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Interview with Rose Lerner + Giveaway!

I'm so lucky to have discovered Rose Lerner's books just over four years ago now in the form of her debut novel In for a Penny. Since then, I have eagerly anticipated each of her releases. And today I'm so pleased to be a part of the blog tour for her upcoming release True Pretenses. I had the good fortune to read an early copy for review and I can tell you it's giving A Lily Among Thorns a run for its money as my favorite of all Rose's books! No small feat, that. If you're new to the series, be sure to check out the first Lively St. Lemeston bookSweet Disorder—which is currently on sale for just 99 cents! And now without further ado, please welcome Rose Lerner!

First things first: A thief hero! From Robin Hood to Megan Whalen Turner’s Eugenides, I adore a good rogue. What made you decide to make Ash a con man, and do you have a few of your own favorite fictional thieves?

Me too! I've always been especially fascinated by the skill/craftsmanship aspects like safecracking, pickpocketing, forging and lockpicking. Until seeing it again a few years ago, literally the only thing I remembered into adulthood about the Last Unicorn movie was Schmendrick picking the lock on the unicorn's cage.  

I decided to make Ash a con man because I watched a movie called "The Brothers Bloom" in which Mark Ruffalo plays a con artist who raised his little brother and they have an intense, unhealthily codependent relationship and BAD THINGS HAPPEN. I was heartbroken and I wanted to fix it. So I did. :)

A few favorite fictional thieves: the crew from Leverage, Bunny and Raffles, Moist von Lipwig from the Discworld series, Aladdin, George from the Alanna books. My devious little angels! And a favorite historical romance is Joanna Bourne's My Lord and Spymaster, in which the heroine was raised as a street thief.

Your books were actually the first historical romances I ever read and reviewed, and I remain fascinated by other romance readers’ points of entry. When did you start reading romance, and which book and/or author did you first fall for hard?

Oh, that’s so cool! I started reading Regency romances when I was 12 or 13. I was doing a career-mentorship program and my middle school matched me up with a very kind local writer, who offered to introduce me to a published author she knew. That happened to be Regency romance author Carola Dunn, and I got one of her books out of the library as interview prep.

(My mom used to read Regencies back in the 70s—she started again when I did—and I remember her trying to explain to me what they were: 'A lot of times someone gets kidnapped, or they get sick and need to be nursed back to health...')

A dozen romances or so later, I was hooked and scouring the shelves for books with similar covers. My favorite of hers was Miss Jacobson's Journey, about a Jewish woman, an earl, and a Talmudic-scholar-turned-adventurer smuggling Rothschild gold for Wellington's payroll through France and across the Pyrenees. There's a love triangle, derring-do, and lots of bad hotel food.

The Lively St. Lemeston books comprise your first series, if I’m not mistaken. How differently did you approach a series of connected stories as opposed to your previous standalones? And how many books do we have to look forward to?

The books are very loosely linked, so there isn't much interconnected plotting that needs to happen. The main difference is that I already have a certain degree of familiarity with the world when I start writing a new story, which helps jumpstart things for me. And I need to keep track of continuity, so I have a series bible for the first time ever.

When I finished Sweet Disorder, I wasn't planning for it to be a series. I was actually working on a smuggling story (I still hope to write that book one day), and while discussing it at RWA with an editor, she asked me, "Could it be in a series with Sweet Disorder?" I just didn't see how. "Well, could they take place in the same town?"

Hmm. I had gotten fond of Lively St. Lemeston. Why not set more books there? The smuggling story needed an isolated coastline and general eerie atmosphere, but I had just come up with the idea for True Pretenses, and since Ash was a traveling con artist, there was no reason he couldn't come to Lively St. Lemeston. Suddenly the story started to flesh itself out and I was really, really excited. So I would like to thank that editor!

I tend to respond favorably to protagonists who have their backs against the wall, literally and/or figuratively. Lydia and Ash felt particularly kindred spirits to me, with the weight (or lack thereof) of family history on their shoulders, their hopes for and frustrations with their younger brothers, and their own unexpected association. Can you tell us a little more of what makes these two tick and what changes for them when they enter each other’s lives?

Me too! I like stakes to be high. That doesn’t necessarily mean objectively high, like life and death or the fate of nations or anything, but I want them to feel high to the protagonists (I am a sucker for fate-of-the-family-restaurant stories, for example).

Both Ash and Lydia took on “adult” responsibilities very young, raising their little brothers from babies (Lydia with help from her father, Ash on his own). They’ve focused most of their emotional energy on their siblings, partly as a way of shoving their own childhood grief and loneliness to the back burner. Ash imagines that he and his brother Rafe will be con artist partners for the rest of their lives, and Lydia plans for her brother Jamie to eventually take over from their father Lord Wheatcroft as Tory patron of Lively St. Lemeston, with her as his hostess and partner.

So when Rafe announces that he wants to go straight, and Jamie announces shortly after Lord Wheatcroft’s death that he doesn’t plan to pursue politics, both Ash and Lydia have serious empty nest syndrome. It’s as if, as well as threatening these close relationships and career choices, the change snatches their entire identities from them. I think they need each other to remind them that they are whole people, even without the roles and responsibilities they’ve taken on.

What is one book and/or series (from any genre) you’ve been gushing about nonstop lately?

A Bollywood Affair. OMG SO GOOD. The heroine is adorable and heartbreaking, the hero's angsty backstory was incredibly effective. Every trope was used so perfectly. Plus I love a romance where food is important. Read it, but make sure you have snacks around when you do.

And just for fun, what’s the first word that comes to mind when I say:

It's funny, I'm not good at this...I get flashes of images, not words. So I'm describing the image that popped into my head instead.

Lydia: pansies. They're such a quiet, self-contained, but vivid flower.
Books: the stack of research books falling over under my night-table.
Delicious: a Martha Stewart Living-style food photograph that appears to be some kind of puff pastry dough square with ham in it?
Ash: a wrinkled button-down under a rumpled suit jacket. Yes, I know they didn't have button-downs in the Regency.
Romance: two people laughing by a fountain in Central Park. Wow, my brain is embarrassing.
Writing: my composition notebook.
Hero:  a dapper cartoon character with dark hair falling in his eyes and Edwardian evening dress.
Sexy: chocolate and a bright color palette like Star Trek: TOS or the con artist TV show Hustle.
Love: a group of people watching TV together.
Home: my home. :)

Thanks so much, Rose!

Thanks for having me!


And now for the giveaway! Rose is offering an ebook of True Pretenses to one lucky reader. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter. The giveaway will run one week from today (1/21). Good luck!


  1. My favorite fictional thief is Eugenides, of course. MWT made me want to read more books that had fictional thieves. I'm so glad Joanna Bourne's My Lord and Spymaster was mentioned in this interview because I loved that book and I think it deserves more attention.

  2. Such a hard choice! Rogues, thieves, and tricksters are my favorite types of heroes and heroines. I've always been particularly partial to Alan from the Sarah Rees Brennan's demon lexicon series. Somehow he manages to make compulsive lying absolutely charming

  3. Tina - OMG I ADORE Alan. He and Sin are SO PERFECT together. I love that with each other, they don't have to be a particular role, they can be all of them at once and that ADDS to their relationship instead of detracting. Like when he says that's why he calls her Cynthia. I read an essay about Dostoyevsky once that said "Together, the truth and the lies make up a truth of their own," and I feel like Brennan did that so beautifully with those two.

    Chachic - I am realizing that I need to move Megan Whalen Turner further up the TBR list. I agree, I feel like My Lord and Spymaster rarely gets mentioned when people discuss her books, but it's my very favorite by far! (Haven't read Rogue Spy yet though. It's on my shelf. I'm excited.)

  4. OMG I ADORE Alan. He and Sin are SO PERFECT together. I love that with each other, they don't have to be a particular role, they can be all of them at once and that ADDS to their relationship instead of detracting. Like when he says that's why he calls her Cynthia. I read an essay about Dostoyevsky once that said "Together, the truth and the lies make up a truth of their own," and I feel like Brennan did that so beautifully with those two.

  5. I am realizing that I need to move Megan Whalen Turner further up the TBR list. I agree, I feel like My Lord and Spymaster rarely gets mentioned when people discuss her books, but it's my very favorite by far! (Haven't read Rogue Spy yet though. It's on my shelf. I'm excited.)

  6. In a hilarious moment of small-world-ness, my mom is a dog-walking-friend of Carola Dunn's!

    And I actually kept thinking of Alan & Sin a lot when reading True Pretenses.

  7. That's amazing! Are you from Eugene, then? I grew up there. And yay, that's a wonderful compliment. I want an entire book about Alan and Sin roadtripping and hustling pool. And probably darts. Alan must be incredible at darts.

  8. Not anymore, but I lived there when I was in college and my mom still lives out there.

  9. I rather liked the thieving con artist duo in the third "Edge" book by Ilona Andrews.
    Plus, as a kid, I always had a kind of weird thing for the animated fox Robin Hood...
    And when I think of "tricksters," I always think of Tamora Pierce's books about George and Alanna's daughter Ali.

  10. LOL... all I can think of is Maverick with James Gardiner and Mel Gibson... I don't know if that fits the question, but that's all my brain will spit out :) Congrats to Rose on the new release!!! Thanks for the fun post!

  11. I think my obsession with the Alanna books had passed by the time the books about their daughter came out...I think the Wild Magic series were the last ones I read. You intrigue me with the Ilona Andrews! I've got a couple of her books in my TBR.

  12. Thanks! Someone else was just recommending that movie to me a couple days ago, so clearly the universe is trying to tell me something with help from your brain. :)

  13. Aw, I love that answer! They kind of ARE traveling con men, aren't they? That's awesome.

  14. I'm sure Angie would back me up in pushing you to read MWT's books because they are awesome. Elizabeth Wein's Lion Hunters series is also a good one and has a very sneaky character called Telemakos. :) Joanna Bourne's novels are so much fun to read, very different from all the other historical romances that I've tried. I haven't read Rogue Spy either but will definitely pick it up sooner or later.

  15. I'm currently loving the TV show "Jane the Virgin," so I'm picking Petra as my favorite con artist. The villain's identity (known as Sin Rostro = "without face") is a big mystery so that person might be my favorite when the identity is revealed! I thought "Pushing Daisies" was canceled too soon, so I squealed when the creator came out with Jane the Virgin. It's delightfully campy and quirky with a hilarious voiceover narrator. Courtney Milan loves the show, and I trust her opinion in many things. :)

  16. I love the group in Inception. It's one of my favorite movies, and that is one bad-ass con they're pulling off.

  17. I'm totally with you on George. My friend used to be a staunch Jonathan fan and we would get into heated discussions about who was better for Alanna (I was always pro-George). I also really liked Saf from Kristin Cashore's Bitterblue.

  18. Ooh, I love Petra!!! Do you think Sin Rostro is her mom? I have wondered.

  19. Ooh, good choice. I was so excited when I started watching that movie and realized it was a heist film!

  20. Oh yeah, George all the way. I liked Jonathan but he was too bossy! And George was just such a dreamboat from second one. I still haven't read Bitterblue--I loved the first couple of books in the series but I really thought from the early buzz that Bitterblue was going to have a romance with a girl and then I heard that didn't happen and I was so disappointed that I never got around to reading the book. You think it's worth it, though?

  21. YEESSS EXACTLY! Hmmmmmm I also really loved the first two and I hoped Bitterblue would be on that same level but it just didn't quite cut it for me. I still enjoyed reading it though, and it was less romance-centric than the previous books (not that the previous ones were super romance-centric to begin with).

  22. That would make sense, but I sort of want Sin Rostro to be somebody totally surprising!

  23. Yeah, me too! My roommate has also speculated that it's Rafael's stepmom...

  24. Hmm. Not quite a ringing endorsement...I'll tentatively reinsert it into the TBR but...towards the bottom. :)

  25. Eugenides, of course. With some stiff competition from Cassel Sharpe from Holly Black's Curseworkers series.

  26. they have to be for the lives they lead--they definitely aren't your average joe!

  27. I freaking LOVE Cassel Sharpe. Wow. I love him a LOT. I love EVERYONE in those books! I love his friends at school, I love his brothers, I love Lila. Which reminds me, I read a really wonderful piece of Lila/Cassel fanfiction a couple of years ago--would you be interested in a link?

  28. Oh my word, Bump. It. Up. You will DIE over this series.

  29. I mentioned Remington Steele on one of your other stops, but have you watched Once Upon a Time? Although Rumplestiltskin isn't a con man, the actor does a masterful job of showcasing the character's good and evil sides.

  30. I would love that - thank you!

  31. I've only watched a couple of episodes (when Sebastian Stan was the Mad Hatter, and when Nicholas Lea was Hansel and Gretel's dad), but Rumpelstiltskin was very charming!

  32. Here you go! :)

  33. Okay! You guys win. :) I'll read it next after my RITA judging books.


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