Toni Sands is Xcite’s Author of the Month for May, and we’re celebrating the release of Orchid Pink, available in paperback and ebook with 25% off www.xcitebooks.co.uk this month only. Read on for a special one off interview with Toni about Orchid Pink and an extract from her favourite scene.
For more fun and frolics you can follow Toni on Twitter at: @tonisands
Q: People generally think of the Victorians as being very proper and a little sexually repressed. Were they?
A: This is the theory that the Victorians concealed naked piano legs with frilly socks? Let’s take that a little further and picture a well to do family at home in their sitting room. The master of the household is smoking his cigar or pipe while catching up with the daily paper. His wife sews or reads an improving book. A son approaching adulthood is playing cards with his younger sister. Later the well to do gentleman will stroll across the park to his club where he’ll down a few glasses of claret with his friends before taking a horse drawn cab to visit a lady of the night. She may have some special tricks that attract him. He might have selected her from a directory available to men about town. If the young master is so inclined, he might use the servants’ staircase to visit the bright-eyed parlour maid after whom he lusts. The whole family will be in church on Sunday. And the Victorian wife will probably be pleased not to have to endure her husband’s attentions at bedtime. Often, passionate encounters, whether lubricated by cash or not, went hand in hand with perceived prim and proper conduct.
Q: What is the most interesting find you had while researching the book?
A: Ooh, hours of fun! The more I delved, the more I found to intrigue me, particularly around the role of women. The mother figure reigned supreme but my heroine’s own mama runs off with her lover, leaving 14-year-old Adelaide behind with Pa. Adelaide’s repressed sexuality leads her into a Sapphic relationship which, when it ends, leaves her lonely and well aware of the expectation she should submit to marriage and motherhood. I hope you’ll read Orchid Pink and enjoy Adelaide’s story – it was as if her character was telling me she was different from the docile, demure, feminine blueprint. I knew her first Lesbian relationship coloured her sexuality but I didn’t realise she was bisexual until one of her father’s friends became her suitor and beguiled her, making her anticipate her wedding night with excitement. Feminists and ‘new women’ both heterosexual and gay were more in evidence at that time than I’d realised before beginning my research.
Q: If the book were made into a film, who would play the main characters?
A: Reading other authors’ answers to this question is always fascinating. It’s good exercise to try so here we go. Adelaide – Carey Mulligan. Mr Beauchamp (Pa) – Jonathan Pryce. Ruth – Karen Gillen. Daisy – Talulah Riley (St Trinian’s). Thomas (who marries Adelaide) – Jason Isaacs of Lucius Malfoy fame because he needs to be charming as well as obnoxious. The ages aren’t all in synch but the look is what I’ve gone for and this has been the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on in quite a while!
Q: What are you reading right now?
A: I’m reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Amy is outwardly everyone’s dream girl but inwardly she’s terribly flawed and ruthless. My character Thomas Mercer is detestable, all the more so because although he doesn’t murder anyone, he tries to kill Adelaide’s spirit
Q: What is your favourite scene in the book?
A: My favourite scene is about a fifth of the way through. Adelaide has to go for a wedding dress fitting and extends the outing with Jimmy, the young handyman/ chauffeur with whom she gets on really well despite the fact he’s fallen for Daisy. I think this scene shows Adelaide’s nature. She’s more at ease with her servants than her fiancé and she’s just taken Jimmy to a teashop followed by a walk in Richmond Park. Here is a sneaky peak at it:
When the engine fired, Jimmy jumped behind the wheel. We moved forward, driving in the direction of Kew. I felt drowsy, let my eyelids droop as I leaned back. Soon I started to notice a high-pitched noise above the usual drone of the engine. I hadn’t noticed it before. Hoped it didn’t herald trouble. Automobiles seemed to have so many parts prone to go wrong. Pa shouldn’t pension off our two horses yet.
Jimmy cursed under his breath. ‘She’s overheating,’ he said.
Were motorcars female? ‘Is that bad?’
‘I thinks I knows what’s going on.’
He slowed to a stop. Steam rose from the front of the car and curled around the bonnet.
‘Excuse me Miss, while I takes a look.’
Should I get out too? I could almost hear Thomas telling me not to. All the more reason to see what Jimmy was about.
The young man raised his head as I appeared beside him. ‘I’m afraid it’s the fan belt, Miss. I daren’t drive on to Kew.’
‘Can you fix it?’
‘I could do the business if I only had a lady’s stocking.’
‘Are you poking fun at me?’
‘Lord help us, Miss, no fear. Uncle John’s told me it’s a way of sorting out this trouble but I couldn’t expect a lady like you to …’ his voice faltered.
‘Is a tie any good? We’re both wearing ties.’
‘I never heard of anyone using a tie. Sorry Miss Adelaide. I better leave you in the car and run as fast as I can to the nearest bus garage. I dare say they’ll help us out. Motorists don’t want to make no one carry on about horses being more reliable than automobiles.’
I made my decision. ‘I have a better idea. I shall get back into the Daimler but you must keep guard while I do what I have to do.’
‘Are you sure, Miss?’
‘Perfectly sure. This had better work though, Jimmy.’
How fortunate, I thought, rolling down my right stocking underneath skirt, coat and car rug, for both my father and my fiancé to be away. Though, under my long clothing, only Jimmy and I would know I was going home with one limb shamelessly bare.
If you haven’t read Orchid Pink yet you can buy it here. Happy reading!