If I recall correctly, I first met Eloisa James at a Romance Writers of America Convention in Denver. Several of us were leaving a dinner given by Avon Books for a party hosted by Harlequin. Somehow I found myself next to the incredibly slender, incredibly fashionable, and incredibly funny Eloisa. I laughed so hard I had to head straight for the bathroom once we reached the party…you know that kind of laughter.
Another year, another trek from dinner to party. I was wearing this dress with fabulous beaded shoulder straps. Fabulous, but fragile. As I exited the taxi, the wire the beads were strung on cut through the thread attachment to the garment on one side and I was in serious wardrobe malfunction. I made noises about returning to our hotel. Eloisa wouldn’t have it! She slipped the remaining beads off the wire (dashing them to the New York sidewalk) and then quickly used the wire and a little tuck here and there to make my sagging gown into a one-shouldered thing of beauty!
Delightful companion, impromptu dress re-designer, and she writes wonderful books, too. (Not to mention that she’s a professor and a wife and mother as well). The next in her “Desperate Duchesses” series of Georgian historicals, When the Duke Returns, will hit the shelves November 25.
In this story, Isidore, the Duchess of Cosway, faces the stranger she married by proxy eleven years ago…and must decide if he’s the man she wants for a lifetime.
I Ask, Eloisa Answers
I started this off by talking about fashion and must continue because I love reading about clothes in romances and you’ve outdone yourself with heroine Isidore’s ensembles in When the Duke Returns. (I so want her diamond shoes!) Where do you get your ideas for the clothing?
Ah, clothing… as you can see from your beaded gown story above (I remember that! It was the year that my own gown slipped off one shoulder at the Harlequin dance and I accidentally flashed 800 women) – anyway, the gowns I describe are costumes I would like to wear. That’s crucial. So I choose pictures from British Vogue or a host of other overpriced fashion magazines featuring beautiful women wearing one-of-a-kind garments. Then I imagine that fabric, the flow and beading, in a Georgian or Regency shape.
More than once you’ve written a romance about the development of love within a marriage. How does the fact that the hero and heroine are married affect the conflict and the growing relationship?
I think it makes it more interesting. I’m married. I find marriages fascinating given that the initial haze of lust has burned off. A marriage that survives fulfills the dream of romance: that two people can have an intelligent, loving, sensual relationship together. If a book just ends at the altar – well, really, who knows? I certainly have a lot of feverish memories of pure lust for men that I am truly, really grateful not to have married!
In the Desperate Duchesses series, the playing of chess has an important role. Do you play? (Confession from me: I tried to take it up when my sons were beginners because it was way better than Chutes & Ladders. Discovered they could beat the pants off me by the time they were like 8, so I gave it up.)
Nope. I can’t play worth a darn. But my closest friend in my English Department (I’m a professor) is only a few games off being a master. He lent me books and magazines and a chess board, and I learned just enough to write about it.
In your series, you have interweaving and layering threads and character relationships that continue through each book. Do you plan those in advance or do you let your subconscious do most of the work?
I’m a seat-of-the-pantser. In When the Duke Returns, for example, I certainly never planned to have my duke return from years abroad to find that the water closets (or toilets) in the ducal mansion broke long ago… but what can I say? I live in an elderly house, and that plot irresistibly presented itself to me. I couldn’t say no! And that plot twist turned out to be quite funny, so I’m happy that I’m not hemmed in by a plot I thought up in advance.
As I said above, you’re a bestselling author, a college professor, a mother and a wife. I’m certain you get asked this all the time—can you share a great time-management tip or two?
I have a long (typed) list of to-do’s. Every day I put a yellow sticky on it, with 4-5 things that I can reasonably get done. Sometimes those things are small: “write 2 pages.” Sometimes they are large: “Finish copy-edits.” But I have a sense of accomplishment when I cross things off the sticky, and I’m amazed at how just chipping away at small bits can add up to completion of large projects a few months later.
Plus, I have a great husband!
You mention on your website (www.eloisajames.com) that the Georgian period (during which the Desperate Duchesses books are set) is “naughtier” than the Regency period and that men and women’s relationships had a different tone. Can you elaborate a little?
Well, think of the Regency period as coming just before the Victorian period (when women had to cover the legs of tables with doilies so that naked table legs didn’t give them naughty thoughts). But the Georgian period was far before the Victorians came along – and social rules had a much smaller role. It wasn’t unusual for a husband and wife to live separately, especially in the higher classes. And it certainly wasn’t unusual for either of them to take a lover. Many women married later, and scholars estimate that almost 50% of them were pregnant at their wedding. So Georgians were simply naughtier!
Finally: I see that Jemma’s story is up next. I’m so excited (and worried for her happy ending). Can you give me just a little hint to keep me going through the next months of feverish anticipation?
I love the book. Is that enough? *g*.
Oh, and my editor said that it has one of the best beginnings that she’s read in the last decade. How’s that for a hint?
I can’t say too much without giving away the plot. But let me just say that I laughed, and cried, writing this book. I hope you feel the same reading it!
Riders (and readers), I have reviewed Eloisa’s When the Duke Returns for my December column in BookPage, noting: “The delight of the story is in how two very different people learn to negotiate their relationship and in doing so discover their love for each other.Appealing secondary characters who have walked through other entries in the Desperate Duchesses series add another layer of poignancy to this most excellent romance.”
If you’d like to win a sample of Eloisa’s magnificent storytelling, she is giving away FIVE signed copies of her book Desperate Duchesses (along with my own Bachelor Boss), so leave a comment!