March 12, 2013

Rebecca Cohen: Duty to the Crown (Interview)

Please help me welcome fellow Dreamspinner author Rebecca Cohen!

Title: Duty to the Crown
Release Date: 4th March 2013

Author: Rebecca Cohen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Genre: Historical Romance
Blurb: Despite the uncomfortable clothing and the gossip at court, Sebastian Hewel is still enjoying the role of Lady Bronwyn, wife of Earl Anthony Crofton. But when Queen Elizabeth asks a favor of Anthony, Sebastian’s world fractures and his heart threatens to break. The Queen wants Anthony to seduce Marie Valois, the beautiful daughter of a French noble, to discover the whereabouts of her father, who is wanted by the King of France.

Sebastian knows Anthony can’t refuse the Queen, especially since he has something of a reputation at court. But the situation is further complicated when Marie meets Sebastian without his disguise—and starts flirting with him. Her brother, Nicholas, arrives at Crofton Hall, not happy that his sister has been linked to a man like Anthony, only to find his own head turned by Lady Bronwyn and her acerbic wit. Contending with the attentions of both siblings—and a very jealous Anthony—would be bad enough. But then Sebastian’s uncle demands Sebastian and Anthony stage Bronwyn’s death to avoid discovery….

1-Welcome Rebecca Cohen! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your release.

I am Brit who now lives in Switzerland, and even though I’ve lived in the German-speaking part of the country for nearly 18 months, my German is terrible! My new release, Duty to the Crown, is a historical romance and the sequel to The Actor and the Earl. In Duty to the Crown we catch up with Sebastian Hewel, an ex-actor, who is masquerading as his twin sister, wife of Anthony Crofton. Their relationship is going from strength to strength, but Queen Elizabeth asks Anthony to seduce the whereabouts of a French noble from the aristocrat’s daughter. Sebastian is far from happy, but Queen Elizabeth is not someone you can refuse.

2-In what locale is your book set? Why did you choose this setting?

Duty to the Crown is set in 1600 in Elizabethan England, between London, and the Crofton country estate. I love the Tudor period in history, and there is very little Elizabethan m/m out there, so I thought I would love to write some. The fact that female roles in the theatre were played by young men was a perfect start for a plot and it grew from there.

3-How long have you been writing?

I wrote a lot when I was younger, but I stopped when I went off to university to study science, and didn’t return to it until my late twenties. I’ve been writing again for going on nine years, and was first published in 2011 (Captain Merric in Cross Bones anthology).

4-What compelled you to write this particular story?

Duty to the Crown is the sequel to The Actor and the Earl. I really enjoyed writing the first one, they are what I’d call romps, and I’m sure my love of Shakespearean comedies is more than obvious. Even before I finished the first I had the idea for the sequel. So I carried on!

5-What gave you the courage to submit your story to a publisher?

I’d written the second draft of Servitude (my first novel) and left it a drawer (so to speak) after not really knowing what to do it with. But while I was still completing my diploma in creative writing, my tutor introduced me to Duotrope. From that I realized there were specialist publishers for m/m romance. I still wasn’t convinced Servitude would be accepted, and I found a guide to getting published by Dreamspinner Press in their newsletter which suggested the best way was to try first for one of their anthologies and maybe write a freebie for the their newsletter – I did both, and both got published. After that I felt brave enough to try with Servitude, and the rest is history.

6-When creating your characters, do you have models in mind or are they totally fictional?

It’s a mix. Anthony Crofton, in The Actor and the Earl and Duty to the Crown, is based on Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leicester, but most of my characters are fictitious with a sprinkling of character traits I see in people around me. I have been known to use Jungian archetypes to help build a character if I get stuck.

7-Why did you start writing m/m? Is there something special that draws you to this genre?

I didn’t start out to write m/m per se. My first novel took seven years to write (including a several gaps – one to complete my diploma in creative writing and three complete rewrites), so when I started writing it I hadn’t got the faintest idea there was even a separate genre for m/m. I hadn’t written anything for a good ten years, and I had a very striking dream of two men, one dressed as a roman slave. and the other a roman general. That scene didn’t make it into the novel (it is going in the sequel, mind you!), but the plot unfolded from there and Servitude was created.

8-What are you reading right now? Do you have a favorite author or genre?

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett… I’m current reworking my way through his Discworld Guards books. Along with Pratchett, my other favorite authors are P.G. Wodehouse and Stephen Fry. I like lots of different genres, but do appreciate some humor running through the story.

9-What are you working on now?

The working title is Idolatry, and is the sequel to my fantasy novel Servitude.

10-When you're not writing, how do you like to spend your time?

I’m a new mum, so I’m enjoying playing with my son and having family time while on maternity leave from the evil day job.

11-What are your writing goals for 2013?

To find some time to do some! Only joking, well a little bit. I’d like to finish the sequel to Servitude, work on the idea I have for a sci-fi novel, which is dangerously growing into a series if I’m not careful, and get back to my Tudor boys to finish their story.

12-Do you have personal goals for 2013?

To be happy and healthy, and not stress over the little things.

Would you like to share an excerpt from “Duty to the Crown”?

GUESTS had been arriving for days, the elite of the English ruling classes descending in droves on Crofton Hall to celebrate Anthony’s thirtieth birthday. Usually Sebastian didn’t greet the carriages as they arrived, but there was no way he was going to let Anthony meet the Lady Valois for the first time without being present. He hadn’t heard much about the woman herself, but since he would have to stand by and watch Anthony openly court her, he wanted to see for himself what his potential nemesis was like. The vain hope that she would be an ugly woman was dashed as Marie Valois alighted from her carriage. 
She had a heart-shaped face with flawless pale skin, and her cheeks were accented in rouge, as were her Cupid’s-bow lips. Large eyes, hazel in color, gave her an open, innocent appearance, and her hair was swept up under a blonde wig with ringlet curls, which showcased her elegant jaw and slender neck. Dressed in an expensive blue silk gown of the latest fashion, she descended from the coach with such grace that it made Sebastian wince to think about how he must look when he clambered aboard a coach. He sighed internally, but kept his smile in place, careful not to show any negative emotion. Knowing his luck, Marie would also have a wonderful personality. 
Sebastian risked a sideways glance at Anthony. As he feared, there was an air of appreciation on Anthony’s face as he watched Marie—his smile just a little too warm, his eyes too bright for Sebastian’s liking. Before Sebastian could make a whispered comment about Anthony staring in an ungentlemanly manner, Anthony was already stepping forward to greet their guest. 
Lady Valois,” he said, pressing a kiss to the back of her hand, “it is a true pleasure to have you visit Crofton Hall.” 
Her low curtsey afforded a very clear view of her ample bosom. “Thank you for inviting me, Earl Crofton. Her Majesty asked me to pass on her warm regards.” 
Anthony’s smile got even wider. “Please consider the hall your home while you are here. And call on me at any time if there is anything I can do to assist you.” 
Sebastian walked forward and cleared his throat, and Anthony had the decency to be embarrassed. “And may I introduce you to my wife, Lady Bronwyn.” 
Marie smiled at Sebastian, curtseying again. “Lady Crofton.” 
Sebastian returned the curtsey. “Please, call me Bronwyn, Lady Valois. Perhaps you would like to freshen up from your journey before supper?” 
That would be most kind. I would also like it if you would call me Marie.” 
I can call for my lady’s maid to assist you if you require.” 
That will not be necessary. Madeline has travelled with me.” It was only then that Sebastian realized there was someone standing behind Marie—a short, mousey woman in her late thirties who Sebastian took to be Marie’s lady’s maid. 
Sebastian ordered one of the servants to escort Marie to her guest room as they entered the hall, and watched Anthony as his gaze followed Marie upstairs. Sebastian couldn’t hide his annoyance any further. “I will see you for supper, Anthony. That is, if you even realize I am there.” 
His displeased tone startled Anthony out of his reverie. “I…. Sorry?” 
With an indignant snort, Sebastian swept away up the stairs without looking back. He’d intended to slam the door shut behind him but finding Anthony standing the doorway prevented his outburst. 
I sense you’re not happy,” said Anthony, more confused than repentant. 
Once again, I am staggered by your ability to read a situation, Anthony. With such abilities I am surprised you are wasting your time in the provinces and are not in London carving out a political career.” 
Anthony calmly shut the door behind him. “What have I done?” 
Oh, nothing but salivate over a pretty young woman right in front of me. Maybe I should be pleased that you did not dive headfirst into her cleavage.” 
You are being ridiculous, Sebastian. I was just being friendly and welcoming.” 
You forget, Anthony, that I have witnessed firsthand your version of being friendly and welcoming, and I was lucky I could walk the next morning!”


  1. Great post! I just bought The Actor and the Earl, Rebecca. I can't wait to read both books! I love that time period.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Skylar. I will read the first book in this series soon and I'm very much looking forward to it!

  2. Rebecca,

    First I'm jealous you find any time to write being a new mom. When 'lil q came along, I had almost no time to write during my 16 weeks off. I think the premise for the Actor and the Earl and Duty to the Crown is fascinating. I must confess to not having had the time to get to read them yet, I've such a back log it's insane. But one question if I may. The earl does know he's 'married' to Sebastian and not is twin, right? lol Good luck with right and best wishes for the time you have with your son.