Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history. She’s the winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award, a two-time Golden Quill finalist and a finalist for the Oklahoma Book of the Year Award. Regina has worked at the Mustang News and at First Baptist Church of Mustang. She lives outside of Oklahoma City with her husband and four children.
In this interview, Regina talks with us about the third book in her The Joplin Chronicles Series titled, Engaging Deception.
FF: Can you please provide a brief summary of your new novel, Engaging Deception?
Olive Kentworth is an amateur architect that shuns the spotlight. On the few projects she has built, she’s allowed her cousin Amos to stand in for her and take the credit. When her father pushes her to compete for a new project, she instead rushes to take a job as a nanny, not realizing that she’ll be working for Joplin’s premier architect, widower Maxfield Scott. With inspiration from his library and professional journals, she feels ready to compete for the new commission, but what will happen if he learns the woman watching his children is his competitor?
FF: Engaging Deception is the third book in your The Joplin Chronicles Series. What is the connecting element that ties the books in your series together?
The Joplin Chronicles Series could just as easily be called The Kentworth Cousins. The backbone of the series is a large family who can’t stay out of each other’s business. Some branches on this family tree are rowdy, hardscrabble types like Amos and Maisie, while others practice a more sophisticated orneriness, like Calista and Olive. No matter their financial situation, they all have Granny Laura’s farm, strong-family ties, and a penchant for trouble in common.
FF: Your protagonists are both architects in 1899 Missouri. What type of research was required to accurately portray this aspect of the story?
You should see my collection of coffee table books featuring late 19th century homes. Gorgeous, gorgeous. I had to learn about the different styles of homes being built at that time, the vocabulary involving the different features that made each style unique, how the construction process was developing in this era, etc. I also read everything I could get my hands on about self-taught architects (looking at you Thomas Jefferson). On a local level, I needed to know specifically what was going on in Joplin. Thankfully, Joplin has done a marvelous job preserving their historic homes, and that really made research a pleasure.
FF: Your protagonist Olive Kentworth takes a position as a nanny to hide her involvement in a building project but ends up working for her rival in the architecture world. What made you write this into the plot?
Before her mother’s death, Olive had been the primary caregiver to her and spent her youth at her mother’s bedside. Even though Olive has the gifts to compete in the professional world, she feels more comfortable as a nurturer. It seemed logical to me that she would accept a position as a nanny to delay the entrance into the career that both delights and terrifies her. As an author, it’s my job to introduce conflict into the life of my protagonist, and what could be more trouble than working as a nanny for your competition while trying to hide that you have a career? Of course, Olive could’ve quit the nanny job when she found out who he was, but then she’d lose her access to his extensive architectural library. Even more conflict.
FF: What were some of the challenges in writing this book?
Did you know the word “babysitter” wasn’t in use until 1944? Here I have a heroine who watches children during the evenings, and I can’t call her a sitter or say babysitting. Governess? Nanny? She isn’t with them during the day, so those words didn’t seem appropriate. It was a small, but irritating challenge.
FF: What is your favorite aspect of this story?
My favorite part of this story is Olive’s character development. At the beginning of the story, she is paralyzed by self-doubt and shyness. Change is never easy, but Olive is going to find it necessary.
FF: What was the most interesting historical tidbit you uncovered in your research for this book?
While researching the beautiful homes in the Murphysburg district of Joplin, I learned that one of the houses was designed by a lady. Matilda Weymann helped plan her home at 508 S Sergeant Ave, and it included such modern conveniences as a central vacuum system and speaking tubes.
FF: What main themes does this story explore?
One thing I wanted to explore was the different ways people deal with grief and disappointment. In this book, one character has withdrawn from society, while the other throws himself into gaiety to bury his pain. Both are trapped by their pasts and afraid to move on. Even though this is a historical story, readers will recognize similarities in how we protect ourselves from facing grief today.
The Joplin Chronicles Series #3
Genres: Historical Romance
Release Date: December 13, 2022
Olive Kentworth has spent her life hiding her interest in architecture, even though she pores over architectural books and sketches buildings. When she accepts a job on a home expansion, it’s only because her cousin Amos agrees to pose as the builder. To further hide her involvement, Olive takes a position as a nanny—not knowing that she’ll be working for her idol, Joplin’s leading architect, Maxfield Scott.
Widower Maxfield is intrigued by his new nanny—she makes his home and his life bearable again. His work, on the other hand, is a disaster. An untrained builder is remodeling a completed project of his. What’s worse, Maxfield’s current client wants changes to his plans because of that builder’s work.
As the architectural one-upmanship heats up, Olive’s involvement becomes harder to hide. Will the relationship between her and Maxfield survive, or will they both miss out on building something for their future?
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