Inside the Story | Julia Quinn

Inside the Story

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A Father-Daughter Story

This essay first appeared at the end of the trade paperback edition (2019) of The Duke and I. This is a web exclusive.

In July of 1984 I was 14 years old and spending the summer, as I and my two sisters always did, in southern California with my father. There was always a big paradigm shift when we flew across country in June, moving from House of Mom in Connecticut to House of Dad in Los Angeles. My parents were not of the same mind when it came to reading matter. My mother pretty much didn’t care; she was busy holding down two jobs and if our noses were in books, she was happy, no matter what the genre. My father, however, saw things differently. He was a writer by profession, and thus spent a great deal of time pondering words, their meaning, and their potential value. So when it came to summer reading, he put forth such entertaining gems as The Count of Monte Cristo, Crime and Punishment, and Heart of Darkness. All wonderful and valuable novels, but hardly what a 14-year-old girl wants for her summer vacation.

JQ and Dad
My high school graduation. In this photo I am 17 and my father is younger than I am now.

We lived within walking distance of the public library — both my parents did; I suspect this explains a lot about my life’s trajectory — and I was delighted to see that our local branch had a robust collection of what I wanted to read: teen romances, specifically the Sweet Dreams series.

Sweet Dreams were the Harlequins of the adolescent set. Like all genre fiction, they were written with a clear eye to reader expectation. Girl meets boy. Stuff happens. Girl gets boy. It was not so much that the books were written to a formula (there’s a lot of variety within “stuff happens”) but there were clear parameters. The girl was always going to win in the end. She’d get the guy, and she’d do it by being herself. It didn’t hurt that the boy in these stories was frequently Mr. Popular while the girl was something of a wallflower. Heady stuff for a teenage girl who had been kissed exactly once (and by a summer camp guy, so it really didn’t count within the social hierarchy of high school.) Didn’t we always dream that the captain of the football team was secretly a bookworm and finally ready to see that the captain of the cheerleading squad was shallow and cruel? (My apologies to cheerleaders everywhere; I assure you that if I could have done a herkie jump, or even turned a cartwheel, I would have joined your ranks faster than I could read a Sweet Dreams romance, which was pretty fast indeed.)

But back to 1984. My dad was working from home, so there was no avoiding him, and he began to grow curious about my choice of books. He’s never been one to judge a book by its cover, so he picked one up and leafed through it. He was not impressed, but to his credit, he took a look at a second novel before making a judgment.

He was still not impressed.

I knew what was coming. And so when he asked me why I was choosing to read these books, I launched into a well-rehearsed speech about the importance of reading for pleasure. He agreed completely, he said, but he felt that I should be seeking more variety in my choice of books. He also didn’t see how I was deriving pleasure from books that to him, seemed to require no thought on the part of the reader.

“Give me one good reason why you should read these books,” he said. “Just one thing that you have learned or has made you think.” (It is important to note that when my father says, “made you think,” the italics are practically visible across his face.)

Try as I might, I could not make a convincing argument that my teenage romances were leading me to think deeply about the human condition. But I’m nothing if not scrappy, so I told him that I was increasing my vocabulary. He nodded. He could get down with this. So he asked, “Can you show me a word you’ve learned?”

I could not. Teen romances of the 1980s had many good features, but interesting verbiage was not one of them.

But I wanted to continue with my “fun” books, and I really didn’t want to spend the summer reading Joseph Conrad, so I said that my Sweet Dreams novels were research. I was going to write a teen romance novel, and it would be foolish of me to do so without a full understanding of the genre.

That stopped him in his tracks. He was impressed. I was impressed. It was not easy to gain the upper hand in a debate with my father. It still isn’t.

“Okay,” he said, and that night he sat me down in front of his computer. We were practically state-of-the-art for the early 1980s—the only house on the block with a personal computer. The screen was maybe eight inches across, black with a noxious green flashing cursor, but once I started typing I didn’t stop. I wrote a chapter. And then another. At some point my father came in to check on me, but I waved him away.

He never bugged me about my Sweet Dreams books again.

I share this story not because it is particularly relevant to Regency England (although it is certainly true that my teenaged heroine was, like Daphne Bridgerton, romantically overlooked by the opposite sex). Rather, I want you to understand the special bond I have with my father when it comes to the written word.

Flash forward to 1999. I am writing what I think will be the first book of a trilogy. I start with chapter one, even though I think there will probably be a prologue. I open with a mother and daughter, and I realize that in the course of their conversation, I, the author, need to impart a great deal of expository information. The daughter is the fourth of eight alphabetically named children, and the oldest girl. They all look rather alike. The father is dead, but the mother is not, and none of her charges are yet married.

But how do I inform the reader? I don’t want to do what writers call an “info dump,” which is basically when the author dumps a whole lot of information into the opening chapter in an unnatural manner. My favorite (or rather, least favorite) example of this is when two characters have a conversation, but they are clearly talking to the reader and not to each other. If I were to do this in The Duke and I, it would come out something like this:

Daphne: Mother, did you ever think you would have eight children?

Violet: No, and I certainly didn’t think all eight would look so much alike.

Daphne: It does mean that people confuse us, but I suppose I have it easier than the others, since I’m the oldest girl.

Violet: Oh yes, I see what you mean. Eloise, Francesca, and Hyacinth will have to get used to the ladies of the ton mistakenly calling them by your name.

Daphne: It’s a good thing you named us alphabetically.

Violet: That was your father’s idea.

Daphne: I’m so sorry he’s dead.

Yeah… that’s not going to work.

Then I realized that while it made no sense for Daphne and Violet to have a conversation in which they basically said stuff they both already knew, it was perfectly logical that a third party might impart that same information. If someone —perhaps a gossip columnist—were to gossip about the Bridgertons, it would make perfect sense that the basic facts of the clan would be laid out in a single, tidy paragraph.

And so Lady Whistledown was born.

I loved her. She was arch and witty and cutting without being cruel, and she provided structure to the novel that would otherwise have been difficult to achieve. With Lady Whistledown we always knew what day it was. We knew what parties people had gone to. I could info-dump to my heart’s content and it would be entertaining. Honestly, it was a writer’s dream.

Until my father came to visit. (You knew we’d get back to him.)

I was puttering about in my kitchen, and all of a sudden he burst in and said, “You’re brilliant!”

I made a show of basking in the praise and then asked, “Why?”

It turns out I’d left my computer on in my office, and he’d read the first two chapters of what would eventually become The Duke and I. He immediately launched into an excited speech about what a great idea Lady Whistledown was, but he wanted to know— who was she, and how did I plan to reveal her?

I said, “You read it without asking me?”

He blinked.

I said, “I can’t believe you read what was on my computer without asking me.”

He blinked again and said, “But it was so good.”

This, apparently, was the right thing to say because I quickly forgave him. He said he hadn’t meant to read my work-in-progress. He’d gone onto my computer to check his email, and it was up on the screen and he got sucked in.

It turns out that it’s difficult to stay angry with someone when they tell you your writing has sucked them in.

But then he repeated his question. “Who is Lady Whistledown?”

The conversation then went something like this:

Me: I don’t know.

Dad: What do you mean you don’t know? You have to know.

Me: But I don’t. I don’t know.

Dad: You can’t write a mystery without knowing the answer.

Me: (With zero snark, I swear.) Apparently I can.

Dad: But you have to know who she is to write her columns properly.

Me: Not really.

Dad: (now pacing with distress) Oh my God. How are you going to do this? You have to figure it out.

Me: I’m hoping it will come to me.

Dad: What if it doesn’t?

Me: (for the first time starting to feel a little nervous) Uhhh… Drag it out to the next book?

If you’ve finished The Duke and I, you know that I did indeed drag it out to the next book, although not because I didn’t know who Lady Whistledown was when it went to press. I figured it out right around the time I started writing the next book in the series (The Viscount Who Loved Me) and then frantically reread The Duke and I to make sure I hadn’t written anything that would disqualify my candidate.

But when I failed to reveal Lady Whistledown’s identity, I did something that was somewhat unusual in my genre. Romance novels, by definition, have tidy endings. The protagonists have fallen in love, and their happily-ever-after is assured. Romance authors don’t write sequels so much as spin-offs, because if we bring our hero and heroine back as the main characters in a sequel, this implies that the happily-ever-after did not stick. If we write a series, every book must have a different set of protagonists. Readers expect this, and somewhere along the way they began to expect that all the major plotlines would be resolved by the final page.

When my readers finished The Duke and I, there was a collective jaw-drop. I had most definitely not resolved all the major plotlines. “Who was Lady Whistledown?” soon morphed into “Are we going to find out in the next book?”

Maybe I shouldn’t tell you now, but no, you won’t find out in the next book. I was having far too much fun writing the columns to say goodbye. But rest assured, Lady Whistledown’s identity does get revealed further down the series. And I think you’ll be cheering for her all the way.

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Inside The Other Miss Bridgerton

  • If you’ve read The Girl With the Make Believe Husband (Book 2 in the Rokesby series) you know that it ended with Edward Rokesby asking about his brother Andrew. To which George Rokesby replies, “Well, now that is quite a story.” This is where I admit that I had NO IDEA what that story might be. I figured–Andrew is such a fun character, surely he’s up to something romance novel-worthy. I eventually cooked up a plot in which he was sent to the central European principality of Wachtenberg-Molstein (don’t try to locate it on a map; I made it up). His job was to escort a princess back to London. He wasn’t going to fall in love with the princess, though; he was destined for her more sensible (and less likely to cause a diplomatic incident) only semi-royal cousin. At least that was the plan. All this, and I had the added bonus of being able to gather research on a Danube river cruise I took with my niece. Score!
  • Alas, the story went nowhere. I don’t think I even made it out of Chapter Two. I finally gave up and started afresh, but I was so annoyed that I decided Andrew would still have to go to Wachtenberg-Molstein. And indeed, you’ll find mention of it –and his eventful journey home–within the pages of The Other Miss Bridgerton.
  • In 1755 Lisbon was hit by a devastating earthquake, the magnitude of which is now estimated between 8.5 and 9 on the Richter scale. Three tsunamis and a fire followed, and by the time the it was all over, 85% of Lisbon’s buildings had been destroyed. The rebuilding effort commenced soon thereafter; barely a month after the quake, the king and prime minister had approved a plan to raze the Baixa quarter and “lay out new streets without restraint.”
CC BY 2.0 image (left) and public domain image (right) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


  • CC BY-SA 3.0 image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    This rebuilt neighborhood has endured, and its buildings are considered some of the earliest seismically protective architecture in Europe. Most buildings were built over framework known as Pombaline Cages (named for the first Marqês de Pombal, who led the reconstruction efforts). I knew that Andrew would be fascinated by the construction; one has only to look at his passion for building card houses to know that he’s an architect at heart.

  • I discovered malasadas in Honolulu, of all places. While visiting with my sister, I decided we HAD to find a true local place to eat, and we ended up at Leonard’s Bakery, which was founded in 1952 by Leonard & Margaret Rego. Leonard was the grandson of Portuguese immigrants, and when he introduced the “Portuguese Doughnut” to Hawaii it was an instant hit.


  • No Copyright image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    I stumbled upon the idea of dissected maps when I was researching the history of jigsaw puzzles. (I can no longer remember why; maybe just because I love them myself.) There is some disagreement over who made the first one, but John Spilsbury, a London-based cartographer and engraver, was certainly among the earliest manufacturers. A map would be overlaid on thin wood, then cut along geopolitical boundaries with a handheld saw.

  • The maps were very expensive and quickly became a symbol of wealth and privilege. Jane Austen alludes to this in Mansfield Park when Fanny Price is mocked by her wealthy cousin who says, “Dear mama, only think, my cousin cannot put the map of Europe together.”
  • As far as I can tell, there were no dissected maps cut like Andrew’s–into many pieces, with no regard for geographical or political boundaries. Andrew’s puzzle would have been extremely expensive, but I think it’s exactly the sort of thing he’d choose to spend his hard-earned money on.
  • When I was growing up, we put our Scrabble tiles in a purple and gold Crown Royal drawstring bag. I have no idea why; my parents are not big drinkers, and I’ve never seen either one of them drink Crown Royal. But the memory is strong, and so when I needed a bag for the puzzle pieces, I immediately pictured it as purple and gold.
  • Finally, did you catch the brief mention of the Duchess of Wyndham? This is the same duchess who shows up much older (as the dowager duchess) in The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume. Poppy is fairly certain that the duchess didn’t like her when they met, which seems exactly right, as the duchess we know doesn’t like anyone.


· Port of Lisbon street scene & map. Photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. 1756 map is in the public domain.
· Pombaline Cage: Image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
· Leonard’s Bakery image courtesy of Malasadas photo from Baking Bites review of Leonard’s.
· Dissected map: Image courtesy of the British Library Board.
· Crown Royal bag: Image from the listing.

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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.

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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 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.

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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:
  • Here is an example of a Mercator projection circa 1820:
  • And finally, here we have a cordiform projection:
  • I’ve loved the idea of the Outer Hebrides ever since I saw Barbra Streisand in What’s Up Doc? Wondering where they are?

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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
Norton Conyers

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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.

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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

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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.

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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