The third book follow's Anstey's Love, Lies & Spies and Duels & Deceptions
With Love, Lies & Spies and Duels & Deception, Cindy Anstey will soon have two rollicking reads available on bookshelves for eager fans of her young adult Regency romances to devour. And as of next year, she’ll have three, EW can exclusively reveal.
Titled Suitors & Sabotage, Anstey’s third novel will introduce readers to Imogene Chively, a young debutante — and a talented artist in her own right — who’s just completed her first season in London and will be touring the countryside with three families as they each visit each other’s estates. Also part of their group is her suitor, Ernest Steeple, and his brother Benjamin.
“Ernest is her suitor, but it’s Benjamin she becomes close to,” Anstey tells EW, teasing the complication that will befall the couple. “Ben is an architectural apprentice, but he has a problem: He can’t draw, and he’s been trying to avoid it by writing things down. So he asks Imogene to teach him how to draw. Of course, this brings them together, and Ernest is happy with this, but he doesn’t realize that there’s chemistry between Imogene and Ben.”
This isn’t the only hitch in the pair’s love story. “Imogene’s best friend, Emily, decides that Ben is her one and only true love, just about the time that Imogene is going, ‘Uh-oh, I think I’ve got the wrong brother.’ So now all of a sudden Emily is in love as well,” laughs Anstey. “And then to make things worse, people start playing pranks on them, some of them deadly, and that’s part of the mystery: Who’s behind the pranks and why?”
To celebrate Anstey’s latest offering, as well as the April 11 release of Duels & Deception‘, EW caught up with the YA Regency romance writer to discuss writing the Regency, channeling Jane Austen, and the many ways couples can fall in love. But first, an exclusive glimpse at the cover of Suitors & Sabotage:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are some of your Regency romance writing influences? Is there anyone in particular you’re a fan of?
CINDY ANSTEY: I’m absolutely a Jane Austen fan, and [a fan] of Georgette Heyer, of course. I’ve always loved Regency romance and it’s just so much fun to change up a little bit by putting a little bit more mystery or more humor in it than you would certainly find in a Jane Austen [novel]. But I would definitely point to those two authors as my influence for sure.
Is there a difference between writing a YA Regency romance versus one aimed at an older audience?
The difference is the age of the male protagonist. Quite often in adult Regency romances, the girls are not that old because it’s about the same age that they would be going to seasons, and they would be in London and enjoying it. But usually, the male protagonist is quite a bit older. Sometimes they’re rakes and they’re of ill repute. So the thing is with the YA, the male protagonist is more like 20, so he’s just about to get into mischief.
Your female characters have a lot more agency, and more modern interests than they would traditionally have in the genre. How do you approach balancing that while still having it read like a Regency romance novel?
When creating my female characters I have to give them atypical families for the era because in that day and age, girls were not given very much control of their destiny. So I have to give them a family that allows them to become their own people and control their own destiny. That’s what I play around with more than trying to make them one type of person or another. I also try and explain, through the story and through the way the characters act and behave, what would be typical for the era, and then allow my character to come out of that, stating that it is different. If somebody says that that’s unusual, then people are more comfortable.
What inspired you to start writing YA Regency romances?
I’ve always loved Regency romance. In fact, I was reading Barbara Cartland, when I was 12 or 13. But I’m not sure I want to admit that. Anyway, I’ve always really loved the genre, and I started with the YA because it’s such a complex, vibrant, dramatic time in our lives, and it just feels like it’s full of endless possibilities. So I love bringing characters into that change. I love being present in the moment they’re stepping out into the world.
Will you possibly be including characters of color or same-sex romances possibly in future books?
Actually, in Suitors and Sabotage there are two young men that are [in a relationship]. But the thing is, I like my characters. And in that day and age, it was not only illegal, it was considered immoral. It was just downright dangerous to be gay. So I have two gay characters, but it’s so subtle that even my editor didn’t realize it was there until I mentioned it. But it’s because I don’t want anything too overt, because then that would give them a very, very difficult life if people knew. If I was in their head it would be different, because then we could talk about it, and then they could talk about how they have to conceal their relationship. But when I’m standing back and looking at it, my characters can’t recognize that, or [it would case] major problems for the gay gentlemen.
And as far as people of color I would love to, but unfortunately, writing about the upper echelons of British society, I’ve done some research and I have not come across very many people of color — unless they’re daughters of diplomats, and then that would be different. So that is a possibility, but I’m not sure because I don’t want to expropriate someone else’s culture at the same time.
What do you tend to research when it comes to your books?
I research everything. I love every part of the writing process, but I really love research, and I research anything and everything I can. I have so many books that I go through them like candy. Mostly it’s cultural history, because it’s a time period that there are a lot of research books for, like What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew, Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen. Upstairs and Downstairs — because if you’re learning about the upstairs you’ve got to learn about the downstairs. Prince of Pleasure, that’s about the Regent. Jane Austen’s Guide to Good Manners. Oh, this is a really good one too, Jane Austen’s England — that’s all about daily life in the Regency period. It’s really fun. I’ll put in some things, [but] certainly not everything I’ve researched, because people don’t want to know really what kind of tooth powder they used in that day and age, but I wanted to know. Some of the stuff you can slip in there and people don’t even [notice], like the kind of rugs they had. I really enjoy that aspect of it.
Duels & Deception will be available for purchase on April 11. Suitors and Sabotage won’t hit bookshelves till next year.