Jen: Today we have our next HRR Author visiting Romancing the Book, Rose Lerner. Rose, will you share a short bio with us?
Rose: Hi, I’m Rose! I discovered Georgette Heyer when I was thirteen, and wrote my first historical romance a few years later. My writing has improved since then, but my fascination with all things Regency hasn’t changed. When not reading, writing, or researching, I enjoy cooking and marathoning TV shows. I live in Seattle with my best friend.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Rose: My newest release is Listen to the Moon, which will be out on January 5th! It’s a Regency romance about an valet and a maid who marry to get a plum job. Toogood and Sukey are actually the hero and heroine’s servants from Sweet Disorder, the first book in my small-town Regency series. Toogood was a starchy, supremely competent gentleman’s gentleman of the Jeeves variety, while Sukey was a cynical, wisecracking maid-of-all-work who didn’t take her job too seriously. Opposites attract, and I think I always knew they were meant to be together—but I resisted because it didn’t seem fair to make them marry each other just because their employers fell in love!
I finally gave in during a silly conversation with a friend about Toogood as a dapper James Bond-style spy. It was too obvious that Sukey would be the perfect heroine for a screwball comedy (think “Bringing Up Baby”) about a perfectionist spy and the plucky civilian who plunges in to help him on a mission, nearly landing him in the soup and winning his heart.
That is not the plot of Listen to the Moon, but I like to think there’s still a teensy little bit of that vibe. You’ll have to let me know if you agree.
November 14, 1812
Lively St. Lemeston, West Sussex
Sukey Grimes, maid-of-all-work, gave the chipped mantel a last pass with her duster. Empty of furniture, the two attic rooms looked nearly a decent size. But on a rainy day like this, nothing could hide the leak in the roof. The boards in the ceiling swelled and rotted, and water dripped into a cast-iron pot with a constant plip plip plip.
“Mrs. Dymond, is that you?” Sukey called. “I’ve been over these rooms, and if your sister happens to be missing a hairpin with a lovely rosette on it, I simply can’t imagine where it could have got to.” She pulled the pin from her hair and held it out as she opened the door.
It wasn’t Phoebe Dymond, former lodger in these rooms, or her new husband Nicholas Dymond either. It was a very tall, very well dressed, very—“handsome” wasn’t in it. Oh, he was handsome; there weren’t any bones to be made about that. But handsome was ten for a penny. This man had character. His jaw might have been hewn from oak, and his nose jutted forward, too large on someone else’s face but perfect on his. His warm, light-brown eyes stared right into her, or would have if he’d seemed the slightest bit interested in her.
He glanced down at the hairpin, lips thinning. His eyebrows drew together, one bumping slightly up at the side. The tiny, disapproving shift brought the deep lines of his face into sharp relief.
Oof. He as good as knocked the breath out of her, didn’t he? “I’m that sorry, sir, I thought you were somebody else.” She tucked the pin back into her hair with relief. Mrs. Dymond’s little sister had made the rosette from a scrap of red ribbon that showed to advantage in Sukey’s brown hair. “Are you here about the rooms for let? They come with a bed,” she said encouragingly, quite as if the mattress had been restuffed in the last half a decade.
The eyebrows went up together this time. “I am Mr. Toogood. Mr. Dymond’s valet.” The calm, quiet growl of his voice knocked the breath out of her too. Deep and powerful, it was made for loudness, even if he kept it leashed. Tamed, he probably thought, but Sukey didn’t think you could tame a voice like that, only starve it into temporary submission. She wondered what Mr. Toogood would sound like tangled with a woman in that lumpy bed. Were bitten-off growls all he’d allow himself there as well? She’d never find out—she had never tangled herself up with any man yet, and never planned to—but it was nice to think about nevertheless.
Tardily, her brain caught up with her ears. “Not anymore, are you? Or you’d know not to look for him here.” She didn’t expect Mr. Dymond could afford a valet now he’d married beneath him.
Mr. Toogood didn’t flinch. If anything, he looked more calmly superior than before.
“No, not anymore, that’s correct. Can you tell me where I might find the Dymonds?” That voice rubbed up and down her spine.
She made a show of considering. “I don’t know as I’d ought to tell you. How am I to be sure you are who you say you are?”
To her surprise, his lips twitched. He pulled a card out of his pocket. John Toogood, it read. Gentleman’s Gentleman. His own card! Upper servants were another species, right enough.
She pocketed the card to show the maid next door. “Oh, that don’t prove a thing. Anybody can have cards printed.”
His lips curved, the lines between his nose and the corners of his mouth deepening in a very pleasant way. “And anybody can sweep a floor thoroughly, but I don’t accuse you of doing it.”
Jen: Describe an ideal date.
Rose: I don’t really date, actually! Some romance novelist, huh? But I think dinner and a movie is about perfect for me, since I love food and movies!
Jen: What is your favorite style of egg?
Rose: Fried medium on top of a pile of corned beef hash.
Jen: Favorite holiday tradition?
Rose: Potato latkes are the most delicious, but I think I have to go with eating apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah, for a sweet new year. It always makes me feel hopeful.
Jen: Favorite outfit?
Rose: Sweatpants and my Draco Malfoy sweatshirt! So cozy.
Jen: What is one of your bad habits?
Rose: I bite my nails. I have done this on and off my entire life. I have actually thought about trying hypnosis therapy to stop but the idea freaks me out.
Jen: What is the signature dish you’re known for?
Rose: A log of goat cheese rolled in chopped pecans, salt, and chopped fresh rosemary. Drizzle with honey and bake until soft. Eat warm on crackers, mini-toasts, whatever. Probably my most requested party recipe! I got it from Martha Stewart Living, my favorite magazine in the world.
Jen: What type of car you drive?
Rose: A 1998 Toyota. Very fast and furious.
Jen: If stranded on an island, what one thing do you want to have?
Rose: Oliver Queen. Definitely.
Jen: Print or ebook?
Rose: Print. I do read a lot in digital, but if an author is published in mass market, I’ll usually buy that.
Jen: Do you have any writing rituals?
Rose: Not really, honestly! Although lately I’ve discovered I like writing at the library.
Jen: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Rose: My day job starts at 5AM, so I’m gonna go with morning person!
Jen: Rainbow or chocolate sprinkles?
Rose: Rainbow for looks, chocolate for taste.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Rose: I’m currently working on a novella for an anthology centered around one of my favorite tropes, with some of my favorite authors! Expect an announcement in the next few months. Then I’ll be working on Lively St. Lemeston #4, set during the Congress of Vienna and starring Toogood’s ex-boss and a mysterious older lady. (Okay, so she isn’t particularly mysterious. She’s just a character you haven’t met yet.)