Today I am very happy to welcome to Book Lovers Inc and introduce you to Juliana Ross, the author of the wonderfully spicy historical romance: Improper Relations, released by Carina Press in April. Juliana didn’t come alone, she brought as special guest the heroine of Improper Relations, so please take a seat and get to know Hannah! (and thanks to Juliana’s generosity you could even get to know Leo, the hero if you win the copy of Improper Relations offered in the giveaway)
Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah, the heroine of Improper Relations. Don’t ask me how it was possible to reach back in time and speak directly with a woman born in 1829 – I have my ways. Let’s just leave it at that.
Juliana Ross: Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me.
Hannah: You’re most welcome. Although this is rather unusual. And I am not entirely certain what you mean when you speak of a “blog”. It sounds rather unpleasant.
Juliana Ross: I promise it’s perfectly respectable. Shall we begin with some personal history? Where were you born?
Hannah: I was born and grew up in Steyning, in Sussex. My father was a farmer—a gentleman farmer, if you will. I was an only child and was educated at home by my mother. I had a lovely childhood, if perhaps a rather lonely one.
Juliana Ross: How did you meet your husband?
Hannah: By husband you mean Charles? It was at a ball, at Petworth House – the home of some friends of my parents. Much grander than my family. Looking back, I’m surprised we were even invited. So…Charles was at the ball and he took a liking to me. I was nineteen, nearly twenty, and was no beauty. Nor could I expect very much from my father. But he was looking for a wife, I suspect because of some pressure from his parents to settle down, and decided I would do. So that was that.
Juliana Ross: You wouldn’t say it was a love match.
Hannah: No. But we were fond of one another. He was perfectly pleasant, perfectly civil. And I was grateful to him for giving me a home, and a future of sorts.
Juliana Ross: Were you happy?
Hannah: I would have said I was happy, as I understood it, at the time. But then I’d little notion of the world beyond the little towns where I’d lived, nor indeed beyond the four walls of my own home. I was content, and that seemed like happiness to me.
Juliana Ross: You were aware of your husband’s grand relations?
Hannah: Of course—they weren’t the sort of people one could ignore. Lady Dorchester, in particular, had a very commanding way about her. She was extremely fond of Charles—he was her late sister’s only son—and at first I was nervous she might feel I wasn’t good enough for him. But she seemed to like me, which was a blessing.
Juliana Ross: Particularly after Charles’s unexpected death.
Hannah: Yes, it was entirely unexpected. A fever, the doctors said. He felt unwell one morning, was abed by the end of the day, and was dead by the end of the next. Quite shocking, of course. And then to learn the truth about his finances…
Juliana Ross: He was in debt?
Hannah: Yes, and had managed to cope by selling off nearly everything of value his parents had left him. So by the time he died we really had only the furnishings in our house, of which we were only tenants, and personal items such as clothing and so forth. Everything went to settle his outstanding debts. I was left with the clothes on my back. Nothing more.
Juliana Ross: So you went to Lady Dorchester for help?
Hannah: Yes. I had hoped she might furnish me with a character reference so that I might seek employment as a governess or a lady’s companion. Instead she decided to take me on as her own companion. Although we did have our differences later on it was very kind of her to help me.
Juliana Ross: That’s very charitable of you given how unhappy you were in the Dorchester household.
Hannah: She helped me, at a time when very little stood between me and complete destitution. It would be very wrong for me to complain of ill treatment at her hands.
Juliana Ross: And what of Leo?
Hannah: Do you mean then? What did I think of him then? You must remember that he was only a boy when we first met. He’s five years younger than me, so he would have been just fifteen when I married Charles. I didn’t see much of him then—only family weddings, funerals and so forth. Once or twice Charles and I were invited to balls at Wraxhall House in London. That was terribly exciting. But I wouldn’t say that Leo and I were truly acquainted with one another.
Juliana Ross: Yet you’ve said that you were “half in love” with him.
Hannah: That was later, once I was living with the family, and I saw much more of him. How could anyone not be in love with him? He was—is—so handsome. And his manner is so winning. I cannot imagine there is a more charming man on earth—he has this way about him that immediately puts one at ease. It would have been impossible not to fall a little in love with him.
Juliana Ross: Naturally I don’t want to reveal anything of the later events of Improper Relations, but if you might answer one last question: what would have happened if you and Leo hadn’t met in the library that afternoon?
Hannah: Very little would have happened to me. By that I mean my life would have gone on, one day after another, until I died or became too infirm to be of use to the Dorchester family. I doubt I would ever have had the strength to break free, or to ask for any kind of payment for the work I did. So I would have been trapped. Without a reference, and without any savings, I would have ended up in the workhouse. Or worse.
Juliana Ross: But Leo saved you from all of that?
Hannah: He did. He truly saved me—that is no exaggeration. When I think on my life as it once was, and as it is now, I know it to be true. Leo would disagree, of course.
Juliana Ross: What do you mean?
Hannah: He believes that I saved him.
When Hannah’s caught watching her late husband’s cousin debauch the maid in the library, she’s mortified — but also intrigued. An unpaid companion to his aunt, she’s used to being ignored.
The black sheep of the family, Leo has nothing but his good looks and noble birth to recommend him. Hannah ought to be appalled at what she’s witnessed, but there’s something about Leo that draws her to him.
When Leo claims he can prove that women can feel desire as passionately as men, Hannah is incredulous. Her own experiences have been uninspiring. Yet she can’t bring herself to refuse his audacious proposal when he offers to tutor her in the art of lovemaking. As the tantalizing, wicked lessons continue, she begins to fear she’s losing not just her inhibitions, but her heart as well. The poorest of relations, she has nothing to offer Leo but herself. Will it be enough when their erotic education ends?
An editor by profession but an historian by inclination, Juliana Ross lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children. In her spare time she cooks for family and friends, makes slow inroads into her weed patch of a garden, and reads romance novels (the steamier the better) on her eReader.
You can find Juliana on:
Juliana has generously offered an ebook copy of Improper Relations to a lucky commenter!
All you have to do is leave a meaningful comment about the interview or you could ask either Hannah or Juliana a question.
(You can read our full giveaway policy here)
Please be sure to include a valid email address in the comment form (need not be in the actual body of the comment).
This giveaway is open to all!
Giveaway ends on Saturday, May 26th, 2012; we will announce the winner on Sunday.
ps. If you’d like to double your chances of winning Improper Relations and read how Juliana got THE CALL, read her guest post at Ex Libris.