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I am excited about this new book. In the past, when I’ve been asked if I write myself into my characters, I’ve always said no. Because I’ve never been a wet-nurse (Lady of Milkweed Manor), or an apothecary (The Apothecary’s Daughter), or a governess (The Silent Governess). But I do have something in common with the main character of The Girl in the Gatehouse. Mariah Aubrey is a secret novelist, as were many women during the 18th and 19th centuries. And for years while I worked as an editor, I was a secret writer as well.
Like Mariah, I submitted my first book under a pseudonym, so that if it were accepted by my editor-peers, it would be done so objectively. And, more importantly, if it were rejected, I could show my face at work the next day! Like Mariah, I have felt a heart-pounding collision of emotions while overhearing others discuss my book—never guessing the real author was standing a few feet away.
Unlike Mariah, I did not face scandal or censure when the truth was revealed, for people nowadays do not consider novel-writing “improper for ladies.” Thank goodness!
Before writing this book, I enjoyed researching the lives of several early women authors, like Maria Edgeworth, Fanny Burney, and of course, Jane Austen. As you may know, during Jane Austen’s lifetime, her name never appeared on her books. They were published as “by a lady,” or “by the author of Pride & Prejudice.” In some cases, the identity of anonymous authors remains unknown.
But writing novels is not Mariah’s only secret. She caused a scandal before she ever published a single volume. This was why she had to leave her family home in the first place and take up residence in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative’s estate, with only her loyal servant for company.
When a wealthy and ambitious naval captain leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse. But Captain Bryant fights the attraction because he is determined to win back the woman who rejected him before he made his fortune.
The background for Captain Bryant was inspired by one of my favorite Austen heroes, Captain Wentworth of Persuasion—along with a dash of Forester’s Horatio Hornblower mixed in for good measure. I like how Booklist describes him, “Inspiration for [Mariah’s] literary efforts is the one thing not in short supply, especially once Captain Matthew Bryant arrives to lease the estate after her aunt’s death. Both kind-hearted and courageous, Matthew is the stuff from which romantic heroes are made, and he would be perfect for Mariah if only he wasn’t so determined to marry another woman!” Will Captain Bryant risk his plans—and his heart—for a woman shadowed by scandal?
I fell in love with so many characters in this book. From wounded but hopeful Mariah, to one-handed curmudgeon Martin, to sharp-tongued Aunt Fran, to the strange old man who roams the poorhouse roof next door. I hope readers will enjoy spending time with these characters—and learning their mysteries—as much as I did.
- Julie Klassen
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