Suzanne Enoch’s Hit Me With Your Best Scot transports romance fans away from glittering ballrooms and polite country lanes and into the exciting and under-explored setting of the Regency-era theater. Enoch shares how she brought to life the backstage romance of actress Persephone Jones and Scottish aristocrat Coll MacTaggert.
In the 50ish books I’ve written, this is the first time I’ve featured an actor or actress as a main character. Having spent most of my writing time in the English Regency and doing the research that goes with that, there were names I’d heard of: Edmund Kean, Joseph Grimaldi, Fanny Abington, Sarah Siddons and, of course, the Drury Lane Theater, the one at Covent Gardens and the famous Lyceum.
For the tale of actress Persephone Jones and her romance with Coll MacTaggert, Lord Glendarril, I didn’t want to use an actual theater, so I invented the St. Genesius, a rival to the royal theater of Drury Lane. (Genesius is the patron saint of actors.) There were a couple of specific things I needed, including a small dressing room for an actress, catwalks galore, a backstage area filled with old props, backdrops and lots of places for a big Highlander to feel claustrophobic. All the backstage antics made using a fictional theater much simpler than trying to adapt the story to a real one.
I love doing research and probably have over 500 books on topics from the history of the lavatory to the scourge of gout, but for this story I needed to add a couple more to my shelves. (Yay, book shopping!) The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theater: The First Four Hundred Years by Aleks Sierz and Lia Ghilardi gave me a good overview, while Rival Queens: Actresses, Performances, and the Eighteenth-Century British Theater by Felicity Nussbaum gave me lots of specifics—and they both made me jealous of long titles. Oh, and I looked through Roaring Boys: Shakespeare’s Rat Pack by Judith Cook just because I wanted to.
In the course of writing, I’ve discovered that atmosphere is more important than specifics, but it’s also important to have a grasp of the topic so you’re just not flinging words like “blocking” and “downstage” and “stage right” around willy-nilly. That said, it was great fun to invent a close-knit acting troupe, have some theater rivalries and make some hopefully amusing use of “the Scottish play,” including one actor who refuses to say “Macbeth” even when the name appears in the text of the play.
I chose Macbeth as the play being performed during the course of the book because my hero, Coll, happens to be Scottish, and because of the supposed bad luck that frequently accompanies the performance of that particular play. That allowed me to keep the characters guessing over whether the mishaps that keep befalling Persephone Jones are simply because of the play, or if something more sinister is at work. Plus, all the male actors could be envious of how very fine Coll looked in a kilt.
There’s lots more to Hit Me With Your Best Scot than the theater, of course—including a cat named Hades, picnics in the park, fires, a masquerade ball, a lost heiress and a viscount who has 28 days to find a bride or he loses his fortune. The entire book was so fun to write, and I’m kind of wishing I’d given the MacTaggert family more than three Highlander brothers so I could keep writing in this warm, wild, witty world.
Author photo by Dinamariephotography.com