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.
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:
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!
First, let me take a big curtsy! Thank you so much Duchesses for having me in your dashing company.
Lady 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.
On 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
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.
Death 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.
I am thrilled to reveal the cover of Alanna, book number two in my When Hearts Dare series, a historical romance. It is due to release November 4th through Kensington Publishing.
Here’s a little bit about the book:
Intent on shedding a fiancé handpicked by her social climbing parents, a high-spirited young woman embarks on a blazing love affair with an enigmatic lone wolf whose quest to find his mother’s murderer threatens their love—and their lives.
My first book, set to release in June of this year through Entangled Publishing is, The Seduction of Sarah Marks. My second book, the first in another series, A Duke’s Wicked Kiss is set to release August 26, is a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist. The first book in When Hearts Dare series about three different, but equally strong women who must forge their own path in life. Celine, will release October 7th. Alanna will release November 4th and the third book in the series, Josette, is currently set to release in September 2015. I feel really blessed to have had five books contracted all at once!
Oh, and I have another exciting announcement to make: The audio rights to both Celine and Alanna have already sold!
About Duchess Kathleen:
Once Kathleen Bittner Roth realized that making a living was not the same as making a life, she founded an international well-being center. Her goal was to help others become self-empowered, and become aware that happiness and joy are daily choices. Little did she know when her journey began where the path would lead. She had no idea she’d one day walk on fire, marry in a castle in the Scottish Highlands, learn to ride English style, and spend hundreds of hours giving seminars of her own creation on self-empowerment. Nor did she have any idea she would be given the opportunity to guest on hundreds of radio shows and every major television network, including the History Channel.
“Making a life” for Kathleen includes writing Victorian romance novels. She considers this her perfect venue to create characters faced with difficult choices, and who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit in order to overcome adversity and find unending love.
In addition to being part of the Dashing Duchesses, Kathleen is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America® and belongs to the Hearts Through History Romance Writers chapter. She has been a contributing editor of an online romance magazine, and has been a guest on numerous blogs. She has won or finaled in various writing contests, including the 2012 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart®.
Although she has never considered herself a vagabond, she has somehow managed to live in six U.S. states and several foreign countries. Currently, she resides in Budapest, Hungary, but has deep roots in Minnesota and Texas. You can find her on Facebook; Twitter, or by visiting her website at: www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.
But now I’m allowed to, and I hope my fellow duchesses will indulge me.
It’s finally official. I can announce my new series. Starting later this year (release dates to be confirmed, but I’ve been hearing August), you can read the first installment in a steamy three-book series revolving around three former friends who attended Eton together, but who circumstances have torn apart.
What came between them? Well, that’s a secret.
In WHAT A LADY CRAVES, the first in the series, irreverent bluestocking Henrietta Upperton has determined to move past her scandalous broken engagement by striking out on her own. Unfortunately, she’s taken a position as a paid companion to the cantankerous Lady Epperley, who just happens to be a relative of Henrietta’s former betrothed. But since her intended went away to India, the last thing Henrietta expects is for the man to turn up on his great-aunt’s doorstep having lost nearly everything in a shipwreck.
The one thing Alexander Sanford hasn’t lost is his sense of honor. When he washes ashore close to his aunt’s manor, he’s shocked to find Henrietta in residence, but welcomes the chance to set the past aright by renewing his pursuit of his former betrothed. But he’s brought back more from India than his feelings… something that could put all of his loved ones in danger.
Sound interesting? How about a little teaser:
“Stand aside.” Damn that lock of hair. How it must make her look youthful and wayward; it must rob her of any kind of authority.
She stuck out her lower lip and blew upward. The lock swayed tauntingly before settling back in the middle of her nose. “I shall scream.”
He ignored this in favor of reaching for the tress. He took it between his thumb and forefinger, rubbing, concentrating on what he was doing as if it were of the utmost importance that he learn the exact texture of her hair. Dumbfounded, she allowed him.
Somehow, he pushed closer until his breath blew across her face, warm and sweet. “Do you remember this?”
“Remember what?” She had to force the words through her lips. Drawing in air had suddenly become a difficult prospect.
“This. How it was between us.”
“No.” A blatant lie. That particular hint of gravel in his voice pulled her straight into the past.
“I don’t believe you. I recall that expression.”
“What expression?” She had to work to get that much out, and blast it, the words emerged on a breathy note.
“Your eyes dark, cheeks pink, lips parted. Like you’re ready for a kiss.” Somehow he edged even nearer. The wall was solid at her back, possibly the only reason she was still upright. “Like you expect one. Demand it, even.”
Feel free to party in the comments!
Do you prefer your hero in a tricorn, a slouch hat, or a Stetson? Your heroine in panniers, a crinoline, or packing her papa’s shotgun? We’re going to take a look at something that’s become a rare animal on the romance scene lately these days—the American-set historical.
Back when I first started reading romances, these stories were easy to find, but nowadays they seem to have been supplanted by those stories set in England. I’m not 100% sure why that is, but I’d conjecture that a couple of factors come into play. Partly it’s hard to write about our own history without acknowledging the existence of certain ugly truths, such as slavery or our treatment of Native Americans. I also think another factor involves North American fascination with titles and the English class system.
For me, a lot of historical romances have a certain fairy tale quality to them, and it’s harder to achieve that when you’re dealing with nitty gritty details of life in the American west, say, or carving out a spot in an untamed wilderness.
Still, these settings offer plenty of opportunity for conflict: struggle against the harsh environment on the frontier, struggle against one’s king, struggle against one’s one countryman. Many of these old romances had hero and heroine on opposite sides of a war, so you had loyalist vs patriot or staunch unionist vs southern rebel.
I’d like to give a nod to some of these older romances. Heather Graham wrote an entire series revolving around heroines in the same family that traced American history down the years. One of the first romances I ever read was Sweet, Savage Eden, set around the time of the founding of Jamestown, where the hero was a titled lord intent on establishing a colony in the new world. The next book in the series featured a descendant of the Cameron family and was set during the American revolution, and later installments took place during the Civil War, all involving this same family. The final book ended up with the youngest of the Cameron clan heading west with a cavalry officer.
Beyond these obviously conflict-filled time periods, I recall reading other stories, set outside the scope of a war. One such was set among the Puritans in New England (although sadly, I don’t recall author or title). Another was set in North Carolina and featured a family of heroines named after neighboring states (so you had Mary, whose name was Maryland, Delly, whose name was Delaware, Virginia, naturally, and the heroine, Carolina). Once again, my memory fails me as to title or author. Many of these older romances were set in the south on plantations, giving an opportunity for balls and belles and gorgeous gowns which some might say mirrors our love of English historical.
Lisa Kleypas, when she was first starting out, gave us the Vallerands, a family based in New Orleans. New Orleans, with its color and French culture and heritage is another favorite setting. Even when Kleypas later moved her historical settings across the pond, she couldn’t resist giving us a couple of American heroines (all the better to give those staid English aristocrats a little kick in the behind–a bit like Dame Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine’s characters on Downton Abbey) in Lily and Daisy Bowman. Anyone up for a game of baseball?
More recently, we’ve featured author Donna Thorland on this blog, with her wonderful historicals set during the Revolution, and one of our own duchesses, Kathleen Bittner Roth, is set to have an American set trilogy debuting later this year.
Rather than attempt to define such a broad category of possibility, I’d like to turn this blog over to our readership. Do you miss American-set historical or do you prefer jolly old England? What do you think is some of the yet unexplored territory and time periods? What are some of your favorite old-school romances set in North America?
Ashlyn Macnamara writes Regencies with a dash of wit and a hint of wicked, but once upon a time she envisioned writing stories set during the Revolutionary War. She may yet do so…
Seriously, this deal redefines the whole concept of cheap-ass. Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review and called it “a gem to be savored.” How often do you get a gem for $0.99?
Still not convinced? Watch the trailer:
Years ago, when Isabelle Mears was still a young miss too infatuated to know better, she surrendered her innocence to a dishonorable man. Though ruined and cast out from society, she has worked hard to shelter her illegitimate son, Jack. Having sworn off men in her quiet but dignified life, Isabelle is unprepared for the deep longing that rips through her when a handsome stranger rescues her rambunctious six-year-old from the pounding ocean surf.
George Upperton is a man in trouble with debts, women, and a meddling family. He is, by all accounts, the last gentleman on earth Isabelle should be drawn to. But loneliness is a hard mistress, and caution gives way to desire . . . even though Isabelle is convinced that happiness can’t be found in the arms of such a devilish rogue. Only when Jack is kidnapped does Isabelle discover the true depth of George’s devotion—and how far a good man will go to fight for the woman whose love is all that matters.
What do you think? Should I get a job writing ad copy or stick with historical romance? If you opt for the latter, you may just want to keep an eye on me Thursday. Is that cryptic enough for everyone?
Greetings, your graces. Today I’m pleased to host guest duchess Shana Galen.
Shana is the bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Booklist says, “Galen expertly entwines espionage-flavored intrigue with sizzling passion,” and RT Bookreviews calls her “a grand mistress of the action/adventure subgenre.” She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston’s inner city. Now she writes full time. She’s happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making. Shana loves to hear from readers, so send her an email or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.
And now, without further ado, I turn this post over to Shana.
Is anyone a younger sister? I am. In the interest of full disclosure, I will also say that I have a younger sister, so I’m actually a middle child. But I do have an older brother, and here’s the thing about older brothers (and probably sisters). Younger siblings look up to them, love hanging out with them, want to be just like them. Depending on the age difference, the older sibling thinks this is cute or seriously annoying. My brother thought I was cute. He’s 8 years older than me. I’m only 2 years older than my younger sister, and I didn’t think she was cute at all. I remember a lot of “Don’t copy me!” and “Leave me alone” and “Get out of my room!”
I also remember the freedom of getting away from her. I was the first to go to school, have a sleepover, go to a movie by myself, drive a car. I could get away, while she had to stay home and watch me go. I know how she felt because I watched my brother go and longed for that same freedom before I had it.
In Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend, I write about an older brother. Andrew is the heir to a dukedom, the only son. He has an older sister, who is not really in the story, and he also has a younger sister, Emma. When Andrew returns home after the death of his mother, he’s shocked by his father’s behavior. The duke is not exactly mourning when he throws a house party and invites quite a few courtesans and opera singers to the affair. It’s no place for his younger sister. Andrew just wants Emma safely away, but before she goes, she teaches her older brother a thing or two.
The fun thing about writing Emma was that I got to put away my older sister persona for a little while and remember how it felt to be a younger sister. Emma looks up to her older brother. She idolizes him, but she’s also smart and observant. She can tell him things about his parents he never knew, simply because she was home and he was away. Later in the book, these observations prove crucial. Here’s a scene between Emma and Andrew.
Andrew turned back and found her standing at the window, looking out on the darkening sky. He should say… something. He was much better at teasing and making his sisters laugh than at anything of a serious nature. “Emma?”
She turned, looking surprised to see him still there. “Yes, my lord?”
Now it was his turn to laugh from surprise. “When did I become my lord? You used to call me Drew.”
Her nose scrunched up. “That was when I was a baby.”
She still seemed like a baby to him. “I think I’d prefer it if you called me Andrew. It occurred to me”—he stepped back in the room, committed now, and closed the door behind him—“I have not asked how you fare since Katherine returned home.”
A look of sadness crossed her features. She was young to look so forlorn. “I am well. I miss her.”
He missed her too—their beautiful mother. She had loved him, never made him feel inadequate, and always saw through his attempts to pretend his father’s indifference did not matter.
“She is in a better place now,” Emma said, her gaze on his face. He still grieved her. He had always thought she would be his advisor when he became duke. How would he carry on without her?
“Yes.” He should say something more comforting, but he did not know what.
“My lord—Andrew, I know you are vexed with our father because of his recent behavior.”
Andrew raised his brows. It had not been a secret, but he did not know how much of his father’s recent behavior she had read about. He did not want to enlighten her.
“But you know that mother and father never loved each other. They married for duty, as I suppose you will. So if he seeks someone to love now, in his declining years, we can hardly judge him.”
Andrew stared at her. He could judge very well, thank you. But he was not so bitter he did not see logic. When had Emma become so wise? And how did she know so much about their parents’ relationship. They had not loved each other? He had never even imagined their courtship or their wedding. Had they married for duty? He supposed that was what dukes did. Was that what he would do? He would have to marry—there was no question of that. He had always thought he would marry for love. He’d chided his friend Pelham for his pronouncements that dukes did not fall in love. But perhaps Pelham had the right of it after all. Perhaps duty was all there was.
“How do you know?” he heard himself asking. “How can you be certain they didn’t love each other?”
“Because I saw them together every day. They didn’t even like each other. He was civil to her, but not kind or solicitous. He trod lightly when she was near, as though he feared something.”
“Feared her? Emma, your imagination has the better of you.”
“Perhaps, but she doted on you, Andrew. Katherine and I…” She shuddered.
Now that I’m all grown up, my sister is one of my best friends. I can always count on her. I don’t remember when I stopped being annoyed by her and started seeking her out for advice. Our friendship probably happened a little like it happens for Andrew and Emma.
I actually enjoyed writing about Emma so much, I’ve been working on a novella featuring her. Of course, Andrew makes an appearance too. And how fun to see the relationship between the two of them grow.
Do you have a brother or sister? Are you great friends or sworn enemies?
I have a great prize to give away! Win the first two books in the Jewels of the Ton series, When You Give a Duke a Diamond and If You Give a Rake a Ruby, plus a fabulous blue topaz necklace (US and Canada only).
And don’t forget to pre-order the book. Everyone who send proof of pre-order before February 28 will receive a free gift the exclusive, not-in-the-book epilogue. Send proof to Casablanca@sourcebooks.com
High stakes card games are a feature of the typical Regency hero’s everyday life, and any house party worth the name would have devoted a room to cards. But how many of us nowadays play whist? When an author mentions the game what do you picture?
My husband comes from a family of card players. The Christmas holidays were never complete until we all sat up until 4 or 5 AM playing cards—mostly something called five hundred, which on the spectrum of complicated games lies somewhere before bridge and after whist. For the uninitiated, like me when I first started dating my husband, you had to start with whist.
So I learned to play, and so did our children before graduating on to bigger and better things. When I looked up the historical rules, I was surprised to discover that our family plays much the same game as they did during Regency times.
As I’ve just implied, whist is a forerunner of contract bridge, minus the complicated conventions, bidding, and dummy. The object of whist is for you and your partner to take more tricks than your opponents. It is played in teams of facing partners with a regular 52-card deck—known during the Regency as a French pack—using all four suits. The card values run in their usual order from 2 to ace, with ace being high.
Cards in the Regency period were made from woodcuts. Unlike modern cards, their backs where a uniform white, and they didn’t have numbers on them to denote their value. You had to surmise that from the arrangement of pips on them. Unlike our cards today, kings, queens, and jacks only faced one way; that is, they had legs rather than a body with two heads on either end. You can see some examples of period cards (and if you’re independently wealthy, consider acquiring them) here.
The game evolved in the 17th century from a forerunner called Ruff, but the standard rules as followed during the Regency were set out in Edmond Hoyle’s “A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist” in 1742. Its name derives from an obsolete term meaning quiet or attentive. A true whipster needs to pay close attention to which cards have been played.
Here are a few terms you might run across during a description of a game of whist:
Suit—One of four, as determined by the symbols on the cards: spades, hearts, diamonds, or clubs. When one suit is led, the other players are obliged to play a card from that same suit as long as their hand contains cards of that suit.
Trick—The four cards played in each round, one coming from each hand. The highest card played determines who wins the trick. There are a total of 13 possible tricks in any game.
Honor—All face cards and aces may be referred to as honors.
Singleton—When a player only holds one card of a given suit. If a player holds only two cards of a suit, this is known as a doubleton.
Lead—The first card played in a trick.
Book—The first six tricks taken by a team make up the book. Any tricks taken after a team makes book result in points.
Trump—Trump is determined at the deal. If a player is unable to follow suit, he may choose to play a trump (the word is a compression of triumph) card. A trump card automatically beats any card in another suit. If a subsequent player is also out of the led suit, he may choose to trump higher to take the trick.
Slam—A grand slam occurs when one team takes all thirteen tricks. It is worth seven points. If a team takes 12 of the 13 possible tricks, this is known as a small slam. A small slam gains the winning team 6 points.
Game—The total number of points necessary to win a game is agreed upon at the outset. Players generally decide to play to seven or nine points. So if the game is to seven, a grand slam is sufficient for a team to win in one hand.
Rubber—Teams may decide to play a rubber, that is best 2 of 3 games or best 3 of 5.
The deal: Cards are shuffled and dealt to each of four players. The very last card dealt (which goes to the dealer) is revealed. The suit of this card determines trump for that hand. On each subsequent hand, the deal moves to the left. Normally two packs of cards are used to move play along. While the dealer passes out the cards, his partner shuffles the other deck so that it’s ready for the next hand.
Play: The player to the dealer’s left has the first lead. He chooses a card from his hand, and the other players follow suit clockwise around the table. As long as a player has a card of the suit led, he must follow suit. If a player has no cards left in that suit, he may choose to play a trump or he may choose to get rid of a card in a different suit. A trump card beats any card in the suit demanded. If the player does not trump, he has essentially thrown his card away, but sometimes that’s useful to get rid of low cards.
The highest card played wins the trick, the person who played that high card has the next lead, and play continues in this fashion.
Scoring: In the Regency period, tokens resembling poker chips were used to keep score. These might be made of
cheap cardboard or elaborately decorated coin-sized bits of metal. A team scores one point for each trick taken after they make book. Since there are only 13 possible tricks and the book consists of 6 tricks, only one team may score after a given hand.
A good whist player keeps track of the number of rounds played in each suit, as well as how many of the honor cards have been played during a hand. If the cards are divided evenly among the players, the first and second rounds in a given suit are generally “safe.” That is, the danger of an opponent trumping your suit is relatively low. As more rounds of a given suit are played, the danger of being trumped rises.
Naturally, luck is also involved as the cards are not always distributed evenly. While experienced players develop a sense of when to play which card, the element of luck keeps any hand from being completely predictable.
And here’s where the stakes come in. Obviously, players might wager on the outcome of a game or rubber, but I think we can safely say that Regency folk creatively wagered on any and everything. These are people who bet on the outcome of a raindrop race, after all. So they might conceivably wager that a game might be won in so many hands. Or a given suit might be drawn as trump before the deal. Or that a team might make a slam (before or after they’ve seen their hands). If you think about it, the possibilities are endless.
And just a heads up–Keep an eye on my agent’s Twitter stream next week. She’ll be giving away copies of both A Most Scandalous Proposal and A Most Devilish Rogue (which features a two-handed version of whist). @SaraMegibow
In case you missed Monday’s post, it’s release week for my second Regency romance, A Most Devilish Rogue, and I’ll happily use any excuse to post that cover. On second thought, have a different version–because you’re all tired of looking at the other one, aren’t you?
This is my UK cover. The book also released from Eternal books this week, along with the UK edition of A Most Scandalous Proposal.
And here’s yet another view. I had a great time showing George off at the RWA National Convention.
I gave you the blurb on Monday, so how about an excerpt? In this scene from chapter 1, George is on his way to a house party, and he is clearly not expecting to have a good time.
“Chin up, dear, we’ve almost arrived.”
George suppressed the urge to roll his eyes at his mother. Gads, how could the woman beam so after hours of jostling in a carriage through the Kentish countryside, crammed in with his sisters?
He exchanged a glance with Henrietta. “And not a moment too soon,” he said. “I can barely stand the excitement. We’ll go from being packed into this carriage to being packed into a house with entirely too many people.”
How he dreaded the thought of a house party, even if the host was his oldest friend. Worse than a ball, because the blasted things lasted days rather than mere hours. He could only escape to the card room in the evenings, while the rest of the day he’d have to find more creative means of avoiding his mother’s attempts at matchmaking.
Mama’s smile wavered not at all. “Sarcasm does not become you. How many times must I say it? You’d do better to put on a bright outlook. I imagine you’d attract a bride if you did that.”
His left eye twitched, as it always did when his mother brought up the topic of matrimony. “I’ll keep that in mind, should I wish to attract one. What do you recommend? Something like this?”
He pulled an exaggerated face that doubtless exposed his back teeth. God knew his cheeks would ache soon enough if he maintained the expression. It didn’t help matters that he’d tweaked a few bruises in the process.
“Stop this instant,” Mama scolded, but the woman, Lord help her, could never manage to sound stern. “Pity you had to turn up with your face all beaten. Why you men insist on pounding each other is beyond me.”
“It’s sport.” He’d explained the state of his face away with a minor lie about an incident at his boxing club. The truth would only give Mama the vapors.
“Be that as it may, I am certain you will meet your future wife at this party. See if you don’t.”
“Ah yes, and Henny”—he winked at his sister—“will announce her engagement to the head groom at the same time. Why, I think a double wedding at Christmas will be just the thing.”
Mama made a valiant attempt at creasing her brows, but an eruption of laughter quite ruined the effect. “You are completely incorrigible.”
“But endlessly diverting.”
“And if you turned that charm on a few young ladies . . .”
He held up a hand. “Madam, I believe I’m not the only incorrigible one in this conveyance.”
“Nonsense.” Mama tossed her head, and the feathers on her bonnet scrubbed across his sister Catherine’s face. “I’m simply determined. There’s a difference.”
Single-minded and obsessed were the terms that immediately leapt to George’s tongue, but he swallowed them back. Of course his mother wanted to see him wed. It was what mothers did once their children reached an appropriate age. Unfortunately, his idea of an appropriate age didn’t agree with hers by at least ten years. For God’s sake, he was only twenty-nine.
He caught Henrietta’s eye. Her mouth twitched into a smirk that spoke volumes. Better you than me. But Mama would turn her attention back to her oldest daughter soon enough. No doubt the moment they reached the ballroom where Revelstoke housed his pianoforte. Coupled with what Catherine passed off as singing . . .
In spite of himself, he winced. He prayed Revelstoke had laid in a good supply of brandy. He was going to need it in vast quantities if Mama insisted on her daughters being part of the entertainment.
The carriage rumbled to a halt at the head of a sweeping drive. The stone bulk of Shoreford House rose gray against a backdrop of blue sky. Shouts hailed from the yard, followed by a heavy thunk as the steps were let down. George leapt from his seat, ready to hand his mother and sisters out of the conveyance.
A gentle breeze bore the salt tang of the Channel, mingled with an earthy heaviness that wafted from the stables. The late August sun beat a gentle warmth on the back of his neck.
“I can’t believe you’ve actually come.”
George turned to find Benedict Revelstoke approaching from the main house, a grin across his cheeks. But as he neared the carriage, his gaze glanced over the bruises on George’s face, and he frowned. “I was about to ask how far your mother twisted your arm to convince you to come, but I see she’s resorted to more drastic means of persuasion.”
George clasped his old friend’s hand. “Do me a favor and don’t call attention to it. If I have to put up with any more cold compresses and female twittering, I may as well take to my bed permanently.”
“I don’t know how you’ll avoid it. Once Julia gets a good look at you . . .”
“I thought I heard my name.” Benedict’s wife appeared just beyond his shoulder, waddling from the house in the wake of a prominent belly. “Gossiping about me behind my back, are you?”
Revelstoke caught her hand and pulled her close. Their fingers entwined as if they couldn’t bear as much as an instant apart. For a moment, they stared into each other’s eyes, and in that brief expanse of time, they disappeared into their own realm where only the pair of them existed. It lasted less than two seconds, but an entire conversation seemed to pass between them.
Fighting the urge to roll his eyes, George cleared his throat. God help him if he ever became that love-struck.
Excerpt ©2013 Ballantine Books. All Rights Reserved.
A Most Devilish Rogue is available now at your favorite bookstore.