Nicola here, and today I am thrilled to be interviewing author Alison Stuart on the blog. I've been a fan of Alison's books for a while and when I heard that she was forsaking the 17th century to write her first Regency I was intrigued by this change of era. Having had the pleasure of reading Lord Somerton's Heir I can confirm that it has all Alison's trademark adventure and action as well as intriguing characters and passionate romance. So, over to Alison!
AS: Thank you so much for inviting me to join the august company of Word Wenches today!
NC: It's a pleasure to have you visiting the blog, Alison. Please tell us a little about Lord Somerton’s Heir.
AS: I think my publisher (Escape Publishing) summed up the story of LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR rather succinctly in a recent promo piece: “A Regency romantic suspense about a widow who wants to move on, a war veteran with an unexpected inheritance, an estate in desperate need of a Lord, and an unexpected attraction that complicates everything.”
LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR is about the characters and in Sebastian and Isabel I found two damaged people seeking forgiveness and redemption. Dark shadows haunt both characters and a mysterious death stands between them. Sebastian and Isabel have to work hard for their HEA! There is also a cast of secondary characters that I had a lot of fun with, particularly Sebastian’s batman, Bennet, who is guaranteed to lighten the mood.
AS: A wise woman by the name of Mary Jo Putney (who probably doesn’t remember this conversation!) once asked me what I read. When I said “mostly crime” she looked me in the eye and said. “Well, why aren’t you writing crime?”
That is actually easier said than done, particularly as I am not a plotter and writing crime requires a degree of prior planning. In this book (and my WWI story GATHER THE BONES) I have introduced mysteries and I have to say I have really enjoyed weaving the solving of the mystery into the story. So much so that I am playing with a historical ‘cosy’ crime series (set in Singapore in 1910) but that has a long way to go until it sees the light of day.
I think for me it adds an extra layer to the story and, I hope, gives the reader something extra to mull over.
NC: You have written in various different genres before but I think I’m right in saying that this is your first Regency novel. What was it that drew you to write in the Regency period for a change?
AS: I have to begin by saying I am a little nervous about this story, as it is indeed my first venture into the world of Regency Romance. There are so many wonderful Regency writers (many of whom are Word Wenches!) and such a mystique about it, that it has taken a high degree of courage to put my toe into this particular pond. Of course I cannot for a moment forget your passionate readers!
Growing up I was not a Georgette Heyer fan (nor much of a Jane Austen fan either!). My reading taste was more action adventure than the genteel world of the parlour. I hasten to say that I have learned to really appreciate Georgette and I am currently reading my way through her books but the lure of action adventure still calls and perhaps (I hope) I may be the thought of more as “Georgette Heyer meets Bernard Cornwell”. I love Cornwell’s books and Sharpe is my kind of hero.
I had a tentative foray into the world of the Regency in GATHER THE BONES, through the diaries of my Regency ghost, Suzanna Morrow. I actually wrote her diary from beginning to end, as she would have done, and I had such fun doing it, that I thought there was probably a Regency story or two up my sleeve.
LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR began on a visit to the battlefield of Waterloo with the character of my hero, Sebastian Alder - a penniless professional army officer with two siblings to support. I ignored the muse but she kept tugging at my sleeve and a visit to Wellesley House on Waterloo Day sealed it. I had to write the story, come what may.
NC: You look as though you are channelling your inner Georgette Heyer pretty well in the photograph! What’s the most interesting piece of Regency research you did?
AS: I have a confession. I am an old soldier and for me the interesting research is around the battlefields and the war stories, which is why my stories tend to be set in wars and involve soldier heroes. Although neither Waterloo nor the Peninsula campaign feature in the story, their shadow looms large. It may not show (and indeed it shouldn’t) but quite a bit of research went into the Peninsula campaign in particular.
When it comes to barouches vs landaus, I struggle…but I am blessed with some good research books (I still like a print book for research) and I am always interested in costume.
Interestingly at one point, I looked at moving the story to the 1850s and it was fascinating how much technology advances in 40 years changed the whole feel of the story as the characters travelled around the countryside in trains and used gas lights. They even moved differently. It all got a bit hard so I left them in 1815!
NC: What did you find different about writing a book set in the Regency from, say the period of the English Civil War? Was it hard to change historical hats?
AS: I love all periods of history but you are right, the English Civil War (ECW) is my passion. I therefore find it almost second nature to write stories set in the ECW. It’s in my pores. I found it incredibly hard to change hats to the more genteel and mannered period of the Regency. I hope I have got it mostly right!
NC: Thank you very much, Alison!
Here is a blurb and excerpt from LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR
Can the love of an honourable man save her from the memory of a desolate marriage?
From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.
Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.
But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?
EXCERPT from LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR
(Set up: Sebastian and Isabel have just helped in the delivery of a foal)
Sebastian plunged his arms into the trough with a sharp exclamation at the water’s temperature. He picked up the soap and began scrubbing vigorously. Standing to one side, holding his shirt and coat, Isabel found her eyes fixed on his broad shoulders. His muscles rippled beneath the brown skin and once again her heartbeat quickened. She took a deep steadying breath.
As the sky lightened she could see that there were other scars marring the brown skin.
‘You seem remarkably careless of your life, Lord Somerton.’
He glanced at a long, white scar that ran down his bicep. ‘I’ve been a soldier a long time, Isabel.’
A flush of pleasure rose to her cheeks at this invitation to familiarity. Being alone with a half-naked man in the early hours of the morning did not call for formality, neither did it reflect well on her reputation. She glanced around the stable yard but they were quite alone.
He straightened and began towelling off. The grey light of the early dawn flattened the planes of his face, leeching the colour from his skin and eyes, but she could see the lift of humour curling the corners of his mouth as he caught her watching him and the heat rose to her face as she thrust his shirt at him.
He pulled it over his head and took the coat from her, his eyes not leaving her face. As he buttoned the coat he tilted his head to one side.
‘I’ve been trying to work out what is different about you this morning. It’s your hair.’
He reached out and touched the loosely tied, heavy braid that hung over her shoulder. His finger brushed her cheek, leaving a burning trail across her cool skin.
‘What about my hair?’ Isabel stuttered.
‘I like the way you have bits of it around your face.’ He withdrew his hand and looked away. ‘Now I am being personal.’
Given his previous state of undress and the fact they were alone together, a personal remark seemed the least of her concerns.
‘I’ll forgive you this once.’ She took a step back from him. ‘I must be getting back to the house.’
Before someone sees us together like this.
Sebastian looked at the sky. ‘It’s going to be another lovely day. I think I’ll go for a walk.’
Isabel lingered in the gateway to the stable, watching him stride away from her into the early morning mist. He moved with purpose and strength and she felt sure, had she been a soldier, she would have willingly followed where he led.
ABOUT ALISON STUART
Alison Stuart is an award winning Australian writer of cross genre historicals with heart. Whether duelling with dashing cavaliers or wayward ghosts, her books provide a reader with a meaty plot and characters who have to strive against adversity, always with the promise of happiness together. Alison is a lapsed lawyer who has worked in the military and fire service, which may explain a predisposition to soldier heroes. She lives with her own personal hero and two needy cats and likes nothing more than a stiff gin and tonic and a walk along the sea front of her home town. She loves to hear from her readers and can be found at her website, facebook, twitter and Goodreads.
To celebrate the release of LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, Alison is running a Rafflecopter contest for the whole month of May. The prize is a “Goody Bag” (for details of the contents see Alison’s website). All you need to do enter is leave a comment on this blog and click HERE.