Keira: So ouch – your heroine in Tall, Dark and Disreputable has loved the hero from girlhood. How were you inspired to create this unrequited love match? What do you like best about them?
Deb Marlowe: Something about unrequited love really touches me. I’m not sure why–my only experience with it is a celebrity crush on Nathan Fillion. But there’s just something about a steadfast regard and feelings that last even when they are not returned. Maybe it’s because when they finally do get together, there’s such a lovely feeling of happy surprise on one end and completion and rightness on the other.
Keira: When a man rejects marriage to you (and flees to another continent – let’s not leave that out!) how should you take it? What advice do you have? Is it different from how Portia handles it?
Deb: LOL. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic. Poor Portia had a rough time of it. She was young. She didn’t realize her feelings for Mateo were so obvious. I always thought that Portia would have waited to make her move, until she was a little older and Mateo had had a chance to have the adventures he dreamed of. But those impatient fathers forced the issue and she was left with a rejection to a proposal she hadn’t had a hand in. If she made a mistake, I think it was letting that rejection color her image of herself and not fighting a betrothal to a man she didn’t love.
In real life, I believe you should always take your shot at love. Be careful of your timing, always tell the truth, but go for it. Far better to be rejected than to wonder ‘what if’ for the rest of your life. However, if you go for it and he switches continents, you should grieve and then move on!
Keira: The laws for women and property are very different in Regency England than how we’re used to them. What legal discourse does a woman have if her husband gambled away her home? Does it change if that home was in her name?
Deb: In that time, when a woman married her property became her husband’s. This was why the marriage settlement was so important. Almost like a prenuptial agreement of today, it would set out the wife’s financial future. Marriage settlements detailed what her pin money would be, what happened to the property she brought to the marriage, what her dowager income would be if she was made a widow, what would happen if she were left with no children or with young children. It also set out what would be provided for daughters of the marriage or for younger sons. A woman would count on her father to make the best possible arrangements for her and her property. That’s why it was such a blow to Portia to find out her father had failed to secure Stenbroke for her.
Keira: Meddling fathers from the beyond and their wills have screwed things up again for their progeny. Readers either love or hate how parental wills force the hero and heroine together. How do you feel about them as a plot device?
Deb: I think they are extremely useful. When every editor and reader wants a book about a Duke or an Earl, and you have the mostly unassailable laws of primogeniture to deal with, a wonky will is sometimes the only way to get our characters into a really interesting situation!
Keira: There’s a yummy scene in the woods at one point and I have to ask, what makes sex scenes so hot in your opinion?
Deb: Just as in real life, it’s the brain and the heart that make sex scenes hot. IMO a sexy scene has to be intricately connected with the inner demons and conflict of each character. It should be a game changer and not something that can be easily skipped.
Keira: I love wild goose chases in romance. They’re so much fun – how did you go about building all the layers? Did it come to you all at once or did it reveal itself to you in a similar manner to the hero and heroine in Tall, Dark and Disreputable?
Deb: It all evolved very naturally. I knew how many steps I needed and I had a vague idea about each one. I knew each adventurous stepping stone had to reveal a clue about the mystery, but also peel back a layer of character, and as I reached each one, the details really just fell right into place.
Keira: Part of the setup for Regency romances is the research into clothing and manners. How would you dress yourself if you were to appear in one of your novels?
Deb: I actually have dressed up in Regency costume once. I was with a group on a tour and we wore Regency garb while we danced with the Jane Austen Dancers in the Assembly Rooms in Bath. It was so much fun, but I didn’t get to choose my gown. Given the choice, I’d design something with lots of fabulous embroidery and a sparkling overskirt. And sleeves.
Keira: What is the most interesting or crazy manner rule you’ve come across?
Deb: I think it’s a little post Regency, but the complicated etiquette for taking tea–milk must come first, always eat savories first, raised pinky shows class, proper placement of the spoon–all of that seems very silly to me.
Keira: What do you have up your sleeve next?
Deb: I have another release in June! I’m so excited about Unbuttoning Miss Hardwick. It’s the story of a reclusive nobleman and the woman he hires to help him organize and display his incredible weapons collection. It’s a rollicking story with such disparate elements as a mysterious Hindu spear, party planning, an obsession with men in boots and the very difficult feat of dropping the masks we hide behind in order to embrace love.