Today I would like to welcome Isabella Hargreaves to my chair.
Congratulations on being an ARRA nominee with your debut novel!
I’m an Australian author of historical romances, mainly set during the Regency period. I’ve read historical fact and fiction since I was a child growing up in Brisbane. That wasn’t enough, so I became a historian and now spend every work day researching and writing about people, places and events from the past. It seemed the perfect idea to combine my love of history and romance by writing historical romances. I write about strong, determined heroines and heroes that aren’t afraid to match them.
How I came to writing
Like many authors, I have a track record of writing stores as a child. Mine were inspired by Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series and never saw light of day, which is perhaps as well. I did eventually achieve a writing career of a different sort.
I’m a historian by profession, so I write every day for my living. However, I still yearn to write fiction. I’ve read historical novels since I was a child and romance for many years, thanks to my mum’s influence.
I made a start with romance writing about twenty years ago but didn’t pursue it because I was too busy fulfilling other dreams – becoming a historian and raising two children. In the last few years, since my children turned into teenagers and the ties of motherhood loosened, I decided to try again to fulfil my old ambition of writing historical romance.
So, I re-joined the Romance Writers of Australia after a 10-15 year break and started attending conferences, writing and entering competitions. I’ve been really fortunate in that my first novel, The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody, has received a great response. It was a prize-winner in the Steam eReads ‘Some Like it Hot’ Romantic Fiction Competition in 2013 and was published by Steam eReads in November. Since then, it has been short-listed in the ‘Favourite Historical Romance’ category of the Australian Romance Readers Awards. J
The Persuasion of Miss Jane Brody was inspired by reading a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft (1757-1797) who wrote what is now regarded as the earliest feminist treatise, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The story came from asking “how would a supporter of Wollstonecraft’s ideas cope with falling in love?” I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it.
Grosvenor Square, London, August 1817
The door to his library opened abruptly and swung back on its hinges crashing into the bookshelves behind. An erect, grey haired lady dressed in the latest Parisian fashion marched into the room and stood before him as he sat behind his oak desk, bathed in early afternoon sunshine. Jonathan Everslie, Marquis of Dalton, gave her his full attention as she wanted and smiled in amused anticipation.
Without hesitation she launched the frontal attack he knew was coming.
“You must marry, Dalton, you must!” Lady Lucinda Mulgrave was emphatic. “You have a large family of dependent aunts and cousins and there is no heir to follow you. Do you want them thrown out on the streets when you die?”
“I must have an heir somewhere Aunt Lucinda. It only stands to reason. If I were to expire, I’m sure he would be found.” The new Marquis of Dalton attempted to calm her with logic. “And would look after his dependents,” he added as an afterthought.
The elderly lady raised her chin and stared down her aquiline nose at her nephew, her mouth set in a disapproving line. “There may be a cousin in New South Wales from my youngest brother who was sent there in exile - but his mother could be a convict for all we know. It is your duty to marry and beget an heir, and soon.”
“Let me be clear. I know it is my duty to marry, and soon, Aunt Lucinda, but I won’t marry anyone I consider unsuitable.”
Doggedly, Lady Mulgrave ploughed on with her lecture. “This is not the time to be fastidious. There are myriad young ladies every Season, more than suitable for the task – with impeccable backgrounds and some with money to match.”
The Marquis was placating. “And I will consider them. However, the Season doesn’t begin for another seven months, so this conversation is premature.”
“Nonsense, there are many families with eligible daughters whom you could visit, or invite to stay at Everslie in the meantime.”
“And how do you suggest I do that?”
“You have your secretary write invitations and send them, Jonathan.” She glared at him.
“How do I know who these candidates are?”
“I have a list already written.” She produced it with a flourish and laid it in front of him on his desk. “I expect to be presiding over a house party for these ladies and their families at Everslie by Christmas.”
Having delivered her message and assuming agreement, Lady Mulgrave nodded to her nephew in conclusion and sailed from his presence.
In frustration, the Marquis ran his long fingers through his hair, pushing the short brown curls from his forehead. He picked up the list and cast a knowing eye down its length. He had met them all and been bored to the point of irritation by their simpering ways. He groaned then crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it into the empty fire grate.
“Stevens!” His man of business arrived quickly. “Send to the stables for Nate to saddle my horse. I’m going out for a ride. I believe we have concluded today’s business.”
“Yes, we have my lord, but have you forgotten that you promised to take your sister to a lecture this afternoon, as Lady Mulgrave is unavailable?”
Vexed at the impediment to his escape, he sank back into his chair behind the desk. “Ah, yes, I do remember. We shall be gone for the afternoon. Thank you Stevens, continue with your work.” He changed his mind. “No – send word to my solicitor that I shall see him tomorrow morning.”
“May I tell him what it concerns, my lord?”
“Yes, I wish to trace the whereabouts of my uncle in Australia, or his family, should he have met his maker.”
Stevens nodded compliance and left to follow the Marquis’ orders.
Alone again, Dalton sank into a reverie about the onerous obligations that befall those who inherit titles – that of producing heirs for the benefit of their families. Of course, he mused, it shouldn’t be an onerous task to find a wife and create a family - it should be a pleasurable duty. Why wasn’t it turning out that way?
Annie loves sharing her writing chair with special guests! If you'd like a turn...please email her! firstname.lastname@example.org