Lady Worthing, the multiracial heroine of Riley’s series launch, Murder in Westminster (Kensington, Sept.), confronts mysteries of race, crime, and class in Regency London.

Many genre novels set in the Regency picture an all-white upper class. Tell us about the more diverse picture you paint.

During the Regency era, trade and the arts could give people of color upward social mobility. The Prince Regent truly partied with and promoted Black friends. Wealthy planters sent their mixed-race sons and daughters to Ireland, Scotland, and England for education and marriage. History has shown that money mostly trumps race. I wanted readers to see this more nuanced picture.

What sources inspired Lady Worthing, a middle-class woman with Jamaican and Scottish ancestry who marries a white British aristocrat?

Catherine Despard, the Jamaican wife of a British war hero, was one inspiration. She was an intelligent women and accepted among the other officers and their wives. I’m also fascinated by Dido Elizabeth Belle, the niece of the famous Judge Lord Mansfield and the daughter of Maria Belle, an enslaved Jamaican woman, and a Navy admiral of Scottish descent. Both Dido Elizabeth Belle and Catherine Despard had means and moved about society, navigating their tenuous positions as educated free Black women in a time when enslavement existed.

Why did you choose 1806 for the series’ start?

While working on my latest historical fiction release, Sister Mother Warrior, I was seized by the fact that all the abolition movements in the world stopped when Haiti became a free nation in 1805. The fear of Black rule stunted the movement, and it took more than a year for the cause to start moving again. I couldn’t shake the picture of William Wilberforce and other abolition activists trying to figure out what to do next and how to get the movement going again. In the novel, the fight for abolition gives Lady Worthing the opportunity to do something to help from her position of privilege.

Your sleuth encounters some fascinating historical figures. Any favorites?

The politician and abolition activist William Wilberforce was passionate about his convictions, but still a man of his times. It’s fun to portray his virtues and his foibles. Hannah More is a woman more people should know about. In addition to being an abolitionist and gifted writer, she was a single woman of independent means, living life as she wanted without the need of a husband.