Want to find out How the Marquess Was Won? You’ll have to read Julie Anne Long’s latest historical romance in her Pennyroyal Green series. But today you can get a taste of the tale in a very special guest Dish with Whitney and RT Senior Editor Elissa Petruzzi!
Whitney: So I think it’s important to start out by saying, I totally take pride in the fact that I introduced you to Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green books.
Elissa: Ha! I fully give you credit for handing me I Kissed an Earl this summer. And therefore I also blame you for when I accosted Julie Anne Long at RWA Nationals, gushing over how much I love her series. Pennyroyal Green: it’s the Stars Hollow of historical romances.
Whitney: The series certainly delivers. It's small-town romance, historical style, and Long’s latest, How the Marquess Was Won, is no exception. There’s the author’s signature witty banter, an excellent romance and a cast of extremely lovable characters.
Elissa: I know. I really liked that the heroine is smart! I appreciate that she can see through all of society’s schemers. And the — rather dreamy — hero is rather in on the joke, too, isn’t he?
Whitney: Well, maybe not so dreamy at the very beginning of the story. The first time we meet him is when Julian walks into a bar, bleeding from a gunshot wound.
Elissa: Pennyroyal Green’s infamous Pig & Thistle! Would that we could stop in for a pint of ale, WKS.
Whitney: Don’t I wish. But not the way that Julian arrives. Sans gunshot wound and life crisis, please.
Elissa: It's true, I prefer my cocktails sans bloodshed. Though it is a bit fun to see Julian in such a state of disarray, as it's certainly a departure for him. Usually Jules has everything so together — until he meets heroine Phoebe, of course.
Whitney: I have to say, even though the hero and heroine weren’t from either of the two influential families that Long’s Pennyroyal Green books are normally about — the Redmonds and the Everseas — I really liked both Julian and Phoebe.
Elissa: Yes! At first I was perplexed, but Long reeled me in right quick by turning the tables and making Lisbeth Redmond the competition for the hero instead of the true heroine.
Whitney: You know, I had a hard time deciding whether Phoebe or Julian takes the cake as my favorite character.
Elissa: Oh, I think I liked Julian the best. The way the rest of the ton clamored to be like him. It was like seeing inside the head of the most popular guy in school.
Whitney: My favorite moment in the story may be when he rescues Phoebe’s cat that attacks … everything, really.
Elissa: A man who loves a woman’s cat is a man after my own heart.
Whitney: So true, so true. And the scene where he brings Charybdis back to —
Elissa: Wait! We’re getting ahead of ourselves!
Whitney: Right, so Phoebe Vale starts out as a schoolteacher turned (temporary) chaperon.
Elissa: Poor Phoebe. Sleeping in the maid’s quarters. Playing at chaperon for Lisbeth Redmond as fair Lisbeth courts the dashing Marquess — who Phoebe’s totally crushing on. Long really does a great job of portraying class differences, and it’s heartbreaking for our girl.
Whitney: Absolutely! But, I think that some of that clash had to do with just who Phoebe is (and who Lisbeth is). They are very different women.
Elissa: But their class demands that, don’t you think? Phoebe must take care of herself, while Lisbeth must simper and smile. And the marquess certainly knows whom he prefers — and whom he must marry. Phoebe’s so smart — she speaks five languages for goodness sakes — but because of her station, no one pays attention to her. No one but Jules, of course.
Whitney: And while Lisbeth loves the adoration that the ton piles on her, Phoebe is … undomesticated; I mean literally, she wants to go to Africa. Forget England, forget well behaved and certainly forget being proper.
Elissa: There’s not much proper about trying to steal your charge’s man, but that’s our gal.
Whitney: Phoebe couldn’t deny the feelings she had for Julian. And poor Jules, he’s so flabbergasted when something doesn’t work the way he expects it to. I mean, Julian has everything — his life, his relationships — in such neat little rows that it’s a pleasure to watch Phoebe change him into a real human.
Elissa: I loved how in one scene he grumbles about how there’s a REASON he likes his horses black with white stockings. His world is ordered; that's how he's gotten to be so successful.
Whitney: And the ton just loves him, and everything that he does, no matter how silly it may seem. I mean, they all start styling their hair differently just because Julian does.
Elissa: Everyone follows his example, except Phoebe of course. And therein lies the appeal.
Whitney: For me, this is what really makes their romance work. It’s because of his connection with her. She’s someone who doesn’t have any interest in the measured Julian; she wants to know the real man.
Elissa: But then she refuses to play by his rules, she wants the whole enchilada. And that doesn’t fit in with his plans. And no one’s ever told him “no” before!
Whitney: No one except our Phoebe and she says “no” to him every time he offers something that’s less than what she wants. This isn’t just a whirlwind romance that takes place at a house party somewhere far from the watchful eye of the ton. Instead, Julian and Phoebe’s relationship moves across England, set in several different locations from the countryside to the ballrooms of London.
Elissa: And back to my beloved Pennyroyal Green. I really appreciated that Long included the detail about how Phoebe loved to read the society section of the papers — which explains how she knows who everyone is. It was a nice change of pace to view the ton through an outsider’s eyes. Like when she attends her first London ball and thinks: How could anyone ever get tired of this?!
Whitney: I have to admit, that’s exactly what I think when I read these books. How on earth could you get tired of the parties and the dancing and the ton’s entertainment? I mean, there are so many things to do and people to meet.
Elissa: And the dresses. Don't ever forget about all those dresses.
Whitney: No kidding, and there is a w-i-d-e cast of characters to be outfitted, from Phoebe’s friend the shop owner to the gambling Lord Waterburn, to the Silverton twins, who invite Phoebe to London after she finishes chaperoning Lisbeth.
Elissa: Ugh, the twins! They reminded me of The Shining twins, all grown up.
Whitney: But we couldn’t have a few of the best moments of the story without them. Because they bring Lisbeth and Phoebe to London as equals, and that’s where the young women really start to face off.
Elissa: You’re right. And Long got me, because I thought Lisbeth was really going to go all out catty (pun intended) but she knew just how to hit our heroine where it hurts. Girl-on-girl crime.
Whitney: If this had just been a matter of Lisbeth vs. Phoebe, the winner would be clear, I mean, as we’ve already discussed, Phoebe is a scrapper, a survivor, she thrives on adversity.
Elissa: … But it's not a one-on-one type of thing, it’s Phoebe against the ton. It really evokes that outsider feeling, as we see a schoolteacher against the titled masses.
Whitney: And there certainly are a lot of players. But for all the names that get bandied about, I really wouldn’t have a Pennyroyal Green book any other way. Because you know what it means? More stories!
Elissa: And I can’t wait! Did you notice how Jonathan Redmond is coming into his own quite nicely? Maybe he’ll be up next! I really like how Long incorporates long-running series characters into her novels, allowing readers to see them from the perspectives of her various protagonists, instead of just having them flit in and out of the story. I’m always like, stay a while, old friend!
What do you think about the Pennyroyal Green books, diving into long-running series and anxiously waiting for your favorite characters to get their own books? Let us know in the comments below. And get ready for next week when we read urban fantasy's The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark!