Maya Rodale on Romance, Rogues, and Lady Bridget’s Diary
Bestselling author Maya Rodale pens smart, sassy romance books that often feature devilishly handsome, sexy, Alpha males from another century. Many of her gentleman rogues have dreamy British accents, and are skilled at the courtship rituals of polite society.
Everyone has been waiting for her new series, Keeping Up with the Cavendishes, which launched this week with Lady Bridget’s Diary. The book is a blend of Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones Diary and the entire series is homage to her favorite Rom Coms.
In Lady Bridget’s Diary we follow an American heiress who must learn to navigate London society when her family unexpectedly inherits a dukedom in Regency England. In addition to the hilarity involved with adjusting to the requirements of her new lifestyle, there is, of course, an “infuriatingly irresistible rake” to contend with. His name: Lord Darcy.
Another three books are planned for this series, all following different characters, but in roughly in the same time frame. I chatted with Maya about romance, rogues, Lady Bridget’s Diary, and about her staunch support of romance books and readers.
You’ve been a romance reader since your mom gave you your first novel in your teens, what was it about romance that so captured your attention?
I just love a great, engaging story—especially one with a well-developed heroine, adventure, a love story and a happy ending. Romance novels are the best place to consistently find this type of story, so once I discovered these books I was hooked.
Why do you think your mom was so insistent about your reading them?
She was a fan of romance novels, which is why she thought to recommend them. At the time, I was studying the role of women in fiction, as writers and characters, and she insisted I couldn’t possibly do so without reading the most popular, profitable books by women, about women and for women. I couldn’t argue with that, so I had to start reading them. The rest is history…
So how did you find your way to being a romance writer? Did you have a career doing something else prior?
I started writing romance novels really young—right out of college!—probably because I didn’t know any better. I wrote through grad school and day jobs until my writing career and life was in a place where I could write full time.
We all love your handsome, sexy Alphas with British accents. What is it that makes you fall in love with the heroes you write?
Well, it’s not just the abs and the accent J. I try to find the humanity and the uniqueness in each character/hero and in doing so, find the love for my characters (kinda how it works in real life, too). But most of all, I love the way they love and honor the heroines!
In your case, life has sort of imitated life — you married a sexy Brit of your own! Does that mean there is such a thing as happily ever after in real life?
I sure hope so! But here’s the secret: what really matters is what makes you happy and finding someone who loves and supports you, accent and abs optional. And I believe that is definitely possible in real life.
Despite the fact that romance is a thriving industry, with devoted readers, critics call them trashy and low brow, and worse. You have been a champion of the genre and its readers. What do you most wish people could understand about why these books are good for the mind, body, and spirit?
I think it’s important to have these engaging portrayals of goodness, love and happiness to inspire people to stay strong and hopeful, especially when the headlines are do depressing. I know I find them to be a great source of comfort and strength. And especially for women, romance novels are one of the only forms of entertainment that consistently portrays heroines as central to the story and shows heroines succeeding. It’s important for us to have role models like that—and lots of them (over 9,000 romance titles were published in 2013 alone). These books are escapist, but they also do nourish the mind, body and souls of the readers.
Do you think your desire to show the healthier side of romance, and why they are important for readers, stems from your family tradition in health and wellness publishing?
I think it stems more from my experiences as a romance reader—I love these books and feel that they have greatly contributed to my confidence and happiness, but that’s at odds with how romance readers are often made to feel about their favorite books. So I wanted to champion the books I love and make sure romance novels are considered a total pleasure, not a guilty pleasure.
We are all super excited about your latest book, Lady Bridget’s Diary. And, hmmm, the characters sound slightly familiar: Lord Darcy and Lady Bridget. Is the book inspired by Bridget Jones Diary, which was inspired by Pride and Prejudice? Or would you say it is more of a “handsome rouge next door” with familiar names?
The book is definitely inspired by both Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary! I came up with my title—Lady Bridget’s Diary—on a lark, and it was pretty clear to me what the story had to be, which is a mash up of those two stories. To make it my own, though, I made the heroine American (in Regency England) and took some liberties with the secondary characters (my Rupert sort of plays the role of Willoughby/Hugh Grant, for example…but in a very, very different way).
So in her diary, Bridget records her disastrous attempts to assimilate into London high society. Where does she hail from?
Lady Bridget and her fellow Cavendish siblings—Lady Amelia, Lady Claire and James, the “new duke,” all hail from a horse farm in Maryland, USA. The haute ton is scandalized! You can check out more about the Keeping Up With The Cavendish series here.
Lord Darcy is the quintessential Englishman: wealthy, titled, and impossibly proper. What do you think will make us all fall madly in love with him?
Simple: he’s actually a really great guy. Yes he can be awkward, reserved and judgmental, but he has a good heart and is incredibly loyal and loving and ultimately that’s more important than just charm and swagger.
Sigh. If you were making a movie, who would you choose to play Lord Darcy and Lady Bridget?
Oooh, good question! I’d love to leave this question up to the readers, but I bet I know what they’ll say (Colin Firth).
Just one more thing… we saw a huge explosion in sexy contemporary romance a few years ago. Do think this is still a great time to be a historical romance novelist? And is there still an interest in new authors?
For as long as I’ve been writing, everyone has been lamenting the death of the historical romance–first to paranormal, then to these super sexy contemporaries. But I think the historical romance will endure because it offers something these other subgenres don’t: clear, consist rules of courtship and chivalry from book to book. Plus, stakes are high (marriage! forever!) when it comes to sex, so it automatically imbues the act with more significance and maybe even reverence. This is not to say that any other way is bad (no judgment here!), or that we don’t see that in other subgenres, but I think it’s more prevalent in historical. Sometimes that sexual tension that comes from passionate characters with these constraints is what we’re in the mood for. And yes, I think there will always be an interest in new authors, because romance readers are so voracious and even the most prolific authors can only write so much.
Order Lady Bridget’s Diary
Listen to a snippet of the first chapter.
Visit Maya Rodale here.