Historical romance author Sabrina Jeffries has just wrapped up her popular Hellions of Halstead Hall series with the RT Top Pick! novel A Lady Never Surrenders. In this RT-exclusive interview, the author goes in-depth about the series finale and shares the very first look at how these beloved siblings will be showing up in her next series.
You have recently released A Lady Never Surrenders, the last in your Hellions of Halstead Hall series, and many fans consider you saving the best for last. Lady Celia, the youngest of the Sharpe siblings, is a very interesting character. What made you decide to give her the finale book?
It was more of a case of giving Pinter the finale book, actually. I had always planned to have the mystery run throughout and have it solved in the last book, so it made the most sense for the last hero to be someone experienced at solving crimes. Since Pinter was the logical choice as investigator of the murders — and I'd always intended to give him a book — I had only two choices for sibling heroines. It just seemed to me that Celia would be more his type, if that makes sense. Minerva can be a little overwhelming.
When I started writing Celia and Pinter, though, I was so happy I made that choice because I really enjoyed them together!
Celia faces the same predicament that her siblings have all dealt with, having to get married due to their grandmother's decree. However, this young lady faces another challenge, she's determined to solve the mystery surrounding her parents' murder. What was it like to add this extra layer of suspense to what could have been a straightforward historical romance?
Nerve-wracking! When I conceived the series, I had intended the first book to have a certain element that proved not to work with the hero's motivation. Changing it made the solution to the mystery much harder to disguise later, but I had no choice. I just had to adjust. I used to write romantic suspense, so I know how mysteries and suspense work, but it's difficult enough to have a solid mystery in ONE book, much less drawn out over five. (I personally don't read many mysteries anymore, because I ALWAYS guess who did it.) I would guess that the "mystery" part of this probably wasn't complicated and sophisticated enough to satisfy the average mystery reader, but since I'm not writing mysteries, I didn't worry about making the mystery impenetrable. I was much more concerned about the romance. I settled for some smaller surprises that I think kept readers guessing.
But I don't think I'd do a mystery like that again. As a plotter, I have to plot a mystery from the beginning, but that's much harder to do over several books, when you don't know what roadblocks the characters might throw you with their romances. If I do an overarching series mystery again, it will be more of a smaller thing — as with readers having to guess who Cousin Michael was in my Heiress series.
Jackson Pinter is a Bow Street Runner and he is keeping major secrets from Celia. Trust is hard enough to come by in a relationship, so it must be very difficult for Celia to reconcile the fact that she has hired Jackson for protection only to realize he is not being honest with her.
I assume that the major secret you're talking about is the one that arises in the middle of the book. I like to think that when characters keep secrets from each other in a romance, it's because of their own insecurities and uncertainties (the same reason anyone keeps a secret in a relationship). Most of us in a relationship take our time with showing our true selves when we first start dating someone, because letting it all hang out the first time can backfire. Courtship in England at this time was very tricky — you had more at stake in a marriage when divorce is almost never an option, especially if you're a woman of wealth and position. Jackson keeps the secret in order to protect her (as he sees it). I think any woman would find that less upsetting than finding out that one's hero is hiding damaging information about himself. A man being so arrogant as to think that protecting the heroine is more important than being honest with her is something most of us can forgive. Or at least I could.
With the release of A Lady Never Surrenders, readers must say goodbye to the Sharpe Hellions; however, we have heard the rumor that your next series, which is also set in the Regency era, will tie into the Halstead Hall series. What details can you give us about your upcoming project?
Well, I actually have TWO upcoming projects. One is a sort of tie-in book to the Hellions, a Christmas novel and my first hardcover: Twas the Night After Christmas. I just had to write about a character you may recognize from both To Wed a Wild Lord and A Lady Never Surrenders — Virginia Waverly’s cousin, Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont. In it you’ll find (I hope, since I’m writing it now) a heartwarming story of love and redemption at Christmas time.
It’s not the first book of my new series, but more of a “bridge book.” Some of the Hellions may appear, and you’ll meet the character whose investigative agency is the focus of the new series. He's Dominick Manton, the disinherited younger son of a viscount, who'd served in the military before taking a position with the Bow Street Runners. Dominick began working with Pinter, and now that Pinter is busy with other endeavors, Dominick has pretty much taken over Pinter's business. The first book of the new series, with the Duke of Lyons (also introduced in the Hellions series) as the hero, comes out sometime in the spring of 2013. That's all I can say for now, since I'm still working out the whole thing (and still writing Pierce's book). So yes, it's VERY loosely connected to the Hellions, mostly through Pinter and Lyons, although who knows who else might show up?