An Interview With the Muses of Mayfair by Sara Ramsey

I’m Sara Ramsey, and I recently spent a delightful hour interviewing the Muses of Mayfair – a secret society for women pursuing artistic passions. While it’s true that these ladies are fictional creations (a fact they think is indelicate of me to mention), they are all too stubborn to do what I tell them – so the interview quickly ran off the rails. Please join me anyway to see whether I can corral them into some semblance of order – and a lucky commenter will win a free copy of SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES!

Participants:

Madeleine, Duchess of Rothwell (nee Lady Madeleine Vaillant) – Actress, heroine of Heiress Without A Cause – January 2012
Amelia, Countess of Carnach (nee Lady Amelia Staunton) – Writer, heroine of Scotsmen Prefer Blondes – April 2012
Ellie, Marchioness of Folkestone (nee Lady Elinor Avenel) – Painter, heroine of The Marquess Who Loved Me – summer 2012
Miss Prudence Etchingham – Historian, heroine of as-yet-untitled Muses of Mayfair #4 – late 2012/early 2013
Interviewer: Sara Ramsey, Regency romance authoress, heroine of her own blog at www.sararamsey.com.

Sara: I’m so delighted that you agreed to spend an hour answering my questions.

Ellie: (pours tea) As though we could deny you!

Amelia: (paces) Can we begin, please? I would like to return home in time to dress for dinner.

Sara: Hmm, yes. Could you tell me a bit about how the Muses of Mayfair formed?

Amelia: Don’t you know how we formed, dear creator?

Madeleine: (laughs) Don’t mind Amelia – although I enjoy seeing her brought so low by a mere man. Only away from her husband for a few hours and she’s already eager to see him again.

Prudence: (smirks) I do love how the mighty are fallen.

Ellie: Can I paint you like this, Amelia? Dramatic in your separation from your lover? Perhaps as Penelope waiting for Odysseus to return?

Amelia: (drops into a chair) Oh, do stop being absurd. Malcolm and I have only been parted for three hours. Penelope waited for two decades. Isn’t that closer to your own story, Ellie?

Ellie: (glares at Amelia)

Sara: Ladies, if we could please return to the question? Any answer at all about how the Muses of Mayfair formed will do.

Madeleine: (sighs) Very well. Amelia and I were first, although since we grew up in the same house, you can hardly call cousins playing together a club. But she liked to write, and I liked to act, so we encouraged each other. And then we discovered that Prudence was an utter bluestocking…

Prudence: They caught me muttering after a staging of Julius Caesar about the inaccuracies of the set, while everyone else went on about how handsome the actor was.

Madeleine: Yes. She couldn’t not join us, particularly when we threatened to tell her mother about her unfashionable love of history.

Prudence: I didn’t need all that much convincing. Your club was better than sitting at home darning my stockings, I suppose.

Amelia: And then everything was lovely. Until Madeleine ran off to the theatre and got caught by the Duke of Rothwell.

Madeleine: (smiles) And then everything was even lovelier.

Ellie: You are really *too* happy to be married to him, you know. I grew up with him – I assure you he’s not perfect.

Madeleine: Then you may pretend that I meant everything was lovelier because we met you and invited you to join our circle, not because I married your brother.

Ellie: Done.

Sara: (claps hands) Marvelous – let’s move on, shall we?

Amelia: In a hurry suddenly? You don’t have an earl to go home to, do you?

Sara: Well, no. But blog readers have a short attention span…

Ellie: Then we aren’t interesting enough for you? I could tell you about the time I went to Lord Westbrook’s house party…

Madeleine: You went to Westbrook’s house party, Ellie? I merely went to his masquerade and I didn’t think I would stop blushing for a week.

Sara: Perhaps another time – I do rather want to hear about the house party. But we can save that for your book, The Marquess Who Loved Me. Speaking of which, what do you ladies think will happen when Nick, the current Marquess of Folkestone, returns from India?

Ellie: (spills her tea) Next question, please.

Prudence: (hands her the plate of sweets) Have a lemon cake, dear. I find they take my thoughts away from stupid men.

Ellie: He isn’t in my thoughts. Why would he be? Just because he left England a decade ago and refused to come back, even when he inherited my dead husband’s title?

Madeleine: Or perhaps because you were in love with each other when you married his cousin?

Ellie: That’s neither here nor there. Next question.

Amelia: (in a stage whisper) Sara, if it eases your mind, she won’t talk to us about Nick either. So we’re all speculating about what will happen if he ever comes home.

Sara: (mutters) It would ease my mind if Ellie and Nick would cooperate with me so I could finish their bloody book.

Ellie: (smirks)

Sara: All right then, moving on. Do you plan to add any more members to your club?

Prudence: It would be nice to add someone who isn’t married so I’m not the only one left on the shelf.

Ellie: I’m not married either.

Prudence: But you’re a widow. You can go places like Westbrook’s house parties. I’m with the spinsters, left to watch other people dance.

Madeleine: You don’t even want to dance.

Prudence: True. But I don’t particularly want to be an ape-leader, either.

Ellie: My twin sisters have been making noises about joining us, but their maturity leaves much to be desired.

Amelia: (snorts) Yes, maturity is a critical requirement of membership in the Muses of Mayfair.

Sara: If no one else joins the Muses, we can’t leave Prudence to her spinsterhood. Any ideas who we should set her up with?

Prudence: (chokes on her lemon cake)

Amelia: (claps her on the back) You didn’t think Sara would leave you wallowing in spinsterhood forever, did you?

Prudence: (mutters) As though any of you could leave well enough alone.

Madeleine: You’ll meet someone lovely, I’m sure of it.

Ellie: Unless you’ve…already met him, eh?

Prudence: Next question, please?

Amelia: (narrows eyes) Have you met someone, Prue? Don’t say you’re in love and haven’t told us!

Prudence: I won’t say it, then.

Madeleine: Prue! Who is it?

Ellie: (pours more tea) Really, how you’re all so unobservant is beyond me.

Prudence: (firmly) Next question.

Sara: You know, it seems wise to end the interview before you all descend into a brawl.

Amelia: We’ll just pounce on Prudence and drag the name out of her as soon as you let us go.

Sara: (smugly) Difficult, darling, since you’re fictional.

Amelia: (sighs) I don’t like you at all.

————————————–

If you want to learn more about the Muses of Mayfair, Madeleine and Amelia’s books are already out. Ellie’s mysterious former lover, the current Marquess of Folkestone, returns to London in The Marquess Who Loved Me, out later this summer. And Prudence’s secret, unacknowledged passion will finally come out in the fourth Muses of Mayfair book, sometime in late 2012/early 2013.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Like Prudence, I think lemon cake is a fabulous way to forget one’s troubles – but what’s your favorite comfort food? One commenter will win an ebook or paperback (winner’s choice) of SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES!

*Open Internationally*

Melanie here. I want to thank Sara for coming over to play and for her Giveaway, but most of all I want to thank her for letting me ‘cast’ her characters. I had too much fun doing it!

‘Scotsmen Prefer Blondes’ by Sara Ramsey

STORY: She never wanted marriage…

When a friend is forced to consider a marriage of convenience, Lady Amelia Staunton is determined to rescue her. But her plans trap her in an illicit seduction, and Amelia must marry him herself. Malcolm’s all-consuming kisses and devilish humor might make up for her lost freedom, but she believes he will force her to abandon the Gothic romances she yearns to write. Since she can’t escape him, she must distract him from her secret…

He isn’t looking for love…

A powerful autocrat with a well-hidden rebellious streak, Malcolm MacCabe doesn’t need another beautiful mistress – he needs an obedient wife. Obedience is not one of Amelia’s virtues. But he’s too enthralled by her wit and passion to let her go – even if it means risking the political reputation he is building to save his clan.

Their hearts can’t survive the scandal…

Despite their intentions, every wicked embrace binds them together. But as their conflicting desires combust into insatiable hunger and unavoidable ruin, they must decide whether to pursue their personal destinies alone – or fight for the love that could destroy them both.

REVIEW: The blurb above summarizes the story well, and rather than going into it, I’ll tell you why I liked this story.

First, you don’t need to read the first novel to enjoy this story, but the dynamic between the muses, their heroes and the story in itself will be more exciting if you do. Let me tell you, I wasn’t a big fan of Amelia’s in Madeline’s story, but by the end of it, I loved her tenaciousness and honesty, and you will too.

Ms. Ramsey continues to impress me with her portrayal of the friendship of her muses. These women seem real because of that. Their feelings toward each other are honest and at times contentious, but deep down their respect and love of each other and their passion for their art is something that will always keep their friendships strong.

Malcolm is a hero to die for! He’s a strong, smart and ambitious man full of wit that would be a God-given gift to any london season ‘mama’, yet Amelia is full of doubts as she struggles with her feelings for him. It was fun to watch these two very strong-minded people fight the atraction and in the end succumbing to it.

If you’re in a mood for a fun and entertaining, sensual and romantic story of two very strong characters who will take you on their fast paced HEA, this story is just the ticket!

‘Heiress Without A Cause’ by Sara Ramsey

STORY: One title to change his life…

A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile – until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he won’t ruin her, even if he desperately wants the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.

One chance to break the rules…

Lady Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.

One season to fall in love…

Every stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson’s old enemies are determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?

REVIEW: This is Ms. Ramsey’s début novel and first in the Muses of Mayfair Series (Madeline Vaillant, Prudence Etchingham, Amelia Staunton and Ellie, Marchioness of Folkestone) and she starts off with Lady Madeline Vaillant’s story.

The book opens up with our heroine attending a ball at Salford House, which is the home of her cousin Alexander Staunton, the Earl of Salford, his mother, her aunt Augusta as well as Amelia Staunton, Alex’s sister. She’s been with them ever since she was a little girl, after her parents went back to France in the midst of the Revolution and gotten themselves killed in the process.

She is aware that no one has ever paid her any attention and that no one likely ever will. Not as long as she’s determined to stay a spinster and dress like one, down to her spinsters cap. What the ton doesn’t know and if it did it would not only shock them but it would also ruin Madeline and possibly the family that she loves dearly, is that our heroine has a secret desire and a talent for acting.

Our hero is William “Ferguson” Avenel and coming out of exile is not so easy for him. It has been a decade since he’s seen his sister Ellie and his twin half sisters who are both ready for their first London season, and to all of them, Ferguson needs to apologies for not being there for them when they needed him the most.

I really liked this story for lots of obvious reasons; for a début book, it was written well, paced well and its hero and heroine were very likeable, but what I liked the best about it was the relationship between the three friends, and after we meet Ellie, there was no doubt in my mind that she was perfect as, and eventually would become another, muse of Mayfair.

The author has done an excellent job in portraying the relationships between all the characters with so much reality, that it will touch your hearts with an equal dose of humor and sensuality. You will come to care for everyone involved and that is what makes this début such a great read and I whole heartedly recommend it.

Fan2Author Interview with…Marilyn Brant!

K:  Hello Marilyn!  Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with us!  It is a pleasure to have you here! 

MB:  Thanks, Kristal—it’s wonderful to be at bookworm2bookworm!! Thank you so much for inviting me.

K:  My first question involves your extensive travel!  On your bio, I read that you have traveled to 46 states and over 30 countries??  That is amazing.  I have only ever been to a handful of the states and Canada!  How do you decide where to go next?  Do you have a favorite place to travel to? 

MB:  When my husband and I met, we were both public school teachers. During those few years that we were married but before we became parents, we lived in a little apartment and we’d save up all year and then choose a few interesting spots to visit during summer vacation. My husband still teaches world history, so he particularly loved getting to visit some of the incredible historical sites he talked about to his high-school students—like those in Italy, England and Greece. And I studied French for 5 years and had an insatiable love of Swiss chocolate, LOL, so between the two of us, we wanted to see A LOT of places!

We traveled as backpackers then. We never checked our luggage on a flight, so everything that we brought for one of our trips had to fit into a carry-on backpack. For us, that made it easier to travel light and visit multiple places on a trip. When we went to Europe, we would purchase Eurail passes in advance so we’d have full access to their extensive train systems. It allowed us to easily change plans because we could hop on almost any train we wanted with very little notice. We might decide to begin our journey in Austria but, then, while we were there, some random person we met would tell us we just had to visit this small community in Switzerland…so we’d look at our map, consult the train schedules and figure out what connections we needed to get there. (That actually happened by the way—it’s how we discovered the beautiful town of Zermatt in the Swiss Alps.) It was very freeing and really fun to be able to be that flexible.

Of course, that was 15 years ago, and our lives have changed a lot since then! We now have a house, a teenage son and aging parents who need care. We can’t just take off and go to Europe for a few weeks. However, we really wanted to introduce our son to the joys (and, sometimes, the challenges) of travel, so we went on our first international trip as a family last month, and we took him to England and northern Wales. My husband and I hadn’t been in the U.K. since 1996, so it was thrilling for us to go back there for a week and a privilege to get to see our son experiencing the wonder of places like Stonehenge and the Tower of London for the first time.

K:  Do your extensive travels inspire your books?  Any particular place that brings out the creative muse in you? 

MB:  I love so many, many places…sigh. I’d dreamed of visiting the Alps since I was in 6th grade. I even wrote a descriptive piece for my middle school English class on the beauty of the mountains there, though it would be more than a decade before I’d get to see them with my own eyes.

When I was in high school, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into an exchange program through AFS, and I spent the summer when I was 16 in Brisbane, Australia. I *loved* that! If I hadn’t already been a totally travel-obsessed kid that trip would have made me so.

But the place I always think of as my “creative muse” is Venice, Italy. I love everything about that city. The uniqueness of it. The colorful masks. The way the light plays against the many footbridges and piazzas and how the reflection of the buildings in the water makes it seem like the paint is sliding off of them and into the canal… And, oh, there are to-die-for gelato shops and beautifully crafted pieces of art and jewelry to look at and be dazzled by. There are the historical sites, the famous rituals/carnivals and the fact that the place has looked essentially the same for centuries.

So, short answer: Yes. My travels have definitely inspired my books. My most recent novel, A SUMMER IN EUROPE (Kensington), is all about a woman who’d never before left the United States but is getting to discover the beauty of Italy, France, Hungary, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and England for the first time…and how those experiences change her perception of where her life is and where it’s going.

K:  I see that you are a Jane Austen fan!  My daughter and I have watched Pride and Prejudice a hundred times.  I really am a sucker for the epic love story.  Have you read all of her books and seen all of the movies about her?  How much of Jane’s influence can we see in your books?   

MB:  Depending on the book you’re reading, Austen had quite a lot of influence! My debut novel, ACCORDING TO JANE, is my personal homage to her. Austen has been my favorite author since I was a high-school freshman, and my first book is about a woman who has the ghost of Jane Austen in her head giving her dating advice…for about 2 decades! (It takes my heroine a long time to get the love thing right, LOL.) And, yes, I have read all of her published novels, as well as quite a few biographies and letters she wrote and unfinished writing projects. I don’t think I’ve seen *every* movie made about her or adapted from one of her books, but I’m pretty close on that. I don’t blame you for watching PRIDE AND PREJUDICE a hundred times, by the way!! I’ve watched and read that brilliant story countless times, too.

Two of my other books—ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAE and FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE—reference Austen’s novels in there somewhere, but A SUMMER IN EUROPE has some Austen-esque elements. It also shares a lot with E.M. Forster’s classic story, A ROOM WITH A VIEW, which is another novel I’ve loved for years.

K:  All of your books have received wonderful reviews.  People love them and relish the characters and the dimensions of your stories.  How does it feel to know that people love your books so much? 

MB:  Oh, thank you for saying that! I know that no author can be loved by *everyone*—much as we wish we could. However, I do feel tremendously excited and honored when readers will take time to leave me a comment on Facebook or to send me a tweet or an email saying that they read one of my books and it made them laugh or it touched them in some way. It’s the best feeling. I also love when they post reviews on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads or their personal blog and recommend one of my books to others. An honest, enthusiastic review from a reader is like getting a very special gift. It’s proof that a connection exists between us—a bond of understanding authors and readers share—and, to me, that’s priceless.

K:  What inspired you to become a writer?  Was it something you always knew you wanted to be or did it come to you over time?  Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process that takes place in your mind? 

MB:  The reason I became a writer was because I felt so indebted to other authors for either giving me a fun story to escape into or convincing me that they really understood whatever struggle I was dealing with in my life at the time. I’ll always appreciate Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips for creating such laugh aloud romantic comedies, and I’m just as grateful to Sue Miller, Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg for making me feel as though I wasn’t alone in being frustrated with many real-life issues or relationships. It’s my biggest hope that I can be an author who brings that kind of humor and/or reassurance to a few readers out there, too.

As for the creative process, I think it mostly comes down to the fact that I ask myself hundreds of “what-if” questions every day. “What if you had to run an ice cream parlor for the summer with the guy who’d broken your heart a decade before…and he didn’t even know it?” Or, “What if Jane Austen could advise you on the guys you’re interested in…and what would happen if you didn’t listen to her or if she were even wrong on occasion?” Or, “What if you were given an amazing summer trip as a gift but you’d never been far away from home before…how would you feel being truly out in the world for the first time?” I think creativity originates in curiosity, so I really enjoy contemplating all kinds of questions like these.

K:  What can we expect next from you?  Any books in the works right now?  What releases can our readers watch out for in the future? 

MB:  I’m working on three different projects right now, and I hope all of them will be published in the next year or two. The first is a new romantic comedy that (fingers crossed!) will be released at the end of this year. (I’ll always post the publication dates of any upcoming books on my website: http://www.marilynbrant.com) The second project is the first book in a romance/women’s fiction series set in a warm climate that involves a cast of funny, unique characters and a community that cares deeply about the environment. And the third is a project I’m in the midst of writing, and it’s a little too early for me to describe it accurately. I’m still learning who these characters are and what they desperately need in their lives. Every day, I’m excited to get back to it so I can figure out a little more about them and delve a bit deeper into their story…

Thanks, again, for having me as a guest today. It was a pleasure to be here!

I’ll give away a PDF copy of my romantic comedy, DOUBLE DIPPING, to one of the commenters on this post .

‘On Any Given Sundae’ by Marilyn Brant

Honestly, I opened up On  Any Given Sundae with no doubt in my mind that I was going to love it, and I was not disappointed in the least bit!  I knew from the premise that this was going to be one of those read-in-one- sitting- feel- good- make- me- all- warm- and- fuzzy books- And it certainly was.  Down to the last bite.

I love reality in my fictional characters- as silly as that sounds.  I like to read a book and feel like I am right there, in their town with their families and friends, sharing in their experiences.  On Any Given Sundae does just that and so so much more.   I might have been right there in this little town in Wisconsin with these wonderful people!

Elizabeth and I may have been sisters for that matter.  The ex-chubby, food loving stuttering chick who had the hots for the town jock… seriously, the parallels I could draw are endless.  And the chance to make that jock fall head over heels years later when he comes back to town lookin all good… well, that I can’t make any parallels on, but I can say that I can imagine it in my head and it would go just like Marilyn Brant painted it for me!

All silliness aside, I truly, honestly, thoroughly enjoyed On Any Given Sundae.  It has the perfect amount of all of the right stuff.  The romance, the laughs, the poignant moments, the food-  I fell so in love with these characters and their story, I literally felt invested in their HEA.  The secondary characters, the atmosphere, the love and loyalty of all of the characters combined- it is a delightful cocktail that will make any romance lover smile all over.

Bravo to Marilyn Brant on a story wonderfully told, I hope she keeps them coming and they keep making me just as happy as this one did!

A time to soak and absorb my adventure at RT’s…

Well, 2012 RT Convention is now in the history and my memories of it will always bring a huge smile to my face. My biggest regret is not taking a pic with Grace Burrowes. This awesome woman has so generously offered to share her room with me during the day, shared lunch with, went to some events together, and we kept saying, later we’ll do it, and in the end with all the running around we never did. Now I feel sad for not doing it and I mean to make sure next time I see her, the first thing we’ll do is take a pic together.

Let me tell you, I don’t get easily intimidated, but meeting Lorreta Chase and Victoria Alexander just left me speechless and in tears. Totally a Fan-Girl moment!!

Right now, I’m truly exhausted and need to rest and sort it all in my head before I bring them to you. Soaking in the tub is on my list of must do in the next hour.

Before I head out to do my soaking, I thought to run one more contest and ask y’all which author would you be in awe of meeting? One of you will end up with a book of your choice out of my stash!

A day with all my favorite authors…and then there’s Brooks!

Once more, before I lay my head on a pillow [in my mind, I'm already there] I’m stopping by with some juicy tidbits….

Too many authors and too little time, but I made the rounds and beside stopping by and saying hi to the old favourites, I made some new author discoveries, and I made new friends.

Sabrina Jeffries is truly the best Duchess ever.

Jade Lee can throw a fun-filled bridal shower and a wedding like no one else.

Kieran Kramer is one hot, HOT chick and she has the moves to kill, and energy to burn.

And then there’s Brooks….

This has been a weekend of my firsts, and this is one first I’m filing under ‘Grandma posed with a male model’ memory file. What about you? Have you had a male model encounter [if not in real life, fantasy will do] and who is it? One of you will get a free book (mention your choice from a big pile that is on the pic under the post) in our second RT giveaway. Click on both pics and you can visit Brooks on his website, and you can enlarge the one with the books.* Sorry, US only…