Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fifty Shades of Regency Grey

The heroine of my August release, Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah, writes erotic novels in which the main protagonist, the voluptuous Bella Donna, pleasures and humiliates men to an equal degree. In her real life, Deborah has enormous issues with her sexuality, but her alter ego is irresistible. Here is Bella through the eyes of one of her victims:

‘… quite the most exotic and alluring creature he had ever clapped eyes upon. Clad in a black velvet robe with a décolleté so daring it seemed to be held in place only by the sheer power of her considerable will, she was the stuff of every red-blooded man’s fantasy. Dark silken tresses tumbled down her back. Her skin was the colour of whipped cream. Her lips were full, painted harlot red. Her countenance sultry. The  black stock of the cat-o-nine-tails she stroked was thick and weighty. She was, overall, a perfect combination of the voluptuous and the vicious which sent the blood surging to the marquis’s most prized piece of anatomy. Charles Mumford  groaned. Whether in trepidation or anticipation only he could truly know.’

The idea of having my heroine write erotica came to me a while back, long before that trilogy hit the news and became a publishing sensation. Of course steamy books are hardly a new phenomenon - John Cleland’s Fanny Hill was first published in 1748 and it’s been a best-seller ever since, and I’m pretty certain that those Regency ladies who read the French translation of 1001 Nights were much more interested in the naughty bits than the story of Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves. But what’s different about Deborah’s ‘Bella Donna’ stories is that they are written for women by a woman – and in that sense, my heroine presages what many people will think of as a very 21st Century phenomenon. It’s true what they say – there’s nothing new under the sun.

When it came to writing about Deborah and her relationship with her publisher, I ‘borrowed’ from real-life too – my own. While Mr Freyworth bears no resemblance whatsoever to my lovely editor, he speaks some of her lines. I almost expected the paper to burst into flames,  and this scene too had about it an authenticity which elevates your writing to a new plane, are almost direct quotes. Luckily for Deborah, there was no call to use the one that makes my heart sink, this has the makings of a great story!

Freyworth & Sons publish Deborah’s books under a different name, lest their reputation be tarnished. This was common practice for respectable firms wishing to cash in on the very lucrative business of ‘warm’ stories without risk. Others, the ‘grub street’ publishers, were less discreet. Edmund Curl, one of the most famous of those, was pilloried in 1728 when he printed Venus in her Cloister, an edifying tale of teenage nuns. One of the reasons ereaders have made erotica so popular is that no-one can tell what you are reading. In Deborah’s day, the solution was to wrap the book in a plain cover, or to sell it (from the back room of one of St Paul’s many bookshops) unbound, leaving the purchaser to disguise it between the covers of something more innocuous.

Deborah’s books don’t make her a fortune, but they do gain her financial independence. By pure coincidence, the first of her stories, which began as the antidote to Deborah’s own heartache, resonated with a huge untapped audience – women. Though I hadn’t heard the term when I wrote this book, I think ‘mummy porn’ could easily be applied to Deborah’s novels. If only she could have sold the magic lantern rights for megabucks, like her illustrious successor!

Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah is out now in the UK, US and Canada. Here’s what the Romantic Times said about it:

4 Stars. Daring. Dangerous. Delightful. Kaye’s new Regency romance is a riveting and thrilling adventure between a writer and a thief, both bent on revenge, and neither expecting to find love at last. Kaye has another winner on her hands, with an original plot, lots of sizzling passion and enough nail-biting action to satisfy every fan.

There’s excerpts, background and more about my books on my website here.  I’m always happy to chat on Facebook or Twitter. And if you want to see the ideas and inspiration behind some of my stories then check out my boards on Pinterest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Not So Respectable Gentleman?

Today is Release Day for A Not So Respectable Gentleman?
It should appear in bookstores today and can be ordered online. (ebook version is released August 1)

I'm both excited and a little sad that the book is finally here. A Not So Respectable Gentleman? is the last book in the series that began with the anthology, The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor and featured a motley set of siblings and half-siblings called the Fitzmanning Miscellany.

In 2007 the adventure began when Harlequin Mills and Boon editor Maddie Rowe invited Deb MarloweAmanda McCabe, and me out to dinner during the Romance Writers of America conference in Dallas, Texas. We thought she was just being nice. The Mills and Boon editors always do nice things like that for their authors during the conference.

Turns out she offered us a Regency anthology and each a book connected to the anthology. The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor was followed by The Shy Duchess (February 2011) by Amanda, and  How to Marry a Rake (April 2011) by Deb.  A Not So Respectable Gentleman? tells the story of the illegitimate brother in the Fitzmanning Miscellany.

Here's the back cover blurb:
Since Leo Fitzmanning returned to London, he’s kept his seat at the card table warm, his pockets full of winnings and his mind off a certain raven-haired heiress.
 Until whispers at the gaming hell reveal that Miss Mariel Covendale is being forced into marriage with an unscrupulous fortune hunter!
 Leo must re-enter the society he detests to help her before returning to his clandestine existence. But he hasn’t counted on Mariel having grown even more achingly beautiful than he remembered. Soon Leo realizes that there’s nothing respectable about his reasons for stopping Mariel’s marriage. 
Here's what the reviews are saying:
a lovely romance with a bit of suspense and the power and strength of a family....Gaston’s talents for evoking the era hold true to form....--Kathe Robin, RTBook Reviews
What made this book such an enjoyable read was the quick pace of the story, with characters that were allowed to be intelligent and practical people, while also being flawed...the romance that Leo and Mariel find again in one another kept my attention from beginning to end, and I closed the book with a smile for their future together.--Sara Anne Elliot, Rakehell
Because this was the last book, I made it a point to bring all the Fitzmanning Miscellany back. They play important roles in Leo's story. In fact, what Leo must learn in this story is that he can rely on his family when all else fails.

 Don't you think that is so often true?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I find the modern-day tabloids almost impossible to read. I glance at the headlines while waiting in the supermarket line and usually think either, “What a load of garbage,” or “How can they be so unkind to {insert name of celebrity}?” Sometimes, I actually get back out of line to read an article—but that’s rare.

But when it comes to fiction, I find the Regency equivalent – the caricature – fascinating. Maybe it’s because those unkind cuts happened two hundred years ago, so they don’t hurt anyone anymore. Or maybe it’s because being rich, famous, and always in danger of mockery and even ruin make such good story fodder for historical romance.

Lots of people must read the tabloids, or they wouldn’t appear week after week on the supermarket shelves. It was the same back then. The rich would buy the latest caricatures; the poorer classes would gaze at them in a print shop window, with the written parts explained by anyone who could read.

In my new novella, To Rescue or Ravish?, the heroine faces scandal, mockery, ruin—and caricature—when she runs from an unwanted marriage. She doesn’t get away scot-free, but she does have a happy ending. :)

Do you read the tabloids? Why or why not? Do you think celebrities should be left alone, or are they fair game? Are most of the stories about them true, false, a combination of the two, truth with a twisted spin, or what...?

To Rescue or Ravish? is available now from HarlequinAmazon, and Barnes and Noble.  I have a free download to give away to someone who comments on this blog.


When heiress Arabella Wilbanks flees a forced betrothal in the middle of the night, the last person she expects to find at the reins of her getaway hackney is Matthew Worcester.  It’s been seven long years since they gave in to their mutual desires and shared the most incredible night of their lives, but Matthew still burns with regret for leaving her without a word.  He should escort her to safety, but the chance to reclaim and ravish her once more is proving impossible to resist!

Here's an excerpt:

London, January 1802

Arabella rapped hard on the roof of the coach. It lurched around a corner into darkness broken only by the glimmer of the hack’s carriage lamps and stopped.

She put down the window. “How far are we from Bunbury Place?”

The jarvey got down from the box and slouched against the coach, a nonchalant shape with an impertinent voice. “Not far, love. Changed your mind, have you?”

“I have not changed my mind. I am merely asking for information.” She put her hand through the window, proffering the guinea. “I trust this suffices. Kindly open the door and point me in the right direction. I shall walk the rest of the way.”

He didn’t take the coin. After a brief, horrid silence during which she concentrated on thinking of him as the jarvey and not her once-and-never-again lover, he said, “Can’t do that.”

“I beg your pardon?” She pushed on the door, but he had moved forward to block it.

“It’s not safe for a lady alone at night. This, er, Number Seventeen, Bunbury Place—it’s where you live, is it?”

How dare he? “Where I live is none of your business.” She shrank away from the door and kept her hood well over her face.

“So it’s not where you live. Who does live there, then?”

Why couldn’t she have just told him that yes, she lived there? Must every man in the entire country try to order her about? “Let me out at once.”

“Sorry, love. When I rescue a lady from deathly peril, I see her home safe and sound.”

Some shred of common sense deep inside her told her this was extraordinarily kind of him, but it made her want to slap his craggy, insolent face. Home wasn’t safe for her anymore. Nowhere was safe, and meanwhile Matthew Worcester was playing stupid games.

“Cat got your tongue?”

She exploded. “Damn you, Matthew! Stop playing at being a jarvey. It makes me positively ill.”

There was another ghastly silence. It stretched and stretched. Good God, what if he actually was a jarvey? Surely he hadn’t come down that far in the world. A different shame—a valid one—swelled inside her.

“You recognized me,” he said at last. “What a surprise.”


To find out about my other Regency novellas, please visit my website at www.BarbaraMonajem.com

Thursday, July 05, 2012

To "Drop One Pious Friendly Tear"?

The hero and the villain face each other at dawn in some woodland clearing or quiet heath, far from the notice of the local magistrates. Their seconds confer with quiet seriousness about the weapons – pistols or rapiers. A doctor, reluctant and grumbling in the cold morning air, waits by the carriages.
It is an affair of honour of course – an accusation of cheating perhaps, or an insult to a lady. Both men are calm and show no fear: if they have been lying sleepless most of the night while they mentally review their wills they show no sign of it.

The seconds declare all is ready, the men take their weapons, pace out the distance, turn and wait for the signal to fire or to cross swords. The hero will win of course, or contemptuously delope, firing into the air. The villain will skulk away, or perhaps attempt a cowardly shot when the hero’s back is turned, but right will triumph and honour will be satisfied.
The print to the left, from the Sporting Chronicle, shows the hero, calmly awaiting the shot of his opponent who appears to be holding a pistol in each hand. The waiting man is stripped to the waist in order to prevent cloth being carried into any gunshot. The doctor peers nervously from the cover of a tree above, the seconds stand by and a carriage waits in the distance.

But was it really like that? Perhaps it was sometimes, but often duels arose out of misunderstandings or drink and resulted in tragedy. The last duel fought in Norfolk was on 20th August 1698. Sir Henry Hobart of the great Elizabethan house of Blickling Hall called out Oliver le Neve over words le Neve was supposed to have uttered when Sir Henry lost his parliamentary seat in an election.
Le Neve denied having said the offending words but, despite being left-handed and considered much at a disadvantage in a sword fight as a result, he was quite prepared to defend himself. His letter to Sir Henry survives –

Honored Sir,
I am very sorry that I was not at Reepham yesterday when you gave yourself the trouble of appearing there, that I might not only have justified the truth of my not saying what it is reported I did, but that I might have told you that I wrote not that letter to avoid fighting you but that if the credit of your author has confirmed you in the belief of it, I am ready and desirous to meet you when and where you please to assign. If otherwise, I expect your author's name in return to this that I may take my satisfaction then, or else conclude the Imputacon [sic] sprung from Blickling and send you the time and place; for the matter shall not rest as it is though it cost the life of
Your Servant
Oliver Neve

They met on Cawston Heath. Le Neve was wounded in the arm but he ran Sir Henry through the stomach and he died the next day at Blickling Hall in great pain. Le Neve fled the country and lived under a false name in the Netherlands, but when he heard he was being threatened with outlawry he returned, stood his trial for manslaughter and was acquitted in 1700.

The duel is commemorated in the Duelling Stone (above) which stands in what was the garden of the Woodrow Inn beside the road to Norwich - a memorial to wounded pride.

At least Sir Henry was the aggressor in this and refused to listen to le Neve’s protestations of innocence. An even more tragic memorial is a tombstone in the old churchyard of Sawtry St Andrew, next to the old Great North Road in Huntingdonshire.

James Ratford. 25th Day of June 1756. Aged 37 years.
Near to this stone, who’ere you art, draw near
In Pity drop One pious, friendly Tear;
Far from His native Home, He lost His life,
By One who seem’d His Friend, Ill timed strife.
The best of Husbands; to His Children, dear,
Courteous to all, and to His Friend, Sincere.
Resigned to his Fate, well may the Wretch feel woe
While He in endless Bliss and Pleasure go.

The local archives confirm that this was a duel. James was far from his home in Leicestershire. What had happened between him and the friend to whom he had been so “sincere” to result in the death of the best of husbands and a dear father?

These two real-life tragedies haven’t stopped me writing about duels if they fit into one of my novels, but they have made me pause and think about the truth behind the dashing image of duellists at dawn.
What do you think? Is a duel a good opportunity to see the hero at his courageous best, or would true valour lie in walking away?

Louise Allen

Sunday, July 01, 2012

We have a winner for the Beach Bag Giveaway!

The winner of the Grand Prize, the Kindle Fire for the Beach Bag Giveaway is Kathryn M! Congrats.