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!