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Guest blogger: Renée Dahlia

7 October 2018

From the old wooden chest

My family has a rich history in aristocratic Europe—having fled the Russian Revolution with jewels sewn into their clothes, they eventually settled in Holland. Living in Amsterdam brought with it new members of the family, including Josephine d’Ancona—born in the Dutch East Indies, her father was a Dutch diplomat of French heritage, and she was one of the first women to graduate as a doctor in Holland. The Bluestockings series is loosely based on her achievements. As a family we know almost nothing about Josephine’s father, yet with an aristocratic surname, my imagination would love to think of him as descended from French Revolution escapees. The circle of the two families torn apart by different revolutions and brought together in Holland appeals to me, although I am conflicted by being on the wrong side of history in both cases. The French nor the Russian aristocracy (and English for that matter) tended to suppress the general populace, and it’s no wonder the people rose up against them.

The Heart of a Bluestocking is the third book in my Bluestocking series and can be read as a stand-alone title. By the time we meet the three friends again in The Heart of a Bluestocking, both Josephine (To Charm a Bluestocking), and Marie (In Pursuit of a Bluestocking) have their happily ever after. Claire’s father is a rich manufacturing tycoon, who has taken advantage of the Industrial Revolution to make a substantial fortune. His money is the key reason Claire has had the opportunity to travel and become educated. Now she has graduated, Claire is determined to stay single. She has goals to achieve, and she understands how much she would have to give up when she marries:

‘Those are pretty words. I’m sure you are aware that the law doesn’t agree with you,’ she said tightly.

‘Not precisely. The Married Women’s Property Act of 1882 allows a woman to keep the possessions she brings to a marriage.’

‘That doesn’t make her any less of a possession herself.’ The whisper in her ear became a wild roar, and she spat out, ‘I refuse to be any man’s possession. No matter how prettily he speaks about challenges and ego.’

‘I don’t believe I was speaking about you. Just a general comment about my own preferences,’ he said.

She gasped and her hands flew to her flaming cheeks. How dare he?

‘I suppose you prefer someone pretty with a large fortune too,’ she said, as snidely as she could manage, but her voice cracked with the underlying conflicting emotions.

‘A large fortune is always desirable.’ Was it her imagination, or did his eyes just dip down and graze her body? Her skin came alight with his visual caress.

‘And beauty?’

‘Beauty is everywhere. It’s the cheapest quality any potential wife can offer, and the old saying is true, external beauty fades. If I had to choose a wife, I’d want one who has internal beauty. Who will be beautiful to me for all time, even after her hair greys and her skin wrinkles. I want someone to share my life with …

I have enjoyed writing about the Victorian era, especially in the 1880s, with the conflux of social change, the emergence of suffragettes, formal education becoming more available to women, the rise of technology and subsequent shift in wealth base and, of course, the beginnings of globalisation via steam ships and the telegraph. As part of this shift in society, this book reflects a much more diverse and inclusive cast than many historical romances. I did a lot of research for Ravi, my Anglo-Indian hero, to ensure I gave him a historically accurate and kind story. In my research, I found that Anglo-Indian people in the Regency and Victorian eras are much more common in real history than we ever see in historical romance, with up to one-third of British East India company employees giving all their assets in their wills to their Indian wife and Anglo-Indian children. The two books I found most helpful (among all the reading I did) were An Era of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor and These Days by Sunil Gangopadhyay, set in the 1857 Uprising. I also used three sensitivity readers, and this helped improve Ravi and his brother’s characters, as well as including a few Hindi phrases.

Ultimately, The Heart of a Bluestocking is about two people who don’t quite fit the standard of their time—Claire is an educated woman in 1888, while Ravi often finds himself torn between the different worlds of his father and mother. As the tagline says: When an uncommon lawyer meets an unusual doctor, their story must be extraordinary …

Renée Dahlia is an unabashed romance reader who loves feisty women and strong, clever men. Her books reflect this, with a side-note of dark humour. Renée has a science degree in physics. When not distracted by the characters fighting for attention in her brain, she works in the horse racing industry doing data analysis. She writes for two racing publications, churning out feature articles, interviews and advertorials. When she isn’t reading or writing, Renée wrangles a husband, four children, and volunteers on the local cricket club committee.

You can find Renée here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

The Heart of a Bluestocking

When an uncommon lawyer meets an unusual doctor, their story must be extraordinary …

September 1888: Dr Claire Carlingford owns the bluestocking label. Her tycoon father encouraged her to study, and with the support of her two best friends, she took it further than anyone could imagine, graduating as a doctor and running her own medical practice. But it’s not enough for her father. He wants her to take over the business, so he can retire. Then his sudden arrest throws the family into chaos and his business into peril.

Mr James Ravi Howick, second son of Lord Dalhinge, wants to use his position as a lawyer to improve conditions for his mother’s family in India. When an opportunity arises to work for Carlingford Enterprises, one of the richest companies in the world, Ravi leaps at the chance to open his own legal practise. But his employment becomes personal as he spends more time with Claire and she learns the secret that could destroy his family.

Both Ravi and Claire are used to being outsiders and alone. But as they work together to save their respective families from disaster, it becomes clear that these two misfits might just fit together perfectly.

PRE-ORDER NOW from Escape Publishing (out 20 October 2018)

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