Six years after being jilted without a word of explanation, Julia Rotherham finds Lucius Wolversley standing before her once again--unexpected, unannounced, unwelcome. With her heart still hurting and, more importantly, her pride, Julia must chaperone her younger sister, fend off fortune hunters, orchestrate a fake engagement, and halt an elopement--all whilst keeping the man who jilted her at arm's length. But what Julia doesn't know is that this time, the Earl has no intention of disappearing, and this time, he has more than an explanation to offer....
Even though Julia Rotherham gets a male friend to pretend to be engaged to her in order to get back at Lucius Wolversley, who 'cried off' their engagement six years previously, and it apparently does hurt him, he gets off far easier than would most men in similar situations today. But that goes to the heart of the matter of why, in my opinion, many people love books set in Regency period England.
People knew what manners and honor meant. The extremes to which 'society' went seem stilted at times, such as when Julia and Lucius are found together alone (gasp!) in a private room at a debutante ball, and seem odd today. The other end of that spectrum, where we are now, a couple would have to be found in flagrante in the school gym during prom for people to raise an eyebrow, is likewise undesirable. There has got to be a happy medium.
I love the continuity of the covers between The Unexpected Earl and Ms. Keyworth's novel, The Widow's Redeemer. The both have a flowered background, and a woman's profile in front of a period scene picture. In a way, it prepares a reader for the style and prose found within the covers.
While it is early to add Ms. Keyworth to the list of writers of classic Regency fiction (think Austen and Shelley), she may well be headed in that direction someday. Her grasp of the style and time period is admirable. One of my favorite things about The Unexpected Earl was the portrayal of Lucius (Earl Wolversley) - yes, he had a reputation for betrayal, with a dash of mystery and maybe even danger, but he turns out to have more honor than some of the 'cream of society'.
For fans of Regency fiction, Ms. Keyworth is an author to watch.
Philippa has always written stories and believes that, since it is one of her loves and passions, she always will. In her early writing career, she dabbled in a variety of genres, but it was the encouragement of a friend to watch a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that began her love affair with the British Regency. Since then, she has watched every Regency film and TV series she could get her hands on and become well acquainted with Georgette Heyer’s novels which gave her the inspiration to write her own.
Both as a reader and a writer, Philippa believes it is important to escape into a world you yourself would want to live in. This is why she writes stories that will draw you into the characters’ joys and heartaches in a world apart from our own. Her debut novel, The Widow’s Redeemer (Madison Street Publishing, 2012), is a traditional Regency romance bringing to life the romance between a young widow with an indomitable spirit and a wealthy viscount with an unsavory reputation. The novel has been received well by readers and reviewers who have praised the heartfelt story and admirable characters. Her second novel, The Unexpected Earl (Madison Street Publishing, 2014), explores another romance in the Regency era when an impetuous young woman has her life turned upside down by the reappearance of the earl who jilted her six years ago.
So, what are you waiting for? Get swept away into another time with characters you will learn to love, and experience the British Regency like never before.
- Do you still have any of your early (childhood) writing notebooks?
Oh, yes! I have loads of them, and all the scraps and sheets of paper I could find to write on when I was younger. They are currently residing in an old travelling trunk my husband and I got from a local junk shop. I repapered the inside of the trunk with old maps a little while ago and took the opportunity to looks at my old stories and manuscripts. Quite a few of them migrated from ‘stories that shall never see the light of day’ files to my ‘current projects file’…so that was rather exciting…
- Why do you prefer the British Regency period for your writing?
If I were being facetious, I would say that it’s the buckskin breeches and well-cut coats of the Regency gentlemen that interest me, but if I’m feeling more serious I would ask, how can a period that bridges the gap between old traditions and the exciting idealism of the future not be fascinating? When Britain teetered between the aristocratic and agriculturally-led past and the exciting, innovation-led future? When it was absorbing all the intellectual thought of the Enlightenment and trying, albeit not always successfully, to put it into practice?
It’s so different a period from the one we live in now, and perhaps that’s why it’s so intriguing to writers and readers alike. And, in spite of all my best efforts at trying to create a realistic portrayal of the period, I can’t help myself but make it a little romantic. It’s a period in which intelligent conversation as well as a fine face were valued in a lady. In which word-sparring was an art and male dress was too. Where honor was something taken seriously and the courting of a lady didn’t take place at McDonald’s ☺
I mean, how can you not like this period?
- What is the easiest part of writing for you?
Ooo, a toughie. Writing is not exactly easy. It requires quite a lot of determination, especially for those writers who do it alongside day-jobs, etc.
I guess, the easiest part of writing for me is the first part, when I get an idea for a scene that I can’t get out of my head and just want to scrawl it on anything near me, my hand if necessary, in order to get it down.
- What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Hmm, this is two-fold.
First, emotionally, the hardest part is when I get the first round of edits back from my publisher. My editor is really great. I feel she really knows my writing and what I’m trying to get across in any particular scene, but whenever I get those first set of enormous edits back (my drafts are notorious for bad grammar) I usually have a minor meltdown and perhaps shed a few tears. This isn’t because those edits aren’t completely needed and very insightful, it’s just because I can see the huge amount of work before me, and in my rather prideful way, I just can’t imagine why changes need to be made to my…masterpiece…ha!
Of course, when I go away for a little break, even if it’s five minutes to make a cup of coffee, and then come back to those edits, I can cope and get on with making those changes which will improve the manuscript and if not make it a masterpiece, at least make it readable!
Second, doing the edits is hard work practically. Fitting in whopping chunks of time to sit and stare at a screen for 8-plus hours a day is difficult, not to mention tiring. The worst is realizing you’ve got to change something throughout a novel i.e. a personality trait which doesn’t fit with that particular character anymore.
But it all comes together beautifully with an improved manuscript ☺
- If "The Unexpected Earl" was made into a film, who would you like to see playing the characters?
Oh, this is such fun to decide. What author doesn’t have a little daydream about this?
I think for Julia I would have to have someone fiery and headstrong, perhaps Gemma Arterton.
And for Wolversley I would love a Tom Hardy perhaps? But I’m not settled on this one. I haven’t thought – ‘oh, that’s him!’ – when watching TV yet. I would need someone with the right amount of brooding and a sense of humor. Maybe a Toby Stephens…ever since the Jane Eyre TV adaptation I’ve loved him.
For Highsmith I would have James Purefoy – he has the right amount of charm.
And Courtenay would have to be a younger Simon Callow – I couldn’t find anyone else who could give that extra bit of flare to Courtenay’s character. Callow could probably do it very well.
Georgia King would make a brilliantly spiteful Miss Merriweather, and Annabelle Rotherham would be done justice by Romola Garai I feel.
For Julia’s father I feel the cheeky Richard Briers from one of my favorite programs, The Good Life, would be rather delightful, and maybe Gemma Jones for Julia’s mother.
Oh yes, I clearly haven’t thought about this very much…
- If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go (and why)?
Scotland. Yes, I would go there if I had the chance to go anywhere. It’s the wildness of the landscape that really appeals to me.
- If you could visit any place in time, where (when?) would you go and why?
Oh, this is so unfair! There are so many places I would want to go. Any time during the medieval period when the great cathedrals were under construction. May 1660 in London when Charles II was restored amid wild celebrations. 1789 to Paris at the Fall of the Bastille. 1815 to the battlefield of Waterloo to see Wellington command. An assembly at Almack’s. The Pump Room in Bath to take the waters during the morning gossiping hour. A private house party at Petworth House or Chatsworth…the list goes on…
- How do your beliefs affect your work?
This is an interesting one, and something I have never been asked in an interview before. I am a born again Christian and go to what would be considered something between a charismatic and evangelical church. So, we love vibrant worship, praying and helping our local communities.
I genuinely love writing, and genuinely love good love stories. The obvious way my beliefs affect my writing is in that I believe you do not always need to write explicit love scenes in order to convey the closeness between the characters—just look at Jane Eyre!
- Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Oh, where indeed? I don’t know, life has a funny way of turning all your well-laid plans upside down.
I’d like to think I would have had several more historical romances published, hopefully in different eras as well as the British Regency. I’d also like to have pursued publishing for some fantasy novels I’ve written.
Aside from that, maybe I’ll have kids by then. I’ll definitely have graduated from my history degree. I just want to keep enjoying life!
- How did you make the leap from horses to history?
Hahaha! This is a funny one. My job history reads like a patchwork quilt of different careers.
I started training to be a horse-riding instructor at a university and then stopped the course as it wasn’t what I was looking for. After that I moved back home and did an apprenticeship with horses instead and completed the exams I needed before starting out on my own.
Then, as always seems to happen, life did its funny, ‘I’m going to mess up your plans’ thing, and I fell in love. I got married just over a year later and upped-sticks and moved without a job to go to. This led to a bit of hop skipping around, I worked in a shop, and then, an online marketing company asked me to do copywriting for them because a friend had told them I wrote stories.
All this while I was writing like mad thinking, if I can’t get a job with horses maybe I can make money from writing. This is when my writing really went from hobby to something I avidly pursued. I learnt all about publishing from reading online, had help from my friend M.M. Bennetts, and edited properly for the first time.
After a couple of years doing online marketing and copywriting, which paid the bills but didn’t thrill me, I prayed about it and chatted to my husband and decided I wanted to re-train. Ultimately, I only ever had two career ideas in mind: horses or history. And after deciding not to return to horses full-time I chose to study history.
It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made, I’m loving learning and it’s increasing my knowledge which helps with my books. So there you have it, my employment life in a nutshell!
Thanks so much for the interview, Ms. Keyworth! I loved reading your answers! I'm with you on the Scotland answer and The Good Life. And if I may, I say, "Amen," to your answer to #8.
(Disclosure: I received an e-copy of The Unexpected Earl from the author and publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my unbiased review.)