Inspirations and Influences

Guest Author & Giveaway: Susan Holloway Scott on her new book The Countess & the King

Today we are happy and proud to have Susan Holloway Scott guest blogging with us. Susan is not only a kick-ass historical fiction writer but a Book Smuggler Favourite: we have reviewed and loved her books The King’s Favorite and The French Mistress. Upon learning she had a new book coming out – her fourth about a royal mistress – we had to invite her over to talk about it.

The Countess & the King

Historical fiction isn’t often smuggled in here, so I’m overjoyed that Ana and Thea have invited me back to talk about my newest novel, released today. Besides, of all the bookbloggers I’ve “met” on-line, they’re two of the very few I’ve also had the opportunity (and the pleasure!) to meet face-to-face-to-face –– which makes me doubly happy to be here today.

The Countess & the King is my latest book to tell the story of a royal mistress, the real-life Katherine Sedley (1657-1717) and James II of England (1633-1701). This is my fourth book about a royal mistress, and by now I’ve probably heard every snarky comment that could be snarked about mistresses. Even with a book set in the past, they’re going to be hot, and they’re going to be trouble. What more is there to know?

Actually, with Katherine Sedley, there’s much, much more. Katherine didn’t have royal blood, or a family with notable talent or power. She wasn’t a great beauty, nor did she ever have the power to change history. But she was fascinating, funny, unpredictable, and always determined to go her own way – not something most 17th c. ladies would dare to do.

Katherine was born the only child of privileged teenaged parents who weren’t much more than children themselves. In another time period, their families would have likely exerted a steadying influence, and seen that the young family followed a responsible path through life. But Katherine was born just before the grim Puritan ways of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate were replaced by the much merrier ones of Charles II, restored at last to his throne. With the king’s return, wealthy young aristocrats like the Sedleys flocked to join the free-wheeling court.

Respectability was out of fashion; exuberant excess was the new style, and young Sir Charles became a well-known libertine, famous for drunken debauchery. His young wife, however, remained at home, sinking deep into madness. Against such a background, Katherine’s upbringing reads like Hollywood tabloid-fare. Her father treated her more like an amusing pet than a daughter, taking her with him to playhouses and taverns and introducing her to his notorious friends. She was both adored and spoiled, and learned how to drink, swear, and tell off-color jokes, and was equally comfortable with actresses like Nell Gwyn and with the king himself.

Despite this childhood, Katherine’s future wasn’t entirely lost. With her father’s connections and his large fortune, she should have been primed for a splendid dynastic marriage.

Except, however, for a few sizable stumbling-blocks. First, Katherine was considered shamefully plain. In a court that prized languid, voluptuous beauties, she was pale, thin, and angular, with heavy brows and a wide mouth. She was also intelligent, her wit quick and sharp. (Her first portrait as a teenager, by Sir Peter Lely, shows how she didn’t fit the fashionable ideal.)

Most of all, she had no wish to wed and give control of her life to a husband. From her own mother to the queen herself, the court was full of neglected, lonely wives, and Katherine was far too independent for that. She had her own fortune, and was determined to choose her own loves. The first two men she gave her heart to very nearly broke it by choosing prettier women to wed instead, and another gentleman whom she rejected proved to be a fearsome enemy at court.

But finally Katherine found a man who appreciated her: James Stuart, Duke of York, and heir to the throne of England. (His portrait by Lely is here, too.)

Katherine didn’t care that James was married, or that he was much older, or that the rest of the court regarded him as a poor second in comparison to his brother the king. James found her witty and outrageously amusing and beautiful, and Katherine gleefully gave herself over to the role of a royal mistress. Her second portrait here (by Godfrey Kneller) from this time shows her unadorned elegance, her expression seemingly bemused by her good fortune.

Even as a prince’s mistress, Katherine couldn’t be conventional. She delighted in the scandal she caused, enjoying every moment of it. But the carefree days were short-lived. James had always been a polarizing figure at court, and before long his religious beliefs made him a politically dangerous one as well. Katherine was thrust into the intrigue, torn between her royal lover and England itself, and her cleverness was valuable not for amusement, but for survival. When Charles suddenly died and James became king, Katherine’s position at court grew all the more perilous. The last portrait (by the studio of Godfrey Kneller) shows her soon after James has been crowned, and after he has made her Countess of Dorchester.

Formally posed on the edge of a gilded bed, lifting aside the bed curtain in a royal mistress’s welcome, her earlier merriment has vanished. Instead she appears reserved and self-contained, as if she already knows the difficult choice before her, a choice that will determine both her fate, and that of The Countess and the King.

Many thanks to Ana and Thea for having me here, and congratulations to them for making the BBAW short-list AND being recognized by USA Network. Totally deserved!

Here’s a link to an excerpt from The Countess and the King on my website.

I hope you’ll also stop by my blog with fellow author Loretta Chase, where we discuss history, writing, and yes, even the occasional pair of great shoes: Two Nerdy History Girls

Thank you Susan, a pleasure to have you around again!


We have ONE copy of The Countess and the King to give away! The contest is open to EVERYONE and will run until Saturday, September 11, 11:59PM (PST). To enter, leave a comment here. We will randomly select the winner and will announce it on Sunday in our weekly Smugglers Stash. ONE entry per person please. Good luck!

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  • Amanda Isabel
    September 7, 2010 at 3:52 am

    great entry! And an interesting time period to write about! Cannot wait to read it. Thanks for the entry and the giveaway!

  • Carol Thompson
    September 7, 2010 at 4:04 am

    I have been drooling over getting my hands on this book but all the giveaways (many) have been geographically restricted.

    If this is really open worldwide, I would love to enter.


    Carol T

    buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

  • Lea
    September 7, 2010 at 4:14 am

    This sounds fascinating, and exactly the sort of thing I should be reading. I’ll test my luck for a free copy.

  • Naomi
    September 7, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Sound like a great book. Fingers crossed…

  • Lisa
    September 7, 2010 at 5:36 am

    I’d love to win!


  • Etta
    September 7, 2010 at 5:48 am

    This book sounds very interesting. Coincidentally, I was just talking to someone about James II and his short-lived reign, so the time period is only my mind lately.

  • Mezzowriter
    September 7, 2010 at 6:40 am

    This looks GREAT! 🙂

  • Christy S
    September 7, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Wow, this sounds like a really great read. I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction, but I think I may have to pick this one up, if only for the dynamic heroine.

    Thanks for the review!

  • Jufuzle19
    September 7, 2010 at 9:00 am

    I love historical fiction!!! Bring on the drama!

  • Marie
    September 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

    This sounds fascinating!

  • Aik
    September 7, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I’d love to enter!

  • LSUReader
    September 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

    This book sounds so iteresting. Thanks for a great post.

  • Su
    September 7, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Oooh, I’m going to have to add this to my TBR list. Thank you for the contest!

  • Bookworm134
    September 7, 2010 at 10:28 am

    thanks for the great contest!

  • heather
    September 7, 2010 at 10:44 am

    sounds interesting! i love period books.

  • Sue
    September 7, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Looks fabulous. Thanks for the fabulous giveaway.

    s.mickelson at gmail dot com

  • Jenni
    September 7, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I would absolutely love to win this book 😀 It sounds amazing and just the type of book I love.

  • fairy_morgaine
    September 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I don’t read many historical fiction but this one sounds just great.
    The Countess seems like a marvelous character

  • Carol Wong
    September 7, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Please enter me in this contest, sounds like a wonderful book.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot) com

  • Rachel
    September 7, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I’d love to win this! I recently read Eleanor Herman’s fantastic nonfiction book on royal mistresses, “Sex with Kings,” and the topic is just fascinating.

  • cories
    September 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Wow, what a woman Katherine was!

  • Maureen
    September 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Katherine looks like an interesting character.

  • Beverly H.
    September 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Please enter me in this contest 🙂 The book sounds wonderful!

  • Hann1bal
    September 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    I looove history. Sounds like fun.

  • Ashley
    September 7, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Love historical fiction, this one sounds great! Please enter me 🙂

    a.d.malouin [at] gmail [dot] com

  • Tiah
    September 7, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Great post! Thank you for the giveaway.

  • Kristen J
    September 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Looks interesting!

  • Breanne M.
    September 7, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Sounds interesting – I love historical novels!

  • Moridin
    September 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    I’d like to win.

  • John
    September 7, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    It looks tres excellent! The Other Boleyn Girl has gotten me really interested in the lives of famous royal mistresses – er. Yes. They are quite a lively bunch. People forget that there are feelings behind the adultery…which is what makes the story so interesting. Plus, James sounds like he has better motives than King Henry VIII. 🙂

  • Doreen R
    September 7, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Aweee….to be a Countess! 😆 🙄
    Thanks for the giveaway!!

  • Linz
    September 7, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    I love historical romance, and this one sounds like an excellent example of the genre. Thanks for the contest!

  • Terri C.
    September 7, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you so much for the contest. I’d really love to read this so please enter me.

    Good luck to us all!

  • Bella F.
    September 7, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Hi Susan,
    what wonderfully wacky lady! I hopped over to ur blog to read more about her and loved her quote about all 3 of them “whores” meeting up there, 😆 cant wait to read more!

  • Courtney
    September 7, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I would love to win this book!

  • chey
    September 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I haven’t read about Katharine before! I’d love to win.

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    September 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    I would love to read this book. Please enter me in contest.

  • Llehn
    September 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    I’d love to play please!

  • Priya
    September 7, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Ooh, it sounds fantastic! Count me in.


  • peggy
    September 7, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    I love the art work .please count me

  • Melanie L
    September 7, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    It sounds like Katherine Sedley led a very interesting life. I would love to read about it.

  • Stephanie
    September 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    @ Rachel: I haven’t read Sex with the King, but I did read Herman’s Sex with the Queen, and it was definitely a fun non-fiction read!
    I haven’t had a chance to read a good historical in a while, so definitely count me in for this contest! The book looks great 🙂

  • JenM
    September 7, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I love English historicals and this is a period I don’t know that much about. Please enter me.

  • Lexi
    September 7, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Interesting review and I liked the use of paintings in the post.

  • Eva SB
    September 7, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    I love 17th Century England and I think the mistresses were some of the most interesting women in history.

  • Jade
    September 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I root for the ‘countess’, and the cover looks gorgeous and mysterious enough to be regal. Impressive! Sounds seriously like a must-read.
    I have my fingers and toes crossed for this book 🙂

  • Giada M
    September 8, 2010 at 2:15 am

    Thank you for the interesting post! This book is on my wishlist and I can’t wait to read it. It sounds intriguing and I love the cover.
    Thank you for this chance!

    Giada M.

    fabgiada (at) gmail (dot) com

  • Stella (Ex Libris)
    September 8, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Thanks for the interesting post! The Countess and the King looks exciting, I would LOVE to wina nd read it!

    Thank you for this giveaway! 🙂

    stella.exlibris (at) gmail (dot) com

  • Stacie
    September 8, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Please count me in.

  • Angie D
    September 8, 2010 at 8:41 am

    This sounds like a great book! I would love to be entered.

  • Misha Mathew
    September 8, 2010 at 9:00 am

    The book sounds amazing! I would love to enter. I love historical fiction


  • Audra Holtwick
    September 8, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I can’t wait to read this book- I love Historical Fiction.

  • Tina
    September 8, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    This sounds awesome! I love Historical Fiction and I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. Thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  • Throuthehaze
    September 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    This sounds great!
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  • Dovile
    September 9, 2010 at 1:32 am

    I love historical novels, thanks for the chance, and for making this open worldwide!

  • Carol M
    September 9, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    This sounds really good! I know I would enjoy it! Thank you for the giveaway!

  • neljo mullins
    September 10, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you for a great review and giveaway!!! :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  • LAMusing
    September 11, 2010 at 12:29 am

    Count me in please! Sounds wonderful!

  • Norma
    September 11, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Thanks for the chance!

  • Robi
    September 11, 2010 at 4:26 am

    Sounds really interesting.

  • Suzanne
    September 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    It’s been awhile since i’ve read historical fiction, so i’m looking forward to this one. 🙂 I think historical fiction is the best way to really understand what it was like to live in a period in history.

  • Cindy V.
    September 11, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Please enter me in this contest.

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