I am thrilled to be able to talk about this fantastic book on the blog today, to feature an interview with the author, Jennifer Delamere, and to facilitate the first-ever giveaway on this blog, kindly hosted by the publisher. I think the technical term for this sort of post is Extravaganza! Let’s get down to business.
A New Beginning
A youthful indiscretion has cost Lizzie Poole more than just her honor. After five years living in exile, she’s finally returning home, but she’s still living a secret life. Her best friend, Ria’s dying wish was for Lizzie to assume her identity, return to London, and make amends that Ria herself would never live to make. Bearing a striking resemblance to her friend, and harboring more secrets than ever before, Lizzie embarks on a journey that tempts her reckless heart once again . . .
A committed clergyman, Geoffrey Somerville’s world is upended when he suddenly inherits the title of Lord Somerville. Now he’s invited to every ball and sought after by the matchmaking mothers of London society. Yet the only woman to capture his heart is the one he cannot have: his brother’s young widow, Ria. Duty demands he deny his feelings, but his heart longs for the mysterious beauty. With both their futures at stake, will Lizzie be able to keep up her façade? Or will she find the strength to share her secret and put her faith in true love?
In short: I loved this book. I have a bit of a soft spot for inspirational romance that doesn’t strangle one with sweetness and sparkly rainbows, and this book more than fit that bill. It is a lovely romance featuring a slew of flawed but likable characters, a case of assumed identity, some pining, a bit of despair, a spoonful of righteous indignation, and a fantastically awful villain (and he TOTALLY did the Wilhelm scream). Further, even though Lizzie endures years of unpleasant consequences and guilt as a result of her ‘youthful indiscretion,’ nothing about this book raised my lady hackles. The feminist in me was well-pleased.
I loved all of the history that is sprinkled throughout this book–there is enough historical detail to provide a proper setting for the characters’ actions but never so much that I grew bored or impatient–especially the parts relating to the Great Exhibition. So often in a historical novel, there is not a clear connection between the world-building and the characters, but Delamere does a fantastic job here of making the historical details that establish the setting relate to the characters and to the characters’ story arc. There is this lovely little bit wherein Geoffrey, a vicar-turned-baron, refers to the Great Exhibition as an occasion “where the rich and the poor might meet together,” and that line becomes a motif that demonstrates one of the novel’s themes and sheds light on Lizzie’s thoughts on where she stands vis-à-vis Geoffrey. As a reader, I get so frustrated when books suffer from a glut of unnecessary detail, but An Heiress at Heart was a balm to my soul.
Interview with Jennifer Delamere
The youngest child of a Navy pilot and a journalist, Jennifer acquired a love of adventure and an excitement for learning that continues to this day. She’s lived in three countries and traveled through the U.S. An avid reader of classics and historical fiction, she also enjoys biographies and histories, which she mines for the vivid details to bring to life the characters and places in her books. She resides with her husband in North Carolina. You can learn more at: http://www.jenniferdelamere.com/
I want to start by thanking Jennifer for coming on the blog today to answer some questions about her debut novel. As some of you know, I have kind of a thing for history, and it is rare to have the opportunity to discuss it with anyone who is not put off by my creepy enthusiasm (in general, and about history in particular).
1. RwA: An Heiress at Heart includes many rich historical details about London and Australia in the early Victorian Era. Where and how did you conduct your research? Did you do any traveling?
Delamere: Most of my research was done through books. Victorian London, by Liza Picard, was extremely helpful. It focused on the period 1840-1870, and included fascinating details on all aspects of everyday life, right down to the sounds and smells. It had an entire chapter devoted to the Great Exhibition, which is where I first learned about it.
And of course there is a treasure trove of sources available online! I even found a site that had scanned copies of Australian newspapers going back to the 1840s—very helpful because the backstory for An Heiress at Heart takes place in colonial Australia. The color paintings that the London Illustrated News produced of the Great Exhibition
were valuable for helping me describe it. Readers who want to get a better “look” can easily find dozens of these pictures by doing a Google search for images from the Great Exhibition.
I did also travel to England. Many of the descriptions of Hyde Park and the homes in Mayfair are based on what I was able to see for myself. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London had wonderful displays of Victorian clothing and jewelry.
2. RwA: What drew you to the early Victorian Era as a setting for your books?
Delamere: It was an easy choice for me. I have so many favorite authors from that time, including Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell. I’m a big fan of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operettas (written in the 1870s and 1880s), and the plays of Oscar Wilde. I’ve read lots of books about Victorian England just for enjoyment. Because my head was already in that era, so to speak, I felt I understood the Victorian world well enough to set my novels there.
3. RwA: I loved your use of poetry throughout this book. Could you talk a bit about the specific poets you chose and their importance to the period?
Delamere: I first came across a few lines of a Tennyson poem in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel North and South. I loved it so much I found a book of Tennyson poems so that I could read the whole thing. That poem is the one Lizzie Poole is reading on the hillside at Rosewood. Tennyson was the poet laureate at the time An Heiress at Heart takes place, and he was immensely popular. He really was in many ways the quintessential Victorian poet. I ended up finding two other poems that also suited the book very well.
4. RwA: Much of the action in London takes place at the Great Exhibition. Why was this exhibition so important?
Delamere: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was meant to show England’s prominence in trade and manufacturing, and it succeeded, even though countries from around the world were exhibiting their marvels as well. At times it’s referred to as the first world’s fair. It also boosted Prince Albert’s popularity. He was heavily involved in its planning and promotion and was vital to making it successful. Because of his foreign origins he’d initially had a hard time being accepted by Britons, but after the Great Exhibition he was held in higher esteem. This made Queen Victoria (who visited the Exhibition dozens of times) very proud and happy. The Exhibition made a lot of money, much of which was used to buy up property south of Hyde Park and fund (among other things) the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum. The Royal Commission that was founded to run the Great Exhibition is still in operation today, funding research in science and engineering. That’s quite a legacy.
5. RwA: I am curious: did the Prince’s Cottages end up being a success for both the working poor and the investors that funded their construction?
Delamere: I haven’t studied it in detail, but it does seem true that many successful housing projects were completed using that business model. The “Prince’s Cottages” that Geoffrey and Lizzie toured is in fact still standing, although not in Hyde Park. It was torn down after the Great Exhibition and rebuilt south of the Thames River in Kennington Park. It’s now called the Prince Consort Lodge.
A block of flats built on the design of the Prince’s Cottages is also still standing today, in a neighborhood near the British Museum. It’s a large group of condos built around an enclosed courtyard. I was not able to go inside, but I did get a picture of the outside, which still proclaims their original purpose. I’ve included a copy for you here.
6. RwA: Who are your favorite authors/what are your favorite books?
Delamere: I’m a pretty eclectic reader. I love classics, histories, travelogues, historical romances, and contemporary romances. I’ve listed many of them on my GoodReads page; I love to connect with readers there: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5814224.Jennifer_Delamere.
7. RwA: I see you have another book in the works; is there any chance we will get to explore James’ story in a future book?
Delamere: Funny you should ask! Yes, we will see more of James. His story will conclude in the third book of this trilogy. I like to say he’ll be the last man standing! No one will be more surprised than James at the woman who manages to finally steal his heart. I believe the readers will be pleasantly surprised, too.
Thank you for these wonderful and insightful questions! I enjoyed answering these immensely. I hope readers will take great pleasure in reading An Heiress at Heart.
FOREVER Romance has generously agreed to host this giveaway and will send one print copy of An Heiress to Remember to one lucky commenter, chosen at random (thank you, random.org). There are, of course, some rules:
- This giveaway is limited to US residents only (sorry!).
- You must be 13 years of age or older to enter.
- You must comment on this post in order to qualify. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a topic.
- You must be willing to provide your mailing address in order to receive your copy of the book.
- The giveaway will run through 11:59 PM pacific time on Wednesday, November 7. I will announce the winner on Thursday, November 8.
Please leave a comment about your favorite historical time period, assuming you have one. Would you want to live in a time bendy universe wherein you could experience that time period for yourself, or are you quite content with modern conveniences (and lack of time travel)? Please feel free to ignore my arbitrarily chosen topic in favor of one that is more interesting to you. 🙂
An Heiress at Heart was released on October 30, 2012 as a trade paperback from Forever Trade Paperback and as a mass market. If you are interested in the book, please visit its page on Goodreads here. Jennifer Delamere is on Twitter (@jendelamere), so feel free to follow if you’re into that whole Twitter thing.
* FTC Disclaimer – I received an e-galley of this book from Forever through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. *