One of my favorite authors is sitting down in the Cozy Corner this week. Darcie
Wilde’s tales of regency England enthrall readers with layers of romantic
intrigue both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Her May release, A PURELY PRIVATE MATTER,
takes us on a journey that weaves Rosalind Thorne’s past with her
future, while she unravels the secrets behind the mysterious death of a famous
actor. A literal heartthrob, Fletcher Cavendish has made his way to fame while
laughing at the haute ton who adore him. When he turns up dead, London is in
mourning and demanding justice be served, but the man in charge of the
investigation isn’t so much interested in justice, as protecting one of the main
suspects in the case.
Mistakes and misdeeds abound by all of the characters, making Rosalind question
her own choices, and how they will affect her path in life. A PURELY PRIVATE MATTER
doesn’t take readers into the typical house parties or balls. The story occurs
in the every day life of the non-peerage society of London. From libraries, to
legal dramas inside the House of Commons, to the headquarters of the Bow Street
runners, I loved the glimpse inside the reality of 1800’s England. Ms. Wilde’s
tale of deception and greed is in an insightful peak into the flaws of the
country’s early legal system and its crime fighting techniques.
Watch out for this female Sherlock Holmes seeking the truth with the heart of
Jane Austin on her sleeve.
Darcie Wilde writes her classically styled (not to mention stylish) mysteries
as well as adventurous romances from a university town in a certain
northern-midwestern state that has been known to bear some passing resemblance
to a mitten. When not writing, she’s reading, cooking, hiking, swimming,
climbing things, raising her rapidly growing son and trying to convince her cat
— Buffy the Vermin Slayer — not to do any further damage to the furniture.
Kym: Hi Darcie! Welcome back to the Cozy Corner!
Darcie: Thank you! Delighted to be here.
Kym: You’ve just released your second Rosalind Thorne Mystery, A PURELY PRIVATE
MATTER—a title I adore. Can you tell us if the title came before the
book, or the title?
Darcie: The original title was "A Criminal Conversation,"
because that was the legal principle that much of the plot centered around, but
it was felt that that might be a little confusing, so I changed it to A PURELY PRIVATE MATTER,
which was how marital disputes were regarded in the 19th century. Come to that,
it was the attitude toward a lot of what we'd consider "crime" before the advent
of the professional police force.
Kym: In our interview last April, you said you loved ‘silver fork
novels,’ a genre that became popular around 1825, not only for the stories, but
the ideas they gave you. Was A PURELY PRIVATE MATTER one
of those ideas?
Darcie: Only in general this time. I gleaned some of the
ideas about gambling and women from Catherine Gore's "Pin Money." But I knew I
wanted to do something around the idea of "criminal conversation," which was the
charge brought when a woman was thought to have committed adultery and the
husband wanted to start a divorce. Or so I thought. It turned out to be more
complicated, and in a number of cases, way more smarmy. Oh, 19th Century, you
never cease to surprise and delight!
Kym: I love the opening of the story when Rosalind sneaks into a
Gentleman’s Club, not only uninvited, but without a male escort. Have you ever
snuck in where you weren’t invited?
Darcie: No. Of course not. What on EARTH would make you ask
such a question? Honestly.
Kym: LOL, will stick with your right to the 5th Amendment.;) You’ve said
you based this story on the real case from 19th century poet, Caroline Norton
and the charges of “criminal conversation.” Can you explain that charge to our
Darcie: Before I'd started writing A PURELY PRIVATE MATTER,
I'd thought "criminal conversation" was just a euphemism for adultery, but that
turns out to be not quite accurate. So, here goes. Back in the day, when a woman
and man got married, they became, from a legal perspective, one body. His, of
course. Therefore, legally, if somebody had intercourse with the wife, and the
husband didn't approve, it became, legally, assault. Of him. Cuz she was part of
his body. Got it? To add more fun, the wife's lover was regarded as depriving
the husband of his wife's services, not just sexually, but by monopolizing the
time she should have been doing things like taking care of the husband's home
and children. And, of course, he was wearing her out, so there was property
damage to be considered. So, criminal conversation was a civil infraction
designed to allow the husband to recoup monetary damages from the lover for
damage to the husband's property. No, I am not making this up. Did the wife want
to have the affair? Didn't enter into it. She was not party to the suit.
Criminal conversation was a charge brought by the husband against the purported
(male) lover/assailant. She couldn't even appear in court to speak on her own
behalf. And, on top of that, husbands were known to sue famous, rich, or
prominent men for criminal conversation just in the hopes that they'd pay out to
make the suit go away rather than be dragged through court.
Kym: Spooky times for women! Your novels are often layered with a main
mystery plot and then a mystery near and dear to main character’s heart. In this
case, Rosalind’s missing sister. What’s the hardest part about your
Darcie: Timing. With a layered story, there are multiple
storylines that have to rise and fall in a way that keeps them in sync with each
other and the needs of the overall story and plot.
Kym: With her disguises, Rosalind reminds me of a fearless female
Sherlock Holmes with her nose to the grindstone in search of the truth. Do you
see any comparison between the characters?
Darcie: Actually, when people ask what the book's about, I
say "It's what you'd get if Jane Austen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a
mystery together." I am an old school Sherlockian, as well as a Janeite, so of
course I love to trot out the comparison (not that I think I'm in the same class
as either author!). I knew from the beginning Rosalind would be a sleuth who
worked from visible evidence, and made her deductions based on her experience,
with people and with society as well as with traditional clues. Also, I admit, I
did consciously decide that her profession of "a useful woman," would look like
an early (and female) consulting detective. Fortunately, the history of the time
reinforced the possibility of such a person. Before the Metropolitan Police, the
only "detectives" were people hired to investigate, sometimes that meant one of
the Bow Street "runners," but frequently it meant a thief-taker or other private
person offering a particular service, usually returning stolen property.
Kym: In today’s society, people have been known to thrive from scandal.
Any plans to carry that phenomenon back to Regency England?
Darcie: No need to carry it back, it was there. The papers
were filled with it. The novels and magazines were filled with it. The drawing
rooms were certainly filled of it. You only have to look at Lord Byron and Mad,
Bad, Mary Lamb to see how scandal was then, as now, the constant talk of the
town. And of course there was the ongoing scandal of the Prince Regent and his
wife, not to mention every last one of his brothers who between them fathered at
least 50 children out of wedlock (not making that up either). And criminal
conversation trials were always reported in the news. Sometimes one side or the
other would even publish a separate pamphlet to try to make their case with the
reading public. Caroline Norton, whose life was the inspiration for some of what
happens in the book, even wrote an open letter to Queen Victoria, making the
case for changing the marriage laws to grant women more rights.
Kym: Wow, Caroline was ahead of her time! In mystery series, reviewers
can be fairly vocal about their desire for a love triangle to be resolved. (I
happen to love the Duke and the bow street runner triangle) Do you feel pressure
to push Rosalind’s journey and choose one interest for her?
Darcie: No pressure. Everybody's been really willing to let
the story unfold. I knew from the beginning Rosalind was going to have a choice
to make, and I was pretty sure I knew which way she was going...but characters
evolve on their own sometimes, and even the author can be surprised at the way
Kym: What a tease! I love your description of the crime report
Hue & Cry and bow street runner
Tauton's lining his jacket pockets with fishhooks to catch pickpockets in the
act. Can you tell us about your research into this crime fighting
Darcie: Samuel Hercules Tauton was a real person, and yes
that was his real name. He had a long and illustrious career at Bow Street, and
was particularly famous for his memory for faces. I used three main sources for
my descriptions of Bow Street and the officers: The First English Detectives by
J.M. Beattie, which is an excellent overview of the history of Bow Street; A
Certain Share of Low Cunning, by David Cox, which deals a lot with Bow Street
activities outside London, and Chronicles of Bow Street Police-Office by Percy
Heatherington Fitzgerald (available on Google Play Books)zsa, which is
interesting because it was published in 1888, which was, obviously, a lot closer
to the actual events. I forget which book detailed the story of the fish-hooks
as a way to catch pickpockets, literally red-handed, but I knew the second I
read it, it was going into my book.
Kym: Thank you for sharing your research references! What do you have
coming up next?
Darcie: I am taking a short break from traditional
mysteries to work on a piece of contemporary suspense. I'm very excited to be
exploring this new territory. It's a darker place, looking at what happens
within a family when things have gone very, very wrong.
Kym: Looking forward to it! Can you tell our readers where to find you
on social media?
Darcie: My website is www.darciewildeauthor.com. I'm on Facebook
as well, just search for Darcie Wilde author and you'll get there. On Twitter I'm
Kym: Thank you so much for returning to the Cozy Corner!
Darcie: Thanks so much for inviting me back. This has been great!
Look for my new release, A Reference to Murder, a
Book Barn Mystery and for my Taste of Texas contest on Fresh Fiction! A goodie bag
full of Texas delights you don’t want to miss. Comment below then stop by and
Until next time, get cozy and read on!
12 comments posted.
Love the cover! That blurb! Any book that has libraries as cameos or features, wins a place in my heart
(Lisa L. 6:18pm May 21)