We were thrilled to see beloved author Anne Stuart return to historical romance with her three back-to-back releases, Ruthless, Reckless and Breathless. The novels begin the author's House of Rohan series and each of them has been an RT Reviewer Top Pick. Now Stuart shares an insider look at her popular new series and gives readers a chance to win the entire series in the GIVEAWAY at the end of the interview.
Ruthless introduces your House of Rohan series, which revolves around the escapades of the "Heavenly Host" - what inspired you to put an erotic spin on "the gentleman's club", a standard institution of the time period?
I actually first created the Heavenly Host in the early 1980s, in my first traditional regency for Dell entitled Lord Satan's Bride. It’s based on the Hellfire Club, a group of spoiled intellectuals, lords and politicians (apparently even Benjamin Franklin attended a meeting) who’d gather for sexual games and mild attempts at summoning the devil (apparently the point was that if God existed then for balance Satan must exist too, so they tried to find proof that he did). They’d dress up in clerical garb and play naughty games, which seemed both childish and full of dramatic possibilities.
Reckless got attention for the sexual heat between Adrian and Charlotte. What details did you use to reinforce Charlotte's transformation from self deprecating "novice" to seductress?
Hmm. What details? Oral sex? <Bad Krissie>. No, the truth was that Adrian was a gifted enough lover that he set Charlotte free from her inhibitions, and once she realized she was in love with him she decided there was no reason not to immerse herself in the pleasure her body and his attentions could offer. I don’t know if she actually became a seductress, but she was certainly able to claim pleasure for herself with no shame or second thoughts.
In Breathless, your heroine Miranda is a Rohan with a reputation that rivals her brothers. Nonetheless, she remains feisty in the face of every adversity. Were there any classic male Rohan traits that you knew you couldn't get away with giving to a woman?
I couldn’t get away with sexual promiscuity. Miranda has been compromised but she didn’t enjoy it much, and has no intention of trying sex again. Like her male counterparts, she’s self-sufficient, strong-willed and intelligent, and like her male counterparts she thinks that love has no part in her life. Particularly not with a slightly villainous, revenge-driven kidnapper.
If we promise not to tell, will you share which Rohan hero and heroine are your favorite?
Oh, that’s really hard. I adored Francis’s elegant decadence and Elinor’s determination to take care of her little family and her refusal to be crushed by life. Adrian’s luscious sexuality and eventual confusion as he falls in love, matched with Charlotte’s proper behavior and deep-hidden crush fulfilled many of my favorite fantasies. And Miranda and the Scorpion were Beauty and the Beast – the misunderstood beauty and the scarred beast. Though I have to say I loved the ending of Breathless. Any heroine who smacks the hero upside the head with an oar and almost kills him is my kind of woman. Plus I love the very last line in the book.
Your novels generally tend to be a bit darker and grittier than most romance books. While some readers are shocked, you have a legion of die-hard fans. Are you ever surprised by how popular your novels are? What do you think it is about your readers that have them coming back for more even though they know that they will be put through the ringer of emotion?
I think many readers want the complete ride. Not a gentle Sunday stroll, but fireworks and pain and passion and despair. The more bleak the outlook, the more satisfying the resolution is. For some readers it’s too extreme, but in fact I tend to be surprised at how controversial the books can be. I don’t find them that dark, though I asked my BFF and she said, “yup, they’re dark.” To me the happy, redemptive ending makes everything all right, but then, it seems I may have lived a darker life than many people. If my characters aren’t really tested by the worst their eventual true love has to offer, how will we know they’ll make it in the long run?
Even though I'm pretty sure I know the answer to this, I have to ask - do you ever just wake up in the morning and think to yourself, "Today I am going to write a happy story with two young, optimistic characters that will fall in love and live happily ever after"?
Hmmm. I suppose I must have, given that I’ve written so many books over such a long period. But I’ve always been drawn to the dark hero, the cynic. Give me a historical with devil, Satan or dark in the title and I’m so there.
If you have two young optimistic characters fall in love you need really powerful outside forces getting in their way or you have no story. I just tend like the conflicting forces being external and internal.
Your heroes definitely tend to be more than just a tad jaded, cynical, and sometimes even cruel. When you are creating them, which do you tend to see first - their evil deeds or redeeming features?
Neither. I tend to see their seductiveness, which can be redeeming or bordering on evil, depending on their motivation. I want to be drawn to a hero, to be unable to keep my eyes off him no matter what he does. The good and the bad come later. Though good deeds don’t tend to be that fascinating, I’m afraid.
Pretend that you are the heroine in one of your historical romance novels, can you give a short description of yourself?
Oh, this is funny. I was going to go with what I like as a heroine stand-in – Lady Anne was a plump, bird-like creature with soft brown hair and eyes, a stubborn soul and a vulnerable heart ... and then realized that wasn’t me (for one thing I’m a blue-eyed blonde).
“Sister Anne, Mother Superior of the Sisters of Perpetual Mirth, was a stout, merry soul, with a strong appetite for food, drink, and handsome men. Possessed of infinite good humor and calm, she spent her days working on illustrated manuscripts, having decided the monks were having all the fun, working in the kitchens baking sinfully rich desserts, and her nights with Lord Richard of Ohlrogge, her life mate. She was strong-minded but kind, a whirlwind of activity, and loved to gather the children around her and tell them inappropriate stories.”
A little birdy told me that you were writing a fourth novel in the Rohan series (full disclosure, that 'birdy' was your editor). So you have to give up the goods, whose story will we be getting next and what can we expect?
We’ll be hearing about Miranda’s twice-widowed older brother Benedick and his heroine, the determined Lady Melisande Carstairs, known as “Charity” Carstairs for her good works. The Heavenly Host has gone from harmless to evil, and Melisande is determined to stop them and rescue all the soiled doves who have fallen afoul of them, and she expects Benedick to help her.
Want to get another taste of Stuart's House of Rohan Series? Check out the free series prequel, The Wicked House of Rohan, in e-book format here.
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Giveaway Alert: Three lucky winners will receive the first three novels in Stuart's House of Rohan Series. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post about why you love sexy historical romances or e-mail here with your comment, mailing address and the subject line "Anne Stuart’s House of Rohan Giveaway.” One entry per person. The contest winners will be revealed on October 28th.
BLOG UPDATE 10/28/2010: And The Winners Are ... Malin, roxhill and KatKirk136