The jetlag has dissipated but not so the good memories of my Choc Lit launch for my second book, The Maid of Milan, at The Chocolate Museum several Fridays ago. (Goodness, has so much time gone by already?)
Luke and Holly, our publicists at Choc Lit, worked hard to organise the fun and successful event at the atmospheric upstairs/downstairs venue in Brixton where fellow Choc Lit author Janet Gover was also launching her outback romance, Flight to Coorah Creek.
As our Managing Director Lyn Vernham said in her introduction, we had the interesting dichotomy of expatriate Australian Janet (living in London for the past twenty years) writing a romance about the Australia Outback, and me, living in Australia, writing an English Regency-set romance (albeit not a traditional one).
Having a new book out is always exciting but the icing on the cake was celebrating my book launch with family and friends and having the added bonus of meeting so many of my fellow Choc Lit authors, many of whom I’ve got to know quite well through email correspondence.
Some of them I first met last year at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City. Hard to believe that was a year ago as we’re just about to head over once again to the RT Convention, this time in New Orleans. (I can thank the fact hubby is a pilot for the good fortune of being able to go staff travel – provided there’s a spare seat for me on the day.)
So yes, I got my London book launch, which I’d dreamed of since I was a little girl living in South Australia. During long holidays I used to read to my captive audience – my younger sisters – the series I wrote when I was seven called ‘The School for Witches’ at our beach cottage in Coffin Bay. (The remote area was named after the man who discovered the place, not on account of any awful shipwreck with multiple drownings necessitating coffins).
Ten years later I finished my first full-length novel, a romance in which I did in fact drown the heroine on the last page and which, not surprisingly, never found a publisher. A dramatic teenager, I remember shedding copious tears at the demise of poor drowned Sophie, the name I gave to each heroine of my growing number of dusty, unwanted manuscripts.
It was only many years later when my husband raised our just-delivered first-born daughter for me to see and said, ‘Let’s call her Sophie?’ that the name finally found a worthy owner; and eight years after that when my first historical romance, Lady Sarah’s Redemption, was published by Robert Hale… a romance in which my heroine actually escaped drowning during a shipwreck and took on the identity of her supposedly fellow drowned governess who turned out much later not to have drowned and was in fact a party to some other very shady dealings.
However, my book at the centre of The Chocolate Museum’s festivities is The Maid of Milan, a very untraditional Regency romance laced with mystery and suspense and lots of intrigue. One reviewer likens it both to a Regency era version of the 1980s US series, ‘Dynasty’ and Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Pallisers’ ‘where beneath the waving fans is gritty intrigue’.
At the heart of it, though, is the psychological question: ‘Who can you trust if your own mother is manipulating – for her own ends – the secret that threatens to destroy you?’
The Maid of Milan is as much a story about a mother and a daughter, and trust and loyalty, as it is a romance about a deeply honourable man who desperately wants the love of the vulnerable wife who married him so unwillingly.
And at the core is a once-vibrant young woman who has had everything she ever valued torn from her, trying to balance her past – the lover who excited her passions – with her future – the husband who satisfies her now-mature need for truth and order, and of the struggle when past and (increasingly vulnerable) future collide.
This was a ripper of a story that took many years to write, while other books of mine were published in the interim. It went through numerous drafts, especially after the raft of fantastic feedback I received from Choc Lit’s Tasting Panel.
Thanks so much for having me here today to talk about my wonderful book launch and The Maid of Milan. I’ve enjoyed it and now suddenly it’s time for bed, here in Australia. Perhaps I’m not quite over the jetlag, after all 🙂
You can read more about Beverley’s books at http://www.beverleyeikli.com/ or beverleyeikli.blogspot.com, and at Twitter: @BeverleyOakley
Great post, thank you Beverley. Watch this space for another fab blog from Beverley as she tells all about her secret life …