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!


Author Interview: Shelley Adina

April 19, 2012

Please join me in welcoming Shelley Adina, the prolific author of the Magnificent Devices series and many other books for both young adults and adults. Welcome to Damsels in Regress, Shelley!

Thank you—and what fun to be here!

1. Lady Claire Trevelyan has become quite a strong character by the second book, Her Own Devices. How did her story come about?
The “fish out of water” story has always been interesting to me, probably because I felt that way every day in high school. So when the urge to write steampunk finally got too strong to ignore, I thought, “What’s the worst kind of ‘out of water’ experience a young Victorian lady could have?” Well, if she’s brought up to wealth and privilege, the absolute worst would be homelessness. And then I got an image of a girl getting mugged outside a Whitechapel train station … and that was the flash point. The story just came.

2. Tell us about your interest in steampunk, including what kind of research you did.

I’ve been a fan of steampunk since I was a kid watching “The Wild, Wild West” on TV in the sixties. The research is absolutely the most fun part. I mean, in how many other careers can you go to Comic Con or Fanime and have it be tax deductible? Here in Silicon Valley one of the coolest events of the year is the Maker Faire, where “makers,” or DIY folks, come together with all the devices, clothes, processes and so on that they’ve invented. Just looking at what other people have created can spur your imagination to go one step further and put that cool raygun in a scene.

Of course, the world you build also has to be grounded in what people know, so my 1889 London features real streets and bridges, real neighborhoods, and real fashion.

3. I know you’re an accomplished seamstress. Did you make any of the costumes that appear in the books?

One of my favorite things about writing steampunk is the ability to go to booksignings and speaking events in full costume. I’ll be teaching at Clockwork Alchemy 2012 in May, and you can bet I’ll be dressed to the teeth. To answer the question, though … there is one costume I describe that I have the pattern, fabric, and trims for. It’s just a matter of carving out the time to make it before May.

4. How many books will there be in the Magnificent Devices series?

My original plan was for three books about Lady Claire’s adventures, but then I was browsing on Deviant Art and saw a picture of a girl who is a dead ringer for the grown-up version of one of the Mopsies (10-year-old twin orphan girls in Lady of Devices). So it seems clear that Lizzie and Maggie are going to become teenagers and have their own stories. And then there’s Peony Churchill, who is running loose in the Canadas with dreams of being an aviatrix … that sounds like three more books to me, don’t you agree?

5. Absolutely! When will the next book be available?

I’m hoping that book 3, Magnificent Devices, will be available in September. The artist who does my covers,, sent me an image for book 3 that was just an experiment she wanted to show me … and it was so spot-on perfect that I bought it on the spot. Be prepared to swoon.

6. What kind of novels did you read as a teenager? Any favorites?

I come from Canada, which back then was heavily influenced by British writers. So I grew up reading Elizabeth Goudge, Enid Blyton, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, all of whose novels feature strong, interesting female leads who are appropriate for their time period. I think those fictional girls were Lady Claire’s literary ancestors.

7. What are you working on now?

I’m working on the last of my contracted novels for Hachette, which are Amish women’s fiction written under my Adina Senft pseudonym. Called the Amish Quilt trilogy, these books are about three Amish women who are working on a quilt together, and working through life issues with each other’s help. The first one, The Wounded Heart, is out now, and the second, The Hidden Life, is coming in June. The Tempted Soul will be out in March 2013.

Sounds great. Thanks for chatting with us!

Thanks so much for letting me come over—it was fun!

To find out more about Shelley and her books, check out the following websites. – Magnificent Devices – Amish Quilt – Moonshell Books & Editorial
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Book Review: Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos

October 12, 2011

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (Theodosia Throckmorton #1)
Janet Fox
Historical Fantasy
Ages 9+
350 pages

Here’s the plain and simple of it. I love Theodosia Throckmorton. Are the mysteries asking you to stretch your natural suspension of disbelief? Yes. Is Theodosia a (super, super) super bright eleven-year old? Yes. Does that bother me? No. Why? Because Theodosia is a character that makes me smile, laugh, and cheer her on at every obstacle she faces (and she faces many).

Let me back up a bit. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos is the first in a series of novels set in 1940’s England about an eleven-year-old girl who not only possesses formidable knowledge of Egyptian theology and black magic but also has the ability to see evil spells and spirits.

Often neglected by her loving, but preoccupied, archeologist parents, she has more freedom than the average eleven year old. This freedom allows her to work relentlessly to rid the museum her parents curate of these evils spells. Things don’t always go as she plans though, and Theodosia finds herself in one bind after another. Clever thinking, wits, and sometimes a little bit of help from some unexpected people get her through her adventures unscathed.

This book isn’t the most historically authentic book you’ll ever read, but it’s fun! It’s got adventure, mystery, a spunky character that will make you laugh. Give it a shot! Follow along as Theodosia tries to find her place in a society that doesn’t understand or appreciate her gifts. This book and its sequels are well-written and worth the read.

Author Interview: Caroline Stevermer

August 10, 2011

Caroline Stevermer

Please join me in welcoming Caroline Stevermer to Damsels in Regress. Ms. Stevermer is the author of several fantasies including A College of Magics and A Scholar of Magics, and co-author with Patricia C. Wrede of the Sorcery and Cecelia series.  Welcome, Caroline!

Thank you so much for asking me to participate in Damsels in Regress. What a terrific resource you have!

1. How did Frederick’s story come about?

When Patricia C. Wrede and I finished The Mislaid Magician, our editor, Kathy Dawson, then at Harcourt Brace, suggested that I might like to try my hand at a middle-grade novel set in the same world. I jumped at the opportunity.

In one of my earliest books, The Serpent’s Egg, the heroes are aided and abetted by a grouchy yet competent servant named Frederick. I’d begun to wonder where Frederick came from originally. The Frederick in Magic Below Stairs is a completely different character, but that’s where the story began, wondering about that earlier Frederick.

2. Tell us about the creation of Billy Bly.

Who wouldn’t want a brownie to help with housework once in a while?

In The Personnel of Fairyland, K. M. Briggs mentions Billy Blind, a hobgoblin or brownie from the ballads of the border between England and Scotland. Billy Blind is the inspiration behind Billy Bly. Of Billy Blind, Briggs says his “chief function seems to be to give good advice.” Billy Bly gives Frederick pretty good advice too.

3. You have a lot of details about the daily operation of a lord’s house.  What kind of research did you do?

The single most useful reference was The Complete Servant by Samuel and Sarah Adams, originally published in 1825. The authors were in service themselves. The book goes into all kinds of detail about what kind of duties each sort of servant performed. It even talks about wages—circa 1825, of course. Currency conversion is required.

From MRS HURST DANCING. Here ladies are putting up wallpaper!

I tend to learn visually, so it helped to find references that let me imagine how the house looked inside. I visited the period rooms at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a favorite haunt, to look at furniture and tea sets. As for books, I found The English Country House in Perspective by Gervase Jackson-Stops really helpful. Also Mrs Hurst Dancing (and other scenes from Regency Life 1812-1813) with the authentic regency watercolors of Diana Sperling and accompanying text by Gordon Mingay. I also studied Women’s Worlds (The Art and Life of Mary Ellen Best 1809-1891) by Caroline Davidson.

4. You’ve revisited characters from your other work in Magic Below Stairs.  Do you plan to write any more stories that do the same?

I certainly hope so! I have nothing formally planned at this time, but I love the characters and the setting.

5. What are some of your favorite historical fantasy novels?

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

The alternate history aspects eluded me when I originally read them—I was in grade school—I’d never heard of Hanoverians—but I’ve always loved Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea, along with the other Dido Twite books.

Not fantasy, but vividly historical, Rosemary Sutcliff’s books give me what I love in historical fiction, a sense of a worldview authentically different from our own. In particular, Simon, in which for once the hero of a novel set in the English Civil War is a Roundhead and not a Cavalier.

Most recently, Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis, which I enjoyed so much I read it in a single sitting. I’m looking forward to more from her.

6. Some great recommendations! What were your favorite books when you were a teenager?

The Lord of the Rings, predictably enough. Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books.

Because Ballantine Books brought out the works of E.R.R. Eddison in a paperback edition very similar to The Lord of the Rings, I tried Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros. The first sixty pages or so were very rough sledding, I admit, but ultimately I fell in love with the language, the bad guys, and most of all, the vainest and laziest fantasy hero I’d ever encountered, Lord Brandoch Daha. I still have a soft spot for him. How could I resist a character, who when his cousin the king comes to tell him about a prophetic dream he’s just had, does this:

Brandoch Daha snuggled him under the bedclothes and said, “Let me be and let me sleep yet two hours. Then will I rise and bathe and array myself and eat my morning meal, and thereafter will I take rede with thee and tell thee somewhat for thine advantage. I have not slept in a goose-feather bed and sheets of lawn these many weeks. If thou plague me now, by God, I will incontinently take horse over the Stile to Krothering, and let thee and thine affairs go to the devil.”

And then his cousin the king just laughs at him and goes away and lets him sleep. Heady stuff, when you’re 13 and living on a dairy farm, let me tell you.

7. I can imagine. What are you working on now?

I’m polishing the rough draft of a YA novel set in a different regency London from the Kate and Cecy books, but it has magic. (Wish me luck.)

Thanks so much for the good questions and for letting me natter on answering them.

You’re so welcome. And thank you for joining us on the Damsels. Good luck on your new novel!

For more information on Caroline and her work, check out her website:

Be sure to visit us on Friday when I’ll post a contest to win an autographed copy of Magic Below Stairs.

Book Review: Magic Below Stairs

August 8, 2011
Magic Below Stairs
Caroline Stevermer
Historical Fantasy
Ages 9-12
208 pages

Young Frederick Lincoln lives in an orphanage where older boys bully him and the director hates him. His only friend is Vardle the cook, who teaches him how to clean fish, sharpen knives, and tie knots. He also teaches him his letters.

Frederick is the type of boy who works hard to master the skills he’s learned. And unknown to him, he’s been befriended by a brownie named Billy Bly, who helps Frederick accomplish tasks and watches out for him. So when a man arrives to hire a footboy from whomever best fits a set of livery, life changes for Frederick. The clothes fit him as though they’ve been made for him. Off he goes to the home of Lord Schofield, a wizard rumored to grind men’s bones to make his bread. Instead Frederick finds good food, a warm bed, and satisfying work. And Billy Bly follows him from the orphanage.

Since brownies tend to cause trouble wherever they go, Lord Schofield isn’t happy that one has attached himself to Frederick. The wizard magically banishes Billy, leaving Frederick sad and lonely. But his work soon occupies him, and even earns him a new position­—assistant valet to Lord Schofield. All because Frederick has an uncanny ability to tie a cravat that others can’t duplicate.

The end of the social season rolls around, and the household transfers to the country estate where Frederick learns much about wizards and magic. Because it seems the curse on the house that took eleven wizards to drive out has returned—at least a remnant of it—posing a threat to Lord Schofield. It takes help from Billy Bly and Frederick’s well-developed skills to defeat the remnant once and for all.

Frederick is an endearing eleven-year-old with charming innocence. He has to rely on Bess, a young maid, to teach him how things work in a grand estate, but it’s his own resourcefulness that helps him succeed. Magic Below Stairs is an enjoyable read with a fun character to cheer for. And, yes, Lord Schofield is Thomas from Sorcery and Cecelia fame, the first novel in the historical fantasy series by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede. (And one of my favorites!)

Please join us on Wednesday for our interview with author Caroline Stevermer.

Book Review: Here, There Be Dragons

January 7, 2010

Here, There Be Dragons
James A. Owen
Fantasy Adventure
Grade 8 and up
326 pages

I had a particular reason for picking up Here, There Be Dragons, but I’ll explain that at the end.

It’s 1917 and England is at war. Responding to a note from his tutor, John leaves the hospital where he’s being treated for “trench fever”—weakness, constant fever, and battle flashback—and travels to London. When he arrives, he finds the professor has been murdered. After being questioned by the police, John accompanies two Oxford men, Jack and Charles, to a private club to get out of the cold, wet weather. They are just settling in to the comfortable room, when Jack sees a strange man staring through the window at them. They let him in, and in the ensuing description, I found my favorite line of the book:

His eyes twinkled, but his hair and mustache were sopping, and he looked as if he’d been beaten about the head and shoulders with some sort of shedding forest mammal.

His name is Bert and he carries the Imaginarium Geographica, a guide to “all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale.” John is the new Caretaker of the Geographica now that his tutor is dead. As the men are trying to make sense of all this, they hear howling from outside. Bert explains that someone wants the Geographica and that they need to run. After some confusion, the four men slip out the back of the club and race to the harbor where they board Bert’s ship, the Indigo Dragon.

Thus begins an adventure through the Archipelago of Dreams where the heroes must protect the Geographica from the evil Winter King. Along the way, they encounter everything from dragons and mythological beings to characters from the Arthurian legends. The story seemed a bit meandering at times, but fun, nevertheless. Subsequent books in this series are said to be more cohesive novels.


Though technically not a major spoiler, because as the first of a series with book four already out, the following information is included in many online reviews. It’s also the reason I read this book. The main characters are John (J.R.R. Tolkien), Jack (C.S. Lewis), and Charles (Charles Williams), all members of the Oxford literary group, the Inklings. Who could resist?