Today I have the pleasure of speaking with novelist Elaine Shelabarger about her historical romance, Shadow into Sunlight.
In this second book about the Ashleigh family, Lucy—now a young woman—is heartbroken when her childhood sweetheart, James Wyatt, rejects her. To raise her spirits, her parents arrange for her to stay in Florence at the magnificent home of her great-grandmother, the Contessa di Lorenzo.
When she meets Major Charles Ryman, a dashing young American with a mysterious past, they are immediately attracted to each other. They meet in secret, flouting the Contessa’s strict rules. And when Lucy must return to England, Charles follows her.
Lucy is deeply in love. But can she trust Charles’ feelings for her? Is their love strong enough to survive the rumors about his past? And can Lucy give up everything to begin a new life with him in America?
Welcome, Elaine. Congratulations on your April release! Shadow into Sunlight is the second book in the Ashleigh family series. What compelled you to tell an adult Lucy’s story? I fell in love with the character of Lucy when she was a fragile, vulnerable child in my first 'Shadows' novel. I wanted to tell her story, showing how she had developed into a lovely young woman, after her life had been transformed by being rescued by Adeline and Guy.
In your own words, what is the main conflict in the story? The main conflict in the story is the clash between the background and experience of the hero and heroine. Charles, a battle-hardened soldier must overcome his guilt about his past and Lucy, having been rejected by her childhood sweetheart, must find the courage to trust in his love for her.
Charles sounds like an intriguing love interest. Can you give us some hints about the mystery surrounding him? Charles is a soldier, decorated for conspicuous gallantry on the field of battle but made one single error of judgment, which ended in tragedy and almost cost him his career.
The idea of a historical romance set in Italy intrigues me. How is society in Italy different for Lucy than at home? The romance begins in Florence but continues to its conclusion in rural England. Italian society was similar, but more formalised and even stricter than in 19th century England. Lucy's great grandmother is a member of the aristocracy and her behaviour would be expected to be beyond reproach. Religion was the supreme influence upon their mores and womens' lives were still very restricted. In England, conventions were becoming less rigid. Women began to enter the professions. They became nurses and teachers, even studying at Oxford and Cambridge, and writers such as the Brontes and George Eliot became popular.
I’ve always admired authors who can write realistic historical fiction. How do you approach your research? I have visited Tuscany and explored Florence and Siena. I use the internet to help with research. My knowledge of Victorian England comes from my background as an English teacher. I have learned a great deal from 19th century novelists such as Dickens and Hardy.
In one word, how would you describe Lucy? Vulnerable.
Same question, one word to describe Charles? Charismatic.
I love reading about Florence. It’s such a beautiful, magical place. Three questions in one: What would you consider your most romantic scene in the novel, in what part of Florence is it set, and what makes it your choices? I think that the most romantic scene in the novel takes place in the beautiful rose garden - the Giardino delle Rose near the Piazzale Michelangelo. It is where both characters give rein to their feelings for one another and the beauty of the setting, the need for secrecy - they are forced to flout convention - and the hint that the romance might end before it has truly begun, heightens the emotional tension.
How do you spend your time when you’re not writing? I live close to my son and daughter and enjoy family events, especially spending time with Leah, my lovely five year old grand daughter. I read a great deal, enjoy the occasional visit to the theatre and eating out. I like holidays abroad and I particularly look forward to visits to my American family in Wyoming and Colorado.
What can your readers look forward to next? At the moment, I am writing the third in the Ashleigh family series - Shadow of a Smile. It tells the story of Lucy's little sister, Antonia, who falls in love with two very different men. After experiencing tragedy and loss in New York, she returns to England to seek help for her little son.
About the Author
Elaine Shelabarger was born in Wales, lives in London, and regards the United States as her second home. Elaine combined a career as an English teacher with raising a family. Now retired, she shares an apartment with two spoiled cats, enjoys spending time with her extended family, and is happily pursuing her childhood dream of becoming a writer.