I am delighted to welcome to Bookish Jottings historical romance author Eva Shepherd for a chat about Victorian England, dashing heroes and the appeal of the 19th Century!
Thank you so much for joining me here at Bookish Jottings, Eva. It’s lovely to have you here. Could you please start by telling me something about yourself and the books you write?
Hi, it’s lovely to be here. I write historical romances set in late Victorian England. My debut book with Harlequin-Mills & Boon, Beguiling the Duke, came out in August last year, and my latest book, Awakening the Duchess is released this month.
What can I say about myself? I live in Christchurch, a beautiful, small city in the South Island of New Zealand. I’ve worked as a journalist, researcher, and as an advertising copywriter, but for many years have harboured a secret fantasy of becoming a romance writer. Now that my fantasy has become a reality, I still can’t quite believe it, and some days think I’ve started living someone else’s life. I spend most of my day immersed in the world of horse drawn carriages, society balls and beautiful gowns, but when I’m not writing I love going to the beach, I live fifteen minutes-drive from the sea, and in winter I try and go skiing as often as possible, I’m two-hours drive from the nearest ski field.
What drew you to writing historical romance?
I’ve always been interested in history. I did a degree in history and spend more time than I should glued to the history channel. I also love romance novels. They provide a wonderful means of escape and I’ve never been able to resist a happy ending. Combining the two, history and romance, is in my view, the definition of perfection.
What do you think is so fascinating about the 19th Century? And why do you think that this setting lends itself so well to historical romance?
The 19th century was a time of enormous change, particularly for women. By the late 19th century women were demanding the vote, they were moving into various trades and professions, and taking an active role in social reform. For a writer this provides a wealth of possible story lines to explore.
What kind of research do you do for your books?
I read everything I can get hold of set in the period I’m writing about, both non-fiction and fiction. I watch countless TV programmes and YouTube videos, particularly those with an emphasis on the small details, such as how women got dressed, how food was prepared, and the etiquette rules for different occasions. Even the smallest detail is helpful for getting a feel for the period, and its lots of fun as well.
Your latest novel, Awakening The Duchess, was recently published. What is the book about?
It’s a marriage of convenience story between Arabella, an American heiress, and, Oliver, a British duke. Neither want to marry, but Arabella’s social-climbing father is determined to secure a title for his only daughter, so he forces her into a marriage with a notorious rake. Arabella is determined it will be a marriage in name only, but, not surprisingly, finds resisting the rake’s charms something of a challenge.
What did you enjoy most about writing Awakening the Duchess?
Along with being an heiress, Arabella is also an aspiring actress, so it was a lot of fun reading and writing about the late Victorian theatre. The theatre was also experiencing a lot of changes at that time. Actresses had once been seen as little more than prostitutes, but by the late 19th century they were starting to get the respect they deserved. I also enjoyed doing research on the so-called American Princesses, American women who married into the British aristocracy. They were often high-spirited, well-educated and independent young women, and they really shook up the stuffy British Society.
Who is your favourite character in the book?
As much as I like Arabella, I have to say Oliver is my favourite character. I love his devil-may-care attitude and sense of fun. Plus, despite being a rake, he is essentially a moral man who cares about those around him and is determined that no one is ever hurt by his actions. For that reason, and because he is also fabulously handsome and charming, Arabella has a lot of trouble resisting him.
How would you describe Awakening the Duchess in a single sentence?
A marriage of convenience between two people who believe they have only one thing in common, they do not want to marry anyone, ever.
Who are your favourite authors?
That’s a difficult question. There are so many wonderful writers whose work I love, and I keep discovering new authors all the time. Limiting it to just a few of my favourite historical romance writers I’d have to say Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Lorraine Heath, Joanna Shupe, and Sarah MacLean and I’ve recently discovered the regency romances of MC Beaton, which I’m thoroughly enjoying.
What’s next for Eva Shepherd?
I recently finished Aspirations of a Lady’s Maid, which features Nellie Regan, the lady’s maid in Beguiling the Duke and Awakening the Duchess. That is due to be released in July. At the moment I’m working on a book featuring Charlotte FitzRoy, who is the sister of the hero in Beguiling the Duke. That’s due out in August. Then I’ll be starting a new series. It’s still in the draft stage, but I’m thinking it will be about three sisters, a wallflower, a beauty, and the bookish youngest sister.
Awakening the Duchess might only be Eva Shepherd’s second historical romance, but this talented writer already writes like a pro. Engaging, emotional and so enjoyable readers will struggle to put the book down, Awakening the Duchess is a stellar Victorian historical romance from a terrific new voice in the genre.
American heiress Arabella van Haven has always had a passion for the theatre and a yearning for the stage. Unlike other women in society born to great wealth and privilege, Arabella does not spend her days shopping or idling her time away, but instead chooses to invest all of her time, energies and efforts into honing her craft, perfecting her technique and being the best actress she can possibly be – much to her father’s chagrin who would rather his daughter find herself a titled gentleman than waste her life performing on the stage. For Arabella, her freedom and independence mean the world to her. She has no interest in marriage and has no desire whatsoever to find herself a handsome aristocrat – until Oliver Huntsbury, Duke of Somerfield, barges into her dressing room and proceeds to kiss her passionately in front of her father and proclaims to be her fiancé!
Handsome, charismatic and an expert seducer, Oliver has had women throwing themselves at him for as far back as he can remember. Although the good-looking aristocrat has no qualms about sharing his bed, his heart is off limits and he has absolutely no intention of finding himself a bride. With a keen eye for the opposite sex, Oliver makes it clear from the off that he is just looking for fun and he has no interest in a meaningful relationship which is why he sticks to bedding married women bored with their husbands and worldly widows. Unfortunately for Oliver, one of his lovers’ husbands has found out that he has been having an affair with his wife and is now baying for his blood! Barging into the backstage of a theatre and claiming a kiss from an actress he has never met before is the only option available to him with a cuckolded husband screaming blue murder, but little does Oliver realise when he claims a kiss from Arabella that he is in far deeper trouble than he had ever imagined…
Finding themselves blackmailed into marriage was not what Oliver and Arabella had in mind when they pretended to be engaged, however, finding themselves with no other option available to them, it looks like the two of them will have to surrender their precious freedom and independence. Still, the two of them might have been forced into matrimony, but no sooner is the ink dry on their certificate that they agree to lead separate lives. Theirs was supposed to be a marriage of convenience, however, there is nothing convenient about the attraction that sizzles between the two of them.
As desire consumes and overwhelms them, Arabella and Oliver find themselves in danger of losing their hearts to one another. But do they have the courage to admit how they truly feel? Or will pride and fear end up costing them this unexpected chance of happiness?
Readers of historical romance need to add Eva Shepherd to their auto-buy list. A talented writer who brings Victorian England to vivid and colourful life, Eva Shepherd has penned a dazzling, evocative and wonderfully romantic tale with a determined and resourceful heroine readers will love and a gorgeous hero they will find themselves swooning over.
I adored this brilliantly written, highly emotional and beautifully rendered historical romance. Awakening the Duchess is a tale that sparkles with passion, intrigue, humour and heart from a writer with a very bright future ahead of her: Eva Shepherd.
Rating: 5 Stars