Edith here, and I’m happy to welcome Barbara Monajem, my fellow Guppy, and her new mystery! Here’s the blurb:
London, 1811. Lady Rosamund’s mortifying compulsion remains a secret until she discovers the body of a footman at dead of night. Now an anonymous caricaturist mocks her in scandalous prints, and poison pen letters show someone knows too much about her. Suddenly, her sanity—and her life—are at stake.
Take it away, Barbara!
Years ago, I bought a copy of Bleak House by Charles Dickens. Once I had foolishly purchased this massive tome, I had to at least try to read it. Very early in the book (that’s as far as I got), there’s a scene from the point of view of a girl who has been taught to see herself as valueless—not intelligent, not lovable, not worthy, not this, that, or the other. She’s an illegitimate child, which explains it somewhat, as at the time of the story, children born out of wedlock had no legal status. But there was also a class system in England, in which some people were perceived as being inherently “better” than others simply by virtue of their social class at birth—which was absurd and unjust, but people accepted it for centuries.
It may seem a stretch from deploring injustice to writing a mystery from the first-person point of view of one of the so-called betters, but I’ve published a number of Regency romances and am familiar with the society of the time. It was fascinating to put myself into the mind of a well-bred lady from two hundred years ago, who makes assumptions and harbors prejudices that seem awful today. Lady Rosamund Phipps is the daughter of an earl—wealthy, privileged, and taught to believe in her innate superiority. She means well but has no idea how the other ninety-nine percent live, much less how they view themselves and their social superiors. As she finds herself pulled into situations a lady should never encounter, she blunders, sometimes unforgivably.
“Being” her—writing from such an intimate point of view—was sometimes a bit scary, as it led to close examination of my own prejudices. Which attitudes from my childhood led to certain patterns of thought, and how have they changed? Did I really used to think like this or that? (I remember believing as a child that people who couldn’t spell were a bit stupid. Now I know better, but why did I think that way back then?) Why was it sometimes so easy to understand and predict Lady Rosamund’s thoughts and reactions, and sometimes so difficult?
Even within Lady Rosamund’s exalted sphere, “better” doesn’t mean safer or happier. She marries a man who agrees to leave her be and stick to his mistress, because she finds the idea of sexual intimacy so distasteful. Her anxieties lead to compulsive behavior (I even chose my own personal compulsion, which is to check things over and over, because I felt I could write it realistically) and a fear of being confined as a madwoman by her scandal-averse family. So when a caricaturist—the equivalent of a modern-day paparazzo—mocks her in scandalous prints, and she receives anonymous letters hinting that the world will learn of her compulsion, she has to DO something about the situation. And of course, she does.
I’m pleased to send one of you a copy of Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen.
Readers: Did you have prejudices as a child that you find incomprehensible now? Do you have any compulsions that annoy the heck out of you? Is political correctness a solution to prejudice, or merely a sort of bandage, a way of covering up attitudes that still fester underneath? Do you enjoy reading novels written in first person? If not, why not?
USA Today Bestselling Author Barbara Monajem has published over twenty historical novels. She has two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding (too weird to resist) and succeed at knitting socks. She managed the first (it was ghastly) but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta with relatives, friends, and feline strays.