07 April 2008

Guest Blogger: Amanda McCabe

I've arrived back from my weekend in Chicago to find myself behind in almost all respects. Forgive the lateness of our Sunday promos and help me welcome author Amanda McCabe! Her newest release, A Sinful Alliance, is available now from Harlequin.


A Sinful Alliance by Amanda McCabe
The baseborn daughter of a courtesan and a lord, Marguerite was forced to fend for herself in the dangerous world of the French nobility--as the king's most feared spy.

Sent to the court of King Henry of England, Marguerite found polite words and flattery concealed dark passions. Her only friend was her old enemy, the sensually tempting Nicolai Ostrovsky. And their sinful alliance seemed set to turn her from old loyalties to new desires!

"The perilous action and the elegance of the writing…allowed me to thoroughly enjoy and unusual and fascinating story of an intriguing era." –Romance Reviews Today

Tell us about A Sinful Alliance!

Amanda McCabeI am so very excited about this book! Nicolai was the hero's best friend in my previous book, A Notorious Woman, set in Renaissance Venice. As so often happens with these pesky secondary characters, I hadn't actually intended to write a whole book for him (though he was intriguing--and a hottie!). But I really fell for him, and I found a very beautiful, but also troubled and lonely, heroine who really needed him--Marguerite Dumas, a French spy.

Trouble was, she once tried to kill him. Bit of a rocky start there. They meet up again a few months after this little incident at the court of Henry VIII at Greenwich, still on opposite sides of political alliances. This event was a true historical event, a meeting in early 1527 between King Henry and a French delegation seeking a marriage between Princess Mary and King Francois's younger son. This weeks-long meeting was filled with lavish banquets, balls, jousts, plays and masques. Henry was newly infatuated with Anne Boleyn, and England's old alliance with Spain was faltering due to Queen Katherine of Aragon's loss of influence. I find the contrast of such splendor and luxury with such danger fascinating. So, it all made the perfect setting for an illicit, dangerous affair! Plus great clothes, LOL.

Did you come across anything new or unusual while researching A Sinful Alliance?

A ton! I finally had to force myself to stop researching and start writing. I've loved this period ever since I saw the old movie Anne of the Thousand Days on TV as a child. I researched Greenwich and Fontainebleau Palace, Tudor fashions and food, dances, card games. (Some of the favorite dances of the time were the pavane and galliard, and also the new trend from Italy, the passamezzo; the card games included mumchance, click-clack, and primero).

I tend to get carried away blathering about all the factoids I found! I'll be sharing more on my blog, Risky Regencies, if you're interested. And a few of the great resources I found are Alison Weir's Henry VIII: The King and His Court; PW Dixon's Excavations at Greenwich Palace, 1970-1971; FG Emmison's Tudor Food and Pastimes; Neville Williams's Henry VIII and His Court; and Alison Sim's Food and Feast in Tudor England.

Recreating this world as a backdrop where Nicolai and Marguerite had to face danger, both in the ever-shifting factions around them and within their own hearts. A place of splendor, but also danger and deceit. (Not to mention stinkiness--Henry had decreed that the only dogs allowed in the palace were ladies' lap dogs, but it still must have smelled atrocious, with all those hundreds of people and only primitive jakes for toilets!). I don't think I've ever enjoyed writing a book quite so much. And, I have to admit, I even cried a bit when I wrote the epilogue, which has never happened before!!!

What’s next for you?

I'm finishing work now on the third in my "Renaissance trilogy"! It features Balthazar Grattiano, who plays a part in the denouement of A Sinful Alliance. He's now a ship's captain the Caribbean, and encounters a woman from his past in a Santo Domingo tavern.

I'll also have a Regency series out next year, "The Muses of Mayfair," featuring the three daughters of a scholar of ancient Greece. The first book, To Catch a Rogue, is already available in the UK (or through Amazon UK!). And I just sold a series to Grand Central Publishing! "The Daughters of Ireland" is about an Anglo-Irish family and the danger and love they find around the events of the 1798 Rebellion. Now that I look at all this, I feel a little nervous about all the work!!! But I can't wait for the research, LOL.

What are some of the challenges and rewards of writing different settings? Are there any other time periods you'd like to explore?

The challenge is to keep from getting confused! I always have to ask myself "Is this really a factoid from Tudor England? Or Regency Ireland?" And I can't indulge my insane love of period slang as much as I would like! But the rewards are that I never get bored, and I don't "burn out" on story ideas.

As for other periods, I'm working in my spare time (spare time? What is this??) on a historical fiction story set in 18th century France. And I have an idea for a romance set in 17th century Holland, which I'm not sure anyone would go for...

Thank you so much for inviting me to this blog! It's wonderful for those of us who have a love of unusual settings and time periods to have a place to gather.


To win a signed copy of A Sinful Alliance, leave a comment or question. The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday. Be sure to check back next week to find out who has won!