Christina Brooke, author of the “Ministry of Marriage” novels “Heiress in Love” and “Mad About the Earl” (and the forthcoming “A Duchess to Remember”) joins us for a quick Q & A:
Let’s start small and work our way up, shall we? For instance, let’s talk about Griffin, your brutish Earl of Tregarth – specifically, just how hairy is he? Are we talking Pete Sampras, Wolverine, or Chewbacca?
Haha, I love the idea of establishing a scale of hirsuteness for heroes! Or is it hirsutitude? Let’s just say that Griffin is hairier than the average male underwear model but not so hairy as to make back waxing necessary. His face is devoid of beard/moustache/side-whiskers, although he does have a five o’clock shadow that seems to spring up within ten minutes after his long-suffering valet shaves him.
Still on the subject of the Earl: Regency romances are full of men lacking in the social graces, men who require that final polish from the lovely women they marry. But your Griffin, when asked by Lady Rosamund Westruther exactly why he’s to marry her so abruptly, answers “My sister. She’s to make her come-out this spring. She needs a chaperone. You’re it.” In other words, he doesn’t need a polish – he needs re-building from the slats and nails! Two questions: 1) is he, God help us, based on anybody you actually know? and 2) what prompted you to put him so far beyond the pale?
1) All the men I know are perfect gentlemen — ahem! — well perhaps not exactly but they have a better sense of self-preservation than to make a marriage proposal like that! Poor Griffin. He’s a man of action, not words. Of course, Rosamund makes him pay dearly for that ham-fisted proposal.
2) I love the Beauty and the Beast fairytale and so for my exquisitely beautiful Rosamund I wanted to have the contrast of a big brutish man. Rosamund has every advantage from a superficial standpoint but she knows from experience that beauty is only skin-deep. That’s why Griffin is such a perfect match for her. She has already realized what he needs to learn–that it’s a person’s character and heart that counts, not what they look like or how many social graces they have.
Stepping back a bit: you’ve stocked the extended Westruther with a great cast of eccentric individuals – and you’ve resisted making any of them simple foils (the rakes have tender sides, the fops take boxing lessons, etc.). Can readers assume they’ll each get a novel, if you aren’t squished by an out-of-control crosstown bus?
Oh, Heaven defend me from out-of-control crosstown buses! But barring accidents, I plan to write the three male Westruthers’ stories. I’ve also had a lot of requests for the story of the older couple in the series, Lady Arden and the Duke of Montford, so that is under consideration also.
Back a bit more: how did you dream up the Ministry of Marriage? Didn’t the fictional young lovers of the period have enough to contend with simply dealing with conniving aunts and imperious estate trustees? You’ve taken those matrimonial busybodies and weaponized them! How can the course of true love win out against a cabal of aristocrats matching mating pairs as though the ton were a dog kennel?
I like to throw a lot of obstacles in the way of my heroes and heroines! Marriage was such an important path to social, financial and even political advancement in the Regency era, not just for the parties to the marriage themselves but also for their families. I liked the idea (totally fictional) that a large group of nobles got together to arrange marriages. And that’s how the Ministry of Marriage was born. The Duke of Montford, head of the Westruther family, sincerely believes that arranged marriages are best for young people. Yet, as the series goes on, one after another of his charges falls in love. Eventually, he will have to accept that love conquers even the greatest of ambitions, including his own.
Finally, what kind of response have you had? You seem to be having a blast with these books – is the feeling mutual among the readers you’ve heard from?
Oh yes, I’m having a ball with this series and looking forward to continuing with three more books. As for readers, I’m lucky to get mail from readers all over the world who have fallen in love with the Westruther family and are waiting impatiently for the next book in the series. The first book, Heiress in Love, has just been nominated Favourite Historical Romance by the Australian Romance Readers Association, which I’m thrilled about.