Jasmine Guillory had two well-received romance novels under her belt and a third on the way when a librarian friend tweeted, “I NEED a charming romance novel about the mother of a new Duchess falling in love with an appropriately aged royal retainer while spending Christmas at Sandringham.” The author turned that wish-list idea into Royal Holiday (Berkley, Oct.), which follows Vivian, a side character from July’s The Wedding Party.

What made you read that tweet and think, “I could write that book”?

When she tweeted about it I was 100% joking. But then I started thinking about it. I had just written Vivian—she’s the [heroine’s] mom in The Wedding Party. I was finishing up that book when I saw the tweet, and I had already been thinking I would write something for Vivian. I didn’t know if my editor would want a book about a woman in her 50s. So I emailed my agent. And both my agent and editor said, “Let’s do it.”

Why did you choose to have Malcolm work within the monarchy but not be of it?

I didn’t want to have Vivian fall in love with a prince—that felt like a little too much of a fantasy. He’s the private secretary to the queen. He has a lot of authority, makes a lot of decisions. But he’s also a black man and he has a different relationship to the royals. He’s used to being very different in these rarified places. I loved thinking about the way Vivian and Malcolm would interact, the way that she would come to understand the monarchy, this world that he’s lived in and she’s been thrust into.

Has the marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry changed the way you view the monarchy?

Meghan has brought new life, a different kind of life, to the royal family. I think you see that in some of the pushback against her, in the old state circles that don’t like the way she operates. The way that she is a black woman. The way that she’s an American. Meghan has made people think about the royal family in a new way, in a way a lot of people never had to think about. I think she’s thinking about the role of the royal family today. Some people wanted their royals to be the same forever. And I love that Meghan is not the same and isn’t trying to be the same.

Have you always been interested in royalty?

Oh, absolutely, since I was a little girl reading about princesses. I’ve read a bunch of royal biographies over the past few years, so it’s been fun to apply that in fiction. All books have a little bit of fantasy and I think with royals there’s a little bit more, because they seem to flash back to a previous time.

How does that play out in contemporary royal romance?

When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous that we still have monarchies. But it’s fun to play with those elements of fantasy and also ask: Why do the royals exist in the contemporary world? What do they bring to the table? How do palaces and what’s going on in the world coexist? I really enjoyed writing about this, and dealing with race and class—but you can still have fun with tiaras, too.

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