Celebrating Young Adult fiction by UK authors

Emeralds & Ashes (At Somerton #3) by Leila Rasheed

20872926The murmurs of war have turned into a bloody conflict that will touch the lives of every member of the Somerton household.

Despite the pleas of his family, Lord Averley steps forward as soon as the call is made for men to fight the Western front. Mere weeks later, the news arrives: Lord Averley has been killed in the Battle of Marne. Without an obvious heir, Somerton falls into chaos. Half of the staff has already left for the war or industrial work.
Sebastian Templeton can no longer show his face in public. Ever since the publication of a now infamous photo of him and his former valet embracing, an unspeakable word has followed Sebastian everywhere–a word with the power to destroy a man’s reputation forever. Knowing charges and a trial will soon follow, Sebastian does the only thing he can think of to escape: he volunteers for a war he feels is senseless and despicable, leaving beyind the boy he loves, but knows can never have.

Meanwhile, after a whirlwind romance with the Duke of Huntly, Rose Averley finds herself trapped in Egypt when war breaks out during their honeymoon. Alexander vows to return Rose to home and safety, but with no end in sight, Rose knows she cannot sit idle as those around her suffer.

In the final installment of the At Somerton series, the war to end all wars will take an unbearable toll on the household and leave each member forever changed.

Diamonds and Deceit (At Somerton #2) by Leila Rasheed

17787759A house divided…

London is a whirl of balls and teas, alliances and rivalries. Rose has never felt more out of place. With the Season in full swing, she can’t help but still feel a servant dressed up in diamonds and silk. Then Rose meets Alexander Ross, a young Scottish duke. Rose has heard the rumors about Ross’s sordid past just like everyone else has. Yet he alone treats her as a friend. Rose knows better than to give her heart to an aristocrat with such a reputation, but it may be too late.

Ada should be happy. She is engaged to a handsome man who shares her political passions and has promised to support her education. So why does she feel hollow inside? Even if she hated Lord Fintan, she would have no choice but to go through with the marriage. Every day a new credit collector knocks on the door of their London flat, demanding payment for her cousin William’s expenditures. Her father’s heir seems determined to bring her family to ruin, and only a brilliant marriage can save Somerton Court and the Averleys’ reputation.

Meanwhile, at Somerton, Sebastian is out of his mind with worry for his former valet Oliver, who refuses to plead innocent to the murder charges against him–for a death caused by Sebastian himself. Sebastian will do whatever he can to help the boy he loves, but his indiscretion is dangerous fodder for a reporter with sharp eyes and dishonorable intentions.

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Guest Post: How I became a YA author by accident by Leila Rasheed

leilaSo I never meant to write a YA novel, let alone a trilogy. I was definitely into writing something historical, but I didn’t think it would be set in 1912. More like 8000 BC. And it would be middle grade, for that is what I write. Certainly not romance, because while I like to read a good romance plot as much as anyone, the idea of writing a snogging scene set my hair on end and not in a good way.

So how did it happen that, approximately 1 month after my agent (the stellar Julia Churchill, then at the Greenhouse with the equally cosmic Sarah Davies, who actually handled the deal) emailed me saying ‘Do you fancy having a go at writing a YA Downton Abbey?’ I was drawing up a plot outline for a historical romance YA novel set in 1912? Well, let’s be frank, the main reason was money, which is one very good reason for any writer to do anything. I was going to have a baby and there had to be something I could do for a living that wouldn’t require anything unreasonable like maternity leave. (Not knocking maternity leave, it’s great if you don’t have to lose income).The other reason was because I thought, ‘Huh, never tried that. Sounds like it could be fun. Might learn something.’ Which is another very good reason any writer does anything.

at-somerton2The fast moving on the plot front was because I looked at the schedule and figured that, if they gave me the gig, I’d have about three months to write the first draft. And it was Christmas. And all of publishing was on holiday till after  the new year. And the book had to be 80,000 words long. And did I mention I’d never written a YA historical romance before? So I didn’t want to waste who knows how many weeks waiting for the publishing world to get back to me with a full outline. I had been sent characters and key scenes and themes but no plot arc. So I wrote one, sent it to them and said ‘Will this do?’ They said ‘Yes.’ I got writing. I also got watching Downton Abbey – and I am so glad I did, I loved it. Much of my pregnancy was spent sitting in front of Downton. You know how some mothers-to-be play Bach to the foetus? Well, that, but with the Downton soundtrack. If my son grows up to be a butler I will know who to blame.

Significant differences to being a middle grade writer so far? The amount of feedback I’ve had from readers for this book has been massive, compared to what I had for my middle grade, own-authored novels. I’ve had messages from German readers (Somerton is out in German), and on Goodreads I have 604 ratings as opposed to 29 for Chips Beans and Limousines. That has been fun. The bloggers, of course. Children don’t usually blog and post reviews of their favourite novels – YA readers do, and it’s wonderful to witness that enthusiasm and sense of community.

diamonds-and-deceitHas it been a good experience? I’ve recently finished writing Book 2 (due out in January, entitled Diamonds and Deceit) and now I’m out of that firestorm and can breathe a little, I’d say yes. Trying something I never tried before has been fun. The short deadlines have not been fun – but they’ve been a challenge. Quite an invigorating one, with a first baby in the house at the same time. I have most certainly learned from the process. Cinders and Sapphires was the longest book I’ve ever written. I’ve learned a lot about handling multiple threads and viewpoints, and simply writing to that length. I’ve done a heck of a lot of research – The Edwardian House was a joy, so were the Mitchell and Kenyon films and re-reading Zuleika Dobson. I’ve watched a heck of a lot of Downton. I don’t resent the bad reviews and I’m delighted by the good ones. For a book written on a whim and a prayer, I’m stunned and thrilled that anyone likes it at all.

So here I am, a gate-crasher at your YA party. Apologies and I’ll try not to hog all the guacamole. But you know what? I might try writing my very own, non-publisher led YA novel once this series is over. Yes folks, I may have got the taste for YA blood…

Leila is happy to answer questions about writing publisher led children’s/ YA in the comments. 

Secrets & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

images-6One house, two worlds, dark secrets…

The year is 1910. For the past decade, the Averley family has lived a life of luxury in India, but now they must return to Lord Averley’s ancestral estate, the sprawling, majestically beautiful Somerton Court. As the household staff hastily prepare for the family’s arrival, they receive shocking news: Lord Averley is bringing back a fiancée with three children of her own, and on top of that, there are rumours of a terrible scandal surrounding Lord Averley’s resignation as Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.

As the family settles in, tensions arise both upstairs and downstairs. Lady Ada must choose between her honour and her heart, Sebastian must fend off ruinous threats from a former servant (and lover…) and gentle housemaid Rose will find herself at the centre of a scandal so enormous it could destroy the Averleys’ reputation forever.