Friday, December 23, 2011

Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Winners Final List

Congratulations to Melissa from Texas who is our Grand Prize winner of a Kindle Fire!

Our thanks to everyone who participated in our second Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Giveaway. It was a terrific way for us to enter in to the Holiday Spirit.

If you see your name below and you haven't had contact, consult that day's author. The calendar will bring you to each author's page.

Final Winners List:

November 29 – Michelle Willingham --- Winner: Felicity S from UK
November 30 – Elizabeth Rolls --- Winner: Nina C from Ireland
December 1 – Charlene Sands --- Winner: Lorraine C
December 2 – Diane Gaston --- Winners: Dec 2 Adele from UK; Dec 23 Beichyl from FL
December 3 – Annie Burrows --- Winner: Jennifer from Puerto Rico
December 5 – Elaine Golden --- Winners: Patti P; Ebony M; Shelley B; Ubah K; Brooklynshoebabe; Karen G; Kim; May P; Victoria D; Laura M; Michelle B
December 6 – Barbara Monajem --- Winner: Dec 2 Amy K; Dec 23 Jessica S
December 7 – Michelle Styles --- Winner: Elizabeth and Venetia
December 8 – Deborah Hale --- Winner: Michelle B
December 9 – Marguerite Kaye --- Winners: Annie from NY; Tammy from WV
December 10 – Lynna Banning --- Winner: Carol from FL
December 12 – Carol Townend --- Winners: Charlotte M from UK; Jean S; Grandmareads
December 13 – Blythe Gifford --- Winner: Margaret from FL
December 14 – Julia Justiss --- Winner: Angeles W from FL
December 15 – Terri Brisbin --- Winner: Rakisha W
December 16 – Ann Lethbridge --- Winner: Vonda R
December 17 – Bronwyn Scott --- Winner: Louisa Cornell
December 19 – Sarah Mallory --- Winner: Samantha L from CA
December 20 – Kate Bridges --- Winners: Carrie B from MN, Jennifer W from GA, Lisa W
December 21 – Amanda McCabe --- Winner: Elena G
December 22 – Jeannie Lin --- Winners: Marjorie, Bessamy, and Annie
December 23 – Grand Prize Drawing --- Melissa from TX

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy New Year. Happy Holidays!
The Harlequin Historical Authors 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Carol

Holiday books and movies are one of the delights of the holiday season. This year I've caught two versions of A Christmas Carol, not quite Regency, but close enough for this Historical Author.

I just watched Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney, the musical version of A Christmas Carol, which I quite enjoyed for the singing and dancing. I especially like the song "Thank You Very Much," but Finney is just not the Scrooge of my imagination. 

Another version of A Christmas Carol playing on TV this season is the 1984 version, featuring George C. Scott, who is a very effective Scrooge. I watched this one back to back with Scrooge and liked that the dialogue was the same in places. I haven't read A Christmas Carol for many years, but am guessing I was hearing Dickens' words. 

Neither of these versions are as gratifying to me as the 1951 movie starring Alistair Sim. This black and white version is how I think of A Christmas Carol, probably because this is the version I watched as a child. 

I have not seen the Jim Carrey version. Or the Patrick Stewart version. But I do enjoy the Bill Murray version even though it takes place in modern times.

My favorite, though, is also not historical. It is the Vanessa Williams version, A Diva's Christmas Carol. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it is from a woman's point of view. I just love the ending of this movie!

The Internet Database lists 47 titles adapted from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, including A Barbie Christmas Carol, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and A Smurfs Christmas Carol. 

Which version is your favorite?

Don't forget...the Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Giveaway continues, but only for today, tomorrow and Thursday,  three more chances for daily prizes. On Dec 23 we'll randomly pick the winner of the grand prize--a Kindle Fire. Use the calendar here to catch up on any missed days to give yourself the best chance of winning. 

And be sure to read this year's Harlequin Historical anthologies, Snowflakes and Stetsons, Gift-Wrapped Governess, and Coming Home for Christmas, as well as our other Christmas books. 

Happy Holidays to all of you!!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Winners

Each Friday we will post a list of the winners, first names, last initial, and location, if known.

If you see your name and you haven't had contact, consult that day's author. The calendar will bring you to each author's page.

November 29 – Michelle Willingham --- Winner: Felicity S from UK
November 30 – Elizabeth Rolls --- Winner: Nina C from Ireland
December 1 – Charlene Sands --- Winner: Lorraine C
December 2 – Diane Gaston --- Winners: Dec 2 Adele from UK; Dec 23 TBA
December 3 – Annie Burrows --- Winner: Jennifer from Puerto Rico
December 5 – Elaine Golden --- Winners: Patti P; Ebony M; Shelley B; Ubah K; Brooklynshoebabe; Karen G; Kim; May P; Victoria D; Laura M; Michelle B
December 6 – Barbara Monajem --- Winner: Dec 2 Amy K; Dec 23 TBA
December 7 – Michelle Styles --- Winner: TBA
December 8 – Deborah Hale --- Winner: Michelle B
December 9 – Marguerite Kaye --- Winners: Annie from NY; Tammy from WV
December 10 – Lynna Banning --- Winner: Carol from Florida
December 12 – Carol Townend --- Winners: Charlotte M from UK; Jean S; Grandmareads
December 13 – Blythe Gifford --- Winner: Margaret from FL
December 14 – Julia Justiss
December 15 – Terri Brisbin
December 16 – Ann Lethbridge
December 17 – Bronwyn Scott
December 19 – Sarah Mallory
December 20 – Kate Bridges
December 21 – Amanda McCabe
December 22 – Jeannie Lin
December 23 – Grand Prize Drawing

Monday, December 05, 2011

Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Winners

Each Friday we will post a list of the winners, first names, last initial, and location, if known.

If you see your name and you haven't had contact, consult that day's author. The calendar will bring you to each author's page.

November 29 – Michelle Willingham Winner Felicity S from UK
November 30 – Elizabeth Rolls Winner Nina C from Ireland
December 1 – Charlene Sands Winner Lorraine C
December 2 – Diane Gaston Winner Dec 2 Adele from UK
Winner Dec 23 TBA
December 3 – Annie Burrows Winner Jennifer from Puerto Rico
December 5 – Elaine Golden Winner TBA
December 6 – Barbara Monajem Winner Dec 2 Amy K; Winner Dec 23 TBA
December 7 – Michelle Styles Winner TBA
December 8 – Deborah Hale Winner TBA
December 9 – Marguerite Kaye Winner TBA
December 10 – Lynna Banning
December 12 – Carol Townend
December 13 – Blythe Gifford
December 14 – Julia Justiss
December 15 – Terri Brisbin
December 16 – Ann Lethbridge
December 17 – Bronwyn Scott
December 19 – Sarah Mallory
December 20 – Kate Bridges
December 21 – Amanda McCabe
December 22 – Jeannie Lin
December 23 – Grand Prize Drawing

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Harlequin Historical Holiday Giveway...

Starting today, the Harlequin Historical Authors are hosting an on-line giveaway, as we did last year. There will be daily prizes and a chance to win a Grand Prize of a Kindle/Kindle Fire - the actual prize depends on your location. The button below takes you through to the live Calendar and the rules.   Today, it is Michelle Willingham's day.  Click on the button below to find out more...

Participating Authors

November 29 - Michelle Willingham
November 30 - Elizabeth Rolls
December 1 - Charlene Sands
December 2 - Diane Gaston
December 3 - Annie Burrows
December 5 - Elaine Golden
December 6 - Barbara Monajem
December 7 - Michelle Styles
December 8 - Deborah Hale
December 9 - Marguerite Kaye
December 10 - Lynna Banning
December 12 - Carol Townend
December 13 - Blythe Gifford
December 14 - Julia Justiss
December 15 - Terri Brisbin
December 16 - Ann Lethbridge
December 17 - Bronwyn Scott
December 19 - Sarah Mallory
December 20 - Kate Bridges
December 21 - Amanda McCabe
December 22 - Jeannie Lin
December 23 - Grand Prize Drawing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gratitude and Connections

Earlier this month, I was at an annual writers’ retreat, a highlight of my year. While there are always new attendees, many of us have been sharing this week at this place for several years. One of the cherished rituals is the “drawing of the cards,” in which Luna author Robin Owens offers us a deck of Cheryl Richardson Self-Care cards so we can choose one, or more, as a theme for the week.
I always close my eyes and draw, letting the Muse make my selection. The cards I got this year: Gratitude and Connection.
This is the month for Gratitude, of course, but the second card made me think specifically about all the connections for which I am thankful.

First, and foremost, my connection with readers. For each of you who has, or will, read my books, I am extremely grateful. I sincerely hope that something in the stories speaks to you and that in reading, you’ll be led closer to your own Happy Ending.
Second, my connections to other writers. Writing is a solitary business. Most days, I sit alone with the keyboard, flashing curser, and my doubts. This annual week on the beach sharing space with fellow travelers gives me hope and courage. (And assures me that I’m not the only one who lives in alternate worlds on a daily basis.) Harlequin Historical author Terri Brisbin was also there and we had a great visit, comparing notes on writing.
Third, my connection to history. If I did not write history, I would still read it. And if I did not write history, I don’t know what I would write. History inspires me, intrigues me, ignites my curiosity. Truth is, I don’t get any ideas that are NOT historical. In my stories, I can walk around in history, live vicariously, and convey the humanity that unites us across the centuries. And if I spark a reader to explore further based on one of my stories, nothing could be better.
Finally, I am grateful for my connection to the Muse, the mystery that all writers confront. Steven Pressfield, screenwriter, novelist, and non-fiction writer, says he prays to the Muse each day before beginning work. Any writer knows that, solitary a calling as we have, we are never really alone, at least, if we are lucky.
We have many, many connections to be grateful for.
How about you? What connections are you grateful for during this season of giving thanks?
p.s. Coming a week from today: the Second Annual Harlequin Historical Holiday Giveaway! More than three weeks of fun and prizes, including a Grand Prize Kindle Fire. Check back for details!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Regency Toys

In the book I'm writing now, there is a scene set in Hamley's Toy Shop, the original one in High Holborn, London. So I've been researching Regency toys today. Dolls and tin soldiers and spinning tops and sets of skittles--as many toys available in the Regency as I can find.

Which reminded me of a game I photographed at a museum in Nottingham in 2005. Dated 1819, it was a game called "Changeable Ladies" published by R. Ackermann in London.

The game consisted of cards which can be put together to create different ladies' faces. The images on the cards were similar to the faces on Ackermann fashion prints of the period.

I could well imagine a little girl in the Regency spending hours putting the cards together in various ways, creating new faces with new eyes, noses, mouths, and clothing. Then when she was called to her dinner, I could see her carefully putting the cards away in their little wooden box.

When I was a little girl, I loved drawing fashionable ladies or playing with paper dolls. I also loved puzzles, so I'm sure I would have adored the Changeable Ladies.

Did you play with paper dolls when you were a child? Did (or do) you like puzzles? What was your favorite toy?

Keep watching this space and your Harlequin Historical authors' websites. We have another exciting Holiday contest coming up very soon. A terrific Grand Prize and lots of other prizes, a prize every day!

In the meantime you can always enter my website contest, going on right now, but hurry! Today is the last day for the first giveaway in my contest.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Strawberry Hill Gothic...

Horace Walpole had his summer villa built between 1748 and 1790. Here, his love of the medieval is made manifest in every wall and window. The picture below shows you the house - or should it be castle? - as you approach it from the road.

I love the turret, it has a Norman look to it.

Above is what is called the 'Prior's Garden' complete with gothic arches. Stawberry Hill has recently been restored so you can see much of the building as Horace Walpole might have expected it to be seen. Walpole wanted visitors to Strawberry Hill to have a theatrical experience and the mood shifts dramatically as the tour progresses. Walpole's fascination with the medieval can be seen at every turn. Here, a heraldic beast masquerades as a newel post on the stairs...

The ceiling of the library is rich with pictures of knights and heraldic devices...

And below is the most splendid room of all, the Gallery. The design for the ceiling is taken from a side aisle in Westminster Abbey, and the restoration team have restored it using real gold leaf. Wool and silk damask wallcoverings have been specially made to match the originals.

Strawberry Hill is exactly as you might imagine a small palace to be. But it is not just somewhere to enjoy looking at gothic revival. Horace Walpole was so inspired by his 'castle' that he wrote what has come to be seen as the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. He said that the novel was 'an attempt to blend the ancient and the modern.' A description which seems to fit the house too.

Do you like the idea of a medieval romance that blends both the ancient and the modern? How much history do you like? Do you prefer your romances to be solidly grounded in history? And how do you feel about time-shift novels?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Invisible TBR Pile

In the battle between e-readers and physical books, I’m firmly in both camps. I read both, avidly. That means I have any number of books waiting on my Kindle, as well as stacks on my bedroom (and living room and office) floor.
I’ve discovered, however, that a TBR category on my e-reader is not the same thing as a TBR pile on my nightstand.
One advantage of e-readers is that the books don’t clutter your living space. Limited shelf space is no longer a constraint for the collection! This also turns out to be a disadvantage. Books piled on the floor are stumbled over regularly. Books stacked on my nightstand snag my eye daily. The beautiful covers are like little ads and each exposure nudges me closer to page one.
The shelf on my e-reader is very different. The files do not clamor for attention. They wait patiently for me to rediscover them, even as I add more and more files to the folder. The “shelf” will never need to be weeded out to accept more books. It is, in one sense, an infinitely deep well and I can no longer see to the bottom. As a result, I fear, I have many wonderful books awaiting me that I have, simply, forgotten about.
As with my physical shelves, I have started, and abandoned, more than one organizational scheme. But moving files into folders is no less time consuming than rearranging physical shelves and somehow less rewarding, so there is now little organization to my e-reader files at all. Alphabetical? By author? By date of download? And though the reader does sync across devices, the samples don’t. And some files are “archived” and not downloaded unless I ask for them. As a result, I may stumble across a book on my phone reader that doesn’t surface so quickly on my main reader. And what’s on my PC looks entirely different.
I guess, perhaps, they aren’t so different from my physical shelves after all. The misplaced title, the double shelved rows hiding a different collection behind the first – these are parallel to the discovery that awaits, some day, when I go through my e-files seeking the next thing to read.
How about you? Do you have a TBR file on your e-reader? Do you go searching regularly? Have you ever stumbled across a book you’d forgotten you had?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vauxhall Gardens

I recently bought a new research book, Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David Coke and Alan Borg, a coffee-table sized volume brimming with everything you'd want to know about these historical pleasure gardens. It was worth every penny I spend on it and I spent a lot of pennies!

I think of Vauxhall Gardens as the Disneyland of its time, a place people of all walks of life and social classes flock to for recreation, to see wonders that thrill, amaze, or simply entertain them. Things like fireworks and tightrope walkers, musical performances, frescos made so real you felt transported to a different land, spooky dark walks featuring a hermit at the end. There was food special to the place, just like the special foods we find at amusement parks or State Fairs. Paper-thin slices of ham, tiny whole chickens, orgeat (the soft drink of the day), poor quality wines, cider and ale.

I love using Vauxhall Gardens as a setting in my books. Flynn, my hero in Innocence and Impropriety became smitten with Rose as she sang at Vauxhall Gardens. In A Reputable Rake, Morgana brought her courtesan students to Vauxhall Gardens to practice their lessons. A masked Graham Veall chose Vauxhall Gardens as a place to meet Margaret and hire her as a temporary mistress in my homage to Phantom of the Opera, The Unlacing of Miss Leigh.

I'm using Vauxhall Gardens again in Leo's story, the last of the Welbourne Manor books, due to be released in 2012. This book is set in 1828 and I was delighted that my new research tome could give me detailed information of what happened at Vauxhall Gardens that year.

New was the Grand Hydropyric Exhibition, consisting of cascades of colored fire and water. A new vaudeville called The Statue Lover was introduced, as well as a short comic ballet called The Carnival of Venice. Even though there had been complaints of excessive noise the previous year, a reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo took place on the battle's anniversary. They also introduced a lottery with dozens of different prizes.

I may not use any of those new entertainments in the book, but I did learn that Vauxhall Gardens did not open until June 4 of 1828. I'd set my story in May of that year, but now have moved it to the end of the London Season (because I like to be as faithful to history as I can be)

We're all probably thinking of fall holidays and entertainments instead of amusement parks. Halloween and Thanksgiving are right around the corner, but backtrack a bit and tell me what "pleasure garden" you visited during the summer. (The closest I came to an amusement park this year was Times Square in New York City!)

My September book, Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy, is still available online, and don't miss my October 2011 Undone short estory, The Liberation of Miss Finch. Check my website on Halloween for a fun Halloween contest including other Harlequin Historical authors, all awarding prizes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Irish Tea Brack and a Three-Legged Cat

I was hoping to post a recipe for Irish soda bread, but so far I'm unsatisfied with the results of my I'm falling back on another Irish bread. I've been making tea brack for years, messing with several recipes, and this is the one I used for the loaf pictured here. 
Irish Tea Brack


Please note, though: the loaf doesn't really look like this. It's much, much darker, both inside and out. Blame my flash and my lack of photographic skills. Don't blame the bread -- it's dark and delicious. 

Irish Tea Brack

1.5 cups cold black tea (good and strong), but make a little extra and set it aside, because you may need a little more.
3 cups raisins (usually I use regular raisins, but I include some golden raisins if I have them on hand)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
(Note: you can use fewer raisins and more sugar if you like, but in my opinon, the more raisins, the merrier)
1 tsp. rum flavoring 
2 cups white whole wheat flour (you can use regular flour if you like)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 egg

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a bowl, cover, and leave for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a loaf pan. Some recipes suggest lining it with wax paper. In my experience, that results in a slightly moister loaf.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Beat the egg and mix it into the wet ingredients.Then add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir well. You may need to add a little more tea, especially if you used the whole wheat flour, as it soaks up more moisture. Put the batter in the pan and bake for between 1 and 1.5 hours until done. Let it cool for a while before removing it from the pan. It's great with butter or just as is.

Here is the three-legged cat that belongs to the friends we visited in Northern Ireland this summer. She lost a leg due to an injury, but she's lively even without one of her front legs.
Three-Legged Cat 1
Here she is, a little annoyed at all the attention and preparing to walk away...

Three-Legged Cat 2

And here she is at rest.
I think she'd made a great character for a story someday!
She's Irish, after all. There's got to be some magic in her. Is she really just a cat, or is she something more?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fashionista in Liddesdale

My heroines may wear medieval silks and furs, but I’m definitely a 21st century fashionista. When I want to escape my writing problems, I grab a fashion magazine and dream of looking good in sky-high heels and a smokey eye.”
Of course, in my real world, I wear leggings and a tee shirt and the only thing I own with the Chanel logo is a bottle of nail polish. (Graphite, this season’s hot shade.)
And once I started writing historicals set on the Scottish Border, my fictional world became even less fashionable. Border Reivers were known for many things. Fancy clothes were not among them.
So it is not very often that my fictional and my real world intersect, fashionwise.
But this month, I opened Vogue magazine and there was a picture of Stella Tennant, English model, posing in the middle of a stream in Liddesdale.
Where the most notorious Reivers lived.
Including the family in my upcoming series.
You can see the picture that stopped me in my tracks at the photographer's website:
It seems (who knew?) that Scotland is having a fashion moment. Article and pictures followed Stella (who was born in the Scottish border burg of Oxnam and still lives in the area) on a tour of the high fashion hot spots, an “insider’s introduction to the origins of tweed, cashmere, tartan, and kilts.”
Ms. Tennant was brought up on a sheep farm, so I guess she knows more about cloth production than the average granddaughter of a duchess. And she’s using her connections to promote Scottish made goods amount the high fashion set. Chanel and Prada now have items made in Scotland and, I discovered, Hermes and Louis Vuitton have been doing for years. Pringle of Scotland even shows during London’s fashion week and rated a highlight in Bazaar magazine’s coverage for its “enchanting hybrids both functional and far-out.”
To bring fashion back to history, the wool trade was very important to the Scots-English Borders as far back as medieval times. Originally, sheep fleece was sent to Flanders where weavers, such as my heroine in INNOCENCE UNVEILED, made it into prized wool. The family in HIS BORDER BRIDE also raised sheep, which provided virtually the only source of outside currency.
So I guess I must just be a fashion magnet, drawn to the places that only the stylish know. And I guess I could make the case that my Flemish and Scots heroines were, in a roundabout way, in the rag trade.
What about you? Are you interested in clothes, historic or modern? Any favorites you’ve read about in historical romance?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waterloo Days

Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy is in bookstores this month. This last book in my Three Soldiers series, takes place, in part, in Brussels in the days before Waterloo. Brussels is where Captain Gabriel Deane finds the woman he and the two other officers rescued at Badajoz and it is in Brussels where Gabe’s and Emmaline’s love story really begins…and almost ends.

After Napoleon was exiled on Elba, Europe opened up again for the British, who’d had to give up their Grand Tours of the Continent’s grand cities. Many British from aristocratic families, but lacking aristocratic fortunes moved to Brussels where they could live in luxury at low cost. When Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned in triumph to Paris, the British army amassed at Brussels, anticipating a march into France to do battle with Napoleon’s new army. Consequently in the spring of 1815, Brussels was brimming with British.

In June 1815, Miss Charlotte Waldie (married name Eaton) wrote a memoir, Waterloo Days: The Narrative of an Englishwoman resident of Brussels. Accompanied by her brother and younger sister, Charlotte traveled to Brussels, arriving the day of the Duchess of Richmond’s ball.

Charlotte found a city bustling with British soldiers, civilians, and other foreigners. She described it as lively, gay, and festive, “… everything spoke of hope, confidence, and busy expectation.” That very night her sleep was interrupted by the bugle’s call to arms. She rose and went outside to witness the hasty departure of the soldiers, marching off to battle.

She wrote:

“Numbers were taking leave of their wives and children, perhaps for the last time, and many a veteran's rough cheek was wet with the tears of sorrow. One poor fellow, immediately under our windows, turned back again and again, to bid his wife farewell, and take his baby once more in his arms; and I saw him hastily brush away a tear with the sleeve of his coat, as he gave her back the child for the last time, wrung her hand, and ran off to join his company, which was drawn up on the other side of the Place Royale.”

The next day she, her brother and sister heard the cannonade at Quartres Bras and received mixed messages about the fate of the army, most indicating that the British were overwhelmed by the French. The next day, Charlotte and her party joined the numbers of British civilians fleeing Brussels. Like so many others, they traveled to the relative safety of Antwerp.

On June 18 they again heard the cannons and experienced “the dreadful, the overwhelming anxiety of being so near such eventful scenes, without being actually engaged in them; to know that within a few leagues the dreadful storm of war is raging in all its horrors, and the mortal conflict going forward which is to decide the glory of your country, and the security of the world.”

The next day, wagons full of wounded soldiers poured into Antwerp and the news was everywhere that Wellington’s forces could not overcome the French. Eventually, however, they heard that Wellington had won the battle.

Then the wounded poured into Antwerp, many unable to find shelter, merely lay in the streets.

Charlotte wrote:

If such were the horrors of the scene here, what must they be on the field of battle, covered with thousands of the dead, the wounded, and the dying! The idea was almost too dreadful for human endurance; a there nd yet were those of my own country, and even of my own sex, whom I heard express a longing wish to visit this very morning the fatal field of Waterloo!”

A month later, Charlotte and her brother and sister visited the battlefield. She had this to say:

“I stood alone upon the spot so lately bathed in human blood—where more than two hundred thousand human beings had mingled together in mortal strife: I cast my eyes upon the ruined hovels immortalised by the glorious achievements of my gallant countrymen. I recalled to mind their invincible constancy—their undaunted intrepidity—their heroic self-devotion in the hour of trial—their magnanimity and mercy in the moment of victory: I cast my eyes upon the tremendous graves at my feet, filled with the mortal remains of heroes.”

Charlotte ends her memoir with her return to England, writing:

“I returned to my country after all the varying and eventful scenes through which it had been my lot to pass, more proud than when I left it of the name of....An Englishwoman.”

I have long been captivated by the battle of Waterloo and the men who fought it, but for the purposes of writing about my heroines, reading Charlotte’s memoir gave a whole other perspective to the battle.

Is there a moment in history that captivates you?

There is still time to get your copy of Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy. If you have been following my Three Soldiers series, you will also be pleased to know that Claude’s story is told in October’s Harlequin Historical Undone ebook short story, The Liberation of Miss Finch.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Too early for Christmas shopping?

This week I received a box full of advance copies of my latest book, "Gift-Wrapped Governesses", so thought I'd like to share the cover picture with you.
I just love the mischievous expression on the little girl's face as the boy hands her a present.
My story is called "From Governess to Christmas Bride".
The anthology also contains stories featuring governess heroines, from Sophia James and Marguerite Kaye.
Having read both their stories with great enjoyment I'm in the mood to start my Christmas shopping.
And it's way too early!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Visiting Ireland

Last month, I spent a week on the Emerald Isle -- one day in Dublin and the rest visiting friends near Derry, in the north of Northern Ireland. This was my first visit, and it was absolutely wonderful. In Dublin, we went to the archaeology exhibits of the National Museum of Ireland, with its collection of Bronze Age gold objects, Celtic metalwork, Viking I was jet-lagged and sleepy, so I missed some exhibits I'm longing to see. I hope to return and see more of the attractions of Dublin.

Here is the view from a hill near where we stayed in Northern Ireland -- so peaceful and pastoral. The air was incredibly fresh, cool, and pure.

We spent a day in Derry (aka Londonderry), which was the site of Bloody Sunday, also known as the Bogside Massacre, in 1972. The old city wall of Derry is still intact. We walked all the way around it, taking pictures and getting history lessons from the various placards. Much of it was familiar to me, but being in Derry made it all the more real. Here is a photo from the wall of Derry. This photo -- the cannon, the wall, and the houses crowded below -- makes my stomach knot up. There's a lot of very unhappy history here.
We walked across the beautiful new Peace Bridge, which spans the River Foyle and both literally and symbolically connects the Catholic and Protestant communities in peace.

Ireland is an astonishing place. I hope to blog about it again soon -- hopefully with a recipe for Irish Soda Bread.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bookshelf Makeover Needed. Help!

As I am about to embark on a remodeling project, I’ve been thinking about how to (re)organize my books.
Once upon a time, they WERE organized. Research books and non-fiction grouped by time period. The biographies were in alphabetical order by name of the subject. The “keepers” from my childhood (Betsy-Tacy, The Little Colonel, Cherry Ames) had their own proud place. Travel books and maps where separate and close to the Really Useful tomes on How To Fix a Toilet and First Aid for Dummies.
There was a section for poetry and one for those beautiful books on art. Inspirational books were neatly shelved. And writing craft books were handy, along with a dictionary, thesauruses (yes, more than one), and a book on when specific words came into use. (Imperative to know when you write historical fiction.)
There was a separate shelf for signed books written by my friends. I had a “keeper” shelf (literally) and it was (symbolically) the highest shelf – books I would aspire to write.
There was even an “incoming” shelf for books I had purchased and not yet read, easy to peruse whenever I finished a book and was ready to choose the next.
This list is not exhaustive, but you get the idea. Once, in a former life, I was Organized.
Time passed.
I sold my first book.
I started a shelf of the books I had written. (One copy each, including the foreign editions.)
I had more friends who were writers. They sold more books. I bought them.
I learned about more books that I wanted to read. I found more keepers.
I went to writers conferences. I bought more books. I was GIVEN more books.
I changed time periods. I had ideas for books I hadn’t sold yet. My research library grew accordingly.
My deadlines grew shorter. My reading time briefer. “Incoming” no longer had its own shelf. I doubleshelved paperbacks. Research books for books I intended to write someday were relegated to bags on the floor in order to keep the shelves available for research books about projects I was actually writing. I had books stashed anywhere there was a flat surface, including on top of and underneath chairs.
And, let’s be honest – the floor of my office. (And yes, that is an actual picture of an actual bookshelf in my office.)
So now, as I am forced to box it all up and start over, I’m wondering how the rest of you do it. How do YOU organize your reading material?
Can these shelves be saved?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peterloo and the Fight for Freedom

Yesterday, August 16, was the 192nd anniversary of The Peterloo Massacre. On that date in 1819, in St. Peters Field, Manchester, England, 60,ooo peaceful demonstrators gathered to protest the Corn Laws, the poor economic conditions, lack of suffrage and other social problems. The main speaker was the famous political orator, Henry Hunt. The local magistrates became frightened at the size of the crowd and read The Riot Act, but in a crowd of that size, few heard it. The local Yeomanry were ordered to disperse the crowd and they rode through, hacking at the people with their sabers. The crowd panicked and Hussars were also called in to restore order. In the end, 18 protesters were killed, including a woman and child, and as many as 700 were seriously injured.

Speakers and organizers were arrested (though ultimately charges of high treason were dropped), but also arrested were journalists who reported on the event and published their accounts in newspapers.

As appalling as it might seem to the Western World now, freedom to protest, freedom of speech and of the press, were outlawed in 1819. Earlier episodes of social unrest convinced Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, that revolution was in the wind. (Remember, the French Revolution would have been fresh in the minds of the British Peerage). Parliament passed the Gag Acts suspending Habeas Corpus, banning seditious meetings and the printing of seditious documents. This meant anyone could be arrested and held without charges, and it meant the limiting of free speech and a free press. Quite extreme measures. After Peterloo, as the episode became known, Parliament passed the even more repressive Six Acts.

Even so, many historians consider Peterloo a turning point in the fight for freedom and political reform in Great Britain. The horror of the government attacking peaceful citizens changed public opinion and ultimately led to the right of the citizenry (alas, men only for several years) to vote.

In my last book, Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress, social protest played an important part in what kept my hero and heroine apart and what ultimately gave them their happy ending. My latest book, the last in my Three Soldiers Series, Gallant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy has a French connection. It is available now from eHarlequin and will be in bookstores and other online vendors by Sept 1.

What books have you read which involve the Peterloo Massacre? It would make great drama!

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Wanton Governess

I'm totally exhausted, which is definitely the wrong way to be on release day. Pompeia, the heroine of my new release, was a joy to write, and I was hoping to post something more than just an excerpt, but I'm falling asleep as I type... so here goes.

Harlequin Historicals publishes two short e-novellas in the Undone series each month, and this month one of them is mine! It's a Regency romance called The Wanton Governess. I simply love the cover, because it conveys the heroine's nature so well. Here's a brief blurb:

In exchange for a few days’ shelter, dismissed governess Pompeia Grant pretends to be the wife of a man who spurned her years earlier. James Carling, the man in question, is in America, so he’ll never know. 

And it’s only for a couple of days. 

And she’s helping a friend, so she’s doing a good deed… 

But the next day, James comes home.

And now the excerpt:

“What in hell’s name were you thinking?”

At this furious bellow all the ladies froze, then gaped. “Who was that?” Clarabelle faltered.

Pompeia rose in horror. She would know that enraged shout anywhere. She had heard it only once before, and she would never forget it.

But this time it was surely directed at her.

Footsteps hammered on the staircase, and her heart abandoned itself to terror. She had to run. She had to flee.

No! She had to do something.

“James, wait!” That was Sally’s voice. “Please, just let me—”

“James wasn’t supposed to be home yet,” Clarabelle moaned, and meanwhile the footsteps pounded down the passage.

Think, think! There must be some way to avert disaster. Not to Pompeia herself—that was impossible—but to Sally, to whom the vouchers for Almack’s meant so much. But there wasn’t time, because it would mean convincing Sir James to talk to her privately before exposing the deception. It would mean making him want to. Inexorably, the footsteps approached the drawing-room doorway.

I know how to make a man want to, said the Wanton Within.

Not that! Pompeia’s rational mind screamed. Not now! But after a second’s furious pause, she realized that for once the Wanton might be right. She got her feet moving and went straight for the door.

Too late.

He came into the room like a thunderstorm. It was James indeed, older, broader and even more beautiful than four years ago, from his dark, wavy hair and grey eyes to his well-worn leathers. The Wanton Within applauded, but mostly, Pompeia cringed. She closed her eyes, desperate to compose herself. A babble of voices roiled around her, but she was poised only for his, for the fatal words exposing her as a fraud, commanding her to leave.

Open your eyes, said the Wanton. Look at him.

She did. He stared back, the anger slowly draining from his features, surprise taking its place.

That’s a good start, the Wanton said. Now, let your eyes do the talking. But Pompeia had done that once before to Sir James—accompanied by words that permitted no misunderstanding—and received a stinging refusal.

That was then; this is now, the Wanton insisted. Smile, for pity’s sake!       

Pompeia felt her lips tremble into a travesty of a welcome.

Sir James’s mouth quirked the tiniest bit in response. “Pompeia,” he said.

She forced her tongue into motion. “J-James.”

“Unbelievable.” Slowly, he shook his head. “Oh, Pompeia.” His eyes rested on her, warmly approving. No, wickedly so.

This was astonishingly different from the last time they’d met, when the chill in those eyes had made even the Wanton cower. No, particularly the Wanton, who had gone into hiding for quite a while after that.

What had happened to change things?

Ah. James did know about Pompeia’s disgrace, just as she’d assumed. And, in the way of all men, he anticipated that she would willingly be just as disgraceful with him.

Yes! Do let’s! Just this once! the Wanton said.

The Wanton Governess is available at e-Harlequin, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and possibly other places where e-books are sold. So is this month's other Historical Undone, Unlacing the Lady in Waiting by Amanda McCabe, which takes place during the Renaissance in Scotland.

Happy reading to all! (And to all a good night!)

BULLETIN!! Amanda McCabe just sent me her cover art and blurb, so here goes:

Scotland, 1561
Lady Helen Frasier thought Highlanders were barbaric—until she shared an intimate encounter with her betrothed, James McKerrigan. Though their families were enemies, the Highland lord roused a surprising passion in Helen. Then she was chosen to become a lady in waiting to the queen, and their engagement was broken.
Now, Helen has returned to Scotland and her jilted lover, who has vowed to take revenge and claim his promised bride....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Inspiration can strike you anywhere...

People are always interested in where writers get the inspiration for their stories. For me the ideas can come from anywhere. The idea for "To Catch A Husband" grew out of living on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border and being surrounded by old mills. The small mill towns around me are still full of reminders of the past, the small stone houses with their rows of upstairs windows, giving light into the room where the weaving would be done. The loom would clack away throughout the daylight hours weaving cloth and providing a living for the family, the Piece Hall in Halifax where the cloth merchants used to bring their cloth (or "pieces") to sell,. and Quarry Bank Mill just south of Manchester, now a fascinating museum with working machinery that shows just how tough (and noisy) life in the mills was in the 18th and 19th centuries.
For my next book, "The Dangerous Lord Darrington", inspiration came when I was staying with a friend in Sussex and she took me to see Michelham Priory pictured above).

We went to see it on a sunny summer's day, but I immediately imagined what it would be like to approach this ancient building on a dark and stormy night and have the steeply gabled roof towering over you. I wasn't planning to write a gothic novel, but I did think it would be a splendid setting for a mystery.

I decided to set my own house, the Priory, in the wilds of Yorkshire. In the opening scenes of the book, Guy Wylder (Lord Darrington) brings his wounded friend to the house on a wet and windy evening, when the house looks at its most gloomy and menacing. Then, in the dark reaches of the night he hears strange noises and uncovers a family secret.

Of course, the house is also the family home of my heroine, Beth Forrester, so it is not really as dark and threatening as it first appears, but the first images give the story a terrific impact and set the scene for a fast-paced adventure that sees Beth and Guy thrown together in a desperate search for justice.

But, as I said at the beginning, inspiration can come from anywhere. I recently had a great holiday on Exmoor, which has provided me with ideas for my next couple of books… this space!

Sarah Mallory

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ancient Words, Modern Meanings

I hope some of you saw the blogs Harlequin posted on the peregrine falcon family that nested within sight of the office windows in Toronto. The falcons, who mate for life by the way, had a baby bird and Harlequin staff named it Harlequin, or “Harlie,” for short. (Here’s a peak at the saga:
It’s a perfect romance.
I wish this camera had been in place when I was writing my last book, because the heroine of HIS BORDER BRIDE was an avid falconer who also raised a baby bird and trained it to hunt. This was not done during medieval time and still not recommended by many experts because the bird becomes too “imprinted” upon humans, potentially losing its natural hunting instincts.
As I studied the ancient sport of training raptors (birds like falcons and eagles) to hunt prey on command, I also learned some of the specialized terminology of the sport. I was surprised to find how many words from falconry are used today in a totally different context. Here’s a sample of ones I suspect most people use without knowing their origin:
Fledgling: A fledgling is a young falcon that has just grown it’s “flight feathers.” (To “fledge” is to take the first flight.) Today, a fledgling is a newbie. It is also used as an adjective, e.g. a fledgling novelist.
Codger: Originally “cadger.” This was a person who carried the cadge, a portable perch which could carry several birds, into the field for the hunt. Usually, the cadger was an old falconer. Hence, codger now means an old person.
Hoodwinked: We use it to say someone was fooled, but originally, it literally meant putting a hood over the falcon’s head. This made the bird think it was night and calmed it. This was done to prevent the bird from being disturbed or, for example, so the hunter could take the prey away without the bird knowing.
Gorge: This was originally the bird’s crop, a sort of sack in the bird’s throat in which food is stored before swallowing. Hence, to gorge, or overeat.
Mews: This was originally housing for falcons. Later, it became attached to the place where horses were kept, and then to a small of houses converted from stables, or made to look like stables.
Boozing: A bird drinking water, sometimes to excess, was said to be “bowsing.” Hence, drinking…other things…to excess.
Haggard: A haggard was a bird caught in the wild as an adult, older than a fledgling. The word evolved to indicate something or someone who looks well-worn.
Are any of these new to you? Or do you have words to contribute, from falconry or not, that have dramatically changed in meaning through the years?

P.S. The picture was taken at the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey, when I was doing research for the book. This falcon is (dare I say it?) hoodwinked.

Blythe Gifford


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Regency Governess

One of this month’s Harlequin Historicals is Christine Merrill’s Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess, reminding me that the governess has been a popular heroine in Regency Historical Romance. So popular that I’m even considering a governess heroine for my next book.

Perhaps literature’s most iconic governess heroine was Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte (and her sisters) knew first hand about the life of a governess. They each worked briefly as such. Jane Eyre’s experience as a governess had gothic overtones (as does Christine’s Dangerous Lord, Innocent Governess). But we also learn about the life of a governess from Jane Austen. In Emma, Austen shows both the best of a governess’s life and the worst. Emma’s beloved governess, Miss Taylor, was treated as a member of the family and, when Emma no longer needed her, married the prosperous Mr. Weston. On the other hand, Emma laments Jane Fairfax’s fate when Jane is any day expecting to be forced to accept a position as a governess and “retire from all the pleasures of life, of rational intercourse, equal society, peace and hope…”

The life of an early nineteenth century governess could be similar to Emma’s Miss Taylor—paid well, treated well, valued as important. A governess’s salary could be as much as 200 pounds a year, but often it was as little as 20 pounds or, in the worst cases, no salary at all, just room and board. Often a governess had no ability to save money for retirement. When her teaching days were over, her circumstances became even more dreadful.

A governess was expected to come from a respectable family with a social background similar or better than the family employing her. But, of course, her need for employment meant that her status was unequal to her employers. Neither was she considered a member of the servant class. Her situation in a household could, therefore, be a lonely one, fitting in neither Upstairs nor Downstairs. Her reputation must be spotless.

No scandal could be attached to her name or she might be seen as corrupting her charges rather than instructing them in moral behavior. She had great responsibility for the children in her care, both for their education and behavior, but she might not necessarily have authority over them. Always she must please the parents lest she be let go and not given a good reference.

A governess’s grim life makes her a perfect heroine for a Cinderella story. Who would not cheer such a heroine for earning the love of the hero and achieving a happily ever after? Another popular governess heroine, and the premise Christine uses, is a respectable lady pretending to be a governess.

Can you think of another story premise involving a governess heroine? Do you have a favorite governess heroine? And, most importantly for me, are you up for another governess story?

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Two Faces of Masquerade

Lately I've been working on a story that begins at a masquerade. The masquerade isn't important to the story except to facilitate a case of mistaken identity, but it occured to me (belatedly) that a masquerade is the perfect place for two strangers to meet and fall in love. There's something so thrilling about the costumes, the secrets, the flirtations... My interest in masquerade as a setting was triggered by Vic Gatrell's Love and Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London. Yes, I've mentioned it before. I adore this book. It's chock-full of fascinating stuff about what made people laugh a few centuries ago. (Among other things -- potty humor! The 18th Century was a very down-to-earth time. :))

Masquerades gave people an opportunity to play at being someone they weren't. To indulge in risky behavior without being frowned upon. To throw off the bonds of civilization and be just a little bit (or perhaps a lot) wild. Despite the illicit sexual behavior associated with masquerades, plenty of respectable people indulged in them, even though the costumes often weren't good enough to conceal the wearer's identity -- or even intended to.

For example, in 1749, Elizabeth Chudleigh, Maid of Honor to the Princess of Wales, attended a masquerade bare-breasted! Theoretically, she was disguised as Iphigenia, the Greek maiden who, in most versions of the myth, is saved at the last moment from being sacrificed. Obviously, though, Miss Chudleigh wasn't in disguise at all, but just out for some exhibitionistic fun! She offended many people, but doesn't seem to have cared. Here's a picture of her in costume, with a few very interested fellows:
That's the entertaining aspect of masquerade, but there were also the potential consequences, such as disease and unwanted pregnancies. By the early 1800s, values had changed and masquerades were more likely to be frowned upon. Here's an 1816 print by Rowlandson called Dance of Death: The Masquerade. Everyone shrinks away as Death stalks his latest victim at the masquerade -- a clear message about the consequences of self-indulgence.

Not much has changed, has it? People still long to be bad, to throw off the shackles of good manners, to indulge in risky sexual behavior regardless of the consequences, and often they regret it afterward. The sorts of scandals we see from time to time in the political arena are only a reflection of what goes on everywhere -- always has and maybe always will. My question is, why? What in the human psyche drives us toward this sort of release? Is it a useful aspect of human nature or only a perilous one? And since this is a blog about romance, is the hero as bad boy -- which we certainly find plenty of -- a safe way of satisfying the longing to throw off restraints and indulge in exciting and dangerous pleasures?

Barbara Monajem
My new Harlequin Undone, The Wanton Governess, will be out August 1st!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Harlequin Historical Authors converge on the Big Apple!

This past week saw over 2,000 romance authors converge on Times Square in NYC, to attend the 2011 Romance Writers of America national conference. This is a place to learn, network and basically refuel the writer's well, so to speak.

There were many of your favorite Harlequin Historical Authors there, too --and wouldn't you know, we'd find a way to get to some fascinating local history during our stay there! The HH editors sponsored a wonderful and informative afternoon for us at the Mount Vernon Hotel, a historical landmark in the midst of bustling modern day Manhattan.

The Mount Vernon Hotel began as a carriage house, built out of local stone, in 1799. Since the original owner went bankrupt shortly after the main house was finished, and the new owner lost it in a fire sometime thereafter, the carriage house was eventually converted to a hotel. Situated a few miles from the bustling new port city of New York, we were informed that this 'day hotel' became a popular day trip for folks looking to get to the country side. Later, it was converted into a private home, and in the 20th century it was purchased by a utility and several monstrous oil tanks were erected behind it (not unlike the towering skyscrapers that surround the little building today).

The hotel is currently being restored with period pieces, and boasts a full kitchen, dining area, common room, men's parlor, ladies' parlor and bedroom. I was fascinated by the location of the ladies parlor directly above the common room, where locals would come for drink and merriment --I imagine their delicate ears were exposed to quite a few improper remarks that drifted through the floorboards below!

Most fun of all, was the opportunity to share time with the awesomely talented editors and authors who contribute to the wonderful reads in the Harlequin Historical line.

Some of the authors you may know:
Carole Mortimer, Ann Lethbridge, Terri Brisbin, Deborah Hale, Diane Gaston, Elaine Golden, Blythe Gifford, Christine Merrill, Kate Bridges, Michelle Willingham, Julia Justiss, Jeannie Lin.


Elaine Golden has written for Harlequin Historical since 2011, debuting with a Regency series, the Fortney Follies, for Harlequin Historical Undone! The 3rd book in the series, A COMPROMISED INNOCENT, released this month.

You can read an excerpt from A COMPROMISED INNOCENT and find a link for information on how to order on her website:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A True Regency Rags to Riches Tale

Michelle Styles examines the life of Harriot Mellon Coutts, Duchess of St Albans, Celebrated actress, senior partner in Coutts Bank and forgotten by today's feminists.

Last month, I blogged about Lady Jersey and Evangline Holland kindly recommended a book – Women Who Made Money – Women Partners in British Private Banks 1752 -1906 by Dawes and Selwyn.   I ordered and read it, not expecting that much. But as I turned the pages , my jaw kept dropping. Why had these women been overlooked? Why aren’t they better known? 14 women possessed licences to print money in 1812. Women in the Regency period not only inherited banks but they also founded banks. When Ann Butlin’s bank was wound up at 100 years, her great grandson retired a wealthy man.

One of the most remarkable  female bankers is Harriot Mellon Coutts who later became the Duchess of St Albans.

Harriot is a true rags to riches story and I am utterly amazed that no one has seen fit to have her as a  subject of a biography since 1915. Born circa 1777 to an Irish actress and one Leiutenant Mellon of the Madras Army (there are no records of the man btw), Harriot went on the provincial stage at an early age.  There is evidence that her mother severely abused her. When she was 18, she met Sheridan who urged her to come to London. She made her debut in 1795 as Lydia Languish at the Drury Theatre. She was considered to be a great comic actress.

Harriot was blessed with incredible good sense and a prudent and sound business head. She became wealthy but continued to work.  She also made sure that she was utterly respectable.

In 1810 while on a professional tour, in Cheltenham, she met the elderly banker Thomas Coutts. She kept the five guineas he sent as good luck pieces for the rest of her life. They rapidly became friends and he became her trusted business advisor. She was welcomed into his family and became friends with his daughters who were known as the Three Graces on account of their beauty. Unfortunately the first Mrs Coutts suffered from serious mental illness and eventually died in 1815. A month later Harriot and Thomas married.  Thomas ensured that Harriot had a proper marriage settlement and she retained control of all her property. Harriot was presented at court by Baroness North (one of Thomas’s daughters). There is a story that Baroness North had offered, expecting the Queen to refuse to meet Harriot as there had been a slight friction that their father remarried so quickly. In the event, the Prince Regent did meet Harriot and was utterly charmed by her (note if you want an actress to be presented, have her meet the Prince Regent).

In 1822, Thomas died and left the senior partnership to Harriot. Harriot was an active partner and controlled the hiring and firing of the other partners. She was also paid 4x as much as the other partners. She did much to introduce Coutts bank to various high flyers.  She knew everyone. And in 1825, she married the Duke of St Albans, a man twenty years her junior. She knew about marriage settlements and continued to retain control of her money and Coutts bank.

She was a great patron of the arts as well as the poor. The over-whelming picture of her was that she was kind and never seemed to notice slights. For a time after she married the Duke of St Albans she was mercilessly caricatured.

She died in 1837, leaving Coutts to Thomas Coutts’ granddaughter Augusta Burdett-Coutts. Lady Burdett-Coutts preferred to concentrate on philanthropy rather than directly running the bank. She did a huge amount for the poor in the East End of London. However when she married an American in 1881, under the terms of Harriot Mellon’s will, the control of Coutts changed. Coutts remains one of the leading private banks in Britain and among other things, there is a cash point machine in Buckingham Palace for the Royal family’s use.

It shocks and amazes me that she is not better known. There is a 1915 biography called The Jolly Duchess which is available on the Open Library if anyone is interested in more detail. And I thoroughly recommend Women Who Made Money for anyone interested in how businesswomen thrived in the Regency and Victorian periods.

Michelle Styles writes historical romance in a number of different periods including the Regency. Her latest To Marry a Matchmaker is an early Victorian set in the North East of England. You can read more about Michelle's books on her website

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Carriages and Trains

Images of heroes and heroines on horseback or riding in grand carriages are part of what I love about writing books set in Regency England. So it is daunting to me to know that the beloved characters in my books are about to experience a radical change in their mode of travel. On their horizon is railway travel and in the wink of an eye posting inns and mail coaches are about to be replaced.

Regency people certainly must have known about steam engines and railroads. The the late 1700s, railways in Great Britain served the mining industry, carrying only freight. In 1808 a steam locomotive called Catch Me Who Can was run on a circular track as a sort of novelty exhibition in Bloomsbury. The exhibition closed after a derailment caused by the relatively brittle cast-iron rails breaking.

The early 1800s were a time of great invention and innovation in the development of steam engines and in improving rails. Early steam engines included the Rocket, the Puffing Billy, the Salamanca, and the Blücher. The Salamanca was named after Wellington’s victorious battle at Salamanca in 1812. The Blücher was named for the Prussian general whose arrival at Waterloo secured the victory for Wellington.

In 1825, shortly after the Regency officially ended, the Stockton and Darlington Railway opened. It was 26 miles long and carried passengers as well as freight. In 1830 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened as the world’s first inter-city passenger railway. One of the passengers on the train on opening day was the Duke of Wellington.

By the 1840s there were dozens of competing companies building and running railroads to all parts of Great Britain. By 1900, carriage travel became a nostalgic relic of the past.

But carriage travel still lives on in our Regency romances, whether for a leisurely turn in Hyde Park or a mad dash to Gretna Green. We can still enjoy it vicariously.

What do you think Regency people thought of the first railways?
What do you find most romantic about carriage travel?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

RITA Spotlight on Cheryl St. John

Congratulations to Cheryl St. John, RITA finalist in the novella category for “Mountain Rose” in the TO BE A MOTHER release from Love Inspired Historical. Cheryl also writes for Harlequin Historical and I’m featuring her on my Facebook page today. Come by to read a special note from Cheryl and to learn how to win one of her upcoming books from Harlequin Historical or Love Inspired Historical: Marrying the Preacher's Daughter, Love Inspired Historical 6/11Her Wyoming Man, Harlequin Historical 7/11. She's giving one of each via my website,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reading outside my rut

Reading is a wonderful escape to a familiar landscape for most of us. My reading “comfort food” includes historical romance, of course, as well as straight history. (Yes, I do read history for fun.) I also rely on some well-loved thriller writers as a “palate cleanser” and a motivational self-help book is always at my bedside.
Throw in the occasional contemporary romance by one of my go-to authors and you’ve summed up my reading habit.
Lately, I’ve been wondering whether my reading diet needs to be a little more adventurous. Yes, it’s familiar and comfortable. It’s also in a little bit of a rut. Maybe I should actively look for reading that will take me far away from the mists of the Scottish Borders, where I spend most of my writing and research time.
One option is to dip into one of the many downloads on my Kindle. When the price is right, I’ve impulsively clicked “buy” on any number of things: an inspirational suspense, a history of the underground press of the Sixties, a contemporary comic novel, and a collection of essays, for starters. Any one of those would take me far afield from my normal routine.
Or maybe I should make a plan. A list of genres I rarely read would include paranormal, inspirational, erotic, and mysteries. I could look for the best in each category, RITA nominated books, for instance, and systematically pick one from each.
On the other hand, I already have a teetering TBR pile full of novels from my author friends: a YA novel, a cozy mystery, women’s fiction…each very different. And each from a writer I KNOW tells a good story. If I start at the top and work down, I’d cover a lot of unfamiliar territory.
So how do I move beyond my reading comfort zone? Should I choose at random, create a plan, or just work from the top of the pile down?
Hmmm. While I ponder, I’ve a book calling to me. The biography about the sisters of Henry VIII is due back to the library soon…
Have you ever tried to expand beyond familiar reading habits? How did you do it?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Michelle Styles: Blind Alleys and Research

When I was researching my latest book (accepted yesterday!), I had cause to wonder about the Lady Patronesses of Almack’s. Specifically I wanted to know who was a Lady Patroness during the 1811 season. The answer – you have to make an educated guess. The only list we have is for the 1814 Season. Using some detective work, I managed to eliminate Countess Lieven as her husband hadn’t become ambassador to the Court of St James. The same is true of Princess Esterhazy. It was unlikely that Lady Castlereagh had risen to the heights as her husband had not become Secretary in the Foreign Office. So I started looking at the others. Lady Shefton probably was and so was Sarah Child Villiers Lady Jersey. To my shock and amazement, I have been unable to find a good modern biography of Sarah Child Villiers. Here is a woman who not only play a significant role in English high society as a leading hostess but also was the senior partner at Childs and Co, one of London’s oldest bank. She maintained a desk there and according to the snippets I read online did not allow any of the men in her life to take an active part in the business. She served as the senior partner of the bank from 1806 – 1867. Childs still maintains her papers in their archives, mostly dealing with partnerships. She inherited the bank from her maternal grandfather who was annoyed about her mother’s elopement with the Earl of Westmoreland. Childs provided the bulk of the Jerseys’ considerable fortune. The fact that she was actively involved in the business surprised me. She is also rumoured to have had several affairs including one with Palmerston as far as I can determine. As a Lady Patroness she was responsible for bringing the quadrille to London and had a hand in the introduction of the waltz. According to Princess Lieven’s letters such was her power that she was known as ‘Queen Sarah.’ And in 1820 she held her salon supporting the Opposition rather than the government. Captain Gronow who did the biography of Brummell and who originally gave the list for the Lady Patronesses of 1814 is less effusive saying that she looked like tragedy queen and was ill-bred. (Perhaps Childs had refused him credit.) She was known to be talkative and was sometimes called Silence as a result.

It seems astonishing to me that no biography of Lady Jersey exists and that she tends to be overlooked in favour of her mother-in-law Frances who had an affair with the Prince Regent. If anyone knows of a biography, please tell me. Surely her life is ripe for re-examination.

Actually I would love to see a well-done biography of all the Lady Patronesses or even an examination of Almack’s and its role. There is apparently a 1924 book on Almack’s and Lady Dorothy Nevill’s Memoirs among others are useful at providing snippets but there is nothing solid.

One of the reasons I love writing historical is the opportunities for research. It can be annoying though when one wants to know more!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Regency Plots

Barbara's blog about historical "fairy tale" plots got me to thinking.
What Regency plots are readers tired of?

One of the things that strikes terror into my heart is the idea that the Regency genre might run out of plots. For example, one of the tried and true Regency plots is the lord and the governess plot. You know, the spunky governess comes to care for the lord's unruly children and winds up married to the lord. I love that plot. I have a whole book with such a plot in my head. Would today's reader be clamoring for such a plot?

Several of my plots have been "Marriage of Convenience" plots - The Mysterious Miss M, The Wagering Widow, Scandalizing the Ton. Obviously that is another plot I'm fond of. Are readers sick of that one?

When I first wrote The Mysterious Miss M editors other than the brilliant editors at Harlequin Mills and Boon, said that readers would never accept a prostitute heroine, but now it seems like there are lots of Regencies out there with prostitute or courtesan heroines. Did the readers change or were those editors simply mistaken? And was it my heroine who made that book popular or was it because I used that marriage of convenience plot?

I always wonder if Regencies are in danger of overusing of some of the popular plots - the marriage of convenience, governess and lord, unmarried duke and the ingenue in her first season, bookish spinster and debauched rakehell. What are some others?

Ironically, though, I started reading fewer Regencies when the plots widened into suspense, mystery, paranormal. Was that just me or were other readers saturated by the "traditional" plots?

As I now finish writing my next next book, "Leo's Story," the last of the books connected to The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor, I'll have to seriously think about these issues.

Writing Regency romance is my passion, though. I don't ever want to stop. How do we keep the Regency genre fresh? Is it by reinventing the tried and true plots or by expanding the genre into new directions? Will the Regency ever lose its position as a popular time period in romance? Gosh I hope not!

So, tell me... What Regency plots are you tired of? Which ones do you never get tired of? Do you like it when Regency spreads itself into other genres? And, last of all, do you think the Regency genre is here to stay?

(Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress is up for Best Historical cover, as are other Harlequin Historical covers, at the Cover Cafe contest. Vote for your favorite today)