Montmaray Q & A

Book One: 'A Brief History of Montmaray'

This page is for readers who’d like to ask me (Michelle, the author) questions about The Montmaray Journals.

The Montmaray Journals series contains three novels:

1. A Brief History of Montmaray

2. The FitzOsbornes in Exile

3. The FitzOsbornes at War.

If you’re wondering about some aspect of The Montmaray Journals, read through the questions and answers below, because someone else has probably wondered about the same thing! If you can’t find the answer to your question, type your question in the comment box at the end of this page and I’ll answer as soon as I can. (Note that comments are moderated, so if you haven’t commented before, it may take a bit of time before your comment appears.)

I’m assuming anyone reading this page has read all the books – that is, this page contains plot spoilers for all three books.

You can find all my previous blog posts about the Montmaray books here. If you’re looking for the 1955 FitzOsborne family tree, you’ll find it here.

127 thoughts on “Montmaray Q & A”

  1. I have lots of questions, sorry.

    Does Davie ever find out that Simon is his biological father, or does he always think that Toby is? (As he seems to regard Toby as his father in the epilogue). Does anyone else move back to Montmaray, or is it always deserted when the FitzOsbornes aren’t there? Does Toby manage to set up a hotel or diving school or any of the other things he was suggesting?

  2. Yes, Davey is told that Simon’s his biological father as soon as he’s old enough to understand this. Toby is his ‘official’ father because the law tended to recognise a mother’s husband as the father, unless the husband took official steps to disown the child as illegitimate. Davey calls Toby ‘Dad’ because Toby does most of the day-to-day parenting. Simon is called ‘Uncle Simon’, then just ‘Simon’, but he’s devoted to Davey and is always a big part of Davey’s life.

    Montmaray becomes the FitzOsbornes’ holiday estate. It’s a lot easier for them to get there from London now that there’s an airstrip, and there are several pilots in the family. They have caretakers living at Montmaray all year round – mostly Basque and Spanish Republican refugees seeking asylum from political persecution in Spain. And no, the hotel/diving resort/puffin sanctuary doesn’t ever happen during Toby’s lifetime. I don’t think he’d actually want to do the hard work that would go along with that – he just wants an excuse to spend all year at Montmaray. Much later, Matilda, Sophie’s daughter, sets up an artist’s studio at Montmaray.

  3. I definitely need to go and read through it again, but why did Simon and Julia have a child together first? I never really saw them as being romantically involved, so was it just more of a provide an heir thing given Toby’s sexual preference? (But then Antonia is born 2 years later…) Also, did Toby and Simon stay involved with each other after the war? Mainly I’m just really curious about Toby, Julia, and Simon’s relationship dynamic.
    Thank you!

    1. Toby, Simon and Julia live together very happily – it wouldn’t work for most people, but it works for them. They’re rich and aristocratic enough to be able to get away with ignoring social conventions. As they all wanted children but Toby is basically gay, Simon was the father of Julia’s first child. Antonia’s conception just sort of . . . happened. (I’m not sure of the details, but someone has probably written fanfiction about it.)

      And yes, Toby and Simon are together. Simon is the love of Toby’s life. Simon’s feelings are more complicated, but he does love Toby. There are also subtle hints in the second and third books about Simon’s attraction to Julia – it’s not a new thing. And of course, she’s rich, beautiful and well-connected (and ends up being the mother of his beloved child), so he loves her, too.

      But those are just my thoughts on their relationship – readers can draw their own conclusions about those characters.

  4. First, just wanted to say I loved the book and spent all of Friday/ Saturday reading, and now I’m sad I’m done.

    Questions…
    1. Did any of Toby/ Simon/Julia’s or Sophie’s children have Henry/ Henrietta as a middle name?

    2. I know Sophie’s story is done now, but is there a chance there might be more books featuring the FitzOsbornes, either prequel (I would love a Toby/ Simon book!) or sequel (the next generation)?

    1. Thanks, Valerie – I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      1. No, none of the children have Henry/Henrietta in their name. I think their parents’ grief was still too raw – it felt wrong to them to give away Henry’s name to a new person so soon after her death, especially as she was so young when she died.

      2. No chance of a prequel. I feel I’ve said all I wanted to say about Toby and Simon (even if a lot of their relationship was written between the lines). I do have some ideas for the next generation of FitzOsbornes, who’d be teenagers in London in the Swinging Sixties. But it wouldn’t really be like the Montmaray Journals (very different historical era, for a start, and it wouldn’t have Sophie as the narrator). I’m working on another book at the moment that has nothing to do with Montmaray, but after that . . . well, anything’s possible! I’m very fond of the FitzOsbornes and they’re still hanging about in my head.

  5. When Anthony died and Julia was going to have baby, did she? And does Veronica and Daniel get married or have children? 🙂

    1. No, Julia had an abortion at the nursing home. It was illegal, and therefore very expensive and dangerous, but she didn’t feel able to go ahead with having a child, under the circumstances.

      And yes, Veronica and Daniel eventually got married, but by that stage, they’d been living together so long that most people thought they were already married anyway. Veronica didn’t have any children, but she was a devoted aunt to Julia’s and Sophie’s children, and got along especially well with her nephew Davey.

    1. David was the traditional name for the eldest Stanley-Ross son in each generation, and he was also named in memory of Julia’s eldest brother, who was killed in the war. Antonia is the feminine form of Anthony, who was Julia’s first husband, as well as a friend of Toby’s. Elizabeth was one of Sophie’s favourite names (Pride and Prejudice, of course) and Matilda was named after Queen Matilda (the brave Montmaravian queen), but I have no idea about Timothy (I think Rupert chose that name, so it’s probably in memory of his favourite pet hedgehog or something).

      And yes, Simon’s mostly happy, because his ambitions are mostly fulfilled. He becomes a rich and influential businessman, he has a satisfying (if complicated) love life, and his beloved son Davey becomes the next king of Montmaray. Simon probably has some regrets about his life and he was definitely traumatised by the war, but then, that’s true for most of the characters.

  6. I just finished The FitzOsbornes at War this afternoon and loved every moment of it, especially the ending.

    Can you describe Montmaray as it would be in the present day? Would there still be a monarch? Who would be living there?

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Reynje. I’m really pleased you liked it (especially the ending).

      Hmm, you’ve asked the trickiest question so far. I don’t want to say too much, in case I end up writing another FitzOsbornes book. There’d still be a monarch, but not one who lived there all the time, and I think by then, we’d be up to the second generation after Toby. It would still be the FitzOsbornes’ holiday retreat, although Matilda has her artist’s studio there, and I suspect she’d have the latest in solar and wind energy technology (so no more having to wait for the supply ship to deliver fuel). But I’ll leave the rest for my readers to imagine for themselves . . .

  7. Thank you so much for answering my questions. I also loved the books and didn’t want them to end. I think Sophie’s love for Simon was my favourite aspect of the books. I can’t stop thinking about them. I wish I knew more about Simon.

    1. Jimmy returns safely from Italy, where his company was getting rid of unexploded bombs, and after the war, the FitzOsbornes pay for his engineering studies and help him set up his own business. He marries and has children and is very content. Alice’s horrible husband conveniently dies of a heart attack during the final months of the war, and she and Mary live together happily in their cottage in Fowey till they are very old.

  8. I loved The FitzOsbornes at War, especially the fact that you wrestled with the moral implications of “the Good War”. It made the book much deeper and more realistic.

    Did Veronica ever write her history of Montmaray? Was she even able to with the library destroyed? Thanks!

    1. Thank you, Abby. Yes, I really wanted to explore the notion that a war could ever be morally right. The Nazis were unambiguously evil, but that didn’t make everything the Allies did right (especially as Stalin was one of the Allies for most of the war).

      No, Veronica didn’t ever get around to finishing her history of Montmaray. By the end of the war (probably even before that), her perspective on life had widened so much that she couldn’t justify spending the time and energy on it. She had too many other battles to fight – getting women into permanent positions at the Foreign Office, for one. Veronica unofficially handed over the title of family historian and writer to Sophie, and Sophie’s journals became a history of Montmaray.

  9. First of all, I truly love your books. I am a self-professed history nerd and I loved the way you included historical fiction but it was subtle and very well written. This last book made me so emotional and I definitely cried when Henry died-but I felt that the book really emphasized the horrors and uncertainties about war. Allright, so here’s the thing. I loved everything EXCEPT THE ROMANCE. I’m sorry, Rupert is so sweet and amazing but I just didn’t feel like it was a passionate love. Yes, I’m one of the crazy people who loved Simon/Sophie even though it was incestuous. I just felt like they loved each other in their own way, and if Sophie couldn’t end up with Simon, I wish she ended up with someone completely new. I know it was a great full circle ending, with Sophie’s mom and the Colonel having a thing before, but I felt like I just wanted Rupert and Sophie to remain friends. Sorry, just had to get that out there! Now for my questions: Do you think Ant would have been upset with Julia about the abortion, marrying Toby and having a kid with Simon? What would Aunt Charlotte’s reaction be to Davy, I mean, because he’s not Toby’s blood son? I know the ending touched on the Holocaust, but do the FitzOsbornes ever do something to commemorate all the Jewish people who died? Sorry for this long post and all these questions! I really hope that you write a sequel series about the FitzOsbornes because I can’t wait to see what’s in store for them!

    1. I’m really glad you enjoyed the series, Nina, and thanks for your thoughtful comments and questions, which I will now try to address.

      Firstly, you are NOT ALONE in preferring Simon to Rupert as a permanent partner for Sophie, but I’m really happy that readers care enough about the characters to debate this! Here are my thoughts, which are just my opinion (and therefore, no more or less valid than any other reader of the books). I don’t think the last book is a ‘romance’ – if it was, Sophie and Simon would have sorted out their considerable difficulties and ended up together, because romances are all about One True Love. But this is a novel that tries to be more realistic about love and marriage, and Sophie sensibly decides that the person she wants to spend the rest of her life with and have children with is her kind, caring longtime friend who shares her interests (eg literature and poetry) and has proved himself to be loyal and trustworthy (as opposed to Simon, her brother’s bisexual lover, who is also her illegitimate cousin and who abandoned her at a time when she could have done with some support). Blazing passion is all very well, but it can’t last forever, and I’m pretty sure Sophie and Simon would not work as partners in the long-term. Simon would get restless and Sophie needs stability, and given all the other obstacles to their relationship, they would end up hating each other. But Rupert and Sophie do stay friends – they’re best friends AND they’re married, which I think tends to be the most successful sort of marriage.

      Regarding Ant – well, he’s dead. If he’d been alive, Julia wouldn’t have been pregnant with another man’s child and wouldn’t have had the abortion – but I think Ant would have understood her decision, under the circumstances. I think he’d approve of her marrying Toby, but he’d probably be a bit worried about Davey’s parentage – if only because Ant was fairly conservative and would worry about whether Julia and/or Davey would suffer from Society’s disapproval. I think that ultimately, he’d just want Julia to be happy – and she is.

      Aunt Charlotte, on the other hand, would be rotating in her grave at the thought of Simon’s son inheriting the Montmaravian title. Still, Davey IS the son or grandson of a Montmaravian king, whether he’s Toby’s or Simon’s son. And Charlotte died before Davey was even conceived, so not much she can do about it even if she does disapprove. Unless she comes back as some sort of bossy ghost . . .

      The FitzOsbornes, especially Veronica and Daniel, were very involved with helping Jewish refugees in London after the war. They were more concerned about the Jewish survivors than about commemorating the dead, but they did set up a memorial at Montmaray for the Basque and Spanish victims of the Nazis. And of course, Veronica and Daniel were passionate about making sure there could never be another Hitler, by supporting the United Nations and promoting European political stability through their jobs.

  10. Thank you for writing these fantastic books and sharing them with us! I absolutely adore all three and consider them some of the finest historical fiction I’ve read. As a librarian, I’ve started to become known for pushing these books. Seriously, they’re the first series I booktalk when an adult or teen is interested in historical fiction, strong women, etc. The books are so close to my heart – especially because you don’t shy away from issues such as abortion & homosexuality that you easily could have overlooked on the premise of “but it’s historical fiction!” I’m an adult, but I still want to be some combination of Veronica & Sophie when I grow up!

    I have one totally minor and silly question if you don’t mind! What year did Charlotte & Sir Arthur marry? In my head, it’s after she’d been out a Season or two already since he’s “just” an industrial knight as opposed to the Duke or higher title she’d probably have preferred. But since I keep pondering it, I thought I’d ask for a ‘Word of God’ ruling and settle it! (Also it meant I could tell you how much these books have meant to me)

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Emily – now I’m blushing! (And thanks for pushing the books at unsuspecting library patrons, too!)

      According to my notes, Charlotte and Arthur married in 1912, when she was twenty – so yes, probably after her second Season. Arthur’s main attraction was his money, so it didn’t matter much that he was only a knight (and she far out-ranked him anyway, so she got to keep her royal title). Poor Charlotte, married off to a man she didn’t love, who was three times her age – although he did die three years later, so she didn’t have to put up with the situation for long.

  11. Hi 🙂 I just wanted to thank you for not making the ending too depressing or too ‘and absolutely everyone lived happily ever after lalala’ and I was just wondering if Sophie ever ended up getting a job, or did she just take care of her children?

    1. Hi, Tina, and thanks – I’m glad you felt the ending got the balance right.

      Sophie was very busy looking after her children when they were young, but she was also involved with the family business, which eventually diversified from real estate into other areas. I have a feeling she also wrote some novels . . .

  12. Hi! I just want to say that I absolutely loved this series! It’s probably my favorite. I have to admit that I was a Sophie/Simon shipper and I was heartbroken when Henry died but I really loved the book overall! My question is that at the end, Sophie says something about translating her journals. Does she ever let her children read them or is she doing this for some other reason? Thanks!

    1. Hi, Tori. Thank you (and sorry about the heartbreak).

      Sophie wants her children to have the translated journals in case they ever want to know about her early life and she isn’t there to answer their questions (after all, she herself was orphaned at a young age). Fortunately, Sophie lives to be very old, and so her children don’t read the journals until after she dies. However, as Elizabeth works in publishing, I have a feeling the journals may have eventually been published (after appropriate editing).

  13. Hi,
    I was just thinking, what kind of music would Sophia and the others have listen to and what was Sophia’s favourite singer and did she like Cole Porter?
    🙂 Genevieve

    1. I don’t think of Sophie or Veronica as being particularly interested in music. They grew up on Montmaray with limited radio, no gramophone, only an out-of-tune piano. It was only when they went to England that they started to listen to music, and Sophie’s tastes were probably influenced by Julia, who liked popular musicals (and yes, probably Cole Porter) and Kick, who loved swing, especially Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. During the war, Sophie probably listened to a lot of patriotic British songs, too, such as Vera Lynn singing ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ – and Daphne would have loved ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’. Toby was the only one with any musical talent, and he liked all sorts of music, including classical and jazz.

  14. I’ve been re-reading, and discovering all over again the brilliant bits about these books (especially involving Henry… 🙁 ) and I’ve thought of another couple of questions.

    What happens to Gebhardt? Does he survive WW2 and if so does he ever get in trouble for ordering the bombing of Montmaray etc.? What about his red-haired accomplice (who was possibly only following orders anyway)?

    Did Hans Brandt have any family to mourn his death? Did they know anything about Montmaray?

    How does Veronica work at the Foreign Office after the war when she’s not a British citizen? Does she give up her objections to becoming one? (I think she would be automatically on marrying Daniel – or at least could easily become one without needing the Sophia Naturalisation Act – but she doesn’t marry him for years as she would lose her job if she did…)

    Thank you very much for answering all these questions – it’s great to be able to ask about all sorts of little things that wouldn’t fit in the book but are still interesting.

    1. Hi, Kitty.

      Gebhardt is mentioned in the epilogue as being one of the high-ranking Nazi officers sentenced to death at Nuremberg, along with Ribbentrop. Gebhardt was convicted on the basis of his war crimes in France, where he spent most of the war. (It’s never confirmed that Gebhardt was the Nazi officer who nearly captured Toby in Paris, but I think it was him. Toby had a very lucky escape there.) Gebhardt’s red-haired colleague, like many low-ranking Nazis, was never arrested or punished. He made his way back to Germany, rejoined his family, and carried on with his life, just as millions of other Germans who’d supported Hitler did.

      Hans Brandt did have a family. His uncle, Karl Brandt, was Hitler’s personal physician and was one of the doctors sentenced to death at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity. As Hans’s body was never found, his family never discovered how he died. Montmaray didn’t mean much to them, except as the place where Hans fell off a cliff and drowned (or so they thought). The urge for revenge all came from Gebhardt and his wounded ego (and wounded leg).

      I think Veronica did become a British citizen after the war (although if anyone could get away with breaking the rules at the Foreign Office, it would be Veronica). You’re right that she would have become a British citizen once she’d married Daniel, but they didn’t get married till much later. She probably went through some soul-searching about it, but in the end, she knew she didn’t need a piece of paper to prove she was a true Montmaravian. Maybe she had dual citizenship (when your cousin’s the King of Montmaray AND you’re good friends with the Colonel, anything’s possible).

      1. Thank you for answering my questions – I haven’t got as far as the epilogue in my re-read, and I’d forgotten that there was anything about Gebhardt there.

        I suppose the next generation of FitzOsbornes/ Stanley-Rosses would all be dual nationals, so Veronica wouldn’t be unusual there.

        Thinking about diplomacy, I have a couple more questions (sorry!). Does Montmaray join the EU? And does it have its own currency? If so, what?

        1. Hmm, I don’t think Montmaray would ever join the EU, because the EU is as much an economic as a political union, and Montmaray doesn’t really have an economy – not in the twentieth century, anyway. I don’t think it would have ever had its own currency, because there was no need of money on the island – the Montmaravians had no local shops or banks and so they simply swapped or shared goods amongst themselves. When they traded with the French or British, they would have used French or British currency. Even now, tiny nations like Monaco and the Vatican don’t belong to the EU (although they are allowed to use the euro) and they have much bigger populations than Montmaray ever had.

          I like to think Montmaray would have joined the United Nations, though! (Veronica could negotiate special membership rates.)

  15. I loved reading the The Montmaray Journals. I just got done reading the last one and loved it! I saw that one of my questions was already answered about doing any more The Montmaray Journals books, but I do have another question. What got started into writing this series?

    1. Hi, Mary and thank you – I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the books.

      With the first Montmaray book, I just wanted to write an adventure story featuring lots of fun, fascinating things – crumbling castles, impoverished princesses, children having to look after themselves on an isolated island, pirates, sea monsters, eccentric relatives, aviators and the Holy Grail (I wrote a post about my inspirations for the book here at Simmone Howell’s blog). The second book gave me an opportunity to explore another area of interest, 1930s politics and the causes of WWII (and to write about pretty frocks and make fun of English Society). And of course, in the last book, I just wanted to find out what would happen to all the characters!

  16. Hi, Michelle!

    I just wanted to let you know how powerful and wonderful your books are.

    I cried when Henry died. I knew Toby couldn’t have really died. I was angry at Simon for leaving Sophie in such a vulnerable place.

    My question was sort of already answered above, but I’ll ask it in a slightly different way:

    I realize that in fiction (and in real life), complicated family dynamics and situations and roles can function quite normally. However, is it truly healthy (physically and emotionally) for Simon, Julia, and Toby to carry on the relationship that they do? If Toby and Simon are still very much involved, is that something their children pick up on? Is Julia involved with both men?

    I was just curious about these things.

    1. Hi, Hilary, and thank you – I’m glad the books moved you.

      Your question is difficult for me to answer, because I really feel it’s up to individual readers to make their own decisions about the Toby/Simon/Julia relationship. But if you’re asking for my own opinion – I think all sorts of non-conventional relationships can be ‘healthy’, if the people involved are consenting adults (which they are in this situation), just as some conventional marriages can be very unhealthy. I was recently reading some interviews with real, modern-day people in polyamorous relationships, and one of them pointed out that a lot of conventional marriages break up because one or both of the couple is having an affair and lying about it, which is a lot less healthy than a situation where three people agree to share a relationship and set up ‘rules’ to make it work. That’s not to say that it will work for everyone or that most people desire this kind of relationship – just that it can work.

      As for Toby and Simon and Julia, the children know that all their parents love each other, and that the relationship includes physical affection. Davey and Antonia probably think about it the same way the children of heterosexual married couples feel about their parents – that seeing them kiss or hug is normal or boring or gross or sweet (depending on the age and mood of the children). Of course, homosexuality was illegal in England till 1967, which would have an effect on how they talked about their family to strangers, but it was hardly unique. Toby and Julia’s marriage was partly inspired by the marriage of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West, and partly by the relationship of Lytton Strachey/Dora Carrington/Ralph Partridge and various other Bloomsbury ménages à trois, but there were also lots of well-known, respectable gay men in government and Society in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. (I keep meaning to do a blog post about them, but haven’t got around to it. EDITED TO ADD: Now I have! See Same-Sex-Attracted Gentlemen in English Society in the 1930s and 1940s.) Oh, and to answer the rest of your question – Toby is basically gay, so I don’t think his and Julia’s relationship is primarily sexual, but she’s probably closer to Toby emotionally than she is to Simon. But she does love Simon, and not just because he makes Toby happy – Simon’s intelligent, charming, a good lover and a good business partner. And they all love their children, which means they want their relationship to work well so they can all stay together. (Also, I can’t really see how it’s physically unhealthy – safe sex existed even in the 1940s.) But again, it’s up to readers to decide for themselves whether that relationship is ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’.

  17. I’m late to the game here, it seems, but I’ve only just discovered (and torn through — err, though not literally) The Montmaray Journals. I loved them, of course, or I wouldn’t be writing this, but I do have a couple of questions:

    1) Does Sophie ever make heads or tales of her mother’s journals? The epilogue in The FitzOsbornes at War suggests otherwise, but I was terribly curious as to whether there was anything of particular note in there.

    2) I was surprised by how little of Montmaray there was in the last (two) book(s). Obviously they’d been in exile for a long time by then, and had no immediate hope or return, and so on, but — I suppose I was largely surprised that both Toby and Simon could go off to war without any discussion of what might become of Montmaray should Toby, or both of them, be killed. (I know so little of this sort of thing — does it make sense for (royal) men of one country to join another country’s army if the first country doesn’t have one?) Oh, hang, there isn’t a question there except for the tangent. Sorry. I guess what I want to know is, what would have happened?

    I am at risk of going on at length because the books are still so fresh in my mind, so I’ll stop there — but thank you; they were wonderful.

    1. Thanks, Catriona, and you’re welcome to ask as many questions as you like. Mind you, I can’t guarantee my answers will be completely satisfying . . .

      1. No, Sophie never manages to decipher her mother’s diary. Some things in life remain a mystery. [There were some plot reasons for the diary to exist, though, such as: a) it gave Sophie and Simon a reason to make up after their quarrel in Book Two, b) it provided some insight into Veronica’s psychology, by prompting her to explain her reaction to Jane’s death, c) Jane’s code inspired Toby and Veronica to invent Kernetin, which I needed for certain plot points in Book Three, such as Veronica’s coded letter from Spain and Sophie’s spy records, d) the mystery of the diary inspired Sophie to translate her own journals into English in the epilogue . . . and so on.]

      2. It was a deliberate decision on my part to progressively widen the setting in each book – mostly set in Montmaray in Book One, mostly England in Book Two, and western Europe in Book Three – but I quite understand that some readers who liked Book One due to the setting would have preferred lots of Montmaray in the following books. However, I was trying to write a coming-of-age story of one girl, and a big part of her story was ‘putting aside childish things’, which included losing her childhood home and growing to understand the idea that ‘you can never go home again’. This also tied in with the political reality of Europe in the first decades of the twentieth century, when all but a handful of monarchies lost their power due to the spread of democracy (or Communism, in the case of Russia). Montmaray was doomed (as a viable monarchy) in the modern era – it had hardly any subjects and no money even at the start of Book One – so it wouldn’t have made much difference if Toby and Simon had been killed in the war. I suppose Veronica would have taken over leadership, or maybe Sophie’s son would have been made king when he was old enough to rule. The remaining family members could have changed the rules of succession to include females, just as the British royal family (well, the UK government) recently did.

      As for royalty going to war – look at the current Prince Harry, fighting in Afghanistan. But yes, it was unusual for royalty to go into combat in WWII, mostly because their governments were afraid they’d be captured in battle and then used as valuable hostages. But there were lots of non-British pilots in the Royal Air Force in Britain – mostly men in exile from Poland, France, Belgium and Czechoslovakia, who couldn’t fight for their own country because their countries had been taken over by the Nazis. [I’d planned to write a detailed explanation about Toby and Simon wearing Montmaravian flag patches on their RAF uniforms in Book Three, but I think my editors would have gone on strike if that book had been any longer than it already was, ie far too long.]

  18. I know you’ve mentioned that the books said all you wanted to say about Simon & Toby’s story, but I’ve always wondered how and when their relationship really began. I’d love to know any little tidbits about their backstory.

    1. Hi, Dayln. I suppose I should have written that I’d said all I could say about them in the Montmaray books, given the story is told in the form of Sophie’s diary entries. There are always limitations on a narrative when it’s told in the first person, but especially when the narrator is fairly naïve (which Sophie is in the first book) and when she has her own reasons for wanting to believe the relationship between Simon and Toby doesn’t actually exist. Plus, the books are supposed to be YA, and there are limits as to how explicit a YA author can be about a sexual relationship between two male cousins, one of whom is still at school when the relationship begins. (I did have a few lines in an early draft of The FitzOsbornes in Exile implying that Bert the footman helped hide Toby and Simon’s relationship from Aunt Charlotte at Milford Park, but I took that bit out.)

      As for how and when it began, Simon saying ‘Toby started it,’ to Sophie at the start of The FitzOsbornes in Exile is pretty much accurate, as I saw it. They’d grown up together at Montmaray, and Toby had always admired Simon because Simon was older and clever and handsome. Then Toby did some sexual experimenting at school (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just his poor academic record that got him expelled from Eton) and he decided to set his sights on Simon one summer. It’s possible that it all started in a scene Sophie describes in A Brief History of Montmaray, when she remembers seeing them together in the Great Pool. As Toby told Sophie later, the whole thing started out as a bit of fun and suddenly turned into a much deeper emotional commitment, from Toby’s perspective. As for Simon, it was initially a mixture of physical attraction, genuine fondness for Toby, plus a bit of cold-blooded calculation – he figured it wouldn’t do him any harm to be an intimate of the future king of his country. But then Simon, being more cautious than Toby, was also worried they’d get caught and he knew any sort of sex between men, even kissing, was illegal in Britain. Plus, any relationship between them couldn’t last, given that Toby would ultimately be expected to get married and provide an heir. So I imagine Simon felt conflicted from the start – pulling away, trying to talk sense into Toby, then constantly getting drawn back into the relationship, almost against his will – and then being almost relieved when Sophie confronted him, because that gave Simon an excuse to end it. Not that he could stay away from Toby, really. But I think a lot of this can be inferred from the books. (As for the details . . . well, that’s why fan-fiction exists.)

  19. Hi,
    I was just thinking the other day about about montmaray and
    did Rupert ever know that Toby was gay went they were at school?

    1. Hi, Genevieve. Yes, Rupert and Toby were best friends at school, and Toby confided in Rupert about everything. Rupert didn’t actually approve of everything Toby did, but he was a loyal friend and often gave Toby good advice (which Toby mostly ignored).

  20. Hi, I just finished reading the books (which took me about two weeks, I was completely hooked), and I wanted to ask you something. I’m Basque, you see, and I’m really not used to seeing anything Basque portrayed in YA (or any) literature, especially if the author is Australian! So I wanted to say thank you and also would love to know why did you decide to include the Basques in your books, and give them such an important role.
    Eskerrik asko!

    1. Thank you, Laura! I am so pleased to hear from a Basque reader, and I’m very happy you enjoyed the books.

      I’m not Basque and don’t have any personal Basque connections, but I became interested in Basque culture a long time ago when I read The Summer of Katya by Trevanian. (The author was American, but lived in the Basque part of France, and the novel was, in part, about the prejudice faced by Basques living as a minority culture in France.) Then, when I was planning the Montmaray books, I came across some accounts of the Basque refugee children who were sent to England during the Spanish Civil War. I couldn’t believe how young and alone some of them were – it was heart-breaking. And of course, there was the famous bombing of Guernica. So then I read a bit more and discovered the role Basque people had played in rescuing Allied servicemen from the Nazis during the war, and I felt their stories would fit alongside the story I was trying to tell. (If you haven’t already read it, I can recommend The Freedom Line by Peter Eisner, a non-fiction book about this topic.) I was always conscious that I was writing about the Basques as an outsider, so I tried really, really hard to get the facts right and I hope it comes across as respectful, rather than cultural appropriation. I do think the heroic stories of the Basque resistance during WWII deserve to be more widely known.

  21. Hi Michelle,

    I absolutely devoured the Montmaray series (even ordering an import copy of The FitzOsbornes at War as I simply couldn’t bear to wait until it was released in the States!). I had a question about Montmaray itself. Was the island inspired by any particular island(s) in existence? When I first read the books, I thought the island must be quite like the Skelligs in Ireland, particularly Skellig Michael.

    Thank you so much for your wonderful books!

    1. Hi, Sarah, and thank you. I’m really pleased you enjoyed the Montmaray books (but sorry about you having to order the last book all the way from Australia)!

      Regarding the inspirations for Montmaray, here’s part of what I wrote at Simmone Howell’s blog:

      “My main inspiration for the fictional island of Montmaray came from the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago at the southernmost tip of England. The wild weather, shipwrecks, fleeing aristocrats, stone fortifications and puffins of Montmaray were all borrowed from the history of the Isles of Scilly.”

      I also borrowed some of the history of the Channel Islands (especially for the third Montmaray book, set during the war) and I read a lot about isolated modern-day island communities such as Pitcairn. Plus, I grew up on an island in Fiji, so I used a bit of that.

      I’d never heard of Skellig Michael, so thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’m going to go and find out more about it now. I like islands!

  22. Hello!
    I just finished The FitzOsbornes at War about seven minutes ago, and am completely heartbroken that I will no longer be following Sophie’s life! I think the series is possibly my favorite series ever — equal to Harry Potter, even. Most of my questions seem to have been answered already, but I do have one more that doesn’t have much to do with the actual story: Do you know of any other great books similar to your own? I know it might be hard comparing your own work with other authors’, but maybe you could give it shot. The book(s) could be similar in style, or have similarly endearing characters, or be historically set (my favorite genre is historical fiction). Please do try and think! I can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to Sophie, but perhaps if you know of another great book I could be a bit cheered up.

    -Catherine

    1. Hello, Catherine. I’m glad you enjoyed the books (apart from the heartbreaking bits) and thanks, it’s very flattering to be compared to J. K. Rowling!

      Some sort-of-similar books that I love, set in the recent past, with girls being awesome, etc, are:

      I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
      The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
      The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
      Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

      I also like various novels by Rumer Godden, Mary Renault and Eva Ibbotson, so you might like to investigate those authors. I wrote about my favourite British WWII novels here, and my favourite non-fiction about WWII here. You might also enjoy some of the non-fiction written by/about the Mitfords, especially the collected letters of the Mitford sisters.

      Hope that helps! Maybe some other readers will add their suggestions.

      1. Try Violet Needham’s books. They’re a bit old-fashioned, and you’ll pobably only find them in antiquatian bookshops or, if you’re lucky like me you might have a mum who collects old children’s books, but they’re a wonderful blend of historic and modern – a bit like Narnia without the fantasy element, but all the action scenes.

  23. I was wondering if there is any chance of a Montmaray movie? I love the books so much and would love to see them brought to the big screen. If it ever did get turned into a movie what actors would you like to see play the characters?

    1. Thanks, Mary Kate – I’m glad you enjoyed the books. There’s been some interest in the film and TV rights to the books, and if anything eventuates from that, I’ll probably let my readers know though this blog. I wrote a not-very-serious post about possible casting decisions at My Book, The Movie a while back, but really, authors are the worst people to ask about that sort of thing! No actor is ever going to match the character in an author’s head. I’ve enjoyed hearing the casting suggestions of Montmaray readers, though – it’s always interesting to see how other people picture the FitzOsbornes (for instance, Sam Claflin seems to be a popular choice for Toby).

  24. I fear I may be the most frequent question-asker on this site, so I’m sorry about that! I really appreciate having the opportunity to ask.

    My new question is about names: we never find out what Colonel Stanley-Ross’ first name is, can you tell us please? Or is it a secret? (I quite like that it’s never revealed in the books – it fits with his personality – but I’m too curious). Also, what’s David and Penelope Stanley-Ross’ daughter called?

    And does Rupert end up inheriting Astley Manor and the title of Lord Astley? I think Charlie’s still alive at the end of the war, so wouldn’t he be the next lord? Or is it possible to renounce a title?

    Thank you for answering all my many questions.

    1. You’re welcome to ask as many questions as you like, Kitty. I’m happy that anyone cares enough about the books to ask any questions at all – and the questions asked on this page are always interesting ones!

      I think the Colonel’s first name is Andrew, but no one really knows for sure. I thought I’d written it down somewhere in my notes, but all references to his name have disappeared. Possibly the Colonel sent one of his minions to my place to destroy all name-related evidence. David and Penelope’s daughter is named Imogen.

      And yes, Rupert eventually inherits the title of Lord Astley, but that happens long after the war. Charlie renounces the title. Astley Manor has to be sold to pay the inheritance taxes, though, so the family doesn’t ever live there.

  25. Hi Michelle,

    Thank you for writing the Montmaray Books! I love them! They are one of my favorite book series. I have been meaning to write a comment ever since I went on your website. I love historical fiction and found A Brief History of Montmaray at the library one day. I’m glad that you have this Q & A page. It’s cool to read your and others comments. I think it would be awesome if you wrote a sequel about the second generation, as some people have suggested. I was also wondering if Sophie’s mom’s diary was ever translated, which you explained. I’m also a fan of the idea of you writing a prequel in the form of her mom’s diary. I love all the characters in the books and the British history you put in. I also was able to understand more about Socialism and Communism and the politics at that time through the books. And learn about The Spanish Civil War, which I really didn’t know about. I like the humor in the books too!
    I know you mentioned a while ago that you’re working on something new. I hope we can read an excerpt maybe sometime soon.

    1. Thanks, Rebecca – I’m so glad you enjoyed the books, and I’m especially pleased that you found the politics and history interesting! I’m still plodding along with the first draft of my new (non-Montmaray) book, but hope to finish it in the next few months. And yes, a Next Generation of FitzOsbornes book is a possibility for the future – I’ve got a few ideas for that, but it involves a lot of research, so we’ll see . . .

  26. Hello, I LOOOOOOVE your books (all of them) and have forced them on many of my classmates, but while I was re-reading (for like the 80th time) it last night I wondered does Sophie ever tell anyone about what she and Simon did? if so what did they think? And will Antonia, Elizabeth and Matilda ever make their debute into society? or are they too young by the time it is less popular?
    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Erine – so glad you’ve enjoyed the books and that you’ve forced them on suggested them to your classmates!

      I suspect Sophie told Rupert a bit about her encounter with Simon, and Rupert was fine about it – it was before Rupert and Sophie were a couple and Rupert’s not really the type to throw jealous tantrums. Simon never tells anyone anything, so I doubt he would have confided in anyone, although Julia probably guessed something happened. Fortunately, Julia’s too smart to tell Toby or Veronica, both of whom would have a fit about it, for different reasons.

      And no, the younger FitzOsborne girls don’t get to make their debut, because Queen Elizabeth II ended the tradition of Court presentations in 1958. I’m sure Antonia and Elizabeth had a big party for their eighteenth birthday, though – Julia would be good at organising that sort of thing.

  27. I was just rereading The FitzOsbornes in Exile, and I was wondering if there were any adults living with the Basque refugee children while they stayed in the Old Mill House. Or do the Reverend Webster Herbert and Sophie and Veronica just look in on them from time to time? Thanks so much for writing wonderful books, and having a page like this where we can ask questions about them!

  28. I have listen to the first two books on CD but I cannot fin the 3rd book on audio. Will the 3rd book The Fitzosborne at War be come available on CD?

    thanks
    Rhonda

    1. Hi, Rhonda. Sorry, but as far as I know, there are no plans to record The FitzOsbornes at War as an audiobook. I guess the first two audiobooks in the series didn’t sell enough copies to make it worthwhile for my publishers to produce an audiobook of the third book. It’s a shame, as I thought Emma Bering did an excellent job as narrator, but it’s the decision of my publishers, not me. (I’ve had a few enquiries from readers about this, so presumably people do want audiobook editions!)

      1. It’s been a few months since you answered this question so I just thought I’d check and see if your publisher had decided to produce an audiobook of The FitzOsbornes at War. Is there anything I, as a reader, can do to encourage them to change their minds? I so very much enjoyed listening to the first two books, and I would love to listen to the third as well.

        1. Thanks for your question, Emily, but to my knowledge, there are still no plans for an audiobook version of The FitzOsbornes at War. I suspect it just wouldn’t be a very profitable exercise for any publisher, as it’s quite expensive to hire a studio and pay the producer and reader and sound engineer, etc – especially as the book is extremely long (and not exactly a bestseller)! I guess you could try contacting the US publisher of the first two audiobooks (Listening Library) and asking them about it, but I’m not sure how successful that would be unless you had a long list of potential buyers of the audiobook. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

  29. First of all, thank you so much for writing the Montmaray Journals! I can’t wait till your next book comes out- even if it’s not Montmaray related- I really love your writing style and how your characters rise above the stereotypical moulds and actually have depth.
    I often fantasize about the lives of other Montmaravians and would be definitely keen if you were to write more books about them- either pre or post Sophie. I have often wondered about Queen Matilda’s life story. It sounds as though she would have been plagued with the ‘may you live in interesting times curse’ as well, what with the whole Moroccan Pirates Saga and the being a female ruler. I have always imagined Queen Matilda as being a bit of a cross between Boadicea and Athena.
    Also, I’m a bit confused by the order that all the past Montmaravians came in and have many questions, like, was Edward de Quincy actually an ancestor of Sophie or… Do you have a more extensive family tree? By the way thanks for the family tree previously posted, I love seeing it all laid out. And also thank you for offering so much more information on the lives of your characters, they really feel like real people 🙂 Thank you!!!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Rebecca! I am very lucky to have such thoughtful readers. And yes, I always thought of Queen Matilda as a bit like Boadicea, too, even though Matilda didn’t get a chance to use her sword on the Moroccan pirates. But I am also confused about the Montmaravian royal ancestors! I did draw up snippets of family tree for King Stephen, etc, and a timeline for all the King Johns, so I wouldn’t accidentally have someone’s son later turning into their uncle, but I must have thrown out all the bits of paper. I’m not sure which edition of A Brief History of Montmaray you read, but the North American edition has slightly more information about Matilda, who wasn’t exactly Montmaray’s ruler:

      “Then Veronica was prodded into recounting the slightly more factual tale of Queen Matilda’s brave stand against the Moroccan pirates in 1631, when King Stephen was away in England [. . .] One would think that the FitzOsbornes might have reconsidered the edict against women inheriting the throne after that, especially as Matilda and Stephen had three feisty daughters. But no; Edward, the youngest in the family, was crowned King when Stephen died.” (p. 81-82)

      I added that bit because my American editor wanted me to explain more about why Veronica couldn’t become Queen. I think Veronica is the only one who actually understands how everyone is related, but yes, Edward de Quincy was definitely a distant ancestor of Sophie’s. (Fortunately, she didn’t inherit his penchant for writing terrible epic verse, otherwise the Montmaray Journals would have been written in bad iambic pentameter.)

      1. Thank you for your speedy reply! Although, as I only own the Australian editions, you’ve now got me wondering if there are any other added snippets that I have missed out on (but at least my copies do have brilliant covers). I am now even more intrigued about the lives of the Montmaravians in Matilda’s time. Three feisty daughters!!! I personally think that at least one of them would have had a particularly interesting story to tell, especially if they had been alive during the Moroccan Pirate episode! *Hint Hint*….

        1. I think that’s the only added Montmaravian history bit – most of the changes in the North American edition involved taking out real history and altering the spelling and vocabulary. I wrote a post about the changes here. I am going to ignore your hint, because I prefer writing about twentieth-century history, but there are some fascinating (though horrifying) non-fiction books out there about the real Moroccan raids on Cornish villages.

          1. Thanks for those links, I now want to get my hands on the North American edition and have a little compare and contrast session! And honestly, for me at least, a Queen Matilda series is no longer necessary, as since the idea first piqued my interest I have somehow managed to develop an elaborate plot with multiple subplots in my head, at the suffering of my schoolwork, and I’m quite happy with that story staying the way it is as my interpretation. Also, one last thing, did you ever fully develop Kernetin so that you, if you for some reason had need to or chose to, could write using it? That’s just something I’ve always wondered. I really love it when you mention Kernetin and Jane’s code and how they work in the books. They have inspired me to come up with many forms of my own code (predominantly Boustrophedonic) but inevitably mine never last as they are too complex for me to remember and don’t particularly have many everyday uses.

            1. No, I didn’t ever work out Kernetin properly, although my American editor thought I had and asked if we could put a sample of the code in the book. I had to explain that I don’t actually know any Cornish or Greek (and not much Latin, either). I really just wanted an excuse to squeeze ‘boustrophedonic’ into a book, and then I managed to get that word past my editors into each of the three books, which I secretly felt very pleased about.

  30. First, I want to say that I loved the Montmaray Journals. “There’s a fine line between gossip and history, when one is talking about kings” must be one of my favourite lines of all time. I have a few questions, though — mostly about Sophie’s parents and the Colonel. How did Sophie’s parents meet and fall in love? What was there relationship like? What did the Colonel do during the war, exactly (and what happened to him, afterward? Lastly, was it difficult to get the last book published, when it was a YA novel where several of the principle characters end up in a menage a trois relationship? Thanks so much for your time!

    1. Thanks, Erin, I’m glad you enjoyed the books. You know, your favourite line was nearly cut from the first book! My Australian editor put a big red slash through that whole paragraph, but I insisted on keeping it in (and I felt very smug a year later when my American publishers used it as the tag line when advertising A Brief History of Montmaray).

      Sophie’s parents met in England, not long after Robert had finished school, during what would have been a very subdued version of the Season, in the final year of WWI, after both England and Montmaray had suffered terrible loss of life. Robert’s parents had recently died, too, but he had Toby’s talent for putting a brave face on things, and he was very handsome and charming, and Jane was smitten at once. Meanwhile, he thought she was clever and sweet and fortunately, nothing like his bossy older sister, Charlotte. It was a whirlwind romance and they were soon engaged. Jane probably had very romantic ideas about being a princess and living in a castle, but once she saw what Montmaray was really like, she adapted cheerfully and was very happy with Robert and her new family in the short time they had together.

      As for the Colonel, he was busy doing Secret Spying Stuff throughout the war for MI6. After the war, he continued in his official role as a senior diplomat attached to Britain’s Foreign Office, but unofficially . . . well, I think the Cold War kept him pretty busy, especially as he was fluent in Russian and very familiar with the workings of Moscow.

      Regarding the third book – luckily, I had a signed publishing contract for the book before I even started writing it. When I’d finished the manuscript and my publishers read the epilogue, they said, “Um . . . does this really mean what we think it means?!”, but they were completely supportive of my decision to end the book that way, just as they were about my earlier decision to include gay and bisexual characters in the books. The relationship between Julia, Toby and Simon isn’t made explicit, so some readers didn’t even notice it. I think the third book is really crossover YA/adult anyway, due to the war themes, and I have a lot of adult readers – possibly more adult than teenage readers.

  31. Hey, i have just finished rereading Fitzosbornes at War and it gets even more magical with each read. My question is; did you from the start “know” that Simon was part of the family or did it come after you started writing? If after, then why did you make him part of the family?

    1. Hi, Genevieve. Simon was a FitzOsborne right from the start, before I’d even started writing. As soon as Rebecca appeared in my imagination, there was Simon and it seemed clear to me he’d be John’s child (because every book needs a brooding, darkly handsome illegitimate son). For a while, though, I wasn’t sure what his role in the story would be, other than to be Veronica’s rival, which didn’t seem enough. It was only when I began to think about Toby that I realised that Simon would be the Love Interest (for both Toby and Sophie). He was always the most difficult character to write, because Sophie’s never quite sure what’s going on his head and he’s hardly ever honest and open about his motives.

  32. Hi Michelle! I’m a bit late to the party here, but I tore through all three books this week and absolutely loooooved them — and now, as a children’s librarian, I’m recommending them to any teens who cross my path (and all of my fellow 20-something friends, too). I started reading the first one as I’d had it recommended to me by several people who knew that I Capture the Castle is one of my favorite books, but I have to say I really loved the course the trilogy took and how what started out as the charming journal of a teenager with romantic ideas living in a crumbling castle turned into a much more serious coming-of-age story. I think what I found most impressive about the whole series was how Sophie grew up so naturally — especially within book 3, it was subtle, and yet she felt like an adult by the end of the book without me even realizing what was happening. I was so impressed with how you wrote her coming-of-age without it feeling awkward or forced.

    I had a lot of questions that have already been answered on this extremely helpful Q&A (most of mine were rather silly, frivolous ones like “Did Simon ever tell Toby and/or Julia about him & Sophie?” and “how exactly does this Simon/Toby/Julia thing work?” which you have already kindly answered, so thank you for that), but I hope you don’t mind one more question that I haven’t seen anyone ask here yet, or at least maybe not totally separately on its own, so:

    (This is not going to be concise, sorry.) I’m just curious about the Simon & Sophie dynamic. The entire time I was reading book 3 I was torn between wanting them to get together but also knowing, just knowing that if I was the one writing this series, I wouldn’t have them end up together, either. I thought you came up with a rather neat solution by giving them that one night (to satisfy all the buildup) while still pairing Sophie with Rupert (who is, practically, a better match for her, despite the fact that I do understand readers’ complaints about that relationship not having quite the same spark — which I say with great affection for Rupert!!). HOWEVER, my question is about the exact nature of Simon’s feelings for Sophie, which I never feel like I really got a totally clear grasp on, due to him being a bit of an enigma and the books being told from the point of view of Sophie, who is never quite able to decipher him. Anything you’d like to clarify in that regard for me? (Sorry, seriously, longest-worded question ever.)

    1. Glad you enjoyed the books and thanks for your thoughtful compliments about the series, Martha! Hmm, but you’ve asked a very difficult question . . .

      As you say, we only see Simon through Sophie’s eyes and she does try to see the best in everyone, even when they’ve behaved in not-so-great ways. My thoughts are that he was pretty much unaware of her in Book One, which was why he was so disconcerted by her Machiavellian manoeuvres in Book Two. There’s a moment halfway through Book Two where he starts calling her ‘Sophie’ rather than the more formal, distant ‘Sophia’ – it was meant to signal a real change in their relationship, when he starts to respect her analytical mind and enjoy her sense of humour (although I’m not sure anyone actually noticed that bit!). By Book Three, he sees her as someone who is sympathetic to him and someone he can rely on, which is why he nominates her as his ‘next of kin’. I don’t think he was ever madly in love with her – they end up spending that night together mostly because he’s grief-stricken and lonely and Sophie is so closely connected in his mind with Toby – but he does care for her, doesn’t mean to hurt her, and later feels genuine regret for abandoning her after she (wisely!) turned down his proposal. In one sense, he ‘uses’ her, as he uses a lot of people throughout the series, but you have to remember he doesn’t have any of the privileges that the rest of the family have and it’s not until the very end that he truly feels secure within the family. I have sympathy for him, even when I don’t like his actions – but that’s just my opinion. I think it’s up to readers to decide for themselves what’s going on in his mind and what they think of him.

      1. Thanks so much for your response! And for the record, I DID notice when Simon started calling her Sophie instead of Sophia and thought it was such a nice, subtle way to indicate the changes in their relationship without having Sophie openly reflect on that in a blatant way in her journal. It was one of my favorite little bits of character/relationship development.

      2. Oooh, I thought of another question! Still to do with Simon — I found him fascinating, even when he was frustrating me, because his motives were always so much murkier than everyone else’s. So, it is made quite clear in the books that Toby’s feelings for Simon are deeper than Simon’s for him. You elaborated a bit on that in one of the other Q&As on this page, saying that Simon was the love of Toby’s life, but Simon’s feelings were a bit more complicated, but that he did love Toby. SO, in The FitzOsbornes in Exile, Simon tells Sophie he’s never been in love, not even with Toby, and so I suppose my question is regarding that sort of murky/nebulous divide between loving someone and being in love with them. You’ve discussed Simon’s relationship with Toby & Julia in other responses on this page, and I guess my question is whether Simon is ever truly in love with Toby…it’s clear he loves him, is attracted to him, but…I’m not phrasing this well, and it’s suuuuuch a kind of squishy topic I’d not be surprised if you didn’t have a definitive answer, but I just thought I’d ask! I just found the entire set of relationship dynamics between all the FitzOsbornes & Stanley-Rosses so interesting that I’ve had trouble getting the books out of my mind the past couple of days since I finished.

        1. I think Simon is someone who always wants to be in control (of himself, as well as over other people), so the whole notion of being ‘in love’ is quite alien to him, because that would imply giving in to emotions and handing over power to someone else. He’s also good at putting his relationships in separate compartments and repressing any feelings or thoughts he regards as frivolous or inconvenient. So, although he enjoys Toby’s company, worries about Toby’s well-being and is so attracted to Toby that he’s willing to risk the social and legal penalties that their relationship might bring, Simon probably wouldn’t ever admit to being ‘in love’ – although others (Sophie, for instance) might disagree with him on that.

          1. Interesting. I find Simon fascinating and frustrating in about equal measure, haha. Anyway, thank you again for taking the time to respond to my questions–I can’t remember the last time I finished a series and had so many lingering thoughts about the characters and things I wanted to know. I saw you talking in some of the other comments on this post about the possibility of someday writing a book/series about the 2nd generation of FitzOsbornes, and I’d just like to state for the record that I would be SO onboard for that, if it ever comes to pass.

            Anyway, thanks again for your thoughtful responses–and also for such delightful books!

  33. [Question moved from ‘About Michelle’ page]

    Dear Michelle ,
    I absolutely love your books especially the final book . you brought ww2 to a new perspective. There are not enough words to describe it. I have one question

    Why kill Henrietta ? Why not Simon or Toby .

    1. Thanks, Miyah – I’m glad you enjoyed the books and thank you for the question.

      Right from the beginning, Henry was always going to be the FitzOsborne who didn’t survive the war, which is why I made a few references in the early books to her not growing up. I wanted to write about how devastating war is, so it made sense to kill the youngest, and most vibrant and innocent, character. At one stage, it was going to be both Henry AND Toby who died, but it seemed too obvious to kill off the fighter pilot. (Poor Toby did end up suffering quite a lot, though.) It would have been convenient for the plot to kill Simon, because that would ‘free’ Sophie to love Rupert, but real life is never that neat – anyway, I wanted Simon around to father the next FitzOsborne king.

      1. I have another question. I was rereading the books and this question came to mind.

        Why kill kick ,billy harlington ,and kicks new boyfriend?

        1. Hi Miyah,

          I didn’t make up the characters of Kick Kennedy, Billy Hartington or Peter Fitzwilliam – they were all real people who lived (and died) in the time in which the Montmaray books are set. Kick was the younger sister of John F. Kennedy (the US President who was assassinated), Billy was her husband, and Peter was her boyfriend after she became a widow. Billy was shot by a Nazi sniper in Belgium during the war, and Kick and Peter died in a plane crash in France a few years later. You can read more about Kick here.

  34. I just read all three books in one go. It tookme 15h and it is 4am now. Fantastic books with amazing characters who didn’t behave like classical young/new adult characters but like actual people.

    I have one question though. Did Veronica and Daniel have children of their own? And if so, if their parents weren’t married, would they illegitimate status been a not a great burden at that time?

    1. That was a reading marathon! I’m glad you enjoyed the books (and hope you had a nice long sleep afterwards).

      No, Veronica and Daniel didn’t have any children, although they did eventually get married (after it became possible for married women to work in the Foreign Office). Veronica was too occupied with her work to want children, but she and Daniel did enjoy the company of their many nieces and nephews. You’re right to say that illegitimate children did face social stigma at the time – although it did seem to depend on how privileged the parents were (for example, the illegitimate daughter of Lord Londonderry and the actress Fannie Ward was fully accepted as a member of London Society and ended up marrying Lord Plunket).

  35. I just would like to say that this is a really great book series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I was upset that Julia had an abortion and everyone seemed okay with it seeing that it is murder and no matter how bad the situation it should not be done.

    1. Hi, Maddie. I’m glad you enjoyed the series and thanks for sharing your thoughts. The good thing about fiction is that we can read about situations we’ve never been in and see how people who have very different beliefs to ourselves behave in those situations. It’s okay to disapprove of how characters act! In the case of Julia, some readers have felt angry at her and judged her harshly for having an abortion, while others have felt it was a sad but justifiable action in the circumstances.

  36. hi Michelle ,
    I really enjoyed all of your books just a few questions and I’m sorry if these have already been answered.
    do Sophie and Toby teach their kids kertain?
    Also how far along is your next book I am really looking foward to it.

    1. Hi Vett,

      I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the books and thanks for your questions.

      No, Sophie and Toby don’t teach the children Kernetin – but it’s okay, because the next generation of FitzOsbornes develop their own secret way of communicating that their parents can’t understand.

      I’ve finished writing a new book, but a) it isn’t anything like the Montmaray books and b) it doesn’t have a publisher yet. If/when it does find a publisher, I promise I’ll post about it here on the blog. I’m also working on a new series about the next generation of FitzOsbornes, although I’m still in the planning stages, so it’ll be a while before that turns into some books.

  37. Hello! I just finished The Fitzosbornes at War, and don’t think I will be able to start another book again! I know this isn’t related to any current books, but do you have another book coming out soon? Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Lena. I have finished a new book, but unfortunately, it doesn’t have a publisher yet. So no, I probably won’t have a new book coming out soon. Sorry about that. I’ll make an announcement on the blog if/when that changes!

  38. I have just started rereading the first book, A Brief History of Montmaray, and have had an interesting thought. Why does Sophie and all the others living at Montmaray speak English and not French or Spanish?

    1. Hi Genevieve,

      Sophie and her siblings/cousins don’t speak French because King John, traumatised by his wartime experiences in France, forbids them from speaking that language. The cousins’ parents, and certainly their ancestors, would have been able to speak French and English, although the FitzOsbornes were not very keen on the French after Napoleon blasted a hole in their castle wall. Veronica speaks Spanish in addition to English because her Spanish mother Isabella spoke it with her (and Veronica also knows some Cornish from George). Possibly King John could speak some Spanish because that was his wife’s first language, but he doesn’t talk much at all in the book, so we never find out about that.

  39. Hi Michelle I absolutely love your books and I’m currently reading the FitzOsbornes in exile for the fifth time. I still have some questions though. How did George speak Cornish if it died out (sort of) in the 1700’s? How did the original rulers of Montmaray get people to come and work for them? What was the hardest part of the books to research? And did you use more primary or secondary sources? (I read your authors notes, but I was just curious about how you did your research)What was the main story that you wanted to tell with the books? Also, what were your favourite covers?What were some parts of history (both real and Montmaravian) that you didn’t include? Thank you so much for writing such fabulous books! I love the dynamics that you create between your characters- you make them seem so real and awesome. And I love your books for the history as well.

    1. Hi Shanti,

      Thanks for all your thoughtful questions and I’m really happy you’ve enjoyed the books! Here are my attempts at some answers:

      – The Cornish language (Kernowek) was actively suppressed within Cornwall by the English authorities from about 1550, but that wasn’t the case in Montmaray, where the rulers were quite happy for their people to speak Cornish, so the language continued to be used on Montmaray until most of the people were gone. Even in Cornwall, some families continued to speak it well into the 1800s, and then a ‘revive Cornish’ movement started at the beginning of the twentieth century, so now Cornish is no longer classified as an ‘extinct’ language.

      – I think the early Montmaravian rulers offered better working and living conditions than the Tudor aristocracy did in Cornwall! There were only a few families at first, and then they had children and grandchildren. Eventually, some Portuguese, Spanish, French and Basque fishermen and sailors would have ended up on the island, too – I expect some were happy to move to an isolated island because they were trying to escape debts or other personal problems.

      – Hmm, the hardest book to research was the first one, probably because I had no idea what I was doing! The most difficult parts to research were probably finding out geographical details when I was imagining Montmaray – for instance, how the tides would work, what sort of rock the island would be made of, the different types of marine and bird life, that sort of thing. In contrast, there was a tonne of information available about aristocratic life in 1930s England and about wartime events. I used lots of primary sources when writing the third book, because there was so much available – newspapers, photographs, news films, maps, pamphlets, recipes, published diaries. The internet has made accessing this sort of information so much easier – for instance, a lot of London newspapers now have online archives. I wrote a post about my research here.

      – I think I was aiming at a coming-of-age story about a girl growing up in tumultuous times. I was especially interested in how the roles of girls and women changed during the twentieth century. But really, the story is whatever the reader wants it to be.

      – My absolute favourite is probably the North American cover of The FitzOsbornes in Exile, with that beautiful photo by Frances McLaughlin-Gill, but I also like all the covers of A Brief History of Montmaray, especially the Australian cover with the girl sitting on the rock looking out to sea.

      – There was SO MUCH real and imagined history that didn’t go into the books! I wrote a post about some of them here.

      1. Hi there, I’m still obsessed with your books because they’re extremely amazing. I just thought of another question, because I’m doing an assignment that involves fictional journal entries: the books have a very cohesive (and fabulous) narrative, obviously. In the beginning of the books, it says that the journals are extracts, obviously after translation, but we know about things that didn’t get translated, like Anthony’s death. So are there other journal entries and events that Sophia writes about but never refers to and we never read? Or are the entries more like abridgements? Or are they whole and complete, and ‘excerpts’ in the sense that Sophia keeps writing after the series ends?
        Also: was Montamaray ever part of the EU? And how would it have been affected by Brexit?

        1. Hi Shanti,

          You always ask good (complicated) questions! My thoughts are that when Sophie is writing her ‘final’ entry at the end of the third book, she’s still in the process of deciding what gets translated for others to read and what doesn’t. She later goes back and translates extra sections (such as the entry about Anthony’s death) – perhaps when she’s less worried about the Official Secrets Act. And yes, there are diary entries and sections of diary entries that Sophie didn’t bother to translate and type up because she thought they were boring or repetitious. Possibly Elizabeth did further editing when (if?) she published them in book form. The final Montmaray Journals books definitely aren’t ‘whole and complete’ diary entries – otherwise the series would be about five thousand pages long!

          I answered the EU question here, but that was before anyone was thinking about Brexit. Now I’m thinking that the EU would never even have considered asking Montmaray to join! It’s too small, poor and insignificant. (By the way, Veronica would be appalled by Brexit and would currently be giving impassioned speeches on the BBC and at the UN about how to solve the refugee crisis.)

  40. Hi Michelle! Just finished reading the The FitzOsbornes at War and thoroughly enjoyed it. It came as a shock to me when I found out that Toby was gay, but I have a feeling it’s because I didn’t read the other books(sorry). Anyways my question is: What inspired you to write the Montmaray journals and how accurate are Sophie’s accounts of the war? Sorry if this has been asked already. Love the book!

    1. Sorry, forgot to mention one more thing, what were your intentions when you wrote these novels, particularly the last one? Was it to give a more personal touch and perspective to the events of World War 2, or was it something else entirely?

      1. Hi Michael,

        Thanks for your questions and I’m really happy to hear you enjoyed the book. (And yes, Toby being gay was revealed in the first book and discussed further in the second book!)

        I was inspired to write the Montmaray books by a few things – my love of 1930s English novels, my interest in the political upheaval in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, and also because I just thought it would be really fun to write about impoverished royals from an imaginary island kingdom! For the third book, I also wanted to explore how war affects the lives of girls and women. Even though most English women weren’t ‘in combat’ during WWII, a lot were conscripted into war work and tens of thousands of women and children died in the Blitz – but for many women, the war also brought new opportunities and a lot of personal freedom.

        Sophie’s descriptions of the war were as accurate as I could make them. At the back of the book, there’s an author’s note listing which events were real and which ones I invented. I did a lot of research so that the settings and events would feel authentic. I’ve written about some of the real events of the war here, and there are posts about my research here and here.

  41. Hi Michelle,
    I was just wondering if there was any chance the series would be made into a movie/tv show? If so how would you try to keep the dialogue and plot as similar to the plot in the script? And if given the chance would you write the script? I would really love to see the characters developed into real actors/actresses instead of in my imagination, who would your ideal people to play the main characters?
    Sorry about all the questions,
    -Maeve

    1. Hi Maeve,
      Thanks for your questions, but I think someone has already asked them! (You can see my answers here). The film and TV rights to the books have been acquired by a US production company, which is currently working towards a movie and/or TV series. I’ve heard that there’s a script, but I’m not sure about that – I haven’t seen it and have had no creative involvement in it whatsoever. I know nothing about scriptwriting and would probably be terrible at adapting my own novels for the screen! They may ask me to act as a consultant about historical details at some stage, but that would be my only involvement. I very much hope that if a film or TV series appears, it will be true to the spirit of the books, but I expect they’ll have to cut or add parts of the dialogue and plot to make it work on screen (my books do tend to ramble on a bit and you can’t get away with that in a two-hour film).

  42. Binged right through your books and have become an ardent fan. Just wanted to let you know that the insideadog.com blog links you provide in some of your replies don’t appear to be working. I get a dns not found error message. I can pull up the insideadog.com home page and search for your blog posts there, but when I click on those links I get the same error message.

    Also, a recommendation for those who want more WWII historical fiction. Try Connie Willis’ Blackout and All Clear. Read Balckout first since All Clear continues the story and is not a standalone book. If is an adult (not ya) sci fi time travel book with compelling characters and a wonderful sense of wartime England. I promise very little sci fi and lots of historical fiction.

    1. Thanks for letting me know about the broken links, Faith. I think I’ve fixed them all now, but if anyone is looking for any of my Inside a Dog blog posts, there’s a list of them here.

      Those Connie Willis books have been on my To Read list for a while! I loved her earlier book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, which a friend recommended to me as ‘sort of sci-fi, but really more historical fiction, so you should like it’!

  43. You previously said you hadn’t entirely developed Kernetin, but what did you nail down besides what Sophie explains at the beginning of Book 1? I understand if you don’t have much else (most people aren’t Tolkien) but as a cryptography nerd I would be extremely interested in whatever bits you did decide on.

    1. Thanks for your question, Eden, but unfortunately, I know nothing else about Kernetin. I find codes intriguing, but have always been completely hopeless at solving them. Have you read The Mysterious Benedict Society? I read it recently and tried solving that coded message and gave up halfway through, even though it is meant to be for CHILDREN to solve. (I also had problems figuring out half the puzzles in the book. Clearly, no one would ever invite me to join a society of child geniuses.)

  44. Hi! First of all, I want to thank you for packing your books with historical tidbits and creating such vibrant characters in Veronica, Sophie, and Henry (in my mind they are all intersectional feminists and I want to be their friend).

    In “The FitzOsbornes in Exile” Madame Zelda predicts that Sophie eventually marries a lord and has three children. Seeing that Sophie marries Rupert and has three children, I am wondering if the parallel to Madame Zelda’s prediction was coincidence, or careful planning on your part? (I was always a Sophie/Rupert shipper so the ending of the third book particularly pleases me :)))

    Also, will Montmaray ever change their inheritance laws like the British royal family did so that females can inherit the throne? (I can’t imagine Veronica not doing so)

    Lastly, I read through all the previous answers and saw earlier that you were consider writing a sequel about the next generation of the FitzOsbornes. Any updates on that?

    Thanks – I love that you make an effort to keep in touch with your readership!

    1. Thanks, Christi. Yes, Madame Zelda does make at least one correct prediction! But you are possibly the only reader to have noticed that!

      Hmm, not sure if the Montmaravians will change their inheritance law, because there’s no immediate need – the eldest child of the next generation is a boy, so a change in law wouldn’t make any difference to the inheritance. Veronica has more pressing issues on her mind in the immediate post-war years, but perhaps later she or someone else will decide it’s worth changing…

      As for another FitzOsborne book, I’ve done a lot of research and planning for a book set in the Cold War, about the next generation of FitzOsbornes. However, I’ve also got another book, not related to Montmaray, waiting to be published. Hopefully that will be out by the end of this year and then I can go back to working on the new FitzOsbornes book.

  45. Hi Michelle
    Thanks so so much for writing this series, I love everything about it. I’ve had A Brief History of Montmaray since I was about 9 (my grandma gave it to me for Christmas) but only just acquired the second two a few months ago (I’m 17 now). While I resented not being able to find out what happened to the Fitzosbornes for so many years, I actually think it was a really good way to read the series as I read A Brief History over and over again while I was growing up and knew all the characters really well, so when I got the second two books the they felt fresh yet familiar , even though I missed Montmaray. I love how strong Sophie’s authorial voice is throughout the series, although at the same time you can see her maturing and developing over the duration of the books.
    I was also wondering if you’d heard anything new about a movie? I know you posted a link to something about that but that was 3 years ago. Also, I’m not sure if a movie would do the book justice, mostly because Sophie’s perspective is so important to the story and gives it a lot of depth, but she is fairly quiet so it would be out of character for her to say all of those thoughts out loud. I guess they could have her as a narrator, but too much narration can ruin the movie so I’m not sure how they would accomplish that. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Jane,

      Thanks for your lovely comment and I’m very glad you’ve enjoyed the books. I think you’re right, that reading the last two books when you were older was a good idea. I really think the last book, in particular, deals with subject matter that is better read by more mature readers.

      No further news about a Montmaray movie, I’m afraid. The American film production company recently renewed their ‘option’ on the books and reported they were still interested and were making progress. It does take quite a lot of time and money to get to the stage of filming, so it might be a while yet. I’m not really sure how they’ll manage Sophie’s voice, but hopefully they’ll cast an actress who can communicate a lot without speaking! And possibly there’d be a voiceover narration, too? I’m not involved creatively with the project at all (which is pretty common for novelists whose books are optioned to be made into films) and I have no scriptwriting experience, so I really don’t know how they’ll do it. We just have to have faith that if a film or television series eventuates, it will be true to the spirit of the books!

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