Amanda and Nicola Talk About Books!

Today I’m so excited to welcome my friend and fellow Harlequin author Nicola Cornick back to the blog so we can chat about our December books! My own release is my second Laurel McKee book, Duchess of Sin, Anna’s story, and Nicola’s is the third of her back-to-back releases, Scandalous Women of the Ton! I’ve been waiting for Merryn’s story ever since the first book came out, and now it’s here in Mistress by Midnight. We sit down to tea and cakes to chat about hunky dukes, intelligent heroines, and history….


“A one-of-a-kind read! Truly an amazing tale, a love to warm the heart and an adventure that never ended. I found myself enraptured by Conlan and Lady Anna, by the surprising love I felt for the Angel of Kildare, and the strong desire for the next story.” –Fresh Fiction, on Duchess of Sin

“(An) emotionally charged romance and a powerful love story!” –RT Book Reviews on Mistress by Midnight

Amanda (pouring the tea and helping herself to a chocolate cake): Welcome to the Riskies today, Nicola! I’m so excited to see the last book of your new trilogy on the shelves. Tell us about it!

Nicola (sipping tea, and trying to ignore that Amanda took the only chocolate cake): Thanks for having me here today! Well, my new series, The Scandalous Women of the Ton, is all about heroines doing outrageous things–traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe, working for a living, marrying five times. Each of my heroines manages to shock society’s sensibilities in a different way.

Merryn, the heroine of my December book Mistress by Midnight, is a bluestocking, very unfashionable, with total scorn for everything she sees as superficial about society. She prefers to attend lectures rather than balls and even has a job, although she has to keep this a secret. Merryn is a sweet girl but she does tend to see everything in black and white and a lot of the book is about how she learns that often the truth is nowhere near as straightforward as she thinks. She’s on a mission to ruin Garrick, Duke of Farne, because she holds him responsible for her brother’s death. But she hasn’t taken into account her raging attraction to Garrick or that fact that he’s out to stop her from revealing the truth!

Amanda: I do love scandalous heroines! Anna Blacknall, heroine of Duchess of Sin, doesn’t have a job like Merryn, but she does like a good party–a lot. She likes to dance, ride her horse fast, and find places she’s not meant to be. She also likes to sneak out of the house and look for adventure, something different from her constrained life as belle of the Dublin social season. But she’s also trying to cover up her deep-seated fears and some bad memories from the Uprising of two years ago. She’s looking for acceptance for who she really is, and she wants to find something useful in life beyond being a Diamond. She’s also looking for a strong man to match her, though she doesn’t know at first that she’s already found him…

Nicola: Oooh, a yummy dark hero! My hero Garrick, is a total sweetie to my mind (I do admit to a bias!). He’s a very honorable hero. I love heroes who are strong protectors and Garrick has made it his life’s work to protect those who are weaker than he is and who need him. When he meets Merryn he has a terrible conflict because she threatens to reveal all the secrets he has kept for years as part of his role as defender. He is very attracted to Merryn and he wants to help her too, but he cannot tell her the truth without betraying others. He’s completely torn.

Amanda: He sounds so much like my own hero, Conlan, Duke of Adair! Besides both being dukes, that is. Conlan’s whole life is dedicated to protecting his people from all the dangers of Irish life, and he’ll do anything to fulfill that responsibility. The last thing he needs is a beautiful Ascendancy lady finding out all his secrets! But Anna needs him too–and he needs her. They’re true soul-mates, it just takes them a while (and several dangerous adventures) to find that out! It doesn’t help that Anna is being courted by Conlan’s villainous cousin, either.


One thing I love to do is find actors or models that look like my idea of my characters, and then I make character collages. (It’s not time wasting procrastination, it’s Very Important Research!). Conlan looked to me like a dark manly-man, like Richard Armitage or Gerard Butler (sorry, Diane! I borrowed him for a bit…). Anna is an aristocratic blonde, like Gywneth Paltrow or Diane Kruger. What about your characters? Who did you “see” while you were writing?

Nicola: Well, one of the things I love about Garrick is that he has auburn hair. I know red-haired heroes aren’t every reader’s cup of tea, but I think a man with red hair can be very sexy. My inspirations for Garrick were Damian Lewis, Prince Harry, and Toby Stephens in his Mr. Rochester guise! If I was to cast Merryn, I think Kate Winslet would be a good choice to play her.

Amanda: Yummy inspirations all! I know that, like me, you enjoy doing research and finding historical tidbits to put into stories. What can we look for in this book?

Nicola: Mistress by Midnight is set against the background of the London Beer Flood of 1814, a real event in which 7 people died. It was a freak accident. the vat on the top of the brewery in Tottenham Court Road exploded, setting off a chain reaction from the other vats and releasing a tidal wave of beer that swamped the surrounding streets. Several people drowned, some were crushed by falling masonry, and one died from drinking too much alcohol. It was all reported in The Times newspaper of the day.

Amanda: OMG, how have I never heard of this??? A real beer flood? There’s no flood of booze in my book, but there is a visit to a pub. I set Duchess of Sin around the upheaval concerning the Act of Union of 1801. Things had calmed down (though the atmosphere was still very tense) after the Uprising of 2 years before, but this political act was like setting a match to gunpowder again. Conlan is right in the middle of the fray, of course, and Anna finds herself embroiled in it as well. I talked about the historical background last week on your own Word Wenches blog!

Nicola: I love how your Daughters of Erin trilogy captures the wildness and spirit of Georgian Ireland. What inspired you to write a book there?

Amanda: I’ve always wanted to do an Irish book, but I just had to find the right characters! You’re so right that Georgian Ireland was full of a wild spirit. It was a place of contrasts, between high fashion and gorgeous architecture (much of which can still be seen), and hot tempers and a love of partying. There’s also so much conflict, it’s ideal for a book! And I also love an Irish Christmas, so I was excited to find out this was to be a holiday release.

Nicola: Did you have an idea of what your heroines were going to be like when you started writing? The Blacknall sisters are all strong characters, but very different from each other.

Amanda: I was so lucky! Each sister kind of sprang into the story fully-formed. Eliza is the eldest sister, very strong and sure of herself, very protective of the others, but also idealistic and strong-minded. Anna was the middle one, the beauty, whose intelligence was sometimes disregarded as she grew up. She feels she has something to prove, to the world and to herself. And Caroline is my bluestocking, the quiet one who prefers reading to dancing. But she finds herself embroiled in quite an adventure with an unlikely hero in her own story, Lady of Seduction (June 2011)! I love each of them, by this point they feel a bit like my own sisters.

Nicola: I feel the same about my Scandalous Women! After all this time, I feel as if I know them so well.

Amanda: And what’s next for you?

Nicola: Next is the fourth book in the Scandalous Women of the Ton, Notorious, in August 2011!

Amanda: Wonderful! Have some more tea. We can toast to gorgeous heroes and the scandalous heroines who love them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our little tea-table chat today! Comment or ask a question for a chance to win both Duchess of Sin and Mistress by Midnight, and be sure to visit our websites for excerpts, more historical background, and contests. You can find me here, and Nicola here!


About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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30 Responses to Amanda and Nicola Talk About Books!

  1. Maureen says:

    Congratulations to both of you on your new books. Looking at the covers and titles I get the impression that both heroines misbehave in their stories. What do you think of the covers and titles? Do they give a clue to the stories?

  2. Hi Maureen! I absolutely adore the covers and the titles for all the books in Amanda/Laurel’s series. I think they are stunning. The cover goddess has smiled on me too, particularly with Mistress by Midnight. I adore the deep blue of the cover which makes me think of Midnight Blue.

    Merryn does misbehave in her book and shocks herself in the process! She’s a very straight down the line sort of a person and thinks she has everything sorted. Her relationship with Garrick proves her wrong.

    Thanks for inviting me to the Riskies today, Amanda – it’s lovely to be here!

  3. Great discussion today! Love the banter and the dish about the books. Congratulations to you both on your latest releases. Both books sounds very, very good and have moved to the top of my Books-to-buy list!

    Nicola, I have the first book in your Scandalous Women series on my TBR mountain. How many books in all do you plan for this series? I’m sitting here moaning about the fact it is such a long wait for the release of #4 after the first 3 published back to back to back!

  4. Nicola, not fair that you’re in England and can jump on here super-early! πŸ™‚ It’s so great to share a post with you today.

    Maureen, I do love all 3 covers in the Daughters of Erin series! (I think book 3 might be my favorite–I should have posted it today! But it’s on my website). They’re beautiful with eye-catching colors, and best of all I think they reflect the stories. I love the holly in Anna’s hand and her red dress. And yes, she is rather misbehaving. πŸ™‚ I love Nicola’s covers too, they have such a mysterious, sensual feeling about them.

  5. jcp says:

    Congralations to both of you!!

  6. chey says:

    Great post!
    Congrats to you both!

  7. Diane Gaston says:

    Okay, first I’m bummed, because you didn’t invite ME to tea and then Amanda goes and steals Gerard Butler from me!!!

    Only consolations are two wonderful books to look forward to, and a visit from Nicola!! Welcome Nicola and I can’t wait for these two books. (Luckily, I don’t have to wait)

  8. Barbara E. says:

    Both books sound fabulous. Wow, a beer flood – I can’t believe there weren’t more people who died from drinking too much alcohol, LOL. And I love that Duchess of Sin is set in Ireland and I’ll have the chance to learn more about what was happening there during Georgian times.

  9. Cathy P says:

    First, congragulations on your releases of Duchess of Sin and Mistress by Midnight. I really enjoyed your visit in Risky Regencies telling us about your new books. You both are such fabulous writers, and the books sound wonderful! I can hardly wait to read them!

    Second: Amanda, how could you take the only piece of chocolate cake without asking Nicola if she wants to share? LOL!

  10. Cathy P says:

    PS: Nicola, thanks for the story of the London Beer Flood of 1814 in Risky Regencies.

  11. Hi Karen! Thank you – I’m so excited you have Whisper of Scandal on your TBR pile! I hope you enjoy it. There are going to be six books in the series, Notorious is out in August 2011 and Desired (book 5) in December 2011.

  12. LOL, Diane! Thank you, it’s lovely to be here. Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome. Amanda, I think you’re going to have to give Gerard back!

  13. Barbara, I couldn’t believe the beer flood was for real when I first read about it. Apparently an awful lot of people did indulge, but I guess by the time the beer had flooded the streets and washed buildings away there would have been lots of debris floating in it that wasn’t very nice!

    LOL, Cathy, I’m happy for Amanda to have the chocolate cake if I can have the cream sponge!

  14. Katie says:

    Which of the Scandalous Women books was your favorite to write? (I am so excited to read this newest entry!!)

  15. Sheree says:

    Beer Flood? I wonder if it was harder to clean up than the molasses flood in Boston in 1919 (who knew molasses could flow quickly enough to kill 21 people in a January?).

    What kind of tea were you drinking?

    ironss[at]gmail.com

  16. Isobel Carr says:

    These both sound great! I love when authors take real historical events and make something new of them, or bring them to life for everyone else.

  17. Hi Katie! Thanks for asking about my favourite Scandalous Women book. That’s a really tough question because I love them all for different reasons. I enjoyed Whisper of Scandal for the Arctic theme, I loved One Wicked Sin because I felt that was an epic emotional story (and it had another gorgeous Irish hero, Garrick’s brother Ethan)and I particularly like Mistress by Midnight because I became so wrapped up in Merryn’s “secret life” that I wanted her to have a HEA. It’s like trying to choose between my pets – I love them all!

  18. Thanks so much, Isobel. I love that Amanda/Laurel’s books have such an interesting historical background. I find it fascinating.

    Sheree,I read up on the Molasses Flood after Michelle Willingham told me about it. It’s amazing to think of molasses moving so quickly.

    My favourite tea is Earl Grey…

  19. LOL, Cathy P! I know, I’m a terrible hostess. πŸ™‚ And Diane, of course you’re invited to tea too!

    My favorite tea at the moment is Russian Caravan, this wonderful, smoky tea I discovered at a local tea room. It’s perfect for this chilly time of year.

  20. Nicola, I can’t wait to read about the beer flood. It sounds freakish! (I especially love the image of someone floating around in beer and drinking so much they kill themselves! So weird)

  21. Hi, just dropped in and find that I will add to my TBR bookcase. I particular love Regencies that have historical scenes; I feel as though the stories really become alive for me. Both your heroines sound charming. I will now look up beer floods and molasses drifts, who knew?

  22. Hello, Amanda and Nicola !! Two of my very favorite people and authors! LOVED your interview.

    A BEER FLOOD?? OMG !!

    I have BOTH of these books sitting on my TBR stack. Now if I can just get my rewrites done I can dive into them!

  23. Jaye Tyler says:

    Can’t wait till Tuesday! Congrats on both of you on your new releases!

    I really liked Countess and can’t wait to Duchess!

    With regards to the scandalous women series, isn’t it a bit cruel to release 3 back to back and then make everyone wait for 9 whole months for the next installment? ^_^

  24. Kirsten says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Hi Louisa, Hi Lil, thank you for dropping by! Jaye, they wanted the next Scandalous Woman sooner but I just can’t write that quickly! Kirsten, I love a bluestocking heroine too.

    Thank you do much for inviting me, Amanda, and I’ve had a lovely tea party!

  26. pageturner says:

    Congrats on your new releases – I’m in awe of your energy in writing them so quickly!

    oageturner345@gmail.com

  27. SarahSiddons says:

    Thrilled that Toby Stephens’ Rochester played a part in inspirations for Garrick. I’ve met him a number of times and he was cast against type yet carried off the role perfectly

  28. Rachel says:

    Nicola, I LOVE the idea of your book. I must admit that I love bluestockings and this character seems very like me since I also see things in black and white at first, but slowly come to see the grey….a lesson my mother has been trying to teach me for years. I also prefer good guy heroes. I don’t like the reformed rakes….I like a good guy….a genuinely good guy. Maybe that makes me boring, but your book is my favorite type: good guy with bluestocking girl.

    Amanda/Laurel: I’m looking forward to your second book that takes place in Ireland. I got back from Ireland a month ago and am thinking of going back to stay for sometime. I have an aunt there (sister to one of the famous Emmet’s of Ireland…she married descendant from Thomas Addis Emmet and now I have a slew of Emmet cousins one of whom is basically me only as a 17-year-old male). My aunt, who is very much like Auntie Mame (the Rosalind Russell version although I’m sure she’d sing if I asked her too), wants me to come live with her and go to school at Trinity. She lives in Kiliney, 20 minutes outside of Dublin and in order to get to her house you must pass Bono’s house. (Now I’m just name-dropping). All I need to do is find a way to pay for my tuition at Trinity. I wonder how much someone would pay for my truffles?

  29. librarypat says:

    Congratulations to both of you on your new books. I have read many of your books over the years and enjoyed them. Amanda,I am glad you are setting your stories in Ireland. It is such a fertile field for historical fiction, but not much is written with it as the setting.
    You all write good strong heroines who a very human. They aren’t perfect and would be boring if they were.
    Best of luck with the release of these books and the upcoming ones in the series.

  30. Rosie Hong says:

    I love Richard Armitage and Toby Stephens! Excellent inspirations, both. From those alone I’d want to read your books. Great minds think alike. πŸ˜€

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