From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
It’s great to see Regency romance novels going strong, bolstered by the amazing success of the Bridgerton Netflix series based on Julie Quinn’s bestselling novels. It is inspiring to think that the story started as a spark in the writer’s imagination and became a phenomenal success. It can happen, writers, so keep on dreaming and writing.
I am the eternal optimist when it comes to debut authors. I really enjoy discovering a fresh, new voice and helping them reach their readers. Today I am happy to introduce you to Felicity George. Her first Regency romance novel, A Lady’s Risk, published in September. It is a sparkling, romantic take on the genre that historical readers who enjoy Tessa Dare and Mary Balogh will be eager to dive in to.
Felicity graciously agreed to an interview in which we discuss A Lady’s Risk, the Regency era, historical research, and what’s up next in her career.
Welcome, Felicity. A Lady’s Risk is your debut novel. What is it about?
Hi, Laurel! Thanks for having me on Austenprose. A Lady’s Risk is about the power of unconditional love. Not merely romantic love, but love that binds family, friends, and friends who become family. The novel explores the vulnerability and reward of giving that love.
What is the greatest challenge that your heroine, Lady Margaret, faces?
Lady Margaret suffered a heartbreaking betrayal when her beloved but proliferate elder half-brother squandered the family fortune. At the age of fourteen, Meggy learned to fend for herself and manage the estate on dwindling resources, while also raising her two younger siblings. By the age of one-and-twenty, she believes she cannot depend on anyone other than herself, and she’s built strong walls to shield her heart from future betrayal. But when the loss of her home forces her to accept help from others—namely Nicholas and his sister Rose—it becomes harder to maintain her heart-fortification, especially as her siblings grow to love their new friends.
What was Regency life like for Margaret and other women in her position?
Margaret is the daughter (and now sister) of an earl. Although her family is relatively impoverished and scandal-ridden, she still enjoys a privileged place in society, which she herself acknowledges. However, as an unmarried aristocratic lady, she has significant constraints which a working-class woman wouldn’t have. Her seven-year-old brother is an earl—a future landowner and politician—and she takes her responsibility in raising him seriously indeed. Since Meggy’s place in society and her role in bringing up a young earl prohibit her from seeking employment (and such options for ladies were extremely limited, anyway), she must seek marriage to a man of fortune and position.
However, Meggy is also aware that women in her time were truly at the mercy of their husbands. Upon marriage, their property became their husbands (unless otherwise stated in marriage settlements), and unless a wife could prove her husband endangered her life, she had no legal recourses against him. Fleeing him revoked her rights to his “protection”, which means she’d lose her property and her children, if she had any. Meggy must marry, but she’s equally determined to ensure that the man she marries will be entirely in her control. She won’t take a risk, in other words. Of course, love doesn’t really work that way.
Please describe your hero, Lord Nicholas. What personality traits did you enjoy crafting together for him? What makes him appealing or disagreeable to the heroine?
With Nicholas, I enjoyed creating a hero who initially presents as an alpha but is a beta through-and-through. Despite years of crafting a stand-offish persona, Nicholas’s cold-hearted veneer is paper thin—and he knows it. His friends and family see through it quickly, so Nicholas doesn’t let himself get close to many people. His four best friends (together, the five of them comprise ‘The Gentlemen of London’) and his sister are the only people who know him well—and even with them, he avoids talking about his demons.
Although Nicholas is immediately attracted to Meggy’s appearance, it’s the juxtaposition of her strength and intelligence with her effervescent joie de vivre and her sweet innocence that hooks him. Believing he could only destroy her happiness, he’s determined from the start to strengthen his defensive veneer. But spending time with Meggy and her younger siblings quickly breaks down his defenses.
Undoubtedly, Nicholas’s playfulness with the children appeals to Meggy. Her brother and sister soon adore him. Because Meggy loves her siblings devotedly, and by extension, loves what brings them joy, she’s reluctantly drawn to Nicholas. He reminds her of her beloved half-brother, in the days before Edwin deserted Meggy.
But also because of Meggy’s experience with Edwin’s desertion, she believes she can’t trust Nicholas. She finds his mercurial ways confusing. Rather than seeing a gentle and loving man in conflict, battling his demons, she perceives an untrustworthy man. He’s too much like the brother who deserted her.
Why did you choose the Regency era for your first novel? Were there any authors, books, or historical events that inspired you to write the story?
As is true of everyone who lives in this world, there have been some dark times in my life. In the darkest of those times, I couldn’t watch television or movies at all, and I couldn’t read books which had unhappy or bittersweet endings. Therefore, I read Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and Regency romance novels on repeat. There was something so powerfully therapeutic about escaping into worlds where the characters had to overcome conflict and wounds, but always got a happy ending.
When the pandemic hit, several life circumstances came together for me, and I knew that if ever I was going to accomplish my life dream of writing a novel, lockdown was my chance. In the darkness of that time, there wasn’t even a choice of what I’d write: I knew I needed to escape back to my decades-old safe place—the world of Jane Austen’s Georgian England.
A Lady’s Risk is a traditional, Georgette Heyer-inspired Regency romance (with a bit of steam, as previously stated). The heroine of the second book in the series, A Courtesan’s Worth, was inspired by real-life Georgian courtesan Harriette Wilson, but for my first novel, I paid homage to Heyer, the grandmother of all modern Regency romance.
What was your research process for writing the novel? Did you discover anything surprising?
I have a master’s degree in Art History from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, so I am a social historian by education and by passion. In addition, the Georgian era (from 1714 to 1837) has fascinated me since childhood. I have read the literature from the period, I’ve studied its art, and I adore its fashion. Most of the films I watch and modern novels I read are set in that period. There is no other era I love so well.
Therefore, I’ve been developing the scaffolding for my research since childhood. I list my favourite contemporary historians in the acknowledgements of A Lady’s Risk, but as a historical novelist, I relied even more heavily on primary sources. Maps and guidebooks from that time—as well as art—informed physical descriptions of towns and places. Novels of the era (Jane Austen, Frances Burney, and Maria Edgeworth, for example) helped me flavour my dialogue with the essence of the Regency. Letters and journals are immensely helpful for discovering little details of daily life which history books omit.
The joy of primary sources is how they reflect the world as people understood it at the time, rather than looking back through centuries of filters, as a modern historian must.
Did I discover anything surprising? Oh, yes, lots!! For example, modern matches hadn’t yet been invented, and I have one scene in which Nicholas lights a candle in a room without a fire. I spent hours researching how one would light a candle in 1813 (it involved dipping a specifically designed firestarter into a sulfuric acid solution). I can really fall into research rabbit holes!
What’s up next in your writing career?
Right now, I’m finalizing edits for book two in the Gentlemen of London series, A Courtesan’s Worth. Book three is drafted and ready to begin the revision process. After I’ve completed these five novels, I intend to stick with the Georgian era for future projects, but it remains to be seen if I decide to write more Regency romance or branch into other decades of the long-eighteenth century. I might explore another genre, too. My readers will probably help determine that choice!!
Felicity George is a writer and teacher from Toronto, where she lives with her husband, her two teenage children, a large cat, and a tiny dog. A lifelong devotee of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Felicity adores a happily-ever-after. A Lady’s Risk, book one in the five-part ‘Gentlemen of London’ series, is her debut novel.
- “A heart-warming and richly emotional debut that shines with sparkling wit, passion and fun.”— Nicola Cornick, bestselling author of The Winter Garden, and The Last Daughter of York
- “A delightful romance in which the spirited heroine has to decide if there are some things more important than love-or if, in fact, love encompasses them all”— Mary Balogh, bestselling author of Remember Love, and Someone to Cherish
- “This is a wonderful start to Felicity George’s Gentlemen of London series! It’s a heartwarming, sexy, and moving story with layered and unique characters and an epic love story.”— Julie Petitbon, One Book Moore
Never trust a rake…
Lady Margaret has devoted herself to taking care of her young siblings and the estate while her half-brother fritters away the family fortune. Upon Edwin’s death, she learns he has left them destitute and, worst of all, at the mercy of a notorious and cruel rake.
Lord Nicholas would much rather be pursing women for quick sport rather than taking care of a headstrong debutante without any prospects, as well as her siblings. But Edwin saved his life once, and now he owes him a debt. Fortunately, all he has to do is find Meggy a husband, and his debt will be paid.
There’s just one issue: Meggy is nothing like what he’d imagined. And the more time he spends in her company, the more he begins to wonder whether he’s met his match…
- A Lady’s Risk: Gentleman of London (Book 1), by Felicity George
- Orion Dash (September 29, 2022)
- Trade paperback & eBook (406) pages
- ISBN: 978-1398714144
- Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Romance
Cover image, book description, and author bio courtesy of Orion Dash © 2022; text Laurel Ann Nattress & Felicity George © 2022, austenprose.com, an Amazon affiliate.