I have a very special post today in collaboration with Shehanne Moore about her latest novel, Splendour. It includes a review and an interview with Ms. Moore and her hamster friends and even the Earl of Stillmore himself.
First, the review:
I just love Ms. Moore’s cheeky heroines, and Splenour is no exception. How can you not like a woman whose name is Dora and she therefore decides to name herself Lady Splendora? She’s an honorary member in the London jewel thieves’ guild known as the Starkadder Sisterhood, but not a thief herself. In fact, she wants to help the poor, marry her sweetheart Gabriel and buy him a ministry.
Gabriel, as it turns out, is no sweetheart at all. But then neither is the Earl of Stillmore, a man who calls his servant an “overstuffed seal”. He reserves even better names for Splendor. Mostly he calls her names in his head, but sometimes he does so to her face… usually when she’s being a brat, which is quite often.
While Gabe shows his cowardly and whiny nature, the earl drives Splendor up the wall by “training” her to win a chess tournament even though she is obviously better than him at the game.
With shades of Shakesperean cross-dressing comedy and scenes that reminded me of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Confessions of a Shopaholic as Splendor by turns participates in a men’s chess tournament and then tries to pose as an aristocrat at high society balls, this novel had me laughing out loud throughout. It was also extremely touching when I realized how much these two have suffered for love (and their own stubbornness).
I would highly recommend Splendor as a fast-paced, funny and romantic read!
Now I have some questions for Shehanne Moore (and hamsters):
How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
Shey. Okay dudes can we stop this and leave Hamster Dickens out of this.
Shey. What I meant to say. Now then Carolee, first of all let me thank you for asking me to your fabulous blog. I hope all your own writing is doing well. So looking forward to reading your next book. I have had the basic first scene of this novel a long time. Before I had anything published in fact. I don’t play chess myself but in Regency times it was so popular there were clubs in most of the cities and matches between them too. Obviously the period was very constraining for women. So I had this idea of a woman cross dressing to enter a competition but running into trouble straight off and being challenged to a duel by the best shot in London. That was it. At that time I was trying to break into romance writing and sticking to the ‘sort of’ formula. The characters were pretty limp wristed. The heroine was a lady who had fallen on hard times. Her fiancé was a clergyman. The hero was a very decent sort really. No wonder the first chapter yawned on the shelf for years.
What is it about Georgian England that appeals to you?
Shey. Right dudes, can we stop it. I suppose that it’s where a lot of books are set. I have to say thought there is nothing that appeals to me. It was a very different world from this one so I might say I set books there because I want to be bad to my heroines. Oh, ok, it is quite nice to set a book there and try and create characters who will flout convention in an acceptable way. I know that sounds sort of contrary but I mean I hope I make them tough enough to break the rules, to mould their world, as far as that is possible because of the kind of characters they are.
Do you have an actor in mind to play Earl Stillmore or Lady Splendor?
Shey. We always have muses don’t we? I do anyway even for the smallest character. So yes. Aidan Turner for Stillmore. He has the right glowering impatience. And Drew Barrymore for Splendor.
Good choice! He was great in Poldark.
The Starkadder Sisterhood series has many fine ladies in it, Ruby being one of my favorites just because I think of her as a very unlikely romance heroine. How many more novels are you planning in the series, and will Ruby get her own love story?
Shey. You know she is so unlikely and so is Pearl who was her sidekick, I quite fancy having a go and giving each their own story. I have ideas for Diamond, Jade and Amber. So that’s definitely another three. But I am playing with one for Pearl and it would be an awful shame to leave her out. In fact, an idea I have been keeping for Emerald might well work better with Ruby. As you say she is so unlikely…..
And for the hamsters… who was your favourite character in Splendor?
I also have some questions for the hero of this novel, the Earl of Stillmore:
Your first wife broke your heart. Why couldn’t you just get over it?
Splendor: Because he doesn’t like to lose. Not even a dud farthing.
Stillmore: I did get over it. I shot lots of people I challenged to duels. I drank. I went with women. What was that if not getting over it? Well?
Splendor : Being afraid of falling again, Your Grace.
Do you actually enjoy playing chess, or did you join the chess tournament just to foil your former mistress and her fiance?
Stillmore. Me? Do that? Me? That is the kind of thing someone else would do? It is the kind of thing you would never see me doing. If you were not a woman, I would call you out for that but I would never call out a woman.
Splendor: Dearest, aren’t you forgetting something?
Stillmore: Well, what I mean is… Oh very well, the answer is no. Obviously I am an excellent chess player. Indeed if Splendor had taken my advice, freely offered she would never have lost that ten thousand pounds. As for Babs Langley, had she not put me off my game, throwing that bracelet I bought her in my face before the chess tournament, I’d have won it. I can’t think what else she was expecting when I presented her with that trinket box.
You famously hate marriage,
Stillmore: Absolutely. It is a loathsome, hackneyed institution. Suitable only for those whose picnic is several sandwiches short. I just didn’t know I was famous about it.
But maybe with the right partner it wouldn’t be so bad. Do you think you would like to marry Carolee Croft? 😉
Splendor : Dearest, do be polite.
Stillmore : Well, I might. Yes. I wouldn’t like you to think that is why my cravat has just got tight and I am sweating beneath it. But the thing is I haven’t married Splendor. I mean officially and I don’t know she’d be pleased. She might rip this blog up if I said, ‘But of course.’ So really, truly, although I could, whether I should is another matter. Because of her you understand. Nothing else.
Thank you so much, Shey, for joining me with your hamsters and your characters, even if some of them refuse to get married (ahem).
Check out Splendor on Goodreads here.
Or you can purchase it here:
Also, check out Shehanne Moore’s blog if you haven’t already. It’s filled with addictive romance and hamster mayhem.