What kind of research did you do for this title?
Beyond the Ballroom
Much as readers love the rides in the park and assemblies at Almack’s, we’re also increasingly interested in what else was going on in the Regency era. The Regency historical has expanded to include many types of stories and characters, as well as fascinating developments of the time. I’m always on the lookout for intriguing story possibilities, and when I came across a mention of Lord Amherst’s diplomatic mission to China in 1816, ideas started to spark. I dove right into research on the complexities of trade and politics.
But the important thing, of course, was the love story. And the prospects there were equally promising. With travel so much slower than today, this mission took years. What if a man who had just married was sent off on such a journey? How would newlyweds cope with the long separation? Two, our hero would be exposed to vast cultural differences at the Chinese Emperor’s court. The experience would probably change him. And his young wife, left to herself, would be altered as well. What would happen once they were together again? Thus, history set the stage for Married to a Perfect Stranger.
Mary was fascinated by the way her husband came to life talking to a knowledgeable colleague. He sat straighter; his eyes glowed with a relish for debate. He looked absolutely confident of his ability to contribute. She wanted to see more of this man. “What does tea have to do with opium?” she asked.
Conolly smiled at her and sat back to allow John to answer.
“Just this,” her husband replied, ticking off points on his fingers. “Tea from China is the largest single item in Britain’s trading accounts. Every Englishman wants his tea. Of course we sell goods to the Chinese as well, but not nearly enough to offset the amount we purchase. Some years ago, tea imports finally became so expensive that there wasn’t enough silver to pay for them. So traders looked for a profitable product to compensate for the loss.”
“And discovered that many Chinese like opium,” said Conolly.
“Which is illegal in China by imperial edict,” added John.
He and his coworker were like a practiced chorus, Mary thought. Obviously this was much discussed at the Foreign Office.
“However, opium is produced in India and sold there anyway.”
“By private agencies, not the British government,” her husband assured her. “But the trade is silently condoned by the East India Company.”
“Because it brings in piles of money,” Conolly supplied, “with which to buy tea.”
Mary nodded. “I see.”
“We’re rapidly reaching an impasse,” John concluded. “And it will end in war.”
“Do you think so?” If he had begun the conversation out of politeness, Conolly was wholly engrossed now. Mary could see how much he valued John’s opinion.
Her husband nodded. “All sides are obdurate. Communication is slow and uncertain and often contentious. Somebody will call out the troops in the next few years.”
Mary understood better now why John cared so much about his work and devoted so much time to it.
William Conolly looked glum, but he didn’t argue. “There must be some way we can stave it off.”
“By doing our jobs,” replied John. “Get the most accurate information to the right people.”
Title: Married to a Perfect Stranger
Author: Jane Ashford
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2015
Time and distance have changed them both…
Quiet and obliging, Mary Fleming and John Bexley marry to please their families and John immediately leaves on a two-year diplomatic mission. Now John is back, and everything they thought they knew about each other was wrong…
It’s disconcerting, irritating—and somehow all very exciting…
Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. Her romances have been published all over the world. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles, California.