Mystery Musings

My critique partner and I exchanged manuscripts last week.  We read and marked up each other’s pages and exchanged them again at writers’ club on Wednesday.  I value her comments, and hopefully, she values mine.  We write in different genres, but she reads mysteries now and again, and I read Regencies and enjoy historical mysteries from 1790 to the late 1890’s (I can be had by a Jack the Ripper time period story).

Unlike my friend, I’m not an expert on either the actual events of the prince regent or Queen Victoria’s England.  But Regencies, like Jane Austen, concentrate a great deal on social mannerisms and the aristocracy, and I enjoy both.  When I think of Queen Victoria, unfortunately, I think of squalor and social injustice.   One of the reasons I enjoyed Carnival Row on Prime TV was because it reminded me of Victorian England, which might make you think that I’d love everything Charles Dickens.  But you’d be wrong.  I struggled through his books, mostly because of his writing style.  Now mind you, there’s plenty of squalor and social injustice around today, but it’s too real, so I only read about it infrequently, and only if it’s the background for a great mystery.

Once you hit World War I or the roaring twenties or, even worse, Hitler and World War II, it’s slower going for me unless the story tempts me so much, I bite the bullet and plow through the rest.  I make an exception for Agatha Christie, who did include events surrounding World War II in her mysteries, but then, she didn’t dwell on them and they’re only there to add weight to her crimes.

I was a huge fan of Georgette Heyer, and my friend, Julia Donner, writes Regencies that remind me of hers.  They mix romance and dire circumstances into a stew that keeps me turning pages.  And there’s often humor.  One of the reasons I enjoy Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series so much is the time period–1830.  Men ruled the world and practically owned their wives.  They could beat them as long as they didn’t kill them, but there were always women who proved to be the  exceptions.  Lady Darby’s first husband mistreated her cruelly, and his death brought scandal on her.  But she’s smart and resilient, and her second marriage to Sebastian Gage allows her to become his partner in solving crimes.  Her books offer intriguing chunks of history with clever mysteries.

Another writer who mines historical mysteries during the Regency years is Darcie Wilde with her Rosalind Thorne series.  Again, a noble woman is reduced to restricted circumstances but overcomes her near poverty by solving crimes for wealthy ladies who’d rather keep their secrets…secret.  I read and enjoyed the second book in the series, A Purely Private Matter.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add Gothic literature to my list of time periods that tempt me.  Anna Lee Huber’s novels often have that same dark, brooding feeling, often in an isolated area like the ones old Gothic romances employed.  They make me think of Jane Eyre, an educated woman alone, sent to an imposing house with dark secrets, who falls for the brooding, often rude, man who employs her.  What fun!

Do you enjoy historical novels?  If so, does a particular period tempt you more than others?  Is there a period that you’d rather avoid?  I go back and forth between historical and contemporary novels.  That gives me variety, which I like.  Do you prefer contemporary?  (I love comments.)

Too many book boyfriends

I think Julia Donner writes the best male characters ever!  I like ALL of her lead characters, but when I read her Regency, THE HEIRESS AND THE SPY–if I wasn’t happily married–I’d have wanted me a clone of Peregrine Asterly.  But doggone it if she didn’t just keep writing more and more wonderful men.  I didn’t see how she could ever outdo herself until I read her historical Western, AVENUE TO HEAVEN, with Jake Williams.  Drool worthy.  Her newest Regency–the 11th in the Friendship Series–is available for pre-sale now and comes out May 1st.  It has all of her usual–wonderful characters, a luscious hero, and wry humor.  So I invited her to be a guest on my blog today for a Q&A  session.  I hope you enjoy it and welcome her.

Q & A for Julia Donner, A Laird’s Promise:

  1. I never thought about being a writer until I had my two daughters and, as a surprise, my husband signed me up for a class once a week, WRITING FOR FUN AND PROFIT. He wanted me to have some fun, and he picked the perfect thing.  I fell in love with writing.  You’ve always loved to write, though, haven’t you?  When did you get started?  And what were some of the first things you wrote?

Julia: I can’t remember when I wasn’t writing. Did the typical angst poetry thing during the teens then got serious about the craft when I had to give up theater. The first thing published was an article, not my forte, but it was romantic and dramatic, about the Monterey Cypress.

  1. You grew up in Galena, IL, didn’t you? Did you develop your love of history there?  What are some of your favorite periods of history?  If you could have dinner with one historical character, who would it be?

Julia: Aunt Marie, curator of her own museum, fostered it, made history come alive. I love all history and particularly drawn to 1800’s, ancient Roman & Egyptian and especially applying those two eras to Biblical understanding. Then there’s the whole archeology aspect. I’d love a chat with Jane Austen.

  1. Your eleven Regency books are part of the Friendship series. Some writers use a setting to connect their books.  Lord and Lady Asterly help to connect yours.  I was taken by Lord Asterly before I’d finished the first chapters in THE HEIRESS AND THE SPY, and happily, he and his Elizabeth play different parts in most of your novels.  Can you explain how that works?  How does friendship hold this series together?  How are the men in your novels unusual for their time period?

Julia: Asterly has a mysterious air, and Elizabeth is crafty, a bit sly. They have insights and talents as insiders in the political/social climate and offer aid to friends. In every book of the series, an aspect of friendship is realized, sometimes discovered and then strengthened. The series came into being to honor my friends. They’ve always been there when I needed them. It’s one of life’s most precious gifts.

  1. A LAIRD’S PROMISE takes place in Scotland, for the most part. Why did you choose that for your setting?

Julia: The fascination with Scotland became visceral when I first visited. There is something about the country and people that is very like US Americans. But it’s more than that. Something almost spiritual. The setting was chosen because it fit the characters and the plot. Not a very interesting answer, but that’s why.

5.The book before this was a departure from the Regencies.  AVENUE TO HEAVEN was the first book in your new Westward Bound series.  It’s historical, too, but tells of the American west.  Did you have to do a lot of research to write about a new setting and time period?  And what prompted you to write it?

Julia: Working in my aunt’s museum was like living in that time period. A great deal of research was needed about Native American cultures, which tribe would work with the story, its warfare history and cultural aspects. So many inaccuracies about Native Americans thrive to this day that it was important to get it right. I was fortunate to be able to speak with a Lakota tribal historian and find John Stands in Timber’s book.

I was prompted to write this story for reasons too personal to list. It’s the first book I’d attempted and put away for many years after endless revisions. Readers of the rough drafts encouraged it back to life.

  1. In your blog, you’ve said that you need new challenges to keep your writing fresh, and that’s why you write other genres under M. L. Rigdon. Do you have more Regencies and historical fiction to share with us?  Please, say yes.

Julia: The next book in the regency series is To Jilt a Corinthian, released this summer.

Every book has its own atmosphere and some are a bit darker or with aspects of mystery. For a change-up, I like to make the following one brighter with more humor. Here is a partial blurb for Corinthian:

Beatrice Allardyce is too busy for something as inconsequential as marriage. And love? A waste of time when there are so many books to read and a father who needs her care. Getting caught in a compromising situation with the haughty Sir Joceyln Warfield is definitely not a part of her agenda.

😊7.  Would you like to share an excerpt from A LAIRD’S PROMISE?

How about the blurb: Secrets from the past stand between Caroline’s determination to protect her mother and the struggle to hold fast to a love society deems above her station. In childhood, she and Alisdair were inseparable, but social rules and obligation to the title he will one day inherit tear them apart. When the truth is revealed, it isn’t Caroline whose station is lesser, but Alisdair, who must regain her trust and connive to bring the only woman he will ever love back home to Scotland.

And thanks Judy/Judi for this blog interview and your unequaled support and friendship!

Thanks for visiting my blog today!

Follow M. L. Rigdon/Julia Donner on Twitter @RigdonML
Website http://www.MLRigdon.com
Blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/
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https://www.bookbub.com/authors/julia-donner

The link for A LAIRD’S PROMISE:  https://www.amazon.com/Lairds-Promise-Friendship-Book-11-ebook/dp/B07CHS3JBP/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1524939361&sr=1-1

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