Acquired Book By: I have been hosting blog tours with Cedar Fort Publishing and Media for several years now, wherein their new blog tour publicist (Ms Sydney Anderson) also runs her own publicity touring company: Singing Librarian Book Tours (or SLB Tours for short!). I happily joined her team of book bloggers as a hostess in late Spring, 2018 wherein my first tours with her as a hostess begin Summer, 2018. I appreciate reading INSPY literature and was happy to find these are most of the stories she is showcasing through SLB Tours! Most of her authors are published through Cedar Fort, though she does work with authors who are either Self-Published or Indie published through different publishers as well.
I received a complimentary copy of “The Secret of Haversham House” direct from the publisher Sweetwater Books (an imprint of Cedar Fort Publishing & Media) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
To find out why I love Sweet Romances and the #PureRomance imprint you might like to check out my previous postings for Cedar Fort blog tours, wherein I related my love of Historical & INSPY stories on a previous blog tour featuring To Suit a Suitor, however, I have happily been reading the offerings of this particular imprint for quite a long while now. The stories which still stand out are as follows: ‘Willow Springs’, ‘The Darkest Summer’, ‘Unexpected Love (anthology)’ and ‘The Second Season’.
To follow through my readings, be sure to scroll through this tag Pure Romance!
A conversation with Julie Matern: Part I
What first drew your eye into Regencies and what were your favourite memories of reading your first Regency Romances? What attached yourself into them: the era, the lifestyle difference (upstairs/downstairs), the fashions or the historical backdrop and aesthetics?
Matern responds: I didn’t get into Jane Austen until after college – I was taking a French degree which required reading French Literature and there wasn’t time for much else. Quite honestly my connection to Austen’s books came as quite a surprise as I had been required to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté at school when I was quite young and did not like it at all.
I decided then that those ‘old’ books were not for me. So when I chanced to read Pride and Prejudice as an adult I was amazed at how much I loved it almost immediately. I enjoyed Jane’s voice and her characters and the era itself – so polite and civilized. I found I couldn’t put the books down. I think they swept me back in time. Then television and movie studios began making the adaptations with the beautiful scenery and costumes and I was totally hooked. I have three daughters and I have converted two of them! (PS I love Jane Eyre now too!)
I believe our reading lives have their Seasons,… I struggled to get into both Bronté and Austen when I was younger – though why I hesitated to read either of them, is lost to time itself. I started to focus on reading ‘Pride’ when Keira Knightley’s film was released (finishing it in time to see it live at the theater!) whilst my reading progress into ‘Jane Eyre’ has taken nearly the full five years I’ve been a book blogger! I haven’t a clue as to why either, except I find myself distracted from the text more times than naught and this year, I’m determined to conclude my ruminative thoughts as I would very much like to read a sequel author’s trilogy! Wish me well!
Strangely, despite the hiccups I incurred with these authors, I was into Classical Children’s Lit throughout my younger years as well as Contemporary favourites like Carolyn Keene (of whom I hadn’t realised to much later was a pen name!) and the other authors I’ve listed on my Children’s Lit page! The way you’ve described why you love reading these stories is something I can relate to myself ‘being swept into the historic past’, ‘the authenticity of Austen’s voice’ and the ways in which the manners of her time were eloquently brought forward into her stories. You’ve summarised it rather lovely!
It is an interesting premise, to have a girl raised in the ton (aristocracy) who didn’t realise her lot was not officially cast in those circles – what inspired this choice of entry into her shift of acceptance from her peers?
Matern responds: Well, heritage is so very important to the nobility at this time. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is probably the best example of this attitude in Austen’s writing. She is horrified that Elizabeth isn’t enough of a lady for her nephew. In Persuasion, Anne is discouraged from marrying Captain Wentworth because he ranks beneath her and in Emma, the thought that Harriet might marry Mr. Knightley makes Emma ill.
I thought it would be an interesting study to examine the possible reaction of this class of people to someone they knew and loved as a lady, under the new information that she was actually not. Then the question was how can this be accomplished and a secret adoption seemed a natural vehicle.
I love how you’ve found an interconnection between the plottings of Ms Austen’s novels – of how birth origins and your status in society meant everything towards a well-matched marriage than the person’s character; second only to reputation, as this was equally a concern of the aristocracy! It is a bit how I was happily surprised Adoption is now an option for Royals where previously it was not allowed. A secreted adoption I believe is the only way it could have worked within the framework of the Haversham’s case due to the nature of how constricted they were by both society and family alike. Blessedly not due to their own beliefs, thoughts and convictions!
Self-identity is oft-times linked to our ancestral heritage – did your interest in ancestry play a key role in exploring Francesca’s soul-search for her own identifiable truth? How did you want to show who you are and who you believe you are are oft-times not the same person?
Matern responds: I have researched my own genealogical lines for over 40 years. I find it absolutely fascinating. There are hidden secrets in many people’s lines; my grandmother thought she was a year younger than she was; people lied to their fiances about their age so that they didn’t seem too much older than them and it is discovered by researchers like me generations later when we notice the discrepancy between the birth certificate and the marriage certificate; I know of someone who did not know she was born before her parents married, until after her parents died and she examined all the certificates. The truth can shake people to their foundations. Any revelation that changes what you have believed to be true about yourself creates a need to know everything, I believe. Ancestry.com is using this common need in their advertising to create interest in their DNA testing – people who find out that they have ethnicity in their family tree that they did not know about, for example, often begin a study of that ethnicity to understand it in an attempt to understand themselves better.
Adoption is not something I have direct experience of and in our day and age it is very open. In writing about Francesca’s emotions I tried to put myself in her shoes and imagine receiving the news that my mother was not my birth mother. It would spark an avalanche of emotions and confusion and a desire to seek out my birth relatives.
I do believe that ancestral heritage affects how we see ourselves and anchors us to our past, endowing us with a sense of connection to them and helping us have stronger self-esteem. My great-uncle died when he was 19 in WWI in France and my own grandfather almost died in the same war. Their sacrifice helps me feel that my family helped in the cause of freedom. My husband’s side has many pioneers who did extraordinary things under extremely difficult circumstances and it is very important to me that my children know about those on my side who fought and those on my husband’s side who sacrificed so much to connect them with these great heroic acts.
I’ve been blessed by having a Mum whose research into our own ancestral lines began 40+ years ago whereas my own journey as an #AncestrySleuth began roughly 10 years ago where we started to combine our efforts! It even led to a ‘match’ of finding living cousins in Sweden, of whom we thankfully had the chance to meet in Autumn 2017! We personally love the archives and the resources attached to FamilySearch.org as the services they provide are blessedly ‘free’ and all the information on Ancestry.com (which is a paid service) is available for ‘free’ as well as they share their databases. Towards that end, I even participated in a records updating weekend once which proved how tedious it is to update records and how thankful all of us are for the hours dedicated volunteers world-wide are giving to these records/databases to help us all interconnect with lost relatives and ancestral heritage (both living and dead).
Yes, and no. You’d be surprised — I knew in my early twenties I wanted to adopt my future children and despite being comfortable on my path, whenever I go to talk about how I intend to have children (through adoption) you’d be properly surprised how much negatively people project on you and how dedicated they are to tell you the choice you’ve made (for your own life, mind you!) is the wrong one! I never would have thought of all the topics and subjects the general public would feel the right to debate with you, the path you take towards mumhood would be one they would feel most inclined to argue!
Therefore, in many ways, I still see us a bit behind the times when it comes to Adoption – this is why there are many campaigns to re-think how people see adoption and how adoption is still not the option most families are willing to make to either expand or start their families. I wish it were different but the facts do not lie. We’re as closed-minded to adoption now as we were in the Regency in so many ways and that is something I hope will change within my lifetime.
I truly believe as you do – a healthier way forward is to know our past, to examine it, draw strength from it and to continue to ‘tell the living histories’ of our families if only to keep the voices of the past alive, present and acknowledged! I grew up with these kinds of stories myself and they re-etch an impression about yourself, your family and the legacies we all leave behind – some in larger ways than others but all of us have stories to share, tell and honour.
How did you decide on the surname Haversham? It is a rather unique choice and I was wondering if there might be a story behind it? Also, what is your process for selecting the names of your characters overall?
Matern responds: My husband, who is not English by birth, loves these types of quintessential English surnames and is often popping them into conversations. Haversham, Flaversham, Faversham. So it was a nod to him.
Choosing a name for a character is a bit like choosing a name for a baby – I want it to fit. Her name had to be Francesca because of the Italian-French connection so then I wanted a very English surname to pair it with. Then I say my character’s full names out loud to make sure they have a good ring to them.
I always want to use very traditional names as the first names of my characters. (Langley is not very traditional but is a name of an ancestor of mine so I felt I could use it.) Then I use google to search English surnames that have several syllables (these seem more regal to me) or I look through my family tree for the perfect name. Septimus Sladden is an actual ancestor of mine. The minute I found him I knew I was going to use that name in a book.
Charles Dickens was so very clever with his name choices and JK Rowling too, as often the name tells us about the character. I hope to be able to imitate that in the future.
OOh, I am so glad you’ve mentioned this!! As this is part of my own process for selecting names for my own characters! I even have a lovely Baby Name Book which is multi-ethnic and pulls names from various ethnic backgrounds world-wide as well as various spellings therein! I can go off in small tangents of research just to dig up the Etymology of the names I’ve chosen to see if perhaps, I was choosing the right ‘name’ so to speak at any given time! Much like I would if it were naming a child of mine, to see if I honed in on their personality and the potential they would have in life to fill the shoes behind the name.
I thought your idea of combining the Italian name for ‘French’ as a nod to both Francesca’s Italian heritage but French set Adoption was a stroke of brilliance!
I shall readily admit – when it comes to old English names, I am as addicted to them as your husband! This is one reason I am thankful I’m personally British three times to Sunday! The names and titles alone in my ancestral lines are lushly addictive to research!
Yes! Isn’t it interesting how the names of our ancestors take us by shocked surprise? I have many revelations like this on my own family tree – but also, of whom they were, where they were bourne and where they ended their lives as they moved round quite frequently!
Eighteen-year-old Francesca Haversham is privileged, beautiful, and naive. Lineage, titles, and wealth are the ultimate virtues among nineteenth-century English aristocracy, and Francesca is elite society's newest and most celebrated debutante from one of England's most illustrious families. Her pedigree is impeccable - or is it?
Her coming-out ball brings iwth it the appearance of one Mr. Langley Ashbourne, and Francesca is immediately taken in by his handsome features and flattering words. But not everything is as it seems, and flowery comments can only hide dark truths for so long. Meanwhile, a long-buried secret creeps ever closer to the light, one that would destroy her comfortable life, tarnish her family's character, and ruin all hopes of a reputable marriage.
Places to find the book:
Published by Sweetwater Books
on 12th June, 2018
Format: Trade Paperback
Available Formats: Paperback, Ebook
Converse via: #Regency or #RegencyRomance, #HistFic or #HistoricalRomance
#INSPYRom, #SweetRomance OR #HistRom; #Adoption
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