Grab a Snifter with Debut Author Jennifer McQuiston!

Today we’re delighted to welcome Jennifer McQuiston, Golden Heart finalist in both 2011 and 2012, who’s been a friend of the Rubies for a long time now. (You may also know her as a Starcatcher, a Firebird, and also one of the Dashing Duchesses….and you should track her down at the next RWA convention because she’s one of the nicest, funniest people you’ll ever meet.) Her witty and wonderful debut novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, has just come out this week, and she’s here to tell us about a certain libation that helped smooth her road to publication! You can learn more about her at

Take it away, Jen!


mhs_2088.e1.lrI am so grateful for the chance to be here on the Rubies. A big thank-you to the awesome Elisa for hosting me!

It’s a big week for me. Not as big as, say, a bus-sized meteor exploding spectacularly over a Russian sky. Or as big as marrying the love of your life and living out your happily-ever-after, one goodnight kiss at a time. In truth, no one’s earth will shatter this week (except, maybe, mine.)

But isn’t it fun to pretend?

I am in the throes of celebrating my release week for my debut Victorian-set historical, WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, and the Rubies are a stop I didn’t want to miss. After all, you are the site I discovered that fateful day in 2011 when I was nervous about the upcoming Golden Heart finalist announcements and discovered there were other people out there biting their nails to oblivion, just like me. And when—to my stunned surprise—I found myself a finalist that year, you offered an introductory guest spot, leading to my very first blog post ever. I am incredibly grateful for all those things the Rubies embody: you are a community of writers who share the pain of rejection, share the joy of small wins, and share the celebration of each big success.

And what better thing to bring to a celebration than brandy?

That’s right…. Brandy.

Brandy_DecanterNow, I completely understand that this drink is traditionally considered a gentleman’s libation, meant to be sipped out of large snifters while cigar smoke curls around and talk turns to things of a ribald nature.  Technically a distillate of wine (and therefore, concentrated in both flavor and alcoholic content), brandy is not my favorite drink. For me, it lacks the wonderful sweet flavor of a good bourbon. I can enjoy it in brownies or truffles, but sip it straight?

No thank you.

But despite its lack of appeal for my palate, I tend to look upon it fondly. You see, it plays a starring role in WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, and in some ways it’s the magic ingredient that turned my clumsy attempts at writing into a bona fide book contract.

Brandy, therefore, rocks.

My heroine, however, would not agree…



Though she would never admit it to polite Society, Lady Georgette Thorold hated brandy almost as much as she hated husbands. So it was the cruelest of jokes when she awoke with nary a clue to her surroundings, smelling like one and pressed up against the other.

As she reluctantly came to her senses, unwelcome scents and fears crowded out lucid thought. In all her twenty-six years, Georgette had never even raised a glass of the amber liquid, much less slept in sheets that smelled as if they had been washed in a distillery. She was used to a feeling of comfort on waking, or at least familiarity. But judging by the stained wallpaper in her bleary line of vision, she was not in her bedroom, and there was nothing of comfort in the pounding of her head.

And, more to the point, her husband had been dead for two years.

A man’s warm body was stretched against her back, and she could feel the telltale press of an erection knocking against the base of her spine. She stared down at the muscled forearm that lay across her shoulders, noting its possessive, sinewy strength. For the briefest of moments she considered closing her eyes and going back to sleep in the appealing cage of this man’s arms. But clarity punched its way through her murky confusion.

She was in bed. With a stranger.

Heart pounding, she wiggled her way free and leaped from the tangled covers, dodging a gauntlet of broken glass and articles of clothing as she scrambled for safety. She sucked in a roomful of air, trying to escape the panic perched on her shoulders.

There were feathers everywhere. On the floor. On the ceiling. On her. Horrified by her lack of hygiene and the fear that somewhere in this room there might be a slaughtered goose, she closed her eyes, praying that when she opened them again it would all disappear. But the lack of eyesight proved ill-advised in the mess of the place. She tripped and stumbled against a wardrobe that looked to have survived the Jacobite Risings only to now sit ruined, one door hanging off its hinge.

Despite her graceless clattering, the man in the bed snored through it all. Georgette scrubbed a fist across her eyes, as if she could banish the sight of him, then lowered her hand to cover her mouth. The smell of brandy hovered there on her skin. Had she bathed in the vile stuff? What on earth had she done?

Dear God, she was in a strange room with a strange man, smelling of the same spirits her former husband had consumed to lethal outcome—what hadn’t she done?

Bile, thick and bitter, rose in the back of her throat. This could not be happening. This was not who she was. Her now-dead husband had been the rake and libertine. She had been the wife who turned a blind, tortured eye. She abhorred the thought that in one night, she appeared to have sunk to the level of debauchery her husband had embraced during their brief marriage.

Nay, she had sunk below it. Because while such behavior was permitted among the men of the ton, she was a lady. And ladies did not wake up in strangers’ beds, without a clue of how they had come to be there.


Good gracious… it’s so much FUN to mess with prudish heroines…even imaginary ones. 

Before I wrote this opening scene for WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, I had been writing mainly darker, dramatic historicals, although always with a sharp edge of humor running just below the surface. Brandy changed all that. With this book, I just turned myself over to the crazy and let my quirky voice and my admittedly lascivious imagination have free rein. The result, I hope, is a laugh-out-loud romp that many reviewers have described as a Victorian version of the Hangover (hint: the hero doesn’t have a clue what went down, either).

I’ll take that, thank you! With a cherry on top!

So Rubies, I raise a snifter for you, and toast you for your enthusiasm, your wisdom, and most of all, your encouragement. I didn’t win that first Golden Heart contest in 2011. I didn’t win the second one in 2012, either. The advice offered by the Rubies assured me it wasn’t about winning… it was about writing. The best book you can, the next book you can.

And, as per usual, you guys are oh-so-right. Because for me, it was the next book that shattered my world.

Brandy_Chocolates_PicSo let’s liven up this party! (Although, for the sake of aesthetics and hygiene, we’ll leave the naked stranger and the goose feathers out of it).  I will offer to a randomly selected commenter some of these highly potent brandy-filled chocolates (sooooo good), along with a signed copy of WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND.

Not to be taken together…. At least not if you want to remember the good parts.


Jennifer McQuiston writes lively historical romance. An infectious disease researcher and veterinarian by training, she prefers reading romance over scientific textbooks. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, her two children, and the pony she promised to buy her kids when mommy finally got a book deal.


55 responses to “Grab a Snifter with Debut Author Jennifer McQuiston!”

  1. Congrats, Jennifer! The book sounds fabulous. I’ve just got to know why there are feathers all over. And I so agree with you–there’s nothing like messing with prudish heroines. It’s my favorite pastime, and an element you’ll find in most of my books, because I was raised in a time when good girls didn’t. Although I had, so what did that make me? 🙂 Great post!


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I know, Laurie…isn’t that an intriguing scene? It raises all SORTS of interesting questions! Well done, Jenni!


      • Feathers and mayhem…. so much wicked fun. Laurie and Elisa, I do admit the opening scene of the Hangover movie provided some inspiration here… I thought real, live chickens running about might be a bit… ahem… unbelievable.

        Cause you know… the rest of the book is TOTALLY believable.



  2. Josette Schaber says:

    Hmmm Chocolate and a good book, what would be better? Hmm, maybe a hunky hero to go with them? LOL

    Thanks for sharing today. This books sounds like a good read and has been added to my TBR. Would be great to win it and read it even sooner! Sine I’m waiting on book $$$ right now and won’t be getting any new books for a bit 🙁


    • Josette, I will keep my fingers crossed that likes your number! Thanks for stopping by!

      And I couldn’t offer to provide a hunky hero in the flesh (apparently the USPostal Service frowns on that sort of thing), but I do hope I delivered one on the page. 🙂


  3. Kat Cantrell says:

    Congrats Jennifer! So happy to see fellow Firebirds taking flight. 🙂 I wish you many sales.


  4. Hope Ramsay says:

    Hey there Jennifer. Congrats on the book release. Enjoy every moment of it, you’ve worked hard for it.

    And I do declare, that opening paragraph simply rocks. I was hooked from word one.


    • Thank you so much Hope!!! So glad you like it… it definitely sets the tone for the book. Anyone expecting a dark tale full of angst is probably going to be a bit disappointed. 🙂


  5. Linda Thum says:

    Congrats Jennifer! Both on the release of your book & (belatedly) on being nominated for the last 2 years.

    I really like your writing voice from that excerpt. Smart with snarky overtones! Can’t wait to read the book.


    • Thanks Linda! Sometimes I think I should get “snarky” tattooed on me. But then, you know, when I’m 80 I would be sure to regret it.

      Actually, if my grandmother is any indication, snarkiness only improves with age.


  6. Jeannie Lin says:

    What a fun post for a Friday! Congrats on the release and raising a virtual snifter to you!

    An aside, brandy looks like it SHOULD taste good, you know? It’s got that huge lofty looking glass and the color is so rich and caramel-y. But I agree, not my favorite drink. It is, however, quite delicious when doused on top of a dessert and lit on fire.


  7. Hellion says:

    Just finished reading this book this week. Hilarious and so sweet! And a nice twist of suspense and thriller as well. And I did love learning what the brandy had been used for! Ooh-la-lah!


  8. Shea Berkley says:

    Congratulations, Jennifer! It’s an exciting time for you and I’m glad the Rubies had a small part in it. My two favorite things on earth are chocolate and a good book, and it sounds like I’m going to have to dig out my chocolate and read your story! Fun times ahead for me, that’s for sure. (grin)


  9. Terri Osburn says:

    I started reading this book last night and blown away by the first chapter. I’d seen snippets around, but oh my. This is going to be one delicious read!

    Congrats again on the debut and the many more to come!


  10. Addison Fox says:


    So glad you joined us today and congratulations on your new debut!!! This books sounds absolutely wonderful – I am hooked and want to know more!!!!!!



    • Thank you so much Addison! It was admittedly a ton of fun to write, and this whole “debut author” thing has a decidedly giddy feel to it. Almost like I’ve been in that snifter…


  11. Congrats, Jennifer! The book sounds great and I love the title! It sounds yummy!


  12. Oh, my! What a delicious intro to your book. The feathers are particularly intriguing. And a “Victorian version of the Hangover?” I must read!

    Congrats on the release, Jennifer, and thank you for being here today to share the excitement!! 🙂


  13. Tamara Hogan says:

    What an intriguing intro! Bring on the brandy! 😉

    –> I didn’t win that first Golden Heart contest in 2011. I didn’t win the second one in 2012, either. The advice offered by the Rubies assured me it wasn’t about winning… it was about writing. The best book you can, the next book you can.

    This. Is. Perfect. Thank you.


    • Tamara, thank you so much! Honestly, I wouldn’t trade those 2 Golden Heart finals for anything. Gosh, the people I have met, the places I have been! (I know… very Dr Suess of me). But truly, they opened so many doors, regardless of the outcome. The best thing I got out of it was the motivation to just keep writing. 🙂


  14. Diana Layne says:

    Yippee, yay on the book release, it’s such an exciting time! Good luck, off to check it out!


    • Diana Layne says:

      ps, I’m a teetotaler, so if those cute chocolates really have brandy in them, and I’m the random commenter, just try again, thanks. 🙂


      • Diana Layne, if you are the random winner, I will send you some more appropriate chocolates and pick lucky commenter #2 for the chocolates… cause yeah. These come with a warning 21 and older. And I can personally vouch for their potency. 🙂


  15. June Love says:

    Congratulations, Jennifer! What an exciting time for you. I loved the excerpt and will buy the book. I love fun reads and this one sounds like it fits the bill. I wish many, many sales for you.


  16. Marion says:

    Wow – and Congrats!
    What a great beginning! I was hooked at ‘smelling like one and pressed up against the other.’ Wow.

    I entered the Golden Heart for the first time this year and am trying not to think about it. I’m trying to write the next book, the best that I can.


  17. Amanda Brice says:

    Congrats on the release, Jen! I feel like as president of WRW I can somehow claim you, since Esi Sogah bought your book when it finaled in the Marlene, because after reading that opening I can see it would have sold regardless of whether you’d finaled in our contest or not.

    It looks wonderful!


    • Yes, any of you who believe that no one ever lands an agent or editor off a contest… this story won the Marlenes in 2012, and I sold to the judging editor in a 3 book deal. Fairy tales DO come true… and sometimes editors look for the next acquisition through contests.

      Amanda, I am totally willing to be claimed by WRW – I just spent the day with 3 members (Kimberly Kincaid, Kathy Altman, RObin Allen) and I believe they are talking about adopting me.


  18. AJ Larrieu says:

    Oh my goodness, Jennifer, that excerpt was *priceless*! I can’t wait to read more. Goose feathers! Fabulous. Congratulations on your release!


  19. I don’t care much for brandy myself, but in chocolate? Yum. Congrats on the release, J!


  20. Jennifer, Congrats on your new release. You hooked me too. I love your voice.

    And thank you for the kind words. The Rubies love their followers and when one on them succeed, we feel we have also. Celebrate big!


  21. Kate Parker says:

    Jennifer, love the excerpt and love your voice. Congrats on the debut, fellow Starcatcher.


  22. Great post and what a great opening to a story! I can’t think of anything better than brandied chocolates and a good read…unless there’s a kilted guy who delivers…the book and chocolates, that is. Yeah, right. 🙂


    • Kathleen… you may be my perfect target audience. 🙂

      Full confession: James MacKenzie (my hero) does not wear a kilt. He wears trousers… when… ahem… he wears anything. But don’t let that stop you from reading! I am sure he has a kilt somewhere.


  23. Congratulations on your release, Jennifer!! Love that snippet of your book. Very intriguing.


  24. Vivi Andrews says:

    I *LOVE* the waking up married in Vegas trope and to put it in a Regency? Genius! It can be so fun when a good heroine turns over a bad girl leaf. Can’t wait to read this one. Huge congrats on the release! I’m thrilled that we were part of your Golden Heart journey.


  25. Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by to comment! I am excited to announce that the lucky winner is Marion, who is nervous about the Golden Heart announcements.

    Don’t worry Marion… these chocolates will take your mind right off that. And even if it doesn’t, know you are in excellent company. 🙂


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