Today we celebrate the release of Book Six of Becky Lower’s Cotillion Ball Series- The Duplicitous Debutante released on September 1. The Cotillion Ball Series follows the lives of the nine Fitzpatrick children as they deal with coming of age in the tumultuous years leading up to and including the Civil War in America. I’ve just finished reading this book and absolutely loved it. There’ll be a taste below.
Welcome Becky, so nice to have you visit. Now I’m going to delve shamelessly into your life:
1. Each of your books in this series deals with social issues, especially for women of the time. What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? I’ve always been an advocate of women obtaining equal footing as men in the workplace, and feel I was an early pioneer toward that goal. That’s the whole premise behind The Duplicitous Debutante. Rosemary wants the praise for her books to come to her, but feels she has to hide behind a male pseudonym. I mentioned this on an earlier guest blog and someone wrote that this behaviour is still prevalent today, even with all our advances. So, there’s still work to do.
2. Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book? My favourite person was a gentleman named Andy. I never did get his last name, but he works as curator for the Museum of American Fencing in Shreveport, LA. He told me where I would need to place my hero if he was to be a fencer in America in the 1850s. We went back and forth with emails as he helped me pick my location and heritage for the hero. He’s the one who told me I needed to mention the good food in New Orleans as well, and I make several references to it throughout the book. (JL: the fencing scenes were excellent so he taught you well!)
3. Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book? I think this period of time in America was so exciting, and full of adventure. I like to think of my books as mini-history lessons, but the history is merely the backdrop for a great love story. Anyone who loves to read stories about two people finding their happy-ever-after is my target audience, and if I can teach them a little something about what life was like in 1850s America, that’s icing on the cake.
4. How much trouble did your characters give you while writing your new release? Which one gave you the most trouble and why? Henry was difficult at the outset, since I really didn’t know which way to go. I had a crush in college with a man on the fencing team, and his weapon of choice was the epee sword. Once I decided to model Henry after my college crush, his story line unfolded fairly easily. Rosemary, being an author, was a no-brainer, since her moments of drifting off during conversations and creating scenes for her books is something I do frequently.
5. What is your favorite sentence or quote in your new release? The line that cracks me up every time is part of the dime novel I wrote to accompany the book. It’s when Harry Hawk faces off in a sword fight with the one-eyed pirate and pulls out his gun to shoot him. “Between eye and patch.” I don’t care how many times I read it, it still elicits a chuckle. (JL: I laughed at most of Harry Hawk’s language but that one created a great visual)
But some of my most poignant lines come from conversations between Rosemary and her mother. Here’s a sampling of Charlotte Fitzpatrick’s advice: “But a good book won’t keep you warm at night, unless you rip the pages out and feed them to a fire.” I’m talking about what marriage will give you. It is a gift you give yourself, or it can be, if you choose wisely.” “Harry Hawk can’t keep you warm at night, though, Rosemary. Or provide me with another grandchild.” (JL: We’d all love a mother like Charlotte)
6. How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path? My life’s path has been strewn with obstacles, mostly on my career path. I always seemed to be in the midst of a battle for equality, and I never felt comfortable in my chosen profession of marketing. It wasn’t until I began taking myself seriously as a writer that I discovered how rewarding one’s life work could be. I’m glad Rosemary found her path when she was just a young teenager, and acted on it.
7. Do you find choosing titles easy or difficult. How do you do it? The titles for this series have been a lucky fluke. The first one, The Reluctant Debutante, was originally titled Mother Made Me Do It. The publisher wanted something that sounded more historical, so a friend suggested the title to me. Then came The Abolitionist’s Secret. I had to change my original title for that one, too. When I got to the third one, I realized I had some consistency going with three-word titles. In this latest book, Crimson Romance has put together a family tree for the Fitzpatrick clan, and wanted me to create titles for books seven through nine to go on the tree. So, book seven will be Expressly Yours, Samantha. It’s about the last male sibling in the family, Valerian, who is a rider for the Pony Express. All the books featuring male leads now have the heroine’s name in the title (Banking On Temperance, Blinded By Grace). Book eight will be about Pepper, who was introduced in Book one as the only married sibling. Her husband’s about to die in the early days of the Civil War, and she will find another love a year later. That book is A Widow’s Salvation. The last book in the series is about young Saffron, who enters her teen years just as the Civil War takes all the men her age from her. She’s The Forgotten Debutante. I think the use of the word Debutante wraps up the series nicely. (JL: I always have trouble with titles and yours are all perfect for the stories.)
8. You’ve written this series and a number of stand-alone novels. Which do you prefer? I prefer a series, be it historical or contemporary. It’s fun to have the characters hop in and out of the first books in the series while they’re waiting for their big moment. I love it when readers email me saying they want to read a book about a secondary character, or they can’t wait until it’s so-and-so’s turn. And series seem to sell better than stand-alone novels. The contemporary side of my brain is now crafting a series, but on a much smaller scale than my historicals. The contemporary series will be a trilogy.
9. What is next for Becky Lower fans? I’m working right now on Expressly Yours, Samantha. The Pony Express was a fascinating part of American history, and I really enjoyed doing the research for it. My sister and I made a mad dash across the country last winter, and despite the fact we had a blizzard bearing down on us, we pulled off the highway every time we saw a sign for anything to do with the Pony Express. I recently finished a novella, a prequel to the series, about Charlotte and George’s courtship. And the first book in my contemporary series, Barnswallow Summer, is nearly done.
Here is an excerpt from The Duplicitous Debutante:
Out of the corner of her eye, she spied a familiar head of long, dark hair tied into a stylish queue. The room began to tilt on its axis and she couldn’t catch her breath. There could not be another person in New York who wore his hair in such a fashion. Rosemary’s steps faltered, and she turned to run back to her chair. Mrs. Cabot motioned to him.
“And I’m pleased to introduce our company, recently moved here from Boston. Henry Cooper, please say hello to one of the finest families in New York. May I introduce you to Charlotte Fitzpatrick, her daughter, and a friend.”
Henry turned from the group of people he was talking to and faced the ladies, confusion overtaking his features. “Miss Wyatt? Phoebe?”
Rosemary’s stomach dropped as she stared at her publisher. Her hand came to her mouth, which gaped openly, as her surprise mounted. What was Henry doing here? And why, in the mad crush of people, did they have to come face to face? If she thought Henry seemed confused, it was nothing compared to her own reaction. Her carefully crafted world was crashing down around her. What should she do? Correct her mother? Correct Henry? How could she now conduct her business with him? The room began to spin uncontrollably, and her legs shook. Charlotte seemed not to notice Rosemary’s reaction to the man. “I’m afraid you have the wrong woman, Mr. Cooper. This is my daughter, Rosemary Fitzpatrick. And the other young lovely is Rosemary’s best friend, Dorcas Winchester.” Henry extended his hand to take Rosemary’s, just as she fainted and dropped into his arms.