Eloisa James

Mary Bly
Born 1962 (age 5354)
Minnesota, U.S.
Pen name Eloisa James
Occupation Professor, novelist
Nationality United States
Period 1999present
Genre Historical romance
Subject English literature

Eloisa James is the pen name of Mary Bly (born 1962). She is a tenured professor of English Literature at Fordham University who also writes best-selling Regency and Georgian romance novels under her pen name.

She is the daughter of poet Robert Bly and short-story author Carol Bly.

Early life

Mary Bly was born in Minnesota in 1962, the daughter of Robert Bly, winner of the American Book Award for poetry, and Carol Bly, a short story author. She was the inspiration for her mother's essay "The Maternity Wing, Madison, Minnesota," which was published in the anthology Imagining Home: Writing From the Midwest.[1] Her godfather, James Wright, wrote a poem especially for her, which he included in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Collected Poems.[2] Bly has three younger siblings, Bridget, Noah,[1] and Micah.[3]

The Bly family did not own a television, but did own over 5000 books. Robert often read to his children, choosing to expose them to classics such as Beowulf instead of more traditional children's fare.[4] Even at a young age, however, Mary was fascinated with romance. To entertain her siblings during a snowstorm, she built a puppet show, complete with lights, that featured a romance. Several years later, after discovering the romance novels of Georgette Heyer in her local library, Bly convinced her father to allow her to read one romance novel for each classic novel she read.[1]


After graduating from Harvard University, Bly went on to attain an M.Phil. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in Renaissance studies from Yale University. She is a tenured professor lecturing on William Shakespeare at Fordham University in New York City. She has served as Director of Graduate Studies in the English Department, as well as head of Fordham's Creative Writing Program.[5][6] In addition to publishing an academic book with Oxford University Press, she has published an academic article on 17th century drama in The Publications of the Modern Language Association, the most prestigious journal for English literary studies.[6]

Romance novelist

While attending the University of Virginia on a humanities fellowship, Bly began writing romance novels. Her second career began when her husband wished to postpone having a second child until they had paid off their student loans. To speed the process, Bly followed her parents' examples and wrote a story to send to a publisher.[1] Two publishers bid for that novel, Potent Pleasures,[7] netting Bly an advance that paid off her student loans in full.[1] As she was at the time an untenured professor about to publish her first academic work,[8] Bly made the decision to publish her fiction books under a pseudonym, Eloisa James, out of fear that her colleagues would not take her seriously as an academic if they knew of her side writing.[9] Her books have since been translated into 9 languages[10] and have become hard-cover bestsellers in the Netherlands and Spain. She has had 12 New York Times bestsellers and 16 USAToday bestsellers.[2]

Bly's first three novels, the Pleasures trilogy, were published in hardcover by Dell, a plan with which Bly did not fully agree. Following the publication of those three novels she bought out the remainder of her contract and moved to Avon, where her books are now published in mass market paperback format. She believed that marketing her first works as hardcovers was not a truly successful plan and hoped to have more success with the mass-market paperbacks.[11]

Inspiration for her novels comes in part from her academic career, as plays or facts discovered during her academic research often spark ideas for fictional plots.[7] Her novels, which are set in England's Regency period (1811–1820), often have references to Shakespeare or include pieces of 16th-century poetry or other tidbits she has found while researching her academic papers.[12] As she spends much of her day teaching about or reading early British English, she feels that the language choices she makes in her novels are more authentic.[8] Although Bly has attempted to write a contemporary romance, she chose not to finish the manuscript because of difficulty writing in a contemporary voice.[13]

The characters in Bly's novels often dispense with the typical romance novel stereotypes, with the novels featuring female characters who are plump and even a hero who annulled a marriage because of impotence.[14] Her heroines are usually surrounded by very good female friends or sisters, as Bly finds those relationships important in her own life. Most of her novels are part of a trilogy or set of four novels which focus on a set of interconnected characters, and explores the relationships between those characters as well as that of the hero and heroine.[15]

Revealing her alternate career identity

For several years Bly's second career remained a secret, and she disguised herself by wearing contacts instead of her normal glasses when she attended functions as Eloisa James.[4] After her first New York Times Bestseller in 2005, Bly realized that her readers liked her writing regardless of its genre, and that by keeping her identity a secret she was implying that she was ashamed of her work and of her readers.[9] At a February 16, 2005 faculty meeting, Bly outed herself to her colleagues, revealing her alter ego and offering copies of her novels to her fellow professors. Once she had officially "come out", she submitted an op-ed to The New York Times defending the romance genre.

Juggling dual careers

Bly credits her success in dual careers to being "very, very organized."[15] Lacking the time to write every day, Bly often writes upwards of 20 pages at a time.[16] On her days at home, Bly schedules time to work on both her fiction and her academic works. When possible, she does not work when her children are at home.[15] Bly usually does not teach in the summers, giving her more time to devote to her writing (both academic and fiction).[13]

Her large workload leaves her little time to research some of the historical aspects for her novels. She has hired a research assistant to confirm details of topics she would like to include in a novel.[13]


Bly's father and stepmother, Ruth, are very supportive of her romance writing. Her mother, however, publicly wished that her efforts were focused towards more literary works. Despite that, Carol Bly also supported her daughter, contributing a "nifty crossword puzzle" to the Eloisa James website.[1]

Bly's mother died from ovarian cancer. Collaborating with her publisher, Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins, she became a spokesperson, along with six other Avon Romance authors, in a program named K.I.S.S. and TEAL to increase awareness about the early symptoms of this disease. "Romance is read primarily by women, and ovarian cancer is a women’s disease. Avon and its authors are saying, “You are our readers, our women, and we want you to live long and healthy lives, so we are going to put the symptoms in the back of every one of these seven books.” We are looking out for our own readers. Almost everyone has been touched by ovarian cancer, whether by the death of a friend or a relative."[17]

Bly is married to Alessandro Vettori, an Italian knight (or cavaliere)[12] who is also a professor of Italian at Rutgers University,[9] whom she met on a blind date while she was at Yale.[14] They have a son and a daughter.[18] The family lives primarily in New Jersey, but spends summers in Tuscany visiting Alessandro's mother and sister.[2]


Academic works as Mary Bly

Romance novels as Eloisa James

The Pleasures Trilogy

  1. Potent Pleasures. Random House Publishing Group. September 2009 [1999]. ISBN 0-440-24563-X. 
  2. Midnight Pleasures. Random House Publishing Group. September 2009 [2000]. ISBN 0-440-24564-8. 
  3. Enchanting Pleasures. Dell. 2002 [2001]. ISBN 0-440-23458-1. 

The Duchess Quartet

  1. Duchess in Love. Avon. 2002. ISBN 978-0-06-050810-4. 
  2. Fool For Love. Avon. 2003. ISBN 978-0-06-050811-1. 
  3. A Wild Pursuit. Avon. 2004. ISBN 978-0-06-050812-8. 
  4. Your Wicked Ways. Avon. 2004. ISBN 978-0-06-056078-2. 

The Essex Sisters Series

  1. Much Ado About You. Avon. 2005. ISBN 978-0-06-073206-6. 
  2. Kiss Me, Annabel. Avon. 2005. ISBN 978-0-06-073210-3. 
  3. The Taming of the Duke. Avon. 2006. ISBN 978-0-06-078158-3. 
  4. Pleasure for Pleasure. Avon. 2006. ISBN 978-0-06-078192-7. 

The Desperate Duchesses Series

  1. Desperate Duchesses. Avon. 2007. ISBN 978-0-06-078193-4. 
  2. An Affair Before Christmas. Avon. 2007. ISBN 978-0-06-124554-1. 
  3. Duchess by Night. Avon. 2008. ISBN 978-0-06-124557-2. 
  4. When the Duke Returns. Avon. 2008. ISBN 978-0-06-124560-2. 
  5. This Duchess of Mine. Avon. 2009. ISBN 978-0-06-162682-1. 
  6. A Duke of Her Own. Avon. 2009. ISBN 978-0-06-162683-8. 
  7. Three Weeks With Lady X. Avon. 2014.
  8. Four Nights With a Duke. Avon. 2015.

Novellas in Anthologies in collaboration

The Happily Ever Afters

Memoir as Eloisa James


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Grossmann, Mary Ann (February 14, 2006). "Secret Romance". St Paul Pioneer Press. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  2. 1 2 3 "Media Kit". Eloisa James Official Website. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  3. Johnsen, Bill (June 2004). "The Natural World is a Spiritual House" (PDF). Colloquium on Violence and Religion Annual Conference 2004. Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary. Retrieved 2007-04-30.
  4. 1 2 Bly, Mary (June 2005). "What It's Like to Lead a Double Life". More Magazine. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  5. http://www.eloisajames.com/eloisa.php
  6. 1 2 http://www.eloisajames.com/articles/ELOISA.pdf
  7. 1 2 Donna (2000). "New Author Spotlight on Eloisa James". RBL Romantica. Archived from the original on 2004-09-09. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  8. 1 2 Moiseeff, Dolly (January 16, 2005). "Professor steps out of shadows". The Oakland Press. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  9. 1 2 3 Garman, Emma (January 24–31, 2005). "Love's Labors". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  10. Donahue, Deirdre (May 24, 2007). "5 Questions for Eloisa James". USAToday.
  11. Yamashita, Brianna (November 4, 2002). "PW Talks With Eloisa James". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on February 12, 2008. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  12. 1 2 "A Little Background". Eloisa James Official Website. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  13. 1 2 3 Debbie. "ARR Interview with Eloisa James". A Romance Review. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  14. 1 2 "Eloisa on Being "Outed"; A Knight in the Life; Passions of Faith and Fiction" (PDF). Avon Books. 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  15. 1 2 3 Ward, Jean Marie (May 2005). "Eloisa James: Regencies With a Shakespearean Twist". Crescent Blues. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  16. Domingo, Diane (February 2005). "An Interview with Bestselling Author Eloise James". Writers Break. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
  17. http://nyjournalofbooks.com/news/kiss-and-teal-interview-eloisa-james-nancy-herkness-reviewer-new-york-journal-books
  18. Buonfiglio, Michelle (March 23, 2006). "AuthorView: Eloisa James". WNBC. Retrieved 2007-02-07.

Further reading

External links

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