Interview & Giveaway: Not Quite a Marriage by Bliss Bennet

Hello dear readers! I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday weekend! Today on the blog I am super excited to share my interview with Author Bliss Bennet, who is currently on tour for her latest Historical Romance, Note Quite a Marriage. My review will be up tomorrow so be sure to check back! It's a fabulous read so far and I'm looking forward to getting back to reading it tonight!

I hope you enjoy getting to know Bliss and don't forget to enter the giveaway!


Hello Bliss and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Not Quite a Marriage!

Thanks so much for inviting me! It’s a pleasure to join you and your readers.

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

Although I was an avid romance reader as a teenager, historical romance writing is actually my third career. After I finished college, I worked in children’s book publishing for ten years, then went back to college for an MA in Children’s Literature and a PhD in 18th and 19th century British literature. After teaching for several years at Simmons College in Boston, and publishing several academic books and articles about children’s literature, I changed careers again, moving from writing about kids’ books to writing about romance. My blog about the intersection of genre and gender, Romance Novels for Feminists, ran from 2012 to 2019. Writing critically about romance novels inspired me to try my hand at writing one myself, and since 2015, I’ve written and published five historical romances, all set during the late Regency period in England.

What inspired you to write Not Quite a Marriage?

My books usually start with an idea about a character and their backstory. In the case of Not Quite a Marriage, I was haunted by the idea of a couple who had been married young, not by their own choice but for financial and dynastic reasons, whose relationship had early gone off the rails. In my head, I imagined a husband who, after experiencing a family tragedy, had run away, leaving behind his unwanted wife with little care for her feelings or well-being. I wondered, what effect would such a backstory have on both people? And five years on, could such a couple—now older, more experienced, full of regrets but still distrustful and wary—make something of their shattered pieces of a marriage? I love writing about messy, damaged people and how they struggle to find their way to a sense of wholeness, and Delphie and Spencer seemed a perfect fit for my storytelling style.

What would you like readers to take away from reading Not Quite a Marriage?

Through Delphie and Spencer’s romance, I wanted to explore what you have to do to earn another person’s forgiveness after you’ve hurt them deeply. And how you learn to forgive—both forgive others who have hurt you and also forgive yourself. Both Spencer and Delphie have to figure out when and how to forgive, each other and themselves, but also when and why not to forgive, too, another important dilemma that we all face throughout our lives. I also hope readers enjoy learning about the anti-slavery movement in early nineteenth-century England, and about Sierra Leone, the West African colony where Spencer spent his years apart from Delphie. I hope I’ve threaded research about both into their romance in an interesting, informative, but not info-dumping way.

What was your favorite scene to write?

I loved writing the “You’d rather duel than duet” scene, during which Spencer and Delphie send each other silent messages about their past history by singing warring song lyrics to one another. Spencer tries to woo Delphie with complimentary verses and overwrought sentiments—"Where’er I go I leave my heart behind me”—to which Delphie counters with lyrics that challenge and upbraid—"Thou hast left me ever, Jamie / Thou hast left me ever.”

And the scene ends with their first kiss…

What was the most difficult scene to write?

Although I knew how I wanted the book to end, I wasn’t always sure how I would get Spencer and Delphie to their HEA. I wrote about two thirds of the story, then got stuck for several months, not quite being able to figure out Delphie and Spencer’s motivations, or the motivations of Spencer’s overbearing father, who looms large in both of their lives. Luckily for me, I have several insightful critique partners who all brainstormed with me about possible reasons why Delphie and Spencer were acting the way they were. Their advice was invaluable in helping me get un-stuck. My daughter, who is a talented editor, also read an early draft and gave me some on-point suggestions for the Earl of Morse. Once I had figured out my characters, the ending of the book came together fairly quickly, thank goodness!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Madeleine L’Engle was my favorite writer when I was a teenager, and I dreamed then of someday writing young adult fiction just like she did. But I wasn’t confident enough in myself to commit to writing full-time after I graduated from college. Instead, I worked as a book editor, and then as an academic, before once again returning to my fiction-writing dream. But my chosen genre had shifted: instead of young adult fantasy, I felt called to write historical romance. My daughter, though, is still hoping that I’ll write a fantasy for teens some day…

What does your daily writing routine look like?

I write in the mornings, five days a week (or at least that’s the goal—not always successfully met, alas). In the afternoon, I edit or do research, or work on marketing and social media tasks.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

As a person who has struggled with both depression and PMDD as an adult, my greatest writing challenge has been knowing when I need to force myself to sit down and write, and when I need to cut myself some slack because my body and mind are just not up to the task. I don’t know that I’ll ever entirely overcome this challenge, but I’ve gotten better over the years at understanding when I’m reluctant to write because I’m afraid of baring my soul (something all writers struggle with), and when I’m truly just not able to write for health reasons. My daughter gave me a quote by Jane Austen which I put over my desk: “I am not at all in a humor for writing; I must write on until I am.” It helped me get through the last third of this story, when I worried that Delphie and Spencer would never reach their HEA.

Who are your writing inspirations?

Loretta Chase got me back into historical romance reading as an adult, after I had given it up after college—such a light touch, but also so deeply historically informed! Liz Carlyle, Joanna Chambers, K J Charles, Meredith Duran, Elizabeth Kingston, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Erin Satie, and Olivia Waite are all historical romance writers I admire tremendously.

What was the first historical novel you read?

I’m not sure it was the first, but I have a distinct memory of reading Ivanhoe as a teen, and then telling my younger sister, a captive audience in the car after I picked her up from a swimming lesson, all I had learned from it about Richard I and Robin Hood. Kind soul, she put up with my lecturing without a complaint, then told me “You should be a teacher!”

What is the last historical novel you read?

I just finished Aster Glenn Gray’s post WWI romance, The Larks Still Bravely Singing. Her story, unlike the John McCrae poem (“In Flanders Field”) from which her book’s title is taken, is not about the Dead, but about the survivors of that horrific conflict. In particular, two former schoolmates, one British, one American, who rekindle their friendship—and perhaps something more—while recovering from the wounds they suffered during battle at a country estate turned hospital. “A wound left one weak and sad, and sometimes the sadness leaked out, that was just how it was.” I love her gentle story and characters, and the honesty of her prose.

What are three things people may not know about you?

I am a cat person, not a dog person; cats are loving but independent, perfect for me!

I’m not a coffee-drinker; I far prefer tea (Earl Gray, Lemon Ginger, Peppermint, Chai—so many flavors to enjoy!)

I’m both shy and introverted, although I can give a lecture or talk if I need to (cue that teaching experience…)

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

I’ve always been fascinated by how people come together in romantic relationship. And even more fascinated by how the times in which people live shape to a large degree their understanding of what it means to love, and to be in love, with another person. By writing historical romance, I get to explore both of these fascinations every day.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in England—likely because those are the periods I studied for my English degrees 😊

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I like to quilt, needlepoint, read, garden, and serve as pillow for my monstrously fluffy black cat, Dusk.

Lastly, what are you working on next?

Book #2 in the Audacious Ladies of Audley series, an opposites-attract romance called Not Quite a Scandal. It features Delphie’s anti-slavery campaigning cousin, Bathsheba Honeychurch, who is on the cusp of marrying her childhood friend when his cousin, perfectly proper gentleman Noel Griffin, arrives with news of an unexpected inheritance. Noel is not at all happy to discover that his long-lost relative has a not-quite-fiancĂ©—especially not a lady as outspoken, or as infuriatingly argumentative, as is Sheba. Or one to whom he finds himself so inconveniently, and so fiercely, attracted…

Oh that sounds wonderful! I am very much looking forward to more of this series! Thank you for spending time with us today, Bliss!


Not Quite a Marriage by Bliss Bennet

Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Paperback & eBook; 359 pages

Series: Audacious Ladies of Audley, Book #1
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency


A rebellious viscount returns to England determined to prove his worth to his long-estranged his family, but the shy mouse of a woman he was forced to marry is equally determined not to forgive or forget…

Spencer Burnett, Viscount Stiles, once swore he’d left England for good. Yet after five years of self-imposed exile in West Africa, he’s no longer the same spoiled, selfish boy who ran away from a domineering father, a disappointed grandmother, and a decidedly unwanted wife. Proving himself to the family he abandoned will be no easy task, but Spencer no longer shies away from a good fight. He hardly expects his formerly docile wife will be the hardest to convince. When Philadelphia refuses to accept his apologies—or to allow him back into her bed—Spencer finds himself tempting her into a bargain he cannot afford to lose.

Philadelphia Burnett’s desires were once as vast as the sky. But now, after suffering one devastating loss after another, the only thing she allows herself to want is a home. So when her estranged rake of a husband returns from a five-years’ absence to claim the estate promised to her, Delphie resolves to fight him every step of the way. Beechcombe Park will be a sanctuary for her, and for the wayward Audley cousins she’d promised her sister she’d always protect. She cannot, will not, suffer even one more loss.

Especially not the loss of her heart…

"Not Quite a Marriage is all about the longing. Two estranged spouses try to work their way back to one another under a rain of misunderstandings and Bennet's plumy prose ably guides the way, moving this reader utterly in the process...Not Quite a Marriage is a perfect romance, and comes with a high recommendation." All About Romance, Desert Island Keeper recommendation

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About the Author

 

Bliss Bennet writes smart, edgy novels for readers who love history as much as they love romance. Her Regency-set historical romance series, The Penningtons, has been praised by the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Reviews as “well worth following”; her books have been described by USA Today as “savvy, sensual, and engrossing,” by Heroes and Heartbreakers as “captivating,” and by The Reading Wench as having “everything you want in a great historical romance.” Her latest book is Not Quite a Marriage, the first book in the Audacious Ladies of Audley series.

Despite being born and bred in New England, Bliss finds herself fascinated by the history of that country across the pond, particularly the politically-volatile period known as the English Regency. Though she’s visited Britain several times, Bliss continues to make her home in New England, along with her husband, daughter, and one monstrously fluffy black cat.

Bliss’s mild-mannered alter ego, Jackie Horne, writes about the intersection of gender and genre at the Romance Novels for Feminists blog.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, November 15
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Wednesday, November 17
Review at Bookworlder

Friday, November 19
Review at Novels Alive

Monday, November 22
Review at A Girl Reads Bookss

Wednesday, November 24
Review at Reader_ceygo

Friday, November 26
Interview at Reader_ceygo

Monday, November 29
Interview at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, November 30
Review at Passages to the Past

Giveaway

Enter to win an eBook of Not Quite a Marriage by Bliss Bennet!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on November 30th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Not Quite a Marriage

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