Vanessa Riley is visiting today to talk about A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby, one of the most anticipated releases of the summer.
Tell me about your latest book.
West Indian heroine Patience Jordan is fighting to regain custody of her son. She will do anything, even disguise herself as a nanny in the hopes of saving him from her late husband’s scheming uncle who only wants the baby to control little Lionel’s inheritance. The Duke of Repington is the babe’s true guardian. The recovering military man will not let anyone harm his ward and finds himself at odds and strangely attracted to the boy’s nanny. With the help of the Widow’s Grace, a secret organization helping widows, Patience can win, that is if her blossoming feels for a militant duke don’t get in the way.
Why did you decide to write it?
I was watching the movie First Wives Club, and I thought they needed guidance from a wiser woman.
When thinking about the plight of widows during the Regency, the forgotten women who have to start over, the book concept of women banding together to save each other, The Widow’s Grace, was formed. Throw in Three Men and a Baby and you have rom-com worthy high-jinx.
Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
I love Patience. She is strong but not a superwoman arch-type. She gets to be vulnerable. We get to see the beauty of her Demerara (Guyana–West Indies) heritage in the Regency historical.
What was the hardest part about writing the story?
Balancing the campiness of the story with serious themes. There is a great deal of fun about opposites attracting, but the serious themes of widowhood and war-wounded can’t be overshadowed.
What advice do you have for people interested in writing in your genre?
Research. Much of what is accepted as common knowledge of the Regency comes from modern adaptations of Heyer. This can paint a very white, very wealthy, a very nothing-but-lavish-balls-and-gowns picture. The Regency period was very rich in diversity, diversity of races, and wealth. Many men and women of all races strove to be more than their economic status. Research will help you see a truer picture and birth new stories.
What is something readers would be surprised to know about you?
I’m not sure. I think most people don’t know my father was from Port of Spain, Trinidad. This man left the beauty of the island, like the lush Queen’s Park Savannah, to come to New York City. There he met a southern lady with a funny last name, Riley, who attended Columbia, a first-generation collegiate pursuit for her family. Love at first sight.
Tell me about a book that changed your life and why.
Maya Angelou’s Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas. It’s part of her autobiographical series, dealing with her struggles to raise her son and to find love. Hearing the rhythm in her words grips my heart every time I hear a passage.
What’s next for you?
I am working on a historical fiction about the life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, Island Queen (May 2021). This is a woman who rose from enslavement to become one of the wealthiest women in the world. It should blow the minds of everyone who only sees the victims and shackles of 19th Century Blacks. It should add another picture to what we know of our story as Black women. We were more than victims and more complicated than the superhuman tropes. We were able to be vulnerable and flawed, yet found the faith and courage to win.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
Nope. But thank you for all you do for writers.
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