In her other life, Mimi is an attorney and resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties and two Siamese cats.
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And now to the interview:
1. How often to you get lost in a story?
Constantly! I read a book practically every day, even when I’m writing. If it’s a really good one, it doesn’t matter if I’ve only allotted an hour or two for reading. I’ll stay up all night to finish it. Those are the best books, in my opinion. The ones that take you out of yourself so completely that, when they’re over, you feel a little like Harry Potter emerging from the Pensieve.
2. What’s your favorite fairy tale?
I love Beauty and the Beast. Not only is it romantic and magical, but it also teaches an important lesson about looking past a person’s outward appearance in order to find the beauty that lies within. This is a critical component of my new Victorian romance novel The Lost Letter. The hero and heroine have undergone significant changes since they last met and both have to look past the superficial in order to find happiness.
3. What three things are, at this moment, in your heroine’s purse, satchel, reticule, weapons belt or amulet bag (whatever she carries)?
Sylvia Stafford, the heroine of The Lost Letter, is sensible, self-sufficient, and very well prepared. She always carries a handkerchief in her reticule—a plain square of linen with a neatly embroidered hem. She also keeps a needle and thread in her bag in case her clothing should require any emergency repairs. Lastly, she never leaves home without a few coins to use for train fare or to hail a hansom cab. A lady never knows when she’ll need to make a hasty departure!
4. What one thing about your hero drives his heroine crazy? And what one thing about your heroine drives her hero nuts?
The hero of my novel, Sebastian Conrad, Earl of Radcliffe, is a man of few words (and those words are generally growls, grumbles, and oaths). Sylvia is frequently frustrated by his unwillingness to communicate. Sebastian, by contrast, finds it a little irritating that Sylvia has accepted the hardship in her life with so much equanimity. As a man who is still struggling with accepting his own misfortune, he is often aggravated by her optimistic view of the future.
5. What’s your favorite kind of story to get lost in?
It depends on my mood. I love long, intricately detailed epics, like the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien and George R. R. Martin. I’m also a huge Agatha Christie fan, as well as a fan of classic Regency and Victorian romances, such as Persuasion, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. The romance novels of Georgette Heyer are perennial favorites as well. If only there were more of them!
6. What drew you to write in the genre(s) you do?
When I was in my early teens, my mother read historical romance to decompress from her high-stress job. I often borrowed her Amanda Quick novels. They were so much fun. Life can be stressful at times and the world can be a sad, uncertain place. Romances are great because there is always a happy ending. It’s reassuring to know that, no matter what the characters suffer, things will always be all right in the end.
7. Tea or Coffee? And how do you take it?
Definitely tea. I’ve been drinking Darjeeling tea since I was in my teens. It has the loveliest smell, as delicate as perfume. When I got older, I learned that Darjeeling is known as the Champagne of tea. I drink it with a splash of milk—and a muffin or scone if I can get one!
8. What will always make you smile, even on a bad day?
My pets always make me smile no matter how bleak things get. I have two dogs, two cats, and a horse. One of my dogs is a seven-month-old Sheltie puppy named Stella who just joined our family in July. She takes so much joy in life; running, leaping, barking, and wrestling with her toys. Watching her play with my elderly Sheltie, Ash, is the best stress reliever in the world.
A Proud Beauty
Society beauty Sylvia Stafford is far too pragmatic to pine. When the tragic death of her gamester father leaves her destitute and alone, she finds work as a governess in a merchant’s household in Cheapside. Isolated from the fashionable acquaintance of her youth, she resigns herself to lonely spinsterhood…until a mysterious visitor convinces her to temporarily return to her former life—and her former love.
A Scarred Beast
Colonel Sebastian Conrad is no longer the dashing cavalry officer Sylvia once fell in love with. Badly scarred during the Sepoy Rebellion, he has withdrawn to his estate in rural Hertfordshire where he lives in near complete seclusion. Brooding and tormented, he cares nothing for the earldom he has inherited—and even less for the faithless beauty who rejected him three years before.
A Second Chance
A week together in the remote Victorian countryside is the last thing either of them ever wanted. But when fate intervenes to reunite them, will a beastly earl and an impoverished beauty finally find their happily ever after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?
Read an excerpt from The Lost Letter:
Sebastian Conrad, Earl of Radcliffe, raised his head from his book at the unmistakable sound of a carriage arriving. Despite his injuries, his hearing was as acute as it had ever been. He could easily make out the crunch of wheels on gravel, the sound of doors opening and closing, and following it all, the high-pitched laughter of his younger sister, Julia.
He scowled deeply.
Pershing Hall was a huge, architectural nightmare of a house, filled with meandering corridors, rooms of varying sizes, and passageways that led to nowhere. But when his sister, Julia, Viscountess Harker, was present, the house seemed to shrink to a fraction of its size. There was no peace and quiet. No privacy. Sebastian already lived in almost complete seclusion in the earl’s apartments. When Julia was in residence, however, he felt as if he were a prisoner there.
She had last visited only a month ago. Why was she back so soon? To devil and torment him, no doubt.
“Milsom!” he shouted.
His throat had been partially damaged by a saber cut, rendering his voice a particularly harsh, rasping growl. At the sound of it, his former batman materialized at the door of the dressing room. A rangy fellow with a sharp, foxlike face, he was two and thirty, the same age as Sebastian, but somehow managed to look as if he were decades older.
“My lord?” he queried.
“Lady Harker is here. Again.”
Milsom knew better than to question his master’s superior hearing. “Shall I lay out a fresh suit of clothes, my lord?”
Sebastian’s shoulder and arm ached. The last thing he wanted to do was truss them up in a blasted coat. Nor why should he have to? He was under no obligation to play lord of the manor. He had not invited his sister here. If she insisted upon forcing her presence upon him, she could bloody well bear to look at him in his shirtsleeves. “Unnecessary,” he said.
Milsom surveyed him with a critical eye. “Shall I shave you, my lord?”
Sebastian’s beard grew erratically on the side of his face that was scarred, but on the left side he had a good two-day growth of black stubble. He looked monstrous enough when clean-shaven, he knew. With facial hair, he looked a veritable beast. “No,” he said coldly.
There was no need. He likely would not even see his sister.
He returned his attention to his book, but could not settle back into reading. The presence of other people in the house always made him uneasy. And, much as he loved her, he could scarcely tolerate the visits of his younger sister. She was too loud. Too emotional. Too cursed intent on interfering in his life.
She meant well, but she had no real notion of what he had been through in India. Nor could he ever confide in her. Like so many young ladies of her class, she was a coddled innocent who swanned through life clutching a vinaigrette lest she swoon away at the first sign of something unpleasant.
She had swooned when she had first beheld him, hadn’t she? Screamed, swooned, and then burst into tears—in that order. As if he had not felt hideous enough.
He tightened his fingers around the lock of hair in his hand. Even after all of these years it was still as soft as silk. He caressed it absently with his thumb, the familiar action calming him enough that he was able to resume reading. He heard Milsom milling about behind him, tidying up the sitting room.
“You’ll give yourself a headache, my lord,” he remarked.
Sebastian made no reply. Reading was one of his only pleasures now and even that was marred by frequent headaches. The strain of reading with one eye, the doctor had said. Confound him.
Before being injured, Sebastian’s leisure hours had been taken up with riding and sport and scholarship. He had even penned several articles for The Aristotelian Review—a somewhat obscure scholarly journal focused on classicalism and antiquity. His primary occupation, however, had been as a soldier. It was the career path chosen for all the second sons of the Earls of Radcliffe, and it was a life that suited Sebastian particularly well. He had always been an ordered and disciplined individual with a serious turn of mind. Rather too serious, he had been told on occasion.
But he had not lacked for courage. And though he did not relish fighting and bloodshed, he had found himself to be extraordinarily adept at it.
He had expected to eventually come home from India to the modest property that his father had given him for his twenty-first birthday. Instead he had had his face nearly cleaved in two and returned to England to find his father and his elder brother dead. In place of a modest property, he now had a substantial estate. And instead of a second son, he was now the Earl of Radcliffe.
Fortunately, his younger sister had been married off to the Viscount Harker two years prior and was no longer Sebastian’s concern. And Pershing Hall itself was in the very capable hands of his father’s steward, a man who had managed the estate for over thirty years.
Sebastian was content to leave it to him.
He could muster no interest in poring over ledgers and even less in riding out to meet with any of the tenants. It was too easy to imagine their horrified reaction to the sight of his scarred face. Granted, he had known most of his father’s tenants since his youth, but mere familiarity was no guarantee that they would not respond to him with pity and disgust. He need only look to his sister’s reaction for proof of that.
“That’ll be Lady Harker now,” Milsom said.
Sebastian stiffened at the sound of muffled footsteps coming up the stairs and down the hall. The housekeeper, Julia, and one other. Lord Harker, perhaps? Good God, he hoped not. The last time that pompous ass had come to visit him in his rooms it was to read him an officious lecture on why a gentleman must never threaten to throttle his sister. But no, it was clearly the housekeeper and two women. Julia and her maid. Or Julia and a friend. Heaven help him. How long did his sister plan to stay?
“I am not receiving, Milsom,” he informed his hovering valet.
“Naturally, my lord,” Milsom replied. And when a gentle tap—the sort of anemic knock one might give at an invalid’s door—announced the presence of his irritating younger sibling, Sebastian heard Milsom open the door a crack and say, quite firmly, “His lordship’s not receiving today, my lady.”
“Not receiving! Look here Milsom…” Julia’s voice sunk to a poor apology of a whisper. “We discussed this and you promised that you would be of some assistance! If you care at all for my brother you will let me pass!”
Sebastian heard a rustle of expensive fabric as Julia shouldered past his valet and stormed into the room. With a sigh of resignation, he rose from his chair and turned to face her.
And then he froze.