Inside the Story

Inside The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband

  • I rarely model my characters after real people (in looks or personality) but I happened to be watching Poldark while I was writing the early chapters of The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband, and I was so struck by Eleanor Tomlinson’s eyes, that I decided to give them to Cecilia.
Eleanor Tomlinson, in character as Demelza on BBC’s most recent production of Poldark.
  • Speculaas are spiced shortbread biscuits that were traditionally baked for St. Nicholas Day (December 5) in the Netherlands. They are thin, slightly brown, and crispy, and US air passengers might recognize them as the type of cookies given out on many flights under the Biscoff label. In recent years, Trader Joe’s has started using speculaas type cookies to make their now-famous Cookie Butter. TJ’s refers to the cookies as speculoos, which is the Flemish spelling of the word.
  • British forces occupied New York City for most of the Revolutionary War, and many prisoners of war were held on prison ships moored not far off the coast. These vessels were generally damaged or obsolete, and thus not useful in battle, and conditions on board were appalling. It is estimated that well over half the men held on these ships died during incarceration, most due to malnutrition or disease.
  • One thing about Manhattan hasn’t changed over time: space is at a premium and real estate isn’t cheap. The British army, desperate to find room for all of its soldiers, commandeered countless buildings, including churches like the one used as a hospital in the early chapters of The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband.
  • In Edward’s letter to Cecilia from Newport, Rhode Island, he mentions that some of his men were billeted in a synagogue. Although I didn’t mention it by name, this refers to Touro Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue in North America, and indeed, the only one that dates back to the Colonial era. Manhattan’s Congregation Shearith Israel, founded in 1654, is the oldest U.S. congregation, but its early buildings are no longer in existence and the current synagogue, on W. 70th Street, dates from 1897.
    The Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI Interior

    The Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI Exterior
  • Margaret Tryon was a real historical figure. She was born Margaret Wake, and when she married she brought with her a dowry of £30,000. Her father was the East India Company’s Governor of Bombay from 1742 to 1750, and her mother hailed from an old and influential Norfolk family. Indeed, it was through these connections that Margaret’s husband William Tryon secured his first major position in the New World, that of Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 1764. Margaret was thought to be an eccentric, and indeed a little “mannish,” due to her interest in military matters over more traditionally feminine pursuits.
  • In 1773, the New York Governor’s Mansion burned to the ground, and the Tryons’ daughter (also named Margaret) was saved when her governess threw her out a second-story window into a snowbank. Ironically, Margaret Tryon (the younger) later died during a botched elopement in England when she fell from a ladder and impaled herself on a fence.

Inside Because of Miss Bridgerton

  • I first got the idea of writing about an earlier generation of Bridgertons a few years after finishing On the Way to the Wedding, the final volume in the 8-book Bridgerton series. I knew I would never write a book about Edmund and Violet (the parents of the clan) but I thought it would be fun if they could appear as secondary characters during the time of their courtship. In the end, I decided to focus the series on the a neighboring family (the Rokesbys), but the Bridgertons still loom large. Billie Bridgerton is seven years older than Edmund, though, so he is away at school during Because of Miss Bridgerton.
  • I honestly don’t know if the Royal Navy would have sent an officer with a broken arm home to convalesce. But I figured that if they were going to let anyone have some sick leave, it would be the son of an earl like Andrew Rokesby.
  • Aristocratic young ladies like Billie had to be presented at court before being introduced to society, and the dress code was both extravagant and strict. Even as silhouettes grew slimmer and hoops became less fashionable, ladies were required to wear wide panniers at their presentation. It was extremely difficult to move in these gowns, and ladies often had to turn sideways to fit through doorways. The gown in this photo is from the 1750s, but Billie would have worn something similar two decades later.
  • I couldn’t resist bringing back Pall Mall, Bridgerton style, and it was fun to discover the origin of the Mallet of Death. It was pointed out to me later that in The Duke and I, it is claimed that Anthony Bridgerton coined the term, but I like to think that it’s one of those things that has entered family legend, and Anthony simply thinks he came up with it.

Inside Mr. Cavendish, I Presume

  • For years I’ve wanted to write a two-book set based on the premise: “Two men say they’re the Duke of Something. One of them must be wrong.” (Two points if you can guess where that line comes from. Or you can just peek at the soundtrack to The Lost Duke of Wyndham.)
  • The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume take place concurrently, and their plots are very closely intertwined. When I began to develop these two novels, it became clear that if I didn’t want the plot or characters of one book to be dependent upon the other, I would need to write the two books simultaneously. Many scenes occur in both books, but from different points of view.
  • As with The Lost Duke of Wyndham, the cover was meant to evoke a romantic movie poster. I got to pick out the cover models for this one!
  • I have always been a total geek for maps, so I was very excited to be able to include some cartography in the book. The first map that Thomas and Amelia look at (the one in which Greenland looks so big) is a Mercator projection:
    Cavendish_mercator
  • Here is an example of a Mercator projection circa 1820:
    Cavendish_mercator_1820
  • Finally, this is a cordiform projection:
    Cavendish_cordiform
  • I’ve loved the idea of the Outer Hebrides ever since I saw Barbra Streisand in What’s Up Doc? Wondering where they are?

Inside The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy

  • The concert that opens the story is the 1825 Smythe-Smith musicale, which makes it the same one that appears in It’s in His Kiss. (Hence the later reference to the rakish Gareth St. Clair.) It also appears in the epilogues of Just Like Heaven, A Night Like This, and The Sum of All Kisses. And yes, it’s difficult to keep all the facts straight.
  • The Shepherdess, the Unicorn, and Henry VIII was by far the most fun scene to write in the book. This disaster of a performance was first mentioned in It’s in His Kiss, when Hyacinth and Gareth attend what they think will be a poetry reading. When I introduced the Pleinsworth girls in A Night Like This, and I realized that they were the ones who would have performed this play, it made it a breeze to create their characters. Harriet (the oldest) would be the playwright, and Frances (the youngest) would be obsessed with unicorns. Elizabeth (the middle child) would be the middle child. (I am also a middle child; read into that what you will.)
  • The baby sheep in The Shepherdess, the Unicorn, and Henry VIII was inspired by a young acquaintance of mine. For your viewing pleasure:
  • Winston Bevelstoke makes an appearance in the early chapters of The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy. Winston is one of my most popular secondary characters, having previously appeared in The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (brother of the hero) and What Happens in London (brother of the heroine). Readers ask for his story all the time. He’s not on the agenda for the next few books, but he is definitely on the radar.
  • Richard_russian_americaThe Treaty of St. Petersburg got a mention mostly because I needed something Iris might have read about in the newspaper. The treaty defined the boundary between Russian America and the North Western Territory, or, as we would say today, between Alaska and Canada.
  • Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
    Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
  • During the early part of the 19th century, the British Royal Family was more German than anything else. George III, who ruled from 1760-1820, was the first of the Hanoverian monarchs to be born in England and use English as his first language. He married a German aristocrat, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and his son and heir, George IV, also married a German, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. (It was a spectacularly unhappy marriage, but that’s another story.) Queen Victoria’s first language was German, and it was most likely her only language during much of her early childhood. Her father, Prince Edward, died before her first birthday and she was raised primarily by her German-speaking mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
  • Richard_mansfield_coverIris reads Mansfield Park in the carriage on her way north, later commenting that it’s much less romantic than Pride and Prejudice. I wrote the Afterword for the Signet Classic edition of Mansfield Park in 2008 and must concur with Iris. Fanny Price is no Lizzy Bennet! (To say nothing of Edmund Bertram and Mr. Darcy.)
  • Maycliffe Park was modeled after Norton Conyers, a late medieval manor house in North Yorkshire. I later discovered that Norton Conyers was also the inspiration for Thornfield Hall, the home of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. Charlotte Brontë visited Norton Conyers in 1839. There was already a legend of a madwoman locked in the attic; it’s certainly possible that Brontë heard the tale.
Richard Norton Conyers
Richard Norton Conyers

Inside The Sum of All Kisses

  • The Patch of Green (where Daniel and Hugh fight their duel) is not a real location. I really wasn’t sure where the men would be most likely to duel, but I wanted it to sound as if there was an infamous spot everyone knew about.
  • At the outset of Chapter Two, Sarah and Honoria are talking about Gareth St. Clair, whom some of you might recognize as the hero of It’s in His Kiss. This particular scene takes place several years before Gareth meets and falls in love with Hyacinth, so he is still a single (and very eligible) gentleman at the time of Sarah and Honoria’s conversation.
  • Eloisa James fans will recognize the Duke of Kinross and Lady Edith Gilchrist, who are guests at Marcus and Honoria’s wedding. Although neither protagonist from Once Upon a Tower actually appears “on screen” in The Sum of All Kisses, both are mentioned, and Iris’s frantic search for Edie leads to some rather significant self-reflection on the part of Sarah.
  • Once again, I was unable to resist the lure of Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron. My favorite novel-within-a-novel makes its fifth appearance in my books in The Sum of All Kisses. It made its debut in It’s in His Kiss as one of the books Hyacinth reads to Lady Danbury, then it became a big part of the plots of both What Happens in London and Ten Things I Love About You. I managed to work it into Just Like Heaven, as well. I can’t imagine we’ve seen the end of this melodrama; it’s much too fun to write bad prose.
  • Sum_st_sepulchreOranges and Lemons is an old English nursery rhyme that developed into a singing game similar to (but not exactly like) “London Bridge is Falling Down.” The lyrics refer to the bells of churches located in or near the City of London. Perhaps the most famous of these churches is St. Sepulchre-Without-Newgate, which is referred to in the rhyme as “the bells of Old Bailey” due to its location opposite London’s Central Criminal Court, commonly known as “Old Bailey.” The bells of St. Sepulchre tolled whenever a condemned man was marched from nearby Newgate Prison to the gallows for his execution. Additionally, St. Sepulchre’s bellman was responsible for ringing the a large handbell known as the Executioner’s Bell inside Newgate at midnight on the day of an execution. Today, the Executioner’s Bell resides in a glass case in St. Sepulchre’s.Sum_Executioner's_Bell
  • Oil of Sweet Vitriol is an old-fashioned word for diethyl ether, more commonly known simply as ether. Ether is one of the oldest known anesthetics; it was first synthesized in 1540 by Valerius Cordus.
  • The wealthy usually had their newspapers ironed before they read them. This was not to eliminate wrinkles but rather to seal the ink so that it did not rub off on people’s hands.

Inside The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After

 

  • Over the years I have found that the best way to keep my writing “fresh” is to change how I write (since I don’t want to change what I write). The Bridgerton 2nd Epilogues provided the perfect outlet for this. The shorter format was a breath of fresh air, and I even wrote one in the first person.
  • I have always felt that I could not write a full-length novel about Violet and Edmund Bridgerton, despite countless request from readers. I thought (and still think) it would be too difficult, knowing that he would die so young. But I wanted to show a bit of their courtship, and the episodic nature of Violet in Bloom gave me the perfect opportunity to do this.
  • I almost wrote the bonus story about a Bridgerton descendent (instead of about Violet.) I must confess to a wild curiosity about what those Bridgertons were doing during World War II.
  • I am often asked to name my favorite of my novels. It’s an impossible question; each of my books has something about it I adore. But I will confess that the 2nd Epilogue When He Was Wicked might be my #1.
  • If a scene isn’t working, I usually figure that out before getting too far, which is why I don’t have very many deleted scenes posted on my website. “Violet in Bloom,” however, turned out to the an exception, and I wrote a fifteen-page scene that did not make it into the final book. You can read it exclusively here on juliaquinn.com.

Inside The Lady Most Willing…

 

  • I loved the Duke of Bretton’s dry sense of humor in The Lady Most Likely…, so when Eloisa, Connie, and I decided to work on a second collaboration together, I quickly claimed him as my hero, even though The Lady Most Willing… is not in any way a sequel to The Lady Most Likely….
  • I am not much of an expert on medieval castles, so I will admit that I assumed that people made butter in the buttery. It’s actually a service room for storing beer and other alcoholic drinks. The name comes from the medieval French word botte, which comes from the Latin buttis, or “barrel.” Incidentally, the word “bottle,” derives from the French bouteille, which in turn comes from my favorite Latin word ever: butticula.
  • It turns out I also didn’t know very much about the traditional Highland sport of caber tossing. It turns out that the win does not go to the man who throws the caber the farthest, but rather the one who comes closest to landing the large log in the most vertical position.

Inside A Night Like This

  • Harriet Pleinsworth first made her first appearance in It’s in His Kiss when Hyacinth and Gareth discovered that what they thought was to be a poetry reading had been changed to a performance of an original composition—The Shepherdess, the Unicorn, and Henry VIII. Written, of course, by Harriet Pleinsworth. It’s in His Kiss takes place one year after A Night Like This, so I had a lot of fun setting up the pieces of Harriet’s future “masterwork.”
  • Night_Crossed_LetterI have always been fascinated by postal systems and had great fun researching how Anne might send letters to her sister. At the time of A Night Like This, postage was paid by the recipient of a letter, not the sender. Since postage was calculated in part by the number of sheets in the letter, many people economized by writing “crossed” letters. After filling a sheet with words, the writer would turn the paper ninety degrees and start again. It looks difficult to read to me, but I’m told that it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it. Members of Parliament (including peers sitting in the House of Lords) were able to send letters without charge. This was called “franking,” or using their “free frank.” All they had to do was sign their name on the front of the letter. As you can probably imagine, the privilege of the free frank was widely abused.
  • You wouldn’t think it would be nearly impossible to include a reference to a Shakespearean play, but I had a fiendishly difficult time figuring out the proper way to mention Henry VI, Part II. That’s what I had in my manuscript, but my copyeditor changed it to Henry VI, Part 2. This crazy half-italicized version looked completely wrong to me so I went online and the very first reference I found was: Henry VI, Part 2. In my agony, I asked my husband what he thought. He very wisely grabbed our copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare, and we found The Second Part of Henry VI. And as if that weren’t enough, I stumbled on an academic website that listed it as 2 Henry VI. At this point, I did what I should have done in the first place. I emailed Eloisa James, whose day job happens to be Brilliant Shakespeare Professor. She informed me that academics do refer to the play as 2 Henry VI and that she thought that in conversation people would have said The Second Part of Henry VI. Is anyone dizzy yet? I decided to eliminate the problem and change it to Macbeth. But then guess what happened? My proofreader noticed that I had forgotten to change an earlier reference to the play and I was scolded for calling Macbeth a history instead of a tragedy. I ended up changing it back to Henry VI, Part II. Which is what I had in the first place.
  • All of the inns mentioned at the end of the book are real inns in Hampstead. The Spaniards Inn (where much of the action takes place) is one of the oldest inns in London and has quite a storied history. Dick Turpin, the famed highwayman, was apparently born there, and Charles Dickens mentioned it in The Pickwick Papers. I don’t believe you can stay at the inn any longer, but the restaurant and garden are very popular.Night_Spaniards_inn

Inside Just Like Heaven

  • Writing Just Like Heaven took a lot of research. Not of history or of music, but rather of my own novels. I had included Smythe-Smith characters in so many books that I had to take several days just to compile all of my previous mentions. Once I did that, I had to decide which set of Smythe-Smith cousins I was going to write about. I discovered that I had written about musicales taking place in 1816, 1819, 1824, and 1825. I settled on the girls from 1824/1825, in part because I wanted to be able to spread the quartet of books over two seasons.
  • Families and family relationships are very important in my writing, so when I develop characters for a book I have to understand their family structure. This meant I had to figure out how many brothers and sisters each character had and where they were in the birth order. Because the Smythe-Smiths are such a large family, I had to come up with eight separate nuclear families. To do this I had to recreate nineteen years of Smythe-Smith quartets. Yes, you read that right. Nineteen years of them! If for some reason I ever need to know who played the viola in 1815, I’ve got the info at my fingertips. (Literally, since I do have to type to pull up my computer files.)
  • I descHeaven_Queen_ab=nd_Kateribed Honoria’s preferred shade of pink as “primrose.” Imagine my horror when I read that the lovely yellow dress Queen Elizabeth wore to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding is being described as “primrose yellow.” I maintain that primroses come in many hues. (P.S. I thought the Queen looked lovely. Mrs. Middleton, too.)
  • My husband is a physician, specializing in infectious diseases, so naturally I asked him to look over the scene when Marcus is so ill. After I read it to him, he paused for a moment, then said, “He has to die.” I said, “Perhaps you don’t understand how this works.” In the end, I modified the scene to make Marcus’s wound a bit less infected.
  • I’m actually not that crazy about the name Honoria and probably would not have used it for a heroine except that I had already mentioned her in a Lady Whistledown column in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. There was no way I could resist a scene in which Lady Danbury destroys a violin!
  • Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron rides again! My favorite novel-within-a-novel first appeared in It’s in His Kiss, then came back in What Happens in London and Ten Things I Love About You. It’s so much fun to write bad prose; I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of the intrepid Miss Butterworth.
  • All of the books Honoria brings Marcus during his convalescence are real. Except Butterworth, of course.
  • Mozart’s Piano Quartet, No. 1 is indeed thought to be an extremely difficult piece and the Smythe-Smiths absolutely should not have attempted it. Then again, Mozart also wrote “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and they probably should not attempt that, either.

Inside The Lady Most Likely…

  • When Eloisa James, Connie Brockway, and I decided that we were going to collaborate on a novel in three parts, we knew that we would need to get together to plot the book and develop the characters. So we took a fabulous long weekend to New Orleans—we got a ton of work done (and gained about six pounds–each!)
  • The original title for The Lady Most Likely… was The List. Eventually we decided that even though it fit the book very well, it wasn’t very interesting, so we changed it.
  • Alec’s name was originally Marcus. I changed it because I realized that I’m running out of good hero names. Since I already had an Alex (in Splendid), I figured I was unlikely to use Alec for a full-length novel. I ended up using Marcus as the hero’s name in Just Like Heaven.
  • Gwendolyn is often compared to Botticelli’s Venus in his seminal painting The Birth of Venus.
  • Gwendolyn’s mother makes up an impromptu song called, “A House Party La La La.” This was inspired by “A Weekend in the Country,” from the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music.
  • Eloisa James named the local village Parsley, so naturally I had to name the inn The Sage and Thyme. There is no mention of an innkeeper, but I am sure his wife is named Rosemary.
  • I loved the Duke of Bretton’s dry sense of humor so much in The Lady Most Likely… that when we decided to team up again for The Lady Most Willing…, I quickly claimed him as my hero. He is the only connection between the two collaborations, though.