14 February 2010

Guest Author: Laurel McKee

After a slight technical glitch, I'm posting the correct interview. Yay!

This week we're welcoming the return of Amanda McCabe, writing as Laurel McKee, as she celebrates the release of COUNTESS OF SCANDAL, out now from Grand Central.

Eliza Blacknall and Will Denton were childhood sweethearts, growing up on neighboring estates in beautiful County Kildare. But adulthood finds them on opposite sides of the monumental and violent struggle of 1798, as Eliza supports the United Irish in their quest for independence, and Will is a major in the British Army, sworn to uphold the Crown. The passion for each other burns hotter than ever—but can it survive as their world crumbles around them?

"McKee sets the stage for a romantic adventure that captures the spirit of Ireland and a pair of star-crossed lovers to perfection" -- RT Book Reviews

"COUNTESS OF SCANDAL combines a passionate romance with a nail-biting plot. The author's research shines through to make the era come alive, as well as her characters. An exciting tale out of the common mold" -- Romance Reviews Today

"This book has rarely used and well-drawn setting, good characters, and so much more working in its favor. I absolutely loved reading this one!" -- All About Romance

"McKee's intriguingly nuanced characters and deliciously subtle sense of humor provide the ideal counterpoint to the perfectly executed historical setting that gives COUNTESS OF SCANDAL its refreshingly different literary flavor" -- Booklist



First, I have to say thank you so much for having me back at Unusual Historicals! I'm obviously a huge fan of the "unusual" in historical romances, and this is such a fabulous source for finding out where to find them.

As for COUNTESS OF SCANDAL, it's my 'debut' as Laurel McKee (two different publishers equals two different names, though hopefully no identity crisis!) and I'm so excited about it. It's the first of the "Daughters of Erin" trilogy about the three Blacknall sisters, set in late Georgian/early Regency Ireland. Eliza Blacknall and Will Denton were childhood sweethearts, separated when Will joined the Army and Eliza married her family's choice for her. Now it's a few years later--1798, a fateful year in Ireland, and they're reunited on the eve of the Uprising. He's still a British officer, and she's an ardent supporter of the United Irishmen, but their old feelings for each other are still there, stronger than ever.

(The chaos of a rebellion might not be the number one setting people think of for a romance! But I found it had a lot of potential for danger and passion, and a chance for Eliza and Will to discover truths about themselves, their love, and the world around them. It was fun to work with a happier-ending Romeo and Juliet-ish story! Plus at the beginning I got to put in the great clothes and glamorous settings I love. Georgian Dublin was a very glamorous and party-loving place!)

Where did you get the idea for these stories?

My own family background is Irish, and I've wanted to do a book set there for a long time! It just took me a while to find the right characters and story. Ireland is such a gorgeous country, full of dramatic history people with passionate characters, and it seems ripe for romantic stories. I remembered a visit I made years ago to the beautiful Georgian estate Castletown, which was owned by Lady Louisa Conolly, one of the famous Lennox sisters, who made the house her life's work.

The guides had a trove of fascinating stories about Irish life in the late eighteenth century! I also read Stella Tillyard's fascinating book about the Lennox sisters, Aristocrats (and saw the lavish Masterpiece Theater adaptation), and that was the original inspiration--strong women in Georgian Ireland!

What kind of research did you do for the book?

I love doing research! That is one of the most fun parts of writing. I would have happily spent my whole life living in a library as the world's oldest permanent graduate student. Sometimes it's hard to stop researching and start writing. I started with some books I already had on the shelf, like Aristocrats and Tillyard's Rebel Lord, a biography of Edward Fitzgerald (son of another Lennox sister, the Duchess of Leinster, and a leader of the United Irishmen); Thomas Pakenham's The Year of Liberty; Thomas Bartlett's The 1798 Rebellion: An Illustrated History; and an old book I once found in an antique store, Mrs. Thomas Concannon's Women of '98. Then I expanded to the Internet and local university libraries and looked up maps, info on military uniforms and regiments, detailed sites in Ireland (since I sadly couldn't take a trip there right now!). It was lots of fun.

What's "unusual" about the book?

I think the setting is pretty unusual! I'm not sure I've ever read a Georgian Ireland romance (which is one reason I set out to write one), though my friend Michelle Willingham writes some fabulous Medieval Irish books. I also really enjoyed using the setting and events to create the conflict for the characters. That made my job a lot easier!

What's next for you?

DUCHESS OF SIN will be out from Grand Central Publishing in December 2010! It's Anna Blacknall's story, where she meets again with the Irish Duke of Adair amid the chaos of the Act of Union in 1800. It's also set against a Christmas background, and I had fun researching the holiday--the Irish really knew how to party at Christmas, LOL! (LADY OF SEDUCTION , Caroline Blacknall's book, will be out in 2011)

As Amanda McCabe, I have a Regency-set trilogy coming out in April, May, and June, "The Muses of Mayfair" (Book one is TO CATCH A ROGUE). I love this series, which is set around another passion of mine--archaeology and antiquities collecting! There will also be a Harlequin Undone short story to kick off the series in March, TO BED A LIBERTINE, where a real Greek Muse comes to Regency London and wreaks some havoc.


Thanks, Amanda, for stopping by!

We're giving away COUNTESS OF SCANDAL to a lucky commenter. Maybe you'd like to let us know whether you find Ireland an unusual setting for romance? What is it about Ireland that fascinates you? I'll draw one random name next Sunday. Void where prohibited. Best of luck!


Chelsea B. said...

The books sound fantastic! And such pretty covers!
I think any setting is perfect for romance :-)

Bcteagirl said...

I would love a chance to read COUNTESS OF SCANDAL!

And I don't think Ireland or England are unusual settings for romance... romance can happen anywhere! :)

teagirl1 at telus dot net

Alison said...

I think COuntess of Scandal would be a wonderful read (I already have 'The Winter Queen'). and Ireland is such a beautiful setting, with strong emotions running through it over how it's governed, even now.

Virginia C said...

I think Ireland is a wonderfully dramatic and beautiful setting for a work of romantic fiction. There is nothing milquetoast about the Emerald Isle! Fairies, folklore, fine whiskey and crystal, and handsome "Black Irish"! Fiery redheads, lyrical and rhythmic music, and fast flying feet! Politically turbulent, beautiful beyond words, Ireland always intrigues!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Carrie Lofty said...

I've now posted the correct interview with Amanda/Laurel. Take a look. Apologies for the confusion!

penney said...

I love the blog today thanks for beiong here, your book sounds good I love the dress she's wearing! I am looking forward to Dec for the Anna Blacknall's story, Love these kind of books.

Stacy said...

I don't think Ireland is an unusual setting, I think i could be very romantic! I am part irish myself and i dream of going there! It's on my bucket list ha ha


ScorpJen1121 said...

This looks great! I also love a good story set in Ireland, there aren't a ton of them in the historical romance setting it seems. Hope I get a chance to read this!

JAD said...

Would love to win this! seems like you've got some great things going on!

limecello said...

Hi Laurel - your book sounds wonderful! I absolutely adore the friends to lovers stories. And while I don't think Ireland itself is an unusual setting (maybe I read unusual books?) I think the premise behind your book is unique. It seems a number of authors skate by the historical conflicts.
What do I love about Ireland? I would love to go there, never have been. It's a beautiful country, with great culture, and a lot of history and mythology. <3

Tili S. said...

It's a little sad that Ireland qualifies as "unusual" for a historical romance, given how close it is (globally speaking) to England. But I still think this sounds like a really interesting book!

Scorpio M. said...

One of my most favorite historical novels is Megan McKinney's, THE GROUND SHE WALKS UPON and that takes place in Ireland. I too am a bit surprised that Ireland would be considered unusual.

Barbara E. said...

I think setting a romance in Ireland is wonderful - there is such a fantastic history there, with a lot of conflict, and drama. Countess of Scandal sounds like a great book, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Maureen said...

I've never been to Ireland but any picutres I've seen are gorgeous. I think it's nice that the story is set in a different place and time.

Virginia said...

I love books set in Ireland! I have always dream of visiting there! It just seems like it would be such a romantic place!


Meljprincess said...

Ooh, the castles, the beautiful green grass, and the men. That's what fascinates me!!

Mel K.
Meljprincess AT aol DOT com