Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Joint Blog Tour - Rhys Bowen and Tasha Alexander

Well, this is a treat. Today, I have a joint post from Rhys Bowen and Tasha Alexander. Rhys has a new Molly Murphy mystery due out on March 3, The Edge of Dreams. Alexander's latest mystery, The Counterfeit Heiress, is part of the ongoing Lady Emily series. It's a pleasure to welcome both of them to Lesa's Book Critiques to talk about why we're hooked on historical novels. And, check the end of the post for a giveaway of both books.

Why Are We So Hooked on Historical Novels?

RHYS: You know, Tasha, I think we’re really lucky. We are writing our historical novels at the perfect time.
It’s only recently that historical novels have become so popular.  It seems that people can’t get enough of taking a trip to the past. Why do you think that is?

I think there are several factors at work here:
We live in stressful times. Abundant news media means that we know what’s going on in North Korea and the Middle East. We are living with terrorists among us. The present clearly isn’t a time one wants to linger in. We want to escape to a kinder, gentler era.

We know that the past wasn’t really safer but seems to us now a time of order and security. Those servants at Downton Abbey knew what was required of them. They worked hard, but they were looked after, well fed and safe.

We live in an age of rush and hurry. There never seems to be a moment to sit down and take a breath. When we think of the past we picture tea on the lawns, time to gossip with neighbors. Even in the fairly humble level of society that Molly Murphy inhabits she has time to enjoy visits to her neighbors, to sit on her mother-in-law’s lawn on a summer afternoon.

We think of the past as an age of elegance. There is so little that is elegant and beautiful in our lives now. People wear jeans to the opera. New fashion is bitty and ugly. New music is loud and repetitious and discordant.

How we envy those long elegant dresses that Tasha’s ladies wear. And lovely kid gloves and dressing for dinner, and fine bone china, and musical evenings and leather bound books and fine horses… I must stop. I’m getting too nostalgic.

This is our impression of the past—endless summer afternoons and shooting parties and carriage rides. It’s a false impression, of course. There were people working under deplorable conditions in factories. There were beggars on street corners. There were children dying of diseases and mothers working themselves to death while they had one child after another.

But even Bob Cratchet’s life seems glamorized for us in fiction.

I could not agree more with each of your points, Rhys. The past is endlessly appealing, partly because we can romanticize it – we don’t have to immerse ourselves in all of it, just the bits we like – but also because it gives us the opportunity to consider the human condition from a distance. I am struck, over and over, when doing research, by how similar the concerns of people in previous centuries are to ours. Because they are not right here next to us, we can evaluate their situations without feeling that we are judging the present with too critical an eye. I write about the last Gilded Age, and the 1890s are shockingly similar to the world today. They had anarchists instead of terrorists, but would recognize the inequality of wealth that plagues our society. Somehow, it feels easier to look into the past and draw conclusions about these things than to try to work out how the world should be dealing with them now.

When we don’t want to think about such things, we can dismiss them and focus instead on the things Rhys has highlighted above: country house parties, balls, Worth gowns, dashing gentlemen, and servants who are treated well by their employers. There is so much ugliness around us today – ugliness that we cannot avoid. Who could blame us for wanting to escape into the past?

Humans love nostalgia. I would bet that our 19th century counterparts romanticized the past as much as we do, even if they didn’t have the ample supplies of historical novels we do. I can well imagine two refined ladies sitting around a tea table in 1811 England lamenting the loss of 18th century elegance. And two 18th century ladies wishing they could have lived through the Restoration of the Monarchy. Could there be something built into us that makes us always wish for that which we cannot have?

I'm grateful that Rhys Bowen and Tasha Alexander took the time to discuss historical novels. I have ARCs (Advanced Readers' Copies) of both books to give away. If you'd like to win one, email me at Lesa.Holstine@gmail.com. Your subject line should read "Win The Edge of Dreams" or "Win The Counterfeit Heiress." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Friday, Feb. 20 at 6 PM CT.

If you haven't read their books, here is the information on their websites, and their latest books.

Rhys Bowen's website is www.rhysbowen.com
The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen
  • ISBN-13: 9781250052025
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/3/2015
  • Series: Molly Murphy Series , #14
  • Pages: 320

Tasha Alexander's website is www.tashaalexander.com
The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander
  • ISBN-13: 9781250024695
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/14/2014
  • Series: Lady Emily Series , #9
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 304


Kay said...

I enjoyed Rhys and Tasha's comments. I've read part of both series - I'm behind, what can I say? LOL

Think their thoughts are right on target, plus their books get to have lovely covers. Thanks for sharing this, Lesa!

Patricia T said...

I love historical novels, too, and would love to win either of these books. Thanks for the giveaway!

Libby Dodd said...

An excellent discussion.
I believe it was Randy Newman who said, "The 'good old days' are good and gone. That's why they're good--because they're gone."
Time provides perspective but also convenient myopia.

Diane Morrow said...

I liked reading the blog with two of my favorite authors. I would like to win either book. Too hard to choose between the two. Thanks

Lesa said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed the discussion. I was in meetings all day today, so didn't get to read comments earlier.