Amara Royce writes historical romances that combine her passion for 19th-century literature and history with her addiction to Happily Ever Afters. She earned a PhD in English, specializing in 19th-century British literature, from Lehigh University and a Master’s degree in English from Villanova University, and she now teaches English literature and composition at a community college in Pennsylvania. When she isn't writing, she's either grading papers or reveling in her own happily ever after with her remarkably patient family.

Q&A with Amara Royce

What was your favorite thing about writing ALWAYS A STRANGER?

One thing I love about writing historical romance is exploring the past, sifting through history, falling into rabbit holes of research, and stumbling onto unusual details. I never know where the research will take me, even if it doesn’t all end up in one of my books. For instance, I ended up spending a great deal of time researching Japanese trade relations, or the lack thereof. Prior to 1853, Japan was closed to Western countries, except for the Dutch. So writing a Japanese (or, in this case, half-Japanese) main character in Victorian London was an unusual and intriguing challenge in terms of her economic and social circumstances.

Why do you set your novels in the Victorian period?

The Victorian period in Britain was full of economic, political, and social upheaval, fueled in part by the revolutionary changes in technology. Industrialization and the rise of the middle class completely transformed Western society. More importantly, those changes continue to effect and shape the world we know today, so I find it interesting to consider how our modern perception echo that time period.

Why are you so interested in the Great Exhibition of 1851?

The Great Exhibition, formally called the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, is a backdrop in both Always a Stranger and Never Too Late. To me, the Great Exhibition is emblematic of the Victorian era. It encompasses all the grandeur and innovation and ambition of the age. It appealed to the poor and working class, as well as to the rich and mighty. It also attempted a kind of internationalism even as it tried to demonstrate England’s superiority. To me, it’s a space where anything could happen, a potential catalyst for all sorts of dramatic events and encounters. Once I started thinking of the wide array of visitors, it was only natural to consider unlikely couples and how they got there.

Who are your favorite Victorian authors?

My very favorite nineteenth-century novelist is George Eliot (Maryann Evans). Her writing was complex, thoughtful and weighty, and her unconventional life contrasted sharply against common expectations of women at the time. Some of my other favorites include novelists Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte, and poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Matthew Arnold. 

Do people need to read NEVER TOO LATE before ALWAYS A STRANGER?

Not necessarily. While both books are set in the same time and place, technically they can each be read as standalone novels. If you’ve read Never Too Late, you’ve seen a glimpse of Hanako already and you may be interested to see Honoria and Alex in Always a Stranger, especially since it’s still before their happy ending.

If you read Always a Stranger first and are intrigued by Honoria and Alex, you may want to go back and see their story unfold in Never Too Late. While they don’t have to be read in a specific order, I do hope readers enjoy them both!