Friday Feature: Bliss Bennet
A man determined to atone for the past
For seven long years, Sir Peregrine Sayre has tried to assuage his guilt over the events of his twenty-first birthday by immersing himself in political work—and avoiding all entanglements with women, whether light skirts or ladies of the ton. But when his mentor sends him on a quest to track down purportedly penitent prostitutes, the events of his less-than-innocent past threaten not only his own political career . . .
A woman who will risk anything for the future
Raised to be a political wife, but denied the opportunity by her father’s untimely death, Sibilla Pennington has little desire to wed. To delay her brothers’ plans to marry her off as soon as her period of mourning is over, Sibilla vows only to accept a man as politically astute as was her father—and, in retaliation for her brothers’ amorous peccadilloes, only one who has never kept a mistress. Surely there can be no such man in all of London.
When Sibilla’s attempt to free a reformed maidservant from the clutches of a former procurer throws her into the midst of Per’s penitent search, she is inextricably drawn to the cool, reserved baronet. But as the search grows ever more dangerous, Sibilla’s penchant for taking risks cannot help but remind Per of the shames he’s spent years trying to outrun. Can Per continue to hide from the guilt and ghosts of the past without endangering his chance at a passionate future with Sibilla?
1) What was your favorite scene from the book?
My favorite scene is towards the end of the book, when Per and Sibilla engage in what one critic has called a “duet of damnation and forgiveness.” They are both struggling to accept that their grief has not only made them sad, but has also made them angry at the people who have died or who have left them. That’s a difficult part of grieving, I think, accepting how angry you are, not just as God or the world, but at the very people you are mourning. I wanted to show readers that it’s ok to feel angry, but also that part of grieving is moving beyond anger to acceptance.
2) Why do you love historical romance?
I love wondering about how the time and place in which you live can effect who you love, and even how you love. My favorite historical romances are ones that move beyond history as wallpaper, ones that really take into account how the social norms of the times in which their characters live shape their thoughts, decisions, even their feelings. I also love to learn how women negotiated power in romantic relationships during times when women’s rights and abilities were looked down on by many men.
3) What three things about you might surprise your readers?
• My first job out of college was working in the children’s book department of a major trade publisher (Anyone remember Where’s Waldo?)
• I sewed the dresses for the cover models on both of my books myself
• My alter ego, Jackie Horne, blogs about the intersections of gender and genre at the Romance Novels for Feminists blog (www.romancenovelsforfeminists.blogspot.com)
At a dinner party, Sibilla has snuck in to the dining room to retrieve her aunt’s vinaigrette, but stays to listen in on the men talking about ways to curb prostitution. And then she meets up with an unexpected guest…
He stood taller than she remembered, and slimmer, though large enough to shield her from the gentlemen in the dining room. Realizing she was staring, Sibilla jerked her own eyes free from his, only to find them flying to his other features—a thin blade of a nose, nostrils slightly flared, as if scenting for danger; high, narrow cheekbones; a shock of midnight hair in danger of tumbling into short, spiked lashes. Only the shape of one eyebrow, curved at both ends like a tilde, hinted that humor might occasionally lighten that sober countenance.
“Are you unfamiliar with Reverend Madan’s work, then?” Sibilla whispered, determined not to be intimidated. “Perhaps that gentleman would lend you a copy of the relevant volume, so that you might satisfy your curiosity on the subject.”
“You have no opinion on the topic yourself, then?” the man asked, as coolly as if they were discussing a performance of the latest opera rather than mankind’s sexual proclivities.
“Certainly I have an opinion. Though my aunt frequently tells me that a lady’s opinions on political matters are unlikely to be of interest to a gentleman.”
“The question of whether a man or a woman is more libidinous is a political one? In what regard?” he asked, his eyes crinkling with curiosity.
“In too many ways to number. But if you would like a specific example, then I would point to the discussion in which the gentlemen are currently engaged, on the subject of suppressing harlotry. If the female of the species is more driven by libidinous desires, then laws regulating streetwalkers would be the most efficacious route to dampening the trade. But if the male’s drives are more at fault, then the laws should be reframed to regulate male, rather than female, behavior.”
“What if both are driven by such desires?” the man asked. “Should both the woman who prostitutes herself and the man who buys her wares be subject to arrest?”
“Should not the focus still be on the man, as he is the one with the means? Women would not prostitute themselves if there were no financial gain to be had from the transaction. Do you not think—”
Sibilla stopped abruptly, realizing that the sounds of conversation from the dining room had grown silent as their voices had risen. Viscount Dulcie stood by her interlocutor’s side, a curious expression playing about his handsome features.
“You are kind to come and retrieve your aunt’s reticule, Miss Pennington,” he said, holding out the article in question. “May I escort you back to the drawing room?” Cutting a quick look at the man beside him, Dulcie offered his arm with a gracious nod.
“Thank you, my lord,” she replied. The flush that had faded during her sparring with the dark-haired man burned again across her cheeks. “Sir.” She nodded to him before turning to take the viscount’s arm.
She struggled to slow her pace to Dulcie’s, quashing the urge to flee. Her awareness of the silence, and of the male gazes focused on her retreating back, made it surprisingly difficult. One gaze in particular seemed to burn right through her, and not the one belonging to her brother. No, the scrutiny sending prickles of awareness trailing up and down her spine belonged to the cool blue eyes of the imperturbable stranger. The first, and perhaps only, man to deem her worthy of intelligent conversation this entire evening.
Connect with Bliss Bennet and Her Books
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Why does author Bliss Bennet love historical romance?
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