Tuesday Book Club: Renee Dahlia’s To Charm A Bluestocking

Renee Dahlia

Welcome to Renee Dahlia who is my Tuesday Book Club guest

Tuesday Book Club returns with another fabulous Australian historical romance author, Renee Dahlia whose debut novel To Charm A Bluestocking has just been released by Escape.

Welcome Renee!

What were you like at school?

In primary school, I received a school report that said “If Renée wrote about something other than horses, she’d be quite good.” I’ve always found this ironic, as I’ve written (non-fiction) about horses for over a decade. My debut novel, To Charm a Bluestocking, isn’t about horses. Perhaps it’ll be “quite good.”

A charming cover for To Charm A Bluestocking.

What inspired you to write?

It’s a funny thing, but I had no desire to be a writer. I just fell into it, largely by chance. After 12 years of writing for magazines, I thought I’d have a crack at fiction. Mostly as a challenge to myself to see if I could. Of course, in hindsight, I wonder how I could have been so lacking in self-awareness. My entire family are storytellers, and I have plenty of natural talent for verbal story-telling. Learning the craft of putting that on paper, and the difference in style between non-fiction and fiction has been a wonderful learning curve.

Which writers inspire you?

There isn’t anyone that I could single out. I’m inspired and fascinated by people who craft stories from perspectives that are different to my own. A good friend of mine recently said “People are the most interesting thing on this planet.” There is so much depth to the human story. We are the only species that has invented airplanes, electricity, and has a culture of creativity.

What inspired you to write this story?

This story is inspired by my great-grandmother who was an early graduate of medical school in Holland. I thought about her challenges, and which of those challenges would resonate with people today.

How much research do you do?

About as much as the pile of washing in my laundry is high. Too much. It threatens to topple down and cover the project (floor) with information. I find it’s a tricky balance to understand how much of that research ends up in the story. A bit like back-story or description; too much is dull, not enough and the reader gets lost.

Can you give us a blurb to let us know what the story is about?

She wants to be one of the world’s first female doctors; romance is not in her plans.

1887: Too tall, too shy and too bookish for England, Lady Josephine moves to Holland to become one of the world’s first female doctors. With only one semester left, she has all but completed her studies when a power-hungry professor, intent on marrying her for her political connections, threatens to prevent her graduation. Together with the other Bluestockings, female comrades-in-study, she comes up with a daring, if somewhat unorthodox plan: acquire a fake fiancé to provide the protection and serenity she needs to pass her final exams.

But when her father sends her Lord Nicholas St. George, he is too much of everything: too handsome, too charming, too tall and too broad and too distracting for Josephine’s peace of mind. She needed someone to keep her professor at bay, not keep her from her work with temptations of long walks, laughing, and languorous kisses.

Just as it seems that Josephine might be able to have it all: a career as a pioneering female doctor and a true love match, everything falls apart and Josephine will find herself in danger of becoming a casualty in the battle between ambition and love.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

The heroine is shy, socially awkward, and yet has her eyes firmly on her goals. The hero is basically a James Bond type who meets his match.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

You are asking someone who doesn’t have time to watch movies, and who grew up without a television. Shrugs. I have no idea.

What book/s are you reading at present?

I’m reading a bunch of non-fiction about the English in India in the 1850s written by Indian authors as research for my next hero. I have a few friends who grew up in Mumbai, so I asked them for recommendations. I want to understand that perspective before I start building the character. I also have a few romances on my To Read list written by Indian writers. I’m currently reading Beverly Jenkins’s latest series that starts with Forbidden. And another novel set in Paris in 1887; To Capture What We Cannot Keep.

What writing project are you working on next?

I’ve just finished the second book in my series, In Pursuit of a Bluestocking. It has moved into the first round of edits before it goes to my beta reader for comments. And while it is there, I will start plotting the third and final book in the series.

Winter camping in Australia with the family. Renee loves cooking using hot coals.

Tell us something unique about you that they wouldn’t guess from just looking at your photograph?

Every winter my family goes camping. It might sound slightly mad, but I love winter camping in Australia. It never gets that cold, and you can sit around a big fire with a book all day. I cook in the camp oven over the coals. And the kids roam the bush disconnected from modern life.

What is your favourite book and why?

I don’t have one. I have a whole shelf of favourites that I re-read depending on mood and need.

What is your favourite quote?

The problem with opportunity is that it wears overalls and looks like work.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

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