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Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Scarlett Peckham

Today we’re starting back up with one of our favorite Ruby Traditions: inviting members of the new class of Golden Heart Finalists to join us here on the blog!

The Rubies first got together as 2009 Golden Heart Finalists, an experience which changed all of our lives for the better. And we love celebrating with each super-talented new group of finalists every spring!

This year, we even know the group’s name already…(Drum roll please!!):

The Persisters!!

As Finalist Cheryl Ford explains, “We chose Persisters because this sh*t’s hard, and we need writing sisters to rely on. We can persist in this industry better together than apart.”

I love it!!! I’m hoping other Persisters who stop by today will tell us more in the comments about their take on the meaning behind that fabulous name.

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Now on to our very first 2018 Golden Heart Finalist guest!!

Scarlett Peckham, who was also a Golden Heart® finalist last year with CONFESS, YOUR GRACE, is back as a TRIPLE Finalist this year, with all three books finaling in the Historical Category. Scarlett writes steamy historical romances with happy endings for alpha heroines.

Scarlett splits her time between London and Los Angeles and when not writing can be found drinking wine, arguing with her editorial assistant (read: cat), watching The Real Housewives, and spending far too much time on Twitter and Instagram. Her debut novel, now titled THE DUKE I TEMPTED, will be out July 31. (Take a gander at the lovely cover right here!!) Here’s a blurb for the soon-to-be-published book:

He’s controlled. Meticulous. Immaculate. No one would expect the proper Duke of Westmead to be a member of London’s most illicit secret club. Least of all: his future wife.

Having overcome financial ruin and redeemed his family name to become the most legendary investor in London, the Duke of Westmead needs to secure his holdings by producing an heir. Which means he must find a wife who won’t discover his secret craving to spend his nights on his knees – or make demands on his long scarred-over heart.

Poppy Cavendish is not that type of woman. An ambitious self-taught botanist designing the garden ballroom in which Westmead plans to woo a bride, Poppy has struggled against convention all her life to secure her hard-won independence. She wants the capital to expand her exotic nursery business – not a husband.

But there is something so compelling about Westmead, with his starchy bearing and impossibly kind eyes – that when an accidental scandal makes marriage to the duke the only means to save her nursery, Poppy worries she wants more than the title he is offering. The arrangement is meant to be just business. A greenhouse for an heir. But Poppy yearns to unravel her husband’s secrets – and to tempt the duke to risk his heart.

(Ooh!! Did it just get really hot in here, or is it just me?? Okay, I confess, I took one look— Illicit secret club!!! scarred-over heart!! Impossibly kind eyes!!—and hit the pre-order button so hard I nearly snapped my keyboard. Want your copy? You can grab it right here at Amazon.)

When Scarlett joined the Rubies last year, she shared a wonderful guest blog about her journey to realizing just how difficult and elegant an art form the Romance novel is. But today she’s chosen the interview format, which is extra fun for me!

So please grab a seat on the nearest velvet divan and join Scarlett and I as we sit down for a cozy chat over jasmine tea and cream puffs. (Virtual cream puffs count as health food, I promise! And maybe a sexy duke with impossibly kind eyes will even stop by!!)

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Welcome back, Scarlett! It’s wonderful to have you here again—and this time as a triple finalist!! So, three books finaling in the same category in the same year…that’s extraordinary! Can you tell us a little more about your books, and what they have in common?

The first two are part of my Secrets of Charlotte Street series, which revolves around an illicit secret members club in Georgian London.

The first is called THE DUKE I TEMPTED (although it finalled under a different name) and I affectionately think of it as my Submissive Duke Book. It comes out July 31st and I am very excited about it!

Me, too!! And what about your other two finaling books?

THE EARL I RUINED will be the second in the Secrets of Charlotte Street series. It’s about a society columnist who mistakenly ruins an old flame with salacious gossip, and then proposes a sham engagement to save his reputation. Can you guess what happens? She finds herself falling for the very man who can’t forgive her for breaking his heart.

And the third is an unrelated manuscript called THE RAKESS. It’s kind of like if Trainwreck had been about Mary Wollstonecraft. The logline is: “When a libertine reformer discovers her lover’s future depends on the patronage of a man she intends to expose for ruining her, she must weigh whether love is more powerful than ambition, or more enduring than betrayal.”

You had me at “if Trainwreck had been about Mary Wollstonecraft.” (Actually, you had me at the title!) These are such original stories. Tell us a little about what inspired them.

When I first started writing romance I had so much nostalgia for the books I grew up with. I read hundreds, if not thousands, of historical romances in my childhood, and many of them were from the 70s and 80s, and so, of course, they contained all the tropes that got those books labeled “bodice rippers”.

I look back fondly at the intense pleasure of reading them but as an adult I was also troubled at having absorbed so many stories that romanticized power imbalances and dubious consent as a young kid. It got me thinking about what it would look like if some of the dynamics were switched. We talk so much about “alpha heroes” but what does an “alpha heroine” look like? Could you write a “reverse bodice ripper”? And how could you do it in a way that is feminist and sex-positive in worldview and within the frame of enthusiastic consent?

This led me to the idea of a submissive duke. And then I was like: WAIT. I really WANT a submissive duke, as a reader. WHY AREN’T THERE MORE SUBMISSIVE DUKES? And so The Duke I Tempted was born.

My other two books were inspired by similar thinking – reversing the usual gender dynamics on well-worn historical romance tropes. The Earl I Ruined starts with the “I ruined your reputation and now I have to honor-marry you” plot, but the heroine plays the role of ruin-er instead of ruin-ee and has to make some spectacular grand gestures to win back the hero’s trust. And The Rakess tinkers with the “reformed rakes make the best husbands” trope, only it’s the lady who drinks and smokes and sleeps with absolutely whomever she pleases.

Oh, I love all these reversals!!! The familiar made fresh. And daring! It’s going to be a thrill to read them! Do you have a marketing plan for helping readers know what your books have to offer?

My professional background is in corporate communications and branding, and so it’s been fun to start establishing an author brand, although I’m very early in the process. I want readers to be able to eyeball my website or Instagram or book covers and instantly think “OMG YES!” or “YIKES NOT FOR ME!”

As a communications nerd I think it’s genuinely fun to find ways of translating the sensibility of my books to other platforms…right now I’m playing with posting the first chapters of The Duke I Tempted visually on Instagram for example. I have had blast coming up with pretty little images to bring the book to life.

Another lesson I’ve taken from communications is to look at words as a delivery system, and deploy them with a specific purpose to elicit a specific feeling or message or action. In communications you are extremely clinical about the words you use, how you target them to different audiences, the impression they are designed to produce. It’s a helpful framing device to apply to commercial fiction. I think of my books as machines designed to keep people up all night and twist their guts and make them feel all the feelings. And if something is not working it’s helpful to take a look at which scenes are not doing their jobs. I spend a lot of time being like “Ah, yes…I need to dial up the ‘so much fun’ lever in chapter three and hit the ‘wrench heartstrings’ lever harder in chapter nine.”

Yes!! I love the idea of a “so much fun” lever…and a “wrench heartstrings” lever. I’d like some better control over those myself, and I’m eager to see how you made them work in THE DUKE I TEMPTED. As a fellow historical romance writer, I’m envious of another secret weapon you’ve got working for you: you actually get to live in London! How has that played in to your books?

Actually, living in England inspired me to write about plants. I moved from New York to London five years ago and was just blown away by the gardens and beautiful flowers everywhere. Ornamental gardens at stately homes, fields of wildflowers in the parks, hanging baskets exploding with petunias in front of every pub. Even the window boxes are spectacular.

I read The Brothers Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, which is a fascinating history of the growth of the botanical trade as told primarily through the correspondence of these two obsessive, scrappy botanists who are always grumping at each other over not having enough cuttings because they have to contrive to get their plants across the Atlantic without rotting or being devoured by rats. I loved the idea of a character who was fierce in the face of social pressure but at a loss over how to protect her seeds from seafaring rodents.

This led me to Poppy, the heroine of The Duke I Tempted. She is trying to make her fortune in the nursery trade, catering to the craze for manicured gardens and exotic trees that was booming in the eighteenth century, and she has to be rather ferocious to get anywhere because she is a woman. But there is also this earthy softness to her, because her whole life is about making things grow.

And since botany is all about reproduction… her trade ended up fitting the themes of the book very nicely. So thank you to the gardeners of the United Kingdom, who probably did not intend to inspire my whipping house series, but certainly helped.

LOL!! You should send them copies!! I suspect they’d enjoy them very, very much indeed!

Thanks so much for joining us today, Scarlett, and for kicking off the 2018 Golden Heart Finalist guest series!! So…let’s open this conversation up to our readers today. What question would you like to pose for them?

What kind of characters do you seek out in historical romance? Do you have an itch that isn’t getting scratched? What would you like to see more of?

 

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Connect with Scarlett Peckham on social media:

Website: https://www.scarlettpeckham.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/scarlettpeckham

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/scarlettpeckham/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScarlettPeckham/

57 responses to “Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Scarlett Peckham”

  1. I want to read ALL of these books! And this glimpse into how an author’s mind works is fascinating.

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  2. Heather McCollum says:

    These books sound fabulous! Thank you for coming on the Ruby blog today, Scarlett! And congratulations(X3)! And your author picture is adorable. You could be the next Mona Lisa with that smile.

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    • Aww, it is always a total pleasure to come hang with the Rubies! And as for the Mona Lisa smile…well, that’s between me and the FaceTune app 😉

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  3. Congrats, Scarlett. Three finals? WOW!!! I know something big is going to happen for you soon.

    BTW Can I come visit? I’d love to walk in those gardens.

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    • Oh yes please do! I am always happy to have a willing victim I can drag with me to National Trust houses mwahaha! Although at the moment I’m in California, so who knows…maybe my next book will be about the prickly proprietor of a cactus store.

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  4. Julia Day says:

    I love the idea of role reversal. Submissive Dukes—I’m there.

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  5. Suzanne Turner says:

    I cannot wait to read The Duke I Tempted — it’s going to have to be one of those lock-the-door and do-not-disturb while I drink my dark coffee and gobble up cake and sink into a lush, beautiful, sexy world. Someone else can mind my kids (sleep away camp, anyone?).

    Scarlett, I love your public relations/communications nerd mind and how innovating you are!

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    • Suzanne that is the morning of my dreams. And as an author obviously all I want is for people to ignore their children and become overcaffeinated on my behalf 😉 Thanks so much! And congrats on your own GH final this year my fellow Rebelle-Persister!

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    • Lara Archer says:

      That does sound wonderful, Suzanne!

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  6. I’m so here for the subversion of standard romance tropes! Such fun, and the illicit secret club? What a wonderful way to bring a sex-positive, consent-based lens to this era! Congratulations, Scarlett! I can’t wait to get my hands on your books. 🙂

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  7. Congrats on the triple final! What an accomplishment! And also on you4 debut book launch…around the corner (July). I look forward to seeing you in Denver!

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  8. Oh, my STARS!! These all sound so fantastic! I preordered your debut novel the second you posted a link — its sounds flippin’ fantastic.

    I’m all about trope twisting and role reversals. (I have a heroine who saves the hero from a runaway horse in one of my books.)

    And I love gardens! Now that my 1902 Queen Anne Victorian is coming together inside, I’m heading out to build its garden. I’d love to talk flowers with you at the Persisters dinner.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Speaking of books I’m eager to see out on the shelves…..*cough, cough*

      And YES to building that Victorian garden!!!

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    • I *LOVE* a good Heroine Saves the Day moment …. what is the opposite of a damsel in distress? A ladling in peril? Workshopping that. Anyway YES PLEASE on this book and gardening shop talk. (Although I will warn you my interest is more theoretical than practical. IRL I am better at keeping cats alive than plants.)

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  9. Such an exciting year, Scarlett! It’s amazing that you have so many books written. I’m excited to watch as they are published…and snap them up to read right away. 😉

    I also cut my teeth on historical romance and like you said, I look back fondly but I am a way bigger fan of the HR of today. An alpha heroine who is a scientist?!?!?!? Hell yes!!

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  10. YES!!! I would buy that in a heartbeat! Are you going to start writing that? 😉

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    • Me too. Write it Elisa!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      LOL….you know how everybody’s got a TBR pile? I swear I’ve got a TBW pile–To Be Written.

      At the moment, I’ve got the first books in THREE different series out (as Lara Archer). I’ve got to get at least the second book out in one of them before I dare go off on yet another tangent!

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      • Oh wow! That is a LOT to juggle! But how impressive to have three series going at once!

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        • Elisa Beatty says:

          Not impressive. Just the result of ADD.

          I have second books in each series partially written, plus most of the first in a fourth.

          Sigh….

          Maybe when I retire I’ll be able to get it all under control.

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  11. What a gorgeous cover! And I love the twist on tropes (also totally on board for illicit clubs…yum)

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    • Thank you so much! I love the cover too. And as for the illicit clubs…if you squint you can just make out a skeleton key in the heroine’s hand. A little glimpse of, shall we say, her burgeoning interest in pursuits outside of botany.

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  12. Congratulations on triple-finaling, Scarlett! I write strong heroines too, so I love the role reversal. And as contest coordinator for JABBIC, I must say…you HAVE to enter that cover this year. It’s gorgous.

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  13. Welcome, Scarlett and congratulations on the impressive triple final and upcoming release! I love the role-reversal angle you’ve taken on historical romance. How cool to see them flipped on their heads! Lots of luck in Denver this year and with the success of your series!!!

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  14. Tracy Brody says:

    Great interview and CONGRATS on the triple final. As for characters in historicals, I like the idea of strong females that simply don’t accept that the way things have always been done is necessarily the right way –especially when it comes to having no rights to control their own lives.

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  15. Rita Henuber says:

    WoW! Super Fantastic. Congrats on the book and being a triple finalist. 🙂

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  16. C.R. Grissom says:

    Fresh twists on reliable tropes! LOVE. Like Eliza above, I risked injury hitting that pre-purchase button. I can’t wait.

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  17. Susan J. Bickford says:

    Love hearing about your inspiration on these books. I can’t wait to read. Congrats on your debut and triple final!! 💛💛💛

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  18. Jeanine Englert says:

    Hi Scarlett!

    I loved your post! Congrats again on your triple GH final and for your book coming out in July that I cannot wait to read! What were some of your first favorite romances you read growing up? I devoured Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, and Jude Deveraux. Maybe your next series could include a Highlander or two? Happy writing! And congrats again… 🙂

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    • Oh great question and same! I loved all the Js (adding Johanna Lindsay) but Judith McNaught was my all-time favorite. (Whitney, My Love was the first romance I can specifically remember reading. I think I was…9?) Also had a huge Catherine Coulter phase. (I moved on to racier Jayne Ann Krantz fare as a more mature young lady of 12 or 13.)

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      • Kate Belli says:

        OMG, Whiney My Love might have been my first romance too. I was maybe 12. LOVED reading all this Scarlett! Can’t wait for the book!

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  19. Wow, congrats on being a triple finalist. That book looks so good. There will be a lot of happy readers on July 31!

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  20. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    Congratulations on your “trifecta” and upcoming release of THE DUKE I TEMPTED, Scarlet!!

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  21. Your stories sound amazing Scarlett! It’s no wonder you’re a triple finalist. I love the class name you and your fellow finalists have chosen. I hope you all develop the kind of sisterhood I have with the Rubies.

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  22. Congratulations on your triple nomination Scarlett! I’ve preordered THE DUKE I TEMPTED, and I can’t wait to read it!

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  23. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks so much for joining us, Scarlett!! Have a fabulous, fabulous debut release day!!!

    I hope we’ll see you in Denver!

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