Lillian Marek was born and raised in New York City. At one time or another she has had most of the interesting but underpaid jobs available to English majors. After a few too many years in journalism, she decided she prefers fiction, where the good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve. The first book in her Victorian Adventure series, Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures, won first prize in both the Launching A Star and the Windy City Four Seasons contests. She was also a first prize winner in the Beau Monde’s Royal Ascot contest.
What’s the most interesting fact you uncovered in your research for this book?
I’m not sure what people might consider the most interesting, but certainly the most serendipitous—did I spell that right? Anyway, the most serendipitous thing I discovered was a pair of countries just about the right size in a perfect location.
You see, the inspiration for A Scandalous Adventure was Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda, in which an Englishman masquerades as the King of Ruritania, who has been kidnapped. In my story, a young Englishwoman ends up masquerading as a princess who has disappeared, so I was going to set it in the fictional country of Ruritania.
As an aside, The Prisoner of Zenda was such a success that it gave rise to a whole series of romantic novels set in fictional countries, to say nothing of spoofs of the genre like the Marx Brothers’ Freedonia in Duck Soup.
But I digress.
Anyway, I had proposed setting the book in Ruritania and had started writing it when my publisher decide that I really ought to use a real country because the two earlier books in the Victorian Adventure series had been set in real places. Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures is set in Italy in 1853 with references to Garibaldi supporters and visits to real Etruscan ruins, and Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey takes the characters to Mesopotamia and visits to real Assyrian ruins in ancient Nineveh.
Well, my first thought was that this shouldn’t be too hard. The story was taking place before the unification of Germany, so there were lots of little German states, all worrying about whether they were going to get swallowed up by Bismarck and Prussia or Franz Josef and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Then I took a good look at the map of Germany before 1870. There were a gazillion little states in northern German—duchies and grand duchies, principalities and kingdoms. Some of them were no bigger than a city. Sort of like Liechtenstein or Monaco.
I couldn’t go visit them—not that I wouldn’t have liked to, but there are always constraints of time and money. And finding out enough about them and what they looked like and so on was going to be a major problem.
Then I looked further south and found just what I needed.
Sandwiched in between the Grand Duchy of Baden and the Kingdom of Württemberg (now the state of Baden-Württemberg) were two minor states, the principality of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and the principality of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Small enough to be minor players in European history but large enough not to be totally insignificant.
Well, their locations and size were perfect. Their history was not.
Of course, no country’s history was going to work in the story because no country actually had a missing princess who was replaced by a visiting English lady. In addition, both Sigmaringen and Hechingen had been ruled by members of the Hohenzollern family, the same family that ruled Prussia, and both countries had been absorbed by Prussia in 1850.
To make them work for my story, I gave them a few more years of independence and got rid of the Hohenzollerns. Since this area was part of the medieval Duchy of Swabia, which was ruled by the Hohenstaufen family, my Prince of Sigmaringen is a Hohenstaufen, and my hero is Count Maximillian von Staufer. This connection doesn’t matter at all in the book, and isn’t even mentioned. It’s just one of those things I know about my characters and now you do too.
These principalities are located in the Swabian Alps, and I liked the mountain setting. I made use of the actual town of Sigmaringen, a fairytale town located on a river with the prince’s castle perched on a cliff above it, and the fabulous Hohenzollern Castle became Max’s home.
Then while I was researching Swabia, I came across a sign that translated, “Swabia: We can do anything except speak proper German.” This gave me the opportunity to play around a bit with the ruling class speaking “proper” German and the ordinary people speaking the Swabian dialect.
One of the lovely things about research is that you keep stumbling over more and more interesting tidbits. Isn’t it wonderful?
They’re hiding a scandalous secretWhen his monarch’s flighty fiancée disappears, Count Maximillian von Staufer is dispatched to find her. His search leads Max to discover not the princess, but a look-alike who could be her double. Desperate to avoid an international crisis, he conceives a plan that will buy some time—and allow him to get to know a beautiful Englishwoman.And time is running outLady Susannah Tremaine and her young friend Olivia are staying at the Grand Hotel in Baden, where so far the most exciting part of the visit has been the pastries. But when a devastatingly handsome royal Germanic officer asks Olivia to impersonate a missing princess, Susannah finds herself drawn into a dangerous world of international intrigue as she tries to protect her friend—and her heart.
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