Rose on LILY: Regency Romance Goes Floral!

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Well if Shakespeare’s right about that, then Rose Lerner could credit her books to Miss Foul Asparagus and they’d still be as sweet as sweet can be!

Rose is a relatively new author with two published novels under her belt, but her seasoned style, rich historical detail, and charming and unique voice suggest a talent akin to a veteran romance novelist. One of the first books I read when I started working at Dorchester was her debut, In for a Penny, and I can happily say it’s one of those paperbacks that won’t ever be leaving my bookshelf (no library donation for that gem!).

September is an exciting month for Rose, as it marks the release of her second novel, A Lily Among Thorns! She’s joining us on the blog today to answer my questions about her newest book, her life outside of writing, and some other random tidbits I couldn’t help but ask.

Enjoy the interview, and don’t forget to answer the question below to be entered to win a trade copy of A Lily Among Thorns.

Welcome, Rose!

In one sentence, how would you summarize A Lily Among Thorns?

Serena has been fighting for the past five years to build her hotel’s business and to be safe as a woman alone who’s known to have once worked as a courtesan, which makes it hard for her to deal with when a man she’s had a secret crush on for years waltzes back into her life the exact same week she faces a close friend’s betrayal, losing her hotel, French spies, and a whole mess of other things that could bring her carefully constructed life crashing down around her ears.

Reviewers praised your superb characterization in your debut, In for a Penny, and A Lily Among Thorns brings us two just as lively characters. Can you introduce readers to the leading couple in A Lily Among Thorns?

Solomon’s mother is the daughter of an earl who eloped with her brother’s tutor.  His father is the brother of a prominent London tailor.  All his life, Solomon’s never really fit in anywhere.  He’s a gifted Cambridge-trained chemist (not a pharmacist, just to clarify, a man who does chemistry) but he uses that talent to create fabric dyes for his uncle, which didn’t go over well with the few school friends he managed to make.  He’s been having a rough time since his brother was killed in the War a year and a half ago.  He’s one of those guys who’s such a sweetheart you don’t quite notice how big and broad he is at first. Well, you might not notice.  Serena sure notices.  Here’s what she thinks when she sees him for the first time in years in Chapter 1:

“She couldn’t breathe. She’d been looking for him for years. She remembered him as if it had been yesterday. Hair like ripe wheat, freckles in a pale face, dreamy hazel eyes, a flexible mouth, and that unexpectedly stubborn chin. He’d looked like an angel. Either she’d embellished, or he’d grown up, or both. He didn’t look like an angel now. He looked like a man, solid and broad and taller than she’d thought.

He looked tired, too, and worn. His hazel eyes were watchful now. It was idiotic how much it hurt her, that he hadn’t stayed young and unbruised forever. But he’s still beautiful, she thought.”

Serena–well, the best way to describe her is that she’s a fighter.

In any situation, her first instinct is to fight.  And she’s really good at it.  She started out as a quiet debutante who ran away from home and ended up in a brothel, and from there she clawed her way to being the most expensive courtesan in London.  Once she could get out of that business, she built a successful hotel from the ground up.

She did it through a combination of hard work and force of will, despite the resistance of pretty much the entire world she lives in.

But she’s been fighting everything and everyone for so long that when Solomon shows up, and she actually doesn’t want to fight him, it’s completely terrifying and confusing for her.  Here’s Solomon’s first impression of her (well, second, but he doesn’t remember the first at the time):

“Lady Serena looked—well, she looked perfect. Her face was a perfect oval, her nose razor-straight and patrician. Her mouth looked as if it had come out of a Greek anatomy textbook, and so did her figure.

Solomon had almost been tempted to get out his tape measure and start looking for instances of the Golden Mean. Her coloring only added to the impression—pale skin, pale gray eyes and black lashes, and hair as black and heavy as Ethiops mineral.

But there had been something about the look on her face—something about the way she smiled without her eyes that said she wanted him to notice it; something that was polite and challenging, blank and vital all at once. She reminded him of a bead of mercury: bright and shining and gray, spellbinding and utterly impenetrable to the eye. No one got that way without a lot of practice.”

If you were suddenly transported back to the Regency Era, what would you miss most and what would be on your to-do list?

What would I miss most?  Feminism, definitely, closely followed by indoor plumbing and public sanitation.  As for the to-do list, I’d start with Keats and go from there!  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  I don’t think I’d have a to-do list, exactly–I’d mostly be fascinated with all the little day-to-day stuff like how the grocery store organized its till and what people did with their apple cores.  I’d take a lot of notes.  (I am going to be transported back eventually, aren’t I?  Please?)

Do the characters/relationships in your novels ever turn out differently than you initially intended to write them?

Oh, definitely.  I’m a pantser, so nothing ever turns out exactly as planned.  I just have to go with the flow and usually that’s where the best stuff comes from.

When did you know you wanted to start writing Regencies?

I wrote my first Regency my senior year of high school.  I’d been reading them for five or six years at that point along with a friend.

There was a bookstore in our town that specialized in mass market paperbacks, and we’d go and buy ten books at a time.  One of my favorites was Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.  It was originally written as in-character letters between the two authors, and my friend and I tried our hand at it and had a blast.  They weren’t publishable obviously, but there were some great things in there.  It made me think, I could do this.

In terms of the writing process, are there any ways in which writing A Lily Among Thorns differed from writing your debut?

Well, I actually wrote the first version of LILY before I wrote PENNY.

It was my second book.  I didn’t get much done on it during college, but I researched and outlined and scribbled things in margins, and wrote it on and off in the two years after I got out of school.  So I would say the first version of LILY was the last book I wrote as if it were still a hobby, and with PENNY I sat down and wrote it as if I were a professional author (with a break in the middle while my mother was dying of cancer, but that’s another story).  I don’t think I realized how much I had learned as a writer until I sat down to revise LILY and was horribly embarrassed by large sections of the book.

There’s a lot of little stuff in the finished book that’s from the original version and the overall story is the same, but a lot is new or in a different order, and almost every scene has been reworked in some way.  I cut out a lot of improbable melodrama and exaggerated angst, too.  I don’t know if that was growing as a writer, or just growing up.

If you were unjustly thrown in a prison cell for many years (think The Count of Monte Cristo) and could only request one book, which would it be?

I can’t possibly make that decision!  I’ll start a book black market in prison instead, how’s that?  But I will say that the book I’ve probably reread the most in my life is either Jane Eyre or Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground.

Which books are on your nightstand now?

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, The Folklore of Sussex, The Companion Guide to Kent and Sussex, Decoded by Jay-Z, The English Town 1680-1840, Tessa Dare’s Twice Tempted by a Rogue, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Captain America: Man Out of Time, and my Kindle, which is full of romances.  (Those aren’t all on my nightstand…some of them are lying on the floor by my bed.  But I think that counts.)

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

I work as a cook in a natural foods co-op, read, hang out on the internet (Tumblr is my new favorite thing), spend time with my friends, and watch TV with my roommate.  It’s a full schedule!

Words to live by:

“It’s not a competition.”  This comes up more often than you might think.

And I don’t necessarily think directly about this all the time or say it a lot, but I really believe in Hillel’s “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”  I think it’s really important in life to find a healthy balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of other people, and between action and going with the flow.

For more on Rose Lerner, visit her Web site and take her awesome ‘about the author’ quiz. (which is your pick: Colin Firth or Hugh Grant?)

A Lily Among Thorns is now available in trade paperback and e-book!

Giveaway: Answer a question directly from Rose’s quiz! Which do you prefer: marriage of convenience plots or faked engagements? Tell us why and we’ll give one lucky winner a freshly printed trade copy of A Lily Among Thorns!

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12 Responses to Rose on LILY: Regency Romance Goes Floral!

  1. I love a faked engagement plot, especially if they don’t know one another very well or at all. As they pretend to be madly in love and preparing for the fake ‘big day’ they will ultimately discover that they have found their soulmate…sigh! Then, it’s only a matter of time before the faked engagement becomes a reality. Of course, there are always plenty of obstacles along the way before that happens and it’s usually lots of fun to watch the story unfold!

  2. ClaudiaGC says:

    I love both of these plots! I love it when hero and heroine make the decision to get engaged/married only on paper but discover their true feelings for each other.

  3. Estella says:

    I prefer the marriage of convenience plot.

  4. J says:

    I’ve read more of the marriage of convenience plots. I enjoy when they start working together and getting to know eachother without having the out of breaking up. Any recommendations for the faked engagement books? They sound like they could be fun.

  5. Maureen says:

    I really enjoy the marriage of convenience stories. I enjoy watching a couple have to live together and compromise and when you get to the HEA you know they already know the reality of married life.

  6. kanch says:

    I really like the faked engagements plots. I thinks there’s a tension in the faked engagement plot, unlike the marriage of convenience trope, where the couple know they are destined for marriage. With a faked engagements plot, its seems more reactive and action oriented as things can go wrong, unexpected surprises can happen, shenanigans occur, etc.

    • HANNAH WOLFSON, MARKETING AND PROMOTIONS COORDINATOR says:

      Hi Kanch,

      Congrats are in order–you’re the chosen winner of A LILY AMONG THORNS!

      Please check your email to redeem your prize. Thanks so much for participating!

      Cheers,
      Hannah

  7. I actually love both, but I think a marriage of convenience is a bit more appealing, especially when the MOC occurs quickly without the couple ever really getting to know each other. 🙂

  8. Elle says:

    I completely agree with kanch. Fake engagement all the way. For J: The first one I read, was Julia Quinn’s the Duke and I. I wish I could think of another, but my brain isn’t cooperating.

  9. HANNAH WOLFSON, MARKETING AND PROMOTIONS COORDINATOR says:

    Congrats to commenter kanch for winning A LILY AMONG THORNS!

    Thanks to all for contributing your comments in our marriage of convenience vs. faked engagement plot debate. I enjoyed reading your opinions and hope to hear from you again on the Dorchester Community Blog!

    Be sure to check in tomorrow for a battle sylph profile in honor of a new release, QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS. We’re giving away the whole series in trade to one lucky winner. Hope to see you there!

    Cheers,
    Hannah

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