Author Interview | feat. the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries by Dianne Freeman

Posted Saturday, 13 July, 2019 by jorielov , , , , , 2 Comments

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

I had a delightful time reading the Lady Guide’s series of Cosy Mysteries recently to where I was overjoyed I would be able to bring an interview with the author to my readers. What I hadn’t foreseen of course was feeling under the weather for a week & having that week end on a tornado scare on a major highway – as journalled on my Twitter feeds almost immediately after I returnt home. To say I had delayed shock and was quite ill overnight would be putting it mildly – I will never forget that experience with my parents and I was never more grateful to be *home* with my cats as those are the moments where your tested in life if you can handle the crises and emergencies you never see coming. At the same time, it wasn’t just owr own well being I was thankful for – it was the entire *gridlocked traffic botttlenecked* on that highway…

Thereby, I apologise to my readers and to the lovely Ms Bruno & Ms Freeman for the delays in being able to bring this conversation to Jorie Loves A Story. I simply haven’t been myself lately and with this experience last night, I’ve spent the last twelve to eighteen hours trying to re-settle my nerves whilst living through prayer. It was definitely one of those defining moments where you lean hard on your faith.

Now – the joyful news is how lovely Ms Freeman was in giving me such a hearty conversation about her writing process & how she’s crafted these Cosy Historical Mysteries! I hope if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the stories, this conversation might nudge your interest towards seeking them out – they are such a treat for the Cosy reader who is seeking something a bit more unique & different in their Historical Cosies.

Be sure to brew yourself a cuppa & settle in for some fun!

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What I personally *loved!* about reading this series:

Part of the joy of reading this series are the layers of etiquette permeating into the fabric of the story-line – fitting for this debut of the series itself as it lends a certain view of the absurdity of tradition these lords and ladies were put through when their era was in its heyday! All the confining points of societal regulations and the fact, you couldn’t just remove yourself from the obligations as that would be lent to scandal and gossip; Freeman takes you through the motions of how frivolous the ton can be and how determined you must become to outwit them all the same! Frances shows this by her unwavering belief that if you lead with strength and a resolve to overcome whatever befalls you, society will either a) move on to the next lead story or b) forget you completely; which I felt was her preference. Frances wasn’t the kind who welcomed notoriety – quite the opposite, I believed she wanted to live a more ordinary life without all the pops and poms of the elevated class.

I was endeared to the plot long before I caught-on to the mysterious events happening in the background – for me, this series is wickedly driven by its characters – specifically everyone related into the  personal orbit and sphere of Frances! You can’t help but feel caught inside her life – seeing how even the most ordinary of lives can suddenly become a feast of trouble yet with a sturdy circle of friends and family; any obstacle can surely become defeated! I must admit, by the time I unearthed the actual crime and the person behind it – I was quite somber! I hadn’t expected the villain in the story to be whom they were as I was expecting it be someone else completely! The way in which Freeman related those finer details of the whys and hows lead me to believe the rest of this series is going to be as charmingly cosy to read as its debut!

-a quote from my review of The Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

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Author Interview | feat. the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries by Dianne FreemanA Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder (Author Interview)
Subtitle: A Countess of Harleigh Mystery
by Dianne Freeman
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

How far will some go to safeguard a secret? In the latest novel in Dianne Freeman’s witty and delightful historical mystery series, the adventurous Countess Harleigh finds out…

Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth each year, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.

Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?

Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself among them…

Genres: Historical Fiction, Cosy Historical Mystery, Amateur Detective

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781496716903

Also by this author: A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder, A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder, A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder

Setting: London, England

Published by Kensington Books

on 25th June, 2019

Published by: Kensington Books (@KensingtonBooks)

Converse via: #CosyMystery OR #Cosy #HistoricalMystery
and #CountessOfHarleighMystery

Available Formats: Paperback and Ebook

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As a young reader like I had been myself discovering Agatha Christie – what was it which attracted you the most to her style of Cozy Mysteries and which of her characters did you feel most attached to initially? For me, it was Miss Marple.

Freeman responds: I’m a fan of Miss Marple too. In fact, for many years, I wasn’t aware Christie wrote anything else. I’ve since read most of her books, many more than once, while I marvel over her skillful plotting, but I always come back to my favorite Miss Marple books. I like the fact that she’s an amateur sleuth and simply uses her wits and powers of observation to solve the mysteries.

What do you feel was the most frustrating aspect of Victorian living? The fact women had little say (if any) in the course of their lives (especially in regards to not being able to keep their own holdings from their husbands) or the fact, that despite the awkwardness of social customs, families were more closely tethered together then than they might be today? Why do you think there was a shift away from close-knit families now?

Freeman responds: As much as I love history, and the Victorian era in particular, I would never want to live there and part of that is because I value my independence. Women had little independence in that era, regardless of their class. If wealthy, a woman’s life was largely regulated by the men in her family, and whether that meant father, husband, or elder brother, she was dependent on their indulgence. Aristocratic families were run much like a business, with the eldest male in charge. Each member, male and female, had a role to play, and rebellion could mean being pushed out of the family. Toward the end of the era, women in England were granted the right to own property in their own right, which put them on par with their younger brothers. But a woman from the upper classes would have to inherit that property as she would definitely be discouraged from earning it.

In the lower classes, the family ties were not as close as both girls and boys in their teens were encouraged to find some sort of paid employment. If they were apprenticed to a particular craft or went into service, they’d leave home at an early age and live with their employers. The dependence was still an issue, but it shifted from family to employer.

I love how you’ve made your stories inter-generational – where you truly get to view the fuller cast of an entire family – tucking into their choices and seeing how each of them made a break for the world outside their family. What do you love most about writing these kinds of intricately plotted dramas?

Freeman responds: Family dynamics are fascinating and while Frances is my main character, all the characters bring something to the story and make me feel like I’m working with an ensemble cast. I enjoy exploring each character and giving them a subplot as the series progresses so that supporting characters can pull the readers right into their stories.

You’ve incorporated an independent woman into your plot (Frances) of whom I feel is realistic to the era even if she is not quite the majority during her lifetime. How important was it for you to show women like Frances did exist and that they did find ways to carve out a life on their own terms? Did you base her on any living women or just made a composite or inspired character based on the women you had hoped truly had lived?

Freeman responds: Many people make the mistake of underestimating Victorian women and think them passive or lacking in spirit. What most of them really lacked was independent means to push beyond their designated boundaries. Frances and Hetty are fortunate to have such means. They were in the minority, but women like them did exist. Other women of the day managed to push their boundaries without offending society by becoming involved in politics. Among the American heiresses, Jenny Jerome comes to mind. She founded the Primrose League and had a political career in her own right in the 1880s. Nancy Astor, also an American married to a Brit, was the first woman to win a seat in Parliament, though she did so after the turn of the century.

I liked how you wrote into your background of the series the concept of two halves of a whole wherein people maintain a public and private life. I was curious if you were inspired to show this concept because not too much has changed since then in regards to how people still live with a dual balance of maintaining their privacy but also readily engage socially in public forums. What do you feel was the hardest to show about this duality for your characters?

Freeman responds: I never considered social media in writing about this duality in the characters, but it’s an interesting parallel. The rules of etiquette and behavior in polite Victorian society were well defined and while in public, no one in the upper echelons of society would have let their hair down, or stepped a toe out of line. In their private lives, there were careful to be discreet. Because they uniformly disregarded the fact that their servants knew everything, it was actually quite easy to uncover their indiscretions through their servants.

Were the titles of your novels your idea or your publisher? I must admit, they stood out to me with a bit of cheeky humour and were what first attracted me to reading them as they felt refreshingly different. What were you hoping would attract readers to your series with the preamble of “A Lady’s Guide…”?

Freeman responds: The titles were the result of a group effort with some friends in a Facebook group. I had several terrible titles that really didn’t express the spirit of the books. For me, “A Lady’s Guide” has a Victorian feel to it. Many of the self-help books and periodicals of the era indicate in their titles that they are written for ladies. I wanted a title to anchor the books in the Victorian era, while keeping that cheeky feel. Because they’re mysteries, “and murder” just came naturally.

How did you develop the back-story for Frances – as it was interesting finding that she was American bourne even though she has station and status in Victorian society. Why did you feel it was keenly imperitive she was not bourne in the UK? Was it to show the differences in opinions on life in general or to draw a bit of drama into the mix by having alternative points of perspective amongst your characters?

Freeman responds: Frances’ backstory actually came first. I read a lot of Edith Wharton when I was younger. Her world was among the upper 400 of old New York in the last quarter of the 19th Century. It was a world of elegance and exclusivity combined with the social climbing and back-stabbing. One element that appeared in her work more than once was the phenomenon of the trans-Atlantic marriage where nouveau riche American heiresses married out of pocket European aristocrats. There were hundreds of these marriages and more than half involved British lords. I loved the idea of an American duchess or an American Countess. With the exception of a couple of biographies, most of my research ended with the wedding. Frances’ backstory is a composite of several real American heiresses. My plan when I started writing, was to check in with my fictional heiress ten years down the road, just to see how she was getting on.

Who is your favourite secondary or minor character and why?

Freeman responds: As someone who kicks herself in the ankles when she walks, trips over nothing, and walks into doorframes, I can really relate to Lottie Deaver.

What parts of Victorian society did you enjoy inking out in the background – how did you want the reader to feel anchoured to this era and what did you want them to remember most by how you illuminated the century for them?

Freeman responds: This was an era right on the cusp of enormous change so I wanted to be sure to capture the lifestyle of the aristocracy at this time—the extravagance, elegance, manners, rules, and the leisure time the upper crust had to indulge in all these elements.

As this is a series in-progress – when you first started to write A Lady Guide’s to Etiquette and Murderdid you know how many installments you wanted to give the series or are you still sorting that out per each story written?

Freeman responds: Once I finished the first draft of Etiquette and Murder, I knew it should be a series and I already had an idea for the second book. I knew it would take time for Frances to grow into the woman I knew she could be and I didn’t want to leave her half-way there, but I’m not entirely sure how many installments that will take.

What came first – the concept for the series, the characters themselves or where and when you wished to set the series? What also inspired your choice to root yourself into the Victorian era and populate Frances journey behind the social activities of the Upper Class?

Freeman responds: Due to my fascination for the trans-Atlantic marriages of the late Victorian era, it was definitely the character and the era that came first. As the typical mother of an American heiress, Frances’ mother insisted only a British lord would do for her daughter, so the upper class was a given as well.

What is your favourite way to write and where do you enjoy writing the most?

Freeman responds: I like to write in drafts. I get the whole story down without concern for anything but plot. Then I’ll go back to the beginning and layer in other elements like characterization, sub-plot, and setting. For each pass, I’ll layer in some other element. As for where—I do have a home office, but much of the time I’m writing at the kitchen table.

When you’re not researching and writing your novels what renews your spirit the most?

Freeman responds: Reading, which probably sounds like a standard answer, but it’s true!

Actually, you might be surprised but of all the authors I’ve asked this final question of – very few have mentioned how soul lifting reading is for them! I almost thought this was going to be one of the go-to responses but it has become the minority from those who have replied. I agree with you – reading is a balm to a weathered soul when life grows arduous.

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More thoughts about why I loved reading this series:

Each installment is like a primer of how to behave and carry yourself through the trials of life any sane Victorian lady would want to impart to the next generation! Especially if they find themselves in compromising situations which are not as readily easy to disclose to authorities such as Frances found herself properly pickled several times over in the first story. What is keenly imperative of course is how to keep one’s measure of confidence in such a state of unrest. Frances excels at making lemonade out of lemons and of sticking true to her own gumption whenever life chooses to through a wench into her ability to remain independent of her deceased husband’s family.

The one character I had forgotten to single out last time was Inspector Delaney! He’s this charming bloke of an investigator whom much to the contrary of what you would expect of him, has an affection for Frances as he respects her more than he ever suspected her of any wrong-doing in the past! I felt he views Frances on equal footing – an equal in which he can debate the merits of which direction to take an investigation whilst he is readily implored by what her own mind reveals whenever they are in a full discussion over such matters. Both are known for their discretion and their alacrity in situations which make make having tact trickier. What I liked about my straight-off is how direct and to the point he is but he allows you to have a bit of a say in what you feel might be equally as relevant to what he has broached forward. In short, he’s a curious fellow who happens to like keeping company with Frances as I felt he found her to be slighted in both life and marriage but truly applauded her abilities to see the positives in life and not become bogged down in the negatives as they arise. The fact he’s a doting father and blissful husband to his wife puts their friendship in good esteem and order.

I love how Freeman has characterised young Rose – despite still being in the early years of her girlhood – she has this fierceness of independence insider her that I noticed surprises her Mum at each turn! Especially how keen she is to learn how to jump and take her horsemanship to the next levels – though in that, Frances cannot say too much as she ought to have known how passionate about this sport Rose had become as soon as she had bought the drapery fabric! Ha! I felt Rose was a strong compliment to Frances – however, knowing that, I believe its Frances who isn’t quite prepared for a daughter who is so closely similar to her mother! She should have realised she would be raising a slightly unconventional young woman knowing full well how she lives her own life, too!

Aside from Frances and Mr Hazelton, my third favourite character is actually Aunt Hetty! She has a smart mind and an appetite for business! Her sequences are such a cunning show of how women in the past might have had the clarity of mind to tackle business affairs but they weren’t given the power to use that knowledge as they are today. Aunt Hetty is a strong compliment to both Frances and Lily; she provides the assurances of age and wisdom whilst she helps Frances understand the finer points of the intrigues she’s working through as her mind is naturally investigative and deductive. I love seeing how Aunt Hetty sees things but also how she tries to etch out some well-placed advice in Frances. She’s such a cornerstone to Frances world, I am hoping that she will remain throughout the series as she adds quite a bit to the continuity and the enjoyment of Frances inner circle!

Again, for me – the crime took the backseat – it is the fuller scope of Frances, her family and her close-knit friendship circle who continue to draw me into the installments. The crimes are jolly good fun to follow – as they become more intricate than you’d expect out of a Cosy, a credit to the kind I was used to reading from Dame Christie – where the yarn of the crime is as enticing as the life of Miss Marple! Not that Frances is of that certain age – but her life is quite settled and she has a joy about her that someone older would usually feel than of a woman her age recently widowed still in the prime of life itself. Frances doesn’t put on airs, which I love about her and she has a deeper appreciation for what is most important in life – I think that is what won me over straight-off, how she’s not your typical heroine and how even her life is quite extraordinary when you consider the fuller circumstances of it.

I know one thing – I can’t wait for the third installment of this series because we were left on such a blissful cliffhanger between Frances and Mr Hazelton! I am sure it won’t be concluded in the third novel either – as Ms Freeman could carry this one for quite a long while or even until the conclusion of the series, but I simply am cheering for them! You can’t read this series and not find Frances and Hazelton such a perfect fit for one another – he challenges her and she invigorates him! They are such a winning pair and just seeing how they match off each other is pure folly! I definitely left this story with a heart full of mirth and a smile full of laughter!

-a quote from my review of The Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder

About Dianne Freeman

Dianne Freeman

Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, she realized her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. She also realized she didn’t like winter very much so now she and her husband pursue the endless summer by splitting their time between Michigan and Arizona. She’s been nominated for an Agatha and the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award, and won the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery.

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This blog tour is courtesy of:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTFollow the Virtual Road Map

as you visit others participating:

A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder blog tour via HFVBTs I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

If you’ve enjoyed my conversation with the author – be sure to visit my full reviews for both novels in this series – I had a lot of fun discussing what I loved & which of the characters left the strongest of impressions as I read!

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Similar to blog tours where I feature book reviews, as I choose to highlight an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog. I provide the questions for interviews and topics for the guest posts; wherein I receive the responses back from publicists and authors directly. I am naturally curious about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of stories and the writers who pen them; I have a heap of joy bringing this content to my readers. This also extends to Book Spotlights & Book Blitzes which I choose to highlight which might have content inclusive to the post materials which I did not directly add a contribution but had the choice whether or not to feature those materials on my blog.

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “The Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Dianne Freeman, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Conversations with the banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 13 July, 2019 by jorielov in 19th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Debut Author, Debut Novel, England, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Indie Author, Lady Detective Fiction, London

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2 responses to “Author Interview | feat. the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries by Dianne Freeman

  1. Hi Jorie!

    This is such a great interview! I love reading author interviews – it’s always nice to read a bit about the author’s background and learn more about what goes on “behind the scenes.” I loved reading A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder so it was great to read more about Dianne Freeman!

    Thanks for a great interview!

    • Hallo, Hallo Stephanie,

      You’ll be happy to know that Ms Freeman is a future guest of #SatBookChat – you can find our full schedule now via Jorie Loves Bookish Blogs / SatBookChat. I hope you might be able to join us as I know you would love to see where the live conversation could take us!! I was thankful we both were able to read these stories back-to-back from one another, as they became one of the most delightful reads of Summer for me.

      I appreciated the feedback on the interview directly – I love putting these together but it is nice to know how they are resonating with readers, too!

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