Follow the Heart
Book 1 of the Great Exhibition Series
It's a Kaye Dacus book... of COURSE it was fantastic! I got started with Kaye's contemporary novels and was hooked in moments. I knew her historicals would be just as good and they are. When the opportunity arose to review Follow the Heart, book 1 of the Great Exhibition series, I jumped at the chance immediately. Great Exhibition. Bonus!
Kate and Christopher are under a lot of pressure to marry and marry well. That would mean ignoring their hearts' leading , in order to do what society and family deems appropriate. Could you stand against family and traditions to follow your heart? I'd like to think I could. It seems easy to say yes, but living their journey with them makes it clear how much a struggle that can be. With loved ones standing on both sides of the choice, it can be hard to Follow the Heart.
Kaye's latest is engaging, exiting and full of romance and fun historical setting that pulls you back into the past as if you were there in person.
About the Book:
Kate and Christopher Dearing’s lives turn upside down when their father loses everything in a railroad land speculation. The siblings are shipped off to their mother’s brother in England with one edict: marry money.
At twenty-seven years old, Kate has the stigma of being passed over by eligible men many times—and that was before she had no dowry. Christopher would like nothing better than to make his own way in the world; and with a law degree and expertise in the burgeoning railroad industry, he was primed to do just that—in America.
Though their uncle tries to ensure Kate and Christopher find matrimonial prospects only among the highest echelon of British society, their attentions stray to a gardener and a governess.
While Christopher has options that would enable him to lay his affections where he chooses, he cannot let the burden of their family’s finances crush his sister. Trying to push her feelings for the handsome—but not wealthy— gardener aside, Kate’s prospects brighten when a wealthy viscount shows interest in her. But is marrying for the financial security of her family the right thing to do, when her heart is telling her she’s making a mistake?
Mandates . . . money . . . matrimony. Who will follow the heart?
Chat with the Author:
Welcome Kaye. I just want to say what a beautiful cover for the new book. How long did it take to write?
A. I came up with the story idea in August 2010 and wrote up a proposal which my agent started pitching. In January 2011, I wrote three sample chapters at the request of a few publishers. But I didn’t write any more than that until August 2011 when I signed the contract with B&H. I turned the manuscript in the first week of May 2012. So it was almost two years from concept to completion, but about nine months of actual focused writing.
Q. How does Follow the Heart fit with the other books you’ve written?
A. Follow the Heart and the Great Exhibition series are similar to my contemporary series (The Brides of Bonneterre and the Matchmakers series with Barbour Publishing) as they are light-hearted, stand-alone novels which are tied together with recurring characters and a familiar setting. They’re also similar to The Ransome Trilogy (Harvest House Publishers) as I try to fully immerse the reader in the language, fashion, and details of the historical era. And each book fulfills my promise of “Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters” that my readers have come to expect.
Q. What’s the takeaway/what do you hope will stick with people when they finish reading the book?
A. Women, especially, tend to look at our choices as a series of obligations—we do what we feel we are obligated to do for the sake of our families, not necessarily what we feel our hearts are telling us to do. I believe, and it’s the theme of this book, that we spend too much time worrying about how we can fix/help/support our families (or those around us at work or in friendships) and not enough time listening to and trusting God. When we pray, we tend to tell God what’s wrong and ask him to fix it. But do we ever really take the time to just be still and listen to what God is trying to tell us? And can we really let God take care of those we feel responsible for and let go of that burden of responsibility that may not, in truth, be ours to bear?
Q. How did you get into the mindset/history of the era?
A. I had a basic knowledge of the mid-19th Century in England through studying both history and literature in college. But I really started learning about it in earnest when I became fascinated with the Great Exhibition several years ago and decided it would make a great backdrop to a series. I tend to first start getting into an era by watching costume-drama adaptations of novels written or set during that time and in that location. In this case—lots of Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell, and lots of bio-pics about Queen Victoria’s early life/rule. Can it get any better? Being able to watch North & South and The Young Victoria over and over and over again and call it “research”? Then I start reading the books on which those movies are based. I “collect” interesting words and turns of phrase, look for methods and manners to behavior and social interaction, get a feel for the way the English language was used by those who knew it best during that time. I also find nonfiction research books that can explain the household, society, gender politics, travel modes, fashion, etc.
Q. Did you learn anything surprising?
A. I learned that the word suburbs was in use by the 1850s (it appears in the opening scene of Dickens’s Bleak House). I also learned that the railway in England had not spread as far by 1851 as I originally thought. It was still really in its infancy—which ended up working to my advantage. And I learned so much about the Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition, much of which I’ve tried to weave into the story.
Q. What interests you most about the Victorian era?
A. I love that it still has the sensibility of the Regency era—from the activities like balls and dinners to the formality of courting customs—yet in 1851, the world is on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution: train and steamboat travel, telegraph, indoor plumbing (“retiring/refreshing rooms” with pay toilets at the Great Exhibition!). I also love that women were starting to come into their own a bit more. Still not considered equals, but at least starting to get some recognition for their contributions and accomplishments in society.
Q. Any other eras you'd like to write?
A. So far, I’ve written contemporary, Regency, and Early Victorian. I really like the flexibility of the Early Victorian setting (the industrial conveniences beginning to make life a little easier). If more historicals are in my future, I’ll probably stick with the 19th century. I have a good base of knowledge of it and I’m comfortable with the language and mores of the major social movements of that century.
Q. Where did the idea come from/what was the inspiration?
A. In 2001, I watched Victoria & Albert on A&E and fell in love with the love story of these two monarchs of England. But that wasn’t the only thing I took away from it. I was also fascinated by the scenes which portrayed the planning and opening of Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition in 1851. Then, a few years later, I watched another mini-series: North & South. No, not the one about the American Civil War, the one based on the classic, but little-known, novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. It also has a scene that takes place at the Great Exhibition. Once I saw that, I was hooked—on the era and on the event.
Q. What was it like writing a dual romance?
A. It was hard, at times, to make sure that both romantic storylines got enough attention. And, obviously, both could not be the focus of the plot. But both were important, as they were intertwined (I know, that sounds weird since we’re talking a brother and sister here) in how the development of the relationships affected the decisions both Kate and Christopher could/would make.
Q. Which character in this book is most like you?
A. All of my characters incorporate parts of me, so this is a hard question to answer. I’d probably have to say Kate, though, and not just because we share the same full first name. Like Kate, I tend to take on a lot of responsibility and feel obligated to do things because I think it’s my duty. I don’t want to disappoint others, so I’ll work myself literally into a sickbed rather than delegate or let something slide.
Q. Which character in this book was the most fun to write?
A. Christopher, being lighthearted and easygoing, was the most fun to write. I always found myself in a better mood when I was writing his scenes.
Q. Which character in this book was the hardest to write?
A. Lord Thynne (pronounced tine, like the tine of a fork) turned out to be the hardest to write—to get his motivations right but also keep him sympathetic, since he comes back in Book 3.
Q. How did you choose your characters' names?
A. Funny story . . . Kate’s name was originally Meg and her maid’s name was Joan. Until I picked up a book by a writer friend and discovered those two names (as heroine and her maid, no less!) on the first page. So I went back to my original story idea and the images of the actress who’s the template for the character. And almost as soon as I did, I heard her voice very distinctly in my head: My name is KATE. But rich men don’t marry Kates. They marry Katharines. So I changed her name and nickname to Katharine/Kate (Katharine spelled with an A in the middle in honor of my favorite actress Katharine Hepburn.) Andrew is a name I’ve always loved and wanted to use, and it suited this landscape architect perfectly.
Q. Why did you choose to set this series in Oxford, when the Great Exhibition took place in London?
A. I read at least three or four British-set historical romances each month—and without fail, the majority of them are set in London. It’s a setting that has become over-exposed. Also, with a landscape architect as my main hero, I needed the action to take place at a country house, not in the city. By the 1850s, Oxford was a large enough city to have railway service to all of the other major cities, but still quaint/small enough to give the small-town feel that I love to use in my stories. Plus, there was a lot of chaos happening in London in early 1851 due to the final preparations for the Great Exhibition, and I felt like that could overwhelm what I wanted my story and settings to be.
Q. How did you become a writer?
A. Even though I started writing when I was twelve or thirteen (writing down the stories I’d been playing out with my Barbies so I’d remember the next day), it wasn’t until I was sixteen or seventeen when I really felt like writing was what I wanted to do with my life. I just didn’t have anyone around me who knew how to direct me. My parents encouraged me, but they weren’t sure how to give me guidance. I had a wonderful Creative Writing teacher in high school and that was when I knew for sure that I wanted to be like him—I wanted to be able to teach others how to do what it was I loved doing so much. But it wasn’t until much later in my life, at the age of thirty when I attended my first writers’ conference, that I truly realized I wanted to pursue publication.
Q. How do you write both historical and contemporary?
A. The short answer is: I write both contemporary and historical because I’ve had ideas for both contemporary and historical novels. I also enjoy writing both. While they take the same amount of effort creatively to come up with the storyline and develop the characters, there is more work that goes into writing the historicals due to the higher amount of research (yes, contemporaries take research, too) and making sure I’m using era-appropriate language as much as possible. For me, I like alternating writing them, because one is almost like a palate cleanser for the other. Each challenges me in a different way, and I do truly love writing both.
Q. If you had to choose another genre to write in, what would it be?
A. As Jeff Gerke (publisher, Marcher Lord Press) is fond of reminding me: everyone has a science fiction book in them somewhere. And he’s right. I’m a long-time sci-fi TV/movie fan (I’ve been to a few Star Trek conventions, after all), and I’ve recently been playing around with an idea for a sci-fi story/series. It’s mostly world-building and character development at this point, but it’s a fun diversion.
Q. What was/were your favorite book(s) growing up?
A. I loved the Little House on the Prairie books (still have the original yellow-cover copies from childhood). As a ’tween, I discovered the Sunfire YA romances, and I was hooked!
Q. How do you work, teach, and write at the same time?
A. It’s hard—and I have to admit that in the first six to eight months after going back to work full-time and starting to teach part-time, it was hard trying to figure out a balance. But once I put myself on a strict schedule—and started making myself meet a word-count goal daily—it started getting much easier. I do much better when I have too much to do than when I have not enough.
Q. How do you "write in the car" when you're traveling by yourself?
A. A few years ago, when I was working freelance and traveling to speaking events, conferences, and appearances several times a month, I discovered that my laptop came with speech recognition software as part of Windows 7. With a microphone headset, I discovered that I could dictate into Word and redeem all of that travel time—and then I wasn’t having to try to furtively and frantically write when I got where I was going. Even though I don’t travel as often now, I do still occasionally use that as a time to get some word-count in so that I don’t feel so guilty about not writing when I get where I’m going.
Q. What's next?
A. I’m currently finishing up editing the second book in this series, An Honest Heart, and writing The Heart that Waits, which is the third and final book in the Great Exhibition series. After that . . . who knows?
Q. What's your favorite romance novel/ist?
A. I’ve fallen in and out of love with so many writers/books over the years. I’d have to say, though, that the author whose books most affected me was Willow Davis Roberts. Her Sunfire romance Victoria was the book that led me to start writing (I loved it so much I tried writing a sequel). I also loved Caroline (Sunfire). But the one I continue to read at least once a year was a stand-alone YA gothic romance, White Jade.
Q. Who's your favorite author from classic literature?
A. Can it be any other than Jane Austen? Though I read parts of P&P in my high school Brit Lit class where we also watched the (1980s) miniseries, it wasn’t until I read Persuasion when I was 27 years old that I truly fell in love with the grand-matriarch of the romance genre.
Q. What's your favorite costume drama movie/mini-series?
A. It’s so hard to pick just one. But right now, I’d have to go with The Young Victoria. I’ve watched it so many times in the past few years, it’s a wonder my DVD isn’t worn out!
Q. Describe a day in the life of Kaye Dacus.
A. After dragging myself out of the bed between 6:45 and 7:00 a.m. (I’m not a morning person!) to get ready for work, I get to the office around 8:00 a.m. If I don’t have other plans at lunchtime (meeting friends or running errands or other appointments), I will have a sandwich at my desk while trying to get in my 1,000 daily words on my manuscript. At 4:30, when the workday ends, I either stay at the office until I finish my word-count, or I’m off to the gym (and on Tuesdays, it’s off to Panera to write with dear friend Liz Johnson). At home, I’m either grading papers for the composition class I teach or I’m working on something for one or more of my books (editing, proofing, marketing, etc.). At ten o’clock, I’m in the bed, where I spend the next hour or so winding down by catching up on blogs and then reading. Around 11 p.m. is lights-out. Pretty boring stuff.
Q. How many complete manuscripts have you written, and which one do you have the strongest emotional bond with?
A. Counting the book due to my publisher on June 1, I have written fifteen complete manuscripts—three unpublished and twelve published (or soon to be). If I had to pick one book with which I still have the strongest bond, I’d probably have to go with The Art of Romance. Even though I put so much of myself into all of my characters, there’s just something special about Dylan and Caylor that makes them—and their story—continue on in my imagination long after finishing the book.
Q. What is the accomplishment you are most proud of?
A. When I dropped out of college at age 21, I was the first person in three generations on my mom’s side of the family not to finish my education. So when I walked across the stage almost fifteen years later to receive my hood and Master’s Degree, that was one of the proudest moments of my life. Getting my first book contract comes pretty close, though.
On your desk: Most worthless item?
A bent-out-of-shape paper clip.
On your desk: Most priceless item?
Framed family photo.
On your desk: Most revealing item?
Several different stacks of papers/folders/notebooks/books in slight disarray.
On your desk: Most fun item?
On your desk: Most embarrassing item?
An unopened pack of Taco Bell Hot sauce which has been sitting here for more than two weeks.
What's your biggest time waster/distraction?
Do you collect anything?
Karl Urban character action figures (Eomer, Dr. McCoy, etc.)
Who's your secret celebrity crush?
I have two, and they’re not such a big secret (I have a board dedicated to them on Pinterest): Oded Fehr and Karl Urban. I call them my “alternate-universe husbands.”
What's your guilty pleasure?
Bingeing on as many episodes of Supernatural on Netflix as I can watch in one sitting.
What household task do you dread/enjoy?
Dread: Anything involving cleaning or paying bills
What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
If I’m not at work and I’m not writing, I’m doing one of the following three things: hanging out with friends (usually dinner and a movie), watching TV/Netflix/DVDs at home, or reading.
If you were to star in a romantic movie, would it be contemporary or historical, drama or comedy, and what actor would play your leading man?
If I were to star in a romantic movie, it would be a humorous contemporary. Melissa McCarthy, Queen Latifah, and Adele would play my three best friends with whom I share a large house in the ’burbs of Nashville, and Oded Fehr would be a highly respected (and wealthy) surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and he would fall head-over-heels in love with me. Of course, tomorrow, I could be an independent Englishwoman who travels to New Zealand in the early 20th Century there to meet the handsome, charming Karl Urban and, after some humorous misunderstandings and miscommunication, we live happily ever after on our sheep farm.
Pop, Soda, or Coke? What do you call it, and what’s your favorite variety?
I grew up calling it coke—growing up in the Southwest and having lots of Southern influences in my family. But after living in the Mid-Atlantic for several years as well as then being an editor and learning to spot brand names and edit them out, I now typically call it soda. My favorite variety right now is the Kroger house brand diet cherry cola.
NOTE: This blogger says its Pop. Always. :)
What’s your favorite dessert?
Mmm. I agree with you there.
What’s your favorite movie from childhood?
Thanks for the fun and fascinating interview, Kaye. We appreciate your time in sharing with us.
About the Author:
Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing, Harvest House Publishers, and B&H Publishing. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is a full-time academic advisor and part-time English Composition instructor for Bethel University.