A New Year, A New Genre!
I‘m thrilled to announce that The Diamond of London, my first foray into historical fiction, is now available! It’s a fictional biography, inspired by the extraordinary life of Lady Hester Stanhope. Here’s the promo blurb:
Born into an illustrious family of swashbuckling war heroes and brilliant political leaders, Lady Hester Stanhope pursued a freedom few Regency women could dream of: shaping her own remarkable destiny. Her unforgettable spirit is the heart of USA Today bestselling author Andrea Penrose’s dazzling new historical novel . . . You can order it here!
“Real-life Regency adventuress Lady Hester Stanhope may very well have been the prototype for every historical heroine who despises rules, rides astride, falls in love as she pleases, and courts adventure in ballrooms and battlefields alike—and Andrea Penrose brings her to glittering life in this well-penned historical debut. Hester bucks convention at every turn, rejecting marriage to become her Prime Minister uncle’s political hostess and take her place on the world stage, but war and heartbreak will force her to ask what future she really wants. The Diamond of London simply sparkles!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times Bestselling author of The Diamond Eye on The Diamond of London
Even with her privileged life, Lady Hester Stanhope knows that claiming the adventurous life she truly wants will not be easy, thanks to her eccentric father’s stifling grip. With the help of her renowned statesman uncle William Pitt the Younger, she takes on the glittering, treacherous heights of London Society. Her formidable intelligence, outspoken opinions, and headstrong determination gain the favor of the beau monde’s leading taste-maker Beau Brummell—and she quickly learns to bend the rules of the ton to her own advantage. And as her uncle’s hostess, she astutely uses her skills to preside over—and give advice to—the most influential figures of her day, rising to a position unequaled in society.
But when it comes to holy matrimony, Hester will settle for no less than a passionate match of equals—a search marked by challenges and heartbreak. Her affair with a charismatic naval officer tempts her with forbidden pleasures—even as it threatens her reputation. Her love for a sophisticated, brilliant diplomat offers the marriage of her dreams . . . and unsuspected betrayal. And as England is plunged into war, Hester’s world changes forever, causing her to find courage and strength amid loss, chart a completely unexpected future—and make a glorious legacy forever hers . . . You can read an excerpt here.
I recently did an interview with John Charles of The Poisoned Pen Bookstore on the many fascinating facets of Lady Hester and the challenges of writing a fictional biography. You can listen to it here.
When my editor and I first began discussing the idea of this book, I had some reservations. A fictional biography? That seemed like such an oxymoron, and coming from the world of fiction, where I could happily scribble away, making things up as I went along, the thought of trying to piece together Truth and Imagination in one story seemed a little daunting . . .
And then there was Lady Hester Stanhope herself. I’ve written a number of books set in Regency England, so I’m fairly knowledgeable about the history and notable people of the era. Her name was familiar to me, but only for the later part of her life, when she was considered the most famous—and eccentric—adventurer of the early 19th century. From what little I had read, Lady Hester was considered opinionated, abrasive, headstrong, and emotionally unstable. That certainly gave me pause for thought. To write a book about her meant that the two of us would be spending a lot of “up close and personal” time together. Was it a commitment I was willing to make? What if we didn’t get along?
Still, her story was intriguing enough that I decided to do a little more research. One of the first things that caught my eye was the tale of The Diamond—the “origin story” of the Pitt family’s rise to become one of the most powerful and influential aristocratic families in Britain. Intermarriage over several generations with the equally impressive Stanhope and Grenville families added yet more luster to the family tree.
The more I read, the more I became fascinated, not only by the clan’s position within the highest circles of Society but also by the amazing range of their individual talents and achievements—three prime ministers, a Foreign Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty, a famous scientist, a dashing war hero, to name just a few.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Wrexford & Sloane are back!
In Wrexford & Sloane news, Murder at the Merton Library, which is Book 7 in the series, is now available from all online book retailers.
Here’s the promo blurb:
A perplexing murder in a renowned library at Oxford University and a suspicious fire in the London research laboratory of a famous inventor set Wrexford and Charlotte on two separate investigations which put each of them —and everyone they hold dear—in harm’s way as past secrets entangle them in a dangerous web of lies and betrayals.
Responding to an urgent plea from a troubled family friend, the Earl of Wrexford journeys to Oxford only to find the reclusive university librarian has been murdered and a rare manuscript has gone missing. The only clue is that someone overheard an argument in which Wrexford’s name was mentioned.
At the same time, Charlotte—working under her pen name, A. J. Quill—must determine whether a laboratory fire was arson and if it’s connected to the race between competing consortiums to build a new type of ship—one that can cross the ocean powered by steam rather than sails—with the potential to revolutionize military power and world commerce. That the race involves new innovations in finance and entrepreneurship only adds to the high stakes—especially as their good friend Kit Sheffield may be an investor in one of the competitors.
As they delve deeper into the baffling clues, Wrexford and Charlotte begin to realize that things are not what they seem. An evil conspiracy is lurking in the shadows and threatens all they hold dear—unless they can tie the loose threads together before it’s too late . . . You can read an excerpt here.
I also recently did an interview with Jenny Wheeler of The Joys of Binge Reading, and had a really fun conversation on what makes the series tick, the craft of writing and making characters and settings come alive. You can listen to it here.
This newest Wrexford & Sloane mystery has been getting lovely reviews! Here is one from Fresh Fiction:
Murder at the Merton Library is another complex, sophisticated, and entertaining mystery in the Wrexford & Sloane Mystery series. Books in this series always include a scientific invention during the Regency era. Not only does this mystery contain fascinating information about propeller-based propulsion systems, and the need for a marine propulsion system to cross the oceans, but it intertwines the historical information into a backdrop of London Regency society and Charlotte’s and Wrex’s complicated and unconventional lives. The details of a de Vinci manuscript, as well as the investment habits of the aristocracy and the upper hand of entrepreneurs of the time, are so enlightening and interesting. The plot is intricately woven and the charm and emotion in the story come from the makeshift family Wrex and Charlotte have created for themselves. Raven and Hawk, former street urchins, know how to travel the dark alleyways and find the secrets hidden in London society. Their new young friend, Peregrine, has an inventor’s mind and an eye for details. As the mystery concludes, there is a nicely done scene where Alison uses the skills she learned from the young boys, with good results.
Overall, Murder at the Merton Library by Andrea Penrose is a fascinating and educational journey into the Regency era filled with new inventions, ruthless villains, greedy aristocrats, and the power of family. Check out the author’s website to see pictures of the beautiful Merton Library at Oxford.
A Lovely Shout-Out
It’s always nice to get positive reviews, and this lovely one featured on NPR radio was especially delightful as the librarian from the West Lafayette (Indiana) Library was SUCH a good narrator in reading snippets from Murder at the Serpentine Bridge! (Honestly, he should moonlight as a professional audiobook reader.) See what you think—you can hear the full review here! (And p.s. thank you, Nick Schenkel, for such a glowing review. As I love libraries and all the wonderful work they do to promote a love f books and reading, it’s always very special for me to be mentioned by a librarian.)
A USA Today Bestseller!
My current Wrexford & Sloane Murder at the Serpentine Bridge, Book 6 in the series, was released on September 27, 2022—and I’m thrilled to report that it hit the USA Today Bestseller List! (You can click here to order.)
Here’s the promo blurb:
Beyond the glittering ballrooms and salons of Regency London there are mysteries to untangle and murders to solve—and the newlywed duo of Lady Charlotte and the Earl of Wrexford once again find themselves matching wits with a cunning enemy . . .
Charlotte, now the Countess of Wrexford, would like nothing more than a summer of peace and quiet with her new husband and their unconventional family and friends. Still, some social obligations must be honored, especially with the grand Peace Celebrations unfolding throughout London to honor the victory over Napoleon.
But when Wrexford and their two young wards, Raven and Hawk, discover a body floating in Hyde Park’s famous lake, that newfound peace looks to be at risk. The late Jeremiah Willis was the engineering genius behind a new design for a top-secret weapon, and the prototype is missing from the Royal Armory’s laboratory. Wrexford is tasked with retrieving it before it falls into the wrong hands. But there are unsettling complications to the case—including a family connection.
Soon, old secrets are tangling with new betrayals, and as Charlotte and Wrexford spin through a web of international intrigue and sumptuous parties, they must race against time to save their loved ones from harm—and keep the weapon from igniting a new war . . .
An Inside Peek
Now, sometimes an author gets extraordinarily lucky, and history provides an amazing setting that proves the old adage: truth is stranger than fiction.
London threw an extravagant party to celebrate the end of the tumultuous wars against Napoleon that lasted over a decade. All the leaders of Europe came to party . . . and to jockey for power. Which makes it a perfect place in which set a diabolical mystery. You can read more about it and see wonderful images from the era here in the DIVERSIONS section of my website. (be sure to check out the other fun backstories to my books, along with the accompanying slideshows of vintage art.)
In Other Book News
And look for a new Lady Arianna adventure in the spring of 2024! Check back here for further updates after the new year.
A Swirl of Shadows takes Lady Arianna and Saybrook to
St. Petersburg . . . Here’s the promo blurb:
A traumatic personal crisis has left Lady Arianna bedeviled by guilt and questioning whether she has lost her nerve. Saybrook and her circle of friends can’t seem to help rekindle her fire. Even a challenge from Lord Grentham, Britain’s shadowy head spymaster, to undertake a vital mission to Russia in aid of her old friend, Tsar Alexander, fails to spark any interest . . . Until Grentham mentions that Arianna’s half-brother has gone in her place and may be in mortal danger.
Arianna is furious. She only recently discovered that she had a sibling when her father’s illegitimate son was recruited to play a small role in their previous mission. Resentful of the minister’s attempt to manipulate her emotions, she still refuses to be drawn back into the fray.
But when the murder of a mysterious Russian baroness in London entangles her friend Sophia in the byzantine intrigue surrounding a stolen Imperial medallion and a legendary curse that may topple the Tsar from his throne if it’s not recovered, Arianna finds she can’t turn her back on family and friends—especially as the tensions within her closeknit circle are threatening to fray the bonds of all she holds dear.
And so Arianna and Saybrook—along with Sophia—head off to St. Petersburg, where dangerous deceptions and duplicity swirl beneath the sumptuous splendor of the Imperial Court. An American adventuress, an old nemesis, a possible traitor within their own allies . . . Suspects abound—treachery is everywhere, and when her brother goes missing, Arianna knows that for her and Saybrook to have any hope catching the cunning conspirators, she’ll have to learn to trust herself again. But the clock is ticking . . .
I recently joined with the fabulous fellow historical mystery authors Anna Lee Huber, Jennifer Ashley and Amanda Flowers to dish on our new books and the craft of writing with the fabulous John Charles of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. You can see the video interview here on YouTube!
And Team Penrose is happy to report
on other news
The series as a whole has been garnering kudos throughout the book world, including this wonderful review from The New York Public Library: “[Penrose] mixes well-thought out mysteries, early forensic science, great details of the era and a slow burning attraction creating a compulsive read.”
I’m also delighted to announce that it has been included in the New York Public Library’s list of mystery series to get you through any crisis!
Secondly, for all those of you who have been writing and asking about future books in the series, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve just signed a new contract to continue the adventures of Wrexford and Charlotte (and the Weasels, of course!) They—along with their family of friends—will be solving mysteries for three more books! So stay tuned!
And p.s.— if you’re looking for more reading entertainment to download, all of my Lady Arianna Regency mysteries are priced less than a Starbucks latte—and tickle your taste buds for far longer than 15 minutes! (Hint: there is chocolate involved in the stories!)
You can check them out here and read sample chapters. There are now seven novels and one novella in the series, which take you throughout England and Scotland, as well Vienna and Paris—and Russia!
And more adventures will be coming!
As we’re all spending a LOT more time at home, what with remote or hybrid work, I thought I’d share a little peek at what I’m up to these days. Here’s my writing room . . . it’s much neater than usual as I can’t whine about not having time to organize my research books and scribbled notes.
And during my daily plotting walks, I’ve been working out the final twists for the next book in the series!
From My Weekly Plotting . . .
I’ll occasionally feature a photo here from my daily plotting walks (I have an MFA in Graphic Design, so I always have my camera with me, looking to capture a snippet of natural beauty or bit of history. Many turn out to be inspiration for my scenes!)
You can also follow me and my plotting walks on Instagram
I’ll also be posting a snippet each week from current WIPs, so be sure to check in often and take a peek!
Snippet from the daily plotting walk
It was an incredible experience to do an odyssey through the Greek Islands at the end of 2023, including a visit to the amazing hilltop monasteries of Meteora. Look for Lady Arianna and friends to be visiting Greece in their next adventure!
Snippet from the current WIP
Thump-thump. The sound of the dowager approaching was growing louder.
“Charlotte! Do stop woolgathering!”
“My apologies.”The Countess of Wrexford was usually practical and pragmatic, but the upcoming nuptials had stirred all sorts of sentimental thoughts about family and friends—and how over the last few years the lines between the two had become blurred beyond recognition. “I was just musing on how Love is an even more elemental bond than ties of blood.”
Alison’s gimlet gaze gave way to a softer twinkle. “True. How else to explain what binds together our exceedingly eccentric group?”
Their eyes met for a moment . . .
And then the dowager cleared her throat with a brusque cough. “Be that as it may, let us return to the subject of flowers. Because despite Hawk’s best efforts, the plans for Kit and Cordelia’s wedding flowers have gone to Hell in a handbasket!”
—Murder at King’s Crossing, coming in September 2024
The Inspiration Behind the
Wrexford & Sloane Series
I confess, given that my academic expertise in science ended in 9th grade biology class (you know, the one with formaldehyde, dead frogs and very sharp knives!) it might strike you as rather strange that science plays a big role in the plots of my Wrexford & Sloane mystery series.
I have an art background, which may seem like the polar opposite of the world of laboratories, microscopes and bubbling chemicals. I thought the same thing until I read a marvelous book called the Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes. In it, he talks about how during the Regency era, the artists and scientists all thought of themselves as kindred souls. Exploration and discovery required imagination and creative thinking—painters, poets, chemists, astronomers—they all pushed themselves to think outside the box.
Hmmm, I thought . . . these are just the same qualities required to unravel diabolical mysteries. So it suddenly struck me that having a scientist and an artist could be a really fun combination. In the Earl of Wrexford and Charlotte Sloane, I’ve sought to create two lead characters who embody the intellectual curiosity—and gritty courage—of the times. They are opposites: a brooding aristocrat whose extraordinary mind runs on the rational new principles of scientific inquiry, paired with a struggling artist whose innate cleverness and intuition are the keys to her survival. Forced to work together, Wrexford and Charlotte find they make a formidable team, despite their differences. (Ah, but as science tells us, opposites often attract!)
Okay, now I have a second confession to make—I may not be a science expert, but I’m a total Regency history geek. So it was great fun researching science during the era. Like in our own times, new discoveries and new technology were changing society. The top scientists were the hot celebrities. All the trendy people flocked to hear the public lectures at the Royal Institution, the leading scientific society in London. And yes, there were science groupies! The charismatic Humphry Davy (he’s pretty dishy, isn’t he?), the most famous chemist of the day, routinely had love letters and invitations for private hanky-panky—often wrapped in frilly undergarments—delivered backstage! (There are several scenes in my book set at the Royal Institution—I hope they will forgive me for creating intrigue and skullduggery within their hallowed halls!) You can read more about some of the real-life scientists of the Regency in the DIVERSIONS section. Just click here.
Now, on to more Regency goodies …
I also hope you’ll enjoy doing more exploring in the Diversions section here, which features some fun background on the Regency
and some of the people and places who appear in my books.
Just a few other things on logistics: The BLOG button in the social media icons will connect you to The Word Wenches, where Mary Jo Putney, Christina Courtenay, Patricia Rice, Anne Gracie, Nicola Cornick, Susan Fraser King and I blog about books, history, the craft of writing, and just about anything else you can think of!
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