History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

05 August 2008

Welcome (back), Victoria Dahl!!!

Raised by a titled, yet degenerate, father, Emma Jensen never imagined the gambling lessons she learned as a child would one day serve her well. When she finds herself in dire need of money, she concocts the alias of Dowager Lady Denmore and sets off to bewitch London’s noblemen by engaging them in games of chance. The fact that respectable ladies do not gamble does not intimidate her in the least. But the darkly handsome Duke of Somerhart does—for he’s awakened a deep, sensual hunger in her…

The dashing Duke of Somerhart has the notorious reputation of being one of London’s most incurable rogues. When he meets the alluring Lady Denmore, he is immediately intrigued. Her recklessness and innocence intertwined titillates him as no other woman ever has. But what secret is the lovely Lady Denmore hiding? He’s determined to find out. But first he must seduce her until she surrenders completely to his most wicked desires...

“Dahl brings a highly sensual, emotional and moving story to the pages with aplomb… The depth of emotions will keep you enthralled.”- Romantic Times BOOKreviews

What sparked the story idea for A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure? A non-fiction book? A scene that haunted you? A specific character?

The opening of Rake’s Guide features a race down a staircase on silver platters. I totally stole that from Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. But my ideas never begin with the opening scene. Instead, I start with one random scene that peaks my interest.

This time was a bit different in that I already knew Somerhart from To Tempt a Scotsman. I’d been living with him for years. He’s cool and perfect and impervious and arrogant. And I could not WAIT to push him into a certain night with a certain heroine, because I wanted to see him the next morning... When he bolts upright in bed, feeling very dirty and wondering how in the hell a country widow persuaded him to debase himself for her entertainment. *snicker* It still makes me smile every time.

If you want to find out what, exactly, happened that night, you’ll have to read the book.

A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure is set in 1845. How did you become interested in this setting?

I settled on the early Victorian because I find it fascinating to write about a transitional time period. Victoria was the queen in 1845, but she was still settling into her reign. She was a young woman, not yet beset by mourning, so her influence was lighter. Society was changing, becoming a bit more rigid and strict in its ideas, but the people of the 1840’s were still emerging from the (extended) Regency.

Because it’s an ambiguous period, I have a bit more leniency. For example, my heroine arrives on the London scene about six months after her husband’s death. (Or this is her story, anyway.) I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off in the late Victorian. But in 1845, mourning hadn’t changed all that much from the Regency, and Regency mores were more flexible. While it might have raised a few eyebrows, most people would not have expected a twenty-year-old woman to spend a year in deep mourning after the death of her seventy-year-old husband. It was a marriage of convenience and they would’ve expected a convenient mourning as well.

But I do expect to get a few letters explaining that she couldn’t possibly have shown her face at gambling parties only six months after his death. Fair enough. But you’re totally wrong. *g*

Is there anything about this period that constrained your story? What do you like least about it?

I like almost everything about it. Change makes for a fascinating era. But change is coming so rapidly that it can make research truly difficult. Books that speak in any sort of generalities are useless to me. Practices that were “common” during the Victorian era were likely not yet common in the 1840’s, but I can never be sure if people were still doing things the way they had during the Regency. Urgh! And there aren’t really many books specific to the time. People are fascinated by the Regency and people are fascinated by the Victorian, but not so much the in between.

What kind of major research did you have to do for this book?

There were two major areas of research for this book. First, my heroine is a gambler, so I had to look into the kinds of gambling that would have gone on in private homes. Then I had to separate the games. My heroine would never rely on pure luck. She has skill and intelligence and a serious need to make money. I really, really wanted her to play something like poker, so I introduced the game of brag (aka “bragg”) which is a precursor to poker. It wasn’t that widely played in this era, but it hadn’t disappeared yet.

I did fudge in one area. For dramatic effect, my heroine is always playing for cash, never on credit.

The other specific subject I researched was historical imposters. Lady Denmore is not really Lady Denmore at all. Emma is masquerading as her great-uncle’s widow, when in actuality she was his niece. She comes to London in the middle of the winter to carefully place herself among the few bored families still in town, and I had to set this up very carefully, because the ton is such a small population. I’ll be blogging a little about this on Thursday.

Oh, and here’s something interesting. In the process of trying to find out about the hierarchy of the Church of England, I stumbled upon some great info. There was a movement during this time period to try to steer the Church back toward its Roman Catholic roots. An internal struggle a little like the struggle in the Catholic church between traditionalists and modernists. (Forgive the terms if they’re not correct.) This little tidbit gave me great and unexpected insight into the villain of the book, a young man obsessed with trying to reconcile his religious beliefs with his lust for the heroine.

Do you have any fun tidbits you’d like to relate about the hero of the book, the Duke of Somerhart?

Mmmm... Hart. Otherwise known as Winterhart. Or Hartless. Such a cool character. But he has a very, very hot past that he basically commands other people to forget. The deep dark truth is that Somerhart was a very happy sensualist when he was a young man. He loved women. All kinds of women. Inappropriate women, especially. He would have been much happier as a second son, free to slink from escapade to escapade for the rest of his life. But duty was pummeled into him, and he suppresses his sensual nature. Poor baby.

What do you have planned for your next book?

The next book will be Lancaster’s story. We meet Viscount Lancaster in A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure, and his story is excerpted at the end of the book. Lancaster is adorable. Very charming and genuinely nice. In fact, when I first envisioned him, he was probably too nice. I had to darken him up a bit. And, boy, did I. You’ll have to let me know if it works for you when the book comes out in 2010!

In addition to a very dark back story, I’ve saddled Lancaster with an unfaithful fiancée he simply can’t leave. Oh, and there’s a ghost in his house, haunting his bedroom, and making him feel very guilty for not helping her when she was alive. The poor Viscount is not having a good year.

And my first contemporary romance, Talk Me Down, comes out in January, so check it out!


Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Vicki! I've got this book in my purse as I type and I can't wait to start it (must turn in my own proposal first though *grumble*).

11:33 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Fabulous interview, Victoria and Kalen! Vicki, it was so much fun getting to finally meet you in person at RWA!

I've been intrigued by Somerhart ever since your first book. It sounds as though you've found a wonderful heroine for him!

Researching transistional periods is always difficult. Oddly, when I was first writing Regency-set books (centuries and centirues ago :-), it seemed as though most research books were "Georgian" and "Victorian" and was harder to find Regency-specific info. I think the Jane Austen craze that started in the 90s changed a lot of that.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Great to see you in SF, Vicki!

Rakes RULE! ;-)


12:05 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Hey girls! It was so good to see you all in San Fran.

Tracy, that's hard to imagine!!! *g*

3:32 PM  
Blogger Caffey said...

Hi Victoria! Was great to chat with you the other night! I have ventured out yet, but hope to soon for my Duke :) Cool on the research! Anything I learn, I learn from reading historical romances and sometimes I like to look things up but then I'll never get off the computer because I just love reading this Victorian setting, all that about the dressing, the balls, the rules of society, everything! (Lobe too reading Regency, Medieval and Western). Great interview to read!!! Hart...sigh...

8:52 PM  
Blogger Caffey said...

Too I wanted to say a big hello too the rest of the History Hoydens authors! Its great to be visiting again!

8:53 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Hello to Caffey, from the Hoydens.

Noticed you love the color purple!

There's a thing going on with purple and historicals right now...even my next book, and Vicki's current release have purple covers (which I love!)


10:29 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Hi Caffey! I'm glad you stopped by!

I just found the first full-blown mistake in Rake's Guide! I've got Hart drinking Bourbon in one scene. Crap. I think I just misspoke (or miswrote). I *think* I meant it to be brandy and then just never noticed it. But coming off the heels of the Gentlemen's Tipple in San Fran... Shit.

Ah well. Let's just all pretend he has eccentric tastes in whiskey, shall we? Thank you very much.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

I'm just getting back to NYC from a couple of days out of town where I didn't have the opportunity to catch up on Hoydens Happenings.

So, welcome back Victoria, and congratulations on the new release! May it become a bestseller!

4:44 AM  

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