Lady Charlotte “Lottie” Wentworth hates Ethan Ridley, Viscount Amesbury, for making her a laughingstock back when she was a sheltered debutante. Ethan wants to make amends when they cross paths five years later, but Lottie is single-mindedly pursuing a marriage of convenience to escape her father’s attempt to pawn her off to the man of his choosing. But as it becomes clear that Ethan truly has changed and Lottie begins to value his friendship and support, she wonders if her carefully constructed plans will truly satisfy her.
We spoke with debut author Bethany Bennett about how she finally nailed Any Rogue Will Do’s tricky plot progression, whether she hates mornings as much as Lottie does and what comes next.
There's a really cute running bit in this romance about how Lottie is the farthest thing from a morning person, to the point that Ethan learns to not even interact with her until she's had enough tea. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Every snarky thought Lottie has about mornings I would proudly wear on a T-shirt. When my husband brings me coffee in bed, I fall in love with him all over again.
If I could, I’d be a night owl and not move from my pillow palace until well after 10 a.m. However, life has a way of forcing you to do things you’d rather not. In my case, that means peopling before noon. These days I’ve adapted to life with a young child, so I’ve flipped my natural schedule 180 degrees. In retaliation, my system demands dangerous amounts of caffeine to cope.
Speaking of mornings, if they were suddenly sent to the present day, what types of coffee drinks do you think Ethan and Lottie would love? Or would Lottie never abandon her beloved tea?
I think for their day-to-day wake up routine, they’d stick with tea. But if they were to walk into a modern coffee shop on a date, they’d choose an independently owned espresso joint with fair trade coffee, because they’d be big into the shop local/shop small movement. Lottie would splurge on a mocha with all the trimmings and torment Ethan by licking the whipped cream. Ethan would keep it simple with a breve (espresso with steamed half-and-half). He’d think the foam art on the top of the cup was a waste of time and effort since he planned to ruin it by drinking the thing, but he wouldn’t say so to the barista because Lottie would squeeze his hand in a silent reminder to not growl at strangers. They’d tip big.
Both Lottie and Ethan are devoted landowners and farmers, and they bond over their shared interest in improving their holdings. Where does one go to research how a country estate was run in the Regency?
I disappeared into a research rabbit warren on the internet. None of that information really ended up in the book, but for a while there I got grossed out every day over historical treatments for livestock ailments. Thankfully, there are so many blogs and archives online, compiled by far smarter people than myself who truly know their stuff, so it’s fairly easy to cherry-pick information.
The Regency period was a time of upheaval for agriculture, as factories and industry began to make their imprint on the economic landscape. I wanted Ethan’s goal of opening a local brewery to focus on controlling the supply chain and turning toward a production/retail endeavor, because that was the future of their economy. Ethan could see the way the country was changing, instead of holding onto the way it was always done.
I am extremely curious as to what Cal and Ethan thought of each other when they first met! And why do you think they're such good friends?
This is very much opposites attract, crossing paths with a white-knight complex. At first Ethan was probably intimidated by Cal’s polish, but stayed in his orbit to learn how to deal with society. Ethan could follow along in Cal’s wake as he tried to fit in with the ton. Cal saw someone who needed him and didn’t judge him for the scandals of his father.
I think Ethan appreciates Cal for being a loyal, steady friend who accepts him wherever he’s at, while always encouraging healthy growth. Cal has a knack for recognizing the good in someone, and we know our hero is very much a good guy at his core.
Ethan and Lottie go through such a lovely progression from enemies to friends to lovers. What was structuring that evolution like for you as a writer? Did you move around any events or developments in their relationship while drafting? Or did you realize you had to add certain moments to make those transitions work?
Man, how brilliant would it be if I could say that all flowed like honey and worked from the beginning? I equate my first round of edits to hacking through a jungle with a machete. It wasn’t until I was working with my editor that I was able to match emotional arcs with romantic arcs and then pair everything with that series of tropes.
I wrote each scene on a 3-by-5-inch notecard and shuffled them on my bed until a new progression of events made sense. The end result speaks to my editor’s talent for helping me see how the structure of the story should work. This book was a crash course in so many craft elements. I’m still very new at this, and I’ll never stop learning.
"Basically, if there are people kissing after 1810, sign me up."
When did you first come up with the backstory for Lottie's parents? I thought it was really interesting to read a romance where a couple's overwhelming love for each other was actually a problem and not a perfect and holy thing, forever amen.
With Lottie’s father emotionally paralyzed by grief for years, it made sense that they’d been a love match. From there it developed very organically.
When you delve into child-rearing practices among the upper classes during that period, you see something drastically different from our modern households. My heart always hurts for those children and everything the parents missed out on. I wondered how that kind of emotional-outsider experience could damage a person, especially someone who already knew she was a second-rate citizen because of her gender.
I was delighted to read a romance where the lady does the groveling! Was that always the plan?
Absolutely. I’m a firm believer that everyone in a relationship needs to acknowledge their baggage and apologize for any pain they cause.
Lottie is so entrenched in a certain plan, she misses what’s right in front of her. However, the time period comes into play here. The act of altering her course isn’t just about switching to Plan B. Legally, it meant giving up all control. Because of her father, it had financial repercussions that might not hurt just her, but the man she loved and everyone he cared about. That is not only a change, but taking an enormous risk. For someone we could lovingly refer to as a “control enthusiast,” it would be terrifying.
But the lady certainly can own her stuff when she needs to. Like everything else, she doesn’t apologize by half-measures.
Are there any other tropes you'd love to tackle in your writing going forward? Are there any other historical eras you'd love to explore, or do you see yourself happily settled in the Regency for the foreseeable future?
Tropes are an absolute playground for me. The rest of the Misfits of Mayfair series will see us toying around with Girls Wearing Pants, Friends to Lovers, Single Mother, Fake Widow and the evergreen Pirate trope. Except he’s not actually a pirate, it’s just a long-running joke. However, his cave of treasure isn’t compelling evidence against the label.
After the Misfits (currently planned as a trilogy), I have a Victorian series in mind with a runaway bride I’m itching to get to. Regency will probably be the period I return to time and again. That’s the time period that made me fall in love with historical romance, so it just feels right. That said, I’m not ruling out writing a contemporary down the road. Basically, if there are people kissing after 1810, sign me up.
What's next for you?
I’m editing West End Earl, which is Cal’s book—no machete-hack-style edits involved this time, thank God. His story releases summer of 2021. I’m also drafting the third book, All Rogues Lead to London, which is slated for publication the following winter.
Author photo by Kristen Lauren Photography.