Jen: Today we welcome Elizabeth Boyce to Romancing the Book. Elizabeth, will you share a short bio with us?
Elizabeth: Elizabeth Boyce had a lifelong dream: to be an astronaut. She has recently made peace with the fact that this dream is unlikely to come to fruition. Good thing, then, she had another dream: to be an author. This dream comes true every single day, and she couldn’t be more grateful.
Ms. Boyce lives in South Carolina with her husband, children, and her personal assistant / cat.
She loves hearing from readers, so keep in touch!
Jen Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Elizabeth: Duty Before Desire tells the story of Miss Arcadia Parks, sent to England from India after the death of her parents. Her aunt and uncle want her to marry, but Arcadia just wants to get back to India, the only home she’s ever known.
Lord Sheridan Zouche is Society’s favorite rake, perfectly happy living his dissipated lifestyle until his family cuts him off for being a bad influence on his young nephews. He’s threatened with disownment unless he marries and reforms.
Despite neither Sheri nor Arcadia wishing to marry, they hatch a scheme to do just that. Once married, their familial obligations will be fulfilled and they’ll go their separate ways, never to be bothered by interfering relatives again. There’s just one little catch: the wedding night. After sharing a night of blissful passion, will either Sheri or Arcadia be able to stick with the plan?
The idea for this novel came from my wish to keep finding fresh aspects of the Regency to bring to my work. The East India Company played a vital role in the expansion of the British Empire, and in reading about it I became fascinated by the idea of these English children who were born in India—and often raised by Indian servants—who were taught that Home was a wonderful little island across the sea called England. Many of those children came to England for schooling when they were still quite young, but what if one slipped through the cracks? What if a girl reached adulthood fully embracing her Indian upbringing, only to be tossed into English Society and expected to take her proper place and marry? And what if she met Sheridan Zouche?
I found the potential for fish-out-of-water and culture shock mishaps irresistible, and I hope readers will enjoy discovering Regency London through Arcadia’s fresh eyes.
“Will you help me find her? Please?”
Without answering, Sheri turned on his heel. He plucked his quizzing glass from his pocket and jounced it against his palm. Miss Parks tugged his elbow. “My lord, please. Will you answer me?”
“I’m thinking,” Sheri answered over his shoulder, his tone clipped. “It’s not a particular talent, so you’ll have to give me a moment.”
What a conundrum. Shame on Delafield for tossing out Miss Parks’s beloved ayah. Difficult enough for the average household servant to find employment, but at least there were employment offices and an informal network among the working class to help one another find placements. What were the chances that Poorvaja knew where to locate an employment office in London, or even that such a thing existed? The woman hadn’t been in England long enough to make friends with the maids at neighboring houses to hear of openings that way, either.
“How long has she been gone?” he asked, spinning about.
“Two days.” Miss Parks wrung the cords of her curricle in tight fists at her waist.
Oof. With nowhere to go, Poorvaja was at risk of being waylaid by a cutthroat or footpad, or “rescued” by one of the many unscrupulous pimps and procuresses who snatched lost lambs off the streets and forced them into the flesh trade. From what he’d seen of the Indian woman, she was made of stern stuff, but as time passed, she would become desperate. After two days, she could be anywhere in the city—or even beyond. The hair on Sheri’s nape stood on end. Good God, the woman really would be lost.
“And what will you do if you find her?” he demanded. “Will your uncle take her back in?”
“I … I’m not sure,” Miss Parks admitted. “I’ll figure something out. It won’t be for long, only until we can return to India—”
The quizzing glass smacked into his hand; he stuffed it back into his waistcoat. “And will your intended,” he demanded, snatching her wrist and pulling her close, “the Reverend Mr. Cousin Whatsit, join your little exodus to the promised land?”
Her eyes went wide and round. She batted his shoulder with the side of a fist. Sheri held firm and pulled her closer. Frustration of all sorts licked his veins. Most immediately, he was angry about the loyal and lively ayah having been discarded into the gutter. His family’s edict that he marry still bristled. And, as his aching flesh reminded him, he’d been celibate for months now, ever since that disastrous night with Sybil.
Yes, well, he thought, admiring the fiery way Miss Parks yanked herself free of his grasp and stomped his toe for good measure, perhaps something could be done about each and every one of his frustrations. The idea had been circling the perimeter of his brain ever since his encounter with Miss Parks on St. James’s Street. Now he felt sure of its soundness.
“He isn’t my intended,” Miss Parks snapped, indignantly drawing her shawl tight across her bosom. The pale pink of her dress was far and away outdone by the livid flush across her prominent cheekbones. Her eyes nearly crackled with anger, and that stubborn chin jutted defiantly. She was glorious. “I told you I’m going back to India, and I am—alone. I have no intention of marrying Mr. Fisk, nor any other Englishman.”
“An admirable sentiment, I’m sure,” he said, planting his hands on his hips. “But you’re wrong about one thing, Miss Parks. You will marry.”
Her mouth opened; he raised a hand to forestall her protest. “Oh, don’t squawk at me. I’m not proposing you should marry your country parson.” At the perturbed tilt of her head, he felt a smile slide into place. “Rather, I propose that you should marry me.”
Jen: What age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Elizabeth: I really can’t remember not writing. Even before I could form letters, I scribbled my own “stories” in imitation of my favorite books—usually on the end papers of those same books, much to my mom’s consternation.
I finished my first manuscript in 2004, but it was roundly and rightly rejected by all subjected to it. In 2008, I finished my first historical romance. I got lots of positive feedback from the agents I queried that summer and early fall, and felt confident this was going to go somewhere. Then the bottom fell out of the economy, and suddenly no one was signing new authors. After a while, I hung up my query letter and went back to writing the next book. And then the next.
Eventually a friend from my writer’s group told me about a new romance market opening up, and encouraged me to dust off that first historical romance and try again. On June 7, 2012 I queried Crimson Romance. On June 12, I had an offer of publication. I couldn’t believe it. (No, I really couldn’t believe it. I forwarded the e-mail to my two best friends and asked them, “Does this say what I think it says?”) After so many years of writing, wondering if I would ever become a published author, it was finally happening. The moment you realize a dream is coming true … there’s no feeling like it in the world.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Elizabeth: Research is one of my favorite parts of writing historical romance! I’m as big a history geek as I am a word nerd, and I love rummaging around in the Regency to see what I can find. For Duty Before Desire, much of my research was focused on India and the East India Company, as my heroine, Arcadia Parks, is an Englishwoman born and raised in India. In addition to numerous general histories of India and the Company, I found especially invaluable Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika helped create an accurate yoga practice for my 19th century characters.
Jen: How do you come up with character names?
Elizabeth: For my lead characters, I try to strike a balance between names that suit their personalities, are distinctive from the other characters in the novel, and aren’t too difficult for readers to pronounce. I keep a list of names I stumble across in research and look there first when it’s time to name a character, but I also spend a lot of time on baby name websites.
In Duty Before Desire, I put a lot of thought into the meanings of certain character names. The name of my heroine, Arcadia, comes from a Greek region of the same name, which became synonymous in ancient times with a kind of unattainable utopia. Artists and poets throughout history have depicted Arcadia (or Arcady) as a longed-for, idyllic land. This notion ties beautifully with my heroine’s history as a child born into the Raj, the English ruling class in India. To them, England was capital-h Home, spoken of with the same reverence as the Arcadia of legend. Once in England, Arcadia misses India with that same kind of longing. The name seemed perfect for her, and for the theme of displacement and looking for home.
Arcadia travels to England in the company of her childhood ayah, Poorvaja, which means ‘big sister.’ This name is emblematic of the special relationship the two women share.
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book? Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract, or release?
Elizabeth: My first book was so much fun! When I signed my initial contract, friends sent me a gift basket of delicacies and champagne. My sister brought champagne. My husband brought champagne … Basically, I lived on champagne for a few days. My inlaws sent flowers. My parents hosted a dinner party on release day. It was great!
Since then, things have mellowed out considerably. On release days, my husband takes me out for a nice lunch or dinner. I’ve started a new tradition for myself: After I turn in a manuscript, I treat myself to a private yoga session. It’s a splendid way to start releasing the stress of working under deadline and celebrate my accomplishment.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Elizabeth: I’m working on the next installment in The Honorables series, a novella. Look for it this year!