HarperFiction has pre-empted a debut historical novel set in the Regency period by Sophie Irwin in a 48-hour swoop.
Editorial director Martha Ashby pre-empted A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting in a two-book deal from Madeleine Milburn, at the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency, buying UK and commonwealth rights excluding Canada. A seven-way auction was won by Pamela Dorman for Pamela Dorman Books/Viking US and Nicole Winstanley and Lara Hinchberger at Penguin Canada for North American rights.
The agency is conducting significant auctions in multiple international territories, with seven deals confirmed, including Droemer in Germany, Calmann-Levy in France, Mondadori in Italy, Meulenhoff Boekerij in Holland, Sextante in Brazil, Bazar in Finland and Bookzone in Romania, and auctions in 10 more territories ongoing. HarperFiction will publish in hardback, e-book and audio in June 2022.
The novel is set in 1818 and follows the fortunes of the ruthless and entirely unapologetic heroine, Kitty Talbot. The publisher said: "When Kitty is jilted by her fiancé, the future looks a dark place: without his fortune to pay off her late father’s gambling debts, she and her four sisters face certain ruin. But Kitty has never been one to back down from a challenge, and she heads towards the most dangerous battleground of all: the London Season. The aim is simple: find a wealthy bachelor to save the Talbot family from financial destitution. Kitty is neither accomplished, nor especially genteel, but she is determined to catch a fortune, for all her sisters' sakes. Set loose upon the unsuspecting lords and ladies of London society, she makes as many friends as she does enemies. But the last thing Kitty expects to find is love."
Ashby said: "The success of 'Bridgerton' showed that there was an eager audience for clever, romantic stories that whisk you away to a different time and place and Sophie has brought a contemporary energy, a wicked sense of humour and a strong unconventional heroine to her brilliant Regency-set historical. This is the book I’ve waited my entire career to publish and the most delightfully escapist book I’ve read in a very long time."
Irwin, a former assistant editor in publishing who recently went freelance, added: "I’ve always loved romcoms of all kinds, and historical romances most of all, for their incomparable ability to take us away from reality (and usually to somewhere frothy and fun). It’s a dream come true to have my own published, and I am so thrilled to be working with Martha and the HarperCollins team, who I know all love Regency fiction just as much as I do. I can’t wait for the book to be out in the world – and I hope it might give to readers the same kind of escape I had in writing it."
Milburn commented: "These past few weeks have been a whirling waltz of record-breaking activity for Sophie’s debut novel with fan-fluttering auctions all over the world. A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting is an ode to the classics with its comforting voice, while its modern take on the role of women and its universal humour offer complete escapism and a romping fun ride. HarperCollins’ vision to make this the book of the moment has resonated with publishers in every single country, and I am hugely excited for its summer release in 2022."