Today, bestselling author Rachel Brimble is guesting. She’s talking about her latest release Victoria & Violet, book one in the Royal Maids series, a historical romance. Be sure to read my review. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
I am often asked how I approach research for my novels and, to be honest, it is a difficult one to answer as it is nowhere near as complex a task as readers assumed it to be. I am a voracious reader AND a history geek, so the two combined means I love the research part of my job. In fact, more often than not, I have to order to myself to stop researching and start writing!
For the last few years, I have been writing books set either in the Victorian or Edwardian eras, so my time researching has meant I have accumulated quite a knowledge of these two fascinating periods. As I write historical romance, the most important part of my novels is the relationship between the hero and heroine, and often a close second to that are the friends and/or family who surround them.
So, as I write about people as much (or sometimes more) than plot, I tend to concentrate my research on societal norms of the time, closely followed by the women’s issues of the day as well as family life and the occupations (if any) of my main characters. After that, comes any major events that occurred during the timeline of the book – these can be so helpful in reflecting what is happening nationally or internationally that the characters have to face or firmly grounding the reader in a certain time and place.
Women’s issues are the backbone of my novels, and it is always the theme of female empowerment that I have at the forefront of my mind when I am researching and writing. I love nothing more than stumbling upon a real-life heroine who made a difference, whether that be on a small scale within her family or peers or a big scale with a huge step forward in medicine, invention etc. These types of finds are like buried treasure to me and have been the lifeline of my ideas store!
My Shop Girl series (A Shop Girl In Bath, A Shop Girl Gets The Vote, A Shop Girl’s Christmas & A Shop Girl At Sea) tackles a separate women’s issue such as women in business, women’s suffrage, Edwardian divorce etc in each book, whereas my Ladies of Carson Street trilogy (A Widow’s Vow, Trouble For The Leading Lady & A Very Modern Marriage) is very much about female friendship and what women can do when they come together to survive.
Victoria and Violet presented a different research challenge altogether!
For the first time in my writing career and for my 28th published novel, I decided to include real people and events. This, of course, meant my research was a lot deeper and made me a whole lot more nervous! Thankfully, the reviews for Victoria & Violet have been fantastic and it is the depth of the research that reviewers have been the most impressed with, so this has made me so, so happy.
I cannot imagine that I will ever stop writing historical novels so my research will always continue. The question is, what era do I immerse myself in next? What this space…
Blurb: When Violet Parker is told she will be Queen Victoria’s personal housemaid, she cannot believe her good fortune. She finally has the chance to escape her overbearing mother, a servant to the Duchess of Kent. Violet hopes to explore who she is and what the world has to offer without her mother’s schemes overshadowing her every thought and action.
Then she meets James Greene, assistant to the queen’s chief political adviser, Lord Melbourne. From entirely different backgrounds and social class, Violet and James should have neither need nor desire to speak to one another, yet through their service, their paths cross and their lives merge—as do their feelings.
Only Victoria’s court is not always the place for romance, but rather secrets, scandals, and conspiracies…
“What awaits me is marriage,” he said. “But I am not a man any woman should want for a husband so it’s something I will avoid for as long as possible.”
The curiosity in her eyes made his confidence falter, and James lifted his fingers from her arm. No doubt she thought him pathetic for fearing something that so many longed for. But Violet did not know him or what he might be capable of. Of the nasty, volatile temperament passed down through the men in his family for generations.
“Better marriage than imprisonment with a mother who has controlled and belittled you your entire life.” She smiled wryly, her gaze sad. “Better a son who will one day marry than a daughter shackled to a mother who wishes her to scheme and spy upon the only person who has made her feel human, liked, and worthy of a modicum of respect for the first time in months.”
He stilled. “Do you speak of the queen?”
Mistress Parker swallowed before looking at Victoria where she stood a few feet away. “What would you like to do if not marry?” she asked quietly.
James stared at her profile, unsure of her thoughts or disposition. “Stay at court where I am happy. Work hard. Rise within the hierarchy as a single man.”
“I want to paint.”
Had he heard her correctly? “Paint?”
She softly smiled as she faced him. “Yes. I dream of my landscapes hanging in every gallery and every grand house in the country. If you think yourself an oddity in this mercenary world, whatever must you think of me? Good evening, Mr. Greene.”
James stared after her as Violet disappeared amongst the mass of finery, his heart heavy for the sadness that emanated from her, yet his inquisitiveness about her had only deepened. He looked at Victoria as she laughed with Melbourne and others in her circle. Could it be that the queen saw the same spark of something special in Violet Parker that he did?
As soon as I read the blurb, I was all for reviewing this book. I must say the author did not disappoint in the least. She truly captured everything about the Victorian era, from the setting and dialogue to the narrative and cast of characters.
I say the cast of characters because there are lots. And there are two plots happening as well. It’s an ambitious piece, and the author hit a home run. For sure I will be reading the other books in this series.
Let’s start with Violet. I would put her in the middle-class category since her family does have servants in their own household. Currently, her mother is serving the duchess of Kent, who has a sour relationship with her daughter, Queen Victoria. The Duchess and Violet’s mother is scheming to find a way to reconcile Victoria with her mother. So Violet is sent in as a spy by working as one of Victoria’s maids.
Then there is James Greene who is the aid to Lord Melbourne. James is also of the upper class and is set to become a baron once his overbearing father passes. Therefore, his father is demanding marriage and for James to settle down and get his butt back home, something James wants no part of.
And that is a big theme in this novel: overbearing parents and the children finding a way to crawl out from beneath the thumbs of their parents.
As the plot is unwinding, James, who is quite the ladies’ man, is falling hard for Violet, but Violet is wary of him. First off, all their class difference is a biggie for her. And let’s talk about class standing. The author sticks to tradition and doesn’t waver when it comes to the social classes during Victorian times, and I loved that. Even the book cover is true to Victorian times. Bravo to the publisher for nailing it.
The arcs not only involve Violet and James but also include Victoria. Through Victoria’s inner strength and daring to rule her own life, Violet also finds the strength to stand up to her overbearing mother.
This book is so much more than romance. It’s a book of historical fiction, friendships, loyalty, and reaching for your goals. And the cast of characters is used well in this novel to aid the two plots happening. They weren’t in the least confusing because every secondary character had their own voice and purpose. It was easy to keep up with who was who.
I can’t say enough what a wonderful read this is. Do yourself a favour and get a copy. You won’t be disappointed.
Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of 29 novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin). Her latest novel, Victoria & Violet is the first book in her new Royal Maids series with the Wild Rose Press and releases 17th October 2022.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.
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