Friday 21 May 2021

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club with #HistoricalFiction author GL Robinson @gl_robinson

The Lord and The Cat's Meow
By GL Robinson

Publisher: Independently Published
Publication Date: 22nd May 2021
Page length: 240 pages
Genre: Regency Romance

The perennially lazy and late Lord Devin is astonished when a petite virago called Wilhelmina accuses him of selling an unfit horse to a drayman. He isn't aware of the irregularities in his stables. Later, she foists a stray, starving kitten called Horace on him. But Hermione, his betrothed, hates cats. And Horace hates her. Where will it all end? Will Horace have to go? Will Wilhelmina be able to save the ill-treated horses in London? Will everyone end up with the right partner? This charming Regency story, set against the first Animal Rights Act of 1822, will warm your heart and make you smile. And Horace... well, you'll want to take him home.

Mary Anne: A huge congratulations on the release of The Lord and The Cat's Meow. Could you tell us a little about your protagonist(s)?

GL Robinson: The two main characters are Lord Elliott Devin and Wilhelmina (called Nina after one of my granddaughters) Chatterton, both engaged to someone else. Nina is an animal rights activist and meets Elliott when she takes him fiercely to task over selling an unfit horse. Then she foists a nearly dead kitten on him. For the first time in his life, he is personally responsible for a living creature: the cat Horace. Horace has his own way of dealing with the romantic tangle! 

Mary Anne: What inspired you to write The Lord and The Cat's Meow?

GL Robinson: The fact that 1822 was the year when the British parliament passed the first Act making cruelty to animals punishable by a fine. I had originally intended to publish it next year – the 200th anniversary, but I liked the story so much I went ahead and published it early!

Mary Anne: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing Historical Romance during this era?

GL Robinson: To make it realistic enough. We all know so much about the manners and the dress of the Regency that it’s easy to make it a caricature, with all the bowing and curtseying and playing with snuff boxes and fans. It’s easy to forget that the industrial revolution made enormous changes to society. Britain’s economy changed from an agricultural to a manufacturing base. The Regency is actually a society in flux. It is looking backwards and forwards at the same time.

Georgette Heyer didn’t shy away from referencing those things, and neither do I. I hope my books are light and funny, but still refer to real issues. 

Mary Anne: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

GL Robinson: I’d like to tell you I’m a serious researcher, but I’m not! I tend to look things up as I go. But I am very careful about language. I try not to use modernisms. If I have doubts about when a particular phrase came into the language, I look it up in the OED to be sure. I recently found myself using the word “floozy” and then had doubts. I was right. It didn’t come into English until the late 19th century. Too late for my novels. And I read a Regency a few weeks ago where the main character took “vitamins”. That word wasn’t invented till the early 20th century. I think as historical writers we have a duty to be careful about that sort of thing.
Mary Anne: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

GL Robinson: Well, I never had a younger writing self! I only began in 2018 when I was over 70. I started writing after my sister, who I was very close to, died unexpectedly in that year. We were in boarding school together and used to read Georgette Heyer under the covers with torch after lights out. The day after her funeral I woke up with the first story whole and entire in my head. I’m sure it was her. I started writing that day and I haven’t stopped! All my books are dedicated to my sister, Francine. 

It was more than half an hour before Lord Devin saw his visitor, but any of his friends would have laid odds against his being so rapid. He entered the drawing room and came towards her. If she appeared somewhat ill-kempt, he most certainly did not. His coat fit to perfection, the collar of his spotless white shirt was starched to precisely the right degree of stiffness and the folds of his neckcloth (he had discarded the ones that were troubling him) were a thing of beauty. His Hessians were refulgent and his wavy hair in the most perfect disorder. 

Miss Chatterton stood and Lord Devin executed a graceful bow. He saw she had been looking at the advertisement pages of the London Gazette from a day or so before. He briefly wondered why it was still in the drawing room.

“Miss Chatterton,” he said, looking down at her from his very superior height and deciding that Minton had been quite right. She was very attractive in a wild kind of way. She had unruly brown curls with a hint of red that had probably been put into some sort of coiffure that morning, but whatever it was, it had not lasted. They fell willy-nilly from her bonnet onto her forehead and cheeks, framing a face that owed nothing at all to artifice. She had deep brown eyes with long dark lashes, a ridiculous little nose, a mouth that was a shade too wide and, as Minton had observed, a most determined chin. She looked not unlike a rather dirty china doll, for her cheek bore a dark smudge, and Elliott noticed that it was not only her boots that bore traces of straw. Her serviceable cloak had bits and pieces sticking from it as well.

“Elliott Devin,” he said. “How may I be of service to you?”

“Wilhelmina Chatterton,” replied his guest, removing a well-worn glove and holding out her hand, which he gracefully bowed over. “Though I’m usually called Nina.”

Then she continued tartly, “You, Lord Devin, may be of service to me by ceasing to put advertisements in the newspaper to sell your horses when you have ridden them lame and have no more use for them.”

She removed her hand, which he was still holding, staring at her in a bemused fashion, and picked up the London Gazette. She thrust it at him, pointing at the offending column.

Sure enough, looking at where her (dirty, it must be said) finger was pointing, he read:

Selling a Good Riding Horse,
Now Superfluous to Requirements.
Buyers May Address Themselves to the
Stables in the Mews of
Number 11 Grosvenor Square.

“I found this advertisement from a couple of days ago. You will not deny, I hope, that this is your address! If the poor animal had been useful as a riding horse, no doubt you would have put it up at Tattersall’s.” said Miss Chatterton, with a light kindling in her eyes. “The fact you advertised it here shows you were expecting to sell it to anyone to use it in any way they liked. I yesterday rescued what I believe to be this horse from a drayman who was too stupid to see it had an ulcerated hoof and was in dreadful pain.” Her brown eyes filled with tears which she angrily brushed away, continuing with increasing passion. “Your stables sold the suffering animal as simply needing to be re-shod. It was the purest chance I saw it in the street and was able to buy it from the brute who would have continued to whip it even though it could not move. It was cruelty of the worst kind. I have come to tell you that I am making a report on the matter to the Constabulary. You must know that last year Parliament passed a law making cruelty to animals punishable by a fine. The fine will no doubt be risible to a man of your wealth and consequence but I imagine an article in the newspaper mentioning you by name will not be so laughable.”

Lord Devin was struck less by Miss Chatterton’s threat of unpleasant publicity than by the fire in her eyes that flamed as her passion grew. She was not of an imposing stature, but as she spoke, throwing back her shoulders back and raising her chin, he found it impossible to take his gaze off her.

“My dear Miss Chatterton, you must know I do not deal with the day-to-day running of my stables,” he said after a moment to collect his thoughts. “I have a large number of horses. I am completely ignorant of this advertisement, and, in fact, surprised, since I believed our superannuated or unfit animals were returned to our estate in the country and put out to pasture.”

“Then let us go at once and determine whether the animal I rescued was indeed yours. I don’t know why the drayman would have lied, but one can never be sure in such circumstances. People will say anything to get out of trouble.”

She fixed him with a look that gave him no doubt she was talking about him as much as the drayman.

“I assure you, I have no need to lie about such an insignificant matter.”

“Insignificant matter?” she cried. “To you, perhaps, living in luxury with no doubt scores of people to dance attendance on you! But to the poor horse, it was otherwise! He was in constant pain and had nothing but misery to look forward to!”

“But I…” Lord Devin drew himself up short. Why was he arguing with this termagant, pretty though she was? Besides, he thought with a rare moment of self-criticism, he was surrounded by scores of people who did dance attendance on him. Then the thought of Minton dancing made him smile.

“I see that amuses you, Lord Devin!” Miss Chatterton was outraged. “I pity poor Lady Devin, if the contemplation of the misery of God’s creatures is a source of fun for you!”

“There is no Lady Devin, Madam.” He was shaken out of his habitual calm and could not stop himself. “And if there were, I may tell you at once, she would have nothing to complain about.”

“That, I very much doubt, if my observation of your character is anything to go by,” answered his fierce critic. “But you are wasting my time. I told your man I was busy, and I am. Let us go to the stables at once, or if you are too preoccupied with your own comfort, I shall go alone.”

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I'm a product of a convent boarding school in the south of England in the 1950's and early 60's. You can probably guess I received an old-fashioned education. I learned a great deal about the humanities and practically nothing in the sciences. The only science I remember is the ditty: Miss Cummings (our teacher) was a scientist, alas she is no more, for what she took for H2O (water) was H2SO4 (sulphuric acid). Not bad, eh? Words to live by.

I met my American husband while working in Brussels, then moved with him to Bonn. My first child was born in Brussels and then I had twins in Germany. I never heard the word “Push!” in English! I've lived in the USA for over 40 years. I'm a retired French professor and have seven grandchildren and the same husband I started with. 

We’re getting ready to move from upstate New York (a lovely, rural and CHEAP area) to Boston, where two of our kids live. They think we should be near them in our old age(!) But the house prices are four times as much. If I tell you our financial plan is dependent on winning the lottery, you can see why I need to sell A LOT of books!

My writing journey began in July 2018 when my sister, Francine, who I was very close to in spite of living continents apart, died from cancer. When we were in the boarding school all those years ago we used to giggle at Georgette Heyer’s books under the covers after lights-out. The day after her funeral I woke up with a Regency Romance story whole and entire in my head. Having never written fiction before (my previous writings tended to be on such fascinating subjects as the use of the subjunctive in subordinate clauses), in two months I wrote what turned out to be my House of Hale Trilogy. I know she inspired me. I’ve been writing ever since and now have 9 books (soon to be 10) on Amazon. All my books are dedicated to her. She sits on my shoulder as I write.

People ask why I self-publish, and I suppose really it’s because of my age. Initially, I went the usual query route but waited ages but got no traction (why do I always think of dirt bikes when I write that?). I’m in my 70’s and thought if that carried on I could be dead before anything happened, so I decided to self-publish! I'm so glad I did. It was a bit of a learning process but I love the control you have over your books and unless you're a famous author I believe you earn more. 

When I’m asked what I read I’m often a bit ashamed to admit I don’t read many novels in my genre, except for Georgette Heyer (still!), who I can quote from memory! But I should give a shout-out to Regency writers Audrey Harrison, who was a mentor for me in the beginning, and Jenny Hambly. They are both good writers and good people!

 My recent reads have been A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, which I think you’d classify as serious literary fiction, but I’ve also enjoyed The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. 

I do like books with a little humour! My own are quite funny, I think!

If there’s one book I think everyone should read it’s To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. The messages about prejudice, both racial and against the handicapped, are more needed now than ever.

My next book, The Lord and the Cat’s Meow, is coming out on 22 May. It stars a cat called Horace. Originally I had planned it for 2022, which is the 200th anniversary of the world’s first Animal Rights Act in England in 1822, but I liked it so much, I couldn’t bear to wait! I’ve never owned a cat but Horace really spoke to me!

I’ve just finished a split time-line novel, beginning in Paris in 1793 and ending in London in 1815. It's a new departure for me, and I enjoyed writing it! It’s called the Lord and the Unwilling Mistress. It will be out towards the end of the year.

And so, dear Reader, I ask you, why do you read? Is it to escape, just to relax or for information? Or for some other reason entirely? How could I help you achieve your goals in my writing? I’d love to hear from you. My readers are an enormous help to me, choosing book covers -  I had a horrible one for The Cat’s Meow till a reader set me straight! -  and titles. The title of the first of my Trilogy The Earl and the Mud-Covered Maiden was chosen by my readers. Please contact me via my website, where you can also get a free short story and listen to the first chapters of all my novels, plus see pix of me and my sister and grandchildren. Thank you!

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx