Next week, True Pretenses by Rose Lerner releases. I loved this historical romance. If you haven’t read book one, Sweet Disorder, now is the time! They are both stand alones, but set in the same town.
Today Rose is stopping by to chat a bit about her upcoming release. I’ll post my review of True Pretenses on release day.
Who is Rose Lerner? Give us the low down.
I’m a cook by day, a historical romance author by night, and a big nerd always. My current obsession is the TV show Leverage about a lovable team of con artists – I’m at the stage where every song on the radio reminds me of it.
True Pretenses is my fourth romance and the second book in my Lively St. Lemeston Regency small-town series. The first book, Sweet Disorder (which you <a href=”https://smexybooks.com/2014/03/review-sweet-disorder-by-rose-lerner.html”>reviewed back in March</a>), is currently on sale at all retailers for 99 cents! But the books are pretty loosely linked, so it isn’t necessary to read in order.
One of my favorite things about your books is that you don’t give your characters a break. You make them mourn over the sad things, stress over the things out of their control, love when it’s not easy. You give them ALL the feels, and it’s such an interesting journey for the reader. Let’s start with our hero, Ash. Before we even get to the romance, his relationship with his brother is so complex. What was it like writing their relationship?
lol! The trick is balancing the different emotions and including enough jokes so the reader’s emotion receptors don’t get burned out on a particular mood. One of the most consistent criticisms I got about my first book, In for a Penny, was that the angst never let up; these days I make sure to include one or two scenes in the middle of the book where the hero and heroine just have fun together. If you’re enjoying the ride, I must be getting it right!
Writing Ash and Rafe was intense. Ash has been Rafe’s primary caretaker since they were both very young. The fun part is that at first glance, it appears Ash is the one taking care of a little brother who depends on him – but when you look closer, Ash relies heavily on Rafe to give him a sense of purpose. Without Rafe, Ash doesn’t really know who he is and so he’s very, very afraid of losing him.
Writing deep POV, where the reader is in one character’s head at a time and experiences the scene along with them, is a very natural fit for me. I sort of get in character and then write the scene based on my instinctive reactions to what’s happening. (A lot of times when I see actors talk about acting, it resonates more than when I read writers on writing.) Ash really took me by surprise several times by becoming very sad very quickly. There’s a scene in the second half of the book that I forgot I wrote where something upsets Ash very much (so you recognize it when you get there, it involves food). On rereading, I was squirming. I couldn’t believe I had been so mean to the poor guy!
Lydia and Ash share a common theme – they both had to raise their brothers from a young age. While Lydia helped raise her brother in a wealthy, privileged home, Ash had to teach his brother to steal, cheat and eventually swindle their way to their next meal. Give us some insight into their sibling relationships.
As I mentioned above, they both really rely on their siblings to give them a sense of purpose in life. I think the difference is that because their lives were so precarious, Ash has become pretty ruthless, both to himself and pretty much everyone except Rafe, in order to keep Rafe safe and fed and secure. He has tuned out the rest of the world’s needs. His maxim, oft-repeated, is “We have to take care of ourselves, because no one else will do it for us.”
Lydia, on the other hand, is part of a dynasty of political patrons to which her brother Jamie is heir. Plus, Jamie went away to school so she had to find something else to occupy her time. She’s secure enough in her life that she has the emotional resources to expand her caretaker mentality to encompass the entire town of Lively St. Lemeston – at one point she says, “If we don’t take care of everyone, who will?”
But they’re both stuck in this old pattern of using caretaking to feel in control over circumstances – which, as children, were not in their control. So part of their journey is opening themselves up to making choices that are self-focused and not feeling like the world will end.
Ash is a different kind of romance hero than the normal kind that come my way. Lydia remarks he is pleasant but not necessarily attractive. He is broad, a little shorter – and let’s be honest – a thief. A thief who doesn’t really feel that bad for what he has stolen. At one point Lydia has her choice of the gorgeous god-like brother Rafe, or Ash – why does she choose Ash?
Well, for starters, when Lydia remarks that Ash is pleasant but not necessarily attractive, that is more a reaction to his physical type than it is to Ash, himself. She’s actually attracted to him fairly quickly. But he looks very Jewish (although she doesn’t realize that), and Jewish men don’t fit into the “how good-looking men look” category that she subconsciously operates with. It’s like when you watch a movie – you know exactly who the “sexy guy/girl all the girls/guys want” is supposed to be even if they aren’t actually the actor or actress you want yourself, because of how they’re dressed and lit and styled and because they fit the mold of who Hollywood is casting in those parts at the moment.
However, Lydia is also physically attracted to Rafe. But she and Ash have already emotionally connected over the older sibling thing. She might be more drawn to Rafe in another context, but since Ash introduces them, she pretty much mentally sticks a “little brother” label on his forehead.
Plus, I think Ash has an ease about him that she responds to. Rafe can be a tense, withdrawn guy, and when she meets him he’s going through some personal stuff and not quite bothering to lay on the charm, so she doesn’t quite feel comfortable around him.
What is your favorite thing about writing protagonists who come from different social and class backgrounds?
OMG so many things! Part of it is that I just like writing varied character backgrounds. It’s fun!
I think in some ways it’s a metaphor? I’ve been thinking a lot about how genre fiction and heightened reality is a way of making fictional feelings as overwhelming and all-encompassing as your own real feelings are when you experience them. Like, writing characters with dramatically different life experiences is a way of amping up the conflict on the page until it feels as intense as the everyday struggle of having an intimate relationship (romantic or otherwise) with any other person who, simply by virtue of not being you, is different from you in every way.
For example, my roommate’s parents had cleaning ladies when she was a kid. Mine didn’t. You wouldn’t believe how big a deal this sometimes feels like in our lives when we are dealing with cleaning our apartment. Even though it’s a much smaller difference than between penniless thief and aristocratic heiress.
I think, honestly, that my favorite thing about writing cross-class or cross-cultural romance are those little moments of isolation when the hero and heroine, who feel so close to each other, react to something really differently and are shocked by the sudden loss of that closeness. Those moments feel very true to me, and yet I love writing about how, in the grand scheme of things, they don’t preclude sharing your life with someone and being extremely happy together.
What is next for you? Please say another Lively St. Lemeston book!
You are in luck! Samhain will publish my next book, Listen to the Moon (Lively St. Lemeston #3), in January 2016. It’s about two minor characters from Sweet Disorder: Toogood (Nick’s impassive valet) and Sukey (Phoebe’s snarky maid). You can read a full blurb here: http://roselerner.com/comingsoon.html.
Thanks so much for having me!
Today, Rose Lerner will give away one digital copy of True Pretenses to a random commenter. To enter, just leave a comment. Open to all. I’ll pick a winner on Thursday.
Rose also has a big giveaway going on at her website – lots of prizes! To enter, head over to her website.