Just recently I had the honor of reviewing the romantic novella Rose in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan. I first discovered Rachel through her historical detective mystery series Herringford and Watts. It features two amateur female detectives who are reluctantly assisted in their endeavors by a policeman and a reporter.
With its early twentieth century setting in Toronto, it reminded me very much of the Canadian television series, The Murdoch Mysteries. Rachel has continued the historical mystery tradition with a new series loosely tied to the first with the recently released Murder at the Flamingo, set in 1930’s Boston. The unlikely hero of the Van Buren and De Luca series is Hamish De Luca, a quiet bookish man who suffers from anxiety attacks. Hamish is the son of one of the couples from Herringford and Watts.
Rachel has also published a few contemporary romance novellas. One is a Hallmark-style Christmas tale called Falling for Christmas which can be found in Starring Christmas: Two Christmas Novellas. The other two are part of a series set in Vienna, one of which is the recently reviewed Rose in Three Quarter Time.
If you are a fan of international television historical series like Grantchester, Father Brown, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Endeavour or The Doctor Blake Mysteries, then you will find much to love in Rachel’s two mystery series. Her contemporary romances are beautiful, especially if you appreciate sincerity, restraint and equal partnerships.
One of the hallmarks of Rachel’s writing is how she turns each city setting into a secondary character in each story. Toronto, Boston and Vienna all come alive. You can almost experience them with all five senses thanks to the detail and love with which the author portrays them. Another thing I love about her novels is that they are peppered with references to classic film, historical fashions and even Broadway plays, all things which interest me. Regardless of your tastes, Rachel’s stories offer something for everyone.
AUTHOR INTERVIEW – RACHEL MCMILLAN
Can you tell us a little bit about your beginnings and journey as an author?
Well, I don’t remember a time I wasn’t writing; but it is only within the past few years that I pursued traditional publication. I always wrote for fun (there are dozens of stories I have written that will never see the light of day), but I wasn’t confident enough to show anyone. In fact, the first person to truly read a manuscript of mine was my now agent. I submitted a manuscript of historical romance set during the Halifax Explosion in 1917. While it was shopped and passed on, several editors liked my style; but felt the Edwardian period in straight romance was over-saturated.
My agent suggested trying a manuscript with a female Sherlock Holmes. I plotted and wrote the first book in the Herringford and Watts series and we found a home for The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder pretty quickly thereafter. I love writing historical mystery romances, but still yearned to find my own niche to write romances in some of my favourite places (especially Vienna) so began pursuing independent publication on the side.
Tell us a little about yourself as a reader. Do you have a favorite author, genre, or novel? (Feel free to add any additional info here about your reading habits or interests if you want.)
I am an eclectic reader. I will read any good book regardless of genre as long as I am immersed in the world. Thus, my reading varies widely. I love every genre from high fantasy to romance to historical epic. Some of my favourite authors include Patrick O’Brian (he wrote a 21 volume historical fiction series set during the Napoleonic Wars — the film Master and Commander is based on one of his books), I adore Dickens! I love all manner of historical fiction and mystery! Other favourite authors are Lynn Austin, Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Peters and Martha Grimes. But I read extensively. Especially the classics. I read all the time. I re-read a ton! I am always reading or thinking about reading LOL.
Since The Silver Petticoat Review focuses on old-fashioned storytelling and romance, what in your opinion qualifies as old-fashioned storytelling? Do you have a favorite story that meets your qualifications?
It might sound archaic or overly traditional, but I should hope that old-fashioned romance champions abstinence before marriage. In our modern culture, physical relationships are easily bartered and bought and traded. I am a hopeless romantic and truly believe that the purest form of romance belongs within the confines of a committed marital relationship. It might not be society’s standard, but it is certainly my own.
I was a Victorian Literature specialist in University, so almost all of my favourites champion this model. Or, if they don’t, they reprimand anything outside of it. A favourite of mine that meets these qualifications is “The Blue Castle” by LM Montgomery. Like “Rose in Three Quarter Time” it is a marriage of convenience story set in 1920s Muskoka, Canada. The hero treats the heroine splendidly. So much of romance, to me, lay in how the hero treats and respects his lady. I ensured that Oliver Thorne (in “Rose”) had a strict moral conduct (his own) he follows and tries to live by.
As a follow up to number 3, in your opinion how would you define old-fashioned romance? Do you have a favorite story that meets your criteria on this?
Old-Fashioned Romance to me (and I may have touched on this earlier) stems from two different criteria: a.) the hero has to respect the heroine enough to pursue her beyond physical ramification or gain b.) passion is exclusive to a marital commitment.
I suppose a favourite story of mine that meets these criteria is “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte. The hero falls in love with the heroine for her mind and for their preternatural kinship (they’re soulmates). He would not dare physically cross any border with her beyond a marital commitment.
If you could have authored any book other than your own, what do you wish you had written? Why?
(The Blue Castle? The Hunchback of Notre Dame? The Morning Gift? Those are my guesses.)
Oh my heavens! The books you mentioned are all so important to me. But I might surprise you in saying I would LOVE to have come up with the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I currently write some historical romances with a heavy mystery element and the mystery genre is one I love to read but am very self-conscious to write. If I had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brain, I think I would be much better off.
Which of your books has been the most difficult/challenging to write? Why?
Every book I write with a mystery element is challenging to me. For while I am comfortable writing historical fiction and romance, plotting mysteries takes a lot of brain power. The other hurdle I cross is deadlines and time. So, to date, I would say the most difficult was The White Feather Murders (the third full-length Herringford and Watts story). Due to the tight turn-around time of those manuscripts and my editorial schedule on the last novella, I only had about six weeks to get a solid manuscript done. Considering I worked full time and only had evenings and weekends at my disposal, writing that manuscript was harried and quick and really stress-inducing. It seemed to turn out okay, though, and several readers say it is their favourite of my first series. Thank heavens for good editors!
If you could choose one of your books to be made into a movie which would it be? Which actors would you like to see play the lead characters?
I really think that my Herringford and Watts books would do well with the Hallmark treatment. I am a HUGE fan of Hallmark and they would do such wonderful things with it. As for actors, I always have such a clear idea of the characters in my mind that it is hard to cast them. That was until Rose. I very clearly chose Shaun Evans as a muse for Oliver Thorne because I needed to study an actor who had a wide range of facial expressions and a very expressive face. When you read the book and learn that Oliver is limited in his ability to conduct the orchestra due to the limitations of his left arm, you see how essential the transparency of his face is…. So for casting, to date, Shaun Evans is the only actor I have truly relied on.
RELATED: Endeavour Season 1-4 Review – Music, Intellect and Characterization in ITV’s Mystery Series
Which of your book characters is most like you? Most unlike you?
I think writers are like Velcro and we pick up things as we go along ….the same goes with our books, they are attached by little nuances and quirks specific to us that we may not even notice we are imparting. But, I think, to date, Hamish DeLuca is the character most like me. We both suffer from an anxiety disorder and I very transparently use him as a portal to express how living with anxiety is a blessing as well as a hurdle. To date, the character least like me would probably be Rose: she’s petite and perky and very talented and graceful on the violin and I had an inkling while writing her that I was creating someone not quite like myself.
If there is anything else you would like to add or want our readers to know about you or your stories, feel free to add it in.
I hope that readers take a moment to look at how I portray relationships in my stories. I advocate respect as the center of romance and I hopefully highlight the magnificent peace and excitement found in romances where neither party settles. Anyone can fall in love and enter into a quick physical arrangement, but I try very hard to create heroes whose moral code forbids them to view women as a transaction or commodity. The underlying thesis of my Vienna series is to encourage women to look at their relationships and to assess how they are treated. If they cannot respect themselves or do not see their childhood view of romance in the way they interact with their partner, they are worth more than going through the motions.
I will never create a hero who does not commit wholly to the heroine: not just for her physical attributes, but for her mind, spirit and soul. Hold out for a man who sees more in you than you do yourself. Don’t settle for society’s view of romance when you can have the best version you lay out for yourself. You are worthy of the pursuit of romance in its highest, purest form. If readers come away with a desire to wait a little longer for a romance worthy of them, then I have done my job.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel McMillan is a keen history enthusiast and a lifelong bibliophile. When not writing or reading, she can most often be found drinking tea and watching British miniseries. Rachel lives in bustling Toronto, where she pursues her passion for art, literature, music, and theater.
Rachel is active online. I encourage you to visit her Pinterest pages for the inspiration behind her novels. I also highly recommend following her on Instagram. I can tell you from personal experience that not only does she write intriguing stories, but she also has great taste as a reader. I have found several new fiction favorites through her book recommendations on Instagram. I also know that she is responsive to her fans on Facebook. You can find her on the following social media platforms: