I am so happy my first official post as a Duchess allows me to welcome historical romance author Maggie Robinson. Maggie is a former teacher, library clerk and mother of four who woke up in the middle of the night, absolutely compelled to create the perfect man and use as many adverbs as possible doing so. Her stories can always be counted on for surprises, heat and humor. Her website is http://www.maggierobinson.net/.
Duchess Joanna: Welcome, Maggie! I am always happy to get the chance to chat with you. Please tell us a little about your latest release, IN THE HEART OF A HIGHLANDER.
Maggie Robinson: I’ll let the Berkley Backcover Blurb Pros handle it:
Ever since Mary Evensong’s elderly Aunt Mim got sick, Mary’s masqueraded as the owner of the Evensong Agency, finding housemaids, husbands and solving pesky problems for the peerage. Someday she’d like to shake off her silvery wig and spectacles and be the young woman she truly is. But desperate clients are waiting for “Mrs. Evensong” at the office.
Like a scandalous Scottish baron. Honor forbids Lord Alec Raeburn from explaining the suspicious circumstances surrounding his wife’s death, but he knows who’s responsible. He just needs to hire an actress to lure the scoundrel into a trap.
After listening to Raeburn’s story—and seeing him in his kilt—Mary knows the perfect person. Letting her red hair down, she heads off to the Scottish Highlands to pose as a seductress, but soon finds herself with more than her virtue at stake in a tug-of-war between two powerful men. She could wind up in danger—or in the heart of the highlander.
Joanna: Oh, I adore a masquerade story, not to mention a Scottish hero! One thing I loved about this book (other than our delicious hero with such a scandalous, mysterious past) was the setting, in which we get a glimpse of early 20th Century England and Scotland. The story is peppered with wonderful period phrases (my favorites were, “haveycavey” and “off her onion.”). Do any particular facts stand out in your mind as interesting or fascinating about this era?
Maggie: I’m so glad you noticed! I had lots of fun finding appropriate slang for the era. God bless the OED online, LOL. I’ve been interested in the “turn of the century” since I was a little kid. My grandmother and her zillion sisters were children and teenagers in the early 1900s, and we had tons of family photographs. Cars were coming into fashion, telephones were ringing, and young women had more workplace opportunities. In a previous life I mounted a display for a local historical society museum, and fell madly in love with Charles Dana Gibson’s work and the hats—I don’t know how young ladies could have stood up straight! I’ve visited Gilded Age houses in New York, Newport and Maine summer colonies whenever I got the chance—there’s something about the time period that hooked me even before Downton Abbey took the world by storm.
Joanna: Me, too! It’s such a fascinating cross section of the old and the modern. Have you ever gone on a research trip for your books? What did you love, hate or gasp over?
Maggie: I try to get to Great Britain at least once a year. It really helps me when I can channel a place I’ve seen in person. This year we were in London and Scotland in August, and have plans to be in London again in December. Just about everything makes me gasp—I haven’t found anything I’ve hated, except recognizing the huge divide between the upper and lower classes. Sometimes I feel not much has changed.
I can’t wait to visit the Geffrye Museum again to see how middle-class homes were decorated for Christmas through the centuries. My favorite museum is the V & A, the jewelry rooms specifically. I’d like to move in, but wouldn’t want to dust all the china. And I was so lucky to stumble upon the Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry, Scotland last year. It’s the inspiration for the hydrotherapy spa in In the Heart of the Highlander and is just a lovely old place in the midst of truly spectacular scenery.
Joanna: Wow—it’s stunning! What an amazing find. Have you ever considered writing something other than a historical?
Maggie: Before I was published, I tried everything just to test my writing muscles. On a pendrive somewhere is a novella with shape-shifting cougars. They will never be allowed to come out and play, LOL! But as a matter of fact, my critique partner Elyssa Patrick and I have written contemporary novellas that will be in a fun indie Christmas anthology, Holiday for Two, this December. My hero, a repressed English viscount and the heroine, a sassy American PA, get trapped in a snowstorm where they discover they don’t really speak the same language.
Joanna: Fingers crossed for a shape-shifting cougar excerpt on your blog one of these days. Is there anything you find particularly challenging while crafting a story?
Maggie: Craft? What’s that? I’m a super-pantser (too bad that’s not a Halloween costume). The story is usually as much of a surprise to me as anyone! I sometimes get annoyed with everything by the middle but muddle through. I’ve tried to plot and plan, but my brain just doesn’t work that way at all. Of course, some people would say my brain doesn’t work, period.
Joanna: I think that would be a popular Halloween costume. Name one book you wish you’d written.
Maggie: Anything by Loretta Chase. She’s just Lady Perfect.
Joanna: Can you please share a teaser with our readers from your story?
Maggie: Here’s a bit describing the predicament my scandalous hero finds himself in:
Alec Raeburn puffed on his a cigar in one of the Forsyth Palace Hotel’s turrets dedicated for just such manly activity. Across the slate roof, the ladies’ turret held several young white-clad female guests who were oblivious to Ben-y-Vrackie looming blue in the distance and were plainly viewing him. They tried to catch his attention through prodigious handkerchief-waving and head-tossing, but Alec ignored them, gazing down at the hotel’s circular drive.
The girls must not have heard about him and his wickedness yet—no doubt their mamas would be swooping in any minute to round them up and tell them everything they thought they knew. After nearly a year, Alec was almost used to the sudden silence when he entered a room, eyes sliding to distant corners, people remembering forgotten appointments. He’d always attracted attention—a man his size was not invisible—but now the attention was most unwelcome.
He was sick of it. After this was over, he’d hunker down here. Fleeing England would not be such a hardship, since Scotland was the home of his heart. However, Edith’s death had cast a pall on his beloved Raeburn Court that would not really be changed by the addition of new drapes and furniture. It would be a wrench to remain in isolation, but Alec couldn’t see the social climate changing for him any time soon.
He couldn’t tell the truth. Even a man as black-hearted as he would not use Edith’s folly to explain what happened.
Joanna: Lovely snippet! I really enjoyed this story. Thank you so much for joining us, Maggie.
Maggie: Thanks so much for having me dash about with you all today! I’ll give away the first book in the Ladies Unlaced series, In the Arms of the Heiress (where you first meet Mary Evensong) to one commenter. What’s your favorite museum or place that inspires you?