historical fiction books | historical romance books

Interview with Paper Lantern Writer Edie Cay

By Jonathan Posner
March 13, 2024

Regency romance is not a genre I traditionally read, so I approached Edie Cay’s When the Blood Is Up series with a certain amount of caution. But after reading book 1 A Lady’s Revenge, I was hooked! So I was really keen to hear more from this highly creative writer about her work.
Jonathan Posner

Jonathan: Hello Edie Cay. You have published a series of historical novels set in Regency England, called the When the Blood is Up series:

  1. A Lady’s Revenge
  2. The Boxer and the Blacksmith
  3. A Lady’s Finder
  4. A Viscount’s Vengeance
  5. A Lady’s Resilience

What first attracted you to the English Regency period?

Edie: Honestly, I’m more attracted to the Georgian period (which started before the Regency, but encompasses it). I’m interested in the changes that occur in the world around the turn of century. When we think of 1700s vs. the 1800s, there is a huge difference. I love exploring how attitudes changed during those 25 years on either side.

Jonathan: Your latest book in the series A Lady’s Resilience just launched. It’s book five and the last book in the series, but it’s also a prequel to book one, A Lady’s Revenge. Tell us a bit about this book and how it pulls the whole series together.

Edie: As a whole, this series is about a small, close-knit family made up of friends as well as blood family. They don’t fit the mold of a traditional family, and are unwilling to pretend that they do. Full of extraordinary people, they are unique in that they allow the young people to do what they feel is best. But why? That’s the story of A Lady’s Resilience. Why does Lady Andrepont let her son cast about for so long, only to marry the younger sister of an upstart nobody (A Viscount’s Vengeance)? Why does Lady Lorian let her eldest daughter take prizefighting lessons (A Lady’s Revenge)? Who are these boxers and where did they come from (The Boxer and the Blacksmith)? Why don’t the Lothians pressure their youngest daughter to get married (A Lady’s Finder)? All of these questions are answered in A Lady’s Resilience, which is the story of the parents and why their situation renders them kinder to their children.

Jonathan: Should a reader who is new to the series read A Lady’s Resilience first?

Edie: A reader could do that, as they all are technically stand-alone novels. However, to get the best experience, they should start with book one, A Lady’s Revenge. By the time they get to A Lady’s Resilience, all the groundwork has been laid out, and the answers will get served up on a platter.

Jonathan: The theme that runs through the series is Regency ladies’ boxing. How much was this a real and historically accurate part of the Regency era?

Edie: Women’s boxing was historically accurate, though I have taken much from the Georgian period, when it was in its heyday. Much of women’s boxing was not documented at the time, partly because the main historian of it, Pierce Egan, wanted boxing to be prized as quintessentially English, and therefore, very manly. Documenting women’s fights would take away from the manliness of it all. However, we do know of some because of other letter writers. But even at the turn of the 1800s, the biggest names in boxing at the time sponsored women’s bouts. So it had to have been a big enough of a sport to draw them in.

Jonathan:  You have a very colourful cast of characters – from high nobility and eclectic odd-balls, through to street paupers. You also have some very strong, independent female characters. What were the challenges in setting these characters in the Regency era?

Edie: I love me a good Cinderella story, don’t get me wrong. But when I think about the past, and learn of the monarchs and their jewels, I always think about the regular people. What about someone like me, who wouldn’t have been a part of the upper crust, who would have been going about their lives, taking care of family, worrying about the health of livestock? The challenge of this, of course, is that these people don’t have a voice in the historical record. It’s easy to believe they were downtrodden and unhappy, but why? Would they really? We know that women of this and earlier periods could own businesses, transact trade, sell at marketplaces. We know that drag queens could successfully and famously conduct themselves in drag all the time—and in fact go to court and accuse others of stealing without fear of persecution, because they were so well-regarded in their community. Our modern perspective on the past has been so colored with Victorian condemnation that we don’t want to believe those people had the freedom to do so. But they did. And I like to highlight that.

Jonathan: Were there any challenges or obstacles you faced in seamlessly blending the romance elements with the more unconventional theme of women participating in boxing matches?

Edie: Honestly? None. I’ve never understood why women have to be “nice” to be desired. Passion is interesting and complex. And the idea that an angry woman is a modern construct is…laughable at best. Every war has had women dressing up as a soldier to fight or to go after her husband (for whatever reason). Sometimes they are found out after being wounded, some not. Some are only discovered after the fact when bodies are being looted. But there is no less romanticism for them than any man that would engage in those activities. I don’t view a woman (or a man) as not being interested in love just because they have an intense streak. Maybe more so.

Jonathan: As an author you must read a lot yourself. Which author/s have influenced you the most?

Edie: I read a ton. I love reading for the escape, for the learning, for entertainment. My biggest influences are Edith Wharton and Margaret Atwood. Enough that my pen name is based on Edith Wharton. Two of her books, House of Mirth and Custom of the Country in particular were highly influential because their heroines are unreliable. In House of Mirth, Lily Bart wants money. So she goes about trying to lay marriage traps for wealthy men whom she despises. But then she meets a middle class man, Lawrence Seldon, whom she really likes, and who loves her. But she can’t bring herself to marry him because he isn’t wealthy. Nor can she bring herself to become the mistress of a wealthy man because he’s awful. Her inability to choose makes her decision for her. In Custom of the Country, the main character, Undine, is the opposite of Lily Bart. She is beautiful and grasping and willing to use marriage to climb the social ladder. Which she does. Until that last rung eludes her because of her past deeds, and she cannot seem to find happiness with what she has.

In the romance genre, my influence is directly from Courtney Milan, though there are others as well. Mostly because Milan has smart characters. They are intelligent (more Lily Bart, but with the ambition of Undine), and they are specific characters who live specific lives. They aren’t only wealthy women, or men, but rather they are interested and pursue a particular area that is integral to their personhood.

Jonathan: What is the best achievement in your writing career so far?

Edie: This is a hard one. Being asked to speak for the Regency Fiction Writers conference is the highest achievement I’ve had. This is a group who really knows their historical stuff. They cite sources and have immense resources available to their members. (I am a member). Also, they believe in integrity for their presenters, so they are paid for their time. (I have spoken at conferences where my reimbursement was a discount on a ticket price. I will not be going back to those). But I love speaking about women’s boxing, and also about the messy people who blazed its trail.

But in practice, what do I hold dearest? Probably my former MFA writing professor occasionally commenting on my social media posts saying that she’s proud of me. An MFA is a tricky thing because romance as a genre was entirely discarded while I was there. And also in other MFA programs that I had a chance to peek in at. So to have my MFA professor say that she’s been watching my progress feels huge.

Jonathan: What is your ambition for the future? What burning passion have you yet to achieve?

Edie: I really would like to write a non-fiction book, or maybe a fictionalized account of Elizabeth Wilkinson, her husband, James Stokes, and their friend and rival, James Figg. It’s the fascinating beginning of prizefighting in the modern, Western world, and it’s fully of messy egos and money and fame. But of course, I would need someone to fund my staying in London while I researched them…

Mostly my passion is showing how women have always been people. How women need exercise and can love sports and being outside, and being free. It has only been in recent (historically speaking) times that women have been “allowed” to run. To run! The most basic piece of our bodies. There is a famous photograph of a woman being harangued at the Boston marathon in 1972. But women were conducting footraces for prizes in medieval England. It’s sort of insane how rights are taken, and then when restored its celebrated as “progress.” So I want to write books that show how women have always been like this.

Also, I want to have an international book signing someday. Where it’s just me. That would be nice.

Jonathan Posner

Written by Jonathan Posner

Jonathan writes action and adventure novels set in Tudor England, with fiesty female heroines. He has a trilogy that starts with a modern-day girl time-travelling back to the 16th century, as well as a spin-off series (one book so far, with the next due in 2023), and also a prequel.

View Jonathan’s PLW Profile

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