Historical romance author Sherry Thomas deserves every bit of the vast amount of praise she’s received since she debuted a few years ago. Her stories are sensuous, her language is lush, and her characters are delightfully flawed and nuanced.
Sherry writes novels that make me lose whole days as I immerse myself in them, and I’m so pleased she’s here today giving away a copy of her latest release, Beguiling the Beauty.
1. Your novels portray worlds that are rich with historical fact—from art to geography to science. I suspect you do a hell of a lot of primary research. What are your favorite kinds of sources?
Google Books changed my life. I used to haul a suitcase to the University of Texas library for research books and well, that’s only a suitcase of books, and usually secondary material. With Google Books, I have entire libraries of primary material at my disposal. Since I write in the 1890s, I typically set my search parameter from 1880 to the date of my book, and let Google do its magic.
My favorite kind of sources are books meant to explain something to people who might not be as familiar with the subject of the book. So for example, travelogues that explain local customs and idiosyncracies are invaluable for when you want to mine little details that make a setting come alive. Or for example, articles that describes all the technical advances and creature comforts of the fastest, most luxurious ocean liner of the day—which totally made me squee when I came across them while researching BEGUILING THE BEAUTY, half of which took place during a transatlantic crossing.
2. What draws you to the Victorian world?
I’m drawn less to the entirety of the Victorian world as to the turn-of-the-century period, when the world was a very exciting and interesting place with all sorts new technologies in place. The telephone was in use. Automobiles are beginning to appear on the streets—in fact, I’d come across an article written by a lady driver to other ladies interested in driving their own cars on how to go about it. And women were no longer thought to be out of their minds to pursue higher education.
And then of course you contrast all that modernity against a system of etiquette and rules that are still quite antiquated in our eyes and there is this fascinating tension I can explore—urges of freedom against societal restraint, and how far can a woman push to live as she wished versus the box in which those around her still wanted to keep her.
3. Your novel Not Quite A Husband is the first romance novel I remember reading where the epilogue made it clear that the couple remained childless, a decision on your part that I personally really appreciated. Was that difficult to get published? Have you had much reader feedback about it?
It wasn’t difficult to publish that—my editor never even mentioned anything about it. The first ever letter I’d received on it was from a Filipino reader who was rather distraught about it. And a romance writer also told me that perhaps it would have been even better had I given them children. But afterwards most readers have been quite appreciative, when the matter comes up, that the H/H did not need children to be happy.
I have children and I adore my children. But I know quite a few couples who do not have children and are just as content to be that way. Moreover I know couples who might have stayed together had it not been friction over children/share of childcare that eventually led to their disillusionment with each other. So children do not, in my view, seal the deal on a relationship. My commitment to my marriage is not conditional on whether I have children, just as my commitment to my children is not conditional on whether I am married.
4. Several of your books feature couples who marry before the novel starts, or early in the story, and have to work through their own failings in order to make the marriage succeed. Why is that?
A person’s character is forged during times of adversity, so is the character of a relationship. It is the choices the H/H make when it might be easier to walk away, to not apologize and not deal with the baggage, that determine whether they can forge a stronger bond or whether that initial attraction will whittle to nothing over time.
5. I’m so excited that you have a few new books coming out this year! Tell us about your new series.
The Fitzhugh Trilogy starts with BEGUILING THE BEAUTY in May, continues with RAVISHING THE HEIRESS in July, and concludes with TEMPTING THE BRIDE in October. (I’ve also a novella planned, but am not sure the exact release date yet—it will be in the anthology Midnight Scandals with Courtney Milan and Carolyn Jewel.)
The books feature the Fitzhugh siblings–Venetia, Fitz, and Helena–and begin in Cambridge, Massachusetts of all places, ostensibly because Helena is there to write an article about the first graduating class of Radcliffe College whose degrees will be emblazoned with not only the signature of the president of their college, but the signature of the president of Harvard University. In truth Helena has been whisked far away from England to put some distance between her and a gentleman she ought not be seeing.
Toward the end of their stay in Cambridge, Massachusetts, twice-widowed Venetia, who is acknowledged to be the great beauty of her day, drags Helena to a lecture by Christian de Montfort, the Duke of Lexington, a famed naturalist—evolutionary biologist by today’s terminology—in the hope that she might be able to introduce Helena to the young, rich, eligible duke.
During the lecture, when asked about the evolutionary significance of beauty, to illustrate his point that the pull of beauty often overrides the principles of civilization, Lexington enumerates the sins of a great society beauty.
Though he never mentions her name, Venetia recognizes a highly distorted version of herself. This is a knife in the heart to her, as the duke drags up painful memories that she has been trying to bury for many years.
However, Venetia has no idea that the duke has been in love with her ever since one glimpse of her ten years ago, despite the fact that he believes her to be quite the rotten egg. So she plots revenge in the form of seduction aboard the ocean liner Rhodesia. The duke, who’s been aching to forget the beautiful Venetia, falls head over heels in love with a mysteriously veiled fellow passenger who calls herself Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg.
And of course, you can only maintain a deception for so long and all hell will soon break loose… 🙂
Sherry’s giving away a copy of Beguiling the Beauty to one person who leaves a comment here. I’ll choose a random winner on Tuesday May 8th!