I am delighted to welcome to Bookish Jottings one of my favourite writers of Regency romances Lucy Ashford for a chat about spirited heroines, handsome heroes and her fantastic new novel, The Captain and His Innocent.
Thank you for joining us here at Bookish Jottings, Lucy. It’s lovely to have you here! Could you please start by telling me something about yourself and the books you write?
It’s lovely to be here, Julie. Thank you for inviting me.
Like most of the authors I know, I was always an avid reader, and I started scribbling my own little stories almost as soon as I learned to write! After taking a degree in English at Nottingham University, I was a teacher for many years – but then I saw an advert for a Mills & Boon competition, was a runner-up, and that was it. I’d seriously got the writing bug.
You’ve written several historical romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon set during the Regency. What originally attracted you to writing historical romances, and the Regency in particular?
In my writing I’ve always gone for historical backgrounds because they provide such a colourful world in which to develop my characters. I’ve had several historical thrillers published in the past, but now romance has rather taken over. And as for why I like the Regency – perhaps it’s because the period offers so many dramatic opportunities. For example, you have the Napoleonic wars, the industrial revolution and the parties and balls of London high society – plus the bonus that the costumes for both women and men were absolutely wonderful! And, of course, thanks to the enduring popularity of Jane Austen, the period is familiar to readers around the world.
What kind of research do you do for your books?
I do masses of research – not just to make sure I get everything right, but because I pick up fascinating nuggets of information that can inspire a theme or even the full plot of a future story. For this reason – although the internet is useful – I tend to prefer old-fashioned history books, and my ‘writing room’ is crammed with them.
What are the challenges of writing historical romances?
You have to be aware all the time of the social restrictions of the period. For example, as you’ll know, girls from respectable families just did not have the freedom they might enjoy today. So to create a credible love story, you have to envisage a plot in which the hero and heroine are going to be able to develop an intense and steamy relationship.
Your latest book, ‘The Captain and His Innocent’, is out now. What sparked off the original idea for this?
Last year I was reading a history book which mentioned that in 1814 the British government secretly sent a group of gallant army officers to spy on Napoleon’s troops in France – and then abandoned them there. They were betrayed, in other words, and the whole affair was hushed up by the authorities. I thought, Now, there’s the start of an interesting story…
What is ‘The Captain and His Innocent’ about?
Ellie, my heroine, has been rescued from the dangers of Napoleonic France by her guardian and sent to live on the quiet Kentish coast. But her life is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of Captain Luke Danbury, who appears determined to use Ellie to avenge old wrongs.
Who is your favourite character in the book?
It has to be Captain Luke, I think! Although embittered by past betrayals, he remains noble and courageous while trying to right the injustices done to his family. And in the end – although he initially regards Ellie as his enemy – he realises he’s completely misjudged her, and learns to respect and then love her for her stubborn bravery.
How would you sum up ‘The Captain and His Innocent’ in one line?
‘In bed with the enemy!’ That’s the blurb on the book, and it’s pretty good, I think!
What is your all-time favourite historical romance?
Dorothy Dunnett’s ‘The Game of Kings’. It’s a fabulous Scottish romance, packed with gripping characters, battles and treachery.
What’s next for Lucy Ashford?
More of the same, I hope – the Regency world contains so many wonderful ideas for stories.
Thank you so much for chatting to me, Lucy! Lucy’s latest historical romance, The Captain and His Innocent is on sale now from all good bookshops and online retailers!