Scoundrels, Marriages of Convenience and Ponies: We Chat with Jennifer McQuiston

The Perks of Loving a ScoundrelMany of us in Romancelandia know, Jennifer McQuiston is like a real-life heroine. An epidemiologist at the CDC who has travelled internationally to help fight the Ebola virus, she’s also a historical romance author and pony owner. Talk about #squadgoals! Jennifer has a new book out, the delightful The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel. We wanted to hear all about it — and the pony, of course. 

Tell us about your new romance!

The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel is a crusade story set amid political intrigue in Victorian London. Our heroine, Mary, is a bookworm at the mercy of her very vivid imagination. Geoffrey Westmore (known as West) is an utter scoundrel who hides his inner pain behind a veneer of debauchery and outlandish pranks. Because of their reputations as “featherheads,” no one believes them when they overhear a nefarious assassination plot, and so it’s up to them to track down the would-be killers.

Your heroine is a book lover. If she were to read real Regency tomes, what books do you think she would have enjoyed?

Mary would have surely read everything by Austen, but would not have stopped there. In the book, I mention a few that she had recently enjoyed reading, including tomes by Elizabeth Gaskell (including the novel Ruth and biography of Charlotte Brontë) and Charles Dickens (including Bleak House). I also show Mary getting a firm introduction to Regency erotica, and the book she reads, The Lustful Turk, Lascivious Scenes from a Harem, had me blushing and squirming when I read it. It would have been utterly scandalous for the era … and Mary loved every word of it. If you are curious about this one, it was written in a different era and features forced encounters with a sultan, so only read it if you are insanely curious!

We LOVE a marriage of convenience plot! What is your favorite marriage of convenience book/movie?

Well, it would surely have to be Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon! Was there ever a more perfect match than Claire and Jaimie Fraser?

What is the one most important ingredient in making the MOC trope work?

I’ve written two marriage of convenience stories, The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel, and Moonlight on My Mind. To me, they are wonderfully fun. It permits an acceleration of intimacy beyond what I think is natural for the time and era, and it is always a bit awkward to see how they rub along together (kind of like watching a train wreck). A good marriage of convenience must have some elemental attraction at the onset, but it is also all right for that attraction to be overshadowed by annoyance. I love pairing polar opposites in a marriage of convenience … if they can get past each other’s quirks, they usually uncover a good deal of passion! And everyone knows that opposites attract …

You are also an epidemiologist at the CDC, which 100 percent sounds like a modern-day heroine’s job to us! What’s the most unexpected thing about your day job, which lay people like us would never suspect?

One of the most unexpected things about my day job that most people probably never suspect is that I spend a LOT of time talking to students, from elementary school up through graduate school. I participate in Google Hangouts with classrooms, and visit veterinary schools across the country. I consider it a personal mission to introduce students to this as a possible career choice… I have loved every moment of my career, and wish I had known about it earlier when I was still in school.

You travelled to Sierra Leone to help with the Ebola outbreak. What one memory has stayed with you from that time?

One of my most vivid memories is associated with this picture. I was in Freetown, which is the capital of Sierra Leone, for my second deployment, in October 2015. A year previously, in October 2014, Ebola had been increasing rapidly in the city. People were dying, there weren’t enough ambulances or Ebola treatment centers and no one was shaking anyone’s hand. There was an incredible amount of fear and distrust permeating the city, and understandably so. But when I went back a year later, the country had overcome amazing odds, and was on the cusp of being declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization. There was an intense feeling of positivity in everyone on the street, and this sign just seemed to capture the new spirit of the city.

Ebola Stops with Me

We would like to see photos of your pony, please, and to know what it is like owning a pony, which is a girlhood dream many do not get to realize!

Of course! Our pony, Beaux Regard, has been an absolute gift that I still cannot believe we have. Writing books has helped us afford his board, which in Atlanta can get very expensive. He is the best boy, full of kisses and personality, and he never met a treat he didn’t like. My girls love to ride him, and even my mom has come and ridden him in a show! The only problem is there is only one of him, which means that trail rides usually consist of me walking in the woods while my girls get to ride.

Jennifer McQuiston and Pony

The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel will be available in stores and online September 27. You can grab your copy here: Amazon | | iTunes | Kobo | GooglePlay | AllRomance. Digital copies start at $5.99. For more historical love stories, be sure to visit our Everything Romance page.

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