|Rosemary Stevens: Beau Monde|
Murder never minds its manners and seldom displays any fashion sense. In fact, it is the very opposite of the done thing. So how would Regency England's premier arbiter of style Beau Brummell fare in the middle of a murder mystery?
Quite splendidly, thank you, according to Rosemary Stevens, author of the Agatha Award-winning mystery series featuring Brummell, the Prince Regent, Edmund Kean and the other luminaries of early 19th century England. Stevens' critics and readers agree, going so far as to compare Stevens to two of genre literature's greatest heroines: Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. While thrilled with the comparisons, Stevens prefers to let her series hero take the spotlight -- and help her readers find the man behind the myth of Beau Brummell.
Crescent Blues: What prompted your selection of Beau Brummell as the focus of a mystery series?
Rosemary Stevens: I find him fascinating! I was introduced to him initially by reading Regency romances. He'd pop up here and there enough so that I decided to do some research on him
Rosemary Stevens: How shall I count the ways? The best biography of him was written by Kathleen Campbell. It was called Beau Brummell. She got him right. He was a man who lived by his wit, his excellent manners, loyalty to his friends and most of all his integrity. Yes, he was a victim of his times and got in way over his head with gambling. But then the French town of Calais was full of Englishmen who had also fallen from grace due to gambling debts.
Then there's the rumor that because he never married, he was gay. This was put about by more modern researchers, perhaps a reflection of our modern thinking that if a man isn't married, he's gay. Brummell was not gay, and from all reports had several affairs, but the love of his life was Frederica, the Duchess of York. Unfortunately, she was already married and way above his station in life anyway.
Crescent Blues: What are some of the sources you drew from for your series?
Rosemary Stevens: More than I could ever list here! Some of my favorites are the Kathleen Campbell book, then there's John Ashton's Social England Under the Regency, the wonderful London Encyclopaedia, various diaries, issues of the Times. The list goes on.
Crescent Blues: Is there a difference in the way you're handling primary and secondary sources?
Rosemary Stevens: The chief difference of course is that one must be very careful dealing with secondary sources. Much too often a secondary source is riddled with mistakes. Generally speaking I stay away from secondary sources.
Crescent Blues: The Bloodied Cravat seems to mark a watershed in Beau's relationship with Frederica, the Duchess of York. How much does this reflect what was actually happening in Brummell's life at the time
Rosemary Stevens: I'm writing fiction that contains some aspects of history. As I've said, Brummell and Freddie were very close in real life. He often went to house parties at Oatlands, where The Bloodied Cravat starts out. He also gave her a dog for one of her birthdays. So while it might not have been l806 when he went to her birthday house party like he does in The Bloodied Cravat, it could have happened that way.
Crescent Blues: What made you decide to give Beau a Siamese cat as a familiar?
Rosemary Stevens: Um, gee, uh, I dunno. Hang on a minute, and I'll think about it. Let me get this Siamese cat off my lap first...
Rosemary Stevens: As I said, I adore finding tidbits of history that happened during the time my stories are set and then working them into the book. Readers can scan the Author's Note in each book to see some of the highlights of when I do this. It's great fun, and I feel that it adds depth to the stories.Crescent Blues: How closely do you try to conform to the speech of the period?
Rosemary Stevens: Again, diaries are helpful to someone wanting to get the feel of how people talked back then. I do tend to hold back a lot of the slang I think was used. I do this because I don't expect my readers to be familiar with the Regency period and don't want to bog down the story with words they won't understand.
Crescent Blues: How have scholars (or self-described scholars) reacted?
Rosemary Stevens: I've been lucky enough to have nothing but positive reactions to the series. That's the payoff of doing your research.
Crescent Blues: The period of Beau's "reign" as the arbiter of high society is relatively short. Do you plan to set all of your Beau Brummell mysteries in this period of his life?
Rosemary Stevens: Yes, all the books will be set before l8ll when things started to go downhill for poor Beau.
Crescent Blues: What's next for Beau and his friends -- fictional and real?
Rosemary Stevens: In another balance of real and fictional events, I've set the next book, Murder in the Pleasure Gardens, when Brummell opened his own gaming club, Watier's in l807. This was the club, by the way, that really helped do him in as far as gaming went. One played for very high stakes at Watier's, and Beau was the president.
Crescent Blues: What inspired your fascination with the Regency Period?
Rosemary Stevens: Reading Regency romances -- the traditional ones by such authors as Marion Chesney (who mystery readers know as M.C. Beaton) and Barbara Metzger. I just love the glamour and high society fun.
Crescent Blues: Do you engage in some of the Regency-focused activities that have sprung up in recent years, such as Regency Dancing?
Rosemary Stevens: No.
Crescent Blues: How did you get your start in the writing business?
Rosemary Stevens: I began by writing the traditional Regency romance and was very lucky to get the first one I wrote published. Four in all were published before I moved to mystery.
Crescent Blues: What inspired your move from romance to mystery?
Rosemary Stevens: I love mysteries, and I was tired of writing romance. I really wanted to write a book about Brummell. He played a cameo role in each of my romances, and I found writing about him fun.
Crescent Blues: What was the best part about making the leap? The most challenging aspect?
Rosemary Stevens: The best part was stretching myself as a writer, and that was also the most challenging part. For me personally writing a mystery is much more difficult than writing a romance, though I must say writing novels in general is not easy!
Rosemary Stevens: I love the l790s, which is just a little before the Regency. I may set a book during that time period one day. I love the mystery world and don't see myself leaving it. There is so much that falls under the "mystery" umbrella -- paranormal mysteries, suspense, thrillers. Lots to choose from.
Crescent Blues: On your Web page you mention Thorton's Chocolates as a favorite guilty pleasure. What's so special about Thorton's Chocolates?
Rosemary Stevens: Thornton's Chocolates are a premium chocolate sold in England, of course! I adore them and always get a box when I go to London. Shipping them over here is mighty expensive, so I deny myself the treat.
Jean Marie Ward
Click here to learn more about Rosemary Stevens and Beau Brummell.
Click here to read Teri Smith's review of The Tainted Snuffbox.
Click here to read Jean Marie Ward's review of Death on a Silver Tray.