Spotlight and Review of The Return of the Earl by Sandra Schwab


I have the lovely Sandra Schwab on the blog today talking about her latest release, The Return of the Earl, mm Regency romance, which I enjoyed a lot. Read on to learn how this book came about and what more we can expect from this author in the near future. You can also find my review of the book at the end of the post. Enjoy!


ER: Hi Sandra and welcome to my blog 😊 I recently finished your latest release, The Return of the Earl, mm historical romance, and I really enjoyed it. I’d be happy if you can answer a few questions about it and your writing in general. 

SS: Thank you so much for having me, Ellie! I'm thrilled to be here, and I'm really happy you enjoyed my grumpy earl. 😊 

ER: This is your second mm romance, right? What inspired you to write it? 

SS: Upon finishing my first mm romance, The Centurion's Choice, I was struggling to get into a new book project — I had meant to tackle a new novella for my Victorian series, but I finally realized that thanks to the current political situation, I just didn't have the heart to deal with horrible Victorian politics on top of everything else. Then I stumbled across a comment from a reader, who, after reading the grumpy centurion's story, had said: "I wish the author did more mm." So I thought, "Why not?" 

The Centurion's Choice is set against the background of the second Marcomannic War, and I had to do a ton of research for that story. Even though I like research (a lot!), I thought it would be nice for a chance to write a story where I could just have fun with the writing and not worry about research all that much. Which is why my second mm romance came to be set in the Regency period. It's been some time since my last Regency-set historical, and I missed writing about big country estates and garden follies! 😊 

I had already some ideas for the plot when I sat down to create portraits of the two main characters. It was while I was working on those portraits that the characters fully came into existence and their story fell into place. 

While I was working on Con's portrait, it also became clearer and clearer that "winter" would be one of the major themes of the novella: He's got grey hair (just like Victor in Yuri on Ice!) (gosh, I ADORE that series!!!), which, together with his blue eyes and the somewhat haughty expression, creates the impression of a rather frosty man. His emotions are frozen, and when he returns home in the middle of winter, the whole landscape is frozen as well (I started writing The Return of the Earl right after Christmas, when here in Germany we had a period of rather… eh… frosty weather). Moreover, to him, the house he returns to seems to be frozen in time (cue some subtle references to "Sleeping Beauty"). Of course, as the story evolves, Con starts to "defrost" — his emotions unravel , as his evil author puts him through the wringer… 

ER: Your previous mm romance (and some of your other books are set in the times of Ancient Rome). Which time period is your favorite and why? 

SS: I love all three time periods my books are set in. They help me to avoid a creative burnout, and they fulfill different functions: 

· My Regency romances are mostly set among the upper classes, thus allowing me to write about country estates and garden follies. (I LOVE garden follies!!!) They also tend to be more whimsical. *thinks of her first published novel* Well, in a manner of speaking…. 

· My Victorian series has been inspired by my academic research on Victorian magazines and newspapers, and I love digging into the everyday life and day-to-day politics of the time. Being able to include cameo appearances of the writers and artists of PUNCH, my favorite Victorian magazine, is an added bonus. (So in other words, my Victorian series allows me to shamelessly fangirl over my favorite Victorian artists & writers.) 

· Each book in my Roman series, by contrast, presents me with unique challenges of research. While I've been interested in the Romans since I was little and fell in love with the works of Rosemary Sutcliff, I'm still not as familiar with the period as I am with, say, the Victorian Age, which I have studied for years. When Twitter talked me into writing a Roman romance, I really had to knuckle down and bring myself up to scratch in regard to the historical background. Moreover, the series has also allowed me to explore some local history, as I live in Roman borderland, near where the Germanic limes once marked the edge of the Roman Empire. Since 2014, I've been a regular visitor to the reconstructed Roman fort in Bad Homburg, where I also took a Roman cookery class! 

ER: Are you planning to turn The Return of the Earl into a series? Maybe a book about the Earl’s secretary? Or a down-stairs romance between his staff (I love this type of historicals and would love to read one like that written by you)? 

SS: Yes. I think there might be a story about Ross, Con's secretary, in the future. And glimpses of an older Con in my Victorian series. I already have some ideas for that! 😊 

ER: Your book shows great detail of the times which you seem to have researched meticulously. What was most fun/difficult thing to research for this story? 

SS: Thank you! To be honest, though, I didn't have to do all that much research for The Return of the Earl – that was the beauty of writing this story! My early published novels were all set in the Regency period or the early 19th century, thus, I when I started to write historicals some 15 years ago, I read a lot about the period, which forms the foundation I can fall back on today. 

In addition, when I was still a lecturer at university, much of my work focused on the 19th century. Indeed, a few things I researched for my Ph.D. thesis (on the history of dragonslaying) found their way into The Return of the Earl, specifically, the gothic garden follies and the mummers' play, which is a specific kind of English folk drama. For the play in my story, I used different 19th-century versions of a so-called hero-combat play, where a hero – in this case, St. George – fights against one or more villains (a soldier, a knight, a foreign king, or a dragon figure). One of the combatants is slain, but luckily the Doctor is at hand with some miracle medicine to affect a nice resurrection. At the end there is often a song, and then the mummers are rewarded with alcohol or money (or both), and everybody is happy. 
In the last few years, I was also lucky enough to visit a few stately homes in Britain. The grounds of my grumpy earl's country estate are modelled on those of Harewood near Leeds, while the house itself, with its layout around a main courtyard and a service courtyard, was inspired by Dunham Massey. In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in the lives of servants, which is why a lot of stately homes have opened up the service areas to the public. When I was at Dunham Massey, I took part in a tour of the service courtyard, and it's this kind of hands on research that is really helpful to understand how country houses worked in the past. 

And of course, walking from such a stately home back to the train station in the nearest town or village really makes you aware how vast these country estates are (especially if you have to hurry to catch your train). 

[picture 4: terrace at Harewood] 

ER: Finally, what can we expect from you in the near future? 

SS: I think I'm going to stick with the Regency period for the time being, and I hope to finally finish that Victorian novella later in the year.

Author Bio and Links

Sandra Schwab is an award-winning author, artist, and translator. She holds a PhD in English Literature, which she gained for a study on the history of dragonslaying, and she now uses some of her fiction to shamelessly fangirl over PUNCH, her favorite Victorian magazine. In 2015, she appeared on the BBC documentary Great Continental Railway Journeys to talk about another favorite topic of hers, the Grimms' fairy tales, while walking through a rather muddy stretch of the Black Forest.

Sandra lives in Frankfurt am Main in Germany with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library.

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Newsletter

The Return of the Earl



On the continent they call him the Ice Prince, icy of manner, icy of heart. Now, after thirteen years of exile, Con returns home to England and to Harrowcot Hall, a place haunted by memories of a long-lost friendship and past betrayals, a place where all of his dreams shattered and died.

But the past is over and done with, and can no longer touch him -- or so Con thinks. He certainly does not expect to come face to face with Bryn Ellison again, the man whom he once loved beyond everything and who repudiated their bond in the cruelest way imaginable. 

As snow and frost close in on Harrowcot Hall, Con's icy demeanour starts to melt while he grapples with old hurts and newly awakened passions. Will he give in to the lure of the past against his better judgement?


This was a lovely, sweet, slow-burn mm Regency romance. Sandra Schwab tells a tender and very moving story with some air of melancholy which is further strengthened by the stunning winter scenery she created. The nature as reflection of the characters' emotions was just so well incorporated in this story, the vivid way the scenery and the Christmas season was presented made it fell almost like a character of its own on the story. 

I loved both the grumpy Earl (no surprise there as grumpy heroes are my catnip) and his quiet and loyal Stablemaster. Their second-chance friends-to-lovers romance, very understated and quiet at times and all the more powerful and memorable for that, was a joy to read. 

The story is told from the point of view of Con, the young Earl of Stanbury and we see very little of the inner world of his stablemaster, Bryn. I liked getting to know all Con's emotions - his anger and fear and desperation and later on, hope and overwhelming love.  I really wanted more insight into Bryn's inner world as well. I have to admit that he remained a bit of mystery for me. At the same time Con's attraction and deep affection for him was rather catching and I couldn't help but like him, and like him a lot, myself. 

The writing is beautiful, elaborate and rich. It's full of details of the historical period (a bit too much at times in my opinion) and it transports the reader right there and then at the times and place of the story.

I like the supporting characters, we see more of Con's secretary and his butler and less of the staff of Harrowcot manor but I'd love to read more stories about all of them. 

This quiet but moving love story is a recommended reading for fans of historical romance

Purchase links: Amazon

You Might Also Like


Flickr Images