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The Earl Next Door
The Bachelor Lords of London #1
Releasing March 1st, 2016
Charis Michaels makes her Avon Impulse debut with the first book in her new historical romance series, The Bachelor Lords of London...featuring a brooding earl and the American heiress who charms him.
American heiress Piety Grey is on the run. Suddenly in London and facing the renovation of a crumbling townhouse, she’s determined to make a new life for herself—anything is better than returning to New York City where a cruel mother and horrid betrothal await her. The last thing she needs is a dark, tempting earl inciting her at every turn…
Trevor Rheese, the Earl of Falcondale, isn’t interested in being a good neighbor. After fifteen years of familial obligation, he’s finally free. But when the disarmingly beautiful Piety bursts through his wall—and into his life—his newfound freedom is threatened…even as his curiosity is piqued.
Once Piety’s family arrives in London, Falcondale suddenly finds himself in the midst of a mock courtship to protect the seductive woman who’s turned his world upside down. It’s all for show—or at least it should be. But if Falcondale isn’t careful, he may find a very real happily ever after with the woman of his dreams…
Thank you for taking the time to hang out with me (us) today.
Let's talk your newbie status at Avon...how does it feel to be the new girl in town? How do you feel your historical romance stand out among the crowd?
Well, I haven’t been privy to the secret handshake, but I just received my team shirt, and I love the rhinestones. I’m kidding, of course, but only a little. The sense of family and support from both the professionals at Avon Books and the other Avon authors has been phenomenal.
During a romance-writer conference last summer, I was invited to two Avon-author events in New York City—one in their downtown offices and the other a cocktail party in Highline. When the invitations arrived some weeks before, I was certain there had been some mistake. Yes, I had signed with Avon, but my books would not come out for nine months.
I sent some feelers out and guess what? No mistake, they included me, just the same as Avon authors whose work I have admired for years.
From the moment I stepped off the elevators (and let me just tell you, the publishing offices of Avon books does, in fact, look just like a movie set, down to the framed iconic book covers hanging on the walls), I was embraced by everyone.
For a writer whose goal publisher had been Avon Books literally for years, it was a dream come true.
For a terrified newbie who was chanting, Act naturally in my head, it was an opportunity to blurt out, “How is your brain?!” to New York Times best seller Sarah MacLean (who I knew had undergone brain surgery earlier in the year). Other awkward moments abounded, all in service to my nerves and inexperience, but I left feeling as if I truly was part of the Avon family.
How do my books stand out? Well, I try to deliver three things to readers: humor, hopefulness, and conflict that stands the test of what I like to call a good talking-to. That is, my characters have more to overcome than simple misunderstandings or some impasse that could be solved with a good, long talk. These characters may be made for each other, but they have to work for their happily-ever-afters, and getting there is so much fun.
Do you think that writing historical romance is one of the most difficult genres to write? Research wise? Readers Critique wise?
Most difficult? Well, I adore history, so for me, research is part of the fun.
Even more fun is taking a historical circumstance that seem oddball to our modern sensibilities, and making historical characters react in a way that is relevant to our modern-day lives.
For example, the heroine in The Earl Next Door, Piety Grey, has inherited a small fortune from her late father. Because Piety is a young, unmarried female, however, she must fight tooth and nail to retain control of the money.
Obviously in 2016, most daughters can inherit an estate with no gender-based legal fight, but Piety struggles with emotions and choices that modern-day female readers will easily recognize. Piety is resolute, determined, and inexhaustible; but she is also susceptible to self doubt, and discouragement when she’s met with certain toxic people in her life. We all know how this feels, no matter our place in time.
I simply love 19th-century problems that conjure up timeless emotional responses from us here in the modern day.
What is your favorite part of writing historical romance? The scoundrels and rakes? The ladies who speak their minds? The lovely wallflower waiting to be noticed? The clothes? The setting?
I love so many things about historical fiction, but most perhaps for its intrinsic jumping-off points for tension-filled plots.
Consider, if you will: Arranged marriages, marriages of convenience, ineffective chaperones and beautiful governesses, “ruined” debutantes, second sons, illegitimate byblows, unexpected inheritances, gambled-away dowries. You can’t throw a riding crop at the Regency era without hitting a tension-rich scenario to put a stubborn hero and heroine through their paces.
The plot of The Earl Next Door explores two neighbors who agree to marry “in name only” to save the heroine from a far worse fate. Their plan is to annul the union when the threat against the heroine has passed. The only catch? They cannot consummate the marriage if they truly intend to annul it later. (Spoiler alert – well, have you read a romance before? You can probably guess.)
Annulments and marriages “in name only” are hardly common place in modern day but are perfect examples of delicious social constricts that make historicals so much fun.
If you had to choose only ONE historical romance to read for the rest of your days, which would it be? and Why?
Easy call! Lord of the Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. I have four signed copies and I read the whole thing aloud to my husband while he was fishing on our tenth date. TMI?
Why: World’s smartest, most positive, most capable and compassionate heroine pitted against the world’s most bitter, wounded, super masculine hero who cannot live without her. But he fights it. Oh, how he fights it. And she never lets up.
I still can’t believe that I write for the same publisher as romance genius, Loretta Chase.
Tell us a little about the Debut Series with Avon, The Bachelor Lords of London.
The Bachelor Lords trilogy was born on a street in London called Henrietta Place.
It’s a real-life street, four-blocks long, between Marylebone Lane and Cavendish Square in London, and I walked it many times when I was a young newlywed, living abroad for the first time.
Like so many London streets, Henrietta Place has now been given over to modern buildings, but a few hallmarks of 19th-century residential London still remain. Leafy Plane trees. The square at the end of the block. Even a townhome mansion or two. But what really captured my imagination was the name.
It was just so… English.
I knew the first time I discovered Henrietta Place that eventually I would write the stories of the 19th-century inhabitants who lived there in my mind.
And so began the opening line of The Earl Next Door: “Nothing of record ever happened in Henrietta Place….” The perfect springboard for three books of recordable things to happen up and down the street.
Enter the bachelor lords of London: Two brothers and a friend who relocate to London and settle, for one reason or another, in Henrietta Place. They each live on the street long enough to meet the colorful neighbors, refurbish or deface the property (depending on the lord), and unwittingly discover their own, happily-ever-afters.
Here they are in quick-take form:
THE EXILE: Lord Trevor, newly returned from parts unknown. Back in London to claim an earldom and disappear again.
THE PARAGON: Lord Bryson, disgraced viscount, rebuilding his life. In search of a viscountess, discreet and pure, a model of propriety. A proper, perfect wife.
THE SCOUNDREL: Lord Beau, a naval officer and rakish second son. His brother’s title has landed in his lap, and he’ll do whatever it takes to prove he’s unfit to be a lord, bachelor or otherwise.
Do you already have a favorite character from the series?
It’s clichéd, but I have grown to love so many of the characters who populate the Bachelor Lords. If I had to select one, I’d say Lady Frances Stroud, the Marchioness Frinfrock, the eighty-year-old busybody who presides over Henrietta Place with her nosey intrusions, painfully honest remarks, and when you least expect it, her compassion. She was a hoot to bring to life.
Congrats on the debut, and I can't wait to see what is in store for the readers with the Bachelor Lords!
Well thank you for allowing to me to chat about this series. I hope readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
No. 21 Henrietta Place
Mayfair, London, England
Nothing of record ever happened in Henrietta Place.
Carriages did not collide. Servants did not quarrel in the mews. No one among the street’s jowly widowers remarried harlot second wives, and families with spirited young boys boarded them in school at the earliest possible age.
No one tolerated stray dogs.
A calm sort of orderliness prevailed on the street, gratifying residents and earning high praise from Londoners and country visitors alike. It was a domestic refuge. One of the last such sanctuaries in all of London.
Certainly, the stately townhome mansion at No. 21 was a sanctuary to Lady Frances Stroud, Marchioness Frinfrock, who had been a proud and attentive resident since her marriage in 1768. With her own eyes, Lady Frinfrock had seen the degradation and disquiet that had become prevalent in so many London streets; noble-born men fraternizing with ballet dancers in The Strand; week-long ramblings in Pall Mall. And the spectacle that was Covent Garden? It wasn’t to be borne.
What a comfort, then, that Lady Frinfrock would always have Henrietta Place, where nothing of record ever happened. Where she could live out her final days in peace and tranquility.
“It looks to be fair for a second day, my lady,” said Miss Breedlowe, the marchioness’ nurse, crossing to the alcove window that overlooked the street.
“A fog will descend by luncheon,” said the marchioness, frowning.
“If it pleases you, we could take a short walk before then,” the nurse said. “To Cavendish Square and back? Spring weather is so unpredictable, we should take advantage of the sun before it disappears again for a month.”
“Cavendish Square is not to be tolerated,” said Lady Frinfrock.
Miss Breedlowe looked at her hands. “Only so far as the corner and back, then?”
“Not I,” said the marchioness, pained.
A sigh of disappointment followed, as it always did. How unhappily accustomed Lady Frinfrock had become to her nurse’s chronic sighing. It was obvious that Miss Breedlowe endeavored to be patient, although, in her ladyship’s view, not nearly patient enough. In return, the marchioness rarely endeavored to be agreeable enough.
And why should a woman of her age and station be prodded through an inane schedule of someone else’s design? To be forced to engage in robust activities intended for no other purpose than to move her bowels? If her inept solicitors felt that her alleged infirmity warranted the nurse-maiding of sullen, sigh-ridden Miss Breedlowe, then so be it. They could cajole her to compensate and house the woman, but they could not force her to abide her. Or to walk to Cavendish Square when she hadn’t the slightest desire.
Miss Breedlowe cleared her throat. “Perhaps tomorrow, then.”
Lady Frinfrock made a dismissive sound. “If you wish to walk to Cavendish Square, Miss Breedlowe, pray, do not let my disinterest detain you.”
The nurse turned from the window and studied her. “I had hoped to discover an activity that we might enjoy together.”
“A vain hope, I fear. I am a solitary soul, as the tyrants at Blinklowe, Dinkle, and Tuft, would comprehend if their service to my estate extended beyond calculating my worth in shillings and pounds and subtracting their yearly portion…and then shackling me with you.”
To her credit, the nurse did not blanch, but she also did not reply. The marchioness looked away. If such frank language could not elicit some measure of honesty from the woman, perhaps it would scare her into not speaking at all. Either would be preferable to her current trickle of disingenuous small talk, not to mention the incessant sighing.
“I dare say your planters are the most beautiful for several blocks, my lady,” Miss Breedlowe said after a moment. “Do you direct your gardener in their care?”
“They are not the loveliest on their own accord, of that you can be sure.”
“How talented you are.”
The marchioness snorted. “You can but see what becomes of a garden when left unattended, even for a week. Just look at the deplorable state of Lord Falcondale’s flower boxes and borders, if you can bear it. Such an eyesore.”
“Oh, yes. The new earl. Which house is it?”
“Number 24. There. Directly across the street. It’s been in his family for an age.” She gently tapped the window with her cane. “His late uncle, the previous Lord Falcondale, paid fastidious attention to the upkeep of those planters. Tulips and ivy mostly, this time of year. Simple flowers, really. No effort to maintain, but perfectly lovely if kept headed and weeded, which he did. Not to mention his staff swept the steps and stoop several times a day, even in the damp. But now his far-flung nephew has inherited, and I fear the entire property will fall into disrepair.”
“Hmmm,” said Miss Breedlowe. “That would be a great shame.”
“Doubtless it seems like a small thing to you, but this sort of irresponsibility can bring about the demise of order and calm in a quiet street like our Henrietta Place. It doesn’t help that Number 22,” she gestured again, “next door to Falcondale’s, has been unoccupied and for sale these last five years. The house agents keep it up, but there’s no substitute for the loving care of a devoted owner and staff.”
“To make matters worse, the new earl is completely unresponsive to neighborly suggestion. I dispatched Samuel to speak to his gardener, only to be told that the man has let him go, the careless sod.”
“Dismissed his gardener?”
“He sacked the whole lot. I’ve since learned that every servant has been turned out. Now I ask you, how is a house of that size to be maintained without staff?”
“I can only guess, my lady, but do take care. It would not warrant your becoming overset.” She ventured small steps toward the marchioness.
“The demise of order and calm.” Lady Frinfrock tsked, waving her away and rising slowly from her chair. She plodded to the window. “The demise of order and calm.”
As if on cue, a carriage, buffed to a sun-sparkling sheen, whipped around the corner, thundering down the cobblestones from the direction of Welbeck Street.
“Who the devil could this be?” the marchioness whispered. She drew so near to the window, her breath fogged the glass. The carriage careened toward them at a breakneck pace, slowing slightly as it neared Lady Frinfrock’s front window. With eyes wide, the marchioness watched it jostle past her house and well beyond the weed-ridden planters of Falcondale’s front door. Only when it reached the unoccupied house at Number 22 did it lurch to a stop, the coachman yanking the reins as if his life depended on it.
“Such traffic in the street today,” mumbled Miss Breedlowe.
“Nonsense,” said Lady Frinfrock, her eyes pinned on the carriage. “There is no traffic in Henrietta Place. Not on this day or any day. Such recklessness? A conveyance of this size? It’s wholly irregular!”
“Indeed. Perhaps a neighbor is expecting out-of-town guests?”
“No relation to the occupants of this street could afford a vehicle so grand,” she said. “Except, of course, for me. And I have no relatives.”
“Not even the new earl, Lord Falcondale?”
The marchioness harrumphed. “He cannot even afford a gardener.”
The carriage door sprang open, and Lady Frinfrock leaned in.
“Oh, look,” said Miss Breedlowe, cheerful interest in her voice. “It’s a young woman. How beautiful she is. And her gown. And hat,” she marveled. “Oh, she’s brought someone with her. A companion. Hmm. Perhaps a servant?” Her voice went a little off, and she crooked her head to the side, studying the two women collecting in the street.
“Is that an African?” Lady Frinfrock nearly shouted, planting both gloved palms on the spotless glass of the window.
“I do believe her companion is an…aboriginal woman of some sort,” croaked Miss Breedlowe, herself moving closer to the glass.
“But whatever business could they have in Henrietta Place?”
Miss Breedlowe reached out a hand to steady her. “Do take care, my lady. Perhaps we should return to the comfort of the chairs.”
“I shall not be comfortable in chairs,” said the marchioness, swatting her away. “But has the young woman come alone?” She tapped a bony finger on the glass. “Where is her family? Her husband or parents?”
“Perhaps the men who have accompanied her are her—”
“Servants, clearly,” interrupted the marchioness. “Look, Miss Breedlowe. Trunk after trunk. Crates and baskets. Oh, God.” Her breath fogged the glass. “They are conveying it to the former front door of Cecil Panhearst’s old house. It’s been sealed like a tomb for the better part of a decade.”
“So they are. Perhaps you’re to have a second new neighbor.”
“A lone young woman and an African?” She moved closer to the window.
“Highly likely, I’d say. It would appear they are…? Yes, they are unpacking.”
“Well, that cannot be,” Lady Frinfrock declared, shaking her head at the street. “I won’t stand for it. Not without knowing who she may be, or where she came from. And why she is accompanied by an African.”
“Oh, do not worry,” chuckled Miss Breedlowe, “the servants will learn her story soon enough. If she has any staff at all, they will talk with the other servants on the street.”
For the first time since the carriage arrived, the marchioness lifted her eyes from the window and turned to stare at the nurse.
“Why, what an excellent idea, Miss Breedlowe.” She raised her cane and jabbed it in the direction of the startled younger woman. “How resourceful you are. The servants will talk.” She raised one eyebrow. “They will learn her story soon enough.”
As Miss Breedlowe stared in disbelief, the marchioness scrunched her face and then swung the tip of her cane in the direction of door.
“Oh, no, my lady,” said Miss Breedlowe, backing away. “You cannot mean me.”
“Oh, yes, ‘tis exactly what I mean. Finally, a suitable application for your indeterminate hovering and resigned sighs. We shall devise a reason for you to approach her, and you will discover her business in my street. It is our duty as mindful, responsible residents to know.”
“But I was speaking of the maids, my lady. The kitchen boys. I…”
“The maids are unreliable. The kitchen boys are inarticulate. You, however, are ideal for this sort of thing. Steel yourself, Miss Breedlowe. We cannot know what manner of objectionable thing she may say or do. Better fetch your gloves. And your hat.”
CHARIS MICHAELS is thrilled to be making her debut with Avon Impulse. Prior to writing romance, she studied Journalism at Texas A&M and managed PR for a trade association. She has also worked as a tour guide at Disney World, harvested peaches on her family’s farm, and entertained children as the “Story Godmother” at birthday parties. She has lived in Texas, Florida, and London, England. She now makes her home in the Washington, D.C.-metro area.