After wanting to read Michelle Griep’s historical romantic suspense for a while, I randomly selected The Innkeeper’s Daughter, a standalone novel, book 2 of 3 in the Bow Street Runner’s Trilogy. It’s set in 1808 England, near the onset of the Regency Era.
I was hooked. Every day, I couldn’t wait to read the next chapters. The plot and characters were riveting.
Though set decades later during the Gilded Age in Cincinnati, Ohio, Crystal Caudill’s Counterfeit Love (featured Sept 6) is in the same vein, with the hero working undercover, the facade he must maintain to catch the criminals, and the lies he’s forced to tell.
A London officer goes undercover to expose a plot against the Crown.
Dover, England, 1808: Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue. . .until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.
All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse—where she’ll be separated from her ailing mother and ten-year-old brother.
Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.
The setting is primarily Dover, England, 1808. Alexander Moore (AKA Alex Morgan), a Bow Street investigator, goes undercover as a gambling wine merchant in order to expose a plot against the crown. He just happens to stay at the Blue Hedge Inn where Johanna Langley lives and works.
Johanna and her mother do their best to stay afloat, but some boarders don’t consistently pay. Such as peculiar Mr. Nutbrown and his puppet Nixie. One is never seen without the other.
The ruthless landlord keeps stopping by demanding payment. Or else. Johanna’s younger brother contributes to the angst with his unreliability and mischief.
With romances, we know the hero and heroine will end up together, but the question is how? It seems impossible at so many levels. That’s definitely the case here.
Alex is a gentleman. He’s protective, reliable, intelligent, resourceful, and compassionate. Definitely swoon-worthy. Johanna is strong in tough times, hospitable and kind—even to Mr. Nixie—but doesn’t easily trust men.
Over time, Johanna senses Alex is a man of integrity. And he’s definitely falling for her, but can’t blow his cover—which includes feigning a marriage proposal to another woman. Worse yet, Johanna gets caught in the middle of the mess Alex is trying to unravel.
Strong characters, great pacing, intrigue, danger, suspense, unexpected twists, and humor—it’s all here in one package. The point of view, of course, alternates between the hero and heroine, as well as someone else I didn’t suspect would be such a major part of the story. That’s just one of many surprises.
Join me for some Q & A with Michelle Griep.
Questions about The Innkeeper’s Daughter
What was your inspiration for writing The Innkeeper’s Daughter? What’s your personal connection to the setting or situation?
Michelle: Every chance I get to skip across the pond, I take. One such trip had me hiking the trails along the white cliffs of Dover—an old smuggling trail at that. Right then and there I decided to set a story involving some sort of black-market trading set in that very spot, and so The Innkeeper’s Daughter was born.
What historical parameters were imposed on you? Where did you have to fill in the gaps with your imagination?
Michelle: Being this story is set in 1808, I had to keep within the boundaries of what was going on in the Regency era. Women didn’t have a whole lot of freedom during that time, so it’s always a fine line to have an admirably feisty heroine yet keep her historically accurate.
How did you develop your heroine Johanna Langley and hero Alexander Moore? What would Johanna and Alexander have to say about you?
Michelle: I always like to give my characters a goal, motivation to reach that goal, and conflict to make achieving that goal a bit of a struggle. I also give them a lie they believe about themselves and/or God that they eventually realize is an untruth so that they can grow in character because that is the human condition. This is the basis for how I developed Johanna and Alex.
I suspect these two might give me a bit of an earful as to why I made their lives so hard 😉
Do your characters hijack the story or do you have full rein? Which characters would you be least and most likely to get along with?
Michelle: In this particular story there is one character who popped up out of nowhere and completely stole my heart even though he’s kind of a jerk. Lucius Nutbrown is a sympathetic little rascal that is easy to love and hate at the same time. I don’t know that I’d get along with him or her little brother Thomas because I’d probably end up wringing their necks. I think Johanna and I could easily be BFF’s however.
How did you develop a suspenseful plot that relies on so many complicating factors that need to fit like puzzle pieces and remain believable? How do you keep everything straight?
Michelle: Yeah, this plot was particularly snarly. I have a huge wall that’s painted in blackboard paint, and you would not believe all the crazy plot bubbles and lines I had connecting all those bubbles. LOTS of chalk!
What unusual thing did you do or discover while researching for this story (or any story)?
Michelle: While I was researching this story (lots and lots of research books on my bookshelf) I came across these things called Congreve rockets. I had no idea that rockets were around in the early 1800s but lo and behold, they surely were—so it was fun to incorporate that historical tidbit into this tale.
Questions about writing
What books have been most influential for you as an author?
Michelle: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King is the book I most often recommend to aspiring authors. I had no idea what showing vs telling was until I read this one.
Another really inspiring book that’s two thumbs up is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Her writing and her words are an inspiration.
Where do your story ideas usually originate from—character, plot, setting, theme, or a combination? Share examples of how one of your stories grew from an initial idea.
Michelle: Hah! Honestly they can come from absolutely anywhere. One time I went to a drive-in movie with my family. I had zero interest in the first movie, Zootopia, but hey, I was there and I had a bucket of popcorn in front of my face so I watched it.
Don’t you know that I ended up adoring that plot? So I totally stole the idea and refashioned believable characters that would work in Victorian London. That’s where the Blackfriars series came from…The Thief of Blackfriars Lane, The Bride of Blackfriars Lane, and I’m currently working on the third.
Share a little about your novel writing process, and the length of time it takes to complete a book.
Michelle: Like all good stories, I start with a small idea and flesh it out bit by bit. I don’t have the whole story figured out when I sit down to write it, but I have a general idea of where I want to start and how I want it to end.
I strive to write about 1200 words per weekday, which on a good day I can do in a few hours, but if I’m horsing around on Facebook or whatnot, that can stretch to 4 or 5. That being said, with life thrown in, it usually takes me a good 6 months to finish a novel with a goal of 100,000 words.
You’ve written historical fiction in many time periods. Do you have a favorite period? Please share something about a current project or the direction you want to go as an author.
Michelle: Hmm. That’s a tough one. As a history lover, I’m a fan of so many periods that it would be hard to pick one. I suppose, though, if forced to choose, I’d go with the nineteenth century and definitely in England because I’m an Anglophile at heart.
Currently I’m working on the third Blackfriars book, which is so much fun to be back in Jackson and Kit’s world. Here’s a blurb:
A husband. A home. A baby. Kit has a lot to juggle, and if that’s not enough, she’s partnered with her father to open a new enquiry agency. It’s hard to be all things to all people, but Kit never shies away from the impossible. Despite her hard work and good intentions—and the growing challenges looming larger each day—inevitably some things fall through the cracks.
Namely, her husband.
But Jackson barely notices. He’s too busy putting out his own fires. As the new chief inspector of a busy London station, he must salvage the disaster left behind by the former police chief—an obstacle made all the harder when the superintendent breathes down his neck.
Against her father’s advice, Kit takes on a case involving a missing child, one in which she and Jackson become a little too emotionally involved…and end up endangering their own little babe.
Can Kit and Jackson learn that just because they can say yes doesn’t mean they should?
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Michelle: Girl, don’t stress it. God’s got this…in fact, He’s got everything.
Back to Laura . . . On a similar note . . .
If you like historical fiction, you might enjoy my novel, Fifteen Minutes with Mr. Baum. Set in Holland, Michigan, this pre-published dual timeline novel alternates between 1980 and the early 1900s. It highlights The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum. Read more and watch the book trailer here.
If you enjoy small town Southern fiction or stories about family secrets, you might enjoy my recently re-launched novel All That Is Hidden, Set near North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains in 1968, the story spotlights the bond of family and the connections of a tight-knit community. Northern exploitation threatens as a father’s hidden past catches up to him and tests family ties. Learn more and watch the trailer here.
In June, 2022, I was named a semifinalist in Serious Writer’s Book of the Decade contest for All That Is Hidden. Additionally, in August, All That Is Hidden became the winner of the Artisan Book Reviews Book Excellence Award.
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Michelle Griep Bio
Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the Christy Award-winning author of historical romances: A Tale of Two Hearts, The Captured Bride, The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, and Gallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at www.michellegriep.com or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Join me next time for another visit with author Michelle Griep and co-author Kelly Klepfer.
Meanwhile, have you read The Innkeeper’s Daughter or other books by Michelle Griep? Do you enjoy Regency fiction? Answer in the comments below.