Saturday, June 14, 2014

Book Tour & Giveaway ~ A Question of Class by Julia Tagan

Title: A Question of Class
Author: Julia Tagan
Genre: Historical Romance
Publish Date: May 5, 2014
Publisher: Kensington/Lyrical
Event organized by: Literati Author Services, Inc.

United to exact revenge on a common enemy, they discover passion is the ultimate reward. 
On the strength of her wit and intelligence, Catherine Delcour climbed from Connecticut poverty to opulent Paris society. But once in New York, her lowly past is a scandal her wine merchant husband won’t tolerate. After five years of marriage, Morris announces their union isn’t valid and reveals his plan to send her to the West Indies. Fearing she’ll end up destitute, Catherine schemes to escape--and secure her future with his treasured bottle of wine. 
Under the guise of supervising Delcour’s wayward wife, Benjamin Thomas seeks to avenge his sister’s death by ruining him. But Catherine isn’t the spoiled society wife Benjamin expects. His growing affection for Catherine threatens more than his carefully constructed plans. His vow to never touch another man’s wife has never been harder to keep than when he’s around the beguiling beauty. 
When Catherine and Benjamin join forces, their sensual natures collide even as their individual desires for passion, vengeance, and escape threaten to tear them apart.

The Island of Manhattan, 1810

Benjamin took a sip of tea and placed his cup and saucer on the table. He reached into his jacket pocket and handed her a folded piece of paper.

This is a contract I have with Mr. Delcour. He has engaged me to stay with you until his return from Trenton.”

She stared hard at the paper before folding it up and handing it back to him. The look on her face was inscrutable, and Benjamin couldn’t help but notice how her expression differed from the face of the girl who gazed down at him from the painting. The latter seemed sweet and soft, while the woman across from him flashed wary and untrusting eyes. Yet her lips still had a vulnerability to them, and the contrast was intriguing. She appeared to be around twenty. Benjamin shook his head, clearing his thoughts. His job was simple. Keep a close watch on Catherine Delcour until her husband returned, and use the time to figure out the most effective way to avenge his sister’s death.

There is no need for you to police me,” she declared.

The contract seems quite clear. And if not, where were you off to this fine evening?”

Her face flushed. “A friend in town needed my help.”

That wouldn’t be Percy Bonneville, would it? Your friend in need?”

She stood abruptly and turned to leave, but Benjamin spoke up. “Mr. Delcour told me about your dalliance with Mr. Bonneville. Of course, it’s no concern of mine with whom you decide to associate. But for the next week, I’ve been hired to make sure you stay far away from him. And that is what I intend to do.”

I have no need of a watchdog. I’m a grown woman and I’ll do whatever I please.”

Benjamin rose to his full height. As he expected, Delcour’s second wife was a dilettante, a spoiled child, with none of his sister Dolly’s grace or charm. It would be his pleasure to teach this girl a lesson.

You will not do whatever you please anymore, Mrs. Delcour. Your husband’s reputation is on the line, and I’ve promised him you’ll cause no further scandals in town with your behavior.”

The woman’s face filled with fury and she clenched her hands into tight fists. “My behavior? If you only knew what he has done.”

She was less than a foot away from him. Benjamin had a sudden memory of her body touching his during the ride and he stifled the urge to put his hands around her face and breathe in the jasmine of her perfume.

But you are only a poor relation, aren’t you?” she continued. “One who will so quickly do his master’s bidding in the hopes of gaining some of his fortune. Let this be a warning to you, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Delcour will use you up and spit you out.” She shot one last glare at him. “Just as he did me.”

Top Ten Things I Learned Writing My Book

NYC factoid. Manhattan, where the book is based, was mainly farmland, wetlands and craggy rock in the early 1800s. Only the lower tip was a bustling city.

Sickness and summer houses. Outbreaks of yellow fever drove many of the wealthy residents of New York City to built summer houses in the wilds of northern Manhattan in the early 1800s.

The devil is in the details. I loved basing the mansion in the book on one that stands today in upper Manhattan. There’s nothing like walking around its rooms and gardens for inspiration and specificity.

Food stuff. Some of the more interesting items on the menu in the early 1800s were turtle soup and the tunny omelet (made from eggs, fish, carp roe and chives).

Carrot versus the stick. I like to give myself a small reward after finishing a chapter, like getting a manicure or buying fresh flowers.

Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Set a word count every day and hit it.

Mornings or afternoons? I found I wrote best in the mornings. By the afternoon my brain definitely slowed down!

Get your visuals from museums. The Metropolitan Museum in NYC was a great place to stare at beautiful paintings and gather details about the era’s fashions and hairstyles.

If you’re really stuck, head to the library. Spending a couple of hours in a place that’s quiet with few distractions, like the library, was where I was most prolific.

Best not to work in a vacuum. Reach out to other writers who write in the same genre and get inspired!

Character Inspiration

My heroine, Catherine Delcour, is based on a woman who lived in Manhattan in the 1800s, who rose from a life of poverty and squalor to become one of the richest women in New York City. Her name was Eliza Jumel, and I learned about her after spending an afternoon touring the 18th century Morris-Jumel Mansion that still stands in the northern end of Manhattan. Eliza was scandalous, fearless and intriguing, and I immediately realized she’d make a great character in a historical romance.

Eliza Jumel married a wealthy wine merchant who later died under mysterious circumstances. In a time when women rarely played a role outside of the home, she ran his wine importing business and found financial success and independence. It’s said that her ghost still roams the mansion to this day. Although my character took on a life of her own as I began writing the novel, I do have to pay homage to Eliza for the inspiration!

Inspiration Behind the Book

I’ve always found inspiration in a sense of place – I wonder if this comes from having moved around a lot while growing up. There’s nothing more fun to me than to wander through an old mansion, thinking about all of the conversations and intrigue that occurred there.

Two landmarked New York City buildings provided inspiration for “A Question of Class.” First was the Morris-Jumel Mansion, located in upper Manhattan. Built in the 18th century on a high hill surrounded by what was then farmland, the mansion features large windows and handsome white columns, and once commanded views of both the East and Hudson Rivers. Today, the rooms are set up just as they were 200 years ago, when the woman my heroine is based on, Eliza Jumel, roamed the wide hallways.

I based the New York City townhouse my character lives in on the Merchant’s House Museum on East Fourth Street, the only family home that’s still preserved inside and out from the 19th century. From the small servants quarters on the top floor to the tiny kitchen in the back of the basement, you truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time, just as you do when reading a historical romance.

 Creating Chemistry

Part of reason we love of romance novels is the inevitable push-pull of the leading characters. They have to be wildly attracted to each other, yet have reasons to try to push down and deny that attraction at all costs. The result, hopefully, is a combustible, hot mess of a novel, one that drives the reader deeper into the story to find out what happens, even knowing full well they’ll live happily ever after.

For my heroine Catherine, Benjamin’s voice is what first mesmerizes her when they meet on a dark, dangerous road in the middle of the night. When Benjamin realizes she’s the woman he’s being paid to watch over, he expects her to act like a wealthy, spoiled child. But her fierce nature and beauty surprise him. Before long, he’s torn between his plans for revenge and his growing attraction. Hot mess, anyone?

Julia Tagan lives with her husband and goldendoodle in New York City. A journalist by training, she enjoys weaving actual events and notorious individuals into her historical romances. Her favorite activities include walking her dog in Central Park, scouring farmers' markets for the perfect tomato, and traveling to foreign cities in search of inspiration.