Welcome to Book Chat with Julie! With the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth, this month I’d like to recommend a book that also highlights another long-ruling Queen and her family as well as a collection of novellas set during Queen Victoria’s reign.
My first recommendation is In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather Moore. Ms. Moore is well-known in the reading world as an expert in weaving historical details throughout a story and making historical figures come to life—and In the Shadow of a Queen does not disappoint.
The book is based on a true story and focuses on Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise. It is broken up into three parts and begins with the untimely death of Louise’s father, Prince Albert. From there, Louise grows into adulthood and must learn to live a life where every facet is overshadowed by her mother’s grief. But Louise has hopes and dreams of her own that clash with her mother’s perpetual mourning and their relationship is tested at every turn. And while we know the ending from history books, readers will love this fascinating and fictionalized account that makes the history jump off the page.
Ms. Moore does an exceptional job of drawing the reader into Princess Louise’s royal life. The details included in the story provide a depth that makes it seem as if the readers are getting a peek at palace life behind closed doors. Princess Louise is a complex person. She has dreams of being a sculptor—something virtually unheard of for a respectable woman in that time period. Readers will sympathize with Louise’s need to have her mother’s approval with her need to create and be her own person with thoughts and opinions.
She is interested in the politics of the day and furthering women’s right to vote, which is difficult for her mother to truly understand. Louise has a stubborn determination, but also a gentle heart, which makes her likable and easy to relate to. This story brings to the fore the changing times of Victorian England and the challenges that faced both royal and common women, while highlighting a family who has many of the same problems most families face—but have to deal with on a world stage. The author’s flawless research into the entire royal family and the events and emotions that shaped their lives makes In the Shadow of a Queen a can’t-miss book.
My second recommendation is An Autumn Kiss, a Victorian-era novella collection with an autumn theme from three historical romance writers, Lisa Catmull, Annette Lyon and Laura Rollins.
The first story is The Plucky Miss Ruth by Laura Rollins. Miss Ruth feels like she’s living the same day over and over again. Her life is extremely predictable—until Lord Lambert appears. He brings a spark that was missing and Miss Ruth enlists his help in reuniting her cousin with her lost love. The story is sweet and romantic, offering two romances in one story. Ms. Rollins is a new-to-me author and I will definitely be looking for more of her work!
The second story is Mr. Dowling’s Remedy by Annette Lyon. This is a very unique historical romance in the fact that it takes place in an asylum called Sherville Retreat. Crandall Dowling meets Beverly Stanton, a new resident at the asylum and someone he’s immediately drawn to. Both of them are faced with difficult circumstances and neither of them truly belong at Sherville Retreat. They find a possible path that could lead to their release, but before their plans are in place, disaster strikes and they are separated. Readers will be turning pages long past bedtime to find out how this one ends, and to see if Crandall and Beverly get their happily-ever-after!
The third story is A Railway Through the Roses by Lisa Catmull. This was a friends-to-something more story with a sigh-worthy ending. Adrian Everard’s father has told him he must marry to save their family’s fortunes—and he must marry an heiress. Lady Anne Baxter, an heiress and long-time friend of Adrian’s, has longed for someone to love her for herself, but since that hasn’t happened, she’s focused on being a good landowner. She watches Adrian court a woman with a large dowry, worries over the idea of him marrying without love, and begins to realize that maybe her feelings for him are more than just friends. A delightful romance that will leave readers with a smile.
Behind the Scenes—A Chat with Annette Lyon
Annette Lyon is a prolific author with many awards to her name and some of my favorite books, too! It was fun to catch up with her and get a behind-the-scenes look at her intriguing asylum romance in the An Autumn Kiss collection. I included several questions here, but if you’d like to hear more of our chat, you can tune into my Book Chat with Julie podcast.
Julie: Your romance in the Autumn Kiss collection is very unique in that it is set in an asylum. How much research did you have to do for that? Did you find any odd or interesting tidbits in your research journey?
Annette: I stumbled onto the original research by accident—a YouTube series of actual case studies from a Victorian-era asylum. The episode notes led to some amazing resources, including many primary documents that have been digitized.
The sheer amount of information was overwhelming, so I had to pull back and narrow down what to use and focus on. As odd and interesting as the treatments and diagnoses were, I found the legal history of mental illness in England to be the most fascinating, and that’s where the story ended up going, too. (No spoilers on that!)
Julie: Your hero suffers from what I believe is Tourette’s Syndrome. Not much seemed to be known about it back then. Have they found a treatment for it now?
Annette: Exactly right! The story is set shortly after Tourette’s was officially identified and named after the French doctor who identified it. As the story shows, it was seriously misunderstood back then.
While there is no cure, better treatments do exist today, though many of them focus on specific symptoms, and most people don’t get full relief. They manage symptoms, and they get good at masking/hiding certain tics, but the condition will always be there to one degree or another.
One fascinating thing I learned is that arguably the most-known symptom of Tourette’s is found in only 10% of those diagnosed with the condition: coprolalia, or verbal tics/outbursts, often of swear words or other offensive terms. Even so, I gave Crandall that symptom so modern readers would have a good idea of his condition without it being spelled out.
One big help in writing Crandall’s condition was a TikTok user Katariina Raikkonen, a teen in Finland who has Tourette’s and chronicles her experience.
Julie: Would you agree that your story has a bit of a gothic feel to it?
Annette: I suppose so! I hadn’t thought of it those terms, but it fits in the sense of a sprawling Victorian property with secrets and dark things going on, as well as some of what happens in the story. The autumn setting certainly helps there.
Julie: When does your next book come out?
Annette: My debut suspense novel, Just One More, releases on March 21 with Penzler Publishing’s new suspense imprint, Scarlet Books.
Julie: What are you working on now?
Annette: I’m researching and drafting my next suspense novel while keeping an eye out for ideas to use in my next Timeless novella, which will be set in the Georgian era.
Thank you so much for joining me for our book chat today. I hope you’re able to enjoy the fall season by snuggling up with a soft blanket and a good book!
In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather Moore published by Shadow Mountain Publishing, 416 pages, available in hardcover, audio, and ebook.
An Autumn Kiss by Laura Rollins, Annette Lyon, and Lisa Catmull, published by Mirror Press, 275 pages, available in softcover, audio, and ebook.
After winning $10 in a second-grade writing contest, Julie Coulter Bellon knew she wanted to be a published author someday. That dream came true and she is now an award-winning author of thirty books. She is also a podcast host for Authors Off the Page and Book Chat with Julie.