The Appearance of Impropriety

Thomas Cochrane provided inspiration for Kate Dolan's book The Appearance of Impropritety

Goofy as it is, I like this caricature of naval hero Thomas Cochrane much better than the cover of this book, so I’ve switched the pictures. This image goes with the “The Story Behind the Story” below.

When Sophie Bayles inadvertently ruins a young man’s chance for employment, she sets out to find him a new position. Even though he doesn’t want her to…

With the war over, Lieutenant Heyward Elliott needs work. The job hunt is made no easier by the meddling of Sophie, who is all smiles and helpfulness one minute and snobby and argumentative the next. Complicating matters is her constant companion Helen, a strange young lady with a propensity to drop eggs on people in the name of science.

Sophie tries to do the right thing, but gets all the wrong results. Her attempts to find employment for Lieutenant Elliott produce one disaster after another, until he finally orders her never to help him again. But when he is arrested on false charges, she and Helen at last see a way to even the score, by clearing his name and reputation.

Unless they lose their own in the process…

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The Story Behind the Story:

Kate Dolan's The Appearance of ImproprietyThis is one of my favorites of the books I’ve written, but the cover makes me cringe every time I see it. The hero was inspired by the character of Horatio Hornblower, who was in turn inspired by real life naval hero Thomas Cochrane. I’m not sure what inspired me to set him in the midst of my “crazy family” series, but once the idea popped into my head, the story came to life. Heyward is quite the fish out of water in London society, but really anyone put in contact with Helen and Geoffrey Wright is going to feel a bit “at sea.”

In this book, I wanted to show what happened to Sophie and Helen, the girls left behind whKate Dolan won the Written Art award for humorous fiction in 2010ile their siblings are breaking into Bedlam and attacking people at the opera and all the other craziness that happens during A Certain Want of Reason. Sophie is much more concerned with propriety than her sister, so I needed a hero she would find inappropriate for her station in life. And that’s where Heyward comes in.

Naval officers occupied a unique place in Regency society. Unlike officers in the army who paid for their rank and therefore came from the best families, officers in the navy had to work their way up from a lowly position. If they came from the nobility, they might be granted a few shortcuts, but they had to endure years of work and hardship to earn a command. And if they proved themselves and were fortunate enough to serve on a ship that captured prizes, they could earn both rank and fortune, thereby advancing themselves into polite society.

But this requires luck, and my hero is unlucky. The war ended before he could secure his command, so he was left at the rank of lieutenant. And to make matters worse, he served under Lord Cochrane, an officer with many enemies who was imprisoned after an ill-advised foray into politics. So at war’d end Heyward finds himself with no position, no money and connections that do him more harm than good. The only way life could get worse would be for him to meet someone like Sophie.

The Appearance of Impropriety won the Written Art Award for Humorous Fiction and I found that very satisfying. In my fiction, I try to bring out the humor that surrounds us every day, but I often can’t tell if I’ve succeeded. When other readers “get” my humor, I feel like I’ve won a great victory.


“Reading Kate Dolan’s period romances may make a romance fan of me yet. Her latest, The Appearance of Impropriety, is a pure delight…a fast read, but a fun one. Dolan paints this period of England quite well, making you want to linger over the pages—if you weren’t in such a hurry to find out how it all turns out.”
–Janie Franz, MyShelf Book Reviews

“refreshingly quite different from most historical romances I have read… I’ll have to admit, I could not put the book down. This was my first time reading Ms. Kate Dolan’s work. Let me assure you, it will not be my last.”
–Brenda Talley, The Romance Studio

“a very good Regency told from a slightly different perspective with a great deal of humor.”
–Maura, Coffee Time Romance


Please note: The publisher has announced it is closing. Until I receive my rights back for this book, you can buy an autographed copy from me directly or through Authors Den.

Historical Information and Other Background:

If you enjoy reading about interesting characters or naval adventures, I highly recommend Robert Harvey’s biography Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain (Carroll & Graf 2000).

The cartoon I used in place of the book cover at the top of the page depicts Lord Thomas Cochrane’s split fame – the naval hero reduced to an inmate of King’s Bench jail. I thought it also symbolized the position of my hero as he tries to transition from a life he understood at sea to one on land where everything he touches turns to disaster. The image came from C Dyer (publisher) –, Public Domain,

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