by Mary Jo
TWO Word Wenches releases are due on April 1st! An abundance of good reading. I waved my hand first to claim an ARC for Anne's The Winter Bride. This second book of her Chance Sisters Quartet is another delight. (Abby's story, The Autumn Bride () was first in the series, and chosen by Library Journal as one of the Top Ten Romances of 2013. AND has just been listed as an RWA RITA finalist!)
Early reviews are great. Romantic Times' Kathe Robin gave The Winter Bride a 4 1/2 star Top Pick, saying:
"The Chance sisters are living a dream, and readers will be thrilled to be there with them. Gracie has created a wonderful cast of characters, from the sisters themselves to their benefactress and servants. … the lively dialogue and tender emotions compel readers to relish every moment of the developing romance."
Kirkus Reviews: "Gracie continues her Chance Sisters series with another delightful, emotionally complex romance. Freddy and Damaris are each textured characters, combining well-hidden wounds with a determination to thrive in spite of them, which makes them perfect for each other once they break through to trust and understanding… A romantic winner, with Gracie’s typical witty charm and sweeping emotion."
Publisher's Weekly: "Gracie continues the charming seasonal saga of the four Chance sisters, family by choice rather than blood, with this thoughtful and tender Regency."
MJP: I love the book, and what particularly impressed me was how Anne took a man who had seemed like a complete twit and turned him into an utterly to-die-for hero for all seasons. Anne, did you have Freddy's transformation in mind ever since you conceived of this series? Or did he turn into a delicious surprise?
AG: He was the kind of character who simply arrived on the page in the first book. I did hope he might have hero potential, but I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I loved how he turned out, and I’m very glad you think he’s a to-die-for.
MJP: The heroine, Damaris, had an unusual background. How did that develop?
AG: Again, she simply arrived in my head as a girl who was born in England, but who grew up as the daughter of a missionary in China. The first 19th century Protestant missionary arrived in China in 1807, so I anticipated him by a few years. Her upbringing was difficult, and lonely, so her new life in England and her “sisters” and Lady Beatrice are a source of great joy to her.
A small side-story here— several months after I’d handed the book in, I met up with an old school friend, who’d been delving into her family history. She’s from a long line of Chinese Australians, and she told me the story of how her 19th century ancestress had left China. Without spoilers, I’ll say it was almost exactly the same as Damaris.
MJP: Your last series, The Devil Riders, was built around male friends. What are the differences between writing a group of men vs. a group of women? (If any!)
AG: Mmm, that’s a hard one. I think in general, a male-linked series is more about the men’s world, and about the men themselves. I think, too, the stories tend to have more of an adventure thread in them, whereas a female-linked series has more domesticity. But I’m not sure, because my first series, The Merridew Sisters, was female linked, and yet the stories were all about the heroes, and several of my female-linked stories are also quite adventurous, so really, I don’t know. I take each story and each couple as they come.
MJP: Who's up next as The Spring Bride?
AG: It’s going to be Jane, and her hero will have to remain a surprise for now. I originally planned someone else for her, but I changed my mind, so she’s getting a wild card hero.
MJP: Do you have a delicious little excerpt to dangle in front of us????
AG: This is from the start of the book:
When his best friend Max asks him to attend his aunt's literary society, our hero, Freddy, is appalled.
“Not the literary society. The horror stories those girls read are enough to make a fellow’s hair stand on end.”
Max frowned. “Horror stories? They don’t read horror stories, only entertaining tales of the kind ladies seem to enjoy, about girls and gossip and families—”
“Horror stories, every last one of them,” Freddy said firmly. “You asked me to sit in on their literary society last month, when you went up to Manchester, remember? The story they were reading then . . .” He gave an eloquent shudder. “Horror from the very first line: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Must he, indeed? What about the poor fellow’s wants, eh? Do they matter? No. Every female in the blasted story was plotting to hook some man for herself or her daughter or niece. If you don’t call that horror, I don’t know what is!”
“You can laugh, bound as you are for parson’s noose in the morning,” Freddy said bitterly, “but every single man in that story ended up married by the end of the book! Every last one.” He numbered them off on his fingers. “The main fellow, his best friend, the parson, even the soldier fellow ended up married to the silly light-skirt sister—not one single man in that story escaped unwed.” He shuddered again. “Enough to give a man nightmares. So, no literary society for me, thank you.”
AG: I had a lot of fun with Freddy and Damaris, and I hope others do too. Thanks so much for interviewing me, Mary Jo and for your kind words about the book.
I have a question for people: what do you think is the difference between male linked series and female linked ones? I’ll give a copy of The Winter Bride to someone who leaves a comment – the winner can choose between the US mass market paperback and the Australian trade-sized version.