Interview with Sophie Barnes + Giveaway

Today I’d like to welcome Sophie Barnes.  Her latest book in The Summersbys series, The Secret Life of Lady Lucinda, is coming out on Tuesday.  I’ve reviewed the first two books in the series, Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure and There’s Something About Lady Mary here and here.

Marlene: Hello Sophie! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Sophie: Hello Marlene! Thank you so much for having me here today – I’m thrilled to be your guest =) I was born in Denmark and go back there once a year to visit my family, have an international upbringing and studied design before realizing that writing was what I really wanted to do. The characteristics that best describe me are probably (in no particular order): dreamer, artist, mother, wife, nature enthusiast and tranquil.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser?

Sophie: Ha ha – I’ve been asked this before, but my answer has changed since then =) I’m a pantser turned planner and I truly feel as if that’s made a really positive impact on my writing (quietly hoping that nobody disagrees…lol). It’s certainly made it easier for me to get a feel for the overall book and work out plot issues before I write myself into a corner and have to waste precious time on re-writing a chapter or two. As for my typical day, I take the kids to school at 8:30 in the morning and return home as quickly as possible so I can get started on my writing. When there’s a deadline pending, I do little else but write, which means that household chores like vacuuming and ironing are put on hold (yes, there are many dust bunnies under our beds and couches =)). On average, I write between 2000 and 3500 words per day, and then of course there’s a lot of social networking as well, so I keep busy =) At 3:30 I pick up the kids from school and do very little work until they go to bed, after which I may do a bit more.

Marlene: Wow, you have had an incredible year! How does it feel to have four books (plus a short story) published in a single year?

Sophie: Exhausting! LOL – it feels wonderful, even though I haven’t quite gotten used to the idea yet after all this time. It’s still a bit surreal and I sometimes wind up telling myself, “You’re an author – you’re actually an AUTHOR!!!”

Marlene: And is there a story behind your seemingly overnight success? (There’s usually a TON of work behind becoming an “overnight” success).

Sophie: Yes, there is a TON of work involved, and to be honest, I’ve worked my fingertips to the bone this past year, but I wanted to make a mark and get my name out there, so I decided that the best way to go about it would be to publish as much as possible as quickly as possible and then do a lot of social networking. The titles have also helped I think (work of genius from my editor and marketing department), since they don’t fade in with the rest – they’re different and so are the covers.

Marlene: On your website, you say that you never thought you’d make a career out of writing. Would you like to tell us the story of what happened to make you change your mind?

Sophie: I believe there are a few key factors involved. First of all, I was living in Africa until a couple of years ago where my husband was working and I was staying at home. Being the creative sort that I am, I embarked on several projects just for the sake of doing something with my time. The kids were born, and they became my focus. Then one day, I walked into the local bookshop and picked up Julia Quinn’s book Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. I had no idea who Julia Quinn was, but decided to try out her book which promised to be entertaining. Not only could I not put it down once I started reading, but when I finished I thought, why not write a book like that – how hard can it possibly be? Well, I definitely underestimated the difficulty in writing a book, but I was determined and so I wrote How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back between naptimes, play sessions and while I waited for the kids to fall asleep in the evenings. At the end of the day, it’s all a question of how badly you want that dream of yours to come true =)

Marlene: And why did you choose to write Regency romances in particular? Was there any other part of the romance genre that caught your attention?

Sophie: I’ve always been a huge fan of historical fiction in general, and when I went through a phase in my teens where I decided to read only the classics, Jane Austen was my favorite. I love the film adaptations of her novels – there’s just something so utterly romantic about that whole era where etiquette ruled and the slightest misstep could lead to ruin. When I discovered that there was a whole genre dedicated to that period, I felt as though I’d stumbled upon a vast treasure =) That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy romances set in Victorian times or the occasional medieval one, but the Regency as grabbed my interest for now and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Marlene: Please give readers a little introduction to the Summersby family?

Alexandra, Ryan and William Summersby are the Earl of Moorland’s three children with Alexandra being the youngest and William the oldest. Raised by their military father after their mother’s untimely death, all three of them, including Alexandra, have been trained as soldiers and have carried out work for the Foreign Office. In There’s Something About Lady Mary, however, Ryan has chosen to abandon this line of work in favor of pursuing a medical career since he’s more intellectually inclined. The plot takes place a year after Alexandra rode to France on a secret mission to find her brother William who’d been accused of treason. Fast forward another year and we meet William once again. He’s the sort of person who always makes an attempt at looking at a situation rationally rather than acting on impulse like his sister. In The Secret Life of Lady Lucinda, he’s decided to take a wife and settle down. Being the level-headed character that he is, he’s picked his bride based on logic, only to find himself saying his vows to a woman who unexpectedly traps him.

Marlene: Will there be more books in this series? What is next on your schedule?

Sophie: There might be in an indirect sort of way – I have a few story ideas for Michael Ashford’s (Alexandra’s husband) sisters Cassandra and Caroline. This will have to wait however since I’m working on a different trilogy at the moment with entirely different characters.

Marlene: Now can you tell us 3 reasons why people should read your books?

Sophie: My writing is fast paced with a sense of humor and with a deliberate attempt to add interesting little facts so the reader may walk away feeling as though they actually learned something.

Marlene: What words of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Sophie: Don’t give up, no matter what anyone says. Write every day, even if you don’t feel inspired – once you get started, the words and ideas will come. Join RWA and read all the advice those monthly magazines have to offer and do not let that manuscript sit in a drawer for years on end just because you’re too afraid of what people might think. Finally and very importantly, don’t be a diva – treat everyone with kindness and respect, because truthfully, romance writers, editors and bloggers alike, are some of the loveliest, most helpful people you’re likely to meet.

Marlene: Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn’t know to ask.

Sophie: When I was fourteen I won a writing contest at school – nothing big or anything, but enough to surprise my friends. They couldn’t believe that I (for whom English is a second language) beat them (they were British). Perhaps I should have realized then that this was where my future lay, but I was stubborn and wanted to study design. Fun fact – I wrote that story on my way to school the morning it was due =)

Marlene: What book do you recommend everyone should read and why that particular book?

Sophie: Tough question since there are so many! Right, I’m going to suggest Pride and Prejudice since that’s my favorite Austen book of all time.

Marlene: Coffee or tea?

Sophie: Coffee in the US and tea in Europe please =)

Thank you so much for stopping by today. I’ll be popping in throughout the day to chat with you and to answer any questions you might have.

If you’d like to follow my blog tour, I’ll be back tomorrow at Seduced by a Book for another interview.

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About Sophie

Born in Denmark, Sophie has spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian.She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parson’s School of design, but most impressive of all – she’s been married to the same man three times, in three different countries and in three different dresses.While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion – writing.

When she’s not busy, dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.

Placed to find Sophie: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

There’s Something About Lady Mary

Mary Croyden lives a simple life . . . and she likes it. But when she inherits a title and a large sum of money, everything changes. Forced to navigate high society, Mary finds herself relying on the help of one man—Ryan Summersby. Determined not to lose her sense of self, she realizes that Ryan is the only person she can trust. But Mary’s hobbies are not exactly proper, and Ryan is starting to discover that this simple miss is not at all what he expected . . . but just might be exactly what he needs.


The Secret Life of Lady Lucinda

Lucy Blackwell is desperate, reckless, and maybe a little bit crazy. That’s the only possible explanation for tricking a man she doesn’t know into a dance, a kiss, and an engagement—all in the middle of the biggest ball of the year! But Lord William Summersby is the final piece of her grand plan, and she’ll do what it takes to make this marriage of convenience work—as long as it’s convenient for her. She just never counted on falling in love . . .

Review: There’s Something About Lady Mary by Sophie Barnes

Format read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: Mass market paperback, ebook
Genre: Regency romance
Series: Summersby #2
Length: 270 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date Released: November 13, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Mary Croyden lives a simple life . . . and she likes it. But when she inherits a title and a large sum of money, everything changes. Forced to navigate high society, Mary finds herself relying on the help of one man—Ryan Summersby. Determined not to lose her sense of self, she realizes that Ryan is the only person she can trust. But Mary’s hobbies are not exactly proper, and Ryan is starting to discover that this simple miss is not at all what he expected . . . but just might be exactly what he needs.

The outline for There’s Something About Lady Mary has some similarities to the first book in the Summersby series, Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure. A man who thinks he is quite conventional but actually isn’t falls in love with a woman who is very unconventional. But because he thinks he is conventional, he spends much too much time trying to change the reasons that attracted him in the first place. Sparks, tension, and misunderstandings ensue.

The role reversal in Lady Mary’s story is that the conventional male is Lady Alex’s brother Ryan Summersby. After having grown up with Alex, he really should have known better than to think that a simpering society miss would actually suit him in the first place!

Ryan is tasked by a friend, the head of the Foreign Office, to keep an unofficial eye on Lady Steepleden, by any means necessary. Meaning that if he has to fake an affection, that’s just fine with Lord Percy. Lady Steepleden might be in danger.

The problem is that until Lady Steepleden returned to London, she had no idea that she was Lady Anybody. As far as she knew, she was just Mary Croyden, the daughter of an exceedingly excellent surgeon. She never knew that her father was the Marquess of Steepleden, or that he’d petitioned to have her inherit his title and his estate. All she knew she’d inherited was his medical instruments. Her father had taught her all he knew, even if she couldn’t be licensed as a surgeon in England. On the battlefields in Europe, no one had cared that she was female, only that she could save their lives. And she had.

But her father had more secrets than she knew. He was a member of the aristocracy. A wealthy and titled member of the aristocracy. And someone had murdered him for a secret that he kept, using the confusion of Waterloo to cover their tracks. Whoever killed him, now they sought Mary.

And Ryan discovered that his assignment was less onerous, and more dangerous, than he ever expected. He thought he’d be protecting some society chit he wouldn’t be able to stand to be around.

Instead he found a woman who challenged him at every turn. But one who couldn’t see through her own insecurities to believe that he might find her attractive, especially not when their initial relationship began on a foundation of lies

But before they can find a future, they have to figure out the past. If they live that long. And if they can keep their misunderstandings from tearing them apart.

Escape Rating B+: The author was very careful to include her historical precedents for Mary’s medical practice in her notes. She knew that the first question that would crop up would be whether a woman could or did practice during the Napoleonic era. Apparently the answer is yes. Along with a whole slew of other medical precedents. Just because something wasn’t regular practice didn’t mean it wasn’t known.

About the story, again, this was fun to read. The suspense angle kept the pace cracking along. Trying to figure out what Mary’s father had been investigating that had gotten him killed, and who had betrayed him, heightened both the drama and the pathos, as it was his friends and colleagues who  had turned on him.

Watching Mary and Ryan negotiate their relationship formed the core of the story. Ryan has to change his conventional attitude, but Mary has to compromise. Unlike Alex, Mary can’t continue doing exactly what she’s been doing–London is not a war zone. But Ryan has to find a way to bend, a lot, to make it work. The solution they find seems realistic, in the circumstances. They fit.

I’m looking forward to older brother William’s story, The Secret Life of Lady Lucinda. I can’t wait to see what sort of woman turns out to be his match!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure by Sophie Barnes

Format read: paperback provided by the publisher
Formats available: Mass Market Paperback, ebook
Genre: Regency Romance
Series: Summersby #1
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date Released: June 5, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

It’s going to be a wild ride…

Lady Alexandra Summersby is not your average society miss. Not only is she more likely to climb a tree than she is to wear a dress, but she has also sworn off marriage. Alex loves taking chances, which is how she finds herself embroiled in a secret mission as she races across the country with the Earl of Trenton. But Alexandra is about to discover that the real danger lies not in duels, but in her completely unexpected reaction to Lord Trenton’s company.

Michael Ashford, Earl of Trenton, is a man of duty. Honorable, charming, and a hit with the ladies, he’s never had trouble staying focused—until now. Lady Alexandra is like no other woman he’s ever met, and suddenly the prospect of marriage seems far more appealing. Now, to convince Alexandra that a life together could be an adventure like no other…

Sophie Barnes specializes in creating Regency heroines who seem improbably larger-than-life, and then making their square-peg-in-the-round-hole characters seem, not just reasonable for their particular circumstances, but absolutely the right woman for whatever normally staid and conventional male starts out attempting to shave off the edges of their unique charms.

Take Lady Alexandra Summersby for example. Every male in her entire family seems to work for the Foreign Office. In other words, she’s the one female in an entire family of spies. Her mother is deceased, and if it wasn’t tragic, I’d say the poor woman died of fright.

But Alex was raised in the trade, so to speak. With every single member of her family in the secrets business, it is somewhat logical that she be able to defend herself. If anyone’s cover is blown, she’s a target. The only problem is that Alex is much too good at it. She’s a much better with the sword than either of her brothers. She’s much better at most of the “trade” than her brothers.

So when her oldest brother, William, is accused of colluding with Napoleon (instead of being the spy for the English that he really is), Alex gets herself attached to the investigation, with her father’s consent. Her younger brother Ryan goes along as chaperone.

The man leading the expedition, Michael Ashford, Earl of Trenton, thinks he is taking the two younger Summersby sons to France to investigate the case. Only when the party arrives in France does Alex reveal that she is Alexandra. Michael is angry, not only at the deception, but at the danger that a woman brings to the investigation. He does not see the possibilities.

Alex does not see that there is danger. She can defend herself. Very ably, too. But she has never dealt with the possibility that men will attack her, and in numbers, simply because she is a woman with a sword.

Michael tries to force her back into a conventional role, one that Alex cannot occupy. She loves herself as she is. She will never be a demure miss. No matter how much she has discovered she wants to attract Michael’s attention.

Alex is afraid to love. And it turns out that Michael will settle for nothing less. In the middle, there remains the question of Alex’s brother William. Exactly who is he working for in Napoleon’s court?

Escape Rating B: Spies never occupy a conventional role in society. So the idea that Alex might be as unconventional as she is in this story, while surprising, isn’t all that hard to swallow. It just made her more interesting to watch. Her naivete that her sword would protect her from all the problems of being a woman travelling as a man did seem just that, a bit naive.

In so many recent Regencies, in order to make the heroine a person that modern readers can identify with, the authors have resorted to using bluestockings as heroines. While I enjoy the bluestocking heroine as much as the next reader, being one myself, it is refreshing to see a story where the heroine is a woman of action. It’s a tad unconventional, but it works. There are always non-conformists. And spycraft is one of the oldest professions, one in which women have always taken part.

The emotional center is the relationship between Alex and her family, and then between Alex and Michael. Alex is afraid to love because her father sincerely loved her mother. He slid into a deep depression when she died, and left Alex to her own devices. Something that contributed to her tomboy tendencies. Alex is afraid to love anyone that much.

Michael needs a wife, but he also needs a partner. Someone who won’t bore him. Someone who understands his service with the Foreign Office. Alex challenges him. Her family also serves the Foreign Office. They can work together, if she can get past her fears, and if he can get past his conventionality to figure out that her very unconventionalness is what he really needs.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-11-12

I miss my second monitor. I miss it really, really bad. It’s the big drawback to working on the blog on the road. My poor laptop just isn’t quite the machine my desktop is.

And then there’s that whole second monitor thing.

On the good news front, we found a place to live. On the first day of looking. This was SO much less drama than the move from Gainesville to Atlanta. I’m amazed. And happy. And thrilled. So we’re going home early to do more of the stuff we need to do, with a couple more days to do it in. At this point, pretty much every hour is precious.

Speaking of precious, let’s take a look at the precious, and maybe a few not-so-precious, things that happened at Reading Reality this week.

Ebook Review Central, Carina Press September 2012 Featured Titles: #1 Long Shots Books 1-3 by Christine d’Abo, #2 The Reluctant Amazon by Sandy James, #3 How to Date a Henchman by Mari Fee
B- Review: The Devil’s Thief by Samantha Kane
Interview with Samantha Kane + Giveaway
Interview with Aubrie Dionne + Giveaway
A- Review: Bared to You by Sylvia Day
B Review: Reflected in You by Sylvia Day
Autumn’s Harvest Blog Hop
On My Wishlist-Waiting on Wednesday-Desperately Wanting Wednesday-On the Weekend

Just because I’m in the middle of packing and moving, you don’t think anything is stopping at Reading Reality, do you? Of course not.

On Monday, Ebook Review Central will be taking Veteran’s Day off, and I’ll be posting something to commemorate the holiday. I will admit to it being a conveniently scheduled holiday with my trip, but sometimes you get the bear. (Sometimes, the bear gets you)

Tuesday, my guest will be Cherry Adair. Cherry will be here to answer a few questions about the latest book in her T-FLAC series, Ice Cold. I’ll admit that Ice Cold was my first introduction to this romantic suspense series but I had absolutely no problems jumping right in. And wow! What a wild ride this one is!

Wednesday, Marie Treanor will be back with a guest blog, because she’s going to be talking about her new book, Smoke and Mirrors. I’m glad to have another one of Marie’s books to review, because I enjoyed Serafina and the Silent Vampire so much. Smoke and Mirrors is in a new series, but I’m still expecting a real treat.

Thursday, I’ll be part of Jamie Salisbury’s Tudor Rubato tour. Jamie’s Tudors are rock ‘n’ roll legends, not English monarchs, which makes this series more delicious-sounding, in more ways than one. I’ll be reviewing both Tudor Rose and Tudor Rubato for the book tour.

Rounding out the week, on Friday, I’ll have one more guest! Sophie Barnes will be here to talk about her Summersby series. In addition to an interview with Sophie, I’ll also be reviewing two of the Summersby books, There’s Something About Lady Mary and The Secret Life of Lady Lucinda.

Wow! What a week this is going to be! And the fun isn’t over yet. Reading Reality will be participating in two blog hops over Thanksgiving weekend.

So don’t forget to tune in next week for another exciting adventure!