Author Interview: Marissa Doyle

August 9, 2012

Please join me in welcoming Marissa Doyle, author of Bewitching Season, Betraying Season, and the just released Courtship & Curses. Welcome to Damsels in Regress, Marissa!

1. Sophie has every reason to want to shy away from the uneducated views and comments that society has of her disability, yet she’s quite the feisty character at times. How did her story come about?

I knew I wanted to write a story set in the Regency, with Lady Parthenope, the mother of Persy and Pen in Bewitching Season, as one of the characters. Based on the timing (Persy and Pen were born in 1819), I knew I could set it at the tail end of the Napoleonic Wars…and it just sort of sprouted from there.  Sophie’s character popped into my head while I was taking a shower, which is where a lot of good book ideas are hatched and plot problems solved…and as I was drying off, the fact of Sophie’s illness and disability was just “there” in my head. As I say in the author’s note in Courtship and Curses, we had a dear family friend who’d had polio as a child; I based Sophie’s difficulties on a lot of what I remember about her physical issues.

2. Parthenope is not a name I’ve ever run across before your books. Where did you find it and what kind of research did you do?

Isn’t it just a wonderfully dreadful name? It’s from Greek mythology, specifically the Odyssey—she was one of the sirens Odysseus encountered on his long journey home. The twins’ father James, himself a classicist, wanted the girls to have classical names like their mother…where poor Parthenope got it from, she was never able to ascertain as her father wouldn’t explain why he’d chosen it. But as he’d been imbibing freely while hiding in his library when Parthenope’s mother was in labor, there might be a clue there. 🙂 As to where I got it…I have no idea! My head is stuffed full of weird things and factoids like that. For research on the whole, I was quite delighted to add substantially to my library of early 19th century research materials (thank you, Abebooks!) I did lots of reading on London society, of course, but also on French and Napoleonic history as well, with forays into things like 19th century amateur botany and parakeet species.

3. I so enjoyed the characters traveling to Brussels! (I’m a huge Belgium fan.) Was it merely done to put them near the Duke of Wellington or were there other reasons?

Well, it made sense for Sophie’s father, as a member of the office that provided war matériel for the British army, to be on the ground in Brussels to consult with Wellington…and I desperately wanted to include Brussels in the early summer of 1815 in the book, just because it was soooo interesting a place—definitely Party Central of Europe at the time. As soon as Napoleon had been defeated in 1814, thousands of well-to-do British flooded over to the Continent to go shopping in Paris (which they hadn’t been able to do since the Peace of Amiens in 1802) and travel to Italy…and also, thousands of not-so-well-to-do British families of noble birth but slender means flooded there as well, as it was cheaper to live there than in England.

So Brussels was full of British, even after Napoleon escaped Elba and returned to power. In fact, even more came over after that because they thought it would be exciting to watch what would happen when he marched on Brussels, as it was expected he would (and obviously did). It’s hard to imagine military tourism in these days, but no one thought it all that strange a thing to do then.

4. Wow, you’ve taught me something already! I was happy to see a member of the Leland family make an appearance in this book. Will you tell James and Parthenope’s story soon?

Hmm…probably not. Happily-ever-afters don’t necessarily make for the most exciting fiction…and James and Parthenope will lead a quietly happy life…or at least as quiet as anything can be in Parthenope’s proximity. I do have to say that it was fun to take the character I’d created back in Bewitching Season, and extrapolate her back to her youth. Charles, however…that may be another story, but I’m not ready to say much about that yet.

5. On a personal note, what kind of books did you read when you were a teenager?

Heh, I was just discussing this over on LibraryThing…I was a total Victoria Holt fanatic, and was thrilled when I discovered that she’d also written historical fiction as Jean Plaidy. I think she’s why I always write a bit of a mystery and peril in my stories…except I prefer to have my heroines do the saving of the day, and not leave it to the guys. I also liked science fiction and Stephen King. Curiously, I didn’t discover Jane Austen ’til very late in my teens, but I think she’s best appreciated by adults anyway.

6. What are among your favorite historical fantasy novels?

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is my favorite, hands down—it’s so richly detailed, slyly humorous, and wonderfully written. I’m a total fan girl over Caroline Stevermer’s books A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics, and also greatly enjoy Patricia Wrede’s books like the Sorcery and Cecelia series (co-written with Stevermer) and her newer Frontier Magic series. I’d love to see more historical fantasy out there…which, I suppose, is why I write them.  🙂

7. What are you working on now?

I’m a little bit between books right now as I’m out on submission with something new and differentthink America in the early twentieth century (gasp!) But it’s still historical fantasy…I fervently hope that it will see the light of day soon.

I hope so, too! Keep us posted and thanks for taking the time to chat with us today!
To find out more about Marissa and her books, check out her website and blog


Book Review: Courtship & Curses

August 7, 2012
Courtship & Curses
Marissa Doyle
Historical Fantasy
Ages 14 and up
352 pages

Lady Sophie Rosier is anticipating her first London social season with less than full enthusiasm. It’s no wonder. An illness two years previously left her with one leg shorter than the other. Her aunts bicker over dull fabric colors at the dressmaker’s shop and can’t come to a decision—one wouldn’t want to wear a bright color and call attention to one’s infirmity, would one? Not to mention the ignorance of many in Society who think that since she’s crippled, she must also be dimwitted or hunchbacked.

Yet worse than this is the fact that Sophie’s mother and younger sister died from the same illness that left her lame. Sophie still deals with the pain and grief of their absence. Thank goodness that Madame Carswell—Amelie—has come to stay with Sophie’s family. The widow of one of Sophie’s father’s oldest friends, Amelie understands both Sophie’s grief and the need to not be constantly reminded of her leg. She also understands current fashion and takes over the selection of a wardrobe for an extremely grateful Sophie.

So begins Marissa Doyle’s Courtship & Curses, a novel filled with mystery, romance, and magic in 1815 London. Napoleon is back in power and England is on the brink of war. Sophie’s first social event is marred when a bust of Zeus crashes to the floor. If not for the quick action of the handsome Lord Woodbridge, the statue would have hit her father—a War Office minister. And Sophie senses magic at the scene, which can only mean it was no accident. But Sophie can’t tell people how she knows, because while magic is around, it isn’t commonplace.

Accidents continue to happen to War Office members. Sophie shares her concerns with her new friends Lord Woodbridge—Peregrine—and his cousin Parthenope, and finally with her father, who doesn’t take her fears seriously. Still, Sophie is determined to do whatever she can to keep him safe. Meanwhile, a budding romance grows between Sophie and Peregrine.

I really enjoyed Courtship & Curses. The mystery is well done, with suspicion falling on several different characters. The romance is sweet—even during its rough patches—with both Peregrine and Sophie behaving with realistic motivation. And Parthenope is such a fun character that she almost steals scenes from Sophie. But Sophie has much to struggle with during the course of the book and she grows stronger and more confident as the story progresses.

The author of Bewitching Season and Betraying Season, Doyle weaves all the threads of the book together with her usual expertise. The historical details, including the slang of the time period, make for a fun read. I highly recommend it for lovers of historical fantasy.

Make sure to check back on Thursday for an interview with author Marissa Doyle!