Regan Walker's Best of the Regency with Mary Jo Putney!

My guest today is Mary Jo Putney, NY Times bestselling and award-winning author of Regencies and other historical romances. 

Mary Jo was born in Upstate New York with a reading addiction, a condition with no known cure.  Her entire writing career is an accidental byproduct of buying a computer for other purposes.  Most of her books contain history, romance, and cats.  She has had ten RWA RITA nominations, two RITA wins, RWA's 2013 Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, and she's so distractible that she’s amazed that she ever finishes a book.  

She has graciously agreed to answer my many question and to give us a sneak peek at her newest book, Once a Soldier

What turns you off like nothing else?

Mean characters. I can forgive mistakes, because we all make them, but someone who is mean for no good reason is very hard to redeem.

Fairy Tale or Action Adventure?

Can't I have both??? I like action adventure because it provides plot and propulsion, and adventures test the characters and bring out their deepest qualities. But fairy tales--unlikely, over the top possibilities--add magic to a story. 

Where do you read and how often?

Whenever and wherever I can! When having coffee after dinner with Mayhem Consultant and cats. At meals if I'm eating alone. Best of all, in the bathtub with a nice hot cup of Sleepytime tea.  

What sound or noise do you love?

It's hard to choose just one sound!  But I have a set of small Woodstock wind chimes hanging in my garage, and I'll touch them when I climb the steps into the house. They make marvelous bright, crystalline sounds, and also alert the Mayhem Consultant and the cats that I'm home. <G>

What’s your favorite movie of all time?

Tough one!  Maybe Shakespeare in Love. It's a perfect movie for old English majors: a witty, intelligent blend of language and history in sumptuous settings, and with an ending that is satisfying, if not a conventional HEA.

What is your biggest vice?

Procrastination!  You might have noticed that in our dealings, Regan. <G> [Regan: Ha! Panic sets in when my guest appears to vanish!]

Do you write while listening to music? If so what kind?

I need music playing and it must be instrumental. No singing because words are too distracting when I write.  I'm particularly fond of Celtic harp music and New Age piano like George Winston.  [Regan: me, too!]

What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?

Sleep! I'm always strung out and exhausted. When I wake up and view the disaster area that is my office, I generally decide it's easier to write another book than it is to clean the office….

Tea or Coffee? And how do you take it?

Coffee with half and half.  I like tea also, but I like coffee more.

What drew you to write historical romances? Regencies?

I've always loved stories with history, adventure, complex and generally positive human relationships, and most certainly happy endings.  So romance, and historical romance in particular, have been a natural choice. Even more in particular--Regencies! I fell in love with Georgette Heyer in college and read and reread and reread all her romances.  It's such a wonderful time period, with society and literature changing, reform movements, and a "good war" which gives the opportunity for lots of dashing military heroes! Plus--the clothes are more comfortable than either Georgian or Victorian costume.

What is your hope for the future of romance publishing?

I want romance to have a very wide range of stories available so that all readers can find what they enjoy. And I want readers to be able to find those books they want. There are so many books out there that it can be hard to find what you love.

What has surprised you the most about being published?

That it ever happened!  I grew up on a farm and didn't know any authors.  It never occurred to me that I could actually write books, sell them to publishers, and earn a living.  Amazing, even after all these years!

How did you come up with the idea for your new book, Once a Soldier?

I've really enjoyed writing my Lost Lords series, with heroes who met at a school for boys of "good birth and bad behavior."  All were in one way or another square pegs in round holes. At the Westerfield Academy, they learned to adapt to society's expectations while being true to themselves--and forming lifelong friendships.  But they scattered in all directions after they left of school, so I had to track them down and figure out what their stories were. 

Will Masterson was in the series from the beginning, but as a serving military officer, he was usually off in Portugal and Spain. I liked Will too much to ignore him, so I worked out a story that begins right after Napoleon's abdication in April 1814. Europe rejoiced that the long wars were over—Waterloo wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eye—and Will is ready to resign his commission and go home.  However, I'd done a cruise along the Douro River in Northern Portugal years ago. A lot of Napoleonic fighting took place in that area, and I wanted to use that material in a book, and also what I learned about making port wine. It took years, but eventually I developed a plot that would lead Will to his lady love, and also include a secondary romance for his classmate Justin Ballard, whose Scottish family had been shippers of port wine for several generations. Fun!

Technically Once a Soldier is Book 1 of the Rogues Redeemed series, but this new series is a direct spin-off of the Lost Lords.  Book 2 of this new series is Once a Rebel, which features the enigmatic Gordon, who appeared in two earlier books.  That will be out in 1817.

Once a Soldier's lead characters, Will Masterson and Athena Markham, are both English, but most of their story takes place in my tiny fictional kingdom of San Gabriel, in the mountains between Portugal and Spain:
An excerpt:
Napoleon has abdicated, the Peninsular wars are over and Major Will Masterson is heading back to England along with a group of Allied soldiers from the tiny kingdom of San Gabriel. 

            Gilberto strode across the room to fling open the door in the left hand wall, revealing a large, well lit kitchen.  He called, "Mamá, I'm home!" as if he'd been gone for the day rather than years.
            His announcement triggered a response that made the earlier reunions Will had witnessed pale in comparison.  A mob of Olivieras poured into the kitchen and boiled around him in noisy waves.  There were ancient aunts and grandparents and a couple of knee-hugging toddlers.  A woman who must be his mother gave an ear-splitting, wordless scream of joy when she embraced her son as if she'd never let him go. 
            Others echoed his mother's scream.  If Will hadn't known better, he'd have thought a massacre was in progress. 
            The delirious happiness in the room was as exhausting as it was exhilarating.  Will decided to wait until the tumult subsided before introducing himself. 
            He strolled across the room to stretch his legs, admiring the beautiful patterns of the tile floor.  He had not known how beautiful tile could be until he came to the Peninsula.  But the furnishings were Spartan.  Apart from the refectory table, there was only a pair of creaky looking chairs that might collapse if he tried to sit down.  
            The tile medallion in the center of the hall floor had a coat of arms, likely that of the country or the ruling family.  He was admiring the artistry when he heard swift footsteps sound from the stairs.  When the steps ended, he looked up--and saw that the candlelight illuminated the barrel of a rifle pointed at his chest from the shadows.  "Drop the gun!" a voice snapped in the Gabrileño dialect.  "Very, very carefully."   The command was repeated in French.
            Will said peaceably in Gabrileño, "I mean no harm.  Sergeant Oliviera has returned to his family, and I'm a British officer who accompanied him."  He let his saddle bags fall to the stone floor and slowly leaned over to set the carbine on top. 
            "You're certainly not local," the voice growled. "Say something in English."
            "As you wish," he said in English.  "If you allow me to remove my greatcoat, I can show you my uniform."
            The rifle barrel didn't waver.  "Take the coat off slowly," the voice said in crisp English.  "If you move your hand toward a weapon, I'll shoot you."
            Not making any sudden moves, Will peeled off the greatcoat.  His uniform was shabby and mended in places, but unmistakably British red.  "My name is William Masterson and I'm from Oxfordshire."
            After a taut silence, the rifle was lowered and a magnificent Amazon stepped from the shadows.  Now that Will didn't have a weapon pointing at him, he realized that the rich, low voice belonged to a female.
            Tiny sparks of energy tingled through him and long dormant parts of his body began sparking to life.  He stared, entranced.  The Amazon was close to six feet tall and she had the fair complexion of a northerner.  Even swaddled in a dark, ankle length robe, she was strikingly attractive, with strong, regular features, a braid of warm brown hair falling down her back, and dangerous hazel-gold eyes.
            And she handled the rifle with the ease of an expert.  Not just an Amazon warrior, but the Amazon queen in person.

Keep up with Mary Jo on her Website and Facebook.

Do leave a comment as Mary Jo is giving to one lucky winner their choice of one Mary Jo’s ebook on Amazon or, to a U.S. winner, an advanced copy of Once a Soldier.  

So, here’s my question for readers: How do you feel about historicals set in less familiar locations? Do you like the freshness, or long for Almack's?


  1. Thanks for posting this, Regan. I'm beginning to get excited about ONCE A SOLDIER coming out--seeing the cover and excerpt and all makes it seem official. I'll be interested in people's thoughts on Regencies that take place outside of Britain.

    1. Thanks for being my guest, Mary Jo. It's my pleasure to have you as a part of my Best of the Regency series. As an author of a Regency that takes place outside of Britain (Wind Raven), I do understand but I think it is possible to create the world of Regency with your characters and what they do and how they think, no matter where they are!

    2. You're right, Regan. Regency is a sensibility, not necessarily a location.

    3. I love the time period no matter what part of the world the story's based in. And of course I adore Mary Jo's writing whatever the time period. I'm so looking forward to this book and "Once a Rebel" too! Finally Gordon's story too! :-)
      Great interview and fascinating questions. Thank you to you both for this.

  2. Hi Mary!

    I love any setting for a Regency. I want to know what is going on in the world at the time.

    1. Thanks, Nan. I'm glad you stopped by and that you like Regencies set outside England.

  3. Kasimpson3@gmail.comApril 5, 2016 at 11:51 AM

    This is a book like no other I have seen in a while. And as for Almacks vs other places, while I enjoy London, I enjoy the creative efforts that bring me to the other places that Stories can take place. This port wine villa sounds wonderful. Karen S

  4. I so enjoy Regency romances I'll take any setting it's in. I like the traditional Almack version as well as something new. The plot and character development intrigue me more. Can't wait to read "Once a Soldier." I love series that track the lives and loves of characters who know each other.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Dancer. I'm so glad to hear you like our Regencies set outside of London!

  5. I'm totally fine with different settings. As long as it's a well written historical with characters I can connect with I'm happy.

    1. Hi, Linda. So glad you stopped by. And it encourages me to know you enjoy Regencies set outside London (as I have 2 of them myself!).

  6. I love travelling to wherever a book decides to take me... get to experience and visit different places along with the characters... greenshamrock ATcox DOTnet :)

  7. Oh, my gosh, Mary Jo!!! I got goose bumps at the end of your teaser. I've already pre-ordered Once A Soldier, but now I am going to be on tenterhooks.

    Love the family boiling in noisy waves!

    Oh, and to answer the question: I'm currently re-reading one of my all-time favorite historical romances, which is set in India during the Sepoy rebellion and the siege of Luckenow, and, while I don't consciously choose books set in far off lands, I have to admit most of my favorites, including my favorite Mary Jo Putneys, have nary an Almack's in sight.

    1. LOL, Faith. I liked contrasting the exuberant Gabrilenos with the more reserved Brits. Athena, of course, is one of a kind. (Is the book you're rereading M. M. Kaye's Shadow of the Moon?)

    2. I was reading my precious copy of Zemindar that I squealed about on Wenches last week.

  8. I enjoy every one of your books. I end up with the complete series on one or more reading applications. I also keep old laptops to preserve your books on that laptop. Always holds my attention. Thank you very much for all the endless hours of reading pleasure.

  9. depends how it's written

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  10. I love the above statement... "Regency is a sensibility, not necessarily a location." I couldn't agree more! So, I obviously don't mind a change of scenery. As it's not about the place but the characters you make live and breath there. I suppose this is exactly why I enjoy you as authors. Thank you both for so many great days spent in other times and places.

    1. Very gracious of you, Karen. And we are glad to have you as one of our readers!

  11. We have a winner! Faith Freewoman. Please contact me at Regan@ReganWalkerAuthor.com with your information. Thanks and Congratulations!