Who is your favorite romance writer and which of their books stand out the most for you?
I tend to be quite a selective reader, especially when I’m writing fiction. I’m often afraid that other writers’ voices will end up influencing my characters’ voices.
It’s for this reason that I tend to
read a lot of non fiction when I’m writing fiction, and novels when I’m writing non fiction, or when I’m between books. I have to say, I do really like and admire Philippa Gregory’s work. She manages to get the colour and tone of her books perfectly. She’s very good at evoking time and place while making her characters seem very modern. This is especially true in her recent Cousin’s War series. I recently met her, and she’s one bright woman!
How did you choose the genre you write in?
Historical fiction is my passion and there was never any question as to which genre I would write in! I’ve been immersed in the eighteenth century since I began my academic career, and so creating an imaginary but believable world based around my existing knowledge of the era has been an absolute joy.
If you could only describe a single scene to encourage someone to read Mistress of My Fate, which scene would you describe?
I would say it’s chapter 19, when, as a result of her innocence, Henrietta ends up sitting in the drawing room of a very ordinary looking, ‘respectable’ middle class brothel. Here, she makes a rather shocking discovery about herself and learns that not everything is what it seems.
Which fictional characters from another book would your main characters choose as a best friend and why?
Henrietta is not only quite impressionable, but she’s also quite young in Mistress of My Fate. At the start of the book she’s not yet seventeen and by the time it ends, she has just passed her nineteenth birthday. As a result, I think she’s likely to be easily influenced by a strong female character who’d be slightly older, someone like Scarlett O’Hara. In fact, the plot of the sequel to Mistress of My Fate, The French Lesson, which I’m currently writing, revolves around Henrietta’s close friendships with two very powerful women during the French Revolution.
Please tell us five fun facts about Mistress of My Fate that readers would love to know!
- I created the dashing Lord Allenham as a composite of a number of real and fictional characters. He’s one part Lord Byron, one part Mr Darcy, a sprinkling of an eighteenth century James Bond and a touch of Victor Hugo’s impassioned revolutionary, Enjolras, from Les Miserables.
- The bed chamber in which Henrietta sleeps in chapter 19 was inspired by a real one in London at Dennis Severs’ House on 18 Folgate Street.
- The Pot and Pineapple in Berkeley Square, where Henrietta and Mrs Mahon go for ice cream was a real confectioner’s shop. Ladies (reputable and otherwise) used to have ice cream and other delights brought to their carriages by their footmen.
- There are many well known historical figures in Mistress of My Fate, such as the Prince of Wales, Charles James Fox, Mrs Armistead, and the actress, Mrs Jordan. Many others, like John St John, a politician and minor playwright, and Kitty Kennedy, who was once a notorious courtesan, we know relatively little about. I got to create personalities for them based on the slimmest shreds of evidence.
- The ‘Hoopers Female Pills’ discussed in the book, which were used to ‘procure miscarriages’ were real and advertised on the front page of newspapers throughout the eighteenth century.
What are you reading right now?
[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]A great love story should be filled with highs and lows and a lot of perseverance by at least one party.[/pullquote] I’m re-reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses, by Choderlos de Laclos. It’s part of my research for The French Lesson, the next Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot novel.
In your opinion, what makes a great love story and how would you define “romance”?
I think many novels can be romances without fitting into the genre of ‘romance novel’. In fact, many of the great works of literature are as much about the trials and tribulations of love as they are about other human experiences. So, novels such as Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations work on a number of levels and could never be pigeon holed as simply being a romance.
A great love story should be filled with highs and lows and a lot of perseverance by at least one party. Most importantly, you should never be certain it’s going to end happily!
If you could ask readers a question what would it be?
I’d love to know what readers think makes a perfect, page turning novel. There’s nothing I love more than being utterly consumed by a story, but the elements that keep me up reading past midnight may not be the same things that grab others.
Hallie Rubenhold is an authority on British eighteenth-century social history. She has written two works of non-fiction to critical acclaim: The Convent Garden Ladies and Lady Worsley’s Whim: An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal and Divorce. In addition to writing books, articles, and reviews, Hallie regularly appears on TV in the UK as an expert contributor to documentaries. Hallie lives in London with her husband.
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January 8th 2013 by Grand Central Publishing
Set during a period of revolution and turmoil, Mistress of My Fate is the first book in a trilogy about Henrietta Lightfoot, a young woman who was abandoned as a baby and raised alongside her cousins, noble children of a lord and lady. At just sixteen years old, circumstance and a passionate love affair tear Henrietta away from everything she knows, leading to a new life fending for herself on the streets of 18th century London as a courtesan, gambler, and spirited intellect of the city.