Jen: Today we welcome Sabrina Jeffries back to Romancing the Book as part of our Historical Romance Retreat feature. Sabrina, will you share a short bio with us?
Sabrina: Sabrina Jeffries is the NYT bestselling author of over 50 novels and works of short fiction (some written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas). Whatever time not spent writing in a coffee-fueled haze is spent traveling with her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions—jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, and music. With over 8 million books in print in 20 different languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction, and hopes that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world.
She always dreams big.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Sabrina: Stormswept, set in Georgian Wales, is about an English earl’s daughter, Lady Juliana, and a Welsh radical, Rhys Vaughan, who are torn apart when Rhys is impressed into the British navy. He returns after six years apart, believing that Juliana betrayed him to the press gangs. It takes them some time—and renewing the passion they once had—for them to realize the truth . . . and that their love has stood the test of time. I got the idea from Romeo and Juliet, believe it or not. I asked myself, “What if Romeo went off to Padua . . . and didn’t come back for six years?” Only I had to throw in some other stuff to make it work as a romance. No suicides for Juliana and Rhys!
Juliana’s brother Darcy held up his glass, his face flushing with pleasure. “A toast! To Lady Juliana and her newly betrothed, Stephen Wyndham, the Marquess of Devon! May their joy be unbounded!”
The guests raised their glasses, but another voice rang out from the other end of the ballroom. “I dispute that toast!”
Darcy looked incredulous, as the other guests hesitated with their arms suspended as if by invisible wires. Juliana’s heart dropped into her stomach.
She picked out the man who’d spoken. Towering over the other guests, he stood in the shadows, where she couldn’t make out his features. Dressed more soberly than her guests, his entire bearing bespoke arrogance. The gasps of those around him had little effect, for he carried himself forward with the invincibility of a battleship.
He snatched a glass from a guest’s hand as he passed. “I would propose another toast entirely.”
Something in his voice tweaked her buried memories. It couldn’t be. He was dead! And this man’s accent wasn’t right. As he approached, she could see he wore the expensive attire of a lord, not the modest garb of a radical. He was too big, too self-assured, and entirely too imposing to be . . .
But her fear became a certainty as he strolled up the aisle to the head table. She stared at the broad shoulders, at the black curls cropped at the chin framing an arresting and painfully familiar face. She rose, not realizing that she did, disbelieving the evidence of her own eyes.
Darcy seemed to regain his wits. “What preposterous rudeness is this? I don’t know you, sir, and I’m certain you weren’t invited. Leave at once, before I have my footmen throw you out!” He signaled to a servant, who hastened toward the stranger.
With a sinister clang, the encroacher withdrew his sword and the summoned footman fell back.
Sure of his audience, the man came up to her. “If anyone should have been invited, ’tis I. But then, I’m sure you treacherous blackguards thought yourselves well rid of me.” He cast the head table a scathing glance. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t be engaging in this farce.”
Juliana stared at the man’s face. ’Twas impossible!
Stephen jumped to his feet. “Treacherous blackguards! I’ll call you out for that, sir!”
“Ah, but you have it all wrong, Lord Devon. I should call you out. Ask Juliana.”
Stephen shot her a questioning look, but Juliana took no notice as the man fixed his gaze on her, searing her. Her throat tightened and her knees shook. Only one man had those blue eyes. And for a moment, her heart leapt and she wanted to bound over the table into his arms.
Then she saw the coldness in his eyes, the anger in his face, and the urge fled.
“You should have told him, Juliana.” His voice held an edge of fury. “’Tis an important thing to leave out of any discussion about betrothal.”
“It c-can’t be tr-true,” she whispered.
His eyes narrowed. “What? That I’ve returned? That I’ve come to reclaim my lands . . . my inheritance . . . and you? Oh yes, love. It is true.”
The entire company was thrown into confusion, except for her brothers, who looked as if they’d commit murder any moment. It was like seeing a corpse rise from the grave.
“Rhys, please.” She clasped her chair as her knees began to buckle.
With an expression as cold as the frostiest winter, Rhys lifted his glass in a toast. “To Juliana, my darling wife. I’ve come to take you home.”
And for the first time in her life, Juliana fainted.
Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Sabrina: Yep! Three, if you count my brother who’s working on his memoirs and my mom who’s working on hers. My other brother, Dr. Daren Martin, is a published author of business books.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Sabrina: Definitely a plotter.
Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Sabrina: Angst with humor.
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Sabrina: I either type notes about them in the Notes app on my iPhone, or, for more complicated ideas, I use the Voice Memo app to record them. I’ve also been known to text an idea to myself. 🙂
Jen: How do you come up with characters names?
Sabrina: I use two books: The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names (which has the added advantage of telling you when a name was popular in England) and A Dictionary of English Surnames (which also gives the area in which they were popular). Then I just go hunting for a name in them that I haven’t used and that appeals to me.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Sabrina: I’m doing two things—revising the follow-up book to Stormswept—Windswept—which is set about twenty years later, and starting my new Sinful Suitors book, about Niall Lindsey, the Earl of Margrave and the brother of Clarissa from The Study of Seduction. Readers will recall that he fought a duel for his sister’s honor. He lived in exile for seven years until he got pardoned. Now he’s back in England stirring up trouble.