville is a sparkling American beauty, yes, but with a talent for getting into trouble. Witness the compromising position that forced them into wedlock. Whisked away to Mistletoe Manor, his country estate, it isn’t long before she is challenging his rules—and surprising him in and out of bed…
Phoebe has no intention of bowing to Lucas’s stubbornness even though he offers all that she wants. His kisses and unexpected warmth are enticing, but Phoebe is determined to show the Earl of Merritt what real love is all about. And if that takes twelve nights of delicious seduction by a roaring fire, she’s more than willing to reveal her gifts very slowly…
Military hero? Check. Compromising position? Check. Heroine with a penchant for rule breaking? Check. And Christmas too? Bonus check! After seeing this, I knew I had to read the book. And then I got an email that started this year’s Christmas reading season off with squees and dancing around my home office. It took MrMr by surprise.
“WHAT!?” he yelled from the other room as he heard the first of the noises.
“Uh…nothing.” I continued to dance around my office.
“That’s wasn’t a nothing squee. And I heard dancing. That was an ‘I’ve got great news’ squee. Cough it up, woman.” I could see him peeking through the doors between our offices.
So I proceeded to launch into great detail about Christmas romance novels and as I expected his eyes glazed over nearly before I started. I petered off when I realized he wasn’t nearly as enamored of my review of Christmas history as I thought he would be.
When he saw that I’d wound down, he came over to door I was standing in, put his hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and said “Pretend I’m on Twitter and you have less than 140 characters to tell me why you’re happy.”
Without a moment’s thought I responded “Vanessa Kelly wrote His Mistletoe Bride. It’s coming out early October. I get to interview her for Teatime Romance.”
“There, was that so hard?” He kissed me on the head and walked back into his office.
I won’t actually admit to sticking my tongue out at his retreating back, but he did say without turning around “I felt that.” Spoilsport.
I continued my happy dance and thought up a boatload of questions (with the generous help of a panicked online query to friends), and Vanessa happily obliged by answering all of them.
Without further ado, here are Vanessa’s answers to my questions. Happy Holidays a little early!
Welcome! Would you mind answering our traditional question first? Your house is on fire. Which five romance novels do you grab on your way out?
First, Jennelle, I want to thank you for hosting me on the blog on my release day. I’m very happy to be here! Okay, now to the questions…
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, Married By Morning by Lisa Kleypas, Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase, Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas, and When You Dare by Lori Foster. OMG, but how horrible that I can only grab five!! I would also want to snag at least one Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle, one Eloisa James, and at least two Georgette Heyer books!
Your graduate studies in 18th & 19th Century British authors seem to have provided you with considerable inspiration for fiction in general. How did this academic background help you in writing His Mistletoe Bride?
As with all my books, I think my grad studies grounded me—both in terms of historical accuracy and cultural sensibility. I read a lot of period novels, as well as letters, periodicals, and memoirs from the Regency. That background gave me a framework for pushing the envelope in terms of plot and character, but in what I hope is a believable fashion that doesn’t seem anachronistic.
The bulk of your readership lives in the United States. How do you deal with the differences in cultural perspective between modern American readers and that of the time period of His Mistletoe Bride or any of your historical novels? How do you keep your historical works accessible to modern readers?
I keep the primary focus on story and character. Readers do enjoy the Regency setting and they love the little glimpses into another way of life, but they don’t generally pick up a romance novel to learn nitty-gritty details of history. And let’s face it: most of us don’t want to read about what hygiene was really like during that period, or how women or black people or children were often so brutally treated. So I strive for a balance. I try to have a certain sense of historical realism in my books, which can often best be portrayed by secondary characters or subplots, but I never forget that I’m writing a love story for modern readers. It usually takes two or three passes through the manuscript to get the right balance.
It’s clear from your Pinterest board that considerable thought went into each chapter of His Mistletoe Bride. How much research did it really take? Did you have to travel at all?
No, I didn’t travel for this book, although I’ve visited England a number of times over the years. As for research…all I can say is thank you, Google Earth! Truly, the internet is an amazing tool for writers and researchers, although you often have to drill down to find the good stuff. The biggest challenge was finding accurate information on Christmas during the Regency period—there’s not that much available. I think I managed to find most of it, either through inter-library loan or in old books. Never forget the awesome power of your local research librarian!
[Ed. Note: You all should really check out the Pinterest board that Vanessa put together for His Mistletoe Bride. It’s brilliant.]
His Mistletoe Bride takes on a culture usually reserved for inspirational romance, that of Quaker society. How did you come upon the idea of Phoebe Linville’s pacifist background?
I grew up in one of the oldest Quaker towns in America, one which still has an active Friends school and Meeting. I’m not a Quaker but it was there in the background—I have relatives and friends who went to the local Friends school—and I’ve always been fascinated by their history and philosophy.
In terms of the story, although Phoebe was raised as a Quaker, her mother was Church of England. Phoebe has always been torn between her traditionalist English background and her Quaker father’s American background. That inner conflict was really fun to play with, especially when Phoebe runs up against Lucas’s law-and-order approach to life. But one thing I learned while researching Quakers during the Regency period: they were not bloodless or passive. They were passionate advocates and were considered to be radical back in the day. And many were also quite wealthy and moved easily within society, so I think we sometimes have a pretty limited idea of what they were all about.
As fiction writers, we always run the risk of someone believing characters in our novels are based on them. How have your family and friends accepted your works? Have there been any problems you had to deal with?
My family thinks it’s pretty cool that I write romance novels and they completely accept what I do. I suspect most of them don’t really read my books, though, because I think some of the sex scenes would shock them. They never seem to mention those bits—maybe they skip them!
Do your female characters like Phoebe Linville in His Mistletoe Bride reflect the same qualities and struggles of modern era women? Have modern women improved their lot?
Women have always fought hard to define their self-worth and to create loving and nurturing relationships. I don’t think that’s changed, although I would say that modern women certainly have fewer limitations than women in the Regency period. But the desire for love is universal and unchanging, don’t you think?
Is there a question you’d like to ask me or our readers at Teatime Romance?
I’d like to ask your readers why they love Regency historical romance. What is it about Regencies that they find so appealing?
So, dear readers, what is it about Regencies that are so appealing?
Comment to win a free copy of her first and third books, Mastering The Marquess and My Favorite Countess. Be the (randomly chosen) lucky commenter and win one of them! (Be sure to supply your email so we can contact you if you win.) Vanessa will be contacting the winners via email soon!
Vanessa Kelly was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Vanessa also writes contemporary romance with her husband under the name of V.K. Sykes. You can find her on the web at www.vanessakellyauthor.com or at www.vksykes.com.
Vanessa is a member of Rock*It Reads, a self-published author collective dedicated to outstanding quality romance. She blogs regularly and you can find her on a variety of social media platforms too: Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.