I have a very special post today in collaboration with Shehanne Moore about her latest novel, Splendor. It includes a review and an interview with Ms. Moore and her hamster friends and even the Earl of Stillmore himself.
Carolee Croft/ First, the review:
She’s an honorary member in the London jewel thieves’ guild known as the Starkadder Sisterhood, but not a thief herself. In fact, she wants to help the poor, marry her sweetheart Gabriel and buy him a ministry.
Gabriel, as it turns out, is no sweetheart at all. But then neither is the Earl of Stillmore, a man who calls his servant an “overstuffed seal”. He reserves even better names for Splendor. Mostly he calls her names in his head, but sometimes he does so to her face… usually when she’s being a brat, which is quite often.
While Gabe shows his cowardly and whiny nature, the earl drives Splendor up the wall by “training” her to win a chess tournament even though she is obviously better than him at the game.
With shades of Shakesperean cross-dressing comedy and scenes that reminded me of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Confessions of a Shopaholic as Splendor by turns participates in a men’s chess tournament and then tries to pose as an aristocrat at high society balls, this novel had me laughing out loud throughout. It was also extremely touching when I realized how much these two have suffered for love (and their own stubbornness).
I would highly recommend Splendor as a fast-paced, funny and romantic read!
Now I have some questions for Shehanne Moore (and hamsters):
Carolee. How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
Shey. Okay dudes can we stop this and leave Hamster Dickens out of this.
Shey. What I meant to say. Now then Carolee, first of all let me thank you for asking me to your fabulous blog. I hope all your own writing is doing well. So looking forward to reading your next book. I have had the basic first scene of this novel a long time. Before I had anything published in fact. I don’t play chess myself but in Regency times it was so popular there were clubs in most of the cities and matches between them too. Obviously the period was very constraining for women. So I had this idea of a woman cross dressing to enter a competition but running into trouble straight off and being challenged to a duel by the best shot in London. That was it. At that time I was trying to break into romance writing and sticking to the ‘sort of’ formula. The characters were pretty limp wristed. The heroine was a lady who had fallen on hard times. Her fiancé was a clergyman. The hero was a very decent sort really. No wonder the first chapter yawned on the shelf for years while I wrote four other books.
Carolee… What is it about Georgian England that appeals to you?
Shey. Right dudes, can we stop it. I suppose that it’s where a lot of books are set. I have to say though there is nothing that appeals to me. It was a very different world from this one so I might say I set books there because I want to be bad to my heroines. Oh, ok, it is quite nice to set a book there and try and create characters who will flout convention in an acceptable way. I know that sounds sort of contrary but I mean I hope I make them tough enough to break the rules, to mold their world, as far as that is possible because of the kind of characters they are.
Carolee. Do you have an actor in mind to play Earl Stillmore or Lady Splendor?
Shey. We always have muses don’t we? I do anyway even for the smallest character. So yes. Aidan Turner for Stillmore. He has the right glowering impatience. And Drew Barrymore for Splendor.
Carolee. Good choice! He was great in Poldark.
The Starkadder Sisterhood series has many fine ladies in it, Ruby being one of my favorites just because I think of her as a very unlikely romance heroine. How many more novels are you planning in the series, and will Ruby get her own love story?
Shey. You know she is so unlikely as you can see from this extract from Loving Lady Lazuli…..
‘“Get ’im, Pearl!”
Dear God, while that would be very nice, if Cass didn’t do something, blood would be spilled. His. Of course it would be his own fault. But it would also be hers if she had to bury him in her herb garden. Besides she was unsure about Barron. Where he would stand on the matter of assistance. A broom handle may have been sawing his windpipe, but it did not mean he was one of them. What might be around the county tomorrow about her?
“Kill ’im! Toffee-nosed snout.”
Ruby sprung and Devorlane Hawley did not hit her back. Cass’s throat constricted, the noise that came from the back of it not one she would usually make. Men, certainly those of her acquaintance, would never do such a thing. Did or did her own back not bear witness to that fact? What Starkadder had done to her that day. And not just that day. Every day she’d refused to steal.
Of course, a corpse would make things inconvenient for her. Who would have thought he’d have retaliated like this, a powerful man like him, who had no fear of arrest, though? Plainly not herself or she’d never have opened her mouth. Let alone row with him over a kiss, a kiss she gave him so she could worm off the hook, a kiss which would be a complete waste if she didn’t stop this unraveling further, if they had to flee the county.
“Ruby. Ruby—no. No.”
“Get orf of me, Cass.” Ruby tried wrenching the handle free—no doubt because her fists weren’t good enough. “I knows whot I’m doin’. Stickin’ it ‘round ‘ere like ‘e owns the bleedin’ place. Smarmy—”
“’E thinks ‘e knows. ‘E don’t know jack-shit. ‘E—”
Pearl who was her sidekick in Lazuli is quite unlikely too, I quite fancy having a go and giving each their own story. I have ideas for Diamond, Jade and Amber. So that’s definitely another three. But I am playing with one for Pearl and it would be an awful shame to leave her out. In fact, an idea I have been keeping for Emerald might well work better with Ruby. As you say she is so unlikely…..
Carolee. And for the hamsters… who was your favourite character in Splendor?
Carolee. I also have some questions for the hero of this novel, the Earl of Stillmore:
Carolee . Your first wife broke your heart. Why couldn’t you just get over it?
Splendor: Because he doesn’t like to lose. Not even a dud farthing.
Stillmore: I did get over it. I shot lots of people I challenged to duels. I drank. I went with women. What was that if not getting over it? Well?
Splendor : Being afraid of falling again, Your Grace.
Carolee : Do you actually enjoy playing chess, or did you join the chess tournament just to foil your former mistress and her fiance?
Stillmore. Me? Do that? Me? That is the kind of thing someone else would do. It is the kind of thing you would never see me doing. If you were not a woman, I would call you out for that but I would never call out a woman.
Splendor: Dearest, aren’t you forgetting something? You know….pistols at dawn.
Stillmore: Well, what I mean is… YOU were dressed as a man. How was I to know you were a woman?
Splendor : Well….
Stillmore : Oh very well, the answer is no. Obviously I am an excellent chess player. Indeed if Splendor had taken my advice, freely offered she would never have lost that ten thousand pounds. As for Babs Langley, had she not put me off my game, snapping the lid on that bracelet I bought her before the chess tournament, I’d have won it. I can’t think what else she was expecting when I presented her with that trinket box.
Carolee You famously hate marriage, indeed you said-
Stillmore: Not me.
Stillmore : I see. Well. It is a loathsome, hackneyed institution. Suitable only for those whose picnic is several sandwiches short. I just didn’t know I was famous about it.
Carolee. But maybe with the right partner it wouldn’t be so bad. Do you think you would like to marry Carolee Croft? 😉
Splendor : Dearest, do be polite. In fact…..
Stillmore : Well, I might. Yes. I wouldn’t like you to think that is why my cravat has just got tight and I am sweating beneath it. But the thing is I haven’t married Splendor. I mean officially and I don’t know she’d be pleased. She might rip this blog up as she did that cheque for ten thousand pounds if I said, ‘But of course.’ So really, truly, although I could, whether I should is another matter. Because of her you understand. Nothing else.
Carolee :Thank you so much, Shey, for joining me with your hamsters and your characters, even if some of them refuse to get married (ahem).
Moore Delivers Smexy
Brittany Carter must choose either to live in the present or in 1765. She cannot have both. In her present, she is finally starting to reach her goals of fame, success and money. Her romance novels are bestsellers! But success does come at a price. And that price is Mitchell Killgower.
Drop dead gorgeous and with a heart to boot. The man of her dreams, the love of her life, THE ONE she’s been waiting for her entire life.
But can she trust him?
Does she want to live in 1765 with all its inconveniences which she takes for granted in the present?
Is she willing to give up fame, success and money?
Moore is delightfully good at historical romances. With wit and intelligence she takes the reader back to Georgian England where bad-boy Mitchell is in the midst of an inheritance row when Brittany Carter literally drops into his life.
With the romance between Brittany and Mitchell as veneer, Shehanne Moore smoothly makes her way through the power struggles between men and women – using as backdrop a feisty, strong protagonist with present day relationship values trying to apply them to the relationship values of a man living in 1765.
One of Buddha’s famous quotes is
Happiness is a journey not a destination.
The journey to arrive at the ending of The Writer and The Rake is complex, entertaining, amusing, reflective, smexy and made me happy as well.
The Writer and the Rake is the latest in Shehanne Moore’s Time Mutant series.