If you’re a long-time follower of the blog, you’ve no doubt seen Harrow’s Finest Five mentioned in many of my blog posts. It seems like I’ve been discussing this series for years because, well, I’ve been discussing it for years! You might have wondered if the stories in this alleged series would ever see the light of day. You wouldn’t be alone – I’ve had the same question myself. But today, I’m happy to announce the first novella, which launches the series, is coming out this November!
Next week, I have so many things to share about that upcoming release: the cover, the back-cover blurb, how to sign up to be an ARC reader, and where to read an excerpt of the first book PLUS a free prequel short story and sample chapters from the next two books! And, if all goes according to plan, I’ll also be able to share the exact release date of the book.
In the meantime, though, it occurs to me that while you’ve heard of the series existence, I haven’t told you much about the whys and wherefores. Today, let’s remedy that, shall we?
What: Harrow’s Finest Five Series, seven (we’ll get to that shortly) mid-Victorian era romances centered around five old school mates from Harrow, one of the handful of boarding schools for boys from all the best British families (read: titled and wealthy). They were given their tongue-in-cheek name by novel 3’s hero, who is also the group trouble-maker and all around fun guy.
But let’s remember these are romance stories! So they’re as much about the fab women these men love as they are about our Harrow mates. Here’s the series tagline:
Smart women, sexy men, steamy passions, and the occasional scandal. Although with this group, the scandals might be more than just occasional…
Where: Well, like 95% of historical romance (totally made-up statistic), this is set in England, of course! Mostly it’s set in London, with occasional forays to countryside estates of seaside ports.
When: 1869 – 1871. Yep, that’s right, I’m marrying off five (plus two – again, we’ll get to that in a minute) of England’s most eligible bachelors in less than two years. It’s good to be queen (of my own little story world).
Why: I’ve always loved reading about the Victorian era, which is defined as the period of time Queen Victoria ruled the British Empire, from 1837 – 1901. But a lot can (and did!) happen in 64 years, so in the interest of specificity, I began writing a series set in the late 1830s. Then quickly ran into a wall as my heroines start taking up causes like education reform, changes to marriage rights, and women’s suffrage that wouldn’t come sharply into national focus for another 30 years. So I went back to the drawing board, which is literally a white board hanging on my office wall, and plotted out a whole new series, using the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 as a touchstone.
Moving the series to that later time period opened up a plethora of story lines, not only because of the Acts that so many women were championing and seeing passed by Parliament, but because there was so much happening in British society at the same time. Technology (industrialism) had upended the economy and was slowing eroding traditional power structures. Masses of humanity were migrating from rural to urban centers like London, and immigrants from places as nearby as Ireland and as far-flung as China were altering the ethnic make-up of the city. Add to that vast economic disparity and the rising up of marginalized groups, and…Does any of this sound familiar? In searching for a setting worthy of my smart and driven heroines, I’d settled on an era eerily like our own.
Who: There are seven couples who will get their HEAs in this series. I’ll happily tell you more about each couple as their book’s release day is imminent, but for now, I’ll give you the quick sketch. First, I should explain how the Finest Five became seven stories. In the beginning, this really was going to be a series of five full-length novels, one for each of the five school mates.
Then I decided to start the series with a novella, but none of the couples who’d been promised a full-length novel could be convinced to take a page cut. But I had a couple of secondary characters just asking for a love story of their own. Thus, the kick-off novella featuring the Five’s older school mate/prefect/friend who did his damnedest to keep them out of trouble was born.
Book 7, a final novella, features a two frenemies who will remain anonymous for now, but who were begging to reconcile their differences by embarking on a passionate affair. As you read the books, see if you can identify our final couple (my guess is you’ll figure it out pretty quickly.)
Now, for a quick introduction to the couples from the first half of the series:
Too Clever By Half (kick-off novella)
Mr. James Alcott and Lady Tessa Harmsworth. He’s a respected scholar whose life’s work centers around educating underprivileged boys. She’s a brilliant woman who wants access to a university education for herself and other like-minded women. They both have their eye on the prize – an annual charitable trust contest – to fund their heart’s desire. Who would guess these fierce competitors are about to fall in love with the competition? (Well, romance readers, of course.)
One Kiss From Ruin (novel 1)
Mr. Daniel(Hallsy) Hallsworth , once and possibly future Marquess of Edensbridge, and Lady Emmeline (Emme) Radcliffe, his once and possibly future love. Just a few things stand in the way of Hallsy’s HEA: he can’t secure his father’s title until he marries a respectable lady, and the lady he loves supports less-than-respectable causes; the lady’s family hates him; and, oh yeah, the lady is a die-hard, marriage-eschewing, card-carrying member of a spinster’s club.
Two Scandals Are Better Than One (novel 2)
Edward (Steady Eddie) Radcliffe, the ever right and proper Viscount Meridan, future Earl of Limely, and Lady Lucinda (Luci) Wagner, his childhood crush and his sister’s best friend. When Luci’s father disappears, she sets out on a dangerous mission to rescue him, and when she needs reinforcements, who better to help her than good old Steady Eddie? But under Edward’s prim and proper exterior beats the heart of a passionate lover, and his sudden close proximity to Luci – his heart’s deepest desire – is about to set off a scandalous affair.
These characters and their love stories have lived in my head for a long, long time, and I’m beyond excited to finally share them with the world. Be sure to stop back next week for the cover and blurb reveal of the first book in the series, Too Clever By Half, and linkety-links to a free story, a TCBH excerpt, and future HFF book chapters!