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Welcome Kate Noble, Guest Author

kate-photoI am so pleased to host the wonderful Kate Noble to the Duchesses today. I first discovered this talented writer waaaaaay back during 2010, during my first attempt to write a book, when I discovered a little gem she wrote called The Summer of You. I was immediately struck by Kate’s rich writing style, her lovely prose, and most of all her witty dialogue, which made you feel like you were conversing with friends. Reading it inspired me to reach deeper and find my voice (which was lurking about in the shadows and laughing at me at the time.)

She is also one of the writers for the popular online Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a contemporary video version of Pride and Prejudice.

And she has this amazing, spiral-curled blonde hair that I am determined to give my next heroine.

Which means I harbor a serious girl-crush here.

game_450When Kate asked me to host her for her new release, The Game and the Governess, I leaped at the chance. After all, what sane person would turn down an opportunity to read Kate’s latest release before it’s available in stores?

Welcome Kate! Tell us a bit about your new book, The Game and the Governess.

I’m so ridiculously excited that the first in my new Winner Takes All series is hitting the shelves! The Game and the Governess is the story of The Earl of Ashby, known to his friends as Lucky Ned. He’s always had luck – he lucked into his title, he was lucky on the battlefield, but he hates being called lucky in love. He’s always maintained that it’s his charms, not his title or money, that has brought him so much female attention. And to prove it, he makes a wager with his friend and secretary John Turner – on an upcoming trip to the countryside, they switch places. And if Ned can get any young lady to fall in love with him, he’ll prove once and for all that his personality is more potent than his pocketbook.

But then, Ned meets governess Phoebe Baker. And absolutely nothing after that goes according to plan.

 

As the story opens, our heroine, Phoebe Baker, is being turned out of her finishing school after the death of her father, nursing a hatred for the man she believes is responsible for her sad state of affairs. Tell us a bit about what Phoebe is thinking and feeling–given that this is a major source for the book’s external conflict, why are her feelings justified?

When the book begins, Phoebe is very young and very lost. Her father’s recent death and the realization that her path in life will be very different from what she expect has taken a hard toll on her, and she’s looking for someone to blame. She chooses the Earl of Ashby, because she discovers that even though they never met, he was in a position to warn her father about some bad investments, and didn’t as to protect himself.

Phoebe’s lashing out against the Earl is justified by her pain, but it doesn’t last long. Several years after the fact, Phoebe may hold a simmer of resentment against the Earl of Ashby, but she refuses to let it define her life. Long ago, she realized she was in charge of her own happiness, and consciously decides to act accordingly, regardless of any bad luck in her past.  It’s her secret strength.

 However, that doesn’t mean that being confronted by the Earl of Ashby for the first time doesn’t give her pause. But more surprising is that his secretary seems to pop up wherever she is…

 

The hero Ned (Lord Edward Granville, Earl of Ashby) and his secretary and friend, John Turner, play a dangerous game in this book, namely placing a life-changing wager that Ned can win a lady’s heart without the crutch of his title. This is a pretty unheroic thing to do, given that to win Ned must play fast and loose with a lady’s heart. Were you concerned this might alienate him to readers? Why is the action in keeping with the man he is at the start? How does he change during the course of the book?

I’m always far more interested in heroes who are not white knights, but instead are flawed and have to overcome those flaws to be worthy of the heroine’s love. Ned’s flaw is his obliviousness. He’s lived with privilege for a long, long time, not having to think about anyone besides himself. He doesn’t think about how his wager will affect any young woman he would be wooing, because he’s not thinking about the woman. He’s thinking about winning. By the time he realizes that Phoebe is a person, with thoughts and feelings that can be hurt and damaged, he realizes too that his heart is tangled up in the bargain, and doesn’t know how to fix it.

If Ned’s flaws alienate readers, that’s unfortunate, but I would say… keep reading. He grows. He learns. And that’s what makes him interesting to me.

 

I would definitely agree that he grows so much during the book! By the end of it, I was completely invested in his happy ending. One of the things I loved about this book is that despite the premise being built around a disreputable wager and a lie, you didn’t let minor misunderstandings (or falsehoods) dictate the course of Phoebe’s and Ned’s relationship. To my mind, Ned reveals elements of the wager shockingly early, which helps Phoebe understand his actions and paves the way for genuine affection to develop. Had you planned that, or did the character of Ned insist on some degree of honesty as you were writing him?

Honestly, that came out in the writing. Ned thinks of himself as a good person, but he’s lived in a bubble that makes him a bit oblivious. So when he realizes that he’s being as untruthful as he is, but is stuck carrying through with the lie, he tells what truths he can. And it’s that moment of desperate honesty that is the first thing Phoebe believes out of his mouth. It opens the door to letting them grow closer.

 

Speaking of growing closer, I’ve always felt one of the most lovely things about your books is that the relationships never feel rushed, more that they develop at a satisfying, slow burn. Does this match your general feelings on life and love?

Absolutely. I’ve never been a love (or even lust) at first sight kind of person. For me, the best part of falling in love (or writing people falling in love) isn’t the yearning, it’s the learning.

In fact, the reason I ever attempted to start writing a book way back when was I was reading a romance novel wherein the lead characters met in chapter one, and chapter two opened with the hero’s interior monologue declaring he was in love with the heroine. I was baffled that the author had skipped the best part!

 

I love that wanting a realistic approach to love actually lead you to write in the first place. But I am not entirely happy with you. Despite my appreciation for the story you crafted, I couldn’t help but be annoyed, Lady Noble. You provided the reader with a shell of a secondary story line (i.e. that of John Turner falling for Leticia, the Countess of Churzy), suggesting their own tumultuous love story was unfolding behind closed doors, but not spilling any of the details. I cry foul! Please tell us John and Leticia’s story is not far behind…

Their story is next, never fear! The Lie and the Lady is next in the “Winner Takes All” series, and you’ll learn a lot more about John and Leticia.

 

What other things can we look forward to in your delicious new series? Perhaps something about the dreamy Dr. Rhys Gray, secondary character extraordinaire? *bats eyes in a pleading fashion*

The dashing Dr. Gray will be making an appearance again in the next book, and then might be graduating to hero status on his own. Now, if only he could find a heroine… (are you volunteering?)

I volunteer! I volunteer!

And thank you so much for joining us Kate! Now the question the readers are no doubt clamoring for… would you like to do a giveaway?

Absolutely! Since this whole story starts with a wager, I’ll ask – what’s the strangest bet you’ve ever made? One random commenter will get a signed copy of The Game and the Governess! (US only, please).

Welcome Debut Author Jessica Peterson!

Dear Readers, I have been watching Jessica Peterson’s books for months. (A Duchess would never be so uncouth as to stalk *cough cough*). Long before release day I was checking Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the pre-order link. This series is exactly the type of book I want to read, and I was so excited I asked her visit with the Duchesses to celebrate her debut release THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF! After all, who knows better how to throw a soiree than a Duchess?

Cover-TGJTJessica once described the book as the Thomas Crown Affair meets Jane Austen, which made me want these books so badly! I love historical, I love adventure and I love Thomas Crown/Pierce Brosnan (but I write about spies so, you know, Bond and all that).

Alyssa: And so, tell our lovely Duchesses about your debut release! I happen to love The Thomas Crown Affair. What made you choose to incorporate that concept into the story?

Jessica: Firstly, thank you for having me here on Dashing Duchesses – and a special thanks to Alyssa for being so kind as to reach out and invite me! I adore your blog and visit it to keep up on all my Regency romance news.

When I began doing research for my Regency-set novel, I came across an interesting tid bit: the French Blue, later known as the Hope Diamond, mysteriously appeared in London in 1812. It had been missing for over two decades, stolen during the French Revolution from the Royal Warehouse in Paris. While there’s evidence the jewel traveled across Europe and back again during that time, no one really knows who possessed it, or how it ended up in London. As a writer, this tantalizing mystery was too juicy to pass up!

I met my agent for lunch in New York a few months later, and together we brainstormed some ideas for a Regency-set trilogy that featured the diamond. She was the one who came up with a “gentleman jewel thief” – a Mr. Darcy-meets-Thomas Crown character. I’ve loved The Thomas Crown Affair since the first time I saw it years ago (I mean, come on, it’s Pierce Brosnan in all his hairy-chested glory!), so I freaked out (in the best way) about having the chance to create such a stud-muffin bad boy. We thought each book could follow a different character: book one would follow the gentleman jewel thief (later the Earl of Harclay), book two the man he stole from (Thomas Hope), and book three the investigator/spy/private eye hired to catch the thief (Henry Lake).

Alyssa: I know! I have the DVD of The Thomas Crown Affair and watch it all the time. Both Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo are fabulous in that movie, not to mention Dennis Leary. Which brings me to my next question. If you could dreamcast your hero and heroine, who would they be?

Jessica: I love this question, because I usually have a (smokin’ hot) actor and (sassy) actress in mind as I write. I’m a very visual writer, and see scenes as I write them as I would watch scenes in a movie; it helps me figure out what the setting looks like, who the characters are, and what physical cues help create a sense of character and place.

I was watching a lot of costume dramas while I wrote THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF – namely, THE BORGIAS – so I’d say I’d cast that curly-haired dude who played Cesare Borgia (Francois Arnaud) as the Earl of Harclay. He’s a dark-eyed babe who I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing on the set of my movie.

As for my heroine, Lady Violet Rutledge, I would cast Katy Perry (weirdo combo of actors, I know) or maybe Olivia Wilde. Like Violet, both Katy and Olivia are feisty, inappropriate, super smart, gorgeous, and always down for a good time.

Alyssa: Great dreamcast! So, now, what do you find intriguing about history?

 Jessica:Another great question. One of my biggest regrets is not majoring in history in college; after English/literature, it’s definitely my favorite subject (see THE BORGIAS above!). There’s something familiar, and thrillingly foreign, about the past. I love L. P. Hartley’s quote – “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” – and it’s endlessly cool to explore that country. The people who lived there; the way those people lived, how they loved, what inspired them. There’s a certain romance in imagining what life would’ve been like without Facebook and phones; what it would’ve been like to wear a hand-sewn silk ball gown, or flirt with men who could actually dance.

I think women have always dreamed – and will continue to dream – about falling for a man who can dance.

Alyssa: I feel the same way about history. I love little stone cottages and falling down barns, historical villages—anything that reminds me of the people who came before. Have you ever gone on a research trip for your books? What did you love, hate or gasp over?

Jessica: Yes! A few trips, actually. I studied abroad in Madrid while I was a junior in college, and it was my first real foray into European culture. To say I adored the Old World was an understatement. I was endlessly charmed, thrilled, and inspired by the history and, of course, the castles and palaces. I loved how people spent hours talking, drinking, arguing over meals (and in the middle of the day!). I loved the romance of life there; the appreciation of culture, of history, and of one’s place in it.

My husband took me to England for the first time last summer. We thought we’d died and went to heaven – the food, the weather, the city – it was all perfection. I remember doing a cheesy tour of the Tower of London with the five million other tourists in the city that day; we walked into the Norman Chapel (or St. John’s Chapel) and I remember getting chills from thinking about all the history that had happened here, in this room, in the past one thousand years. Nuts.

I also remember walking down the aisle in St. Paul’s cathedral and thinking about Princess Diana. What had she thought – how had she felt – walking down that same aisle to marry Charles on her wedding day more than thirty years ago?

Alyssa: Alas, I have yet to travel to England, but I’m planning on it for 2016! Can’t wait! But now, on to the nitty-gritty of writing. Is there anything you find particularly challenging while crafting a story? Are you a plotter or pantser?

 Jessica:I’m a total pantser, so plotting is a “special” challenge for me. My jumping off point is usually a scene, a sentence, a character dashing through the darkened streets of Mayfair, and I just go from there. I always, always, always hit a roadblock about a third of the way through the first draft; once I get past that, I usually have a good idea of where the story is going.

Alyssa: Oh, yes. The 33% roadblock. I have the same problem! The key is pushing through it, isn’t it? What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Jessica: Ooooh, I like this question. I wouldn’t say this is a quirk, per se, but I tend to spend a lot of time in my “office”– Starbucks – and I find that, when I’m thinking and/or writing, I tend to stare off into space – only to find I’m staring, weirdly and for the eighth time, at the strange man at the table across from mine. Creepy, I know.

Alyssa: Ha! Since I’ve done that (not at Starbucks, but my local indie coffee shop), I wouldn’t find it creepy. Mostly. What is on your desk right now?

Jessica:I’m going to take the liberty of answering this question literally. I’m under deadline for book #3 of THE HOPE DIAMOND trilogy, so my desk is a hot mess – think lots of books for research, lots of romance novels for inspiration, and lots of empty candy wrappers.

Alyssa: What is it about snacks that helps us think? I’m a sucker for potato chips, so there’s always a partially full bag on my desk! Thanks for stopping by, Jessica, and sharing your debut release! And, Dear Readers, Jessica is giving away two copies of THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF over on her website today. Leave a comment on today’s blog post at www.jessicabeterson.com/blog for a chance to win!

Jessica: Thanks, ladies, for having me!

And now, after you’ve all become acquainted with the lovely Jessica (and entered her giveaway, I hope!), here is an excerpt from THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF!

Lady Violet suddenly grew very still; the color faded from her cheeks, and her smile drew itself into a frown. He watched her eyes go wide as the realization dawned on her, the pieces of the puzzle falling into place at last.

Somewhere in the trees above, birds twittered and flitted about them; the springtime afternoon marched onward as if today was but one of a string of simple, idle days, each the same as the last.

But for Harclay and Lady Violet, today was not quite so simple, nor so idle. It was suddenly complicated, mined with explosive truths and well-played deceptions and a most thrilling episode of physical encounter. It was impossible, it was improbable.

And great God above, it thrilled Harclay to no end. He hadn’t felt such excitement since he was a boy, and allowed to accompany his father on the hunt for the first time. He would never forget the way the rifle felt in his hands, the pounding of his heart as he took aim.

Granted, he’d ended up shooting the poor loader in the arse, a crime for which dear papa had whipped him senseless. But the thrill remained imprinted on Harclay’s imagination nonetheless; the same thrill he now experienced under the accusatory gaze of Lady Violet Rutledge.

She took a deep breath, all the while her blue-grey eyes never leaving his.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” she said, swallowing. “You’re the thief who stole the French Blue!”

 Amazon   |    Barnes & Noble   |   Books-A-Million

Peterson-Back-Cover

 

Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark, and handsome heroes of her own.

A graduate of Duke University, Jessica worked at an investment bank before leaving to pursue her writerly dreams. She lives with her husband, the tall, dark, and handsome Mr. Peterson, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Duo Duchess Release! “Engaging the Earl” & “The Seduction of Sarah Marks”

Congratulations to Duchesses Kathleen Bittner Roth and Diana Quincy on today’s release of The Seduction of Sarah Marks and Engaging the Earl! And take note dear readers: To celebrate, both books are on sale for just $.99 the first week of their release. Their Graces are here to tell us a little something about their wonderful stories.

ETE_SOSM

 

Duchess Kathleen: Thanks for inviting us into your drawing room, Duchess Ashlyn, I can’t wait to chat.

Duchess Diana: Thanks for hosting us today, Duchess Ashlyn.

 

What is the era and setting of each of your stories, and can you tell us a bit about them?

Duchess Diana: Engaging the Earl is set in Regency England. The hero returns from fighting Napoleon on the day the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man. Here’s a little teaser:

Vivacious Lady Katherine Granville is the toast of the ton, but society’s most eligible miss secretly yearns for her childhood love, an untitled loner who vanished long ago after her father forbade their marriage.

After years abroad, the dark and brooding Edward Stanhope returns to England a changed man. No longer a second son with no prospects, his battlefield strategies have won him an earldom. His return should be a victorious one, but the new Earl of Randolph is battling secret demons that no one can discover. Least of all, Kat.

When the man she can’t forget reappears at her betrothal ball, Kat’s perfectly arranged future is thrown into tumult. Edward remains cold and distant, hoping she’ll marry a man worthy of her. But nothing is settled when Kat sets out to win back her first love. Can the new Earl of Randolph resist the woman he’s loved for so many years?

 

Duchess Kathleen: The Seduction of Sarah Marks is set largely in the Kent District of England in 1857. The story involves a prim and proper country miss who finds herself stranded in a strange inn with no memory other than her name. Viscount Eastleigh’s well-laid plans to find a proper wife—far removed from his eccentric, meddling family—run afoul when an accident forces him to return home with this straitlaced miss in desperate need of shelter. Here’s a little teaser:

After a blow to her head, Sarah Marks awakens in a strange bed with a strange man and no memory of how she got there. Her handsome bedmate, Lord Eastleigh, tells her she’s suffering from amnesia and the best course of action is to travel home with him until she recovers her memory.
Lord Eastleigh has his own reasons for helping Sarah and keeping her close. Reasons he cannot tell Sarah. As they struggle to restore her memory, their undeniable, inadvisable attraction grows—until Sarah finally remembers the one thing that could keep them apart forever.

 

 

Are each of your stories of a serious nature or can we look forward to a bit of humor as well?

 

Duchess Kathleen: Although the themes of amnesia and war wounds are very serious ones, I can’t seem to write any story without including a few laughs.

 

Lord Eastleigh hails from a large and unconventional family. Even though they are close-knit, he refers to them as a swarm of locusts. There’s a sexy-as-sin reclusive cousin with a mysterious past who is hell-bent on irritating everyone but Sarah; a sister named Will who prefers wearing men’s clothing, and three younger sisters who think nothing of riding their horses straight through the main corridor of the house. I mustn’t forget Eastleigh’s three roguish brothers who encouraged the girls to run rampant with their steeds.

 

Eastleigh’s eccentric grandmother lives with him (think Betty White the actress). She “tipples” all the gin, ciders and cordials she concocts, steals apples and cherries on the sly from the cook to concoct her illicit brews, and pretty much does as she darn well pleases. She is called Mum because she thinks she’s the Queen Mother and Eastleigh’s mother the Queen. Or is it all an act?

 

 

Duchess Diana: Edward, my hero suffers from nostalgia, which we know today as Post Traumatic Stress, so he can be somewhat dark. (By the way, the US military has dropped the term “Disorder” when referring to PTS, hoping to reduce the stigma associated with it). However, at times his humor shines through, as does that of the heroine, as we see in this scene when he finds her dog running loose in the park.

 

“This messy-looking creature can’t possibly belong to you. I’d expect an incomparable such as Lady Kat to own the best-groomed canine in town.” He smiled down at the dog. “Not a hopelessly mangy whelp like this fellow.”

“Now you’ve gone and insulted a lady.”

He looked up quickly. “I meant no insult to you.”

Not me,” she said, amusement in her voice. “That messy fellow is called Vera and is female.”

He grinned at her and light came into his eyes. For a moment they fell back six years—to when they had talked easily and enjoyed each other’s humor. “Ah, then I must offer my apologies.” He favored Vera with a doubtful look. “Although, while she may be female, she does not appear to be a lady. What breed is she?”

“No one really knows. We’re not certain how my father’s Pomeranian came to be enceinte at the country estate.” Her face warmed to be discussing breeding with him.

Turning his attention back to Vera, he didn’t appear to notice her discomfort. “She has the look of a pointer to her. Perhaps her mother had a clandestine meeting with a neighbor’s hunting dog.”

“A female of easy virtue.” She arched a brow after the canine, who wandered away, distracted by a fluttering butterfly. “Thereby proving your point that Vera is no lady.”

 

 

Duchess Kathleen, can you give us a hint of the more passionate side of your main characters?

 

Duchess Kathleen: Seduction can take many forms when a certain chemistry exists between two people, even if it’s not done with purpose. Here’s a scene where Eastleigh rescues Sarah from a downpour:

 

The horse took a step forward. Sarah gripped the saddle and let out a pitiful squeak. No, she definitely did not ride by habit.

“I’ve got hold of you,” Eastleigh said from behind her. “Grab a handful of the horse’s mane to maintain your balance.”

His words of encouragement were warm and husky in her ear, his hand splayed across her stomach comforting, yet sending shockwaves of…of sinful pleasure through her. A squeeze of his legs against the horse, and the beast eased into a walk, then a trot. Sarah bumped about in the saddle.

“Let your hips relax, and you won’t bounce so.” Eastleigh gripped the side of her waist, and with strong fingers, urged her hips into a back and forth motion that matched the horse’s movements—along with Eastleigh’s. Not only was the difference in the ride immediate, but oh, dear, the cadence of the horse set her and Eastleigh’s hips moving together in a manner that was wickedly provocative.

Could he be aware of what she was thinking? Or feeling? Or was this rhythmic movement so common while astride a horse that she would be considered a prig to make note of it?

 

Duchess Diana, dog lovers might especially enjoy your story. Vera, the heroine’s pet, plays a key role in the book.

 

Duchess Diana: I really enjoyed writing Vera. I decided to bring a dog into the story after being moved by an article about an Iraq war veteran whose trained service dog helped him manage his PTS. These service dogs assist their owners through panic attacks and nightmares as Vera does for Edward. They are trained to stand in front of their masters to maintain a safe distance from anyone who might approach. They also learn to sit behind their owners to provide enough space when they wait in line. I made some of these behaviors instinctive in Vera, since no one was training service dogs back in the early 1800s.

 

Your books are on sale at $.99 during the first week of the release, which is practically a giveaway, but do you have anything else you are offering to celebrate?

 

Duchess Kathleen: Yes, of course. Anyone leaving a comment will be automatically included in a drawing for a free digital copy of The Seduction of Sarah Marks and a $10 gift certificate from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Starbucks.

 

Duchess Diana: Since no duchess likes to be outdone, I’ll match Duchess Kathleen’s giveaway. A second commenter on the blog will receive a digital copy of Engaging the Earl and a $10 gift certificate from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

To celebrate the release of their books, Duchesses Kathleen and Diana are having a Facebook party, tonight at 7p.m. (EST). Numerous guest authors (including yours truly) are stopping by and giving away great prizes. Click here now to join the fun later!

 

The Other Serial Killer of Victorian England

Jack the Ripper is a name nearly everyone knows. The brutal murders of five (perhaps more) females are ascribed to the Ripper, and the identity of the killer is one of history’s biggest secrets.

Interestingly, another serial killer was at work during Victorian England, one more prolific and brutal than Ripper. Also a murderer of poor women, and also never caught. I stumbled across this case while researching murders in and around the Thames for the last book in my Regency trilogy, THE LADY HELLION.

The murders are referred to as “The Embankment Murders” or the “Thames Torso Murders.” While the Ripper terrorized London between 1888-1889, the Thames Torso murders spanned 1887-1889, and may have started as early as 1872 or 1873. What separates these cases from Ripper is that the bodies were all dismembered, with the various body parts then wrapped in paper and scattered about Whitehall, Whitechapel, and in the Thames. Ripper, however, concentrated his actions to only Whitechapel and the bodies, while mutilated, were not dismembered in the same fashion as the Torso murders.

The Illustrated Police News, October 1888

The Illustrated Police News, October 1888

I won’t distress the Duchesses by getting into too much detail about the crimes. But it is worth noting that a few of the body locations were telling: one victim’s torso was found by construction workers at the site of New Scotland Yard. Another time, one body part was thrown over the wall of Sir Percy Shelley’s estate in Chelsea. Shelley was the son of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

Were the two killers one and the same? Dr. Thomas Bond worked as the police surgeon to Metropolitan Police’s A Division and oversaw both the Ripper killings and the Torso murders. He is considered by many as the first profiler, though neither of these high-profile murderers were ever caught. Though there was a resemblance between the killings, he believed different men were responsible, with the embankment murderer being “the more scientific of the two.”

Olean Democrat, September 12, 1889

Olean Democrat, September 12, 1889

For some time it was doubtful whether all these horrors were the work of one or two persons, but this last murder convinces the medical men that there are two entirely distinct sets of murders and two different men responsible for them. It is believed that in the present instance the body was purposely brought to the Whitechapel district to throw the police off the scent by inducing the belief that the body was that of another victim of Jack the Ripper. In this the perpetrator, however, went to trouble that is entirely superfluous for the police are as much in the fog about the one class of murders as the other.

If you’re interested in the history of police procedure and forensics, these cases and the time period in which they fall are fascinating. It’s not reading for the faint of heart, however, so you may want to have your smelling salts at the ready.

Sources/Further Reading:



Joanna Shupe has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. She has three books coming out in 2015 with Kensington, starting with THE COURTESAN DUCHESS in April.

Maire Claremont Tells of Lady Wild

First, let me take a big curtsy! Thank you so much Duchesses for having me in your dashing company.

 

LadyWildCoverLady Wild is very dear to my heart as is the cause I’m raising money for. Almost exactly two years ago at this time, I started writing Lady Wild. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and radiation. Sadly, the cancer entered her bones and I moved in with her to be her full time caretaker. I wrote the majority of Lady Wild spending the evenings with her. We did many things. We watched Dancing With The Stars, we read her very favorite books aloud, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe Series (my mother was secretly in love with Richard Sharpe I think, devil that he was). We cried, we laughed, and she always supported my dreams. I was blessed. My mother was alive when I sold my first book, and she became the inspiration for the story closest to my heart.

 

Sure, Lady Wild has some dark themes. All my books do, but this story is perhaps my most hopeful and romantic. The one thing my mother taught me was that love and hope are essential. Oh, and a life well lived is a beautiful thing. It’s never too late to start living well. I think my mother was more alive and more at peace in her last months than in her entire life. It was an incredible thing to see. Lady Wild is full of love and hope, something my mother would be very proud of.

 

DesperateRomanticsOn the note of living well which also means having fun, we watched some really fun TV. One of the BBC shows we watched was Desperate Romantics an over the top, incredibly fun romp about the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of rebellious and revolutionary artists in the mid 19th century. Ophelia by John Everett Millais is the most famous painting from the group. The colors are stunning. Seeing it in person is an amazing experience because the colors just burst off the canvas. This painting plays a central role in the story as done the very naughty and genius artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti who famously buried all his literary endeavors in the locks of his wife’s glorious red hair. . . Only to dig her up and snatch them out seven years later for publication. He was quite an odd fellow. A genius, but odd, to say the least. If you love historicals, I really recommend this show. It’s too fun and a fascinating glimpse into the lives of amazing people. My mom and I loved it!

 

And the Brotherhood and my mother began to intertwine. I think

Ophelia by John Everett Millais

Ophelia by John Everett Millais

she would have loved being part of a story that was full of rogues. I needed to tell a story about beautiful things such as the art of the Brotherhood, Ophelia’s dream is to be an artist, and the journey of facing this life without one’s parents. Luckily, our heroine doesn’t have to do it alone. Andrew Colton, Viscount Stark is a fellow who thinks he doesn’t deserve love, but through Ophelia and his mother, he finds that to get love, one must first love one’s self. The whole story is about letting go of fear, embracing life, and surrendering to love. Much like Ophelia’s mother and father, my parents were deeply in love and it was wonderful to add that layer to this novella.

 

Lady Wild is now part of a personal cause. Twelve years ago my father passed away, dying from pancreatic cancer. It was so hard to lose him to such a rapid and painful disease. And then two years ago, my mother joined him after losing the battle with cancer. They were both on Hospice care at the end.

 

katiephoto1 001Death and dying is such a delicate and painful subject. In our society, we focus on cures rather than ends and in many ways, that’s a great thing! We want to find those cures, but for many people a cure will never come. They must face the end. They must face their fears. And they must find the ability to let go. Hospice specializes in helping terminally ill people and their families make this transition. So, with this novella I’m hoping to raise 10,000 dollars to donate to Hospice. If you can pick up Lady Wild, thank you. Every little bit helps to ease another person’s passing, making it one of dignity and love.

Summer is For Reading

I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend! As we celebrate the unofficial start of summer (pull out those white pants and white shoes!) our 18th and 19th century heroines are preparing to hie off to their country estates for the summer. No Duchess worth her salt would be seen in Town after Parliament went on summer recess and the London Season drew to a close.

What does a Duchess need for those long, languorous summer months? Reading material, of course. Hopefully something informative to tempt the brain and something scandalous to titillate the senses. I asked our 20th century Duchesses for some recommended reads.

Ta ta. I’m off to my cottage for the summer.

Books fit for a Duchess

Ashlyn Macnamara

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I’m working on Sarah MacLean’s NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED. I only say working on, because I made the mistake of starting it before RT and then I had NO TIME to read while I was there. I can’t wait to get a chance to finish Temple and Mara’s story.

 

Next on the TBR pile is Maire Claremont’s LADY WILD novella. Maire is donating a hefty sum of her royalties to Hospice.  (Maire will be here on the Duchesses thursday to talk about her new novella!)

 

Leigh LaValle

SecretsofaRunawayBride-cover-hi-resI just had a baby in April. Everyone is healthy and happy but I am holding on to my quiet R+R time with both hands! There is much cuddling and reading happening in the LaValle household. Some books I have enjoyed:

Secrets of a Runaway Bride by Valerie Bowman. One word: Jordan. I agree with the heroine’s BFF-Lord Ashbourne is a swoon worthy hero! Pair him with a feisty heroine bent on trouble and much fun ensues.

It Happened One Wedding Julie James is always a favorite and this book did not disappoint.

Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long is next up!

Diana Quincy

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 8.40.11 PMI’m reading an ARC of Duchess Kathleen Bittner Roth’s THE SEDUCTION OF SARAH MARKS. Not only is the romance steamy but this book is one unpredictable ride with a wild twist in the middle that I did not anticipate!

 

I’m also reading TAP OUT by Michelle Mannon, who is one of my critique partners (although I had not read this manuscript before). The hero is a super-sexy MMA fighter/underwear model inspired by David Beckham. Need I say more?
And I’m listening to THE GREAT GATSBY on tape while I go on my daily walks. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this novel and often find myself rewinding so I can listen to a particularly perfectly written passage more than once.

Valerie Bowman

Darius by Grace Burrowes
A fantastic story about a heroine in need of a baby and a hero in need of funds. He agrees to allow her to live with him for three weeks and get her pregnant. Oh, and he just so happens to be super hot! Am loving it!
Jane Austen’s England by Lesley Adkins
A fascinating look into Regency England including interesting facts: one woman was reported to have given birth to 32 children. Yikes!
Once Upon a Wager by Julie LeMense
A beautifully written tale of a bet gone horribly wrong and a couple struggling to overcome their past mistakes. I j’adore a reunion story and this one is really captivating.

Kathleen Bittner Roth

engagingtheearl
I am reading an ARC of Diana Quincy’s June 9th release Engaging the Earl (most definitely an engaging read). Diana has a way of taking you into the heart of the characters with such graceful ease, you are lost in the story before you know it.

I am also reading an old school book called Pale Moon Rider by Marsha Canham. I love the author’s yummy prose!

Jennifer McQuinston

Right now, I have 3 books in partial stages of “read”-iness. Normally I finish each book before starting another, so this is a definite state of weirdness for me. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Not really a romance, not a YA….it refuses to be categorized.) Imagine a circus that mysteriously shows up at night. No one knows when it is coming or when it will leave. Now imagine under those tents two young magicians locked in an epic battle to the death….only they might be falling in love.

Always on My Mind, by Jill Shalvis (This is the book we got free in our bags at the Romantic Times convention.) Contemporary Romance really isn’t my thing usually, but I forgot my e-reader on that trip and I had to read SOMETHING. This story follows Leah the baker and Jack the hot hot hot fireman, both of whom are running from their past in a charming little town called Lucky Harbor (wink wink). I must admit… I can’t wait to finish it. I even spilled soy sauce on it trying to cram a few more minutes of reading during lunch yesterday. It seems like Ms. Shalvis puts something addictive on her pages.

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Allegiant by Victoria Roth (a YA I am reading to be able to discuss with my daughter). I loved Divergent, and loved even more going to see the movie with my preteen daughter. This seemed requisite reading for me, but I am just not able to get into it like I enjoyed Divergent. Maybe that’s why I haven’t finished it?

It seems like for this audience I ought to toss a historical or two or four into the mix, and I will say that in the last two months I finished an AMAZING historical, Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran. Imagine a duke on a brink of madness, his new housekeeper-with-a-secret who plans to steal incriminating letters from him, some of the hottest intimacy scenes I’ve read in a historical, and some serious trust issues. Now throw in Meredith Duran’s spectacular prose and you have a truly amazing read.

Alyssa Alexander

I just finished FEARLESS by K.M. Fawcett. It kept moving to the top of my TBR pile, and I finally got a chance to sit down and read it. Loved it! Next up is HARD AS YOU CAN by Laura Kaye and LOVING LORD ASH by Sally MacKenzie. Can’t wait!

What about you, Dear Readers? What books do you recommend for some summer amusement?

A Mother’s Love

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Being a mom is hard work – that goes without saying. From temper tantrums to those helpless moments where you have to watch your child learn a lesson on their own. There are smiles and tears and everything in between. And it all starts with that little thing called birth.

In today’s world, we have the joys of private rooms in the maternity ward and the beautiful reprieve granted by epidurals and other fabulous modern inventions. Such was, unfortunately, not always the case.

Miniature_Naissance_Louis_VIIIOne of the atrocities women had to deal with for several centuries was the awfulness of lying in. When the birth of her child was drawing near, a woman would be confined to her bed in a room designated as the birthing room (not always her bedroom). It was kept hot with a roaring fire and a plethora of blankets piled on the expectant/new mother with all windows were tightly shuttered. This was done in an effort to keep the mother from catching a draft and falling ill. Now we know that heating a room breeds bacteria and can actually cause illness rather than thwart it.

On the topic of germs, that was one of the primary killers of not only children, but also their new mothers. In 1840, a hand wash of chlorinated water and lime solution was implemented by physicians and resulted in a 30% decrease in death. Prior to that, it was expected that 66% of children died before the age of 5 and half were dead by the age of 5. Even a child’s wet nurse could pass infection to her ward with poor hygiene.Wet Nurse

In addition to the perils of germs, women also faced complications of birth. There were accounts of caesarean sections done on mothers in history, though most involve a dead mother and the urgency to remove the child post-mortem lest the child die as well. Several attempts were still made on women who were alive, but the mortality rate ran about 85%. Not good odds.

The invention of forceps revolutionized difficult childbirth in that it allowed the user the firmly grasp the baby by the head and pull it from the mother. Prior to this, midwives would typically put her hands into the mother, grab the child by the head and pull. This took exceptional strength on the midwives part and was not only incredibly painful for the mother, it also exposed mother and child to germs.

ForcepsForceps were designed in the 1500’s, but were kept as a family secret, only to be brought out in an empty room with the mother blindfolded. One member of the family finally tried to sell the invention, but his public display of its use resulted in the mother and child both dying. Eventually, it was brought back out and finally caught on. Part of its popularity during the Regency time period had to do with Princess Charlotte’s death. After 50 hours of labor and a stillborn child, Princess Charlotte died under the care of Dr. Croft. The public had their faith rattled in doctors performing labor (and turned back to midwifery), they also were more inclined to try forceps rather than face the same fate. Dr. Croft was so ruined and disheartened by his failure, he ultimately took his own life.

In addition to the pain of death also came the pain of fear. Epidurals may be modern, not really seen until the 1940’s and even then not successfully, but the idea of foregoing pain during labor was not. For centuries, the church deemed it a woman’s fate to suffer childbirth for Eve’s sins. But that concept only held on so long. In the 1800’s, a chloroform concoction was devised for women to breathe. This would knock them out, they would wake up and lo and behold, they’d have a beautiful baby having never suffered through the pain of its birth. This was made enormously popular in 1847 when Queen Victoria used the anesthetic for the birth of her eighth child and raved about the experience. In 1914, a morphine/scopolamine mix was given to mothers, but this quickly lost popularity as the babies sometimes died from overdose and the mothers sometimes failed to wake up after delivery.

461px-Queen_Victoria_the_Princess_Royal_Victoria_c1844-5

80% of Regency mothers made it through childbirth. She survived the laying in which lasted two weeks to two months after birth, the heated rooms with a liquid diet that slowed her digestion, the risk of having a chunk of placenta left inside (ultimately going gangrene in all that warmth) and all the risks of infection. The Regency mother (and all those in the centuries before her) was a survivor who lived to see another birth and risk it all over again. And all for the glory of motherhood. So, raise your glasses to the mothers of history and the mothers of today for all they went through during the birth and all the laughter and crazy times that come thereafter.

 

Duchess On Dits: Appearances, News and Events

RT.63.May2014CoverThe Duchesses are aflutter with activity and you, dear readers, are about to become privy to the latest on dits.

The 2014 RT Booklovers Convention will take place on May 13th-18th in New Orleans.  If you plan to attend the grand bash of Romance novel readers and Romance novel writers, here’s where you can meet a duchess:

Duchess Valerie Bowman will be hosting How to Be a Hooker: The High-Concept Premise with a panel of bestselling authors known for their high concepts. Join their a fun mix-and-match card game designed to show how to hook readers, agents and editors using fun titles, fresh premises and compelling characters on Friday, May 16, 2014 – 11:15am to 12:15pm.

Duchess Ashlyn Macnamara will be joining her fellow Bantam, Ballantine and Love Swept authors as they host an hour of romance trivia games with prizes and giveaways called It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Falls in Love On Thursday May 15th, 1:30-2:30

You’ll also be able to find Duchess Ashlyn Macnamara at the Mardi Gras World Carnivàle on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 – 7:15pm to Thursday, May 15, 2014 – 12:00am. They’ll be food, a second-line band and some up-close time with the Mardi Gras floats.

Duchess Jennifer McQuiston will be participating with more than 50 Avon, Avon Impulse, William Morrow and Harper Voyager authors in Avon’s Krewe of Muses celebrating Erato, the muse of love and poetry. Get your complimentary books and ebooks signed on Friday, May 16, 2014 – 6:15pm to 7:45pm

Duchess Sara Ramsey will be participating in Cover Wars: From Muse to Magic which will include a full LIVE photoshoot! Find out how to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Designers and authors will break into teams with audience members to design covers, Wednesday, May 14, 2014 – 1:15pm to 2:15pm

Duchess Heather Snow will be part of a Krewe of Notorious Scribes turning the Grand Oaks Mansion at Mardi Gras World into Vieux Carre — the heart of New Orleans, circa 1718. Be one of the first 350 attendees and receive a goodie bag with books, swag and more. The Pirates, Scalawags and More party will be held Wednesday, May 14, 2014 – 6:00pm to 7:00pm.

You can also find Duchess Heather Snow at the The Cajun Queen Riverboat Casino Morning Mixer, where she’ll join other authors dealing cards so you can rake in booty! Thursday, May 15, 2014 – 8:30am to 9:45am.

Lastly, be sure to visit The Duchesses at The Giant Book Fair on Saturday, May 17, 2014 – 11:00am to 2:00pm, where more than 700 authors will be autographing books, posters and bookmarks (tickets are included in the general registration conference fee or can be purchased separately on the day of the event).

In Other News…

Duchess Alyssa Alexander revealed the Georgous cover to her upcoming release, In Bed with a Spy, in USA today’s Happily Ever After Column. Check out her cover and fall for its blue beauty.

Duchess Màire Claremont‘s The Dark Lady won the Romantic Times Award for Best First Historical Romance…winners and nominees are selected Romantic Times reviewers and the Duchesses are overjoyed this fabulous book earned this honor.

Duchess Kathleen Bittner Roth, who lives in Budapest, will be coming to the US in June for six-month promotional tour including signings, television appearances and other events. Here’s when to look for her books: The Seduction of Sarah Marks – June; A Duke’s Wicked Kiss – August 26; When Hearts Dare Series Celine – October 7, Alanna – November 4 and Josette – Sept. 2015.

And, yes, that is Duchess Valerie Bowman‘s The Unexpected Duchess gracing the cover of Romantic Times Magazine‘s May issue! Huzzah for Duchess Valerie.

Duchess Jennifer McQuiston‘s What Happens in Scotland made the New York Times Bestseller list! Let’s raise our teacups in a celebratory salute. Cheers to you, Duchess Jennifer.

Duchess Kate Parker recently appeared at Malice Domestic 26 speaking at the panel titled “One is Not Amused by Murder.” Sign up for her newsletter so you can be sure to catch her next event. The next book in her Victorian Bookshop Mystery Series, The Counterfeit Lady, will be out August 5th.

Duchess Anna Randol‘s Sins of a Ruthless Rogue has been nominated in the Historical category of the Romance Industry’s prestigious peer-judged contest, The Rita. Congratulations Duchess Anna!

Lastly, I have a bit of news of my own:

Duchess Wendy LaCapra sold her debut series, a Late-Georgian trilogy featuring three ladies whose friendship helps them survive society’s rejection and find both a new way of life and a new way to love to Entangled Publishing, where I’ll be joining Duchess Kathleen Bittner Roth and Duchess Diana Quincy.

Leave a comment and let us know . . . will you be at the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans this year from May 13-18? We hope to see you there!

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…MEET THE EARL AT MIDNIGHT Giveaway

9781402294273-300 (1) Hello! Duchess Diana Quincy here. I am very excited to welcome author Gina Conkle to the salon. Duchess Gina’s books reach across two sub-genres of romance: adventurous Viking romance and sparkling Georgian romance. Her latest book, Meet the Earl at Midnight, received 4 stars from RT Book Reviews which said the story is “a delightful twist on Beauty and the Beast.” Enjoy!

 

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night…

 

Have those words ever lured you?

 

You find some version of the famous phrase in books and movies and we’re snagged before you know it. This was the same for Meet the Earl at Midnight, my newest Georgian romance.

 

A visual dark and stormy night kept playing in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone.

 

I live in southern California where it doesn’t rain much, and this character — a man — kept making his presence known. He’d show up wearing a long oiled cloak with the collar flipped over his face and a black tricorn pulled low. All you saw of him was a sliver of humanity, dark brown eyes and the top of a blade straight nose.

 

So, when we had the rare rainstorm, I sat down to write his story. In fact, the story was born as much from a light rainstorm as the need to balance the Norse hammers in my head (I also write Viking romance).

Author Gina Conkle

Author Gina Conkle

 

And the funny thing? I’m the organized sort. I have to plot first. In this case, before I knew it, not quite half the story was written with nary a plot in sight. The moment came, though, for some structure, and much historical research was had. But, I knew the story was set in 1768.

 

So, here are three things that came of that research:

1)   Women artists had a tough row to hoe. London’s Royal Academy of Arts opened in December, 1768 with two female artists in their league, Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser. However, the two women were not “physically” featured in Zoffany’s painting, The Academicians of the Royal Academy which celebrated the Academy’s opening. Why? Zoffany’s work features nude male models, therefore, the women’s portraits were hung on the wall rather than showing them physically in the room.

2)   I kept having really bad weather during the winter of 1768…I mean lots and lots of rain. I decided to check the weather near London in 1768 and guess what? 1768 was an extraordinarily wet year even the summer with about 6 weeks of constant rain, not just light showers and gloom.

3)   The Age of Wonder was born. You probably know about the hot naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, and the famous Cook expedition. With the race for knowledge on, King George wanted in on the intellectual action. In the 1760s, he bought 6,000 books from Sir Joseph to start a royal library of sorts.

 

The history nerd in me can wax on for a long time over the snippets and details I learned. Along the way I also learned that I need to refine my knowledge of the peerage (especially since I’m hosted by “Duchesses”). I tend to write less about dukes and earls and more about men from other walks of life. But, a good man no matter his walk in life makes a fine hero.

 

Meet the Earl at Midnight

 

It’s going to take a Beast to tame this Beauty 

 

The Enigma Earl. The Lord Phantom. That’s what the gossip pages call Lord Greenwich, a mysterious nobleman who doesn’t show his face in London Society. With a reputation like that, it’s no wonder that Lydia Montgomery is horrified to be dragged from bed and packed off to live with him to save her mother from penury.

 

While Lydia has received all of the training a lady should endure, she’s decidedly un-ladylike. She despises her corset and isn’t interested in marriage; in fact, she would prefer to remain unmarried so that she can spend her time improving her art. But if she wants a chance at happiness, she’ll have to set aside her fear of Lord Greenwich and discover the man hiding behind the beast.

 

 Amazon ~ Barnes&Noble ~ Kobo ~ iTunes ~ GooglePlay

 

Thanks to “Their Graces” for hosting me on this lovely blog. This is great and I much appreciate you, the reader, and the hosting authors for this opportunity.

 

To celebrate books, I’d like to give away a copy of Meet the Earl at Midnight and a $10 B&N gift card** to a random commenter who answers the question below:

 

What’s your favorite period in history and why?

 

**Limited to residents of the US or Canada (the drawing done within a week of the blog post).

 

Learn more about Gina and her books:  Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Newsletter

Dashing Duchess Book Release: The Unexpected Duchess by Valerie Bowman (Giveaway!)

UnexpectedDuchessHello everyone,

Thank you for joining me in the duchesses’ drawing room today. I am beyond excited to announce that the first book in my new Playful Brides series, The Unexpected Duchess, will be released Tuesday 4/29/14! Why do I call it The Playful Brides? Well, each of the books in the series is based on a different famous romp play. Oh, I do adore a romp. The Unexpected Duchess is based on Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. I call it a “reverse Cyrano” story because the heroine is trying to break up a couple instead of get them together.

The other books in the series, The Accidental Countess (10/28/14), and The Unlikely Lady (Spring 2015), are based on Oscar Wilde’s, The Importance of Being Earnest and Shakespeare’s, Much Ado About Nothing, respectively. I’m thrilled that this series has gotten off to such a fine start with The Unexpected Duchess earning a 4.5 star TOP PICK rating from RT Book Reviews, and a STARRED review from both Booklist and Kirkus!

The premise of my series got me to thinking about the theatre in Regency England. Here are a few facts I learned while researching the subject:

  1. Did you know that the theatres were called “Theatre Royal” only after they received Letters Patent by the Crown?
  2. Although we love to suggest in our books that it was possible to “turn down” the house lights, that was actually quite impossible (they were candles in huge chandeliers hoisted to the ceiling) and it was quite bright in the theatre on purpose to see and be seen. The gaslights didn’t begin until Drury Lane Theatre introduced them in 1817.
  3. Hot wax (from those same chandeliers) dripped on the patrons in the  pit. Hence, one of the reasons why it cost more to sit elsewhere.

    Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1810

    Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1810

  4. The theatre at Bury St Edmunds is the only Regency theatre still in existence and open for business. Who wants to go with me?!
  5. A night at the theatre did not merely consist of one play. It might also involve a comedy sketch, singing, animals, and anything else the owners of the theatre could dream up. Think 4 or 5 hours of entertainment.

So, any questions or comments about the theatres of Regency England? One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Unexpected Duchess (U.S.-only for print, anywhere for e-book, Void where prohibited).

 

Valerie-Bowman-author-photo-hi-res

Duchess Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels (aka Racy Regency Romps) with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging story lines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands!

Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got.

Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her rascally rescue dog, Roo. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. Valerie loves to hear from readers. Find her on the web at Facebook, Twitter, and at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com.